Friday, July 26

Letters in the WaPo disputing Hanna Rosin's portrait of TC

Also in the Post: Another article outlining objections to McHugh's presence on the panel

No mention of Panetta, natch. He's controversial to me. Anyone else care to join me? Maybe we can get a Post article written about us, too.

Reader Maureen, a consistently moderating influence around these parts, has issued a challenge for other readers to refrain from being so reflexively critical of VOTF. After all, she says, at least they're doing something. What are we doing about the problem, we being St. Blog's parishioners and staff.

Good points. Let's take them one at a time.

I can speak for no one but myself, so I guess that's what I'll do. I've not devoted a lot of time to analyzing VOTF in this space, mostly because I found the reports of the group's activities in the secular media singularly unenlightening. That is to say, the articles all said what I would expect them to say, but I didn't know if that was the real story or not. I didn't know if VOTF was really trying to steer a middle course and stay out of hot-button issues about which it could do nothing, or if there was, indeed another agenda lurking and energizing the group. I suspected the latter, but only because I know that Caucasian Catholicism in the Northeast tends to be very, very liberal - when it's not just indifferent, that is. But I didn't know, so I didn't say much, leaving that to Mark Shea and others.

The meeting this past weekend shed some light on the matter, as well as reports on VOTF's message board battles, accounts of which you can find over Mark's way. What they revealed was, it seems, a leadership that is not exactly centrist and agenda-free. You've got your SIECUS-associated speaker. You've got your censored message boards. Already I'm bored.

Plus, the whole money thing gets me. Yes, I've said for ages that finances are a key part of this - I think laity should be the controlling factor in parish and diocesan finances - like a broken record, she says again - it's our money, after all. I think that money talks, especially when diocesan and parish administrators are so oriented toward the bottom line, which they are. But I don't agree with VOTF's establishment of itself as an alternative financial base to the Archdiocese. Rather than set up their little fund to replace the Cardinal's fund, they should simply have strongly encouraged, exhorted and nagged people who were dissatisfied with and distrustful of the Archdiocese to give to individual institutions in the diocese. They should have come up with a list of particularly needy Catholic schools and charitable institutions and told people to bypass any other funds and write their checks directly. Write ten checks if you need to, but just do it, so you make sure these services don't suffer, but that whatever money you give goes to people who need it to live and grow in Christ, not to lawyers and pedophile priests' retirement funds.

But other than that, I've simply watched. I respect the rage and the energy, but, as I've said before, I just don't know what they think they can accomplish.

So, the reader persists - at least they're trying, right?

Well, this is what I'll say in defense of the good people of St. Blog's.

Maybe I'm prejudiced in this funny way, but I do believe that writing is "doing something." Bloggers hash out ideas, argue, bring news to light and bring theological and historical perspective to that news. Catholic bloggers are doing a service - dare we call it ministry - that no one else - and I mean no one else is doing, not even, for the most part, the Catholic press. We are seeking, day by day and (for some!) hour by hour to understand this situation and, in doing so, help others understand it and move forward.

That's doing something.

As the story fades in the current news cycle, we're trying to keep it alive, asking questions, not letting anyone off the hook - compliant parishioners, bishops who welcome pro-aborts on board their little panels, and ourselves, as we seek to balance justice and mercy in our view of things. That's doing something

Secondly, most of the folks in St. Blog's are already engaged in church ministry of some kind. We are writers and speakers, psychologists, DRE's, priests, seminarians, music ministers, publishers, Catholic school teachers, grad students preparing for ministry, apologists, and so on. We are out here in the real world of Church, ministering one-on-one in our parishes or one-to-thousands on paper. We may not have formed a club and come up with a budget, but we are committed to opening ourselves to the Spirit and answering the call to holiness, one day at a time, one person at a time. This situation has been frightening, shattering and clarifying. It has invigorated most of us and given us a sense of what has been lost in the past few decades and what desperately needs to be rediscovered and shared. We're just praying that we can help.

That's doing something.

