Friday, April 19

Mahony's Roman Holiday

In a recent admission worthy of an Evelyn Waugh satire, Mahony said he transferred Fr. Wempe, a priest-molester in Los Angeles, to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center without realizing it had a pediatric unit. Children at a major hospital in Los Angeles? What a revelation!

Mahony's enlightenment continues apace. He says now that he made a "mistake" in not sharing information about the priest's molesting past with the hospital staff.

And what about keeping a molester on the archdiocesan payroll and in ministry for 14 years after the abuse? Oh yeah, that was a mistake too, says Mahony to the Los Angeles Times: ""Fourteen years [later] is so different…If that had been today, he would have been out of the priesthood."

Mahony, in fact, went to a luncheon in honor of the priest-molester a "couple of years ago," he acknowledged to the Los Angeles Times. But the molester won't get to enjoy the retirement party scheduled for him this month. Mahony's now got "zero tolerance" for molesting priests, you understand.

Maybe the Holy Father can ask Mahony to explain to him why the Church should continue to entrust one of the largest dioceses in the world to such a slow learner.

I have been thinking today about the email I've received in response to the question posed below "If not policies, what?" What do we want from our Church's leadership right now?

I've been letting it sink in, meditating on it, and considering what I've perceived in the wealth of commentary on the subject.

And this, in essence, is what I'm hearing, I believe:Give us Christ. Let me explain.

It's not that those voicing their deep concern, fears and hopes are spiritually adrift. No, it's really the opposite. The wealth of American Catholics are spiritually engaged people who know where God is to be found: In Word and Sacrament, in the intimacy of private prayer, in the warp and woof of daily life, in culture, and in the passionate, loving entanglement of family life.

But another true fact is this: Maintaining and nourishing our spiritual lives is no easy task, especially in this culture, and for two reasons.

First, of course, is secularism. The temptation of a pleasure-oriented life is strong, especially when pleasure is cheap and consequences are so easily avoided or hidden.

The second challenge to maintaining an authentic Christian spiritual life is religious relativism, even among the religious. We're continually hearing really doesn't matter you know. God is whoever....truth is so big, there's not just one way to find it. Why waste your time fretting over particular religious doctrines or committing yourself to particular religious practices? Why put yourself through the effort? Aren't we all going to heaven anyway?

So we struggle to maintain, to stay focused on truth, to cling more dearly to Jesus who is not just anybody but only Jesus.

And all we want is a little help. But for the past forty years, we've gotten precious little of it from too many of our church leaders, and this crisis is the climax of it all, one that no one expected, but is clearly, if you look at it, the end-game of the misapplication of Vatican II.

"We want the Gospel preached" We want our leaders to focus on the mission of the Church" "We want Jesus preached loud and clear." This is what I'm hearing, over and over again. Why?

Because for four decades, Catholic leaders - ordained and lay both - have done anything but. Preach the simple truth. This is what they've done instead.

They've turned liturgy from something that was about God - uh, that's called worship - to something that is about us. The purpose of liturgy is now to build community. We needn't pay so much attention to Eucharist any longer, since the presence of Christ in us all the time is just as importantThe hymns in Catholic liturgies are, for the most part, about us. (Gather Us In....Here I Am...We Are the Light of the World....Aren't We Fabulous? No. Not the last one. I don't think so, at least...)

Religious Education has been transformed from an activity focused on Truth to one that's focused on guessed it...the student. Buying into the pedagogy of the last eighty years (yes, that's not a typo. Student-centered educational fads began in the 1920's), Catholic religious educators have centered their efforts of making sure that students know that they're loved rather than making sure their students can give even a single reasonable explanation of Who it is that loves them.

Spiritual practices that centered on...God...were discouraged, while those that put the pray-er in the center flourished. If you don't get that, consider for a minute the difference between the repetition of the prayers of the rosary and the repetition of the question, "Who am I?" Or ponder the difference between Perpetual Adoration and Perpetual Self-Obsession. When I think of the spirituality programs that have taken up the energy of parish and diocesan personnel over the past two decades, all I can think of are evenings of exploring one's inner child or figuring out one's personality type as an aid to prayer and so on. Not that anyone goes to the stupid things, but they persist in having them nonetheless.

So this is what we've been hearing - endlessly - for decades now. That the purpose of the spiritual life is to explore who we are so we can understand how good we are.

That's not the purpose of the spiritual life in any classical religious tradition. Is it?

But we've waited patiently, haven't we? We've listened to all of the lay and ordained spiritual and catechetical leaders tell us that this is what had to happen - to clear away the misunderstandings of the past that engendered so much pain and negativity in people's souls, that infantilized them and kept them from mature relationships with God. We've listened to them tell us that the purpose of all of this is to reveal the Kingdom more fully in human life, to let the Spirit work more freely, to open our hearts so that....

What? What?

Well, you look at the situation. You tell me what happened.

