Friday, May 24

From a priest re/Goodbye Good Men

1. Because of the extreme pressures present in formation to conform and go along, it’s going to be impossible to get anything like a scientific study of Rose’s conclusions. The anecdotal approach is probably the best one can hope for.

2. The seminary where I taught had a preoccupation with the “product at the end of the pipeline.” When I asked at a faculty meeting (my second one in my tenure) whether we might allow the young men to be called individuals instead of products, I got a blank stare from the formation director. The conformation fix was in, and the students demonstrated it in a thousand little ways. A new seminary administration (including the unceremonious firing of the previous formation director) did away with this pipeline expectation in favor of formation interviews that were not ambushes designed to intimidate. We learned a lot more about these guys and what they needed to be effective priests after that.

3. Near the end of my time there, a new auxiliary bishop (a priest from the Archdiocese of Chicago) visited the seminary to lunch with the faculty and ask us questions about the students (his real purpose was to tell us he knew as much as we did and he demonstrated that elusive fact by telling us 17 times in one ten minute oration that he had taught at Harvard for a year). He was concerned with the overwhelmingly conservative stance of the incoming seminarians (uncomprehending orthodoxy he called it), and he wanted to know what we were going to do about it (this man also, in a deanery meeting I attended as a parish pastor some months before asked all of us whether we bought the National Catholic Reporter for our parishioners, and seemed extremely disappointed when we said no). Since I was adjunct faculty (and therefore expendable), I pointed out that we had five years of the program to deal with the rough edges and I thought the young men were, for the most part, very dedicated to the pursuit of their vocations and very much loved the church. This man came to visit my parish not too long after this meeting, picked a fight with me about drinking water before Mass, and totally alienated my folks. He now has his own diocese down south.

4.I think Michael Rose has used older incidents to maximum effect, and the blanket indictment of the seminary system is, perhaps, too harsh for this time; however, the Zero-Tolerance Bishop of Belleville, Wilton Gregory, has first-hand information about my seminary in a previous time-many of his arrested molesters graduated from my seminary in the ‘80’s. None of this made it into Rose’s book.

5. Moral of the Story-I don’t think there was any nation-wide conspiracy to exclude orthodox seminarians; I think the Left and its fellow travelers react in lock-step because that’s the way they are (they’re not democratic, they’re fascists); the force necessary to enforce ideology is the force that’s used, and victim groups (i.e., gays and dissidents) get special treatment. Michael’s book isn’t complete, and sometimes, probably not fair, but it opens a door to a scene that is incredibly troubling and some problems that need to be visited now, in the midst of our travails. I know and understand your and Michael’s (your husband) views on gays in the priesthood. I still maintain that when you get a bunch of these boys together, it’s not seminary, it’s summer camp. And, since I was told by my own archbishop (who was NCCB president at the time) shortly before he ordained me, that I was lucky I came in as convert clergy because, with my theology I’d never have made it through the seminary the regular way, I think Rose probably also has a point on the theology end of his argument.

In case you missed it back in March, here's my husband's take on the book.

And then here are some more thoughts from a recently-ordained priest with a brand new blog.

Excellent piece from Slate on the attitudes of congregations towards their wayward priests.

...Yet after mass on the Sunday the story came out, several of Father Mark's parishioners told a reporter for the Courier that they were standing by him, too. "We love Father Mark,'' one man said. "It's too bad it gets so much publicity,'' said another.

"Father Mark is not only my priest, but my friend,'' said a third parishioner, Donna Maurer. "He always has time for you.''

It wasn't that Ms. Maurer doubted the charges. Still, she, too, called the attention they were getting "very unfortunate." She explained, "There are a lot of murderers who get more respect than these priests. I understand their victims do have rights, but I don't feel like Father Mark should be condemned.''

This kind of reaction isn't unusual. On the same day, in nearby Celestine, Ind., the Rev. Michael Allen stood before his congregation and confirmed the newspaper's account that he, too, had had sexual contact with a teen-age boy years earlier—a relationship that started when the boy was hospitalized for depression following the death of his father. The priest received a long standing-ovation.

When the Rev Michael Pecharich was recently removed from San Francisco Solano Church in Orange County, Calif., some even spoke of naming the new parish center after him.

