Thursday, November 7

(Read previous blog to see where this begins)

Since trust is the issue, and what we are after is a process that is trustworthy no matter who is in charge, the next question, it seems to me, is – is the current way of organization of the Church a help or hindrance to that process?

What we’re talking about is specifically a structure of leadership that is essentially ordained, composed of pope, bishops and priests. Body of Christ, People of God, yadda, yadda. All true. But do you know what? Take away all the parish councils and lay employees and what do you have? You still have the clerics arrayed in their hierarchical splendor. You still have your church leadership. When you get down to the nitty gritty, in terms of church governance, that’s the bottom line.

It seems to many that the specific organization of the hierarchy at this moment in time is, indeed, a hindrance to a transparent process of response to clerical sexual abuse. The reasons are simple, for they are the same reasons that any group, whether they be priests, fire fighters, doctors, teachers or nuns tend to close in on themselves: protection of their own and the reputation of the vocation.

And the question is – how to overcome that in terms of the Catholic clerical culture?

There are many suggestions, some doable, some not. Married priests would surely infuse a new spirit into the Catholic priesthood, it’s said. Making sure that there were no homosexuals admitted into the priesthood would eliminate the widely acknowledged gay subculture in the priesthood, one that leads to a great deal of secret-keeping and explicit and implicit blackmail, it’s said.

Well, maybe. Well, maybe not. But in either case, that’s not what the bishops are about next week, and not what’s in their area of responsibility at the moment.

Two possible angles of action remain, then:

Involving the laity in the process and mandating sanctions for bishops who fail to follow the process and allow sexual abusers to remain in ministry.

The first possibility seems reasonable and necessary, but even so, it sends waves of fear through the wary souls of some. They fear that the wrong people will be involved – either those with a radical agenda, or those who are nothing but yes-people for the episcopacy. They fear a dilution of decision making in the Church.

After all, take a look at your parish council. Good people, indeed. But do you really want the likes of the duly elected parish council of St. Grandiose telling the rest of the diocese – including you – what to do? And, as Kenneth Woodward pointed out in his recent speech at Boston College, given the wretched state of theological understanding among most adult Catholics, it is dangerous to speak unthinkingly of handing decision making responsibilities over to those who have only the most tenuous understanding of faith, and what understanding they have is, for the most part, firmly grounded in 2002, with little historical perspective.

But…on the other hand…there are some who are out there arguing that to involve the laity in the process, and to give them real power – for the sake of checks and balances and keeping the episcopacy honest and transparent – is a violation of some sort of immutable tradition of Church leadership in which no one except the ordained have made decisions about church administration.

Well, there is no such immutable, consistent tradition.

Certainly, what has not changed is the sense that the ordained, as heirs to the apostles, are gifted with the responsibility of faithfully transmitting the Gospel and administering the sacraments. It is through their ministry and service that this is accomplished, nourishing the rest of us to do our own part in following Christ and ministering to others. But…

When it comes to the business of church-building and maintaining, woven into the frankly monarchical tradition of leadership are, all along, in and out, sometimes stronger than others, the laity, playing a role, not just in the institutions dedicated to the works of mercy (schools, hospitals, service to the poor, devotional life), but also in the leadership of the backbone to it all – the diocesan and parish structure of the Church. The laity have played roles in selecting bishops and calling men to priesthood. Lay rulers have convened church councils and dismissed them. Lay rulers have appointed bishops and dismissed them. Groups of laypeople have started parishes from the ground up, purchasing land, building the church and calling in a priest to serve. Granted, some of this “lay involvement” is not anything we would desire today, coming, as it did, out of decidedly non-democratic societies and cultures that were perfectly comfortable with an organic understanding of the relationship between church and state. But the fact is – it is there. It is there in our past, it is there in our tradition. Lay people have not been simply paying, praying and obeying for the past 2,000 years. Central to the life of the lay baptized is, of course, the apostolate to witness to Christ in the world, in the family, in every aspect of every day life. But – it is so important to know and understand this – lay involvement in church administration on the parish and diocesan level – involvement with a meaningful role - with yes, I’ll go ahead and say it – power – is not a new idea nor one that is unheard of in our tradition.