Finally, as important as it is for the structure of the institution to make way for the Gospel being preached, rather than put up obstacles to it, my interest in Church history prompts me to take the long view. I'm with Catherine of Siena, calling for clergy to mirror Christ, not princes. I'm for stripping them of their mansions and their fascination with the proper social and political contacts. But I also am not convinced that me sitting in a meeting hall haggling about mission statements and worrying about a budget for an organization is going to do a whole hell of a lot about any of those problems. No, I'm not particularly interested in those kinds of organizations which, I regret to say, can't do much. The secular press and the justice system actually have more power to impact in those areas than even fifty of me sitting in that darn meeting room enduring some unendurable opening prayer service about empowerment. And in the end, the temptation of our instutional problems, as serious and as meritorious of attention as they are, is to distract us from the work of Christ that we can be doing right here and right now, with other human beings in need. We should do what we can to demand accountability and transparency and fidelity to Christ on the part of our leaders, at the same time as we demand it of ourselves. But we can't let institutional issues distract us from the good work that needs to be done and is, in fact being done. By the Sisters of Life. By the Missionaries of Charity. By the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal. By the people in your parish who visit the home- and hospital bound and organize weeks of dinners for the parents of a terminally-ill child. By the underpaid teachers in your Catholic school. By the good priest in your parish who is doing the work that four priests would have done forty years ago. The call to focus on the way we live out the Gospel in our own parishes, neighborhoods and communities, is not a distraction. It's at the core of the problem. And, I cannot help but believe, somehow, in ways I'm not exactly sure of, it's at the core of the solution as well.

That's doing something

Paterno's gonna let a girl try out for the kicker spot at Penn State.
Hysterical Matt Labash piece on the Jolie/Thornton breakup

There is, of course, an immutable law of celebrity: The more nauseatingly and insistently two stars proclaim their togetherness, the closer they are to coming apart. (Witness Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee, Jennifer Lopez and Puffy, or America's Sweetheart, Julia Roberts, who has declared her eternal devotion to everything that moves, and several things that don't). Meanwhile, celebrity couples that evidence staying power, like Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, tend not to conduct interviews with their legs coiled around each other's heads. A stable marriage is about more than wearing each other's panties and draining each other's blood. Sure, that's part of it. But these things are no substitute for the things that really matter: responsibility, fidelity, mental stability.

A nice story about JPII's lunch with some young people today

One of the young people asked the Pope if he was happy with the turnout on Thursday night, when some 400,000 people attended the welcoming ceremony opening the festivities in Toronto. "I must say it wasn't a bad beginning," the Pope responded, according to his spokesman, Joaquin Navarro-Valls. Navarro-Valls said the Pope, who rested for much of Friday, took another boat ride around Lake Simcoe, which residents in Ontario's cottage country have dubbed the Holy Sea. "He ate a lot. I think he ate more than me," said Shirley Tso of China.

Tim Drake has commenced his WYD blogging
A reader has ties to Manley:

Suprised that I am that Catholics live in this Scandinavian enclave (meaning, of course, Lutheran), your blog reminds me of a true wedding anouncement for this region of Iowa in the late 1940's. A nearby town is named "Fertile", Iowa . When my brother-in-law's parents were wed, the local newspaper announced "Manley man marries Fertile Woman". A true story that is always repeated whenever our family gathers. That passed for risque humour back then... and are we better or worse for the change?

An excellent comment on solving This Problem here. One of our commentators, naturally, but still I thought it merited special mention. His point? I short - if you know of a church employee who's committed a crime - go to the police. The District Attorney's office. Whoever - until you get some wheels of justice going.
Blogs coming later:

My answer to "Why bother?" and

My answer to the accusation that us St. Bloggers are just sittin' around bitching while at least the VOTF folks are doing something.

Dinner first, though. Then a walk. Then Joseph Goes to Bed (The Adventure Continues....)

The parish reading group can probably skip this one:

Abusing priest writes autobiography

A priest who was convicted of sexual abuse has written an autobiography that criticizes the Catholic church for a lack of sexual education in the seminary and says he should be forgiven for past sins. In his book called "My Journey Alone", the Rev. Bill Garding tells how he has suppressed his homosexuality since he was a teenager and later sought "approval and love" from an adolescent male parishioner.

