Tuesday, April 30
Leaders of this Maya Indian town said Tuesday they have expelled Roman Catholic priests and broken ties with the local diocese, re-igniting one of the most stubborn religious controversies in the hemisphere.
Yown residents who observe a mix of Mayan and Catholic beliefs have been involved in a decades-long battle with both the official church hierarchy and rapidly encroaching Protestant groups.
Traditional officials in Chamula have driven tens of thousands of people out of the mountainous municipality over the past 30 years for abandoning the local faith. Local ceremonies use pine boughs, eggs, soft drinks, alcohol and candles in healing rituals held in the nominally Catholic church.
Aren't you also part of the "clericalism" problem? Though your comment about religious orders and their role in past renewals is right on, you seem to be wondering what religious order will step up this time. Am I right in sensing a hint of the old if-priests-or-nuns-don't-do-it-no-one-will" syndrome? This too is a form of clericalism. I think it's time for faithful lay movements from Opus Dei to your parish Rosary group to come into their own. This renewal is OUR job. You and me, Amy, not some undiscovered Francis of Assisi.
I see your point. I take your point. But....
I think that predominance of religious orders and monasticism in church renewal is simply historical fact. And clericalism, as I've defined it here, refers to a sensibility marked by true "otherness" not simply a recognition of different roles. Lay people can be horribly clerical. If you've worked in the Church, you've seen it. Perhaps you've even suffered under it when a DRE told you if you didn't obey his or her rules and guidelines your child couldn't a) be baptized b)receive First Eucharist c) be confirmed or d) ever set foot in church again. Perhaps you've seen it when catechetical leaders and catechists have laughed at your desire to have your children learn more substance about their faith. The kind of clericalism I'm talking about is an outgrowth of the professionalization of ministry, whether ordained or lay.
I agree with the reader, too, that this moment is a potentially great one for lay movements - and not lay commissions, committees,councils, listening sessions, boards, advisory panels or programs. Lay movements. And it will probably happen, but not out of any positive welcome by the rest of the church. It will come because dioceses will go bankrupt, diocesan schools will close, chancery offices will be drastically reduced, and lay people will have to step in and take up the slack. They'll be starting new schools, taking charge of catechizing their own kids, and picking up the slack in terms of social services.
But I do think religious orders are, by their nature, and important part of this process, and it's not because some of them are ordained. In fact, the vast majority of members of religious orders through history have not been clerics. They have been brothers and religious women and tertiaries. None of those are ordained, none are clerics, despite what some contemporary religous women would like you to think. But what makes them unique is their voluntary association and commitment to serve God as expressed in a particular charism. The quality of their commitment is unique. It may or may not involve celibacy (the latter with tertiaries). But it does involve a greater conscious commitment of time and energy to living out that particular charism than most lay people with families have. But that's how it's worked: lay people of a certain age commit themselves to raising their children. In the raising of these children they are assisted by others who are committed to helping form these children in their own way: through liturgy, through education, medical care, through assistance if the family is poor, and so on. This latter group, for the most part, does not have children of their own, or if they do, those children are grown, leaving the parents free for a broader service. The renewing charism is then communicated to another generation, through the love of the parents, faith formation in the home, and the contributions of...Dominicans, Franciscans, Jesuits, Benedictines and so on outside of it. They're all part of a the whole.
I am an advocate of optional celibacy for Roman Catholic priests. But that doesn't mean I don't see a vital place in the Church for those called to celibacy as a sign of the Kingdom and a respons to God's call to them to single-mindedly minister in the light of the charism of a particular religious order. As the mother of four children, it is my call to let Christ live through me in every situation in which I find myself - in my marriage, with my children, in my job outside the home, in my dealings with everyone from the store clerk to my neighbor. This might involve a particular apostolate once in a while - teaching religious education. Volunteering at a crisis pregnancy center. Uh...writing. But my major call from God is to serve my children and the rest of my family. I can participate in the fruit of various religious movements. I can work on passing them on and making them a reality for the next generation or for others that I meet. But I can't take charge of a full-grown religious movement. But I can be grateful for those who do.
I don't know if that makes complete sense. I imagine I'll come back to it later.
I was raised quietly Catholic in the Midwest, then went East for college and became a hard-boiled "scientific" atheist. At 25 I re-converted
joyfully, unexpectedly, a gift outright. The next year, Bernard Cardinal Law confirmed me as part of a group of university catechumens. I remember the vigor
with which he spoke at our confirmation Mass about what it meant to be Catholic in the world. He spoke stirringly about Peter Singer and the encroaching culture of death. He made us renounce Satan and all his works with full throat; no pro forma muttering "I do" would do. He wanted us to fight! I admired him so much, then.
Few people reach 30 without undergoing piercing sorrows; that's life. But this is a new sorrow to me, different from the ways that one's faith is tested by
things outside the Church. It's not the end of the world, but it's hard in a new way. A gut check. Faith has to bear weight these days. We cannot look to
some of our bishops for examples, so we should look to the saints and martyrs, as in Garry Wills' recent piece.
Anger is dangerous but it is a rational passion. The best thing that could happen is for young(ish) Catholics to get justly angry at the iniquity and use that impetus constructively, to help build a more faithful, trustworthy, upright, grounded, joyous, serious, clear-eyed American Church. Not overnight (nothing good ever comes of that), but in the course of a generation or more.
Indolent lay yuppies like me had better get off our duffs. We don't need a Reformation, but a Counter-Reformation. Our
Lord said, "How I wish it were already blazing!" Luke 12:49.
Chances are, it's got a Latin name. Check out the new Blogs on the Block over there on the right.
I think the search for humility in the bishops is a vain search, for the humility gene is one they simply don't have. They are politicians, and
we know that an admission of guilt from a politician requires a DNA-stained dress. The best we can hope for (and I think it HAS been achieved) is that they will not shuffle bad priests any more. They have gotten that message, even if they will not publically confess their sins. I have come to peace with that because I confess my sins in the privacy of the confessional and therefore will give them the right to do the same.
I think clerics look at the laity the same way a customer service manager looks at customers. Lay people require work; we are needy. My uncle is a pharamcist and he says they all secretly loathe working with 'the public'. Isn't that what clerics do? But isn't that quite human? The customer makes demands, often unreasonable. As one customer service manager I know says, "The customer isn't always right, but the customer is always the customer". I'm not excusing this mentality whatsoever but I think anyone who works with the public everyday has to fight against an "us against them" mentality.
Very true, don't you think?
There's a new Catholic Blog out there called Veni Sancte Spiritus offered by a Catholic high school teacher named Anthony who's adopted the moniker of "Progressive Catholic." If my experience holds true, Anthony's time with Catholic adolescents will propel him towards Catholic un-progressivism quicker than a month with Mother Angelica. Post-Vatican II catechetical leaders sought to reform Catholic religious education in light of their own dissatisfaction with their own experiences: too rigid, they said. Too cognitive, not affective enough. Too much head, not enough heart.
I daresay what we're discovering is that kids need much more than twelve years of "God loves you" and "God made you" and "You're special" in order to a) even care about being Catholic and b)be equipped to actually grow in faith in the context of real life, which is complex, mysterious and requires more than slogans and aphorisms as a foundation.
Anyway, Anthony writes,
My last period class always drains the life of me. This particular block of students loves to waste time and energy attempting to find loopholes in Church teaching or just a plain old vicious attack the Catholic Church on any number of issues. It is not that they are not Catholic, 12 of the 14 students come from Catholic families. Only two admit to any regular Church attendence. It is tough teaching the faith in the school if the parents are not being good role models of faith at home. My hope is that ten years down the road they will remember what we tried to do when they face the inevitable crises in their lives.
As I said, don't remind me.
