Friday, May 10

No transcripts today. Judge says no.
From a reader:

I was reading your excellent deconstruction of Andrew Sullivan's fact errors on the subject, and felt compelled to chime in. As a further rebuttal of the "cost" argument, it is not unheard of for the annulment process to be free. Such is the case here in the Archdiocese of Detroit. It was one of the reforms instituted by Edmund Cardinal Szoka while he was archbishop. Consequently, for at least 1.4 million American Catholics, the process is open, regardless of financial status.

Also, Sullivan is misleading about the frequency of annulments, hinting that they are small and disproportionately favor the rich. Actually, I was told by a tribunal priest here in Detroit that 2/3 of all annulments nationwide are granted. So much for that argument...

Well, I've been thinking about it since I saw this last night, but have been too lazy to put my brain to it but Nancy Nall finally called me on it:

OK, so we all know that the rule of the blogger is: "We'll fact-check your ass." Is anyone from YOUR neck of the Blogosphere going to
fact-check uber-blogger Andrew Sullivan on THIS whopper (his last entry from Thursday)?

One of the truly odd facets of the contemporary Catholic church is that while insisting that divorced and remarried Catholics can have no meaningful access to the sacraments and cannot receive absolution, there is an escape clause: annulment. This is usually reserved for Kennedys and other prominent or wealthy Catholics, but is occasionally granted others. In my view, it's a humane option, if granted on the merits - and it shows how exceptions to firm rules have always been allowed in Catholicism (unless you're gay, that is, when no exceptions are ever allowed.) Now Newt Gingrich is trying the Kennedy gambit. Figures, doesn't it?

She's right. Here goes.

Andrew, Andrew, Andrew. No. You once, many years ago, wrote a brilliant cover piece for The New Republic on the contemporary Catholic Church, so I'm truly shocked, shocked that you got this so very wrong.

Annulment is not reserved for the prominent or wealthy. It's a process that's open to anyone who follows the procedures. Yes, it costs money, but that's because the psychiatrists and others who evaluate the petitions don't work for free. In any case, the annulment process starts in the local parish, and if the petitioner is unable to pay the fees (as I recall, when I got my annulment 8 years ago it was around $250.00 in that diocese. ), the parish will pay. Period.

I love Andrew Sullivan, but I have to wonder if he knows any straight, not-rich Catholics. If he did, he'd find a room full of annulments.

In fact, many complain that the American Church, in particular has been too generous in giving annulments. It's a major argument in Catholic circles, and has been for twenty years.

It's not a perfect system, by any means, and I think the Orthodox practice is probably more sound and less prone to legalistic inanities. In both cases, however, what we have are attempts to take two things seriously: Jesus' words in the New Testament about divorce and the reality of human frailty, which means, the way I see it, that some marriages are not indeed, "joined by God." They're joined solely by the stubborn, deaf wills of human beings who ignore the voice of God in their consciences and succumb to other pressures, both internal and external, to wed someone they know, in their heart, is not the right person. Annulment is the way the Roman Catholic Church is presently trying to recognize that reality.

And it ain't only for the rich. Or people named after reptiles.

A reader writes with more on the monastery story (scroll down), expanding on a point made in the article about the monastery's loss of one particular manuscript to a German scholar:

Thought you might like an anecdote that goes with the ‘borrowing’ of the biblical manuscript by an Anglophile German scholar named Tischendorf. When he visited the monastery (this guy and others were often called the ‘manuscript raiders’ for their propensity for stealing anything and everything deemed important in the 19th century frenzy of archaeological imperialism-“Indiana Jones Syndrome”, I suppose), he persuaded a monk to take him to the library. When they had arrived, the monk tore a piece of what Tischendorf thought (in the dim light) was paper from the back of a book, rolled it up, and used it to light the lamp. As the flames grew, Tischendorf saw what he thought were ancient Greek characters on the paper. He was right. The monk had been using pages from what came to be known as Codex Siniaticus, the oldest known New Testament manuscript [mid 3rd century] to light the lamp and the stove. No wonder they never got it back.

Cardinal Law has called for a novena to be prayed between Ascension Thursday (yestereday) and Pentecost:

''Almighty and merciful God, by the power of the Holy Spirit you raised Jesus Christ, your Son, from death and filled him with new and abundant life.

''Then, in accordance with your loving plan, you sent the Holy Spirit upon the disciples at Pentecost, that by his mighty gifts they might be joined to the Risen Lord in his Body, the Church.