I'm sorry but I think the Catholics of Manly, Iowa could do better:

The priest runs around in the middle of night putting brightly-painted portable toilets on people's lawns. You pay to send one to someone's lawn. They pay to have it taken off. And so on. It's a fund-raiser. I mean, couldn't they think of something else? Like a pink flamingo or something?

I'm sorry, but I think this is funny:

Police chase ends when criminal's prosthetic leg falls off.

Speaking of questions of evangelization, Christianity Today has a very interesting article today about George Barna, who has tried for a decade now to help churches grow and respond to their prospective members through the conclusions of his marketing-type research. It's very interesting. Of course, the guy's a former Catholic.
Religious Orders recruiting in Toronto

The Grey Sisters win the prize for the crowd-stopper at the fair. Their booth sports a plaster image of a nun's habit with a hole for the face area so young women can see what they would look like if they joined.

Here's a photo.

Somehow, I don't think it's working, do you?

Let's bring this all together, shall we?

Amid much hoopla and expressions of remorse, the bishops of the United States have convened a board of lay people to review the church's process for dealing with sexual abuse on the part of clergy, and, I suppose, particular cases as they arise. There has been much discussion of the panel over at HMS Blog and Domenico Bettinelli has dug up his share of information. There's an article on a controversy related to one of the panel's members in today's NYTimes, but no, it's not Bennett, and it's not Panetta - it's Paul McHugh who is part of the effort to combat repressed memory syndrome, a stance which doesn't charm victims' advocates. It's a legitmate question, but no more legitimate than Panetta's role on the board. Or others, including the NY attorney who's donated $18,000 to pro-abortion political candidates, including the Emily's List PAC.

The membership of this board is quite telling, and would be even more so if we knew how members were selected. But what we can tell from the membership at this point is this basic reality of the bishops' attitude:

Despite their protestations of remorse, they evidently do not believe that this Situation is in any way related to issues of faith. Long-time readers of this blog know that I am not an advocate of the black-and-white "the liberals did it" line of thinking on this. Active homosexuality obviously plays a role in the scandal, since that is the nature of the overwhelming proportion of offenses, but other factors play into this as well - Cardinal Law and Cardinal Egan are not exactly theological liberals, and both have been responsible for protecting perpetrators Egan especially in Bridgeport. We have seen members of "conservative" orders and movements here and there exposed as abusers. What is at issue is not the usual play between "liberal" and "conservative" or "dissenting" and "orthodox" - it is this structure and the ethos that runs rampant in it at this moment that encourages clerics to protect their own no matter what the cost, usually not out of a great love for the perpetrators, but because the perpetrators have information on a wide variety of other enablers' sins, ready to uncover and use if necessary to protect themselves. As Fr. Doyle has pointed out, clerical sexual abuse is nothing new. Many of the victims he has counseled are elderly men now. Sandra Miesel has pointed out in comments and emails that the evidence from monastic rules and medieval penitential books points to the persistence of the problem and the church's awareness of it.

But yes, something about the modern age brought a rush of perpretrators into the ranks of Western Catholic clergy, for some reason. Or discouraged authorities from doing something about the perpetrators. All of which has been discussed for months and which will probably fill up the comment thread here again.

But the fact is, whatever the specifics and from whatever ideological direction perpetrators and protectors come, what is at the heart of their sins is, obviously, a lack of fidelity to Christ. An absolute failure to put His love and His call first, above drives, desires, fears and ego. The structure didn't fail. There were policies in place and, as I have said, the Gospel was always there, if anyone had bothered to check. The people who were running the structure failed because they turned away from Christ. Faith in Christ, further, is of a piece. Yes, we can differ on some issues, but on others, we simply can't, and, within the context of the Catholic Church, as set down in the Catechism, as elaborated in Tradition which illuminates the Scriptures, it's clear what some of those issues are:

Protection of the weak and helpless. Use of the gift of the body in accord with God's design. The value of each individual human life. Just a few, as I said.

If you turn from the Church's teaching on these issues, you've made a statement. You've said that you know better. You've declared that you don't buy into the sense of the Church's authoritative teaching. You've said that it's all up for grabs.