So to scoff at the possibility of involving laity in the process of protecting children and youth from clerical sexual abusers in a way that is meaningful and real is not only unfair – it is ignorant.

To be continued….

Every issue, every argument has a subtext.

When my children argue about a piano practice or time in front of the computer (theirs, not mine) our discussion is not just about the issue at hand. It’s usually about something else, too: who’s in charge here? Why can’t I make my own choices on how to use my own time? (that’s them, not me…no, that’s all of us).

As we trudge towards the bishops’ meeting in Washington next week, and eight months of astonishing and disheartening revelations come to a climax of sorts, we’re looking at a policy, but we’re also looking at a subtext.

Can we trust you?

Some would say that the real subtext is power, but after mulling this over, I think I disagree. Power comes into it, certainly, but I think in the end, most Catholics would be satisfied with almost any permutation of ecclesial power structure if they felt that they could trust the goals and the process. That is, if they trusted that the bishops were committed to the goal of ridding the priesthood of sexual predator, and to a process that put truth first, no matter what the cost.

Now. How is that to be done? At one level, the specific structures make no difference. An autocratic bishop who makes all of decisions, from the diocesan budget to the plants in the chancery waiting room, completely on his own with not a smidgen of input from any councils, committees or boards, could conceivably, drum any abusive priests that come to his attention out of ministry and push them, with the help of the law, right into prison. It could happen.

Likewise, the most collegial - sounding bishop in the world could conceivably be protecting predators in his diocese, even as he listens to the ruminations of a lay review board, even as he invites sexual abuse experts to give workshops to his priests, even as he nails a “policy” to the cathedral door. He could do this in any number of ways, and he could do it because chances are there’s no one to punish him for it.

The question is, given the fact that a bishop doesn’t need a policy to get rid of predators and the fact that a bishop can get around a policy, what can we come up with that lifts the process above the whims of an individual bishop and insures the compliance of an individual bishop?

We’ve learned that although we would like to trust our bishops on this, we can’t. Sorry gentleman, it’s just a fact. What we want is a trustworthy process that will work, no matter who this bishop is.

And the answer, in the end, doesn’t lie with any particular arrangement of power between laity and ordained. It lies with that now overused, yet fascinating word – “transparency.” Absoluteness openness on this issue is the only way to restore and maintain trust.

So, it seems to me, what we should be thinking about, and evaluating these policies on, is its fidelity to the Gospel. And the Gospel tells us the story of our Savior, who calls Himself the Way, the Truth and the Life. Truth. How effective is this policy in ensuring that truth is attended to in a diocese, no matter who’s in charge?

To be continued....

A very nice article about Catholic blogging in the November 8 issue of Commonweal. It's not online yet, but I'll link it when it is.

From Ann Coulter today:

Democrats may be forced to shut down operations as a party and re-enter politics under a different name. The party formerly known as "the Democratic Party" will henceforth be doing business under the name "the Abortion Party." That would have the virtue of honesty. Love of abortion is the one irreducible minimum of the Democratic Party. Liberals don't want to go to war with Saddam Hussein, but they do want to go to war to protect Roe v. Wade

It's official:

Bishops name watchdog:

Kathleen McChesney will be named director of the Office for Child and Youth Protection, a critical post as the bishops try to re-establish their credibility after a year in which at least 300 of the 46,000 American priests have been removed because of allegations of sex abuse. McChesney's appointment was to be announced by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops at a Thursday afternoon news conference.Justice Anne Burke, an Illinois appellate judge and vice chair of the National Review Board, confirmed the appointment in a telephone interview. She said McChesney was chosen from a pool of more than 50 applicants.....But the Rev. Robert J. Silva, president of the National Federation of Priests' Councils, said he was concerned by the board's choice of a federal investigator. Silva has been among Catholics who believe the bishops' approach to accused priests since the crisis began has been too punitive and has ignored Catholic teaching on redemption."I hope that she will be able to balance that aggressive investigative side with a sense of church discipleship and the mission of reconciliation," said Silva, whose organization represents about half of U.S. priests.