''By a fresh outpouring of the Spirit's gifts give new life to the Church in Boston this Pentecost.

''We beg that the Spirit will bring healing to the victims of clergy sexual abuse and their families.

''We pray that the Spirit will warm the hearts of those whose faith has been weakened by this scandal.

''We ask that the Spirit will bestow mercy and repentance on the abusers.

''We earnestly desire that the Spirit will renew and reform the whole Church in the likeness of Christ.

''Fill every member of the Church with holiness so that, working together as the Body of Christ, we might be built up in faith, hope and love in order to proclaim the Gospel with joy.

''We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.''

God help me. And I'm not just saying that. Really.

What's wrong with this prayer? Anything? There are, as you can see, some specifics mentioned: victims of abuse. those whose faith has been weakened. abusers.

And then things get alarmingly vague: ...renew and reform the whole Church in the likeness of Christ...

What is not specifically mentioned are the actions of those in the church administration who permitted this abuse to continue after it was discovered. What is not specifically mentioned are those who, for reasons only they understand, because sane people certainly don't, heard credible complaints of abuse, heard priests admit to abuse, and responded by doing, essentially, nothing.

Why not pray for those in the Church's leadership who betrayed the trust of those they were called to serve? Why not pray for those in Church leadership who neglected their duties?

Responsiblity, responsiblity, responsiblity. These fellows simply do not understand that a great deal of our anger is about their failure to take responsiblity - then and now.

Hanssen sentenced to life in prison

I wrote about him, particularly the whole Catholic/Opus Dei puzzle here.

Welcome National Review readers! Stop by my regular webpage and my husband's brilliant, much-more-spiritual-than-mine blog while you're here and check out some wonderful First Communion, Confirmation, and First Communion gifts over there on the right under My books.

End of shameless self-promotion.

A strong statement in an op-ed piece from the Orlando Sentinel, accurately outlining the church hierarchy's typical response to The Situation.

Step 1. Circle the wagons. I can understand the church's dilemma as cases of sexual misconduct were brought to its attention. The offending priest deserves forgiveness, and the sanctity of the confessional must be preserved. But must the effect on the souls of children and parents when their silence is purchased give way to the "greater good" of the church? No concern was shown for the impact this code of secrecy inevitably would have on the spiritual needs of parents and children caught up in this morass of priestly and canonical misconduct. The Church Militant must be protected at the expense of the Church Triumphant.

[ed: Actually, wouldn't it be the other way around?]

Step 2. Seek a scapegoat. The church hierarchy is not at fault. It was those nasty, errant priests who did all this. We tried to help them, but they kept on sinning. Didn't Christ say to forgive 70 times seven? We're only following our own teachings. It's their fault, not ours. The retreat to denial becomes entrenched.

Step 3. The spin. (What John Ehrlichman referred to during Watergate as the modified, limited hangout.) Well, maybe mistakes were made, but we did the best we could with the information we had at the time. As the failure of the bishops' policies became evident, their excuses became more and more frantic. The spin is that, in retrospect, we suppose we should have been more vigilant. We will do better now.

Step 4. Blame the victim. Maybe only pedophilic priests should be arrested and removed. After all, if the victims were adolescents, they could have refused. Maybe they really wanted to do it. As for that 6-year-old in Boston -- well, he and his family must share in the blame.

Step 5. Hang tough. Ignore calls for resignation. Continue to evade personal responsibility as long as possible. So we made mistakes. We still have something to offer -- we are indispensable.

My college friend Ed passes along this article from the Indianapolis paper:

In search of healing

When news of sexual abuse by priests, and scandal over years of cover-ups began breaking, Eileen Cantin hoped that leaders of the Catholic Church would lead the faithful in prayers for healing.

Cantin, a therapist, waited nearly four months for a national day of prayer for the church or a special service at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral here in Indianapolis.

"When it didn't happen, I became aware of the fact that I was waiting for the bishops and cardinals to take the lead," said Cantin, a member of St. Andrew Catholic Church on the Northside. "It occurred to me there wasn't any reason why we need to wait for them to gather in prayer."

So, on a recent cool, clear evening, members of the laity held a prayer service in St. Andrew church for victims of such abuse

An inspiration. What are we waiting for?

