Friday, August 30

Togo priest living in Detroit found not guilty of rape charges today
Annie Lamott has a new book. It's called Blue Shoe:

Such everyday worries provide tiny pulpits from which Lamott can offer spiritual reflections. These philosophical nuggets, born of her strong Christian devotion, which she discussed in her nonfiction best seller "Traveling Mercies" (1999), are the real hook of this book.... Lamott wraps her philosophizing in a plot that pulls you quickly through the book. And after reading "Blue Shoe," you feel as if you had sat on the kitchen floor and talked with the author late into the night about your mothers, your bodies, your lovers and God. And that, in a nutshell, is the minor miracle of Lamott's writing.

A reader sez.....that Fr. McCloskey will be on EWTN's The World Over tonight.

Unfortunately, we don't get EWTN anymore, since we switched from Dish to DirectTV (hopefully, if they merge, we'll be back on track again), but we, as well as the rest of you, can listen online, if not live, then when it gets archived.

A reader points me to John Derbyshire "fanning the flames of religious indifferentism (scroll down for that part).

Because of the accident of having been born in a Christian country and educated by Christians, it is Christianity that gives me a window into the real world. If I had been raised among Hindus, Taoists, Jews, or Muslims, then I suppose it would have been one of those religions that provided the window. A different-shaped window, if you like — square instead of oval. These windows are manmade objects, sharing in all the imperfections of humanity. Some of them are a bit dirty; some are long overdue for a coat of paint on the frame; on some can be seen what look suspiciously like bloodstains. The world that they permit us a glimpse of, though, is beautiful, pure, and kind, a realm of perfect bliss. That's why I am always ready to give benefit of the doubt to other religions, while having no intention whatsoever of embracing any of them, or of apologizing for my own.

Well, of course, a fellow's entitled to whatever explanation of religion he chooses, but who can blame us if we're left wondering...why bother...with explanations like this. Sure, it would make sense coming from a sympathizer with Eastern religions, but from a Christian? I have to say, I can't rouse up much interest in the whole Jesus thing if it's not true from top to bottom. Christianity may certainly mean treating all as children of God, no matter what their professed religion, but it doesn't mean dumbing down the Christian claims, to just another window into the Twilight Zone. Jesus crucified and risen is more than one window among many. Much more.

Here's the Catholic News Service story about Dolan's installation.
Here's a year-old piece I wrote on Catholic Exchange today!

If you came here because of that, and would like more along those lines, go to the home page and click on the picture of Flannery O'Connor near the top.

No, this blog is not HQ for the Dreher Cult (although He did take up some comment space outlining His demands somewhere down there- pretty funny if you can find it), but I was struck by the wisdom in the piece in today's NRO taking CBS to task for their "reality" Beverly Hillbillies proposal:

hat if a major television network sent out teams to search the Bronx, Compton, and the south side of Chicago looking for a large "multi-generational family" of poor black folks, who would move into a Beverly Hills mansion for a year? Cameras would follow the Negroes around, capturing their fish-out-of-water hijinks for the entertainment of millions of viewers, who will be invited to laugh as the urban rustics squirm and gawk in front of their social betters. If that were true, there would be no end to the outrage over the racist exploitation and class denigration inherent in such a morally rancid enterprise. Jesse Jackson would be all over creation, raising hell about a media corporation sponsoring a minstrel show — and for once in my life, I'd have to agree with him.In fact, this is a true story, but the hapless rubes CBS is searching out are not African Americans, but poor southern whites, the only ethnic group in the country that it is permissible to mock in polite company.

Reminds me a bit of the flap over the ESPN Tennessee-Vol ad

The commercial showed Lee Corso, one of the College GameDay analysts, waiting for an elevator. The doors open, and the elevator is filled with orange-clad Vols fans. A pig runs out, and an overweight woman holding another pig and wearing a shower cap and robe yells, "Come here, Rocky Top!" An elderly man wearing shorts and hooked up to an IV bottle is shown with a couple kissing in the back of the elevator. A sign mentioning Tennessee alumni is also visible.

My eldest son, who works with the UT Athletic Department, tells me that yes, they really were incensed (he wasn't, by the way), and shared some choice, unprintable quotes from Phil Fulmer on the subject. My father, who also lives in Knoxville, though, tells me that some time this week, a local radio show was broadcasting on locations somewhere, and was to have new UT President John Shumaker as a guest. He showed up - in a shower cap and a robe, carrying a pig. Now that's the way to deal with an objectionable commercial - take notes, Catholic League. (Although they were right in the Opie and Andy stunt, and great kudos for them for that....but sometimes...a little humor would be in order to put everything in context...)

Peter Vere has posted his canonical evaluation of the priest and the Planned Parenthood employee

Fr. Rob Johansen has very helpfully collated all the thoughts on "gripping and grinning" - i.e. greeting each other before Mass, and offered his own concluding thoughts.

Also, at Fr. Rob's spot, you'll find a description of the latest foray in the War of the Rose, as he calls it - a piece in the September issue of Crisis magazine about Rose's treatment of a situation at Louvain.

From SF: Even good priests fear zero tolerance:

Catholic priests in the Bay Area and across the nation are waking up to the harsh new world of "zero tolerance," fearful that a decades-old allegation of inappropriate touching can ruin a life of service. "Some priests are scared that Monday morning they will find their names in the paper or get a letter from the bishop," said the Rev. Eugene Tungol, chairman of the Council of Priests of the San Francisco Archdiocese. "We have no peace of mind now. Who will be next? It's scary to us. All it takes is one parishioner from 10 to 15 years ago who hated us, and this can happen."

Thursday, August 29

There's only one seminary left in Ireland

The Roman Catholic Church in Ireland, whose network of theological schools once exported priests worldwide, closed another hallowed institution Thursday, leaving just a single seminary in this predominantly Catholic country. The directors of St. Patrick's College in Thurles, County Tipperary in southwest Ireland said that their few remaining seminarians would transfer immediately to the church's flagship seminary, Maynooth College near Dublin, which is struggling to produce enough priests for the next generation of Irish Catholics.....The Thurles seminary was the seventh to close in the Republic of Ireland since 1993, leaving only Maynooth, which was the first Irish seminary, founded in 1795. This summer Maynooth enrolled 15 new seminarians. A handful of others entered the Irish College in Rome and a Belfast seminary, St. Malachy's, in the neighboring British territory of Northern Ireland.

Hideous, hideous stuff. This is what we're talking about, and you've got to read the whole thing:

Molesting priest has hidden for years on St. Maarten's, with the law after him and more than a few Church folk aware of his location, even if they deny it.

The Rev. Laurence F.X. Brett vanished abruptly almost a decade ago, leaving clothes still hanging in his closet and a trail of accusers stretching across four states and back 30 years. Now, a Hartford Courant investigation has found the onetime fugitive - whose flight took him beyond the reach of police and plaintiffs' attorneys investigating accusations that Brett sexually abused teenage boys - living a secretive but comfortable life on the tropical island of St. Maarten in the Caribbean....Since shortly after his disappearance late in 1993, the official position of the Roman Catholic Church has been that it wants Brett found and brought to justice. Church officials in Bridgeport and Baltimore have called Brett a criminal and an "evil man." The FBI and a private detective have tried, unsuccessfully, to find him.But interviews and documents make clear that, during the past decade, a handful of priests and laypersons loyal to Brett have known where to find him - and, in one case, were financially supporting his life on the lam.The Courant found evidence that Brett has been in contact for years with at least one and perhaps two priests in the Bridgeport diocese, a prominent businessman who is an associate of Baltimore Cardinal William Keeler, a psychologist from Johns Hopkins University, and an order of Catholic priests in Washington.An evangelical branch of the order, the Paulist Fathers, for whom Brett worked for many years, supported him financially for years on St. Maarten by sending checks to a Miami mailbox, where they were forwarded to an offshore company in Brett's name, a source familiar with the arrangement said.

Christianity Today's Film Forum asks the question:

Is software that enables a viewer to edit out offensive material from movies a good idea?

The most frequently cited examples in this discussion are Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan. I say - if you're old enough to see either, you're old enough to see the "offensive" material in either - these are mature, complex films. Isn't it a bit crazy to "be offended" by nudity in a movie about genocide? What - you want your movies about mass murder to be...inoffensive?

And as for the rest of the film canon, ready for the parent's editing knife, I say - sure. But wouldn't it save time, instead of going through all the trouble of editing the vulgarities out of an Adam Sandler or Eddie Murphy movie, to maybe...skip the movies completely (masterpieces that they are) and read a book or watch the Marx Brothers instead?

Today is the feastday of the Beheading of John the Baptist.

I'll be heading off to Mass at our parish/school (St. John the Baptist) where Katie will be doing the first reading this AM.

