Thursday, August 22

Finally (for now) - these points that are being raised are not demands, nor are they claims that any one of us knows better or knows the full extent of what is going on. They are questions - simply that. Questions about whether real justice and authentic change is happening. Questions about how this impacts our faith. It is all well and good to say, "It shouldn't," and it is easy for some to say, "Oh, if you only had more faith you'd get it." But the fact is, this is a challenge to faith, if not in Christ, but in those who say they have the authority to represent Him on earth and who teach authoritatively because of that. Pope John Paull II has spent decades writing and speaking about the sacredness of human life and of the human body. He excoriates societies for violating that sacredness and calls us all to be ever-mindful of it in forming our views and making intimate decisions. He articulates and fleshes out in contemporary terms the tradition which calls us to a reverence for life in general and our own lives in particular. What is the point, some wonder, if a violated child is ignored, his violator is protected, and those who protect the violators are (apparently) supported at the highest levels? What are we to make of this? Is there not just a bit of dissonance here? Granted, we are not privy to the whole story, and who knows what will have come of all of this in five or ten years. We know this. But we still wonder...
Wading through the scores of comments below, be sure to catch Julia's very helpful citations from canon law on the matter. It belies the claim that "nothing can be done." Thanks, Julia! Who are you, anyway?
All sides in this debate have legitimate concerns:

Some are concerned that in questioning the way that authorities are handling of Situation, we are risking a move towards an ecclesiology that is less RC and more congregational in the Protestant sense. They are also concerned that we risk being played for dupes by our enemies - by a press that has not, in recent memory, been particulary interested in traditional moral standards, but all of a sudden has taken a keen interest in this cause, and by those who would wish to re-envision the Church right out of Christianity.

Others are concerned that in not questioning the way that the same authorities are handling the Situation, we risk putting more children and youth's lives at risk, we risk further injustice for past victims, and we risk, plain and simple, our Faith.

Group the First supsects Group the Second of dubious faith and not a bit of ego-tripping.

Group the Second suspects Group the First of blind faith and indifference to victims.

Group the First is convinced that Church is being harmed by the continued airing of these stories. Group the Second is convinced that the Church is harmed by the events themselves and their covering-up.

In these discussion, Group the Second does well to clarify its fidelity to orthodox Catholic theology and acceptance of traditional ecclesiology, which, I think, for the most part, it has done.

Group the First would do well to clarify its compassion for victims, its understanding of the sins wrought in their Church's name and their sense of what Church leaders are doing to bring justice to past victims, ensure to the extent it can that no more children or youth are victimized, and their sorrow for how they have failed. That, I have to say, I'm not hearing. Yet.

Re: a comment. I wasn't even thinking of VOTF as Group the Second....it's funny...they didn't even enter my radar as I was writing. I was thinking of orthodox Catholics who are being excoriated for asking questions and expressing concerns about the impact of church authority's actions in regard to the matter. And as far as my last question...let's get specific. Specifically explain to me how the Church's support of Trupia fits into The Plan and reflects well on Church authority.

As per usual, I just got halfway through another vast post, hit the wrong button and disappeared it. You're probably relieved.
Student: Ms. Catechist, I read about a priest who hurt kids and is still being supported by the Church because the Vatican says he has to be. How can this happen? Does the Church think hurting kids is right?

Ms. Catechist:Oh, no, no. Of course not. The Church thinks hurting kids is very wrong. But you see, the bishop who tried to punish the priest didn't follow exactly the right procedures, so the Vatican said they had to keep supporting him.

Student But how can I tell that the Church thinks hurting kids is wrong if the priests who do it don't get punished?

Ms. Catechist. You just have to trust, my dear. These are things we may not understand right now, but since Jesus has promised He'll be with the Church always, we trust that somehow, no matter how strange it might seem, His will is always being done. It's shows a lack of faith to question those He's put in charge. You don't want that, do you?

Student. Ms. Catechist, didn't Jesus say something about not hurting His little ones? I thought I...

Ms. Catechist: (sharply) You've not been reading that Bernard Haring again, have you missy? Back to your catechism, please.

Go find some Catholic Bargains!
Bill Cork has a response to the Lutheran response to reports of Lutherans Catholic-poaching in Chicago
Rod Dreher has a response to Fr. Rob Johansen on Fr. Rob's blog
Oh, come on....who are we to judge their cultural traditions?

100 children briefly buried alive to appease Hindu deities

Well, I’ve finally read Rod’s piece (which will be online at the WSJ on Sunday), and here’s what I have to say:

Why are you people so bent out of shape?

Here’s a recap of Rod’s points:

Pope John Paul II is a great, holy man.

During his watch, many directives have come from Rome with the intention of correcting abuses and bringing the Church closer to the authentic spirit of Vatican II.

Many bishops, both individually, and as groups of national bishops’ conferences, have evidently felt free to ignore those directives (Ex Corde Ecclesia) that have come from Rome and, indeed, directives they have supposedly placed upon themselves (guidelines for dealing with sexual abuse among the clergy).

