Wednesday, April 17

Good for him. My son David shot a 41 (+5) in his golf match today - third best on the team. Last year, he didn't do that well until the very end of the season, so perhaps this bodes well!
More In answer to my question, "Enough policy. What do we really want from our Church leadership now?" (scroll down for the original post) Brilliance from a guy named Jim:

After meeting with the Cardinals, Pope John Paul brings Law and the rest of the coverup crew to a balcony in Vatican City. Below them are throngs of Catholics, and the world media, covering the event live:

The Pope begins, "My brothers and sisters in Christ, at this difficult moment, I would like to take steps to begin to heal this great wound which has struck so deeply at the heart of our Church."

JPII promptly turns to Law and whacks the hell out him.

"What the hell were you thinking? Just (whack) what (whack) the (whack) hell (whack) were (whack) you (whack) thinking?"

The crowd gasps. Pope John Paul turns again to the balcony.

"You probably didn't expect me to do that," he says. "Turn the other cheek, and all. Jesus was a man of peace. But He also overturned the tables, throwing the moneychangers out of the Temple. For too long, too many of us have mistaken forgiveness for tolerating the intolerable. This (whacking Law across the forehead) was intolerable. Both the action and the coverup. And the sheer volume of these stomach-turning, soul-searing acts makes thousands of Catholics cry themselves to sleep. You - and everybody else who was aware of this abuse - should have recognized it as intolerable. We're Catholics, dammit, we're supposed to help the oppressed, not the oppressor! Your continuing cavalcade of coverups makes our whole Church look like a cross between the mafia and the National Man-Boy Love Association!" (Okay, I recognize this doesn't have JPII's usual poetic tones, but stay with me.)

To our clergy who are considering inappropriate sexual contact with young members of the Church - don't even think about it again. I'll do some "prison ministry" of my own with the back of my hand.

To those who have done it in the past - confess. Not to a priest, to law enforcement officers. Apologize to the victims - go public. If your flock spits on you, accept it. If you find yourself behind bars, accept it. You earned it. Think hard about what brought you here.

To those who covered it up - again, go public, confess your obstruction of justice to police and leave it in the hands of the police, prosecutors, and judges. Your actions have violated the laws of God and man, and now you must accept the consequences.

To the public, I ask not for your forgiveness, but for the opportunity to earn your forgiveness. I have responsability for this as well. By not taking these actions sooner, I've let the problem fester, grow, and turn into the tragedy it has become. I must use what time I have left to try to set things right - I will begin by offering the victims of these men the resources of the Vatican. Tell us your needs, and we will labor to meet them. We will strive to earn your trust again.

And to all of us in the clergy - I would ask you to look up from your bulletins and prayer books and look carefully at the world around you. Six months ago we witnessed unparalled terror in New York City and other sites in America. The Middle East continues to suffer daily casualties of war. Across Europe, synagogues are burning. Hate and fear are laughing as they spread across the globe.

The world has never needed us as it has now. Our flocks need their shepards. Take a deep breath, think of our Savior, and let us get to work.

Fraternal Correction:

Another reader answers the call for what we want:

The bishops and cardinals need to be up-front about their own failures
and *their brothers'* failures. Anyone can read in the papers about how Law,Daily, et al. seriously messed up. It's time for bishops to say, "I'm just
as shocked and disappointed by the bishops' behavior as the laity are. I've told [Bishop X] that personally. The cover-ups have got to stop." And so

This is what St. Paul did to St. Peter in Gal. 2, when St. Peter was refusing to dine with Gentiles. Protestants love to quote that as a countertext to papal infallibility, but it actually shows St. Peter's importance -- that St. Paul would record in a letter his correction of him, to show the faithful the behavior that cannot be tolerated in an

Back to dogma:

A reader helpfully passes on this (of course) Chesterton quote:

"Man can be defined as an animal that makes dogmas. As he piles
doctrine on doctrine and conclusion on conclusion in the formation of
some tremendous scheme of philosophy and religion, he is, in the only
legitimate sense of which the expression is capable, becoming more and
more human. When he drops one doctrine after another in a refined
scepticism, when he declines to tie himself to a system, when he says
that he has outgrown definitions, when he says that he disbelieves in
finality, when, in his own imagination, he sits as God, holding no
form of creed but contemplating all, then he is by that very process
sinking slowly backwards into the vagueness of the vagrant animals and
the unconsciousness of the grass. Trees have no dogmas. Turnips are
singularly broad-minded."