From the Chicago Tribune (LRR): Black Catholics still crusading

More than a century ago, when delegates to the Congress of Colored Catholics met in Chicago in 1893, they called for the ordination of black priests, an end to discrimination in churches and schools, and more evangelism in black communities.When the National Black Catholic Congress opens another Chicago meeting Thursday, delegates will demand more progress toward all of those same goals. They also are calling for the acceptance of blacks at the highest levels of church leadership and for a full recognition of their gifts in a church they feel has too often dismissed their concerns."Some of the issues that came up at the congress in the late 19th Century are the same issues that are important to the congress today," said James Cavendish, sociology professor at the University of South Florida in Tampa. "The difference is that we have 13 black Catholic bishops, and we have 350 black Catholic priests who can represent black Catholics."Among those 13 are Chicago Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Perry and Belleville Bishop Wilton Gregory, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Both men will participate in the four-day congress, which is expected to draw 3,000 people and will be addressed Friday by Cardinal Francis George

The kind host of Cella's Review has sent along a link to a wonderful essay by Rebecca West on St. Augustine.

Wednesday, August 28

Looking ahead, Pete Vere sez he'll soon be blogging on the Alberta priest who refused the PP employee marriage.
Karen Marie Knapp is in Milwaukeee, telling us all about Archbishop Dolan.

Here's a brief AP article on the installation.

Okay, you all can lay off Dreher...

And start directing your arrows at Ralph McInerny

Is it fair of conservative critics to lay such scandals at the feet of John Paul II? The fact is that he has dealt no more harshly with theological dissenters than Paul VI. Some of the bishops he named, even some of the cardinals he created, are, if only covertly, on the side of the dissenters. It is clear that John Paul II does not micro-manage the Catholic Church and that his macro-management is faulty. The indictment of him by liberals and representatives of the “false spirit of Vatican II” is amplified by the secular media and many once great Catholic publications. This has led to the founding of new journals and magazines and publishing houses whose role in strengthening the faith of ordinary Catholics cannot be underestimated. But Catholics who enthusiastically support and defend the Pope often get the cold shoulder from bishops appointed by him. To say that John Paul II has often been let down by bishops may be true, but that is not much of a defense when it is realized that it was he put these bishops in place. So it is that, on left and right alike, John Paul II’s governance of the Church comes under severe and justified criticism. So wherein does his greatness lie?

There's an answer, of course, and it's similar to much of what's been said on the blogs:

It is here, I suspect, in his laying the ground work for the Third Millennium, that John Paul II’s greatness lies. He declined to enter into an overt civil war with dissenters. He knew the Church would survive them. Despite the terrible depredations of doctrinal confusion, there is only so much discipline can do. Neither faith nor orthodoxy can be forced on anyone, not even theologians. John Paul II has apparently chosen to wait them out, to look to the future, and to provide sound doctrine for the renewal that he and Vatican II foresaw.

From an editorial in Catholic Dossier

Many thanks to reader David for pointing us to this article, which perhaps will broaden the discussion a bit.

Here's information on the protests going on at Catholic pro-abortion Michigan candidate Jennifer Granholm's parish.

Here is more specific information about a prayer/protest that will be taking place at the Cathedral in Detroit this Sunday.

Thanks to Tim Drake for pointing us to the National Catholic Register editorial responding, without naming him, to Dreher's WSJ piece.

One question of usage: (from NCReg, not Drake)

He has written a beautiful and thorough magisterium, he has encouraged the apostolic movements, he created the World Youth Day gatherings with their many fruits.

Can that possibly be a correct use of the word "magisterium?"

Want to support a good priest? Or read about a good priest?

Then go to Thank You, Father , a website described in this CNS story.

Fr. Rob Johansen has asked our views on the practice of congregations being asked to "turn to your neighbor and introduce yourself" before Mass.

You can critique this practice from many perspectives, but the most important one is theological. Such a practice is usually instituted with the hopes that it will help "form community." The expression of this hope reveals a profound and rather frightening ignorance of what Mass is all about.

Mass is, indeed, all about community, but it's not community that's humanly created or scripted or manipulated. It's about the real community that comes into existence and is nourished by - Communion. Get it?

Whether we know it or not, whether we feel it or not, it's there. In the mystery of the Eucharist, in the act of sharing in that mystery, we are joined in the profound community called the Body of Christ.

The call of the liturgical presider and planner is not to "create" community - it is to deepen people's understanding and consciousness of the community that already exists in the Body of Christ, and what that means.

To be fixated on "creating community" through imposing new rituals upon the liturgy is to send the message that the Eucharist is nothing; but our handshakes are everything.

Victor Lams has the text of Papa Doc's clarification and another bulletin note on the same issue by another priest with a distinctly different view than our Padre in Plymouth.
Alberta priest refuses to marry Planned Parenthood employee

A southern Alberta Catholic pastor has told a Planned Parenthood employee that she cannot be married in the Catholic church because she refuses to renounce her pro-abortion beliefs and employment. Celina Ling, who was supposed to marry fiance Robert Symmonds at St. Patrick's Church on Sept. 21, was told by Fr. John Maes that she could not be wed in the church due to her pro-abortion stand.

Today is the feast of St. Augustine.

Here's a link to a piece I wrote on Augustine a few years ago.

Here's a link to a page of St. Augustine links.

And here's a very, very interesting site, well worth your time, of an account of a trip to a conference on "Augustine in Algeria" compiled by a former University of Pennsylvania Classics prof who's now Provost of Georgetown.

God has no need of your money, but the poor have. You give it to the poor, and God receives it. (St. Augustine)

Go check out the picture that Lucianne has on her site today.

Don't you feel safer now?

Tuesday, August 27

Research begins into possible beatification of John Paul I
The Catholic Radio and Television Network: providing a way for Catholic programming to be broadcast over the Internet.
Richmond Diocese opens up cause for beatification of eight Spanish Jesuits.

Bishop Walter Sullivan of Richmond has opened the diocesan phase of the beatification process for eight Spanish Jesuits who were put to death in 1571. The cause should ascertain the martyrdom of the religious, who were killed by the Indians of a village near present-day Yorktown. Two of the victims were priests: Father Juan Bautista de Segura, vice provincial of Havana, and Father Luis de QuirĂ³s. Three were lay brothers and three were novices.

St. Blog's Drinking Game! All in one place!
Thanks to Victor for pointing out this website on Jennifer Granholm, compiled by Michigan Right to LIfe.
Kathryn Lively started the St. Blog's drinking game.

Victor Lams jumped in

Pete Vere issued some canonical threats (I think.)

My contribution: Hoist one everytime....

My husband Michael Dubruiel mentions the Florida Gators, Steve Spurrier or a racing Bodine brother. You'll be wasted by 9am.

A morning passes with only Popcak contributing to the allegedly "co-operative"HMS Blog (I can say that, since I'm one of the guilty ones...)

Eve Tushnet uses the phrase "vast post" and then does it.

Sean Gallagher mentions either his lawn or his golf game.

Welborn complains about how much work she has to do and then follows it up with about 73 blog posts.

An account from the Detroit News of the Granholm controversy

The weekend pickets will continue until at least the Nov. 5 election that pits Granholm against Lt. Gov. Dick Posthumus, said George D. Stephens, 49, a Madison Heights salesman who is leading the demonstrations. "Jennifer Granholm appears at campaign stops with a Bible in her hand, but she's not following what it says," Stephens said. The archdiocese mostly has stayed out of the fray, except to issue a statement reaffirming its opposition to abortion after Our Lady of Good Counsel associate pastor the Rev. Doc Ortman wrote an Aug. 4 article in the church bulletin that defended Granholm's right to be pro-choice and Catholic. Granholm's husband, Dan Mulhern, passed out fliers to parishioners that same day apologizing for the "siege" and asking them to pray for his wife.On Sunday, Ortman apologized in the church bulletin for causing "embarrassment and hurt" and wrote that he remains opposed to abortion.

Yes, an archdiocese silent in the face of a political candidate flaunting her religion and her pro-abortion creds. Yeah. Good job.

Condoleeza Rice on her religious faith.
A fairly thorough article on controversy about the Catholic-Jewish statement on evangelization from Catholic News Service.

I suppose I still wonder.....I understand the nuances of this issue in terms of the reality of the covenant , but...if evangelization to Jews were to be considered off-limits..would the Catholic side of this dialogue tell Jesus to just cut it out?

Four Detroit-area priests charged.

Four Roman Catholic priests who formerly worked in the Archdiocese of Detroit have been charged with criminal sexual conduct in cases that date from the 1960s to the 1980s, the Wayne County prosecutor said Tuesday.The charges are unusual because the alleged crimes occurred so long ago, but prosecutor Mike Duggan said the priests can be tried because they left Michigan before the statute of limitations ran out.The charges include multiple counts of first- and second-degree criminal sexual conduct involving boys 14 and younger. The most recent case involves a 13-year-old allegedly molested in 1986 at St. Robert's in Redford Township.The priests are Harry Benjamin, 60, of Virginia; Robert Burkholder, 82, of Hawaii; Edward Oleszewski, 67, of Florida; and Jason E. Sigler, 64, of New Mexico."The magnitude of this is astonishing," Duggan said. "If they have one skill, it's manipulation."

