Thursday, May 2

More from the WSJ: About the pretty terrible conditions for Christians in Indonesia.
Hey. You think I'm crazy. But I'm not. Even The Wall Street Journal takes note of the transition from Steve to Joe on Blue's Clues.
The spiritual emptiness of American adolescents.

But you know, it's not their fault - it's their spiritually vacuous parents' fault:

American teenagers are spiritually lonely and feel deprived of parental guidance in matters of faith, the head of a major youth ministry project told United Press International on Monday.
Asked about a new survey showing a decline in the number of young Americans who believe in absolute values, Mark Yaconelli of San Francisco Theological Seminary replied: "The teens are not the problem. The grown-ups are."

From Cleveland:Catholic Church rents an old theater for activities. Pentecostal pastor purchases theater. Is determined to kick Catholics out.

Sitting in his Richmond Heights home, Rucker launches into an extended theological riff on why the Catholic Church "is the church of the Antichrist," his arms churning like the levers on a taffy machine. He explains that St. Jerome's has done little to quash drug and gang activity in Collinwood and has failed to reach out to minorities. He believes his Highway to Christ Church would fare better. "We want to unite Collinwood before it disintegrates completely."

It's a bold statement for a minister with a 10-member flock that attends services at a house he owns on Garfield Avenue. Or who, when asked how he'll fund his project, says only, "The Lord is good, brother."

Michael Joseph Gallagher! I highly approve. Guess why.
Headline to this editorial in the Atlanta paper praising the efforts of Southern bishops on zero-tolerance:

Southern Bishops show the way.

I guess they're not including...uh...Florida in the "South", eh?

I think that Catholic need to blather (see below on Catholic pundits) is expressing itself via blogdom. There's a new Catholic blog every day now, and I must also say that we Catholics come up with the best names for our blogs, too. Try Gregorian Rant.
From a reader:

Regarding this quote from Bishop McCormack about Shanley: "But, at the time, Paul was known as one who would push the envelope and kind of make statements that were in some ways extreme. But I never thought he believed
it or he would practice it," McCormack added.

The bishop has left out a third point - a point which the hierarchy has allowed to fall through the cracks for years. Yes, he believed Shanley wouldn't practice it, or that he even believed it, BUT what about the scandal created by Shanley's pushing the envelope?
That is, what about the plain ol' laity - who took it to heart and believed his words and, as a result, have lost their souls?

This could be extended to the entire scandal and beyond as well. Although those physically abused are rightly spotlighted, does the hierarchy perceive the magnitude of an uncountable number of souls who have been lost due to the words of priests who have
'pushed the envelope' and have not been disciplined over many decades. It makes me cry and they seem to be oblivious to it. Do they not realize that due to their holy office and their title, be it priest, pastor, bishop, cardinal or pope, that their words are believed, they are looked up to and are followed?...... This whole thing is just killing me.

Thanks to reader Mark for bringing the Congregation of St. Athanasius, an Anglican-use Roman Catholic parish in Boston, to my attention.
Well, that's kind of weird.

Someone began a note to me with a quote they said was from St. John Chrysostem:

The roads of hell are paved with the skulls of bishops

But I don't think that's orignally who uttered those words. My cursory research indicates it was none other than...St. Athanasius, whose feastday is today. Except his quote is just a little different:

The floor of hell is covered with the skulls of bishops.

Knowing the life of Athanasius, you can see how he would be moved to utter a statement like that, can't you?

LA Confidential:

Here are some links to news from LA under Cardinal "McBrien says I get it" Mahony.

First, various articles from theLos Angeles Lay Mission an "alternative" Catholic newspaper. It's always an entertaining read, as are its sister papers in San Diego and San Francisco. (They're linked on the site)

Then two articles in one of the secular alternative papers, the New Times LA:

First, a er...strongly worded takedown of Mahony and, in particular the LA Times' coverage of the story and then an overview of recent events. The latter article, in particular, while long, is important for you to read. It's filled with terrible detail about Mahony's role in protecting child molesting clergy in his diocese and exposes his recent grandstanding as just that - grandstanding in a sick play to make other bishops take the fall for sins of which he's also guilty. It also makes clear that all of Mahony's recently announced policies regarding this problem in his Archdiocese have not been promulgated out of the goodness of his heart - they were conditions in a settlement with a victim:

