Wednesday, June 5

From the American Prowler: An amusing account of a Crossfire taping

During the commercial breaks, they cut off the director's voice and began pumping obnoxious pop music through the auditorium, which at one point results in a rather unsettling tableaux -- legendary reporter and curmudgeonly "Crossfire" host Bob Novak having his makeup touched up while Aerosmith's "Dude Looks Like a Lady" blares overhead.

Robert Novak opines on Robert Casey, Jr, recently defeated in the Democratic primary for governor in Pennsylvania and wonders - is Casey the last pro-life Democrat?

The effective disappearance of anti-abortion Democrats is bad news for the pro-life movement. If the Democratic Party is exclusively pro-choice, the Republicans can play both sides on abortion. Foes of abortion complain of receiving more rhetoric than results from President Bush and in the future expect slim rations at the Republican table. That may explain the vigor with which pro-lifers minimize the importance of abortion in the Pennsylvania outcome.



The symbolic importance of the May 21 primary was heightened by the fact that Bobby Casey was no obscure Democratic maverick. His father, the late Robert Casey Sr., was a popular governor in 1987-1994 and became a national hero for pro-lifers when he was barred from addressing the 1992 Democratic National Convention. He had planned to run for the 1996 presidential nomination against President Bill Clinton until poor health prevented it.


Articles from Thursday's NYTimes (LRR):

Some cardinals and bishops hinting that the final plan will probably be tougher.

European Catholics not terribly impressed with our solutions

Long article on priests and celibacy in Thursday's Washington Post
Food for thought from Peter Nixon of Sursum Corda offered in the comments on my long post below:

Here's the hard case that gives me pause: A priest who is retired or close to being retired who has one substantiated allegation of abuse that was committed 20 or more years ago and has only recently come to light. I don't know what percentage of the priest abuser population these cases represent, but I'm pretty sure it's not zero.



It is reasonable to remove the man from active ministry? Absolutely. Defrock him? Perhaps. But after a lifetime of service as a priest, it's a fair bet that his pension is the only thing he'll have to live on (plus a little Social Security) in his retirement. I'm a little uncomfortable just kicking him out the door and saying "fend for yourself," particularly if the Bishops who let abusive priests continue in ministry aren't going to be punished at all.



Domenico Bettinelli has some good analysis of the Draft

Now that I've had time to read the draft policy for the bishops' conference, I have some more thoughts. More than anything, this proposal is designed to deflect criticism of the bishops, not deal with the problem of sex abuse. How can I say that?

Consider, that the policy basically says this:


• If a priest is accused of misconduct, the bishop will shunt off responsibility for investigation the charges onto civic officials.



• If the investigation is inconclusive, the bishop will shunt off responsibility for deciding the priest's fate onto a committee of experts and laymen.



• If the priest is found guilty, the bishop will shunt off responsibility for disciplining him (and saving his soul) by laicizing him.



What this policy is designed to do is to let the bishops avoid further criticism by absolving them of the duty to do something about the problem priests. If someone slips through, they can say that somebody else dropped the ball.

There's lots more and it's all very good. Domenico doesn't do the permalink thing, so just go to the blog and scroll, scroll, scroll.

Discussions abound on the application of laws. I don't know enough about it to identify any one perspective as "anglo-saxon" or "Roman" (although I'm learning), but I am quite interested in implications of this discussion beyond pederast priests.

Human relationship to law is complex. The relaxed view offers a welcome flexibility, but might be said to produce the ultimate result of a de-Christianized Europe and an Italy with an incredibly high abortion rate. The stricter view offers clarity, but at the price of unnecessary law and victims of ridiculous and misguided attempts at zero tolerance. Granted.

But what I'm hearing today is a defense of the Roman view with perhaps an eye towards a future in which the Vatican will not accept a binding policy produced by our bishops that includes points like obligatory referral of incidents to civil authorities or giving the automatic boot for a single offense years ago. Flexibility. Room for grace. And so on.

