Thursday, May 23
It seems as if America magazine is batting a thousand these days. Featuring an article by Cardinal Mahony in their special Sex Abuse issue and rushing to the defense of Archbishop "I'm innocent, but take half a million anyway" Weakland.
Advice to America readers: Forget it. Come to the Blogs instead!
:It seems that every day Catholics are asked to make up their minds on matters about which we have only small glimpses of the truth. That is the case today with the story about Archbishop Rembert Weakland.
I have long admired Archbishop Weakland. He has written for Commonweal. We have participated in many common efforts to ease the
polarization in the Catholic church. His intelligence and balance has always seemed to me a true gift to the church. It saddens me greatly that on the eve of his retirement, a two-decade-old encounter--perhaps an indiscretion, perhaps a grave sin--with an adult male should be publicized so as to destroy the reputation of a great churchman. I
consider Archbishop Weakland a friend and pray for him in this terrible travail.
It is a tragedy that legitimate concerns about the sexual abuse of children by priests is turning into a sexual witch hunt.
Clearly, Peggy Steinfels didn't read the "Dear Paul" letter that Archbishop Weakland sent to his accuser back in 1980. It is clear from the letter that the two were romantically involved, and had been for some time. It also seems apparent that this Paul character was seeking a sugar daddy in Weakland, and that he probably blackmailed $450,000 out of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, all to protect the reputation of an ordinary who couldn't keep his pants up around another man. "Sexual witch hunt" my backside! This case shows exactly how much it can cost the faithful when their bishops are more interested in sexual gratification and protecting their own reputations rather than holiness and humility.
My comment: First of all, I'm not aware that this situation became public because anyone was hunting any witches. I don't know why it became public, but I'm assuming that the information was freely offered by Marcoux (in violation of his settlement agreement). What Steinfels and Reese don't seem to understand is, first, the whole blackmail issue and the use of Archdiocesan funds, whether covered by insurance or not. This is not why the faithful give, I don't think. Secondly, there's the whole issue of rank hypocrisy, which Mark Shea has covered in his blog quite nicely today, thanks. Finally, we have to ask what the impact of this kind of incident in a bishop's background is going to have on his administration of his diocese. Think about Lynch in St. Pete, having a weird relationship with an adult male, a fellow whom he hired to be communications director for the diocese who had absolutely no qualifications to do so. Think about O'Connell in Palm Beach. With all the filth in his background, who knows what kind of approach he brought to knowledge of exploitation of adolescent males by priests in the dioceses he administered? And now Weakland. I'm still waiting for more of the story to come out, but what I see here is not exactly what Church should be about. It shouldn't be about bishops settling complaints from former lovers for half a million dollars of the diocese's money. If Weakland was the man of true courage and integrity that everyone says he is, then perhaps he should have met Marcoux's extortion attempt with a little more backbone, refused to give in, and then take the consequences, even if it meant giving up his position as Dismantler - I mean Archbishop - of the Church in Milwaukee.
If the broad contours of Kerry's biography suggest vanity and opportunism, it's easy to find details that support that impression. As a young man he conspicuously signed his name "JFK." During his famous antiwar testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1971, Kerry seemed to affect a Kennedy-esque accent. Early in his career he had surgery on his chin--a medical procedure, he said; gossip columns called it a cosmetic adjustment. Kerry filmed some of his own combat exploits in Vietnam, a decision a friend explained to the Globe with the words, "John was thinking Camelot when he shot that film, absolutely." And perhaps most notoriously, the medals he threw onto the Capitol steps at an antiwar protest were later revealed not to have been his own, but those of other veterans. (Kerry's were in a desk drawer at home. He did, however, throw the ribbons that came with his medals and says he never claimed the other medals were his.) It's also hard not to notice, when visiting Kerry's office, that his computer-desktop image is a picture of, well, himself.
In it, Marcoux agrees to give up originals and copies of all correspondence between Weakland and himself. Where did the Dear John letter come from?
Also, in the initial negotiaions, the Archbishop's attorneys told Marcoux that if he tried to sue, they would get him charged with extortion. Sounds like they would have had a case.
I know. This is kind of weird. So if you don't want to directly expose yourself to episcopal weirdness, don't go here. But if you're morbidly fascinated and want to see the heart of an Archbishop, go right ahead and click:
Two issues remain after the reading: It's not just a simple matter of sexual assault, is it? It doesn't seem to be that at all, as a matter of fact. Secondly...why did he give the half a mil, anyway? Blackmail, I guess. Pure and simple blackmail.
I've liked Shoutin' Bill Donohue through this whole Situation. He hasn't given the hierarchy a pass,nor has he even hinted at the beginning of a whine about a "biased press." But this????