In fact, most of his publicly announced ideas for dealing with the sex-abuse crisis, including those he unveiled amid much fanfare before jetting off to Rome along with other American cardinals to meet with the pope this month, weren't Mahony's at all. They had been forced on him, kicking and screaming, as it were, last August as conditions for settling a potentially explosive sex-abuse case involving the former principal of a prominent Catholic high school in Orange County, Monsignor Michael Harris. Barely a month before he would have been forced to testify at the Harris trial, Mahony authorized the Los Angeles Archdiocese to pay victim Ryan DiMaria $5.2 million -- the largest such settlement ever for a single victim in a Catholic sex-abuse case.

Thanks to The View from the Core for sending along the links.

Thanks to Mark Shea for discovering this breaking news;

Paul Shanley arrested.

Over the past couple of days, I have been thinking a lot about faith.For what I'm hearing about is faith shaken, if not outright shattered, and people, once a little bit open to Catholicism now disgusted, turning away.

It's leading me to reflect a great deal on the nature of faith, particulary the way we Catholics live it. It seems to me that we're being asked to confront faith at its most fundamental level, and to ask hard questions about the way faith is mediated to us through religious leaders, and if, perhaps, this scandal is a corrective to our over-reliance on the personality of religious leaders as guides in faith. Yes, we have that old ex opere operato to rely on, but we also have saints. That is, we have a tradition, quite reasonably, of looking to other human beings as examples of holiness, as inspirations in the Christian life, and as living testimonies to the truth of Christianity. We are not dumb enough to canonize our living models in faith before they've died, but the fact is, we are inspired by the living - from parents to teachers to priests to sisters to missionaries to the charitable neighbor down the street - to continue on our journey when we get tired or we find ourselves unable to understand exactly what this is all about. They are good people, we think. They are at peace, they are joyful, and the root of that joy, according to them, is their faith in Christ. That's good evidence for it's truth. That's a good reason to keep going.

See how these Christians love one another.

But what happens when unpleasant, horrifying truth is revealed? When the priest who played such an important role in our family's life is revealed to have molested children? Or the bishop who seemed to stand for all the right things, and bravely, refused to act decisively with their decadent priests? Or the cleric or sister who seems to be a good example for us and our children and then is revealed to be an unjust employer or a vindictive colleague?

This, of course, is not a new dilemma. It's the story of a church composed of saints and sinners and our constant struggle to stay on balance - to understand how God can work through his creatures, but to also understand that his creatures are not God, and our faith should never, even for a second, rest on other human beings, but only on God.

But....our Church is one which as a strongly organic ecclesiology: that means we don't believe God is above and beyond the Church - we believe that the Church is the Body Of Christ. We are his hands and voice on earth, as St. Teresa said. The question many are asking is...part of the Body is sick. Does that invalidate what the voice speaks?

More later...

An interesting article from a journal called Second Spring from the Centre of Life and Culture at Oxford.

The author makes the interesting point that in the discussion about sexuality and the priesthood, the issue of orientation is important, but not as important as disposition, a matter which embraces both heterosexual and homosexual vice and virtue:

If one has a certain orientation or pattern of desire this need not lead to active sexual practice and whether it does or not depends on the development or inhibition of dispositions. To be disposed is to be primed to act or react in certain ways. So if one has a particular orientation but does not wish to find oneself acting or being strongly inclined to act in accord with it one needs to attend to one’s dispositions. This is where the Church’s teaching and its training have tended to be negligent. What should be said to those entering the celibate life is that while their orientations may not matter their dispositions and habituated desires certainly do. Whether heterosexually, homosexually or otherwise oriented they must cultivate strong counter-dispositions to act on these. In other, and older words they must cultivate ‘sexual asceticism’.

....the Bishops, heads of religious, and directors of seminaries need to attend to the threefold distinction: orientation, disposition, and activity, and to establish a barrier so as to inhibit the occurrence of the third. That wall needs to be placed after orientation, for by the time active dispositions have developed it is likely to be too late to prevent their expression in activity.