Monday, April 29
Good people on there, especially Fr. Groeschel, of course, but of the group, no one either sees or wants to admit the fundamental, potentially faith-altering reality here. It's not directly about homosexuality, celibacy, lay people, women, a sexualized culture or whatever other root problem - mold in the rectory air conditioning system, maybe? - we choose to explore today.
It's the bishops, stupid.
The bad priests are one thing. The bishops who know about the bad priests and keep foisting them on parishes and supporting them are another. And do you know what? (broken record commences) - This particular racket knows no ideology. It does not speak the language of either orthodoxy or progressivism. It speaks the language of clericalism, period, the language in which there are only two pronouns: "us" and "them", "us" being the guys in black suits and white collars who say "yes, bishop" and raise the right amounts of money and are left to do whatever on their days off, and "them" being the laity who are gathered in commissions and committees and councils to make them feel important, and whose money is gladly pocketed, but whose views are, if you could hear behind rectory doors, completely irrelevant and usually a subject of mirth and scorn.
[Except for the lawyers who intimidate abuse victims]
One of the most frightening things about this moment is that in every other time of crisis in the Church's history, there's one force that has rescued it, and it hasn't been the hierarchy, not even, for the most part, popes. It's been religious orders: groups of men and women totally open to the Spirit, absolutely dedicated to bringing the Gospel they lived by into the world they knew. It was religious orders that, throughout the medieval period, continually brought the Church's attention back to Christ and prevented it from simply devolving into a political force and cultural museum. In the post-Reformation period, it was religious orders that provided the means to implement the spirit and reality of the Council of Trent.
What's the modern equivalent? Perhaps it's simply not emerged. Perhaps our St. Francis is out there right now, rebuilding a little ruined church in a valley, being readied by God to work with living stones.
I just can't buy H.W. Crocker's contention in Catholic Exchange today that this isn't a Big Crisis we're seeing. He does the usual routine about there aren't that many perps, the problem is too much "liberalism" not a lack of it and so on. What he either doesn't understand or doesn't care to tackle because it doesn't fit his agenda, is that the greatest crisis the Catholic faithful are facing now is not in regard to individual priests' actions, but in regard to their bishops. They're seeing how this stuff has been covered up and ignored and how victims have been mistreated, sometimes by quite "orthodox" bishops. That's where the crisis of faith is looming. Catholics are wondering, as they have a right to, what else are they lying to us about? What else are they squandering our money on? What are we to say to ourselves and to outsiders about the moral authority of these fellows when they've broken trust so egregiously?
I'm serious.It's going.
Two days ago, Joseph was wandering around, as is his habit these days. He stopped, stood still, and liquid started dripping down through his overall pants leg, down his leg onto the carpet. Oh, my, I thought. Loose diaper. That happens. No.
No diaper.Where was it? I know I put one on him. I just knew it. He's been trying to get his diapers off lately, so I figured that's what he must have done. Fiddled with the tape until the thing came off and just slipped down his legs. But where? I sitll haven't found it. Maybe...
And then today. I had a package of vegetable eggrolls from the store. I put two in the microwave for lunch. Ate them. Came back to put the package awawy. There were supposed to be five in all. There should have been three left...but there were two. I know I only ate two. I remember seeing them sitting on the paper towel in the radiation machine. But maybe.....
Always take crazy nun stories with a grain or two of salt. I had eight nuns for teachers during grade school, and only one of them was crazy. I know from my friends who went to public school that 1 out of 8 crazy teachers is a pretty good ratio....
Of course there are crazy nuns. But when somebody tells a crazy nun story they aren't telling you anything much about the Catholic church or about nuns. They're just telling you about something that happened to them. Most things that nuns say get shrugged off in the way that most things adults, especially teachers, get shrugged off. So when someone tells you a horror story about a nun, they're telling you something they couldn't shrug off, which reveals more about them than it does about nuns.
Five months from now, if you remember anything about nuns I just wrote, I'll bet you that it's that my first grade nun told stories about kids running around with sticks in their hearts. Crazy nun stories have staying power. Stories about progressive nuns with Ph.D.'s don't.
The first pithy evaluation:
The kindest review I can give it is that it is long and thoughtful -- i.e., lots of words and full of thoughts.
Weigel’s quotes were the high points but the overwhelming sentiment I get is that we just have to get busy with the new sexuality, get used to consenting relationships of any sort, and remember that orgasm and feelings trump right and wrong, at least if the majority says so. He seems so . . . Episcopalian.
And then, from another reader, a longer analysis, taking particular points:
And in the Catholic Church, women are asked for time and treasure but cannot be priests.
-Seems a harsh statement. When this argument is raised I think of Mother Teresa, Mother Angelica, St Catherine, women like Mary Hallan FioRito (Vice chancellor for the Chicago Archdiocese), or the many other women who head Catholic schools and hospitals. I would think that most of these women joyfully gave of their "time and treasure" with no complaints of not being allowed to become priests.
The best guess is that between 35 and 50 percent of Roman Catholic priests are homosexual.
-Wow! Where is he getting his numbers? Do you really believe this? I tend to believe someone like Father John McCloskey on this and a lower percentage like 2-3%. Again, where does Jon get his numbers?
Though bishops ordain people they may know to be homosexual, the prevailing sense, as the cardinals made clear in Rome, is that the orientation is “unnatural.”
-Where is the evidence that our bishops were only allowing gay men to be ordained so as to fill the pulpits? I have heard this many times yet where is the evidence? It seems more of an assumption that more and more people are picking up as undeniable fact. Just look at the American hierarchy at the Rome meeting. If they are facing a vocations crisis why would they be talking about not allowing gay men to be ordained?
The evidence is that homosexuals are no more likely to abuse children than heterosexuals.
-Okay, what study shows this. Likewise what study show homosexuals are more likely to abuse children?
50 percent of priests—no matter what their orientation—are sexually active in some way.
-Again, where is the evidence? I believe it is so irresponsible to write and submit a statement like this which will be taken as "fact" by many without evidence.
.says Rabbi Steven M. Dworken, executive vice president of the Rabbinical Council of America. “Therefore, someone who is not married—I’m not saying they’re missing something, that’s too strong—but he is lacking in a completeness. Even from a sociological or psychological point of view, one would feel more comfortable discussing marital problems or familial issues with someone you assume has shared some of those same experiences.”
-I for one would not necessarily be more comfortable with someone who has shared these same experiences. I would be more comfortable with someone thoroughly educated in the faith and Church doctrine as well has counseling. Why not focus on improving the formation process so has to better train our priests and religious (ie deacons) in these areas?
Some Vatican insiders think there is already a quasi-married clergy in some parts of the world—they mention Africa, Latin America and Italy—where priests conduct long-term affairs.
-Really? Would these be the same Vatican insiders who state the Holy Father is no longer technically functioning as the head of our Holy Roman Catholic Church? Seems hard to believe.
Donald Cozzens quotes this gloomy prognosis from a retired vicar-general: “The shortage of priests is not going to be solved by praying for more vocations. Women are the ones who identify and nurture vocations, and they are not doing it anymore, and they are not going to do it, and all the preaching in the world is not going to change their minds. If you don’t believe me, talk to them. I’ve interviewed them. They say, ‘A church that won’t accept my daughters isn’t going to get my son’.”
-Have women really given up on nurturing vocations because they "won't accept (their) daughters"? Tell that to my mother, my sister, my sister-in-law, and my wife.
Then in Christianity Today he's got a review of two recent books about Jesus, pointing out
In the study of the historical Jesus, the tendency is all too often to sever the links between Jesus and the early church (the Jesus of history vs. the Christ of Faith). This same church, however, preserved the Gospels and handed them down to us. And it is precisely this church that so many are railing against by reaching for other, dubious gospels.