Okay.

Then let's have flexibility and room for grace for divorced, unannulled and remarried people. Flexibility and grace for priests who leave active ministry to marry and, even if they leave in good standing and in fidelity to the Church, are absolutely banned from serving in any type of parish ministry at all, not to speak of being denied any part of their retirement pension, while pedophile priests are supported and get checks from the very same funds until the Boston Globe finally outs them and the archdiocese is shamed into cleansing them from the rolls. Flexibility and grace for lay Catholic school teachers and parish ministers who may be fired for any reason or no reason, at the whim of administrators, pastors and bishops.

So what's the difference? It has nothing to do with sin, frankly, and everything to do with membership in a certain club.

As I've said, this is a complex situation. The Roman Catholic Church is a universal institution that must exist in countless different cultures, societies and within the framework of any type of government. As much as possible, the laws of the Church must reflect this, so especially when it comes to areas in which Canon Law and culture or Canon Law and Civil Law might intersect, perhaps the more vague the better. As I mentioned below, that is why the office of the bishop is so vital, in that he functions as the embodiment of the universal Church within the context of the local church. For this reason, he is given a certain degree of latitude, and for this reason, he is reined in on occasion. It's a delicate balance.

But I simply think that we must be careful before we start crying caution, context and flexibility for the poor pederast and youth-smitten priests who have deliberately sinned and committed crimes while at the same time condemning the "divorced", the "ex-priests" (usually pronounced with a decided sneer by conservative Catholics) who have usually done nothing but their best in difficult circumstances.

As you can see, I'm torn. I sincerely believe this whole Situation bespeaks a huge crisis of faith, and it our call to the bishops to lead in fidelity to Christ can only be credible if it is offered in the context of our own committment to live in closer fidelity to Christ: to shore up our commitment to the moral teachings of the church on all of the capital sins, not just lust; to listen more to Christ in the Gospel than we do to the call of the dollar; to stop leaving the formation of our children to television actors and sports stars and government schools; to embrace every person in the world as a brother or sister in Christ; to take risks and leave fear behind as we do all of this. It calls us all to more.

But I think, in the end, I am for zero tolerance in this regard. Remember, as Greg pointed out in HMS Blog, this is not about excommunication or refusal of forgiveness or the possibility of growth. This is about functioning as a priest in public on behalf of the people of God. When you have a priest who abused a child or young person - and remember what this means - he has committed a mortal sin, damaged a life, and committed a crime to boot. The fact is, the way things are in the Church (the way it really works), people are fired, denied sacraments and denied a role in the Church for far less serious matters.

Zero tolerance doesn't mean that a priest can't be a Christian or a Catholic anymore or is declared outside the mercy of God. It means that a priest who has raped or seduced a minor shouldn't serve as a priest. I fail to see why he should.

Lots for you to comment on in this disjointed post. Your comments will undoubtedly help me clarify my thinking.

Father Neuhaus has a short commentary on the draft proposal in USA Today in which he faults it for not looking at the root cause - a lack of faith.

The crisis is about more than, as the draft puts it, "the protection of children and young people." The crisis is about fidelity in the church's leadership, which it is the sacred duty of bishops to foster and, when necessary, enforce. The statement several times mentions the April meeting with the Pope. It does not mention what I believe is the most important thing the Pope said in that meeting: The Catholic faithful "must know that bishops and priests are totally committed to the fullness of Catholic truth on matters of sexual morality, a truth as essential to the renewal of the priesthood and the episcopate as it is to the renewal of marriage and family life."



In other words, how can we expect the Catholic people to be faithful to their sacred vows if they know that some, perhaps many, priests and bishops are not faithful to theirs?



Thanks to a reader for this one:

Almost 700 members of the media credentialed for Dallas

The D.C.-based Conference is running a tight ship when it comes to covering the event. A spokesperson for the Conference told this website that 698 journalists have been "credentialed." June 1 was the deadline for credentials.