Tyrell on The Situation in The American Prowler:

The Church hierarchy bears a heavy responsibility for this scandal, a scandal that abounds with ironies in a country that is windswept with conflicting notions of sex. Yet the Church's teaching on sex, particularly sex in the priesthood, is not ambivalent. The hierarchy has known about certain priests' misbehavior. The errant priests compose a small percentage of the priesthood, but obviously they have acted with an astounding abandon that should have elicited action from the hierarchy years ago. Part of the problem is that the hierarchy is so insulated from normal Americans. In fact, I am not all that clear it is capable of relating to normal Americans.

At the expense of sounding crass let me venture the comparison of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church (or any church for that matter) with the faculty of practically any public school system. Both clerics and teachers claim (not without reason) to possess a special expertise. Both claim to be open to the ordinary citizens; in the case of the Church, the faithful; in the case of the teachers, their students' parents. However, in the crunch, both Church leaders and teachers follow their own professional interests. Their special expertise inclines them along on that preordained course. Try arguing with a cleric or a teacher about the way either carries out his or her duties.

Thanks to Brian O'Rourke at his new Catholic blog, "Kairos," (Hey! A Greek name for a change!) for this one:

Bishop McCormack's explanation of his role in the Shanley case:

Manchester Bishop John B. McCormack yesterday said he regrets not picking up on former Boston priest Paul R. Shanley’s deviant views on adult-child sex, but didn’t think Shanley meant what he said nor would ever act on it.

“I wish I did zero in on it more,” McCormack said about a 1985 speech on homosexuality in which Shanley was quoted as saying children seduce adults into having sex with them.

“But, at the time, Paul was known as one who would push the envelope and kind of make statements that were in some ways extreme. But I never thought he believed it or he would practice it,” McCormack added.

I don't know. The whole thing makes me tired. What I do know is that this man's defense is nothing else if not an unintentionally good argument against trusting priests to make pastoral judgments. Which is not an argument I would make, but it seems one of the fallouts from this, besides the whole issue of moral authority, is people's perceptions of clerics to make sane judgments. In their rush to exonerate themselves from culpability, too many of these implicated clerics are making themselves look like nothing but senseless dolts without an ounce of common sense. This is not a good advertisment for one's counseling or spiritual direction skills, is it?

Can homosexuals be good priests? An opinion from the dean of Catholic University's law school.
Cardinal Law to give the graduation address at the Josephenium, the seminary in Columbus, Ohio, from which he graduated.
Today is the feast of St. Athanasius

St. Athanasius was a warrior, but not in military battles. He was a warrior for the Truth about Christ. His first major work, written when he just about twenty years old, was On the Incarnation. He was secretary to the Bishop of Alexandria, (in which role he attended the Council of Nicaea) and then, upon the latter's death, became bishop himself. In subsequent years, the heresy of Arianism (which declared Jesus to be far less that fully divine - more like an exalted semi-deity) was born, and then took hold in many parts of the empire under a surprising number of sympathetic bishops. Athanasius was the leader in orthodoxy, and paid the price. During these post-Constantine years, of course, religion and politics were intertwined and the fate of Athansius rested with the sympathies of the Emperor - as a result, he was exiled five times.

St. Athanasius and orthodox, eventually prevailed, but not without paying a price. A good reminder for modern comfortable Catholics. From St. Athanasius:

The Word of God, incorporeal, incorruptible, and immaterial, entered our world.

Out of his loving-kindness for us he came to us, and we see this in the way he revealed himself openly to us. Taking pity on mankind's weakness, and moved by our corruption, he could not stand aside and see death have the mastery over us. He did not want creation to perish and his Father's work in fashioning man to be in vain. He therefore took to himself a body, no different from our own, for he did not wish simply to be in a body or only to be seen.

By dying for others, he immediately banished death for all mankind. The corruption of death no longer holds any power over mankind, thanks to the Word, who has come to dwell among us through his one body.


All of us are naturally frightened of dying and the dissolution of our bodies, but remember this most startling fact: that those who accept the faith of the cross despise even what is normally terrifying, and for the sake of Christ cease to fear even death. When He became man, the Savior's love put away death from us and renewed us again; for Christ became man that we might become God."

And, of course, his most well-known quote:

He became what we are that He might make us what He is.

A list of links to information about St. Athansasius.


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