Tuesday, April 23
Makes sense, if you think about it, since Robertson also sees no contradiction in a) basing a career on condemning people who don't take his favorite parts of the Bible literally and b) ignoring other parts of the Bible which might, if read literally, indicate Christians shouldn't aim to be filthy rich jerks.
The presence of the Society of Our Lady is growing in Mexico. Fr. Vince Albano's vision of a clinic to serve the needs of the poorest of the poor in Mexico has finally become a reality! El Centro Catolico para la Salud Familiar "El Cuerpo de Cristo y Nuestra Senora del Refugio" opened its doors to serve the medical needs of the poor of Nuevo Laredo in the last months of the Jubilee Year.
The Clinic is at the service of the Culture of Life that Pope John Paul II has called us to build up. In particular we are fighting the
contraceptive culture that the transnational corporations are bringing to this booming factory town. At the Clinic, named for the Body of Christ and Our Lady of Refuge, women are treated with the dignity that the government clinics often do not provide.
We have three pro-life Mexican doctors serving at the clinic and are much indebted to Dr. Juan de Dios Infante for finding these doctors. Also serving at the clinic is Franciscan Sr. Isabel and SOLT Sister Teresa Perez.
(SOLT=Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity)
Cardinal Roger Mahony, archbishop of Los Angeles, on the pope's remarks:
"It's the strongest language I've seen about what we call at home 'zero tolerance."'
Cardinal Francis George, archbishop of Chicago, on what Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston said:
"If he hadn't made some terrible mistakes, we probably all wouldn't be here."
Bishop Wilton Gregory, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops:
"It is an ongoing struggle to make sure that the Catholic priesthood is not dominated by homosexual men."
Cardinal Adam Joseph Maida of Detroit:
"I think what the behavioral scientists are telling us, the sociologists, it's not truly a pedophilia-type problem but a homosexual-type problem."
Curiouser and curiouser....
highlighting the efforts of Bishop Wuerl of Pittsburgh, and containing a warning about seeing lay oversight boards as an easy solution:
Gary Schoener, a Minnesota psychologist who as a consultant to the St. Paul-Minneapolis Diocese and several others has evaluated hundreds of priests accused of abuse, said lay review boards in some dioceses had brought little improvement. "They can be like medical boards made up of doctors' wives," Mr. Schoener said. "When they're made up of people who are too close to the bishop, or who simply don't believe priests can do these things, they're ineffective."
Triumph, the new history of the Catholic Church by H.W. Crocker and a look at the very popular spiritual writings of Johann Christoph Arnold.
May I add a brief comment on the Novak article you discussed today, as well as on some of the responses you have posted?
Whether we use the terms "liberal" or "conservative," the Church's overriding problem today remains Clericalism -- the mentality that sees a bishop's job as fundraising and building institutions rather than preaching the truth regardless of consequences. This is a characteristically American problem arising in part from the Catholic immigrant experience (although it's also pervasive in Ireland and elsewhere). For clericalists, the "Church" means primarily priests and religious: Vatican II's proclamation of the universal call of the baptized to holiness is at best an empty
formula, sometimes regurgitated but rarely reflected upon.
"Liberalism" is a sub-set of Clericalism, and for this reason Novak is right to attribute the roots of The Scandals in large part to the sexual and liturgical chaos that began in the mid-1960s. Liberal Catholics emphasize questions of ordination of women, celibacy, etc. precisely because they view the priesthood as essentially a power structure rather than a role of service. And if it's a power structure, the inclusion of women, married men, active homosexuals and anyone else you can think of becomes a "justice
issue." For the same reasons, liturgical experiments often involve lay people taking on priestly roles -- because the priesthood, is thought to be the essence of the Church itself. It is no coincidence that the leadership of the left wing of the American Catholic Church consists overwhelmingly of ex-seminarians, ex-religious, or university-tenured theologians. Too many of these folks lack life experiences that would enable them to understand the proper role of the laity in the Church.
As the Boston situation demonstrates, the clericalist error is by no means confined to liberals. Church bureaucrats who focus on the latest capital campaign, and urge the laity to simply "pray, pay, and obey," are everywhere in this country. But in my view the most promising development in the Church today is the profusion of new movements and organizations which emphasize the universal call of the laity to holiness and which explicitly reject the clericalist way of viewing the Church as merely an external institution -- I'm thinking of everything from Opus Dei to the Charismatic Renewal to Communion & Liberation to Focolare to the Schoenstatt Movement to your parish Bible study or prayer group. Many of these movements get mislabelled "conservative" by the church bureaucrats, but they represent precisely the diverse outpouring of gifts of the Holy Spirit that the Second Vatican Council envisioned.