Why, Rod wants to know, has the Holy Father not been stronger in seeing his own directives enforced on the diocesan level?

Why is this a controversial question? Answer: it’s not. It’s a question that’s been asked for years by people from various quarters, and one for which I have no answer.

But it’s a legitimate question, and not expressive of any lack of faith. Far from it.

As someone pointed out in a comment somewhere, to ask questions about this aspect of John Paul’s administrative legacy is not to question anything else about the man (who is, indeed, a man, and an uncanonized one, by the way). Even saints have their faults and weaknesses – and – this is important – they would be the first to admit that. True saints would be horrified, if during their lifetime, you told them that they were going to be canonized in the first place, and they would be doubly horrified if you suggested to them that they were perfect. One of the marks of a saint is true humility and a profound sense of his or her own weakness and need for God.

Nothing that any human being does or says is beyond question. Human beings are not God, no matter how close they are to God.

One of the things that bothers Rod is the apparent dissonance between the call to a higher moral standard that Christ, through our Church and its leaders calls us to, and the tolerance of the presence of sexual abusers among the clergy and, further, the instinct of Church authorities, when dealing with these incidents to put the welfare of the priest before the victim. This is not just a local thing - witness the difficulties that bishops have had in getting Rome to defrock priests. Bishop Wuerl of Pittsburgh had to work for years to get one abuser defrocked. Scroll down a bit and read the business about Trupia of Arizona, an admitted serial molester who appealed his defrocking to Rome – successfully – and is still being supported by the Church to the tune of $1,200 dollars a month. Rhapsodizing about the Body of Christ and crosses and mystery just doesn’t cut it when the man who sexually violated your son under the cover of the Church is still being supported by the Church.

Some people, in discussing this, tend to immediately jump into an abstract mode, but reporters and people who deal with victims and the Church rightly resist this temptation, and their insistence on showing us the real faces of abusers and their victims is a call to us to resist that temptation as well.

Fact: the Church is a messy thing, and has, through its history, been at the least tolerant, and at the worst, responsible for the mistreatment of other human beings. It’s happened, people, and you know it. It is not pleasant to talk about these things as they’ve happened in the past, and it’s even worse to talk about them as they occur in the present, for in the present, it’s more difficult to fall into abstractions, put mistreatment in context (Everyone was racist and misogynist back then!) or take the “long view.” Some people are attempting to do this in the present – suggesting that God must have a good reason for permitting this situation to take the shape it has, and we just have to shut up and trust God.

As if everything that happens in the Church is what God wants. Not to get into a big discussion of the relationship between God’s will and ours (which ends, naturally enough, in the question of theodicy, and I’m not up to going there at this moment…), I would suggest that it’s my deep, personal hope that God is not using the abuse of children to build the character of any bishop or pope. I hope that God is pissed off and would like the rest of us to be, as well.

Here’s what I want to know: What if sexual abuse weren’t the issue here? What if it were…say…abortion.

Let’s say that over the past half century, a shocking number of priests had gotten women pregnant and paid for their abortions – some many times over. Let’s say that some bishops, upon learning of these abortions, had called in the priests in question, given them a talking to, sent them to counseling, and then sent them back to parishes. Let’s say that these same bishops, when confronted with grieving women concerned that the priests were continuing these activities had given them money, made them promise to be quiet, impugned their motives and then promptly elevated and promoted the priests in question. Let’s say that some bishops, upon learning about these abortion-providing priests among them, had been properly horrified and sought to have the unrepentant accessories to murder defrocked, only to be rebuffed by the Vatican.

Would you be so sanguine? Would you be telling us all to calm down and trust that these bishops are really, despite all appearances, on top of this, and that the media is simply overinflating the issue and using it for its own purposes?

Or you would you not be outraged, dismayed and appalled that Church authorities could meet the news of even one priest who paid for the destruction of one life with a promise of lifetime support and a letter of gratitude for his good service to the Church?

Why does not the attempted murder of innocent souls provoke the same outrage?

Finally (for now), Rod has been scolded for his insufficient grasp of church history and ecclesiology and “how the church is run.” Bishops are not CEO’s, not managers….they’re heads, they’re shepherds, they’re a lot of things. The implication being there is something immutable about modes of church governance. There’s not.

Sure, there are some elements that are rooted very deeply in Tradition and, we can say the will of Christ as expressed to His apostles. But if you truly do know anything about Church history, you see that bishops have been elected by the people of their diocese. They have been selected by secular rulers. They have been selected by Popes. They have been given their sees by their relatives. Church decisions have been made by papal fiat, by local synods, by ecumenical councils and by gradual popular acceptance. Church decisions have been made with the knowledge and consent of the pope and with the pope hundreds of miles away while bishops gather under order of the emperor to discuss matters of faith and discipline. Bishops have been ascetics and they have been princes. They have been profoundly concerned about the spiritual health of their dioceses, and they have been profoundly concerned about the decoration of their own palaces. Ditto for popes.

