Friday, April 26

From a reader

[Note to bishops and underlings...this is what you've done. Well, part of what you've done, anyway.]

As a 42 year old "Cradle Catholic" I've found myself having to re-educate, or perhaps self-educate over the last 10 years. Having children (now 13/16)and an adult convert wife, we have spent a lot of time in RCIA, communion, and confirmation classes. While participating in those programs I came to realize that I was a cultural Catholic. What I wanted to be was an educated and faithful Catholic with a fuller understanding of "One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic."


It has been, and continues to be a joyous journey.


Our new trials almost defy explanation. We have sexual predators in Roman collars, an openly active homosexual community in some seminaries, and an American leadership apparently looking the other way.

Jesus told Peter that "...the gates of Hell will not prevail..." against His Church, but it sure seems like
someone's on the other side of those gates and is pushing like crazy!

I listen to talk radio in Dallas Texas. We have a Christian (evangelical) talk station, and several secular stations. As you can imagine, the Catholic
Church is a regular topic of conversation. Now I can appreciate an honest conversation about a controversial issue...but now that it is open season on Our Church, every nut-job is coming out of the woodwork telling second and third hand stories about baby skeletons in convent attics, wholesale raping of nuns by priests, and other garbage that makes "Maria Monk" read like the singing nun!


The thing that just makes me nuts, is that we are in a damned if you do, damned if you don't environment. If you don't respond and condemn you are callous and
uncaring. If you object to unsubstantiated charges,then you are simply a blind defender of an obviously corrupt church!

This is what our bishops have wrought... I hang my head in shame and embarrassment while listening to the world beat up my Church.


Evangelicals, whose solution to administrative problems or corruption is to go build a new mega-church look at me like I have a third eye when I try to explain I
won't leave the Real Presence in the Church founded 2,000 years ago by Jesus Christ, entrusted to Peter and his successor Popes.


My therapy (Reparation?) is to say Hail Marys and scream at the radio while driving the Dallas Tollway.



Is Jonah Goldberg writing commercials now? On my appointed rounds, I heard a commercial for a Mexican restaurant's promotion for their Cinco de Mayo celebrations. May 5 is a celebration of Mexico's defeat of invading French forces in 1862. The entire commercial was a skit proclaiming that of course, the best way to celebrate Cinco de Mayo would be to beat up a French person...but since that would have "legal repercussions" maybe it would be best to go to this restaurant instead.....just wondering.
Not going anywhere....according to the Boston Globe
Talking' about my reparation...

Reparations and penance are essential elements of our responses to sin, both our own and the world's. They're not the same thing. We can't do penance for the sins of others (unless we're paid to go on a Crusade by a medieval subduke, but that's another matter.). But we can do reparation, not only for our own sin, but for the sins of the world. Such a stance is an important part of some recent (relative to the age of the Church - let's say the last three hundred fifty years or so) spiritual practices. For example, one of the versions of the Morning Offering:

O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
I offer you my prayers, works, joys and sufferings of this day
in union with the holy Sacrifice of the Mass
throughout the world.
I offer them for all the intentions of your Sacred Heart:
the salvation of souls, reparation for sin,
the reunion of all Christians.
I offer them for the intentions of our bishops
and of all apostles of prayer -- in particular,
for those recommended by our Holy Father this month.

The Devotion to the Sacred Heart also has a strong component of reparation for sin. In fact, Pope Pius XI even wrote an encyclical on that very theme: Reparation to the Sacred Heart.

So yes, we are always called to open ourselves to the redemptive work of Christ, allowing Him to work through our prayer.

That said...

I simply found the suggestion of a day of "prayer and penance, in reparation for the offences perpetrated..." coming from leaders who still have not fully expressed their responsibility for these events galling. If the call had come from a leader who had, in fact, accepted full responsibility for his role and was accepting concrete consequences for that role, I might have reacted less viscerally. But it's sort of like this:

An athletic director in a school has, for years, been violating various rules and regulations in regard to player recruitment, practice schedules and so on. He's done it with the knowledge, if not the direct, stated, written approval of the principal, who is pinning her entire career on St. Blog's Prep winning every title in every conference in every sport possible. The AD is caught. The school is penalized financially, legally and as a result it loses so many students it must close. How would you feel if you, a fired faculty member or parent of a student who'd been well-served by the school, read an interview in the paper in which the former principal, now assistant superintedant of schools for the diocese, declared that the situation had been a "wake-up call" for the Catholic educational system and announced that the first day of school, all Catholics would be called to observe a day of reparation for healing from this sins of the athletic department?