Archbishop Milingo returning to Rome in October.

He's been in Argentina:

Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, who went through a marriage ceremony presided over by Sun Myung Moon last year, will return to Italy in October, a Vatican official says. Following a year of "retreat" in Argentina which enabled him to write an autobiography, the Zambian prelate is preparing to take up his ministry in the Zagarolo center of spirituality near Rome, according to Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, secretary of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Archbishop Bertone revealed the news Friday to the newspaper Il Giornale and to Italian state television. He said Archbishop Milingo "is well physically, morally and spiritually," thus denying the public protests of some followers who accused the Vatican of keeping the African a "prisoner." The Vatican official said that since Oct. 10, Archbishop Milingo has been living in Argentina with a local bishop and two priests. Neither the city nor the bishop was identified

One of the more balanced articles I've seen about a parish and its accused priest, from Worcester, Mass where, if you recall, the priest is accused of multiple strange and abusive acts - before his ordination.

So I asked Mr. Delisle why no diocesan leader, including Bishop Daniel P. Reilly, has stepped forward to urge these misguided parishioners to knock it off. To let the system work and end the divisiveness. To stop causing distress to those now telling allegedly difficult details of their past relationship with the popular priest. “There have been conversations between the bishop and the people of St. John's,” Mr. Delisle said. “I don't know that he hasn't been having these conversations privately.” I do know -- and he hasn't. John R. Sharry, originally one of the most vocal and public supporters of Rev. Coonan, has met with the bishop twice -- once privately, and once with other supporters. At no time did the bishop suggest that supporters back off, or tone down their support, he said. Mr. Sharry, apparently, has tempered his support on his own. Recently, he decided to call one of Rev. Coonan's alleged victims. The men spoke on the phone for about 15 minutes, he said. “He was very articulate and credible,” said Mr. Sharry, a former Worcester County commissioner. “He didn't strike me as someone who was trying to profit from the scandal. He seemed like he wanted the truth as he knows it to be known.” Earlier this month, an emotional Mr. Sharry gave an impassioned speech in support of Rev. Coonan, rousing parishioners to fight for his return. Yesterday, he acknowledged that his outlook has changed. “I've switched gears from blind loyalty to Father Coonan to a commitment to keeping the parish healthy,” Mr. Sharry said. “I'm not suggesting anymore that things didn't happen ... Father Coonan denies it. Do I believe him? I don't know. In the beginning I was caught up in the emotion of the situation, but it's become apparent to me that my focus should be in maintaining St. John's parish. There is a good possibility that St. John's will need to survive without Father Coonan.”

Another, slightly more colorful account than I've posted before, of the turf battle raging on the roof of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

At 11:40 a.m. Saturday, a 72-year-old Egyptian priest walked out onto the roof of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher carrying a wooden chair. Limping heavily, the Reverend Abdel Mallek walked to a wall in the shade of a tree mysteriously rooted in the ancient stone and sat down near a cluster of Ethiopian monks, gazing at nothing in particular.Exactly 15 minutes later, he gathered his chair and walked back into the Coptic monastery.It was the most prosaic of scenes, except that Mallek was closely guarded by an Israeli policeman, and three others stood guard. From the windows of the Egyptian monastery on one side, someone recorded the scene with a video camera, while several Ethiopian monks peered over the wall of their ancient compound on the other side.Only a few weeks earlier, the position of the old priest's chair had provoked a vicious fight between Ethiopians and Egyptians, which resulted in the hospitalization of 11 monks. Since then, while trying to mediate a cease-fire, Israel has sent armed guards daily to accompany Mallek on his daily sit-down.

2 DC priests accused of abuse dismissed

The priests are the Rev. Paul E. Lavin, who was pastor of a well-known Capitol Hill parish, and Monsignor Russell L. Dillard, who was pastor of the historic St. Augustine Church in Northwest. Both had been on suspension since allegations were made against them earlier this year....According to a spokeswoman for the Washington Archdiocese, allegations against the two priests were heard by a panel named by the cardinal to determine the credibility of the allegations and whether they came under the bishops' new policy. Under the policy, any priest who has sexually abused a minor, no matter how long ago, must be removed permanently from the ministry.
Details of the Washington panel's deliberations, which apparently began this month, could not be learned. Susan Gibbs, spokeswoman for the archdiocese, emphasized last night that church leaders regarded McCarrick's action, taken within the past two weeks, as an "interim step" under church procedures. She said both priests have the right to appeal their dismissals to the Vatican.

The terms for the investigation of Archbishop Pell have been released:

THE inquiry into sex abuse allegations against Sydney Catholic Archbishop George Pell will be held behind closed doors, according to the terms of reference released today.The co-chairmen of the Catholic Church's National Committee for Professional Standards, Archbishop Philip Wilson and Brother Michael Hill, today said all hearings would be held in camera....The terms of reference for the inquiry say information obtained during the hearings will not (not) be released by the commissioner without the written consent of both parties, unless he is compelled by law to do so.It also says the chairmen may make public all or part of the commissioner's report if they consider it appropriate.A statement released by the Catholic Church with the terms of reference today said the hearings would be conducted in Melbourne "as soon as possible"....

Today, of course, is the feast of St. Monica, with tomorrow being the day we remember her son.

Here's a piece I wrote about them both last year.

Lane Core has good observations on what he calls the "scorched-Dreher" reactions of the last few days.

Frankly, I am astonished — and I am appalled — at the reaction by many Catholics to Dreher's article. Mostly because vitriolic personal judgements have been levelled at him for daring to criticize the prudential judgements of a reigning pontiff. He is accused of grandstanding, of not thinking with the Tradition, and of being the seat of monstrous pride.No matter what else they do, these inexcusable personal attacks will provide boatloads of ammunition to any anti-Catholic bigot who is paying attention.....

The Boston Herald is running an investigative report on the Archdiocese of Boston's assets, particularly unused property. The main story is here.

But using figures from the assessor's office in each of the 144 communities, the Herald found $159,393,996 in property unrelated to the operation of any active church, school, cemetery or hospital owned by the archdiocese.
Selling off that property, even at assessed value alone, plus the estimated $40 million in insurance money church officials have said is available would easily cover the Geoghan settlement and provide enough money for the estimated 400 remaining victims without affecting active parishes, said experts.

The question being, therefore, is it lawful or moral for the Archdiocese to threaten bankruptcy in the the face of large settlements when it has unused land of this value in its possession?

Other article are here, here, and here.

Of course, the issue of property is a complicated one, even for a Catholic diocese. Today's unused property might prove to be very useful two decades down the line. In growth areas, the Church actually does well to try to look ahead, predict demographic change, and buy property in anticipation of needs for churches and schools. But the extent of unused properties these articles document is problematic and probably unnecessary.

The statement of the Boston Beer Company's president on the Opie and Andy stunt

By the way, if you are boycotting Sam Adams beer because of this, be sure to let the company know. Contact information is at the website linked above.

Here's an article from the Globe about the apology and some efforts to put pressure on the company:

Koch said he had heard complaints from at least two local accounts that want to stop serving Sam Adams products. One was Michael Sheehan, owner of Jimmy O'Keefe's in Boston's Financial District. Sheehan said he's been in contact with about a dozen other local restaurants in an effort to organize a protest.Describing himself as Catholic father who is ''trying to bring his kids up right,'' Sheehan said he was ''deeply offended'' by the Opie and Anthony promotion. Sheehan confirmed that Koch had called him to make a personal apology, and Sheehan said he pressed Koch to take out newspaper ads to make his contrition more public.''He told me he'd think about it,'' Sheehan said.

Monday, August 26

A reader writes in with the text of another WSJ letter re/Dreher: (reader's comments in bold):

"I agree with many of the opinions expressed by Mr. Dreher, particularly his assessment of Cardinal Law's mendacity. However, his article betrays an offended enthusiasm, a jejeune sense of injury and scandal [!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! -- oh...injury? scandal?...], that I find surprising in anyone old enough to be a senior editor of anything. Such disappointment as he expresses is the almost inevitable result of the excessive enthusiasm about the person of this present pope, as distinct from his office. Maturity, particularly maturity in the faith, requires that we accept the failures and the successes of our fellow man, even bishops and popes, with equanimity. One might object that bishops and the pope have shown excessive equanimity in the face of the evils they were in a position to punish and prevent--I wouldn't disagree. Nevertheless, serenity is the proper attitude for those who do not bear that responsibility. Evil we will have with us always."Angela Lessard, South Pasadena, California

...but I, Angela, can put aside my own equanimity long enough to be so surprised at someone's jejeune sense of injury that I need to write a letter about it to the Wall Street Journal.