What is true is that the relationship between the bishops and the Bishop of Rome is an evolving, delicate one, involving a balance between Rome and collegiality (see Lumen Gentium and # 880-887 in the Catechism). The guidance of Rome – which is supposed to reflect the Spirit as it moves through the entire Church - has and must be balanced by the judgment of the local bishop. For many years now, this truth has been used as an excuse to ignore the guidance of Rome, rather than to shape it to individual circumstances. Rod may overestimate the role of the Papacy just a bit, but he is right to question why Rome tolerates bishops ignoring directives and guidance that does, indeed, reflect the mind of the Church.

Tom Hoopes says at Mark’s joint that: The Church has never functioned in the way he wishes JPII would run it. Not in the times of the Cristological heresies, when the Church lived in another practical schism….. That’s right. At that time, the Roman emperors, from Constantine to Theodosius, basically ran the show, calling councils, sending bishops into exile depending on whether they were orthodox, Arian, monosphysite, Nestorians, and so on. Heads were sure as hell rolling then….look at the career of Athanasius for a clue: banished by Constantine, brought back by Constantine II, deposed by a local synod, restored by another local synod and then a Council, forced to flee to the desert under Constantius, restored under Julian, then forced to leave again, brought back by Emperor Jovian, then banished by Jovian, and then finally restored when Jovian revoked his banishment of all orthodox bishops.

So yeah, that’s not the way JP II runs the Church. And the way JP II runs the church isn’t the way the Church was run then. So…….

Here’s my point: in our effort to see the hand of God at work in our Church, in order to explain the sure presence of Christ in the Church, let’s not romanticize the past. Let’s not pretend that church governance has been anything but a hit-and-miss mess from day one, with truth shining forth through the most unlikely events and through the oddest, most human means. There is, indeed, a stable sense of basic church structure, one that’s Scripturally rooted. But how that has been lived out and how decisions have been made has not been immutable. Given the fact that in the early Church period to which Hoopes refers, decisions were made in very different ways with different players than they are now, it is not unreasonable for some to suggest that perhaps circumstances warrant a slight shift from recent tradition – that is, instead of giving a recalcitrant bishop the See of Dystopia to rule, it is, indeed, thinkable to just go ahead and depose the guy. Maybe not banish to the desert, but a removal, nonetheless.

No one here is claiming to know better than the people who are really in charge. But what Rod and many others are asking is this: the Holy Father calls us all to a higher standard, and many of us are willing to live it. But what is the point when church leaders, presumably called to same standard of sacrificial love and protection of the innocent, are allowed to continue in their defiance of this call? What meaning does the call at all in the presence of such an apparent double standard for laity and clergy? How are we supposed to impress upon our children the truth of the Catholic faith when that truth is so rarely preached and taught by those called and supported by the Church to engage in that very task?

And most painfully, we just don’t understand why, when a child has been victimized by an adult, those called by Christ to lead – which means to be Christ to the world – and place the needs and hurt of the child first – absolutely first – every single time.

Serious questions raised about two Boston abuse allegations
Catholic on Northern Ireland soccer team threatened

A Roman Catholic on Northern Ireland's soccer team decided not to play in a game Wednesday night after Protestant extremists threatened to attack him or his family home. Neil Lennon, a starting midfielder who also plays for Scottish champions Glasgow Celtic, withdrew from the game against Cyprus after police told him about the telephoned threat.
Lennon had previously considered quitting because of anti-Catholic taunts and threats from the team's predominantly Protestant fans, and he briefly left the team two years ago. It was not immediately clear when or if he would return to play.

Lennon has subsequently decided to retire form the national team.

Boston priests' forum asks to meet with Law about false accusations and priest morale

The Boston Priests' Forum asked to meet with Law to discuss fears that innocent priests are being destroyed by abuse allegations. Since January, 20 priests accused of abuse have been removed from their jobs. "Your eminence, the priests are hurting, our morale has plummeted," forum chairman Robert Bullock wrote in an Aug. 5 letter to Law. Bullock met with Law's assistant, Bishop Walter Edyvean, on Tuesday. The Boston Globe reported that Law and the regional bishops of the archdiocese will meet with the priests after Labor Day.

Ah...Voice of the Faithful? Here's your voice of the faithful, a point picked up a Boston Herald columnist:

But what's different about reaction to last week's radio shock jock church sex stunt was the nonreaction from the archbishop of New York, Edward Egan, whose name and reputation have been sullied by claims he covered up sexual abuse by priests. Could the late fire-breathing Cardinal John O'Connor remain mum as his beloved cathedral was so tarnished and disrespected? What's different is who emerged as chief defender of Mother Church: Not its beleaguered bishops, but lay Catholics - this time the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights.....The Catholic League is a legitimate and thoughtful lay organization. While they've gotten much ``shut up'' mail, as Donohue said, they've gotten much support, too, against the radio show. And by stepping into the credibility gap created by Egan and his hierarchy's complicity in sexual abuse crimes, the league's lay Catholics have taken a piece of the hierarchy's power. They've also grabbed a good chunk of its moral authority, too.So the tables turned last week in New York. For a change, Catholic lay men and women rode in to rescue the dignity of their church because their leaders could not. What an inspiring example to remember here: it can be done.


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