In Lowell, Mass., those loyal to the Rev. D. George Spagnolia, who was removed from ministry pending an investigation into past abuse allegations, began wearing purple ribbons to show their solidarity. "People here are all for Father,'' one woman tearfully told the Boston Herald. "Father married my daughter. He baptized my grandson. He's done nothing but good for the people around here.''

As it happens, however, the first priest of whom the writer speaks is the same priest in question in the article I blogged below about the Bishop's Listening Session. Those folks don't sound too forgiving in that particular article.

Here's my review of Michael Rose's Goodbye! Good Men and Ugly as Sin. For another perspective, similar to mine, but offered in much more depth, see the May issue of Culture Wars - not available online, but I guess you could get you a copy somehow. The review is by Fr. Robert Johansen, who was ordained last year. Here's an excerpt, "printed" with his permission:

I know both from personal experience and that of many other priests and seminarians that many of Rose’s allegations are true. But Rose’s tendency to play fast and loose with facts, to use dubious sources, and to stick to stories which have been shown false undermines his credibility. This is unfortunate, as it only serves to obscure discussion of the real remaining weaknesses in American seminaries.

Furthermore, Rose’s method is in itself potentially misleading. Most of the stories Rose relates date to the 1970’s and 80’s, in many cases twenty or more years ago. But Rose’s relentless style might easily lead readers into believing that these stories are representative of what is going on in most seminaries today. Even the secular press, such as the New York Times, has published articles marveling at the devout and loyal atmosphere prevailing in many American seminaries, and the devotion and orthodoxy of most seminarians today. If a book like GoodBye! Good Men had been written ten years ago, it would have been timely, provocative, and maybe even prophetic. But why, at a time when many people acknowledge that things are improving, does Rose choose now to bring out his catalogue of horrors from the past?

In fairness to Rose, he does point out in the later chapters of his book that there are signs of encouragement in American seminaries, but this admission is confined to just three or four institutions. That hardly balances out the overwhelmingly depressing portrait that he paints. If one could be confident about the accuracy of that portrait that would be one thing, but Rose’s questionable methods and his manipulative technique cast a pall of doubt over his account. The fact is that the grip of the “progressives” in American seminaries has loosened considerably since the nadir of the 80’s. In most seminaries today, men of outspoken loyalty to the Church and deep devotion, who might have been turned away fifteen years ago, are welcomed and find encouragement. Even places notorious for scandal and dissent in the 80’s have seen the return of traditional devotions such as Eucharistic adoration.

This is not to say that American seminaries have turned the corner, or that everything is OK. Many weaknesses still exist, and priestly formation is not all it could and should be. Most American seminaries, although making an honest effort, do not come close to living up to the norms and standards set by the Church. It is even possible that some of the same people responsible for the abuses catalogued in GoodBye! Good Men are still occupying positions of power in some seminaries. But there have been enormous improvements in seminaries across the country in the last decade. Seminaries such as Kenrick-Glennon in St. Louis and Sacred Heart in Detroit have shown remarkable development in the last decade, and now enjoy the confidence of bishops known for their orthodoxy.

GoodBye! Good Men is in many ways an unfortunate book. It is unfortunate because the story of the problems in American seminaries needed to be told, but it needed to be told with scrupulous concern for accuracy and truth. It needed to be told in such a way as to elicit more than righteous indignation from the faithful. It also needed to be told with more nuance and penetration. It is also unfortunate because Rose’s failure to make distinctions will actually distract attention from the real remaining problems in American seminaries. Rose’s credibility problems and his relative lack of analysis do little to shed light on what may be done to strengthen our seminary system. Only in the last two chapters does he have anything to say about what factors come together to make a good seminary. Goodbye! Good Men may create a great deal of controversy, but I fear that ultimately it will do little to serve the Good.

By the way, Johansen's specific questions about matters of fact and accuracy are, indeed, spelled out in the review. Interesting reading.