The analogy is not exact, but you probably get the point: You would probably feel as if something was missing from this picture. You would be able to agree that prayer was necessary in the context of this situation, but you'd still feel as if something was missing. And that something would be the principal's authentic repentance for the problems she had permitted. And you would be unimpressed by statements that "mistakes were made."

No. Our prayers do not wait for all parties to be appropriately contrite. Of course not. But the question, as I said, is not the prayers. It's who's calling for them and when.

For you see, the whole truth has not been told. The responsible bishops are still spinning and ducking and, dare I say it, conveying less than the truth. This situation is not, for the most part, the result of oversight, although in some situations it probably was. But believe me, this goes a great deal deeper than mistakes and oversight.

See, here's the deal: They knew. I'll put this as bluntly as I can. I've known priests who've served on personnel boards, and they say it is one of the most disillusioning experiences a priest can have. For what is revealed in that experience is that almost everything about these offending priests is known by everyone. It's in the files. Lots of people, particularly those involved in placing priests in parishes, know what's in the files. They know about accusations. They know about the settlements. A lot of them know about the police who agree to keep quiet about the priests they've picked up in parks during sweeps investigating public sex. They know. The bishops know.

And in the end, what has trumped all of that knowledge, in too many dioceses, is an implied threat of pseudo-blackmail, a fear of public scandal, and the very basic, pressing need for people with male gonads to say Mass.

As many have noted, the policies in place have, for the most part, been adequate. What has failed are those charged with implementing the policies and leading us in the way of the Gospel. And no one's admitting this.

So yes, we need to pray in reparation for the sins and failures of our Church, a pray that embraces our failures as well , since we are all the Church, and we all fail, on a daily basis, to bring Christ to others as well as we could. But if we do have a day of penance and reparation, it shouldn't be just for the victims of abuse. It should also be:

...for the millions of children aborted in our country because of the cowardice of Catholic leaders and the silence and tolerance of ordinary Catholics.

...for the students produced by Catholic schools and parish religious education programs who have never really been introduced to Christ in a personal, powerful way

..for the parents of said children, as well as the parents of Catholic college students, whose money has been taken by those who have no real interest in Catholic education

Fill in your own prayer. I'm sure you can.

In a response to a reader, I just dug up this article from First Things and thought some of you might be interested in it. It's written by a female Lutheran minister who became Catholic...despite what she found in the normal Catholic parish's celebration of Mass.
Just got word that my son David got into the National Honor Society...

I'm proud, but I've no doubt he would gladly trade it in for one good round of golf...

Heh.

Kathy at Relapsed Catholic chimes in on the wonders of Shoutin' Bill Donohue of the Catholic League:

Ya know what's ironic? If William Donohue were a Catholic character in a tv movie, the Catholic League would complain that his character made real Catholics look bad...

K-Lo reaches out! With a swift ruler across the knuckles!

From Kathryn Jean Lopez at The Corner:

....I tend to think we are in a new reality now with the whole Church publicly humiliated, the American cardinals having been called to Rome for a scolding, the lawyers ready for the kill, etc. The “nobody in power lifted a finger” scenario is history now; everyone is watching and they've got to be able to defend their every move to everyone with a blog site, the man on the street, the woman in the pews, and the pope. I'm not condoning a free pass for anyone, but I'd give them a shot at reform and wouldn't be quite so fast to condemn.

Ouch.

It's not just Catholic colleges:

Read (if you dare) this twisted missive published in the student paper at Texas Christian University

My God, the Olsen twins are hot.


What’s more, those girls are worth over $70 million — but I’d defile them for free.


[Courtesy Romensko's Obscure Store and Reading Room]

From a reader:

Your Episcopal reader is quite right that it's a problem of leadership and faith. What's shocking about the scandal is that it suggests that the
American bishops themselves lack faith.