So what are you doing on a panel that is charged with administering a particular facet of the Church's moral teaching? How does that make any sense?

I guess it only makes sense if you don't see any of this - at any level - as a moral failure, and only see it as administrative glitches with legal implications.

The behavior of the bishops in regard to priestly abusers tells us much. The appointment of people who contribute money to pro-abortion candidates and who publicly support abortion, even late-term, tells us even more. It tells us that on the institutional level, this is a group of careerists who are still into self-protection as the ultimate critereon for action, who haven't changed a bit, and who still do not have a clue as to what the real problem is.

An excellent piece by John O'Sullivan on NRO about the state of religion in the West. It's especially useful because O'Sullivan looks at the issue as it relates to all of Christianity, not just Catholicism, and therefore avoids the superficial, short-sighted and incorrect analysis of "It's all Vatican II's fault" that church attendance has declined in Europe and the US. He also remarks, as a sign of hope:

My colleague, UPI religion editor Uwe Siemon-Netto — a rare former foreign correspondent with two theology degrees — points to such events as the sale in France of over 100,000 copies of a new translation of the Bible within a month of publication, the packed theaters for performances by the Comedie Francaise of a new translation of the Psalms, the crowds in Germany attending consolatory religious services after the 11th of September, the rising numbers in opinion polls (since the 1960s) who describe themselves as religious believers, and the large congregations at non-mainstream evangelical services in churches often established by Third World immigrants.

An abuser was up for parole yesterday over in Wichita. Most people who showed up to testify spoke against it. A couple, however, spoke for paroling the guy, including one Monsignor (speaking on his own and not as a diocesan representative) and one woman:

Angela Burger worked with Larson while he was in charge of the Vietnamese resettlement program in Wichita. She told the parole board Larson was a very good man.
"I'm not saying he is totally innocent," she said. "I'm just saying it is not all this bad."

Heh. My husband and I, although without a drop of Italian blood between us, have actually had this conversation, echoed in this WSJ piece:

Why in the world aren't Italian-Americans rising up in protest against those dumb Olive Garden commercials?

An unofficial Italian-American survey of opinion on this pressing subject conveys some of the pain. "That Italian relative who comes over to the U.S. and is taken by his family to the Olive Garden, that's just hilarious," says George Guattare, a graduate student in Chicago. "I mentioned this to my mother-in-law, Bruna, from Italy, and she totally died laughing. That would be the last place I would go, unless of course I hated her."

Search on for more Dead Sea Scrolls
Yes, today is the feastday of Sts. Joachim and Anne, Mary's parents.

It's also the feastday of Blessed Titus Brandsma:

Titus Brandsma, Dutch priest, educator, journalist and modern mystic, has much to say to Twenty-first Century Christians. His joyful countenance in the face of chronic illness and finally, at the torturous hands of the Nazi’s, is a study in humankind’s sharing of its portion of the Cross of Christ. The frail, bookishlooking clergyman with the big cigar, labeled “That dangerous little friar” by his enemies, was able to perform heroic acts of suffering, followed by forgiveness, because his faith and trust in God was so firmly rooted in prayer. Unlike Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, who made a deliberate commitment of her life as an atonement for sin, Father Brandsma did not seek martyrdom, yet when he was thoroughly convinced it was God’s Will, he was able to accept humiliation and even death.

No, it's not an earthquake.

It's the the Archdiocese of Los Angeles racing like hell to defend itself.

Cases are exploding out there, with 142 currently under investigation, and more to come since, as this New Times LA story says, ...

.... legislation signed into law earlier this month by Governor Gray Davis may prove to be the most devastating blow yet to Mahony's troubled domain -- as well as to Roman Catholic dioceses throughout California -- before the current scandal runs its course. The law extends by three years the statute of limitation for accusers to file civil lawsuits against child molesters and organizations that knowingly harbor them. More significantly, it provides a one-year window of opportunity, beginning January 1, for any alleged abuse victim to pursue legal action against the church. That means untold numbers of priest abuse victims who've never come forward because the time limit for their filing a lawsuit expired will now get their chance.

Around 200 Cuban youth were allowed to attend WYD

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