From the American Prowler: A pro-life leftist from Ohio and musings about the long-ago era when there was actually debate about abortion on the Left.
Catholics taking over Raleigh.
Coming later (I hope - after Katie gets home and can watch Prince Joseph for a bit) - my review of Good-bye Good Men with some quotes from another review sent to me by a priest who takes serious issue with Rose's methodology and some of his claims. Like me.
Mark at Ad Orientem offers some thoughts on the Boston Archdiocesan paper's recent commentary on its Boss.
From a reader:

How ironic is Steinfels’ endorsement of the archbishop’s efforts to “ease the polarization in the Catholic church.” I can’t think of anyone who has given more aid and comfort to those who would just as soon identify church and culture than Rembert Weakland. Maybe these revelations, and the lengths to which he would go (financially and morally) to stifle them give us a further insight into his character. His willingness to, not just tolerate, but celebrate the gradual destruction of Catholic morality (not to mention his own cathedral) seems to be seated in the same area of his character as his libido. Yeah, he’s “a free person,” but not anymore. The Holy Father’s right: the exercise of freedom in a merely autonomous manner is enslaving, and this relationship, with its radioactive financial and personal fallout, will hang like a millstone around the neck of his so-called legacy. My prayers are with him, but more so for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee; the folks there have suffered long and hard for the dalliance of their leader with the toxicity of the moral aspects of modern American culture. The post-war generation’s “We Know Better Now” arrogance claims another victim.

Now for something specific:

A priest in Michigan has written with the following proposal. I think it's excellent, and encourage any of you to agree to communicate this idea to your own pastors and bishops and to anyone involved in Catholic communications that could help spread the word.

From Fr. Robert Johansen:

I am currently organizing what I am tentatively calling a "Prayer Vigil for Holiness" here at St. Joseph parish to coincide with the Bishops'
meeting in Dallas June 13-15. My pastor, Msgr. Eugene Sears, has approved it, and I have submitted a proposal to my Bishop, James Murray of Kalamazoo, asking
for his support and to encourage other parishes within my diocese to schedule a similar event. Now I'm trying to spread the word to priests and concerned Catholics across the country, to do something similar.

The idea is this: two nights of prayer for our bishops and the Church in this country while
the bishops are meeting to discuss the clergy abuse scandal and adopt measures to repair the damage. I am adopting several prayer intentions in general
for the Vigil:

1. For the bishops themselves, that in their meeting they will be open to the Holy Spirit’s call to zeal and holiness, and that they will address the scandal and issues it has raised with courage, prudence, and fidelity to Catholic teaching.

2. That our bishops would be emboldened to act courageously as shepherds and speak out prophetically in defense of chastity and purity, in the face of a
culture that belittles them.

3. For the victims of abuse, that they know that Christ suffers with them, and that the Church reaches out to them with compassion and love, and that they
might be healed of the injury and pain that they have experienced.

4. For those who have committed acts of abuse, and for those who have enabled or tacitly condoned abuse through neglect, inattention, or complicity:
that they might be moved to true contrition and repentance, and offer acts of penance and reparation for those they have injured.

5. For priests, for their encouragement in this time of difficulty, that they live as counter-cultural signs of God’s salvation given to us in Christ. That
they might live in ever greater fidelity to the teaching of the Church and their own vows.

6. That God would inspire young men of zeal and holiness to follow Christ in the priesthood, and that those men will be open to hearing the call and
respond generously.

7. For Catholics everywhere, that they will support their priests and bishops when they speak in defense of Catholic teaching, and boldly live out
that teaching themselves. That all Catholics would rededicate themselves to strive for the virtues of purity and chastity.

At our parish I am planning for the Vigil to go on over two nights, the first being Wednesday June 12 (the night before the meeting starts), opening
with Mass, and continuing till 11:00 or midnight with Exposition, Eucharistic adoration, perhaps the rosary, and a guided meditation. The second night
(Thursday, June 13) will begin with Solemn Vespers, continue with Exposition and Adoration, the rosary, and end with Benediction.

The purpose is twofold: to pray for our Church and our shepherds, and to provide an opportunity for Catholics to stand behind the Church’s teachings on
sexual morality, the nature of the priesthood, and the necessity for individual striving for holiness. The bishops need to know that there are plenty of Catholics who will stand behind them when they have to say and do difficult but necessary things in response to the crisis brought about by them failure of some of our priests and shepherds.

No gloating here.

As the Weakland Turns fills me with no great joy. How could it? It's awful, all around. I can only pray that the people of the Milwaukee Archdiocese who hold their leader up as some kind of hero for his "maverick" ways can see the connection here:

An archbishop who sees the Church as something to be remade in whatever image he deems most fitting - both figuratively and literally - uses the resources of the Church for his own end.

Do you see? In the end, it shouldn't be surprising that an archbishop who sees the church in his archdiocese as clay to be molded according to his own vision would also see it as a bank account to be used to cover his own sins. If an archbishop decides he can make his own rules..well then, he's going to make his own rules. And surprise, surprise, what we have at the end is what we always have when individual power trumps all: an inability to draw any lines at all and the ascendancy of personal power over objective standards.