Here's his press release related to today's Weakland Wildness:
"[I]t needs to be asked what social good is served when current
disclosures of past indiscretions are made public? The time has come to invoke an ethical statute of limitations," Donohue says. He goes on to decry
"sexual McCarthyism," and blames American society because "we sponsor a libertine understanding of sexuality that puts a premium on genital liberation and yet are appalled by the psoychological and physical consequences that such a vision entails. We also expect that every person of the cloth will at all times restrain his libido while everyone else is free to throw constraint to the wind."
"[T]hose who always harbored an agenda against their most-hated prelate think it's time to rejoice. Count the Catholic League out."
Then the reader who received this fax and sent word of it comments:
I'm really puzzled by this response from Donohue. As we've discussed, this man who was sexually set upon by Rembert probably isn't acting from
the purest of motives. He was 28 years old when the incident happened, and he certainly seems like he was trying to exploit the situation to make money. That said, the REAL scandal here is that an archbishop paid nearly half a million dollars in money that was meant for the support of the Church and the poor to buy the silence of a man whose pants he tried to get into. Why doesn't Donohue see that, I wonder?
Exactly. I mean, just think of all the Listening Sessions that half a mil could have paid for?
Turns out it was the intro to David Blaine's stunt of standing on a pillar for a day and a half and then jumping off into cardboard boxes.
Cardboard boxes? Couldn't he have come up with something more glamorous? Like the Archdiocese of New York's secret clergy files? The pile might have been about as big.
Anyway - just goes to show that two people can engage in the same activity with vastly different results. God or mammon. Preaching or Jumping. Quirky, but in a holy kind of way - or just dumb.
And I agree. Light, light. Let light shine on darkness.
Catholicism is still regarded as a threat, almost 1,000 years after the 1054 schism that severed the Orthodox and Catholic churches over issues of doctrine and authority. Although Pope John Paul II has begun to mend fences with other estranged faiths, he has yet to be allowed to visit Russia, largely due to Alexy's objections. After the pope delivered a short prayer via satellite to a Moscow cathedral in February, Alexy denounced it as a "spiritual invasion."
More recently, Orthodox groups have mounted what Catholics call an organized campaign against them. One of Russia's four Catholic bishops was stripped of his visa last month. A group linked to the Orthodox Church recently organized a nationwide protest after the Vatican upgraded its Russian bureaucracy, creating dioceses like those in almost all other nations.
And then there's the KGB stuff. And the cigarette concession. And...
"I don't see how we could not adopt it," Bishop Wilton D. Gregory said. "To listen to our people, it's clear this is what they expect of us. This would be kind of the minimum step in restoring their confidence in our leadership."
I think for the credibility of the church, if a man has harmed a child, he's not going to ever be allowed to function as a priest again. I don't care about the circumstances, I don't care how long ago it happened."
"The reason I feel strongly about this is, I think about the people who've been hurt. If it's been 20 years for the priest, it's been 20 years for someone who's walked around for all that time with pain in their heart," he said.
First, an account of his first day in [wait...let me check the spelling...Okay.] Azerbaijan, telling of strong words:
"As long as I have breath within me I shall cry out: "Peace in the name of God," the Pope said in an address after arriving in overwhelmingly Muslim Azerbaijan on a five-day trip that will also take him to Bulgaria.
And a failing body:
For the first time in 23 years, the Pope had to disembark from a plane using a cargo lift fitted with a red and blue carpet.
At the first two events in the Azeri capital, the Pope effectively did not walk more than a few steps. Even at the presidential palace, he was wheeled along the corridors while standing on mobile platforms with hand rails.
And then this, dug up by a reader last week, and post by Slacker Me only now:
(From Zenit, March 5) Vatican sources told ZENIT that, during the visit of the first group of Argentine bishops on Feb. 12, one of the bishops mentioned a cardinal´s name as a "worthy" successor to the Pope. A smiling John Paul II responded: "My successor is not yet a cardinal."
Given recent events, we can only say: Thank God.
Last Thursday my wife and I attended a briefing on The Situation for members of the Lumen Cordium Society - basically people who have contributed a certain amount of money to the Annual Campaign (not all that much, and you do get to attend a Mass said by the Cardinal later on in thes summer). So, not much of a society, I'll grant you, and probably not as much lumen in our cordium as we would like, but there you have it.
Here are some notes:
About 250 - 300 people, most over 60, in the Joseph Cardinal Bernadin Parish Center Auditorium adjacent to Holy Name Cathedral (about 8 blocks north of the heart of the Loop). Started at about 5:45 and lasted until 7:45.
Four panelists: Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I.; Jimmy Lago, Chancellor/Archdiocese of Chicago; Rev. Louis J. Cameli, Director - Ongoing Formations for Priests; and Rev. Edward Fialkowski, Chairman of the Archdiocesan Presbyteral Council
First half hour: brief statements by each leading up to the Cardinal, who made just a few remarks and then opened it up to questions. People lined up in the aisle to speak at a microphone and there was a camera videotaping the event. The Cardinal (no Rembert Weakland he) ended up answering most of the questions.