Good stuff Catholics do: (A continuing series)

The St. Vincent Pallotti Center

The mission of the Saint Vincent Pallotti Center is to promote lay volunteer service that challenges the laity, clergy and religious to work together in the mission of the Church. Our goal is to support lay volunteers before, during and after their term of service.

If you go to the site, you'll find a wealth of information, including a huge list of Catholic-based volunteer opportunities.

Bridgeport fighting court order to open files.

Following a hearing in Waterbury Superior Court, McWeeny ordered Wednesday that seven boxes of material in the clerk's possession be made public on May 16. The contents of those boxes remain unknown, though, in his decision, McWeeny offered a tantalizing clue: The records show that a priest who had been twice accused of molesting children, and diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, was later promoted to pastor

You know what? If I had written a novel - a sweeping novel of the last twenty years of the church's history in the US and filled it with these kinds of details: monks in Minnesota suspected of murder; priests in Miami accused of running a sex ring; priest arrested for selling Ecstasy which he bought in New Orleans while staying at his Bourbon Street condo (and maybe hooking up, in the process, with the priest whose topless, bead-adorned self made its way into a book on Mardi Gras or the priest in Illinois arrested for making drugs), child abusing priests being" treated" by family physicians and given the all-clear for ministry and...paranoid schizophrenic child-abusers being promoted to pastor...

Yes, if I'd written this as a novel, the criticism would be loud and fierce, accusing me of being way unrealistic.

This is just insane. Or worse.

Boston Catholic television station is sitting on 31 million bucks

And I guess you know one possible future for that stash, built up through donations inspired by now-deceased long time station director Monsignor Francis McFarland

``Viewers loved Father Frank and donated to him and his station generously over the years,'' said one longtime BCTV employee. ``Father Frank would roll over in his grave if he knew that the station he had built up over the years would be used financially to cover the mistakes of the archdiocese and the pedophile monsters.''

I like this addendum on the end of A.O. Scott's NY Times review of the new Star Wars movie:

Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones" is rated PG (Parental guidance suggested). It has many violent scenes, none of them terribly upsetting or, for that matter, interesting.

So who's in charge here?

McCormack says he won't resign, says poor record-keeping and administrative slip-ups led to the reassignment of abusive priests.

So. Law says he didn't know about stuff. McCormack says he didn't know about stuff. So who knew? Once again we're left with a sense of deep confidence in the administration of our church.

Well, I didn't get up at 5:10 to listen to the first run, but I'll tune in my computer at 11:10 EST to hear the greatly-anticipated Vatican Radio piece on Weblogs featuring a bunch of us.

Scroll down for the details, but remember The Contest: If you listen, hit the feedback button and mention W-E-L-B-O-R-N, I just might win me a big prize.

Here's the link to listen!

Not a parody

This is a portion of a communication sent to members of a religious community this week:

Because of some imprudence by [members of the community] with regard to bars and the possible harm to the reputation of this community, and the Church, the [community] Committee on Formation is asking this of the community:

- Please avoid bars that are notorious for one reason or another, bars that are used for cruising and pick ups.

- If you do go to a bar ask yourself these questions:

- why am I here?

- what am I looking for?

- how am I here?

- do I have a designated driver, if necessary?

Think of the reputation of your community, of the [religious order] and the Church

Do you remember the old Baltimore Catechism diagram comparing religious life and marriage in which marriage was defined as "good" and religious life was defined as "better"?


Somewhere....over the rainbow...

Is "zero tolerance." Or not.

Was about to go to bed, hit the NYTimes page one more time to see if they had Friday's stuff up yet, and here ya go:

Gay Pastor's History of Abuse Shocks a South Dakota City:

Though it was never meant to be a secret, the Metropolitan Community Church of the Black Hills, which serves a gay and lesbian congregation, existed in relative obscurity in this community of 60,000.

That is, until last week, when news broke that the church's pastor, the Rev. James A. Forsythe, was a former Roman Catholic priest who 13 years ago pleaded guilty to molesting a 15-year-old boy while an associate pastor of a parish in Kansas.

...word that the 47-year-old Mr. Forsythe was a convicted child molester, and that national officials of his Protestant denomination as well as some members of the local congregation had been aware of his past, stunned many here.

So. Who's going to be writing the editorial about the corrupt structure of the Metropolitan Community Church? Anyone? Anyone?

Two interesting, in-depth articles in Salon on blogging here and here.

Doesn't mention any of us Catho-bloggers, though. As if.


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