When his e-mails were released in the press, Mahony refused to comment. Instead, his lawyers went to court to try to prevent The Times from publishing them. That effort failed. Friends and associates say he then consulted them, appearing to take advice from different sources on how to proceed. Two weeks ago he went to a major public relations firm, Weber Shandwick, to craft the message that would serve him in the weeks ahead.
All in all, the article's a whitewash, with no input from critics of Mahony, no alternative voices, and no accounting of the Cardinal's role in the Stockton abuse coverup. (Scroll down for details. It's somewhere down there)
[In Prayer 7, St. Catherine was praying to the Eternal Godhead for the newly-appointed cardinals ("the new plants") of the ill-fated Pope Urban VI:]
"You are a fire always burning. Yet, though you always consume all that the soul possesss apart from you, you never consume the things that are pleasing to you. With the fire of your Spirit burn and consume, root out from the bottom up, every fleshly love and affection from the hearts of the new plants you have kindly seen fit to set into the mystic body of Holy Church. Transplant them away from worldly affections into the garden of your own affection, and give them a new heart with true knowledge of your will. Make them despise the world and themselves and selfish love. Fill them with your love's true fervor and make them zealous for faith and virtue. And so, once they have left behind the false desires and pretenses of this passing world, let them follow you alone in purest purity and glowing charity."
Even one act of abuse is too much," said Monsignor Peter Schonenbach, general secretary of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. "No one will say to a priest who has abused that it is fine to continue. If a priest abuses, his whole life changes with that. If a priest has abused and a complaint comes in and the bishop knows about the abuse . . . from that day on, the priest's whole life will be different. He may remain a priest but will never do ministry again."
"Why do they even make toys?"
If you have children, you've observed this yourself. My children have always had relatively little use for toys. Right now, Joseph's favorite objects are: CD's, grown-up books, cloth napkins and placemats, plastic food storage containers and (when he can get his hands on them) pens and playing cards.
An extraordinary woman. Her sole focus was God and His will, and to this end, she lived a life that was surprising, to say the least, and even shocking to most of her time.
The first thing to remember about St. Catherine is that she was a single laywoman
Catherine’s family, horrified at her refusal to do the conventional thing, forced her to endure months of mistreatment before she won the right to join the Dominican Third Order and live a devout life at home. For three years, Catherine lived a life of prayer, silence, and austerity in her tiny 9-by-12-foot room. During the Carnival of 1366, she experienced a mystical betrothal to Christ. A few days later, she realized that God was asking her to leave her contemplative isolation and re-enter the world. Catherine of Siena was only 19 when her public ministry began.
The "conventional thing," of course, would have been to either marry or enter the cloister. In the fourteenth century, religious women were all cloistered. There was no such thing as religious women who had an apostolate of teaching or hospital work. That came a couple of centuries later.
It's fascinating that St. Catherine was so determined to absolutely defy the convention of her time. It's a determination that could only come from the strength of her own character, strengthened even more by the grace of God. Just think about it for a moment.
And what did she accomplish? Although we commonly associate her with the dispute over the Avignon Papacy more than anything else, her most notable accomplishment was the spiritual movement associated with her:
After three years of seclusion and intense prayer:
She now rejoined her family, began to tend the sick, especially those afflicted with the most repulsive diseases, to serve the poor, and to labour for the conversion of sinners. Though always suffering terrible physical pain, living for long intervals on practically no food save the Blessed Sacrament, she was ever radiantly happy and full of practical wisdom no less than the highest spiritual insight. All her contemporaries bear witness to her extraordinary personal charm, which prevailed over the continual persecution to which she was subjected even by the friars of her own order and by her sisters in religion. She began to gather disciples round her, both men and women, who formed a wonderful spiritual fellowship, united to her by the bonds of mystical love. (From the Catholic Encylopedia article on Catherine)
What is striking about Catherine is her utter fearlessness. The roots of this courage are, of course, not in any determination to adhere to human principles, or in false notions of "self-esteem" or self-confidence. The roots of Catherine's strength, courage and, indeed, her entire being, were in her total - may I use the term? - transparency to the will of God.
There's much to ponder in the life of St. Catherine, especially in terms of the current crisis in the Church which, if we're honest, is not a current crisis. The concealment of child abusers and the exploiters of youth in the ranks of the clergy is a tragic, yet apt summation of the worst expressions of the institutional church which we've been enduring for a while, secrecy, prioritizing clerical privilege, and a lack of concern for the Gospel, in favor of an obssessive concern with PR and financial matters.
But what I'm more interested in this morning is what St. Catherine says to each of us as individuals, as we're setting out each morning, making choices about who will rule in our lives today:
Will it be God, His will and His truth?
Or will it be fear of the world's disapproval?
Will it be God's love?
Or will it be the world's determination of what appropriate behavior for someone like us would be?
Will God be in charge of my life today, working through me to love and serve, or will I insist on wresting control from him for yet one more day, only to close my eyes tonight, wondering once again, why my life feels not quite right?
Lots of links on St. Catherine:
And finally, please stop by the site of the Catherine of Siena Institute, a marvelous lay renewal program inspired by the charism of St. Catherine (as opposed to the charism of Barely Christian Groupthink which is the inspiration for some parish renewal programs).
And really finally, a prayer:
God of Wisdom you made our sister Catherine burn with divine love in contemplating the Lord's passion and in serving your Church. With the help of her prayers may your people, united in the mystery of Christ, rejoice forever in the revelation of his glory, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever. Amen
Sunday, April 28
Treating tweezers as a viable hijack weapon simply screams the government's obtuseness about aircraft security. Go ahead, try to imagine a scenario in which you could use tweezers to keep 200-plus passengers at bay while forcing the pilot to do what you want.
....Yes, there should still be a list of banned items, but the ban should stop at this bright line: The item is not only potentially dangerous but also dangerous to more than one person at a time and obviously so. Even though a pair of glasses can be used to perforate someone's trachea, a crowd of passengers would take some convincing of this, and even if a would-be hijacker used them this way on one person, he couldn't then hold off a planeload of people with them. On this approach, automatic weapons would still be out, but tweezers would be back in.
Saturday, April 27
-- Bishop John McCormack urged St. Patrick parishioners to support their priest with letters and prayers Saturday in a speech that made no direct mention of the boy the Rev. Edward Richard is accused of abusing.
The Diocese of Manchester placed Richard on leave Monday, the day after learning he was under criminal investigation for the alleged sexual abuse of a boy in the 1980s. Richard has not been charged, but law enforcement officials confirmed the investigation Friday.
McCormack said the Diocese is supporting Richard and urged the parishioners to do the same.
"What I'd like to assure you, is that while he's on administrative leave, he will be supported by the Diocese," he said. "He already has legal counsel and psychological and pastoral care to help him deal with these devastating accusations."
"I encourage you to drop him a line and tell him how much he means to you, because during this time he needs your support," he said.
McCormack also asked the congregation to pray for Richard and others, but he did not directly mention victims of abuse.
On April 12, McCormack said he would answer questions about his time in Massachusetts within 10 days. On Saturday he said his answers were coming "soon."
It's a look at how St. Augustine, as bishop of Hippo, handled a scandal involving one his priests, who, it was discovered after his death, had betrayed his vow to divest himself of all property
The short answer? With openness, honesty and (dare we use the modern lingo?) transparency:
Augustine did not protect his priests' reputations by covering up any possible offense, but by openly investigating all of his priests, with a promise that audits of their finances would be publicly delivered at Mass. He reported on each case singly. After finding that some priests still had joint holdings with family members, he insisted that these be instantly renounced. Immediate and public divestiture was the condition of their remaining in the community.
Then Augustine issued a warning, saying that any priest found holding property in the future would be instantly expelled: "I will not let him divest himself of it and stay, but I will delete his name from the clerics' register. Though he should appeal from me to a thousand councils, or sail to any other arbiter wherever — anywhere he can — yet, so help me God, he shall not be a cleric so long as I am a bishop. You hear me. They hear me."