Faith isn't just a willingness to profess a belief; it's the shaping of one's life by that faith. Sheltering child molesters, concealing their crimes, putting them in positions to engage in further crime, and allowing them to trade on the reputation of the Church and the priesthood to gain private access to the children of single mothers -- I think it was
Shanley who would befriend single mothers and molest their children as he was tucking them into bed!
[ed's note: it was Geoghan]-- is not an act expressive of the Catholic faith and Christian ethics.


And so it behooves the bishops who supported child molesters to say either:


(1) You, the laity, are mistaken, and my acts were consonant with Christian faith, and here's why; or (2) to humbly confess their sins, to sincerely repent, and to rededicate themselves to behaving in a way that is consonant with Christian ethics and loving service. Whatever policies and positions they do articulate, should be as much as possible derived from quotes from the Bible and the Doctors of the Church.


Instead, their statements as well as their behavior seem radically disconnected from the Christian tradition. Yesterday they spoke of punishing 'notorious' priests, as if notoriety were somehow relevant -- as if, God forbid, it was notoriety that they wanted to punish.


Pretty perceptive, eh?

A reader disagrees.."excellent"?[the TNR piece] Parts, maybe -- the ones you quoted. But the author also complains that Fr. Cozzens hasn't been made a bishop and that Charles Curran (after 20 years of dissent) was disciplined. Oh, and the Church's natural law teachings are outdated. With friends like these, who needs
enemies?

Yeah, the Curran part was dumb. But I didn't read him as totally dispensing with natural law. I think he was saying that preaching Catholic sexual norms when you're not articulating the total Catholic worldview and theology doesn't make sense


No-spin zone on Catholic Exchange

Straight talk from Phil Lawler about what really happened in Rome:

Only a tiny minority of American priests have been guilty of molesting children. But the majority of bishops bear the blame for the corruption of the American hierarchy. And it was that corruption which allowed pedophile priests to flourish.


News coverage of the "Vatican summit" has been dominated by questions about the new policies and procedures that the US bishops will adopt to discipline and remove pedophile priests. But policies alone will not solve the problem. Procedures and guidelines are tools; they are useful only if the people in authority — the bishops — are prepared to use them properly.

The discussion of different policy options ("zero tolerance," "one strike and you're out," etc.) is a distraction. The key question is whether the bishops will enforce their policies. Existing guidelines would have been adequate if bishops had shown the will to exercise true moral leadership.


The confidence of the American laity has been shattered, with the realization that their bishops have often served the interests of their offices rather than those of their people and of the faith. That confidence cannot be restored by "procedures" and "guidelines."



From a reader:

It's bad, if true, that the reason Law might be kicked up or over is to duck a deposition. But unless he is to be deposed only under the narrow category as a representative of the archdiocese under the Massachusetts equivalent of Rule 30(b)(6), he remains a witness with personal knowledge about all sorts of things that the plaintiff's lawyer is
interested in, and would still be subject to deposition whether he is the head of the archdiocese or not.

Interesting thoughts from a reader of the Episcopal variety:

To this non Catholic, the problem is one of leadership rather than of celibacy. Clerical celibacy as such is a six of one, half a dozen of the other sort of thing. Protestant churches both lose and gain by having a predominantly married clergy; likewise, the Roman church. In your church and in mine (the (formerly Protestant) Episcopal (we dropped the "Protestant" title some years ago in a fit of ecunemism), a pyramidical polity results in few restraints on bishops once they are in office, and no real accountability to the people they should be leading and nourishing. In my church, we get loony bishops who promote crackpot ideas and are generally running the church into the ground (you can't lose half your membership in a generation and say you're doing a good job). It's my guess that for you guys some drastic restructuring is in order; but that will be difficult to design and accomplish, what with all constituencies you have. Your Situation is not a sexuality problem as such, but a leadership and faith problem manifesting itself in the area of sexuality. In my church, the leadership and faith problem manifests less
spectacularly; but it's the same sort of problem.

Ours, by the way, may be self-correcting. The Anglican polity is more diffuse, and two Archbishops from Africa and Asia have decided that the United States should be considered a mission field. They have consecrated some bishops who operate under their authority, and there are some real nasty firefights going on as unhappy priests and parishes attempt to transfer their allegiance to the new structure. The existence of an alternative Anglican structure will let people vote with their feet, and that alone will reign in the nutters. How to go about making your leadership more responsively accountable in general is beyond me. It does seem to me that zero-tolerance, one-strike and out, or sweep every gay man out of seminary, policies will be cosmetic, and will not in themselves remedy the
leadership/faith problems. It is probably time to think outside the box, but that is something that no hierarchal organization does too well.