General mood was respectful toward the Cardinal, less so toward others such as Law, with a few criticisms of the Pope mixed in. A lot of frustration, a lot of people feeling betrayed and shocked, but, I'd say, an overall sense that the Church will come through this scandal and that they will stay with Her.
Lots of talk about "Zero Tolerance." Cdl. spoke about the differences between ZT from here on out vs. ZT for the 70 year old priest who committed an abusive act 30 years ago. Also, in reference to taking a man out of ministry vs. defrocking him, made the analogy of a man losing his job versus a man being told that he must divorce his wife.
A sense that Chicago's policy is one of the best in the nation since instituted in '92, but may not be good enough given the scope of the current scandal and the national outcry. Archdiocese is conducting a review with public authorities to evaluate its handling of all cases since '92 and preliminary results, released a few days before this meeting, were promising.
Frustration in the crowd that the Pope doesn't do something dramatic. He's the CEO, why not fire these guys? One fellow criticized the Pope directly. Another seconded the comment from a far corner. Some applause. The guy behind me (roughly 75 - 80 years old) rallied to the Pope's cause and shouted out that the Pope is a good man, don't blame the Pope. Some slightly more applause.
Several remarks about Cdl. Law. General consensus: he should be history. Why doesn't Cdl. George do something? Cdl. asks, rhetorically, what would happen if the headlines in tomorrow's paper read "George tells Law to Resign?" Is that what the Church needs?
The Cdl. tried to explain to the group about the way the Church works. Pointed out that each bishop is answerable only to the Pope. Key issue in meeting with Vatican was to see if a national policy to handle sexual abuse can, in fact, be formally established, whether the Pope would back it up.
Cdl. George surprised by the sudden cause celebre of Zero Tolerance and the expectation on the part of the public that a policy would be declared immediately upon the conclusion of the meeting in Rome. Nonetheless believes that a national policy will be set at June meeting in Dallas and that it will include some form of ZT.
Homosexuality comes up about halfway into the Q&A session. Man asks why homosexuals are ordained since homosexuality is an intrinsic disorder and suggests, therefore, that homosexual activity is foregone conclusion. Cdl. replies that if a homosexual takes the vow of chastity, then he can and should be ordained. Reminds questioner that as far as the Church is concerned, she is asking all homosexuals to remain chaste whether they are ordained or not. So it should be expected even more of a homosexual priest, who has devoted himself fully to the Church. Thus, homosexual activity is not necessarily an impulse that cannot be overcome. Says that when he speaks with homosexuals in the confessional about this he tells them that they can remain chaste because Jesus Christ rose from the dead.
Member of audience asks about the context out of which this evil has come; quotes Michael Novak about "culture of dissent" permeating through the universities, seminaries, and parishes and requests reaction from the panel - mentions book "Goodbye! Good Men" and particularly its sections about Mundelein Seminary (our local seminary). Cdl. George says that problem of dissent is a serious one and agrees that some in the Church are considering its teachings negotiable or just plain wrong. As an example, says that if someone does not feel that homosexual acts are sins, or does not believe that celibacy should be demanded of priests, then there is bound to be scandal. Each member of panel takes issue with Rose's book: basic critique - old information from the '70s and early '80s made to sound current and more extensive than is really the case today. Cdl. admits that there was a lot of strange stuff going on in the '70s but assures questioner that the current faculty at Mundelein is "100% orthodox." In retrospect, it is hard to tell if they were defending only the Archdiocese or the national scene as well.
The Cardinal muses:
- Bishops are trained to protect priests, not children. Is this part of the problem?
- What will be the long term effects of this scandal? How will this affect the public role of the Church in a society that already considers religious belief a private matter. Although we are assured that the Church will survive in some form until Jesus returns in glory, will it be the large institution that we know today, or will it shrink to smaller groups of believers scattered around the world.
- It's difficult dealing with dissent. As soon as some sort of censure is placed upon an individual, his stock in the secular culture shoots up. Why give the guy a bigger audience? Bishops are sometimes cowardly, not willing to force a public confrontation. Take too long to "get all their ducks in a row" before speaking out.
Cdl. George is a good man, a holy man, and an intellectual. He thinks of the Church in terms of centuries. He sees this scandal in its complexity and wants a solution that addresses it comprehensively. He is skeptical of the quick fix that brings cheers from the public but fails to truly confront this particular manifestation of evil. His thoughtfulness, his tendency to turn things over in his mind and let you know what he's thinking, does not generally mix well with the sound bite environment. Under normal circumstances I'd say he would be taken advantage of by the media. On the other hand, speaking the truth while searching for it may not be such a bad idea. Desperate times and all . . .
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