For months, I've been looking for an incident from the church's history that might provide some sort of analogy to the present situation. This is an excellent one.
At least 176 priests suspected of molesting minors have either resigned or been taken off duty in 28 states and the District of Columbia since the clerical sex scandal erupted in January, a nationwide review of Roman Catholic dioceses by The Associated Press found.
Last night, when I was trying to put his shoes on his feet, Joseph leaned over and gave me a good, hard bite. He did the same to Katie this morning, as she was trying to get a crayon from him. Chomp. I've only had one other biter - Christopher - and I don't remember it starting quite this early. (12 and a half months)
If Benny Hinn puts on a remarkable television show, the view from his side of the camera is even more incredible.
Looking into viewers' homes recently, the evangelist spotted a bald, overweight man with a heart problem. Wearing a yellow shirt.
Hinn said he could see the man walking away from his TV, resisting appeals to donate during a Trinity Broadcasting Network "Praise-a-Thon." "Come back," Hinn begged. "If you will come back and make that pledge, God will heal your heart tonight."
The zero-tolerance policy of which the American Church now opportunistically speaks will not extend to the bishops whose bad judgment and moral cowardice necessitated it.
Like tainted, money-grubbing politicians who suddenly morph into campaign finance reformers, the cardinals who caused the Church crisis now pose as experts on its solution.
Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony, whom a jury in Stockton concluded in the late 1990s was a lying, pedophile-protecting bishop, is now the go-to reformer for the fashionable media. The media gobble up every red herring that falls from his cloak, never bothering to ask him why anyone should take him seriously after his own history of shocking negligence
Friday, April 26
[Note to bishops and underlings...this is what you've done. Well, part of what you've done, anyway.]
As a 42 year old "Cradle Catholic" I've found myself having to re-educate, or perhaps self-educate over the last 10 years. Having children (now 13/16)and an adult convert wife, we have spent a lot of time in RCIA, communion, and confirmation classes. While participating in those programs I came to realize that I was a cultural Catholic. What I wanted to be was an educated and faithful Catholic with a fuller understanding of "One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic."
It has been, and continues to be a joyous journey.
Our new trials almost defy explanation. We have sexual predators in Roman collars, an openly active homosexual community in some seminaries, and an American leadership apparently looking the other way.
Jesus told Peter that "...the gates of Hell will not prevail..." against His Church, but it sure seems like
someone's on the other side of those gates and is pushing like crazy!
I listen to talk radio in Dallas Texas. We have a Christian (evangelical) talk station, and several secular stations. As you can imagine, the Catholic
Church is a regular topic of conversation. Now I can appreciate an honest conversation about a controversial issue...but now that it is open season on Our Church, every nut-job is coming out of the woodwork telling second and third hand stories about baby skeletons in convent attics, wholesale raping of nuns by priests, and other garbage that makes "Maria Monk" read like the singing nun!
The thing that just makes me nuts, is that we are in a damned if you do, damned if you don't environment. If you don't respond and condemn you are callous and
uncaring. If you object to unsubstantiated charges,then you are simply a blind defender of an obviously corrupt church!
This is what our bishops have wrought... I hang my head in shame and embarrassment while listening to the world beat up my Church.
Evangelicals, whose solution to administrative problems or corruption is to go build a new mega-church look at me like I have a third eye when I try to explain I
won't leave the Real Presence in the Church founded 2,000 years ago by Jesus Christ, entrusted to Peter and his successor Popes.
My therapy (Reparation?) is to say Hail Marys and scream at the radio while driving the Dallas Tollway.
Reparations and penance are essential elements of our responses to sin, both our own and the world's. They're not the same thing. We can't do penance for the sins of others (unless we're paid to go on a Crusade by a medieval subduke, but that's another matter.). But we can do reparation, not only for our own sin, but for the sins of the world. Such a stance is an important part of some recent (relative to the age of the Church - let's say the last three hundred fifty years or so) spiritual practices. For example, one of the versions of the Morning Offering:
O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
I offer you my prayers, works, joys and sufferings of this day
in union with the holy Sacrifice of the Mass
throughout the world.
I offer them for all the intentions of your Sacred Heart:
the salvation of souls, reparation for sin,
the reunion of all Christians.
I offer them for the intentions of our bishops
and of all apostles of prayer -- in particular,
for those recommended by our Holy Father this month.
The Devotion to the Sacred Heart also has a strong component of reparation for sin. In fact, Pope Pius XI even wrote an encyclical on that very theme: Reparation to the Sacred Heart.
So yes, we are always called to open ourselves to the redemptive work of Christ, allowing Him to work through our prayer.
I simply found the suggestion of a day of "prayer and penance, in reparation for the offences perpetrated..." coming from leaders who still have not fully expressed their responsibility for these events galling. If the call had come from a leader who had, in fact, accepted full responsibility for his role and was accepting concrete consequences for that role, I might have reacted less viscerally. But it's sort of like this:
An athletic director in a school has, for years, been violating various rules and regulations in regard to player recruitment, practice schedules and so on. He's done it with the knowledge, if not the direct, stated, written approval of the principal, who is pinning her entire career on St. Blog's Prep winning every title in every conference in every sport possible. The AD is caught. The school is penalized financially, legally and as a result it loses so many students it must close. How would you feel if you, a fired faculty member or parent of a student who'd been well-served by the school, read an interview in the paper in which the former principal, now assistant superintedant of schools for the diocese, declared that the situation had been a "wake-up call" for the Catholic educational system and announced that the first day of school, all Catholics would be called to observe a day of reparation for healing from this sins of the athletic department?
The analogy is not exact, but you probably get the point: You would probably feel as if something was missing from this picture. You would be able to agree that prayer was necessary in the context of this situation, but you'd still feel as if something was missing. And that something would be the principal's authentic repentance for the problems she had permitted. And you would be unimpressed by statements that "mistakes were made."
No. Our prayers do not wait for all parties to be appropriately contrite. Of course not. But the question, as I said, is not the prayers. It's who's calling for them and when.
For you see, the whole truth has not been told. The responsible bishops are still spinning and ducking and, dare I say it, conveying less than the truth. This situation is not, for the most part, the result of oversight, although in some situations it probably was. But believe me, this goes a great deal deeper than mistakes and oversight.
See, here's the deal: They knew. I'll put this as bluntly as I can. I've known priests who've served on personnel boards, and they say it is one of the most disillusioning experiences a priest can have. For what is revealed in that experience is that almost everything about these offending priests is known by everyone. It's in the files. Lots of people, particularly those involved in placing priests in parishes, know what's in the files. They know about accusations. They know about the settlements. A lot of them know about the police who agree to keep quiet about the priests they've picked up in parks during sweeps investigating public sex. They know. The bishops know.
And in the end, what has trumped all of that knowledge, in too many dioceses, is an implied threat of pseudo-blackmail, a fear of public scandal, and the very basic, pressing need for people with male gonads to say Mass.
As many have noted, the policies in place have, for the most part, been adequate. What has failed are those charged with implementing the policies and leading us in the way of the Gospel. And no one's admitting this.
So yes, we need to pray in reparation for the sins and failures of our Church, a pray that embraces our failures as well , since we are all the Church, and we all fail, on a daily basis, to bring Christ to others as well as we could. But if we do have a day of penance and reparation, it shouldn't be just for the victims of abuse. It should also be:
...for the millions of children aborted in our country because of the cowardice of Catholic leaders and the silence and tolerance of ordinary Catholics.
...for the students produced by Catholic schools and parish religious education programs who have never really been introduced to Christ in a personal, powerful way
..for the parents of said children, as well as the parents of Catholic college students, whose money has been taken by those who have no real interest in Catholic education
Fill in your own prayer. I'm sure you can.