Moving beyond Weakland, I've been thinking this morning about What Can Be Done. The issue of the misuse of power by our episcopacy is an age-old one. We're human beings living and believing within a human-run church, so it will always be a problem, but that doesn't mean we should do all we can in the present time to hope that more of our bishops would start seriously listening to what Jesus says about religious leadership. This morning's solutions, some totally serious, others probably crazy:

Pray. Of course. There's a very good idea floating around for specific, focused prayer that I'll post on later but that you can already read about at my husband's blog.

Encourage your "good" bishops to be strong and, if necessary, break ranks, speak out, and work for real action. Write. Email. Call. Thank your bishop for his service and encourage him to remember that maintaining the brotherhood of bishops is far less important than serving the people of God. When the former threatens the latter, ranks must be broken and risks must be taken.

Vote with your wallet. We've discussed this before, but I maintain that if you live in a diocese that's engaging in suspicious activities or is acting immorally in this regard, don't give your money to the diocese. Just don't do it. Give it directly to the causes the diocese says that its funds support, but keep the chancery's hands away from your money.

This is something that is way beyond our power as laity, but how's this for an idea: all bishops must be at least 70 years old. I mean it. That way, they don't have time to build up kingdoms, they have little at stake in terms of concerns about future promotions so they might be a little bolder in their decision-making when need be, they're generally wiser, and...they'll be out of there in five years or so.

Excellent piece by Russell Shaw on Catholic Exchange today about the threat of the Church's moral authority eroding because of The Situation.

His answer? It doesn't have to - if lay people would just live their faith consistently and in every aspect of life:

The Catholic Church similarly could recover moral authority eroded by the scandal, but the longterm trends aren’t encouraging even so. Nor will they be unless and until an essential condition for turning things around is met: Loyal Catholic lay people must do what they should have been done all along and shoulder responsibility for being "the Church" in the public arena as their special share in its mission.

It’s hardly a new idea. "What the soul is in the body, that the Christians are in the world," declared the Epistle to Diognetus, a famous piece of Christian apologetics composed around the year 200 A.D.

Thanks to a reader for getting the news that EWTN will, indeed, be offering gavel-to-gavel coveraage of the Bishop's meeting in June. From an email she received from EWTN:

am not sure if I already answered your message. We will be airing
gavel to gavel coverage of the Bishop's Conference in June. We just received this information. We do not have the times yet, but it appears that it will take
place June 12-15th. Please check back with us for more information. God bless.

Dreher on Weakland:

Marcoux, who exploited his relationship with Weakland to rob the Catholic people of Milwaukee of nearly half a million dollars, doesn't deserve pity. Neither does the archbishop, who was willing to throw Marcoux nearly half a million dollars of money that didn't belong to him — all in an effort to maintain his reputation.

What would $450,000 have bought? How about raises for underpaid Catholic-school teachers in Milwaukee? Or coats for the homeless to keep them warm in the icy Wisconsin winter? Or hot meals for the hungry at soup kitchens, or medical treatment for the poor, or scholarships for underprivileged kids, or retirement care for priests and nuns who served the Catholic people of that archdiocese faithfully and without complaint? Instead, the Archbishop of Milwaukee invested it in a cover-up.

It is especially galling when you consider the case of Fr. William Effinger, who died in prison several years ago, where he was sent for sexually assaulting a child. Weakland knew Effinger was a serial pederast, yet reassigned him from parish to parish. After Effinger went to jail in 1993, the boy he molested sued the archdiocese, but the suit was thrown out because the statute of limitations had expired. Weakland directed his lawyers to countersue the boy's family, and the archdiocese thereby recovered $4,000 in court costs from the victim.

An interesting article from the WSJ about Patrick Henry College which, as you may recall, is a small college in Virginia established to meet the needs and desires of homeschoolers, in particular. The college was recently denied accreditaion by the American Academy of Liberal Education, a traditionally-minded accreditation group.

The writer makes clear why:

The AALE did not name Patrick Henry's religious identity as the reason for its decision. Rather, Patrick Henry had not complied with two essential criteria. By insisting that its faculty teach only a strict creationist doctrine and by requiring that students and teachers sign a profession of faith, the school had failed to ensure that "liberty of thought and freedom of speech are supported and protected." Relatedly, the school was not providing a "basic knowledge" of the biological sciences.