G. K. Chesterton, Heretics, Ch. 20

Finally. Another blog by a woman with kids. Check out Anne Wilson's blog
What do we want? A reader answers, eloquently:

Stop the schism. Follow Rome. Listen to her patiently. Follow the commandment--given by Moses and Jesus, not the Vatican--to obey those in authority with filial obedience, not jesuitical casuistry.

Stop the corporitization of the Church. It is the Body of Christ and its dynanism derives from that and nothing else. Quash dissent. Now.

Quash dissent in little places and the Bishops' conference won't become the UN of the United States, where smug, clueless, and self-annointed world-improvers gather to discover, over expensive mahogany tables and in ergonomically-appropriate leather chairs why poverty exists and how it can be eradicated.

Live for Jesus Christ. Not for institutional effectiveness. Not for a greater understanding of the root causes of terrorism, oppression, nuclear
armament, and any other number of pet causes. Start teaching people how they can find Jesus. Now. In their homes. If you say, "All you have to do is look," I will punch you. It will be worth the excommunication.

[Editor's note: Heh.]

So many of the faithful are starving for Jesus, and when they go to the hierarchy, the hierarchy tells them to "play nice" and they will be being Jesus for others. If it were that easy, I could bring my teddy bear to work with me, and when I get into fights with others, I could just point them tomy teddy bear and say, "Now, do you really want to hurt someone like me, who loves his teddy bear." Because the Jesus Catholics believe in is usually nothing more than a cosmic teddy bear who became man 2,000 years ago.
And the Bishops do not correct this error. I'll not speculate why this is.

Don't be afraid. Be Jesus for others. Carry the cross of persecution by the Washington Post, the New Republic and the National Catholic Reporter. They're not your audience, your Excellencies. They haven't listened to you for a long time. They're too busy listening to a million things they think are far more important than you or Jesus Christ.

This is long, (even after a bit of editing) but it's worth reading, from Nick Alexander,, the Weird Al of Catholic music....okay.

Last night, I had the opportunity to be the musician for a healing mass. Turns out that the church was one of THOSE churches, one where a pedophile priest
was shuffled to, some ten years ago. Because of the outrage, half the church left, the entire boomer generation, and the church barely got by for years.

The priest who presides there is in his 70s. He is frail. He simply does not have the strength or energy to do all the tasks. But he has been faithful.

This story could have had a sad ending.

By necessity, the laity stepped in to help. Not just any laity, mind you--those with Call-to-Action tendencies had already left. But the faithful laypersons
who stayed with the church thru thick and thin. By invovling themselves, they began to grow in their faith, and they had a stronger rootedness in their church
like never before.

The old days, where the priest did everything and the laity felt content to numb participants, are over. Clericalism is dead. The faults of the Cardinals,
Bishops and priests, as sad and tragic as they are, are now being shouted fromthe rooftops. To the faithless, they will leave. To the faithful, it will confirm what we have known all along, that we cannot coast on the coattailsof the clergy--we NEED the clergy, but we can no longer be passive congregants.

And now, that the scandal has been displayed for all to see, those in this particular parish (who, for years felt the church was not responding to their protests),are slowly coming back. The Church is finally paying attention to her wounds. The Church is now actively healing.

For years, the Pope has been preparing us for a New Catholic Springtime. Thisis it. But a springtime is not just roses. There's also weeds. There's dead
branches. And the Gardener is pruning us.

Remember when Jesus could not heal the little girl in a room full of doubters--he kicked them out, and brought only a few to her bedside. She was
healed. Now tell me, when was the church more powerful--when many with lackluster faith packed the full room, or had few of great faith?

The worship last night, as I can attest, was phenomenal. Give me a half-filled church with faithful congregants anyday over a full church with
rank-and-file. God is more real to us now than He's been in a long time. He has gotten our attention.

So, I ask again, how can we NOT be encouraged?

News on one of those other priest scandals, from a couple of months back:

The Pensacola priest who was dealing drugs and had a condo on Bourbon Street.