Oh yes. Nancy Nall points me to Lileks, first thing. Scroll down to get in the swing of his bleat on Opie and Anthony,

I’m curious how we got here. How we ended up paying four million dollars to a breed of morons so devoid of empathy that they cannot begin to imagine the reasons why their stunt was so deeply offensive - and not just to Catholics, but people like me who are not welded to organized religion. Well, the Islamicists regard the sight of an uncovered female head as deeply offensive, and you don’t care about their reactions. No, I don’t. But I understand why it is offensive to them, and I don’t advocate sending scarfless women into their mosques, or sending in Stammering Stu to rip off their headgear and shout “saw your hair! Haw haw!”

...then building, as the Bleats always do, to a fine crescendo and a perfect final line, which you'll have to just go and enjoy yourself. Here.

Fr. John McCloskey (whose website is here) has a letter in response to Rod Dreher's piece in today's WSJ. It's not online, of course, but it reads in part:

Mr. Dreher, as a convert to the Catholic Church, does not seem to realize that the church in this world is made up of a [sic] 100% fallible sinners from the pope on down. The church exists to forgive our sins and to give us the supernatural help to become saints. The Holy Father (John Paul II) has repeatedly spoken out strongly against and about the proportion of the minuscule proportion of [sic] Catholic priests and bishops in this in this [sic] disgusting matter of sexual abuse in the US. The remedies are already being put into effect. I would hope that Mr. Dreher would be more patient in terms of the remedy. The church has a pretty good track record. Check in again in about another thousand years.

Here's Rod's response:

How dare Fr. McCloskey condescend to me as a convert (read: second-rate Catholic), as if my respectful questioning of the Pope's handling of the sex-abuse scandal were a sign of naivete. He is trivializing a very serious matter with these smarmy remarks. What does recognizing the theological truth that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God have to do with the fact that the Pope can be faulted for the way he's governed the Church? It seems apparent to me that Fr. McCloskey takes the failure of the hierarchy, up to the Pope, to have reacted with a proper sense of outrage in the face of this evil as just another garden-variety sin, a sign of our fallen human nature. Could he possibly be more out of touch with the people in the pews, most particularly the victims and their families? This is the kind of failure of compassion and indeed common human decency that makes people lose their faith in the Catholic Church.

In point of fact, John Paul has not spoken out much at all about the crisis, and when he has done so, it's usually in the context of worrying about how the scandal affects other priests. I have good priest friends who are suffering greatly in this crisis, but I'd wager that every one of them believes that the victims of clerical sex abuse deserve the most attention. I appreciate what the Pope has had to say about the crisis, and wish he had said more, but aside from that, I wish he would *do something* about it. I'll quote C.S. Lewis again: "A long face is not a moral disinfectant."

I have no idea what Fr. McCloskey means about "remedies ... already being put into effect." Is he talking about the Dallas norms? Those are likely to be rejected by Rome, and from what I understand, with good reason. If he's not talking about the Dallas norms, then what is he talking about?

Fr. McCloskey's invitation to "check in again in about another thousand years" is insulting to those faithful Catholics who are sick and tired of the Church hierarchy knowing precisely the extent of the problem, and continuing to do nothing but lie, evade, reward clerical wrongdoers, and punish victims. If we have another 17 years like the time since 1985, when the sex-abuse crisis in the US Catholic Church broke into the public's consciousness, there won't be a Church here. Christ promised the gates of Hell would not prevail against His Church; he did not promise that the Church would survive in the United States. Clerical attitudes such as Fr. McCloskey's only make things worse for the Church.

Back in January, when I first began to write critically about the Boston scandal, Fr. McCloskey wrote to me to advise me to shut up about the scandal, to let "secular journalists" work on the matter. As if being silent in the face of child-rape and a cover-up by the Church hierarchy were the duty of good Catholics. I'm grateful to God that those days are over, and good Catholic men and women who love their Church and are faithful to her are no longer going to be silenced by the smug opinions of clericalists who appear more interested in the image of the Church than in the protection of children, and justice for victims of the clergy. There is too much at stake here. Fr. McCloskey recommends patience; as I've said elsewhere, if you seek a monument to the patience of the Catholic laity with the bishops, read the daily papers.

I have much to do, so I don't have time to adequately respond right this second, except for two points:

This condescension to converts has got to stop.

It reminds me of the scene in the Sean Pean - Robert DeNiro masterpiece We're No Angels in which, as I recall, a presiding bishop or abbot or something is informed that the two men who had been masquerading as monks were really convicts. He mishears. "Converts?" he responds, horrified. No, he is assured - convicts. Oh, well then, that's all right.

It's absurd. Anyone with a sense of church history would know the life and energy that flows from converts. Of course, at the beginning, everyone was a convert, which sort of proves my point on its own, but moving ahead a few centuries, all it takes is a quick look to see what wisdom our Church gains from converts from Newman to Chesterton to Merton to Dorothy Day to our slew of modern-day converts who are at the foundation of contemporary's hard to think of many twentieth century "great Catholics" who weren't converts in some sense - either from another religion or Christian denomination, or from nominal Catholicism.

Secondly, focus, focus, focus...once again. What's the problem with wondering, in a faithful-I-really-dig-the-Pope-but-still kind of way.. what in the hell's going on? Surveys show that most Catholics can deal with the sin of the individual priest. It's the institutional nonsense that's beyond them, and rightly so. What's going on with these bishops who've priest-shuffled - Catholics want to know. What price are they paying? Our schools and other institutions might get shut down. Our kids and the poor might suffer. What price are the bishops paying beyond their good reputation? And more importantly, what's being done to prevent such dealings again? the Vatican apparently doesn't like the Dallas norms, as many's the alternative? What's going on?

And as someone commented several scores of comments ago - enough with the mystery. If something is indeed beind done, out with it. Let us know. There's no reason for us to be left guessing on this.

And no.. I don't have more of the letter. If you have it, either post it in the comments or email me, and I'll supplement.

And on those converts?.....take a look at Dave Armstrong's convert page for some edification and education.

Update: I'm told that is the entire text of the letter, typos and all...does the WSJ need new copy editors or does Fr. McCloskey?

Update: As a reader points out in the comments, Fr. McCloskey's initial comments about converts is very odd, given his role in the conversion of many people, both famous and not-famous.

Canonization cause for architect Antoni Gaudi advances
US Catholics barred from kneeling to receive Communion?

From Catholic World News via Catholic Exchange

The Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy declared in its July newsletter: "The bishops of the United States have decided that the normative posture for receiving Holy Communion should be standing. Kneeling is not a licit posture for receiving Holy Communion in the dioceses of the United States of America unless the bishop of a particular diocese has derogated from this norm in an individual and extraordinary circumstance."

Forget Sunday night church: Sunday night TV gives this columnist just as much food for thought

Growing up, Sunday night church services were often the most spiritual part of my week. On Sunday nights, we got to talk about music and movies and books and school and, well, sex. I can almost picture exactly where I was sitting and what I was wearing when our pastor's wife, Katie, gave the youth group the old "how far is too far" sex talk one evening about 20 years ago.Somehow, Sunday night church felt more relevant.I rarely make it to church on Sunday nights any more. But I have managed to maintain the relevant church mindset with a new ritual. This one's a little unorthodox. Almost every Sunday, after or while my husband and I are eating dinner, we flip on the idiot box for what are often, for me at least, some of the most profound and introspective hours of the week.It starts with "The Simpsons" on Fox. Then, I move on to HBO for "The Sopranos" (though not lately), "Sex and the City" and "Six Feet Under."Sunday night TV has replaced Sunday night church for me. And I don't think it's a bad thing.

Bishop banned from boarding airplane with his crook

Northumberland bishop has been banned from boarding a plane with his traditional crook after security staff deemed it an offensive weapon.The Right Reverend Christopher Rogerson was on his way from Newcastle to Brussels for a religious festival and wanted to take the crosier as hand luggage.Airline staff at British European say the four-piece crook is classed as a possible security risk under new checks brought in since September 11

In case you hadn't heard...Pope cancels visit to Philippines.

Sunday, August 25

I still haven't seen Signs,, but I'll throw Stephen Holden's NYTimes (LRR) critique of the film's spirituality your way, anyway.

The exploitation of magical thinking in mass entertainment — the "touched by an angel" syndrome — triggers an almost allergic reaction in me. It strikes me as a sentimental palliative that encourages people to wallow in passivity and wait for miracles instead of doing for themselves. As much as I admired the craft behind the whopper ending of "The Sixth Sense," that movie left me feeling manipulated by a spiritual huckster. And so does "Signs."

An interesting look at the neo-Pentecostal movement in Black churches:

Scholars who study the African-American church consider neo-Pentecostalism and the rise of the black megachurch to be the most significant trends in the past two decades.Although there are no official statistics, historian Vinson Synan said a conservative estimate is that a third of mainline black churches - Baptist and Methodist - have embraced neo-Pentecostalism; that's about 5 million people. Perhaps more significant is that nearly all the African-American megachurches (those with more than 2,000 members) are neo-Pentecostal, including Bethel AME, Empowerment Temple AME, and New Psalmist, New Shiloh and Mount Pleasant Baptist churches in Baltimore. But the success of neo-Pentecostalism has prompted debate about the nature and mission of the black church. On one side are the longtime heroes of the civil rights movement, who express grave concerns that church-based social activism is being cast aside by the new emphasis on entertaining worship services, which they deride as "shake and bake," and by the creation of a cult of celebrity preachers.... There is hesitation among the generation of neo-Pentecostal ministers to directly criticize men they consider their elders, for whom they profess respect and admiration. But the ministers also offer no apologies for their approach. "When social action became the emphasis, the church lost its balance," said the Rev. Frank M. Reid III, pastor of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, the city's oldest and largest black church. "Now, what the principles of this movement have done is to help us regain the balance between spirituality and social action."