Liberalism doesn't worry me. As the generation of Humanae Vitae dissenters begins to die out, the cause of a liberal American Church will die with them. Younger Catholics make a more coherent choice between accepting the Faith in its fullness or simply leaving the Church altogether. But the clericalist error remains deep-rooted in the United States, and not just among the clergy. Lay people who regard an intense prayer life by anyone other than a priest as bizarre zealotry are clericalists. As are the many
for whom the term "Catholic Church" brings up mental images of official diocesan boards, Catholic schools, Catholic Charities, and of course Notre Dame football.
Until we each convert ourselves and recognize that the God wants every one of us to be a saint - a canonizable saint - the clericalist error will continue to wreak havoc on the Church in the United States. Let's pray that The Scandal is the first step in the awakening needed to bring that conversion about. If so, it is a great gift, no matter how painful.
From another reader named Mark:
A quote from Chesterton, like all of GK's utterances, particularly relevant today: [the feastday of St. George]"We are to regard existence as a raid or great adventure; it is to be judged, therefore, not by what calamities it encounters, but by what flag it follows and what high town it assaults.The most dangerous thing in the world is to be alive; one is always in danger of one's life. But anyone who shrinks from that is a traitor to the great scheme and experiment of being."
On the Church front: Those too casually contemplating flight from Catholicism should consider well the alternatives. Went with my
Protestant wife and the children this past Sunday to the service at the local Episcopal church, where the parishioners were most friendly and welcoming, and the provisions for minding bored or crying children were quite something...
But then.....Our five- and three-year-old accompanied my wife as she knelt at the altar rail to receive communion. Arriving before our
three-year-old daughter kneeling for a blessing, the lady rector inquired: "Would she like a blessing -- or God's Little Cookie?"
Oh, dear. Thus are the Words of Institution reduced to a baking recipe.
In true Catholic fashion, I'd say both you and Novak are right. Chesterton remarked somewhere that liberals make new blunders and sins and then conservatives make sure we go on making them.
The "spirit of Vatican II" introduced lots of new toxins into the Church's bloodstream: hip morality, the hymn "Anthem", the lavender mafia, the hymn "Anthem", write-your-own-Creed-RCIAs, (did I mention the hymn "Anthem"?).
These were introduced by Clever People Who Knew What the Church Needed. Once introduced, the older patterns of secrecy and covert operations the conservatives tend to favor continued to fly cover for the new evils.
This explains the pattern we're seeing. Some of these clever "spirit of Vatican II" bishops not only approved of boffing boys in the men's room when their priests did it, they did it themselves. These were almost uniformly liberals. Others did not go in for boffing boys in men's rooms, but seeing as how it had been made an acceptable pattern by the Forward Thinking priests and bishops among us, they relied on their conservative instincts to Not Rock the Boat and Keep the Machine Oiled.
Bottom Line: the present evils the Church faces are an ingenious cooperative arrangement between the worst liberal impulses and the worst conservative ones. Liberals have agitated for dissent from the Church's teaching and for unchastity. Conservatives, faced with this, have cravenly protected the fait accompli and the status quo. This is why, if you run across a pederast bishop, he is a liberal (that subculture whose fave rave words are "transgressive", "pushing the envelope" etc.) while no conservative bishop is an actual pederast, though he may well be a cowardly enabler too spineless to challenge the Insurgent Clevers who... what's the word I'm
looking for? Ah! Rape our children and despoil us of the Church's teaching.
Chesterton, thou art a prophet!
So much of the life of St. George is legendary, but the appeal of the story lies in an undeniable truth: the Christian life will bring confrontation. Jesus himself said as much...I have not come to bring peace but the sword. How to deal with that confrontation? That's the question.
We all face dragons of a sort in our lives. Dragons that threaten our faith, our very souls. Dragons that evoke the most deadly threat of all: fear. Our dragons may not be physical threats to the practice of our faith, but they are just as dangerous. The fear of what we will lose when and if we give ourselves fully to Christ. The fear of the pain of sacrifice. The fear of what others will think if we are honest about our views and opinions.
What dragon requires your attention today?
Just as Peter Steinfels wants to blame the present form of the Crisis on Rome-cleaving bishops, Michael Novak continues to explain it in terms of post-Vatican II laxity. As usual, the estimable Mr. Novak has his points, but considering the unswerving "orthodoxy" of Cardinals Law and Egan and their dishonest handling of these situations, one suspects that is not the whole answer to the problem.