As I recall, he was, as per usual, a "widely-loved" priest and non one could believe it....yup.

Quite impressive new site on matters political, cultural and religious: A View From the Core.
NEW LETTERS POLICY. I'm insituting the Andrew Sullivan law of reader mail. In short - if you write to me, you're giving me permission to post your thoughts. Anonymously, unless you want to use me for blatant self-promotion, which I will cheerfully provide, within limits. Okay?
Okay friends, readers and fellow-bloggers. Let's put our heads together on this. The bureaucrats want to give us another policy. That's not what we want. What do we want? Let me know. I'm serious.
A reader from DC just wrote me with a report of an interview with Cardinal McCarrick on the radio this morning in which the Cardinal repeated the same lines which are become the shorthand hierachical response to the Crisis: Only a very few priests are implicated and we know so much more about these kinds of problems than we did twenty years ago. Here's the reader's response:

I'm tired of hearing this. As long as he is throwing percentages around, how about these? What percent of Cardinals have covered up and abetted the abusers? Fifty percent? Eighty-five? 2 of 13 are already documented. Corruption by 15% of the highest American authority sounds pretty bad. And what percent of our Bishops have remained silent on the inappropriate actions and inactions of their peers? I'm afraid I really don't want to know.

Second point. He said that we know more now than we did 20 years ago about sexuality and abuse. What I think about this response is unprintable. Common sense and decency existed 20 years ago. How did the hierarchy get something so big and so important so very wrong? In the cases of Egan and Law, we've already seen instances where they ignored the advice of their paid shrinks. They obviously were hearing what they wanted to hear and ignoring the rest. What possible motivation did they have to permit the molesters back into positions of trust this and why can't the Cardinal even now see that this is the issue?


Eileen McNamara on the Confab. Good opening line:

Pope John Paul II has invited the wrong people to Rome.

No loss of confidence in any institution has ever been reversed by turning for solutions to those who precipitated the crisis

Clarification: Not that I think the rest of her column is absolutely correct. Here "white male" comment is dumb, for as a reader points out to me:

First of all, what does
"white male" have to do with anything? And as for the perspective of our women religious, give me a break. In this country as a group they are at
least as much a part of the problem as a solution. I'm afraid that most are not at all close to the faithful. They abandoned us about 30 years ago.

True. That said, are the wrong folks being summoned? Hard to say, but inviting the dissenters and heretics is not the answer. And while I certainly believe that some of the Cardinals deserve some blame for not being more ruthless in their response to these miscreant priests, let's get one thing clear here. They did not precipitate the crisis; they just
failed to adequately address it. The crisis was precipitated by activist cafeteria Catholics (including some of those women religious who ran screening programs in US seminaries) who, among other things, cannot bring themselves to be the least bit judgmental about matters sexual.

Okay, I see your point. And I don't think "dissenters and heretics" would provide the full picture the Vatican needs to here - but more objective observers would. Observers who could lay out the facts of these cases without being motivated by defensiveness, protection of position or (on the other hand) reflexive animosity.

Here's the Boston Herald article about Law's Rome visit and next week's confab. Like many of you, I imagine, I have less hope for this meeting as the hours pass.

Anyway, this particular article is enhanced by the totally predicatable bloviating of Fr. Richard McBrien. He says of next week's meeting:

``This meeting is stacked. It's not just conservatives but hard-line conservatives,'' he said, adding that most of the American delegation adhered to the same ideology.

...``The only two members of the American delegation who have the potential of engaging in constructive dialogue on this are Cardinal Mahoney and Skylstad,'' he said.

``The approach by (the others) is the denial syndrome, that it's overblown, purely an American problem and being driven by the media, that the cases are old and that bishops have already moved forward and done all the right things,'' he said.

Give me a break. Seriously. I don't disagree that the church leadership is in massive denial but to exclude Mahoney (don't know anything about Skylstad) is nothing but....denial. Maybe a bit of boot-licking as well. Has McBrien heard of Mahoney's participation in covering up a serious abuse case when he was bishop of Stockton? Probably, McBrien doesn't care. If a bishop is his soulmate, he must be innocent. He can't see what the rest of us have seen - that episcopal solidarity seems to trumpt ideology (and compassion for victims) every time.