I'm proud, but I've no doubt he would gladly trade it in for one good round of golf...
Kathy at Relapsed Catholic chimes in on the wonders of Shoutin' Bill Donohue of the Catholic League:
Ya know what's ironic? If William Donohue were a Catholic character in a tv movie, the Catholic League would complain that his character made real Catholics look bad...
From Kathryn Jean Lopez at The Corner:
....I tend to think we are in a new reality now with the whole Church publicly humiliated, the American cardinals having been called to Rome for a scolding, the lawyers ready for the kill, etc. The “nobody in power lifted a finger” scenario is history now; everyone is watching and they've got to be able to defend their every move to everyone with a blog site, the man on the street, the woman in the pews, and the pope. I'm not condoning a free pass for anyone, but I'd give them a shot at reform and wouldn't be quite so fast to condemn.
My God, the Olsen twins are hot.
What’s more, those girls are worth over $70 million — but I’d defile them for free.
[Courtesy Romensko's Obscure Store and Reading Room]
Your Episcopal reader is quite right that it's a problem of leadership and faith. What's shocking about the scandal is that it suggests that the
American bishops themselves lack faith.
Faith isn't just a willingness to profess a belief; it's the shaping of one's life by that faith. Sheltering child molesters, concealing their crimes, putting them in positions to engage in further crime, and allowing them to trade on the reputation of the Church and the priesthood to gain private access to the children of single mothers -- I think it was
Shanley who would befriend single mothers and molest their children as he was tucking them into bed! [ed's note: it was Geoghan]-- is not an act expressive of the Catholic faith and Christian ethics.
And so it behooves the bishops who supported child molesters to say either:
(1) You, the laity, are mistaken, and my acts were consonant with Christian faith, and here's why; or (2) to humbly confess their sins, to sincerely repent, and to rededicate themselves to behaving in a way that is consonant with Christian ethics and loving service. Whatever policies and positions they do articulate, should be as much as possible derived from quotes from the Bible and the Doctors of the Church.
Instead, their statements as well as their behavior seem radically disconnected from the Christian tradition. Yesterday they spoke of punishing 'notorious' priests, as if notoriety were somehow relevant -- as if, God forbid, it was notoriety that they wanted to punish.
Pretty perceptive, eh?
Yeah, the Curran part was dumb. But I didn't read him as totally dispensing with natural law. I think he was saying that preaching Catholic sexual norms when you're not articulating the total Catholic worldview and theology doesn't make sense
Only a tiny minority of American priests have been guilty of molesting children. But the majority of bishops bear the blame for the corruption of the American hierarchy. And it was that corruption which allowed pedophile priests to flourish.
News coverage of the "Vatican summit" has been dominated by questions about the new policies and procedures that the US bishops will adopt to discipline and remove pedophile priests. But policies alone will not solve the problem. Procedures and guidelines are tools; they are useful only if the people in authority — the bishops — are prepared to use them properly.
The discussion of different policy options ("zero tolerance," "one strike and you're out," etc.) is a distraction. The key question is whether the bishops will enforce their policies. Existing guidelines would have been adequate if bishops had shown the will to exercise true moral leadership.
The confidence of the American laity has been shattered, with the realization that their bishops have often served the interests of their offices rather than those of their people and of the faith. That confidence cannot be restored by "procedures" and "guidelines."
It's bad, if true, that the reason Law might be kicked up or over is to duck a deposition. But unless he is to be deposed only under the narrow category as a representative of the archdiocese under the Massachusetts equivalent of Rule 30(b)(6), he remains a witness with personal knowledge about all sorts of things that the plaintiff's lawyer is
interested in, and would still be subject to deposition whether he is the head of the archdiocese or not.
To this non Catholic, the problem is one of leadership rather than of celibacy. Clerical celibacy as such is a six of one, half a dozen of the other sort of thing. Protestant churches both lose and gain by having a predominantly married clergy; likewise, the Roman church. In your church and in mine (the (formerly Protestant) Episcopal (we dropped the "Protestant" title some years ago in a fit of ecunemism), a pyramidical polity results in few restraints on bishops once they are in office, and no real accountability to the people they should be leading and nourishing. In my church, we get loony bishops who promote crackpot ideas and are generally running the church into the ground (you can't lose half your membership in a generation and say you're doing a good job). It's my guess that for you guys some drastic restructuring is in order; but that will be difficult to design and accomplish, what with all constituencies you have. Your Situation is not a sexuality problem as such, but a leadership and faith problem manifesting itself in the area of sexuality. In my church, the leadership and faith problem manifests less
spectacularly; but it's the same sort of problem.
Ours, by the way, may be self-correcting. The Anglican polity is more diffuse, and two Archbishops from Africa and Asia have decided that the United States should be considered a mission field. They have consecrated some bishops who operate under their authority, and there are some real nasty firefights going on as unhappy priests and parishes attempt to transfer their allegiance to the new structure. The existence of an alternative Anglican structure will let people vote with their feet, and that alone will reign in the nutters. How to go about making your leadership more responsively accountable in general is beyond me. It does seem to me that zero-tolerance, one-strike and out, or sweep every gay man out of seminary, policies will be cosmetic, and will not in themselves remedy the
leadership/faith problems. It is probably time to think outside the box, but that is something that no hierarchal organization does too well.
Excellent piece in The New Republic on The Situation. It's honest and fair. Are they trying to make up for their Goldhagen screed of a few months back?
This is not the voice of moral clarity. The average Catholic churchgoer understands that no amount of psychological screening can guarantee that a pedophile won't sneak through and become a priest. What the churchgoer cannot fathom is this: Why, when confronted with such perversion, did the bishops not react with appropriate--that is to say, human--empathy? Page after page of depositions demonstrate that these men of the cloth saw the victims of sexual abuse not as children of God, but as potential liabilities. And why, to this day, do the bishops seem incapable of speaking candidly? Why do they still sound like spinmeisters rather than spiritual guides? The answers are not comforting....
In Catholic theology, the bishops are the successors of the apostles. On Good Friday, reading the account of Jesus' trial and death, we Catholics were reminded that on the night before Jesus' death, his apostles all fled from him. If the bishops had utilized those passages to begin their own contrition--indeed, if they had acted with even a semblance of humility over the years--they could today seek cover behind the surely truthful observation "We are all sinners." But they did not, and they cannot.
And this is why their suggestion that the entire church be called to a day of reparation made my blood run cold. Others disagree. But I'll blog more on that later, after I get Katie to school.
The Herald has a little more detail:in this article
Embattled Boston archbishop Bernard Cardinal Law, under siege from the epic sex scandal threatening his 18-year legacy, will likely be replaced and sent to the Vatican by the beginning of June, according to sources.
Law, who arrived in Newark, N.J., yesterday after the historic two-day conclave of American cardinals at the Vatican, will be reassigned by Pope John Paul II to an as-yet determined position prior to a scheduled deposition of Law in a legal suit against the archdiocese, according to church officials.
``There will be a promotion by June at the latest,'' said one source. ``They will not have him subjected to a recorded deposition.''
Moving Law to Rome by June would also take some of the pressure off American bishops who are scheduled to meet in Dallas that month to debate national standards for dealing with pedophile priests.
``(Law) would be the 500-pound gorilla'' in Dallas, said one official. ``With him gone to Rome, the discussions can be much more frank and direct.''
800 pages long.
Among the more than 800 pages of new documents released by the Archdiocese of Boston is a draft letter apparently prepared for Medeiros, Law's predecessor. It is not clear who prepared the letter. But in it, Medeiros replies to a Feb. 16, 1979, letter from Shanley in which Shanley had protested his removal from his Roxbury-based street ministry and threatened to reveal to the media details about St. John's, the archdiocesan seminary, that would be ''far more shocking than my poor offerings.''