So slowly it dawns on us. Maybe we've been had. Maybe all of this interesting stuff that went on wasn't really for our sake. It's so strange and convoluted, but maybe so - all of this talk and all of these programs that they said were so important to build us up were really about them - their careers, their own anger at their own religious pasts, their own egos, their own sense of superiority over 2,000 years of tradition.

Because, you see, what we're finding, if not for ourselves, but perhaps for our children and for a lot of people we know, it just hasn't helped much. None of it has helped strengthen our spiritual lives because it's left so many important questions neglected and ignored - the questions raised at the beginning of this entry, the questions we need answered if we're going to see a reason for following Christ in times that tell us it's either idiotic or useless to do so.

And then this. And then it all comes clear. Our intuitions, our suspicions were correct. None of it has been for our sake, not really. Our souls and the souls of our innocent children are not so important, not important at all. What's important is protecting the ability of certain members of the clergy (and religious, mark my word, as well as a fair share of lay ministers as well) to live pleasure-centered, self-absorbed lives while hiding behind the walls of their rectories, chancery offices and positions. What's been important is expending untold amounts of time and money to protect these people and protect the "institution." In a weird way, it all comes to a head: A Church that has, for decades, been preaching a Gospel of self-absorption on the local level, (completely ignoring the wisdom coming from the top in a steady brilliant, compelling stream) is exposed, at i\so many levels as a supremely self-absorbed institution. We've been told that there's no need to sacrifice or walk a narrow path - that's old fashioned and detrimental to our mental health, and now we see why. As Catherine of Siena said of the religious leaders of her own time, if religious leaders are living in moral squalor, they're not going to preach moral probity. If religious leaders are distanced from Christ, they're not going to preach Christ.

And it all makes sense.

And we've had enough.

And we want the Gospel preached. We need it, and we know we need it, and this is what we're saying to our religious leaders: get yourselves and your own agendas out of the way. Turn yourselves towards Christ, and humbly lead us in the same direction.

Two excellent articles in Christianity Today comparing C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud.

Here and here.

One of my scribbler-heroes, James Lileks, has nice thoughts on parenthood today (the link will change after the weekend, so get there quick). He confronts the Proudly-Non-Procreative crowd and wonders what exactly their deal is. And he has a nice little story about what his Gnat brings into his life:

We sat on a bridge over a stream aas we snacked, alone in a leafy glade in the biggest mall in America. Gnat beamed as she chewed her ration.

“Num,” she said, grinning. “Nice. Cookie nice." Pause, chew, swallow, smile. "Daddy nice.”

I have never been happier in my life, or loved anyone more.

And all of that's true, said, if I may from the perspective of almost twenty years of motherhood.

But...may I add something to the master's words?

I'm not entirely comfortable with praises of parenthood that rest on how loved our kids make us feel. It's true, but it's all just a little too self-referentially-boomerish for me, and it's not exactly a solid foundation for the long haul, which will not all be sharing cookies, to say the least.

It's been a long time coming, but I think I'm finally moving into the stage where I can say that parenthood is a gift primarily because it's the means by which we're privileged to help bring new people into the world. Period. How they make me feel is nice, but irrelevant. When I look at my kids - aged 19 to 1, in case you're interested, I've reached the point where I'm just awed. Not by our relationships or what they've brought into my life, but by the fact that they are and they are out there living and impacting others and weaving another corner of reality and (I hope) doing good. They are unique souls on their own journeys with and to God, and somehow, by some great gift, I had something to do with their existence. It's humbling and the best reason I have to give thanks for the gift of parenthood.

Bishop Lynch of St. Petersburg says his accuser made up stuff... but hints that he might resign. And doesn't mention the $100,000 "severance pay."
I got a mention by Jeremy Lott in The American Prowler, the successor to the old American Spectator website. Thanks, Jeremy...glad you found what I had to say worth mentioning.


Thanks to my husband Michael we have it:

What's going on? We think it would be a great idea for every American Catholic to fax a copy of Peggy Noonan's column to the Vatican.

Here's the fax #:

+39 011390669882122

In your message send it to: Bishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, who is the Pope's personal secretary.


There is much talk out there, in regard to next week's Confab and the Situation in general that it is high time for the Church to rescue its "credibility."

Not quite the whole story.

It is high time for the Church to rededicate itself to preaching and living the Gospel. Is this really so hard to understand?

One of those remembered today on the Church's calendar is a particularly appropriate one for those involved in Catholic publishing.

Blessed John Duckett was martyred in 1601 in England:

After two or three years he married a Catholic widow, but out of his twelve years of married life, no less than nine were spent in prison, owing to his zeal in propagating Catholic literature and his wonderful constancy in his new-found faith. His last apprehension was brought about by Peter Bullock, a bookbinder, who betrayed him in order to obtain his own release from prison. His house was searched on 4 March, 1601, Catholic books were found there, and Duckett was at once thrown into Newgate. At his trial, Bullock testified that he had bound various Catholic books for Duckett, which the martyr acknowledged to be true....