And if you don't believe me, read this detailed account of Mahony's role in a horrendous abuse case when he was bishop of Stockton:
For instance, last week Mahony apologized publicly for having reassigned a priest who had been removed from his parish in 1988 for molesting two boys to chaplain duty at Cedars Sinai Medical Center -- without ever telling officials at the hospital that he had sent them a pedophile. Mahony said that if he had it to do over he would have drummend Father Michael Wempe out of the priesthood. But the episode involving Wempe (whose known track record as a child molester doesn't hold a candle to O'Grady's) raises more questions about Mahony's actions than it answers. It was only a month ago, amid the fallout from the current sex scandal, that Mahony finally saw fit to dump Wempe, forcing him into retirement. And as recently as two years ago, the cardinal thought well enough of the pedo-priest to be the star guest at a luncheon in his honor.
Almost from the time Mahony, 65, arrived in Los Angeles on Labor Day of 1985 after becoming archbishop here (Pope John Paul II elevated him to cardinal in 1991), he has been a larger-than-life figure. From humble origins as the son of a Hollywood electrician who later opened a poultry business, Mahony has surrounded himself with powerful and politically influential friends. (Former L.A. mayor Richard Riordan once gave him a $400,000 helicopter, which the cardinal flew around his archdiocese for several years before he was persuaded to give it up.) He has long cultivated a reputation as hardworking, organized and with a politician's facility for recalling the names of people, places and events. According to several priests in the archdiocese who agreed to speak about Mahony on condition of anonymity, he always has been intimately involved with even the most trivial affairs in his gargantuan realm. He's legendary for keeping a tight rein on his troops, including sending out midnight missives known as "snot-grams" to his subordinates to keep them in line. "The term control-freak comes to mind," confides one priest.
In essence, he doesn't strike anyone as the type who could be clueless about a potential scandal brewing in his midst. "If you really want to know who Roger Mahony is, all you need to do is look closely into the Stockton fiasco," says Father Thomas Doyle, a U.S. Air Force chaplain who is coauthor of a pioneering 1985 report on priestly sexual abuse that was distributed to every bishop in the United States. Doyle testified as an expert witness for the Howards. "Mahony was a key player in the grossly immoral cover-up involving Oliver O'Grady, and when I see him and others stand up now and apologize on behalf of the church for these sorts of crimes I have to ask myself, "Do they think we're stupid?'"
Read this entire article, and be stupid no more.
The abuse of the young is a grave symptom of a crisis affecting not only the church but society as a whole. It is a deep-seated crisis of sexual morality, even of human relationships, and its prime victims are the family and the young. In addressing the problem of abuse with clarity and determination, the church will help society to understand and deal with the crisis in its midst.
It must be absolutely clear to the Catholic faithful, and to the wider community, that bishops and superiors are concerned, above all else, with the spiritual good of souls. People need to know that there is no place in the priesthood and religious life for those who would harm the young. They must know that bishops and priests are totally committed to the fullness of Catholic truth on matters of sexual morality, a truth as essential to the renewal of the priesthood and the episcopate as it is to the renewal of marriage and family life.
We must be confident that this time of trial will bring a purification of the entire Catholic community, a purification that is urgently needed if the church is to preach more effectively the Gospel of Jesus Christ in all its liberating force. Now you must ensure that where sin increased, grace will all the more abound (Romans 5:20). So much pain, so much sorrow must lead to a holier priesthood, a holier episcopate, and a holier church.
God alone is the source of holiness, and it is to him above all that we must turn for forgiveness, for healing and for the grace to meet this challenge with uncompromising courage and harmony of purpose. Like the good shepherd of last Sunday's Gospel, pastors must go among their priests and people as men who inspire deep trust and lead them to restful waters (Psalms 22:2).
I beg the Lord to give the bishops of the United States the strength to build their response to the present crisis upon the solid foundations of faith and upon genuine pastoral charity for the victims, as well as for the priests and the entire Catholic community in your country. And I ask Catholics to stay close to their priests and bishops, and to support them with their prayers at this difficult time.
First, he says that the vast majority of incidents being reported in the past months occurred years ago. Why has it come to a head now? He says that the bishops have, since 1993, for the most part, tried to live and work by their own policies. Again - why the scandal now?
Steinfels says it's because of three basic reasons: press hysteria, the growing awareness of secrecy and secret records in relation to these cases, and a general distrust of leadership by the Catholic laity.