In Medeiros's letter to Shanley, the late cardinal dismissed what he regarded as Shanley's attempt at blackmail to save his post. ''I shall pass over in amazed but laughable silence the threats you invoke against me concerning further public pronouncements - this time about our Seminary,'' Medeiros wrote. ''I urge and direct you to take a parish assignment as so many of our priests do.''
Roderick MacLeish Jr., an attorney for the family of an alleged victim of Shanley, said the draft Medeiros letter makes it ''appear that Paul Shanley was blackmailing Medeiros,'' and said church officials might have allowed him to continue working as a priest because they feared he would expose misconduct by church officials.
Thursday, April 25
From a Catholic apologetics site - a very attractive, well-designed site that I'd never seen before, I might add.
If anyone else has any other information I can pass along to this little group down in the UT Athletic Department discussing ecclesiology, let me know - I'd appreciate it, and so would my besieged son.
I work with priests. Good, holy, spiritual men. They have no problem with Cardinal Law either resigning or being put under Apostolic administration until he can help straighten out the mess. Having said that, I just cannot believe that
we are being asked to do reparations.
I have an invitation for them: I will pray for them as they walk on their knees from the Vatican to Los Angeles in reparation for their sins of commission and omission. How 'bout that?
It'sa review from First Things (in 1998) of a volume of moral theology by Germaine Grisez. Here's the pertinent quote from the review, written by David Novak:
Since Grisez deals with two hundred difficult moral questions, it is impossible to do more than mention a few. There is, for example, the question raised by a couple whose teenage son has been sexually seduced by "Father Jack," their parish priest. They ask Grisez whether or not they should report this priest to the police. Here Grisez knows that he must carefully distinguish between the Church per se, which as a theologian faithful to her he regards as infallible, and the Church as a community of sinful human beings. Thus, with the usual courage of his convictions, he bluntly states, "The real problems presented and revealed by the conducts of priests like Father Jack have hardly been acknowledged by bishops, including yours, and . . . thus far they have developed no adequate policy or procedure for dealing with those problems."
Grisez's criticism of many of the bishops is that they have tended to treat the sexual misconduct of priests in their charge simply as a matter of psychological illness. Such priests are taken to be emotionally disturbed and must be regarded as objects of compassion, for whom therapy (with its supposition of confidentiality) is the appropriate response. Even though Grisez does not dispute the need for therapy, he rightly emphasizes that priests like Father Jack are capable of free choice and thus morally responsible for their crimes. And in the case at hand, the crime has had a victim, namely, the questioners' teenage son, "Frank." Grisez wisely notes that even if this priest's sexual behavior is psychologically compulsive, he was still "gravely responsible for failing to get the help he needed to forestall . . . betraying Frank's trust and abusing his body." What Grisez is also saying is that attempts of Church officials to deny the moral nature of this type of situation has been a source of scandal, leading both Catholics and non-Catholics to conclude that the Church, in effect, exempts priests from ordinary moral responsibility instead of holding them to Christian standards, which include and go beyond ordinary morality.
If you scroll down, down, down and go through the archives, you'll find a lot of commentary on various Catholic matters. Right now, I've got to go work on a book, but I'll be back to post later. See - that's the meaning of the title of this blog (in answer to questions I've received recently) - I blog in between naps. I work during naps. And now, at long last, a nap has commenced. So must my wrestling match with the parables of Jesus.
You know, it was such a simple question, asked out of a sense of honest confusion. Why? Why would leaders tolerate the presence of child molesters in their midst?
That also happens to be the question most of us are asking, and it's the question that wasn't answered by the Confab.
You've got the policies, cardinals. You've had them for a few years now. You had what you claimed were great policies in dioceses which have, in recent weeks, turned over scores of names of the accused over to authorities.
But you know what? Forget the policies. Even if you don't have a perfect policy covering every possible circumstance, you do have one other thing:the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Gospel which calls for, among other things, fidelity to Truth before all else, no matter what the cost, particular care for the "little ones," and severe warnings to religious leaders who fail to serve God and His people.
What more did you need?
The unanswered question isn't about what words were printed on pieces of paper stuffed in diocesan files. The unanswered question is...why did you so flagrantly disregard the Gospel?
And we're supposed to do reparations?
.... I agree with 90% of it, but I do think there is some room to be careful with those of homosexual orientation in the intake process. Heterosexual orientation is normal for the male, and homosexual orientation is, many times, accompanied by other behavioral problems that feed into its weaknesses. For some reason, and I don’t really know why, during my previous tenure in Cincinnati, I became the father-confessor for a group of homosexual men (I told them the truth about what they did, but I didn’t yell, so they kept coming back).
What I observed was a group of guys who were almost all obsessive-compulsive, and who adopted the moral compass of whomever they were with at the time; in the confessional, they agreed with my exhortations to chastity, outside, well . . . . Anecdotally, I believe that the disordered orientation brings other problems with it, including, many times, a promiscuity (the search for dad) which is much harder to control than the heterosexual Friday-nite out stuff.
I don’t agree with the idea that the orientation is biological (orientation and masculinity are related, but not necessarily so); I still persist in the old psycho-social model of absent or ineffective male father figure, and strong dominant mother figure as the most acceptable explanation. The worst thing that ever happened to homosexual men was the APA declaring homosexuality a lifestyle, not a pathology (under political pressure at the time). I’ve known many homosexuals who couldn’t find help in the mental health community; they’d be told by therapists that there’s nothing wrong with them (then why do I feel like cutting my wrists all the time? as one once said to me). The healers no longer have to come to grips with a really difficult pathology; they were all cured by decree.
I know of many homosexual priests, both in Cincinnati and St. Louis, good men who labor under a heavier burden than many of their brother priests. I would never advocate hunting them down and throwing them out; many are close friends. But I do believe that vocations directors and formation directors and bishops and seminary rectors need to take into account the additional pressures and problems that many of these candidates will bring with them. The call to celibacy and chastity is for all normally acquired Latin rite priests (I am not, of course, normal in any sense [editor's note - he's married]) a call to a way of life and faith. Each man has his own story, but I believe that some come burdened in ways that many of us cannot understand, and obedience to the call of celibate living for the Gospel is more difficult for them. We need to take that into account, as well as the heroism of the men we have now who struggle with this problem.
which were discussed at the confab, but somehow didn't make into the final communication...remember this...
Diocesan attorneys who put abuse victims through hell in court and in depositions...laypeople.
Spokespersons who cheerily mouth the party line for dioceses and bishop's conferences....laypeople.
Parishioners who give their negligent bishops standing ovations....laypeople.
Parishioners who declare their admitted child pornographer pastor a "good man"...laypeople.
Laypeople are not saints. They can be just as deeply implicated and corrupted by clerical structures as...clerics.
Meanwhile, in Rancho Cucamonga, Bismonte remains in jail in lieu of $200,000 bail as the San Bernardino County district attorney decides whether to press charges.
Bismonte acknowledged taking the girls to the park to play on the swings and said, "we used to wrestle." Fontana Police Sgt. Robert Beltran said the girls told detectives the priest touched them over and under their clothing. Bismonte shared an apartment in Fontana with the girls' aunt, who would frequently baby-sit the children, Beltran said. The girls said the touching stopped in 2001, according to Beltran, when Bismonte moved out of the apartment.
Huh? Why was he living with the girls' aunt? What's that about, anyway?
The cardinals' focus on the narrow issue of what to do to about priests who abuse children, rather than what to do about bishops who protected those priests or about a system that allowed abusers to thrive, appalled many American observers.
''It was a bust,'' said the Rev. Thomas P. Doyle, a priest whose early work on clergy sexual abuse in the 1980s was largely ignored by the bishops. ''I don't think they're capable of talking about the real issue, which is why did we cover this up?''