At last, at last:

Here's Rod Dreher's WSJ piece online

An accused Cleveland-area priest fights back

In an April 8 letter to his staff and congregation, Lieberth announced his leave and acknowledged an "isolated incident" involving a 17-year-old boy. He said he apologized to the youth and his parents for "violating their confidence" and received the parents' forgiveness. He went through multiple psychological assessments before continuing a ministry that eventually brought him to Holy Family. In a recent interview, Lieberth's brother said the priest had acknowledged a "spontaneous" and "unplanned" incident with the teen on their trip. But, as Rev. Lieberth wrote in a July 22 letter to his staff, he has denied committing any sexual abuse of a minor, as the Dallas charter defines such behavior. Reading from the charter, Lieberth's brother said sexual abuse is defined as "contacts or interaction . . . when a child is being used as an object of sexual gratification for the adult." "Father Joe denies that his behavior meets that test," David Lieberth said. Before we get all upset about the unjustly accused priests gamely fighting back, let's take a close look at this story, in particular.

It involves a priest who has been accused by two men of making sexual advances of various sorts...while they were on driving trips out to the West with him. In one of the incidents, the priest has admitted that something occurred, but that it doesn't meet the standard of "abuse" defined by the bishops. The other accuser has very specific accusations, which the priest denies.

The truth of it is murky, and the priest deserves fair treatment, but doesn't it seems as if something is strange here? Taking kids on long driving trips? Why?

Theologians re-thinking the whole "giving scandal" thing

But since the revelations that some bishops routinely failed to inform the public or prosecutors that some priests were molesting minors, Catholic theologians and ethicists are rethinking the priority the church has attached to protecting rank-and-file Catholics from the dark secrets of their church.''Clearly, this disaster was shaped, in part, by a misplaced preoccupation with institutional repute,'' said Julia A. Fleming, an associate professor of theology at Creighton University, a Jesuit school in Nebraska. ''As is often true in such cases, attempts at damage control eventually compromised the most basic form of reputation - the reputation for decency.''

Saturday, August 24

A look at five priests who are fighting back against sexual abuse allegations with civil suits

Because all five cases have been filed since early July, they have invited comparison. Father Eremito was removed from his duties in the Archdiocese of New York in 1992 after accusations of sexual abuse. But the career records of the four priests in the Tulsa, Oklahoma City, St. Louis and Cleveland dioceses show no allegations of sex abuse beyond the single accusations that the priests have contested, church officials said. Because of those otherwise unblemished records, all four priests have received at least private endorsement for their civil lawsuits from their bishops, church officials and the priests' lawyers said.

I hope truth comes out - that falsehood on any side is exposed as just that. However, the slight problem I have in this reporting, as well as in other similar types of reports, is the implication that because an alleged victim is a criminal or has had substance abuse problems, they are not credible. Some might see it that way - but I see it this way: Abuse can (although not necessarily does) lead to dysfunctional behavior on the part of the victim. Further, it is not unthinkable that an abuser would purposefully pick out victims who come from damaged backgrounds or are already engaging in questionable behavior as a way of protecting themselves against future accusations - "Look at me! Priest! Look at him! Drug addicted petty thief! Who are you going to believe?"

Heartwrenching story from tomorrow's NYTimes Magazine about the struggle to keep a pregnancy - and a newborn - going in the wake of pre-eclampsia.
From the NYTimes Book Review: Judith Shulevitz writes about the perils of writing about faith

In other words, religious sentiment can be deadly to the literary impulse, which must be as willing to traffic in vain chatter and smart wit as in solemnity and uplift. Fortunately, there are always a few writers in a generation capable of taking on religion without limiting themselves to the higher emotions. The past few years have seen a remarkable number of books that never make the reader cringe despite their expressions of love for God or religion. I'm thinking of Garry Wills's ''Why I Am a Catholic,'' Leon Wieseltier's ''Kaddish,'' James Carroll's ''Constantine's Sword'' and Jonathan Rosen's ''Talmud and the Internet.''

Well. I guess. What I guess is that Shulevitz doesn't do a lot of reading on the subject - the books she cites are all acceptable-to-the-NYTimes-Bestseller-List type of books. Can we assure Shulevitz that there are plenty of good writers out there writing about their faith who might not cause even her to cringe?

And to say this about Augustine's Confessions:

The larger lesson here may be that it is possible to conduct a dignified yet personal conversation about religion if you do it with artful restraint. This isn't all that surprising, but we tend to forget that the model for all personal discussion of belief, Augustine's ''Confessions,'' is less a work of self-revelation than of philosophy, a critique of Manichaeism and a working-through of Neoplatonist ideas about God, the self and the world.

Has she read the Confessions? It is a deeply personal work, boldly revealing of the passions with which Augustine wrestled at his most heartfelt level - even his "theological" questions that he pours out in Book One bear the mark of a searching soul, not a mere intellectual working out problems.

Terry Mattingly on the trend of "missionary cohabitating"

Church people have a name for what happens when young believers get romantically involved with unbelievers.They call it "missionary dating," usually with one eyebrow raised in skepticism. Most of these relationships involve a good girl who is convinced that, with time, she can help a bad boy see the error of his ways and learn to walk the straight and narrow path. Times have changed. According to new research, a surprising number of females have graduated from "missionary dating" to "missionary cohabitating." "My theory is that women are willing to make sacrifices for their partners, once they have become emotionally attached," said researcher Scott Stanley, co-director of the Center for Marital and Family Studies at the University of Denver. "They're willing to make compromises to try to hang on to the relationship. Men won't do that."These girls are probably thinking, 'He's not perfect. But I love him and I can help him change.' Meanwhile, we know what the guys are thinking. They're thinking, 'I'm not sure she is the one I want. She's not my soul mate. But she'll do for now.' " What is fascinating is that women who say they are deeply religious are just as likely to live with men before marriage as women who are not, wrote Stanley, Sarah Whitton and Howard Markman. Their work is summarized in "Maybe I Do: Interpersonal Commitment and Premarital or Non-Marital Cohabitation," written for the Journal of Family Issues.

A very cool new search engine: Kartoo. I don't quite get it, but it's purty to look at.
Priests slaps girl he's baptizing

A Spanish priest baptizing a 3-year-old girl slapped the child in the face because she would not stop crying, a newspaper reported Saturday.Father Enrique Abad of Santa Rosa parish in the southeast town of Alcoy had asked the mother of 3-year-old Alba Diaz Pons to quiet her during the ceremony last Saturday, El Mundo said.
A firecracker explosion outside the church upset the girl even more. So as Abad anointed the child's forehead with oil, he slapped her in the face with his other hand, the paper said.

From the NYTimes: (LRR): A look at how zero-tolerance has impacted the diocese of Amarillo which, at most, has had 41 priests in recent years - 8 have had to leave because of the policy.

Of course. part of the reason for that is that the previous bisop made it a habit to recruit priests who were doing time in treatment centers for service in his diocese. The first priest described in the story had done jail time in California.

Bishop Matthiesen had hired him directly from a treatment program at Jemez Springs, N.M. where parole officers in California had allowed the priest to enroll for rehabilitation and counseling on sexual abuse. California officials refused to transfer his parole to Texas, so he had to return to New Mexico to finish his sentence. "I trusted the professional people at Jemez, who gave me a very good report on him," Bishop Matthiesen now says, explaining why he hired a man with a criminal conviction for sexual abuse of minors. "Their evaluation of him was that he could minister."By his own admission, Bishop Matthiesen developed a close relationship with officials at Jemez Springs, who began to recommend other priests from the program to him. He said he earned a reputation for taking such priests and began getting referrals from other bishops. He took one priest from a program in Maryland. He denied that he took the priests because of any difficulty in recruiting candidates in such a remote and small diocese, but his successor, Bishop Yanta, has told parishioners that was the case....In the cases of the eight priests, Bishop Matthiesen said he accepted at least five from the New Mexico treatment center and never told parishioners of their backgrounds. He said he had instituted safeguards, like monthly group sessions and meetings with a counselor for the priests. He also noted that none of these priests had been accused of any wrongdoing in the Amarillo diocese."I think I made the right decision," said Bishop Matthiesen, noting that he never accepted pedophiles but rather ephebophiles, abusers whose victims were ages 14 to 17. "I do believe in the possibility of conversion, of repentance, of rehabilitation."His mistake, he now says, was not telling parishioners."I personally wish I had done that," the bishop said. "But it wasn't what we did in those days."

