Saturday, May 18


This is what we need right now, and no, I'm not being sarcastic.

We need to sit in church tonight or tomorrow and hear the story from Acts. We need to hear about frightened, confused apostles locked in a room. Locked. In a room. Afraid to go out and preach what they knew was true - what they knew about Jesus Christ, crucified, died, risen and alive. Forgiving, reconciling all to the Father. No more are we bound, defined and limited by the scourge of sin and death.

The apostles knew all of this. They had just spent days - weeks - with the risen Jesus, so they had no doubt.

But still. They still locked the door. They still huddled inside. Afraid of what the crowds in Jerusalem would do them if they heard, if they even saw the ones associated with the Nazorean.

But then the Spirit came and then...

God's Spirit came to those apostles and the first thing they did was go out into the messy, political, ordinary, crowded world and preach the Gospel of Christ....

...they stepped out blinking into the heat, and started preaching and getting questioned and bringing people to Jesus Christ. It was the birthday of the Church, complete with political hassles, astonishing triumphs, head-counting, crying, laughing, getting wet.

They went out. Empowered and filled with the Spirit they plunged into the world with the Good News.

This Situation is an awful mess, evidence of real rot and corruption. It is only going to get worse in the next months and perhaps years. But, we have to ask ourselves bluntly and forcefully, should that stop us from sharing Christ? Of course not, although one can see how that is definitely the intent of the ultimate source of all of this rot. To stop us in our tracks, turn us inward, cause us to doubt the truth of our faith, and absorb us with internal wranglings and distract us from the real need for the passionate, healing, forgiving love of Christ.

That doesn't diminish the need to talk about the Situation, to act on it, to pray about it and, with whatever power we have, to try to change things in our church so children are never victimized like this again. But we can do both at once, you know. We can tend to mending the hurt and the harm, and we can also continue to act lovingly in the name of Jesus. We have to. We must. Or else the rot will do nothing but spread, and like gangrene in a body, it will go to our core and threaten our very lives.

Here's the article from which that quotation was taken.

Here's a short article from Envoy on lay movements of the 20th century.

Spend your weekend guessing on this blind item from the NYPost gossip page:

WHICH American cardinal recently disclosed to insiders a confidential letter he received from a bishop urging the cardinal to resign for the good of the church? The cardinal is being urged to quit before his much-gossiped-about homosexual indiscretions are uncovered by the media . . . WHICH ranking priest of a major diocese predicted over a boozy dinner the other night that if the media outs this particular cardinal, "then the dominoes will really start to fall"? "

Saturday means religion news so there's lots to read - most of it depressing. I'll be busy most of the day, so I'll simply direct you to the Poynter Clergy Abuse tracker with its Big Old List of stories, updated daily.
People are sending me this story in droves and I confess that I've not commented on it yet because I don't know what to make of it. I'm also wary of commenting on American press reports of lengthy articles written in Italian.

An influential canon lawyer at the Vatican has written an article to be published today in a Vatican-approved Jesuit
journal saying that Roman Catholic bishops should not turn over allegations or records of sexual abuse by priests to
the civil authorities.

The article in the magazine Civilta Cattolica by the Rev.Gianfranco Ghirlanda, dean of the canon law faculty at Gregorian University in Rome, is the second indication in recent weeks that inside the Vatican, influential church officials may disapprove of the response of American bishops to the abuse scandal. Last month, the head of a Vatican council, Archbishop Julián Herranz, also said that
the bishops should not be required to turn over records on abusive priests to prosecutors.

For those who can see beyond the contemporary American context, this of course reflects two realities. First, is the experience of the Church in countries with oppressive, anti-religious governments, in which clerics and religious have been regularly imprisoned and worse on all sorts of trumped-up charges. This isn't a relic of the past, either. Think China. Think the Sudan. Think any number of Middle Eastern countries with Islamofascist regimes. Go just a little bit south of here. It's only been in the last few decades the religious have been free to wear distinctive garb in Mexico.

We can hope and pray that someone, somewhere, is working hard to help these Powers That Be understand that this is not the context we're working in in the United States.

The other factor is the related age-old question of who is responsible when a priest commits a crime. That has been the subjection of great contention throughout the church's history. It is why Henry II had Thomas a Becket slain. Again, it is a reflection of times in which government has had more control of religion than it does in the US, and the church was always wary lest the government grab too much power.

But here's the problem. First, in what has come to us through news reports about this article, there is absolutely no evidence of any concern for vicitms, and deep concern for the reputation of priests - even the guilty ones!!!. I'd like to see the whole article in order to see if that's a theme that's born out in the entire text. Secondly, the Vatican and the US bishops need to think Reformation, Reformation, Reformation. The concerns of one Augustinian monk didn't seem to amount to a hill of beans in October of 1517. To be sure, Luther's thought evolved rather quickly into something that was far more anti-RC - opposition to Papal claims, to seven sacraments, and so on - than some realize. But who knows? The fact is, no one in Rome paid much attention to Luther at first, and what reaction there was was slowed by the glacial pace of communications back then. But here's the important point: Luther's actions touched a nerve, and they touch a nerve that, for the most part, had little understanding and interest in the fine points of his theology. There was a general dissatisfaction with many aspects of church life permeating society, most of that dissatisfaction revolving, as it happens, around issues of the behavior of clerics and people's impressions of the distance of Rome from their lives and their interests, not to speak of a general rebellion-in-the-making on the part of secular leaders who were ready to throw of Rome's burden of taxation.

This is so often the case with revolution and reformation: the specific issues that lead to conflict are often not as important as a general mood of dissatisfaction and yearning for change. One acts as a match to the smouldering embers of the other.

We pray for Pope John Paul II on his birthday.

We pray in thanksgiving for his service to the Church. We pray for him now, as he daily confronts age, sickness and mortality.

We pray for the Church in the coming months and years, as well, in what will undoubtedly be years of transition.

A banner night. After some difficulty going to sleep, Joseph woke up but once - I think. Sometimes I'm so out of it when he wakes, I don't even remember what happens. I wake up and he's in bed with us and I've no idea how he got there.

But the banner part of it was that after the 3am break, he actually slept in his own crib until 6:45, and woke up without screaming in the face of abandonment. We're all a bit more rested today than usual.


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