Exactly. Every diocese has had policies of one sort or another, not too much different from this one, for years. The thorny issue is what to be done to forcibly laicize offenders and the obligation to inform civil authorities. Those are the new factors being discussed. But the point is, there have, indeed been policies in place which were supposed to protect children and get offending priests away from them. The question (except for the two points raised above) is really not of a new policy - it's of actually applying the policies. Why wasn't this done?
No one knew that the files were around,'' Coyne said. ``It wasn't just one letter that was overlooked. It's another bad thing. It makes us look like we are not being honest. It's just awful.''
Wednesday, April 24
Looking for a good First Communion gift? Try The Loyola Kids' Book of Saiints.
End of commercial.
Its focus is the dramatic drop in the Italian birth rate - one child per family is quickly becoming the norm in Italian families.
When asked about the Catholic Church and its teaching on birth control, Mezzi seemed almost joyfully defiant, an attitude typical in a country where opinion surveys show that more than 90 percent of women use birth control and that has one of the highest abortion rates in Europe.
"Oh, please, do not talk to me about the church and the pope," Mezzi said, throwing back her head to laugh. "Who is he to tell me what I can do with my body and how many babies I must have? The pope talks, talks, talks, but believe me, nobody in Italy listens."
And then there's this nugget from our favorite Priest Theologian Who Wears a Tie Except When He's On Television:
The Rev. Richard McBrien, a prominent theologian from Notre Dame University, raised the issue recently in comments about the sex abuse scandal. "One of the good things that will come out of this crisis is that the Catholic Church, at least at the official level, will no longer be able to speak out on sexuality. The church's concern with sexuality has been obsessive," he said.
What a blowhard. If the Church isn't supposed to have a voice on sexuality, who are we supposed to listen to? Sarah Jessica Parker? Bill Maher? Homer Simpson? No..wait...I know..Richard McBrien, maybe?
What? Is he just amazingly, admirably hopeful or does he come out of his office only at night to do TV? Mr. Weigel, for all of his intelligence and his service to the Church, needs to spend some time scanning Catholic religious education materials, attending in-services for Catholic teachers and sitting in on a diocesan DRE gathering or two.
He'll find that the silly season is still in full swing, but still no white shoes 'til after Memorial Day, okay?
Talk about silly.
No. Not by them, but by all of us:
"It would be fitting for the Bishops of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to ask the faithful to join them in observing a national day of prayer and penance, in reparation for the offences perpetrated and in prayer to God for the conversion of sinners and the reconciliation of victims," it said.
My husband told me about this on his cel phone, on his way back from Ohio, and I thought he was going to drive off the road. I'm sure he'll have a lot to say about this and other matters on his blog later tonight and tomorrow, and it should be quite interesting.
All I'll say is this: I'm all for understanding the invisible effects of sin, ripples in a pond and all that. But you know, it wasn't me who let abusive priests continue ministering and humiliated victims in courtrooms and depositions. 'Twasn't me who did all that.
"(Law's future) is not being decided at this meeting because it is a matter that is up to Cardinal Law and the pope and no one else. There they are in the same town. They could be meeting. Cardinal Law's statements have been intriguing in that he has no said at any time, 'I am not resigning,'" Lawler said.
As for earlier reports that a number of bishops were pushing for Law's resignation, Lawler points to Cardinal Roger Mahoney who was forced to make a retraction.
"Cardinal Mahoney's fingerprints were all over that story this week. I think very likely when he got to Rome, and all the other Cardinals were sitting around, it was enforced on him that he should do something to maintain the solidarity of the Cardinals in public," Lawler said.
Whoops. Too late. They already are.
Ever since the Situation began, in late January, the issue of homosexuality and the priesthood has been percolating along side it. I’m not going to do a complete recap here of all of the discussions, but let’s just hone it down to this point:
Since the vast majority of cases coming to light involve the sexual exploitation of adolescent males, some people are starting to ask if homosexuals belong in the priesthood at all. Over the past couple of days, a bishop and a Cardinal or two have been quoted as saying the issue deserves a look. A story I linked yesterday indicated that a seminary in Philadelphia purposefully tries to weed out homosexual candidates for the priesthood. Yesterday and today, we’ve read the inevitable “witch hunt” stories, telling tales of terrified homosexual priests, huddling in their rectories, fearful for their collars.
Everybody’s wrong. Except me, of course.
This scandal, in its present incarnation, has many roots. It’s wrong and just dumb to try to trace it back to a single “root cause” and it’s pointless to try to solve it by sitting around musing about some fantastical, ideal future. What’s the issue now? What’s the solution in the context of the present reality – the established structure and teaching of the Roman Catholic Church? That’s the issue.
And reality right now is that the vast majority of priests in the Roman Catholic Church voluntarily take a vow of celibacy. That’s what they’re called to live. There are many priests who violate that vow of celibacy. Some have done it once. Some habitually violate it. Some are in long-term relationships. Some of them are homosexual. Some of them are heterosexual. That’s the way it is.
To try to weed out homosexual men from the priesthood just because they’re homosexually-inclined would be pointless and senseless and wrong, considering that it would send the message that violating the vows with women is somehow...okay. What’s not senseless is weeding out seminarians, for example, who are emotionally immature. Getting rid, to the extent possible, of seminarians who don’t accept the Catholic teaching on sexual matters. Making sure that you’re not ordaining men who aren’t absolutely committed to celibacy and have been formed in a way that they know how to live that challenging lifestyle.
If you’re doing all of that , then, it seems to me, your priesthood should be okay, within the current parameters.
So, if you’re ordaining men who struggle with same-sex attraction, but are committed to living within what Catholicism teaches about sexuality, what’s the problem? None. The problem is in ordaining men who don’t really buy the Church’s teaching on sexuality and who have been taught in seminaries that the Church’s teaching on sexuality is up for grabs. So to speak.
I truly think it is frankly insane to suggest that homosexually-oriented men are intrinsically destined to be more troublesome priests than heterosexual men. Consider, for example, the nature of parish work. In working with parish staffs and volunteers, with whom is a priest going to come into close contact more frequently, men or women? Women. Right. No question. What’s true is that working in close proximity to women and dealing with intimate, intense matters of the soul can be a tough challenge for a heterosexual man committed to celibacy, and a way of living and working that requires a constant dependence on prayer.
The problem, it seems to me, is not the hypothetical homosexual priest. If there is a problem with homosexual priests, it’s this: it’s with a very specific contemporary situation: the homosexual priests who don’t support the teaching of the Church on sexuality – don’t teach it and don’t live it – and who do, as even “liberal” observers like Richard Sipe have observed, tend to network and protect each other. And if they don't support the Church's teaching on this issue, why were they ordained in the first place? Bishop? Bishop? Seminary faculty? Anyone?
Equally implicated in all of this and other problems are the heterosexual priests who don’t support or live the church’s teaching on sexuality and who also protect each other.
See, here’s the thing. Pedophilia and sexual exploitation of teens is one thing. But we cannot get to the point in which we are trying to “weed out” priests for being human beings with all of the confusion, flaws and mystery that makes us human. I can’t, for the life of me, declare that a priest who struggles with homosexual inclinations, but is committed to living the Truth in Christ no matter what the cost, is any less “worthy” to be a priest than one who struggles with heterosexual yearnings or the urge for power or popularity. As Fr. Neuhaus said today on television, we all possess a disordered sexual nature, to some extent, because we all are burdened with the effects of original sin.
The issue we should be concentrating on is, as other Catholic bloggers have noted lately, an issue of acceptance of Church teaching and the commitment to live it out – not subvert it or use the institution as a cover so you can hide your self-indulgence, whether that self-indulgence be a lust for power or a lust for other human beings.
A couple of questions.
Will this policy also apply to bishops and cardinals who protect child abusers? Seems only right to me.