Also from the Tikmes, the bishops have appointed the final member of the review board, Justice Petra J. Maes of the New Mexico Supreme Court.

SNAP has hardly any funds.

The leaders of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests have had a dizzying year, getting quoted on newspaper front pages across the country, chatting with Oprah Winfrey and Phil Donahue on national television and meeting with lay and ordained church leaders in Dallas and Washington, D.C.And although the Catholic Church's sexual abuse crisis has catapulted SNAP's once unpopular cause from the shadows of obscurity into the limelight, the group's finances often still linger in the red.SNAP's leaders have no letterhead, no national office and no operating budget. Their headquarters in Chicago is essentially a post office box. Their Midwest regional office is in Milwaukee, in donated space in Plymouth United Church of Christ, with no telephone....Clohessy, 45, said the most that SNAP had raised in any previous year was about $5,000, mainly from members."I used to say that we are a low-budget organization, and someone pointed out to me that this isn't true," Clohessy said. "We are a no-budget organization. If we had not been so busy simply trying to deal with people in pain, we certainly could have done a better job at organization building and fund raising."SNAP began soliciting donations at its Web site earlier this year, with people able to donate with credit cards through the PayPal Internet service. That has raised about $15,000. Another $12,000 to $15,000 has come from groups and individuals in other ways, including $5,000 from a California foundation and $2,000 from the Voice of the Faithful chapter in Boston, Clohessy said.

Jeb Bush cites religious bigotry as motivating force in outcry against appointment

Gov. Jeb Bush defended his choice to lead Florida's beleaguered child welfare agency after an article surfaced in which he condoned "manly" discipline of children and asserted that men have authority over their wives. Bush told reporters Friday that he questioned whether Jerry Regier was being pilloried because of his conservative religious views, and condemned a "soft bigotry that is emerging against people of faith." "It really doesn't matter if Jerry has a deep and abiding faith and it certainly doesn't disqualify him for public service," Bush said as Regier stood nearby. "I think there's bigotry here and it troubles me."

From Karen, two links related to the about-to-be elevated Dolan:

Archbishop looks forward to making Milwaukee home and Everything you ever wanted to know about Dolan

A short interview with a Catholic seminarian from the Boston Globe
Detroit man arrested for driving drunk on his way to performing a circumcision.

Write your own joke. Or - don't. Please.

From St. Petersburg: A look at the Jehovah's Witness practice of "disfellowshipping" or excommunication
The Thing is Jewish - From the Dallas Morning News (LRR), a a look at the religious faith of comic book heroes.

There have been a few characters over the years whose faith has been made explicit. Daredevil, the blind superhero who will be played by Ben Affleck, is Catholic. Nightcrawler, a member of the X-Men who may make it into the next movie, is considering becoming a Catholic priest. But their religion will not be a part of the upcoming movies. Neither is Ben's faith a part of the plan for the FF movie, or the Punisher's for that character's movie, Marvel officials said. Marvel Studios CEO Avi Arad declined to explain why faith wasn't woven into the scripts. But comics industry experts said it was for the same reason religion hasn't been a big part of the books: Not offending is safer.

From the AP: The pain of closing ethnic parishes:

In the 1800s and 1900s, Eastern European immigrants flooded into southwestern Pennsylvania to work in the coal mines and steel mills. Neighborhoods in and around Pittsburgh swelled with their numbers. The immigrants brought with them their work ethic, their languages and their religions. Churches — many of them Catholic — sprung up, statues of patron saints watching over them in the New World, masses being held in their native tongues. Now, in Pittsburgh and across the nation, many of those old ethnic churches are gone, and parishioners worry their cultural past could be lost. On the same day Holy Trinity shut its doors in Ford City, 35 miles (56 kilometers) northeast of Pittsburgh, two other ethnic parishes did the same: St. Francis of Paola, a predominantly Polish church, and St. Mary's, attended by German families. Church officials said there were too few people to support keeping all three. It was the same story a month earlier in McKeesport, where St. Stephen's closed after ministering to Hungarian immigrants for more than a century. It had gone as far in its early history to import a priest from Hungary to serve Mass; there were 13 oaken statues inside the church, each representing an aspect of Hungarian history and religion.

From North Carolina: A story about Hispanics drawn to Pentecostalism:

Like most people in his native Colombia, Jairo Gallego grew up Roman Catholic. But after immigrating to the United States, the Raleigh man grew bored with what he saw as tedious, repetitive Masses. He stopped attending church, but he could not find anything to fill his spiritual void.Then, two years ago, as he prayed with a Pentecostal minister whom his sister had invited to their mother's house, Gallego suddenly found what he had been seeking for so long. The prayer was more inspired and more emotional than what he had experienced as a Catholic, he said, and it spoke directly to him."I converted right there," recalled Gallego, who minutes before had been swaying to the rollicking music that boomed inside Primera Asamblea de Dios, a Spanish-language Assemblies of God church in North Raleigh."Here I feel joy, and during the music, I can barely sing, because I want to cry," he said. "I feel something I never felt at Catholic Mass. They don't praise God like we praise God here."....There's no way to know whether Jairo Gallego would still be attending Mass if he hadn't immigrated to the United States. But once he converted, he made his church the center of his social life and began making wholesale changes to his life, such as quitting smoking and drinking. "I never really wanted to do those things, but I couldn't change, because the Catholic Church never taught me how to change," he said.

Tampa-area podiatrist accused of stockpiling weapons, targeting mosques.
Two tales of parishes backing their priests. Very different accusations, very different parishes.

In the first, St. John Parish in Worcester, Mass defends its priest accused of bad things with boys. (before he was a priest) The story is also examined by Leon Podles at the Touchstone Blog (top item)

In the second, traditional parish Assumption Grotto in Detroit is rallying to the defense of an African priest about to go on trial for rape there and accused of it in other states.

Friday, August 23

Hey! I get bashed in the New Oxford Review! Not by name, apparently, but they quote my reserved review as a part of the general indictment.

Just a reminder: My take on Rose was that a)He said many things that were true and that everyone interested in the issue of the priesthood in the contemporary church should read the book but b)I thought that the research standards used in the book didn't quite cut it.. There were plenty of citations of hard evidence as cited in the press and so on, but there was also lots of anecdotal, anonymous sources who told their stories without any apparent attempt to verify those claims. I didn't say that such a method made the book false. I said that it made the book weaker and easier to dismiss. I mean, if you bash a seminary based on the testimony of an anonymous source without a)visiting the place yourself and doing independent research on site or b)offering the other side, you've not made a strong case. There was also a very strong scent of...having a thesis and judging your sources on how useful they were in supporting that thesis. Sorry. I was trained as an historian, and the first thing I always look at when I read a book like this is the sources and how they are used. It's not just a picky, technical point, either. When we read books or pieces of journalism - say on this crisis - that are one-sided in their sourcing and seem to be flowing from a predetermined conclusion, we object, and rightly so. I saw the same flaw in Rose's book. That is not to necessarily question his conclusions, merely to say, once again, that he would have a stronger book that would be more difficult t,for his (real) opponents to dismiss if he had not relied so heavily on anonymous anecdotal evidence and apparently shunned even the attempt to balance out those stories of oppression with the other side. (After all...some of us have known a seminarian or two who says he was dismissed because he was "too orthodox" for the room, but who, in the end, turned out to have done other things that quite rightly got him booted.)

In the wake of the Dreher piece, many have suggested a look at this essay by uberapologist Dave Armstrong called "Why Doesn't Pope John Paul II DO Something About the Modernist Dissenters in the Catholic Church?".

It's a helpful read (as is everything Dave does - go to his website and give him support!), but it doesn't quite address the same issue. Dave is looking at the question of excommunicating theological dissenters, and he makes the very good point that a wholesale cleaning of house of "dissenters" and "heretics" (whoever they may be) would probably produce schism, and quick. I think he's right.

In this instance, however, I think one must judge his plan, tactics, or strategy for recovering the institutional orthodoxy of the Church against the backdrop of the entrenched modernist rebellion or revolution. I maintain that anything his critics and "armchair popes" might say he "should" do would have a far worse effect than what he is doing. To casually assume that the liberals are not capable of literal schism is to vastly underestimate both their power and resolve. What would his critics on the matter of Church discipline have him do? Burn every heretic at the stake? The Church used to do that, after all (or at least gave approval to secular authorities to do so). I exaggerate, but this did indeed occur, and it was a way of "removing" heresy. The Middle Ages were very "decisive" in that way. Should he remove every modernist professor? That would almost certainly produce schism, etc.

That next-to-last sentence comes closer to the issue I'm interested in than the question of excommunication. For, as I see, the problem with these clerical sexual predators as well as others who use the Church as a convenient life-support while they gad about merrily undercutting its mission, is not as much related to faith as it is to discipline and support.