Of the five evangelical colleges I have visited in the past year, four teach evolution along with creationism and "intelligent design," encouraging their students to think critically about each theory. But Patrick Henry is clearly not prepared to have students take this risky approach--in any discipline.

In each of the (nonscience) classes I attended there, the professors resembled drill instructors: Information was presented along with what the students were obliged to think about it. A class on state and local government culminated in a professorial diatribe against governmental regulation. Not that I disagreed! But there was something so heavy-handed and anti-intellectual about the whole approach that it was easy to understand why the AALE arrived at its decision.

...The professors resembled drill instructors...maybe that's why homeschoolers do so well in spelling and geography bees?

Hold the email - it was a joke.

Of course, the place to go for all of your Weakland news would be the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, including a profile of his accuser.
Here's an article from the AP containing a handy list of bishops recently accused of sexual sins. Keep it in your wallet.
Boston Globe praises Cardinal George, says he "gets it."
NY Times article on Weakland explains how The Letter came to light - sort of.

The letter was given to news outlets by Peter Isley, a sexual abuse victim and a vocal critic of Archbishop Weakland.

Mr Isley, the Milwaukee representative of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said that he had never met or spoken with Mr. Marcoux and that the letter had been delivered to his house anonymously. He would not say when he received the letter.

"I took it as a kind of insurance, in case they came after me," Mr. Isley said. "This is yet another piece of evidence in a pattern of behavior and action documented for over 15 years that Archbishop Weakland and many other bishops have been thoroughly compromised on the issue of sexual abuse and misconduct."

And then, in another NY Times article, reactions from Milwaukee Catholics:

Can you believe this is happening?" asked the Rev. Jeff Thielen, 53, the pastor of St. Lucy Catholic Church in Racine. "I think all the bishops should quit. They should all quit and be replaced. The hurting has to stop. Someone's got to do better by all of the victims.

"I've been a priest since 1974. I almost wish I wasn't a priest. How can people stay Catholic in the face of this? It's unending."

Father Thielen, who happened to be at the headquarters of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee on routine business today, termed the matter a catastrophe for the church.

"You think of that money, $450,000, and they're closing schools, and there's homeless people on the street, and people aren't getting enough to eat," Father Thielen said. "How can you justify that? I just could cry."

Father Thielen wondered whether the accusations might explain Archbishop Weakland's response to claims of misconduct against other priests.

"Priests were transferred to other parishes and little kids got hurt that shouldn't have got hurt," Father Thielen said.. "He never should have done that.

"I was talking to one of the other pastors the other day, and he said that things aren't going to change until they start putting bishops in jail. That's what the priests are starting to think."

A Listening Session - for a bishop who placed a sex-offender priest back in a parish near children and youth.

Looking deeply fatigued and at times stumbling over his words, Gettelfinger faced tough questions from parents and parishioners of three churches served by the Rev. Mark Kurzendoerfer, whose ministry was terminated late last week. Among the angriest were parents of children who attended the elementary school at Sts. Peter and Paul, who didn't know Kurzendoerfer was forbidden from having contact with children until they read about it in the Evansville Courier & Press three weeks ago. Kurzendoerfer's ministry was terminated after the bishop found out he had violated the no-contact agreement.

"Why would you entrust this person with the care of our children, with children you should see as your children, as God's children," said one angry father. "Why would you let someone you knew had this problem be with my kids?"

Gettelfinger, looking shaken, responded as he's done in previous public settings when asked to explain why he returned priests accused of sexual abuse to active ministry without telling parishioners: "I would never knowingly place your child at risk," said Gettelfinger. It was a statement that provoked disbelief from at least some in the crowd, who responded with vehemence: "But you did!"

What is it with these guys? Why do they even say things like "I would never knowingly place your child at risk"??What does that mean? Does it mean "I'm stupid" , "I'm a liar" or "I was blackmailed"? It's hard to tell these days.

We watched Pollock tonight, reveling in our evident Philistinism which prevents us from "understanding" drips on canvas.

Anyway, we wondered about the car crash that ended Pollock's life and one of his two passengers. He was drunk, driving on Long Island with his lover and a friend of hers. The friend didn't want to ride with Pollock. The artist's girlfriend insisted. The girlfriend lived. Pollock and his mistress's friend were killed.

Here's a most interesting, and sad column about the young woman who died.


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