Cardinal George tries to soften the situation a bit, saying,
"If a vote was taken now, I'm sure most of the cardinals would be for zero tolerance," Cardinal Francis George of Chicago told The Associated Press.
George said he was not so sure himself. He raised the possibility of a priest who was rehabilitated, repentant and given a ministry "far away from children."
Where might that be? A nun's retirement home in the middle of Death Valley? Maybe, but I don't think there are too many of those.
How can I put this delicately?
How about, that's the way it is, Mo - surely you know that. Oh right. You're unmarried and have no children. You evidently have no parents to care for. So you naturally assume that the rest of the world, male and female, should live unencumbered by attachments and responsibility, and should, by all rights, make decisions based solely on self-interest.
Not the way it is. At least for healthy, responsible human beings, that is.
Sure, the career aspirations of adults have to be balanced with the needs of their families, but you know, there's something pretty sad about the career-obssessed man or woman who excuses his 23-hour workday, his insistance that his family constantly uproot themselves for the sake of his career, by preening that in the end, "it's all for you guys." That's a lie. It's not, unless they've specifically stated that their emotional well-being is dependent on Mom or Dad's career status, which is, I'm sure you'll agree, unlikely.
For years, we have been accustomed to seeing sacrifice for family as a price only women pay in relation to work. That's just not fair and it's simply not true. Filter the selfish careerists out of your radar and consider everyone else who works and has a family. Are all of the men leading the ideal lives they'd evnvisioned for themselves when they were young? Or have they compromised with the needs of their families? I'm sure they have, because it's what adults do.
And in the end, what those same healthy adults find is something the careerists go to their deathbeds wondering how they missed: healthy kids, secure family ties and an appreciation of what's really important in life.
It's a natural reaction, but you know, there's a problem, and that problem is implied in an unintentionally amusing paragraph buried near the end of the story:
Two hours into the meeting, 250 people were still trying to agree about the first sentence of a statement Muller's team had drafted in response to Cardinal Law's refusal to resign from his office.
Yes, greater accountability is needed. Or "transparency in leadership structure" as the lingo today goes. And more lay involvement in priest placement would probably help. But this article just points out the inevitable problem of inventing new organizations to try to help. It just doesn't work.
As I've said before, I agree, but I don't think he should be the only one. In particular, any of the former Boston Archdiocesan minions who had a role in writing sweet letters of affirmation to child molestors, and who are now bishops themselves, should be removed as well.
Tuesday, April 23
Makes sense, if you think about it, since Robertson also sees no contradiction in a) basing a career on condemning people who don't take his favorite parts of the Bible literally and b) ignoring other parts of the Bible which might, if read literally, indicate Christians shouldn't aim to be filthy rich jerks.
The presence of the Society of Our Lady is growing in Mexico. Fr. Vince Albano's vision of a clinic to serve the needs of the poorest of the poor in Mexico has finally become a reality! El Centro Catolico para la Salud Familiar "El Cuerpo de Cristo y Nuestra Senora del Refugio" opened its doors to serve the medical needs of the poor of Nuevo Laredo in the last months of the Jubilee Year.
The Clinic is at the service of the Culture of Life that Pope John Paul II has called us to build up. In particular we are fighting the
contraceptive culture that the transnational corporations are bringing to this booming factory town. At the Clinic, named for the Body of Christ and Our Lady of Refuge, women are treated with the dignity that the government clinics often do not provide.
We have three pro-life Mexican doctors serving at the clinic and are much indebted to Dr. Juan de Dios Infante for finding these doctors. Also serving at the clinic is Franciscan Sr. Isabel and SOLT Sister Teresa Perez.
(SOLT=Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity)
Cardinal Roger Mahony, archbishop of Los Angeles, on the pope's remarks:
"It's the strongest language I've seen about what we call at home 'zero tolerance."'
Cardinal Francis George, archbishop of Chicago, on what Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston said:
"If he hadn't made some terrible mistakes, we probably all wouldn't be here."
Bishop Wilton Gregory, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops:
"It is an ongoing struggle to make sure that the Catholic priesthood is not dominated by homosexual men."
Cardinal Adam Joseph Maida of Detroit:
"I think what the behavioral scientists are telling us, the sociologists, it's not truly a pedophilia-type problem but a homosexual-type problem."
Curiouser and curiouser....
highlighting the efforts of Bishop Wuerl of Pittsburgh, and containing a warning about seeing lay oversight boards as an easy solution:
Gary Schoener, a Minnesota psychologist who as a consultant to the St. Paul-Minneapolis Diocese and several others has evaluated hundreds of priests accused of abuse, said lay review boards in some dioceses had brought little improvement. "They can be like medical boards made up of doctors' wives," Mr. Schoener said. "When they're made up of people who are too close to the bishop, or who simply don't believe priests can do these things, they're ineffective."
Triumph, the new history of the Catholic Church by H.W. Crocker and a look at the very popular spiritual writings of Johann Christoph Arnold.
May I add a brief comment on the Novak article you discussed today, as well as on some of the responses you have posted?
Whether we use the terms "liberal" or "conservative," the Church's overriding problem today remains Clericalism -- the mentality that sees a bishop's job as fundraising and building institutions rather than preaching the truth regardless of consequences. This is a characteristically American problem arising in part from the Catholic immigrant experience (although it's also pervasive in Ireland and elsewhere). For clericalists, the "Church" means primarily priests and religious: Vatican II's proclamation of the universal call of the baptized to holiness is at best an empty
formula, sometimes regurgitated but rarely reflected upon.
"Liberalism" is a sub-set of Clericalism, and for this reason Novak is right to attribute the roots of The Scandals in large part to the sexual and liturgical chaos that began in the mid-1960s. Liberal Catholics emphasize questions of ordination of women, celibacy, etc. precisely because they view the priesthood as essentially a power structure rather than a role of service. And if it's a power structure, the inclusion of women, married men, active homosexuals and anyone else you can think of becomes a "justice
issue." For the same reasons, liturgical experiments often involve lay people taking on priestly roles -- because the priesthood, is thought to be the essence of the Church itself. It is no coincidence that the leadership of the left wing of the American Catholic Church consists overwhelmingly of ex-seminarians, ex-religious, or university-tenured theologians. Too many of these folks lack life experiences that would enable them to understand the proper role of the laity in the Church.
As the Boston situation demonstrates, the clericalist error is by no means confined to liberals. Church bureaucrats who focus on the latest capital campaign, and urge the laity to simply "pray, pay, and obey," are everywhere in this country. But in my view the most promising development in the Church today is the profusion of new movements and organizations which emphasize the universal call of the laity to holiness and which explicitly reject the clericalist way of viewing the Church as merely an external institution -- I'm thinking of everything from Opus Dei to the Charismatic Renewal to Communion & Liberation to Focolare to the Schoenstatt Movement to your parish Bible study or prayer group. Many of these movements get mislabelled "conservative" by the church bureaucrats, but they represent precisely the diverse outpouring of gifts of the Holy Spirit that the Second Vatican Council envisioned.
Liberalism doesn't worry me. As the generation of Humanae Vitae dissenters begins to die out, the cause of a liberal American Church will die with them. Younger Catholics make a more coherent choice between accepting the Faith in its fullness or simply leaving the Church altogether. But the clericalist error remains deep-rooted in the United States, and not just among the clergy. Lay people who regard an intense prayer life by anyone other than a priest as bizarre zealotry are clericalists. As are the many
for whom the term "Catholic Church" brings up mental images of official diocesan boards, Catholic schools, Catholic Charities, and of course Notre Dame football.
Until we each convert ourselves and recognize that the God wants every one of us to be a saint - a canonizable saint - the clericalist error will continue to wreak havoc on the Church in the United States. Let's pray that The Scandal is the first step in the awakening needed to bring that conversion about. If so, it is a great gift, no matter how painful.
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