What concerns many of us is not that these people continue to be Catholic, but that they continue to be supported and protected by the Church. I'm not wondering why anyone is "allowed" to stay Catholic - If we're making lists, I'm sure my name is on someone's, somewhere, after all. No, I'm wondering why Church authority presumptively favors the clerical abuser, quite often in ways that go beyond the totally fair presumption of innocence, and has been known to make life hell for victims. And as far as the more general question of those some of us like to label as "dissenters" "heterodox" and "heretical," (I put them in quotes, not because I don't believe such a thing exists, but because it's not my job to define anyone's faith as such), the issue, even here, is not excommunication, in my mind. It's this:

Permitting people who teach material that undercuts faith and disposes students against faith under the label of Catholic in Catholic institutions Don't excommunicate 'em. Just don't hire 'em, for pete's sake. Don't send your catechists and liturgists to their summer programs, don't invite them to speak at your conferences. Let them say what they're talking about is Catholic, sure - but just don't make the rest of us pay for it, and do what you can to contain the damage, which would not be too hard if bishops and college administrators were as interested in getting rid of questionable faculty in Catholic universities as bishops are in getting rid of Catholic grammar school teachers who get married outside the Catholic Church.

Calling a spade a spade. No fire and brimstone needed, and , can leave the stakes in the garage. But if bishops and their diocesan staffs, from the communications office on over to the catechetical offices a)paid no attention to the imaginative stylings of the Reuthers and Crossans among us or, if necessary, b) pointed out with good humor and Chestertonian wit what a joke they are and how we need not bother with them...these folks would not have nearly as much power as they do.

I can't see any schism flowing from that. More like a big sigh of relief that at the next Catechetical Conference, at least, we won't have to hear the phrase "claiming our stories." Not once.

Oswald Sobrino unpacks just one flaw in Why I am a Catholic

Recently, I corresponded briefly with the book editor of a major newspaper who reviewed Wills’ book favorably. Her view was that the key to the book was Wills’ revelation that the Apostle Peter was not the first bishop of Rome. She treated this revelation with a wonder more appropriate to an older child first discovering that there is no Santa Claus. She uncritically emphasized this wondrous discovery in a major urban newspaper to the detriment of her readers’ right to a critical book review.

Please hop over and see what Eve has to say about all of this. Brilliant all the way through.
Hey! Here's a new post on which to comment...the one below is getting too long. If you want to keep talking about that issue comment here.

In wondering out loud what the heck Church authorities, from the Pope on down - or over - or whatever - are doing about this crisis in a substantive way hurting or helping the Church and its mission?

Frequent and valuable commentor Maureen M. has an excellent essay on her site about August, Art and the Catholic League.
In Indonesia: A TV Preacher Satisfies the Hunger for Islam Lite

Mr. Gymnastiar's appeal among Indonesia's young and the middle class appears to lie in a combination of his modernity, his background as the son of a soldier and his interest in business. In the country's precarious economic environment, where an unruly democracy is unfolding after three decades of dictatorship, his homilies inspire hope and confidence."Success is how we can improve ourselves all our life," he said during a taping. "Don't think success is only money, a beautiful wife and a good job — but how we can improve ourselves to the end of our life." At his base in Bandung, a city in West Java, he charges $100 for three-day motivational seminars on how to succeed. A local supermarket, a radio station and a variety of home industries opened by his organization are supposed to illustrate to the participants how to do better in their own businesses. Always mindful of the reach of his television audience, Mr. Gymnastiar had a waterfall built in the backyard of his modest home there, so the cameras could film him for special segments in front of an attractive backdrop.Every Monday he gathers his senior staff of eight men, all under 40, on his veranda to plan the week's commercial activities.His latest venture is "Al Quran Selular," a telephone service that allows subscribers to call daily to listen to their favorite texts from the Koran, recited in his deep voice. For several years, he has run charter flights to Mecca.

More questions about the disputed Boston abuse case: here and here.
Very bizarre family feud:

Indian nun charged with forced conversion and murder.

Explain to me why....American teachers find it a challenge to teach a class of 25 to read...while

4 nuns in Africa teach 2,000 kids to read

Four Spanish nuns, of the Congregation of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, taught more than 2,000 children to read during the last school term. The instruction was carried out in 11 community schools spread over the Bongord region in the central African republic of 8.7 million, AVAN agency reported. Moreover, close to 200 young people are now being trained in agricultural technical schools, which the nuns have established in the same region. ..Last year the nuns trained more than 60 teachers, who now give basic instruction to students in reading and writing, oral expression and mathematics, among other fundamental subjects.

Why did the San Diego newspaper highlight a story about a possible Catholic clerical abuser and bury an article about a convicted Lutheran clerical abuser?

The newspaper's ombudswoman answers.

Thursday, August 22

Finally (for now) - these points that are being raised are not demands, nor are they claims that any one of us knows better or knows the full extent of what is going on. They are questions - simply that. Questions about whether real justice and authentic change is happening. Questions about how this impacts our faith. It is all well and good to say, "It shouldn't," and it is easy for some to say, "Oh, if you only had more faith you'd get it." But the fact is, this is a challenge to faith, if not in Christ, but in those who say they have the authority to represent Him on earth and who teach authoritatively because of that. Pope John Paull II has spent decades writing and speaking about the sacredness of human life and of the human body. He excoriates societies for violating that sacredness and calls us all to be ever-mindful of it in forming our views and making intimate decisions. He articulates and fleshes out in contemporary terms the tradition which calls us to a reverence for life in general and our own lives in particular. What is the point, some wonder, if a violated child is ignored, his violator is protected, and those who protect the violators are (apparently) supported at the highest levels? What are we to make of this? Is there not just a bit of dissonance here? Granted, we are not privy to the whole story, and who knows what will have come of all of this in five or ten years. We know this. But we still wonder...
Wading through the scores of comments below, be sure to catch Julia's very helpful citations from canon law on the matter. It belies the claim that "nothing can be done." Thanks, Julia! Who are you, anyway?
All sides in this debate have legitimate concerns:

Some are concerned that in questioning the way that authorities are handling of Situation, we are risking a move towards an ecclesiology that is less RC and more congregational in the Protestant sense. They are also concerned that we risk being played for dupes by our enemies - by a press that has not, in recent memory, been particulary interested in traditional moral standards, but all of a sudden has taken a keen interest in this cause, and by those who would wish to re-envision the Church right out of Christianity.

Others are concerned that in not questioning the way that the same authorities are handling the Situation, we risk putting more children and youth's lives at risk, we risk further injustice for past victims, and we risk, plain and simple, our Faith.

Group the First supsects Group the Second of dubious faith and not a bit of ego-tripping.

Group the Second suspects Group the First of blind faith and indifference to victims.

Group the First is convinced that Church is being harmed by the continued airing of these stories. Group the Second is convinced that the Church is harmed by the events themselves and their covering-up.

In these discussion, Group the Second does well to clarify its fidelity to orthodox Catholic theology and acceptance of traditional ecclesiology, which, I think, for the most part, it has done.

Group the First would do well to clarify its compassion for victims, its understanding of the sins wrought in their Church's name and their sense of what Church leaders are doing to bring justice to past victims, ensure to the extent it can that no more children or youth are victimized, and their sorrow for how they have failed. That, I have to say, I'm not hearing. Yet.

Re: a comment. I wasn't even thinking of VOTF as Group the's funny...they didn't even enter my radar as I was writing. I was thinking of orthodox Catholics who are being excoriated for asking questions and expressing concerns about the impact of church authority's actions in regard to the matter. And as far as my last question...let's get specific. Specifically explain to me how the Church's support of Trupia fits into The Plan and reflects well on Church authority.

As per usual, I just got halfway through another vast post, hit the wrong button and disappeared it. You're probably relieved.
Student: Ms. Catechist, I read about a priest who hurt kids and is still being supported by the Church because the Vatican says he has to be. How can this happen? Does the Church think hurting kids is right?

Ms. Catechist:Oh, no, no. Of course not. The Church thinks hurting kids is very wrong. But you see, the bishop who tried to punish the priest didn't follow exactly the right procedures, so the Vatican said they had to keep supporting him.

Student But how can I tell that the Church thinks hurting kids is wrong if the priests who do it don't get punished?

Ms. Catechist. You just have to trust, my dear. These are things we may not understand right now, but since Jesus has promised He'll be with the Church always, we trust that somehow, no matter how strange it might seem, His will is always being done. It's shows a lack of faith to question those He's put in charge. You don't want that, do you?

Student. Ms. Catechist, didn't Jesus say something about not hurting His little ones? I thought I...

Ms. Catechist: (sharply) You've not been reading that Bernard Haring again, have you missy? Back to your catechism, please.

Go find some Catholic Bargains!
Bill Cork has a response to the Lutheran response to reports of Lutherans Catholic-poaching in Chicago
Rod Dreher has a response to Fr. Rob Johansen on Fr. Rob's blog
Oh, come on....who are we to judge their cultural traditions?

100 children briefly buried alive to appease Hindu deities

Well, I’ve finally read Rod’s piece (which will be online at the WSJ on Sunday), and here’s what I have to say:

Why are you people so bent out of shape?