Bullock did not save himself by his treachery, for he was conveyed in the same cart as Duckett to Tyburn, where both were executed, 19 April, 1601. There is an account, written by his son, the Prior of the English Carthusians at Nieuport (Flanders) of James Duckett's martyrdom. On the way to Tyburn he was given a cup of wine; he drank, and desired his wife to drink to Peter Bullock, and freely to forgive him. At the gallows, his last thoughts were for his betrayer. He kissed him and implored him to die in the Catholic Faith.

JPII's mailing address:
His Holiness John Paul II

Apostolic Palace

00120 Vatican City State, EUROPE

If anyone has a suggestion as to the appropriate congregation in the Curia that might receive email or fax missives, let me know.

A reader think that my middle-of-the-night idea of sending Peggy Noonan's column en masse to the Vatican is not so crazy. He's asked me for contact info. I'm looking...I'm looking. If anyone knows please email me stat.
A reader (who also happens to be a psychologist) writes in regard to yesterday's note on an AP article on Canon Law in relation to clerical sexual abuse

I am hardly an expert on the subject, but it seems to me that part of the Canon Law problem is a problem of multiculturalism (God, I hate that word). For example, Canon law says that a marriage can be validly contracted between a man who is at least 16 and a woman who is at least 14. That is hideously young for us in the West, but it is not uncommon in other cultures.

If the Hierarchy does not take priestly ephebophilia as seriously as we think it should (and I am not completely convinced that it won't--cross my fingers), it will largely be because of the psychology behind canon law that sets such a low age for adulthood. The thinking would be--I presume--that many of the abuse victims either meet, or are close to meeting, the Church's criterion for age of consent. "What's the big deal?" some canonists may say, "Sure, the priests shouldn't have done it, but it isn't as if they were raping babies. Most of these 'victims' were practically adults. This is just a case of those prudish Americans and their puritanical sexual attitudes."

It is also possible that the Church could not address ephebophilia without raising the age of consent for marriage, which would cause serious problems in Africa and Asia and other areas where people marry younger.

Incidentally, I am not justifying this, I have already expressed how engraged I am about this whole problem, but I think this gives us an idea of what we might be up against as far as canon law goes.

The Boston Globe on the Adventures of Paul Shanley.
The baby pulls everything out of its proper place. And then just leaves it and moves on.

He doesn't take but half a second to examine the books or CD's he's taken from the shelves. He just plucks them, one by one, lets each fall to the ground, and then steps over and through them, on to another task. Maybe to empty a drawer. Or to his toys, piled high in a bucket next to the picture window. These he'll take more time to study, but the end result is the same: A mess. A pile of objects removed from their proper places, and simply left behind.

He has no concept as yet of putting things back. He is quite content to displace things and then leave them displaced.

He will have to be taught to restore order.

Some of us never change. We leave messes behind, in our lives and the lives of others, oblivious to the damage, blind to the need to stop, turn around, and at least try to help fix things. We are content to move on and let others deal with it.

The first thing you're going to read today is Peggy Noonan's column in the Wall Street Journal.

So much for bishops fretting that this is a problem driven by the media and liberals with their own agendas. Noonan, conservative as they come, as orthodox a Catholic as they come, cuts through all the cant and gets to the heart of the matter - the betrayal at the heart of this. The sheer immorality and betrayal. Some of the phrases she turns make your heart stop, for just a second:

The pope should be told that some of the cardinals he will meet are, or have been, excusers or enablers of sex-abusers. Some are so sympathetic to abusive priests that they have written touching letters to them. No one has yet unearthed such a letter to any of the victims.

And then this:

The pope should know that many of the cardinals he will speak to have grown detached from life as it is suffered through by ordinary people. The princes of the church live as princes of the world. They live in great mansions in the heart of great cities, dine with senators and editors, and have grown worldly not in the best sense, in real sophistication and knowledge, but in the worst. They are surrounded by staff who serve them, drive them, answer their call. They are used to being obeyed. We all suffer from some degree of arrogance. But I have never seen star treatment ennoble the object of that treatment.

She ends with a suggestion that is similar to Brilliant Jim's below - if not in tone, exactly, but perhaps in its final intended result.

Perhaps we should all go buy a copy of the WSJ, clip this column, and all overnight/fax/FedEx our copies to the Vatican.

New baby pictures here.
Hey! The war's over! There's peace in the Middle East! Great! No? You say it's not so? But...I had CNN on all evening and my buddy Aaron ("Are you sure I can't buy you a drink?") Brown didn't say a word about any of that. For hours. say there was a celebrity arrested? And that trumps an entire region teetering on the edge of total war?

I see. Or maybe not.

Oh. And Drudge is just wicked. I don't know if it's still the case by the time you see this, but when the news first broke about Blake's arrest, Drudge put the headline under a photo of Blake dressed in the costume of his other, non-Baretta television role - a priest.


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