I'll address a couple of these points, but first let me point out what I think Steinfels misses.
While it's true that we're not seeing, for the most part, revelations of abuse cases that occurred say, in 2001, it's simply not true to say that every element of these cases is completely past and therefore doesn't merit re-examination.
First, the fact is that besides the Geoghan horrors, the real mess in Boston started when mysteriously, pastors and associates started disappearing from parishes in February and March. Why? Because their names were among the 80 or so Law was forced to reveal has having beein implicated in abuse accusations in the past. The issue is not 20-year old abuse accusations. The issue is those perpetrators of abuse and exploitation of youth serving as your pastor. Which has certainly revealed to be the case in too many instances to make Catholics comfortable.
But the second issue is much more specific, and one that Steinfels avoids. While some of the priests accused - say, Shanley - may have been out of legitimate ministry for a few years, the bishops who made the decisions to protect them are still wearing their mitres. That's the point. Law, McCormack, Dailey, Egan, Mahony, Weakland, Banks and others spent years, not "making mistakes," but dealing with these abuse cases in ways that were least advantageous to victims and most advantageous to their brother clerics. The Catholic faithful look at this, read about this, and have to wonder - this is what our leaders are up to? This is how they handle problems? They are, then quite legitimately, I think, lead to ask - what exactly are these bishops about? Are they about ministry? Are they about serving God's people? Or they about protecting themselves and God knows who else in God knows what other unworthy endeavors?
Interestingly enough, the case that Steinfels completely avoids is the one that is most resonant with all the depressing themes of these Days: O'Connell of Palm Beach. A homosexual predator of young men, in a position of responsibility at a minor seminary. The evidence indicates that he did, indeed, pay true hush money to some of the young men. He was appointed bishop of a diocese which had just seen another bishop resign for sexual abuse.
This is really the key case, and one has to wonder why Steinfels ignores it. Perhaps it doesn't fit into his ideological schema - that JPII's appointment of bishops who supposedly walk in ideological lockstep with him and were too busy persecuting Charles Curran during the 80's to care about abuse - is the crisis of leadership. Well, it doesn't fit. I know from my experience with O'Connell's first diocese, Knoxville, that O'Connell, while no Weakland or Gumbleton, was no O'Connor either. For God's sake, one of the diocesan offices instituted under his tenure was called "The Office of Peace, Justice and the Integrity of Creation." I am completely serious. I am not making that up.
O'Connell's case is the emblematic one for American Catholics, because it brings to the fore our concerns about leadership: What are these guys doing? What are they doing with our money? What are they doing with their time, which is supposed to be spent serving God's people? Are they serving, or are they engaging in self-indulgence and mutual protection rackets?
Steinfels just doesn't see that as long as the bishops who have protected abusing clerics are in power, there will be distrust of these same bishops. That's why it's a problem of the present.
And, of course, I must take issue with Steinfel's ideological slant at the end.
There is a terrible vacuum of leadership at the highest levels of American Catholicism. This vacuum has not just happened. It has been deliberately created by years of episcopal appointments and Vatican interventions designed to prevent the American church from taking national initiatives that might conflict with Rome's. The American bishops' conference has been repeatedly reined in, with power shifted to the cardinals (especially to the one currently most paralyzed), to the point that nothing happens without looking over one's shoulder for approval.
This is garbage. Absolute nonsense. Are American bishops and cardinals paralyzed to the point that they can't do their own thing? I invite you to look at two areas to make your evaluation: First, Catholic higher education and Ex Corde Ecclesiae, which the bishops have done their very best to avoid implementing. Secondly, liturgical norms and translations, which, again, the American bishops have strenuously avoided implementing. Both out of fear, but not, I assure Mr. Steinfels, of Rome. Fear of the Boards and administrations of "Catholic universities" on the one hand, and fear of liturgical mafiosa on the other.
Steinfels is right. Leadership is needed. But perhaps it's now for the leadership to strengthen itself by listening to the spirit of the wisdom coming from Rome, not ignoring it.
"The abuse which has caused this crisis is by every standard wrong and rightly considered a crime by society: it is also an appalling sin in the eyes of God," he said.
He added: "People need to know that there is no place in the priesthood and religious life for those who would harm the young."
Now. Let's see the world's bishops apply those words. Every time.
As is so often the case, my big plans for working in the evening go down with the baby. Who did sleep, by the way. But after he went down, and I'd read two chapters of Tuck Everlasting with Katie, I was half asleep myself. So the webpage updating will be today's project.
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