Here’s a recap of Rod’s points:

Pope John Paul II is a great, holy man.

During his watch, many directives have come from Rome with the intention of correcting abuses and bringing the Church closer to the authentic spirit of Vatican II.

Many bishops, both individually, and as groups of national bishops’ conferences, have evidently felt free to ignore those directives (Ex Corde Ecclesia) that have come from Rome and, indeed, directives they have supposedly placed upon themselves (guidelines for dealing with sexual abuse among the clergy).

Why, Rod wants to know, has the Holy Father not been stronger in seeing his own directives enforced on the diocesan level?

Why is this a controversial question? Answer: it’s not. It’s a question that’s been asked for years by people from various quarters, and one for which I have no answer.

But it’s a legitimate question, and not expressive of any lack of faith. Far from it.

As someone pointed out in a comment somewhere, to ask questions about this aspect of John Paul’s administrative legacy is not to question anything else about the man (who is, indeed, a man, and an uncanonized one, by the way). Even saints have their faults and weaknesses – and – this is important – they would be the first to admit that. True saints would be horrified, if during their lifetime, you told them that they were going to be canonized in the first place, and they would be doubly horrified if you suggested to them that they were perfect. One of the marks of a saint is true humility and a profound sense of his or her own weakness and need for God.

Nothing that any human being does or says is beyond question. Human beings are not God, no matter how close they are to God.

One of the things that bothers Rod is the apparent dissonance between the call to a higher moral standard that Christ, through our Church and its leaders calls us to, and the tolerance of the presence of sexual abusers among the clergy and, further, the instinct of Church authorities, when dealing with these incidents to put the welfare of the priest before the victim. This is not just a local thing - witness the difficulties that bishops have had in getting Rome to defrock priests. Bishop Wuerl of Pittsburgh had to work for years to get one abuser defrocked. Scroll down a bit and read the business about Trupia of Arizona, an admitted serial molester who appealed his defrocking to Rome – successfully – and is still being supported by the Church to the tune of $1,200 dollars a month. Rhapsodizing about the Body of Christ and crosses and mystery just doesn’t cut it when the man who sexually violated your son under the cover of the Church is still being supported by the Church.

Some people, in discussing this, tend to immediately jump into an abstract mode, but reporters and people who deal with victims and the Church rightly resist this temptation, and their insistence on showing us the real faces of abusers and their victims is a call to us to resist that temptation as well.

Fact: the Church is a messy thing, and has, through its history, been at the least tolerant, and at the worst, responsible for the mistreatment of other human beings. It’s happened, people, and you know it. It is not pleasant to talk about these things as they’ve happened in the past, and it’s even worse to talk about them as they occur in the present, for in the present, it’s more difficult to fall into abstractions, put mistreatment in context (Everyone was racist and misogynist back then!) or take the “long view.” Some people are attempting to do this in the present – suggesting that God must have a good reason for permitting this situation to take the shape it has, and we just have to shut up and trust God.

As if everything that happens in the Church is what God wants. Not to get into a big discussion of the relationship between God’s will and ours (which ends, naturally enough, in the question of theodicy, and I’m not up to going there at this moment…), I would suggest that it’s my deep, personal hope that God is not using the abuse of children to build the character of any bishop or pope. I hope that God is pissed off and would like the rest of us to be, as well.

Here’s what I want to know: What if sexual abuse weren’t the issue here? What if it were…say…abortion.

Let’s say that over the past half century, a shocking number of priests had gotten women pregnant and paid for their abortions – some many times over. Let’s say that some bishops, upon learning of these abortions, had called in the priests in question, given them a talking to, sent them to counseling, and then sent them back to parishes. Let’s say that these same bishops, when confronted with grieving women concerned that the priests were continuing these activities had given them money, made them promise to be quiet, impugned their motives and then promptly elevated and promoted the priests in question. Let’s say that some bishops, upon learning about these abortion-providing priests among them, had been properly horrified and sought to have the unrepentant accessories to murder defrocked, only to be rebuffed by the Vatican.

Would you be so sanguine? Would you be telling us all to calm down and trust that these bishops are really, despite all appearances, on top of this, and that the media is simply overinflating the issue and using it for its own purposes?

Or you would you not be outraged, dismayed and appalled that Church authorities could meet the news of even one priest who paid for the destruction of one life with a promise of lifetime support and a letter of gratitude for his good service to the Church?

Why does not the attempted murder of innocent souls provoke the same outrage?

Finally (for now), Rod has been scolded for his insufficient grasp of church history and ecclesiology and “how the church is run.” Bishops are not CEO’s, not managers….they’re heads, they’re shepherds, they’re a lot of things. The implication being there is something immutable about modes of church governance. There’s not.

Sure, there are some elements that are rooted very deeply in Tradition and, we can say the will of Christ as expressed to His apostles. But if you truly do know anything about Church history, you see that bishops have been elected by the people of their diocese. They have been selected by secular rulers. They have been selected by Popes. They have been given their sees by their relatives. Church decisions have been made by papal fiat, by local synods, by ecumenical councils and by gradual popular acceptance. Church decisions have been made with the knowledge and consent of the pope and with the pope hundreds of miles away while bishops gather under order of the emperor to discuss matters of faith and discipline. Bishops have been ascetics and they have been princes. They have been profoundly concerned about the spiritual health of their dioceses, and they have been profoundly concerned about the decoration of their own palaces. Ditto for popes.

What is true is that the relationship between the bishops and the Bishop of Rome is an evolving, delicate one, involving a balance between Rome and collegiality (see Lumen Gentium and # 880-887 in the Catechism). The guidance of Rome – which is supposed to reflect the Spirit as it moves through the entire Church - has and must be balanced by the judgment of the local bishop. For many years now, this truth has been used as an excuse to ignore the guidance of Rome, rather than to shape it to individual circumstances. Rod may overestimate the role of the Papacy just a bit, but he is right to question why Rome tolerates bishops ignoring directives and guidance that does, indeed, reflect the mind of the Church.

Tom Hoopes says at Mark’s joint that: The Church has never functioned in the way he wishes JPII would run it. Not in the times of the Cristological heresies, when the Church lived in another practical schism….. That’s right. At that time, the Roman emperors, from Constantine to Theodosius, basically ran the show, calling councils, sending bishops into exile depending on whether they were orthodox, Arian, monosphysite, Nestorians, and so on. Heads were sure as hell rolling then….look at the career of Athanasius for a clue: banished by Constantine, brought back by Constantine II, deposed by a local synod, restored by another local synod and then a Council, forced to flee to the desert under Constantius, restored under Julian, then forced to leave again, brought back by Emperor Jovian, then banished by Jovian, and then finally restored when Jovian revoked his banishment of all orthodox bishops.

So yeah, that’s not the way JP II runs the Church. And the way JP II runs the church isn’t the way the Church was run then. So…….

Here’s my point: in our effort to see the hand of God at work in our Church, in order to explain the sure presence of Christ in the Church, let’s not romanticize the past. Let’s not pretend that church governance has been anything but a hit-and-miss mess from day one, with truth shining forth through the most unlikely events and through the oddest, most human means. There is, indeed, a stable sense of basic church structure, one that’s Scripturally rooted. But how that has been lived out and how decisions have been made has not been immutable. Given the fact that in the early Church period to which Hoopes refers, decisions were made in very different ways with different players than they are now, it is not unreasonable for some to suggest that perhaps circumstances warrant a slight shift from recent tradition – that is, instead of giving a recalcitrant bishop the See of Dystopia to rule, it is, indeed, thinkable to just go ahead and depose the guy. Maybe not banish to the desert, but a removal, nonetheless.

No one here is claiming to know better than the people who are really in charge. But what Rod and many others are asking is this: the Holy Father calls us all to a higher standard, and many of us are willing to live it. But what is the point when church leaders, presumably called to same standard of sacrificial love and protection of the innocent, are allowed to continue in their defiance of this call? What meaning does the call at all in the presence of such an apparent double standard for laity and clergy? How are we supposed to impress upon our children the truth of the Catholic faith when that truth is so rarely preached and taught by those called and supported by the Church to engage in that very task?

And most painfully, we just don’t understand why, when a child has been victimized by an adult, those called by Christ to lead – which means to be Christ to the world – and place the needs and hurt of the child first – absolutely first – every single time.

Serious questions raised about two Boston abuse allegations
Catholic on Northern Ireland soccer team threatened

A Roman Catholic on Northern Ireland's soccer team decided not to play in a game Wednesday night after Protestant extremists threatened to attack him or his family home. Neil Lennon, a starting midfielder who also plays for Scottish champions Glasgow Celtic, withdrew from the game against Cyprus after police told him about the telephoned threat.
Lennon had previously considered quitting because of anti-Catholic taunts and threats from the team's predominantly Protestant fans, and he briefly left the team two years ago. It was not immediately clear when or if he would return to play.

Lennon has subsequently decided to retire form the national team.


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