Aside from McBrien, all of this talk about formulating policies is beginning to get on my nerves. Policies aren't really the problem here. The scandal in Boston is that Cardinal Law, in fact, instituted a much-heralded "policy" in the mid 90's, then proceeded to violate it himself. I don't think American Catholics are calling for more policies. They're calling for accountability in regard to the past, serious repentance (which probably involves resignation) of those involved (not apologies. Stop apologizing and start repenting.) and for confidence that our children will be safe.

I woke up this morning thinking about Nina Garton, my 9th grade home ec teacher at Knoxville Catholic High School.

Mrs. Garton was young, newly married and very Church of Christ. What that meant, among other things is that she absolutely refused to call any priest "father." So it was that the first time she warned us of the principal's class visitation by saying, "Mr. Mankel is coming tomorrow," we all, as one, said, "Who?" Her convictions extended to the bishop, whom she called, of course, "Mr. Niedergeses."

Heroic adherance to personal values? Disrespect of the institution that was paying her salary? You decide. I know what a bunch of 14-year old girls thought it was, unfortunately: One more reason to make fun of a teacher.

Cardinal Law's been in Rome. (NY Times - link requires registration)
Oh yeah. One more thing before I go to bed for a couple of hours.

This just shows you how fried my brain is these days, and how disconnected my thoughts are. In responding to USS Clueless down there, I completely neglected to mention to most important part of my self-defense.

Me? Unable to give reasons for faith to kids? I wrote the book on it - literally. Four of them, to be exact. Two are linked over there on the right - the Prove It twins - and two are forthcoming this fall. They are nothing but hundreds of fun-filled pages overflowing with answers to the question, "Why?" with not one "why not?" to be found.


Wrote a column today. Wrote an article for Catholic Parent magazine. Blogged. Played with the baby. Took the baby for a short walk. Organized my spice cabinet, finally. Cooked. Picked up 1,273 cracker and Chex crumbs from the floor. Learned we can't let Joseph cry in his crib anymore. He flung himself out of it tonight in the midst of his rage. Watched part of The Osbournes, which is pretty darn funny.

David's first golf match was today. He wasn't happy with his score, but the team won anyway. So that's good.

It's April in Indiana, and Katie got to go swimming. In a friend's grandmother's pond. I have no idea where that was, but she made it back.

Louder Fenn weighs in on the Clueless/Amy debate. Wait. I don't like how that sounded.
Not so fast, Carl: From another reader:

It's not quite right to say "That's all dogma is: a truth claim." For instance, scientists advance truth claims yet they also say that these truth claims are not dogmas. What they mean is that they do not *regard* these truth claims in a certain way, i.e., as if these truth claims were permanent and immutable truths, i.e., dogmatically. When scientists work with evidence and auxiliary assumptions and obtain a result that does not conform to what a particular theory predicts, one possibility they consider is that it is the theory that is wrong.

Whereas in the Church, we do regard certain truth claims as being permanent and immutable. We draw a circle around them and say, "No matter what, I do not question these claims." It is not just that we advance certain propositions and assert their truth; over and above that, we also say that they come on such authority that they are not to be questioned--and we do not, in fact, question them. That is what it means to hold our beliefs as dogmas.

It used to be that if you said something like the above two paragraphs, you were automatically taken to be criticizing dogma and valorizing scientists and their provisional theory-making. Scientists were heroic *because* they were non-dogmatic.

That way of looking at things assumed that the provisional, always-searching, ever-tentative mindset that scientists were alleged to have (and some actually do) was clearly a superior way to approach the problem of how to know our world.

In academia, it is the dreaded postmodernists who pointed out that by and large, scientists (and philosophers of science) are dogmatically wedded to the view that scientific, rationalizing theory-making is THE best and perhaps only way to know and understand the world we find ourselves in. This postmodernist "gotcha" to scientific rationalism is probably the major reason that postmodernism gained as much of a foothold as it did.

Interestingly, Catholic philosophers had been making the same point for hundreds of years.

Long digression aside, a dogma is a not just a truth claim. It is a truth claim combined with additional claims about the authority, immutability and permanence of the particular truth claim.


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