The Conference warns, via a media advisory, that there will be "limited access to Conference officers, the Cardinals and members of the Ad Hoc Committee of Sex Abuse by local media outlets, affiliates and independents due to prior commitments." Reporters are urged to pre-arrange interviews with their local bishops before heading for Dallas.


Journalists who are found in the residential areas of the Fairmont or in any of its restaurants seeking interviews with clerics will have their credentials "revoked."


There are a "limited number of seats inside the Regency Ballroom, site of the meeting, but journalists are invited to watch the Bishops grapple over the Church's sex abuse policy via "closed circuit TV."


There will be pool network TV coverage of the conference. NBC is coordinating that.

And don't forget EWTN

Thanks to Greg at HMS Blog for providing this link to the bishops' emails, so you can let them know what you think, whether they've asked for your opinion or not!
Insightful reaction to Deal Hudson's observations on Curial blindness

The problem here is that there is a basic hypocritical stance toward morality that is essentially Roman. Roman law held that the "law" is an ideal. The ideal should always be held high but no one should get too excited if the ideal wasn't meant or kept.




This has led to an acceptance of all kinds of behavior that most Americans would find as incredibly corrupt. Because Americans believe the "law" is to be obeyed. I too much of an American to ever figure out this whole Roman law stuff, and I think the Roman Empire is pretty much dead. So if the Church is going to move into the Third Millenium, it is time for them to universalize the notion of the Faith and get the hell out of Italy.

Update: You do understand, of course, he means figuratively and in terms of attitude, not literally.

Hope and discouragement in the pro-life movement.
Very funny.

Goliard Blog chimes in on modern weddings

All the Marian links you'll ever need!
More details on the Boston files, pointing out the need for any abuse policy to include accountability for bishops.
Interesting.

Cardinal Maida of Detroit suggests that The Policy doesn't go far enough.

Kevin Jones points out in a comment that his Archbishop Chaput has requested input on the Draft of The Policy from the faithful of his archdiocese Go read Archbishop Chaput's letter and then find out what your bishop is doing in preparation for Dallas. Let the rest of us know, too.
I knew you were looking for a photograph of Ozzy Osbourne and Kermit the Frog together.

So I went ahead and found one for you.

And apparently, according to a British tab, Ozzy's demanding that his contracts be signed in blood and that MTV provide life-time psychotherapy for his pets.

But not for his kids?

Oh, my.

George Neumayer reacts to The Policy in the American Prowler. The man has a way with words:

In their proposed policy concerning abuse, the bishops say that "We are mindful of the power of conversion about which the Holy Father speaks." They rely on this vague phrase to justify accepting one act of past priestly abuse. But does this not confuse concepts? Can't the Church remain "mindful of the power of conversion" while simultaneously defrocking any priest -- past, present, or future -- who has committed one act of molestation? The Church has never considered the priesthood a right. It is a privilege which should be withdrawn from individuals who have committed a felony. The molesting priest's need for conversion does not trump the common good of the Church.



The bishops, though slaves to public opinion, remain maddeningly tone-deaf to it. The public wants a true zero-tolerance policy, not a weasely exception-ridden one. But because of the bishops' lingering relativism, they can't satisfy public opinion, even when it is right (the bishops seem more willing to follow public opinion when it is wrong).

.........It will be interesting to see if Cardinal Roger Mahony, the Los Angeles prelate who reassigned molesters but now preens as a reformer, will accept the diluted draft policy above at the upcoming Dallas meeting of the U.S. Conference of Bishops. He has been hawking in recent days his newly-discovered policy of "zero-tolerance -- past, present, and future."



The prelate who told Catholics that his archdiocese just had a "few" abusers" now must admit that 50 former and current priests are under investigation for abuse. According to a law enforcement source, speaking to Los Angeles's New Times, "I'd predict we'll be looking at 100 priests, or more, before it's over."



Mahony's response to the growing crisis should be to hire an exorcist. Instead, he has hired a public relations firm.



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