A couple of new Catholic blogs have popped up over the past week. I'll be linking them on the right later today, after I get my real work done (finishing my Living Faith devotions that are due today.) Also, thanks to USS Clueless for mentioning me in his very interesting entry on the way the web, in particular weblogs, are clustering. He's got a good name for Christian bloggers: The Catacombs
Exactly.

Excellent piece in The New Republic on The Situation. It's honest and fair. Are they trying to make up for their Goldhagen screed of a few months back?

This is not the voice of moral clarity. The average Catholic churchgoer understands that no amount of psychological screening can guarantee that a pedophile won't sneak through and become a priest. What the churchgoer cannot fathom is this: Why, when confronted with such perversion, did the bishops not react with appropriate--that is to say, human--empathy? Page after page of depositions demonstrate that these men of the cloth saw the victims of sexual abuse not as children of God, but as potential liabilities. And why, to this day, do the bishops seem incapable of speaking candidly? Why do they still sound like spinmeisters rather than spiritual guides? The answers are not comforting....

In Catholic theology, the bishops are the successors of the apostles. On Good Friday, reading the account of Jesus' trial and death, we Catholics were reminded that on the night before Jesus' death, his apostles all fled from him. If the bishops had utilized those passages to begin their own contrition--indeed, if they had acted with even a semblance of humility over the years--they could today seek cover behind the surely truthful observation "We are all sinners." But they did not, and they cannot.

And this is why their suggestion that the entire church be called to a day of reparation made my blood run cold. Others disagree. But I'll blog more on that later, after I get Katie to school.

Cal Thomas tells us that Pat Robertson has so far invested 520,000 in the racehorse he owns at the same time he condemns gambling.
From the Globe:Vatican bishops reportedly discussing Cardinal Law's future.

The Herald has a little more detail:in this article


Embattled Boston archbishop Bernard Cardinal Law, under siege from the epic sex scandal threatening his 18-year legacy, will likely be replaced and sent to the Vatican by the beginning of June, according to sources.


Law, who arrived in Newark, N.J., yesterday after the historic two-day conclave of American cardinals at the Vatican, will be reassigned by Pope John Paul II to an as-yet determined position prior to a scheduled deposition of Law in a legal suit against the archdiocese, according to church officials.


``There will be a promotion by June at the latest,'' said one source. ``They will not have him subjected to a recorded deposition.''


Moving Law to Rome by June would also take some of the pressure off American bishops who are scheduled to meet in Dallas that month to debate national standards for dealing with pedophile priests.


``(Law) would be the 500-pound gorilla'' in Dallas, said one official. ``With him gone to Rome, the discussions can be much more frank and direct.''



A reminder:

If you're interested in more or less comprehensive round-ups of developments related to the scandal of sexual abuse among Catholic clergy, go to Poynter's clergy abuse tracker or Yahoo's Full Coverage.

Those "How Could We Miss This?" Files on Paul Shanley?

800 pages long.

Including hints of blackmail, perhaps?

Among the more than 800 pages of new documents released by the Archdiocese of Boston is a draft letter apparently prepared for Medeiros, Law's predecessor. It is not clear who prepared the letter. But in it, Medeiros replies to a Feb. 16, 1979, letter from Shanley in which Shanley had protested his removal from his Roxbury-based street ministry and threatened to reveal to the media details about St. John's, the archdiocesan seminary, that would be ''far more shocking than my poor offerings.''



In Medeiros's letter to Shanley, the late cardinal dismissed what he regarded as Shanley's attempt at blackmail to save his post. ''I shall pass over in amazed but laughable silence the threats you invoke against me concerning further public pronouncements - this time about our Seminary,'' Medeiros wrote. ''I urge and direct you to take a parish assignment as so many of our priests do.''


Roderick MacLeish Jr., an attorney for the family of an alleged victim of Shanley, said the draft Medeiros letter makes it ''appear that Paul Shanley was blackmailing Medeiros,'' and said church officials might have allowed him to continue working as a priest because they feared he would expose misconduct by church officials.

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