Saturday, June 8
I was struck by this exchange from a homily the vocations director offered at a school Mass for 7th and 8th graders:
Then the real sales pitch: "Today we celebrate St. Matthias. He had a very special job for God. What was it?"
"He filled the role of Judas," a boy answers, referring to the disciple who betrayed Jesus.
"And Judas killed himself, so there were only 11," Parent continues, referring to the account in Acts of the Apostles. "So they figured, 'What do we do?' And they picked a new apostle-Matthias, so Matthias had a vocation…
"When God has a job for you, He wants you to do something good-always. God can take even betrayal, even dying on the cross, and make good out of it.
"We've seen some terrible things in the news lately about priests who have betrayed Jesus in their vocations. But did the other 11 give up because Judas was a jerk? No! They said, 'Judas messed up. We need someone else to take over and take his place.'
"I believe today that God is calling someone right here to take over for some modern-day Judas priests who betrayed Jesus!"
How's that for a hard sell? To middle-schoolers no less!
With the bishop's meeting coming up, expect lots of news stories on The Situation. We'll start the week with a couple of stories that attempt to get a hold of some solid numbers, nationwide.
At least 300 civil lawsuits alleging clerical sex abuse have been filed in 16 states since January, when the case of a pedophile priest in Boston spurred claims against Roman Catholic dioceses across America, a nationwide review by The Associated Press found.
Lawyers say the rush of litigation is truly dramatic for such a short time, and that several hundred more cases are being informally mediated between dioceses and accusers.
and this startling fact for those of us fixated on Boston and other coastal hot spots:
Dioceses in Kentucky face the most lawsuits -- 122 -- with more than a third involving claims against one priest, the Rev. Louis E. Miller, who denies any wrongdoing. Three other suits allege abuse by Lexington Bishop Kendrick Williams while he was a Louisville priest. He also has denied any wrongdoing.
Whoa. Over forty against a single priest? Who denies it? That's either a whole lotta lying going on or one serious sociopath.
And there's another look from The Washington Post, which includes the angle of what some dioceses have done with a few of their past offenders:
In Grand Rapids, Mich., the Rev. Don Heydens is also in a restricted ministry, running the diocese's program for deacons, because of an abuse incident in the 1970s. In Springfield, Mass., the Rev. Richard Meehan is working as an archivist eight years after being removed from his post because of an allegation of abuse. In Columbus, Ohio, Bishop James A. Griffin this year transferred Monsignor Joseph Fete from a parish to the position of director of ecumenical and interfaith affairs because Fete acknowledged having a sexual relationship with an adolescent boy from 1976 to 1979.
The archdiocese of Chicago has four past offenders in some form of ministry. Milwaukee has six whose names and positions have not been made public, but whose status is under review by a lay panel. The diocese of Covington, Ky., disclosed in March that three of its 110 priests remain in restricted assignments "after allegations of misconduct with teenagers." Their names and jobs have not been made public.
From the Weekly Standard, The Elephant in the Sacristy by Mary Eberstat.
A very long article maintaining that the fundamental issuse in the present scandals is the presence and toleration of active homosexuals in the priesthood.
I've read through the article, and would just offer these quick comments:
First, I mostly agree with her, but I do believe that she is too quick to isolate this particular issue from others. She reflexively dismisses any critiques of mandatory celibacy as having any import, when it does on a number of levels: mandatory celibacy discouraging heterosexual men from entering the priesthood, thereby narrowing the pool of candidates, shaping the identity of the priesthood in a certain direction, which then works to discourage even more men from entering because they feel uncomfortable. Save your breathe - I know it shouldn't have this effect, but do you know what? In reality It does. Dispense with mandatory celibacy and sure, you'd have a whole set of new problems which others have exhaustively documented, but you would also have a priesthood that looked and felt very different from what it does now (diocesan, that is. Religious orders, which are, by nature celibate, are a whole other issue).
Further, there is a clerical culture of secrecy and self-protectiveness. That's obvious. And it just doesn't exist because gay bishops are protecting gay priests. It exists because any sub-culture is closed to a certain extent, and certain subcultures - like law enforcement officers, the military and the priesthood - are more closed and self-protective than others. And do you know what? Most of the time this isn't a good thing. Further, clerical subculture exists because priests who are in long-term relationships with their housekeepers or secretaries don't talk about the actively gay priests because they don't want to be outed, nor do the quietly alcoholic priests or the priests who have interesting financial issues. It's not just about active gays protecting active gays. It's about a stunning variety of dysfunctionals protecting fellow disfunctionals. Blackmail, both explicit and implicit exists, and active homosexuality is a part of it, but it's not the only part.
Then the seminary issue. I'm on record as saying that critiques of seminary life are valid and necessary, and seminaries have been guilty of grave sins of all kinds, particularly in the 1970's and 1980's, and a few continuing today. But while it sounds right to critique the flagrantly ridiculous seminaries that support all kinds of heterodoxy, heresy and immorality, and yes, those places should be shut down an their faculties sent to the Unitarians where they belong, there's just one, teensy, tiny problem with placing all the blame on seminaries, and even Eberstat sees this, although she doesn't draw attention to it:
(Quoting from a Boston Herald article)"A Herald analysis of cases of priests facing serious pedophile allegations in the state . . . shows that a disproportionate percentage attended [Boston's] St. John's in the late 1950s and 1960s. . . . Regardless of why, the numbers are staggering, especially for certain classes. "The class of 1960 contained at least five men involved in pedophilia allegations. That's out of a class of approximately 77 graduates. Experts put the incidence of pedophilia in the general population at around 1 percent. For the St. John's graduates ordained in 1960, the figure appears to approach 7 percent--seven times the national average for men. . . .
The class of 1960? Guys who'd been to seminary in the 1950's? The age of cassocks, repression and tight controls? Why weren't they weeded out? How can the more liberal sexual mores of the late 1960's and 70's be responsible for supposedly rigorous seminaries in the pre-Vatican II church producing pedophiles and sexual predators?
Let me repeat. This is a valuable article, although Eberstat misses some points. But she does make one very, very important point that no one else has raised: A great many of these abusers were abused themselves as children. Would it not be wise for the Church to determine not to ordain men who had been sexually abused as children?
This overlooked fact of the abuse cases has profound implications, including for Catholic bishops and other policymakers now asking how such cases may be prevented in the future. From the point of view of simple deterrence, it puts a red flag over any candidate who was himself sexually seduced by an adult as a child or adolescent. Ordination, after all, is not a civil right. Screening for a history of victimization might sharply reduce the likelihood of future generations of priests becoming fodder for headlines. Put simply, if such men had been turned away from seminaries during the last several decades, the scandals in the Church as we know them would never have reached today's scale.
Go read the article. I look forward to your comments, as usual.
A leading Latin American cardinal considered a possible successor to Pope John Paul (news - web sites) has attacked the American media for what he called Stalinist and Nazi tactics against the Catholic Church in coverage of child sex scandals.
In an interview with the Roman Catholic monthly magazine 30 Giorni (30 Days), Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga accused much of the U.S. media of being anti-Catholic and of persecuting the Church in their cover of the pedophilia scandals.
...Rodriguez Maradiaga accused the American media of concentrating on the pedophilia scandal in part to get back at the Catholic Church for its support for a Palestinian homeland and for its opposition to abortion, euthanasia and the death penalty.
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