No. God forbid we be aggressive in investigaing sexual abuse by clergy. We don't want the clergy to be ...concerned.

I'll be on The Great Grand Popcak's radio show today at 2pm eastern, talking about the election results. Because, you know, I'm such an expert.
At the moment, I'm working on a book proposal tha I really want to complete this week, but I also have a vast pre-bishop's meeting post in mind, churning around in my head, competing for attention, drawing on your thoughts on the new draft, Fr. Doyle's reaction, and your reaction to his reaction. Maybe I'll get to it today - I hope so, for my own brain's sake. It's starting to experience serious strain.

Okay, now this is getting bad.

Diocese of Fresno will not give its usual donation to Catholic Charities this year - because, it says, of the stock market.

The diocese usually gives $150,000 to Catholic Charities USA to buy food and help more than 75,000 people with medical, utility and rent bills from Bakersfield to Merced.Catholic Charities also helps support immigration, refugees, senior citizens, health and youth services programs, including Big Brothers and Big Sisters, and a halfway house in Bakersfield.Bishop John T. Steinbock said funds also have been cut for cathedral restoration, KNXT-TV, and capital improvements in poorer parishes.

So. They're not spending money on the poor or on poor parishes. So what are they spending money on?

From Pittsburgh, a story about a spirituality center run by Sisters of Divine Providence

Nestled above the bustle of Babcock Boulevard between the Sisters of Divine Providence provincial house and La Roche College, the center is owned and operated by the Sisters of Divine Providence, a community of nuns who offer a variety of programs to promote spirituality and holistic health.

Their mission statement puts it simply: "Kearns Spirituality Center invites people of all faiths, searching for a deeper meaning in their lives, to experience an environment dedicated to the renewal and revitalization of the human spirit."

Last year, 7,251 people participated in various programs at the nonprofit center, ranging from holistic healing and meditation groups to retreats for engaged couples to spiritual conventions during which not a word is spoken for days.

One of the programs offered is Reiki, an ancient Japanese healing art performed by the laying on of hands. Yoga and tai chi classes incorporate movement and meditation, but the real focus of the center is to help people deepen their relationship with God.

According to the first item in this column from the Chicago Sun-Times the former chief of the FBI in Chicago is about to get a new job:

Kathleen McChesney, Chicago's former FBI chief, is entering the pedophile priest fray. Word is McChesney, a lifelong Roman Catholic, will become a guardian of Catholic youth.Translation: Watch for McChesney, who occupies one of the highest positions in the FBI as executive assistant director of law enforcement, to be named the new executive director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Office for Child and Youth Protection.
"It's a huge job being given big teeth," a source said. "McChesney's job will be to set up the system to investigate whether Catholic bishops are complying with the sex abuse policy established by the conference's National Review Board charter. Her office is also mandated to put in place a safe environment for children in the 195 dioceses throughout the United States."

Also, apropos of nothing except a lingering leer, there's a totally predictable item at the bottom of the column about a totally predictable former POTUS.

And now, also from the the Pro-Life Infonet, a look at state-level races from the prolife perspective:

Other than in Minnesota, perhaps the biggest upset election victory came in Georgia, where pro-life candidate Sonny Perdue defeated pro-abortion incumbent Roy Barnes and in South Carolina where pro-life former Congressman Mark Sanford toppled incumbent pro-abortion Gov. Hodges.

In Hawaii, former Maui Mayor Linda Lingle (R) has defeated Lt. Gov.
Mazie Hirono (D) 52% to 47%. Lingle's victory is expected to prevent Hawaii from becoming the second state to legalize assisted suicide.

Hawaii's outgoing governor supported a bill legalizing the grisly practice that passed the state House and lost in the state Senate by only two votes. Lingle has promised to veto a bill that permits assisted suicide.

Unfortunately, there were some key losses to take some of the luster off the Congressional election victory. Pro-life Wisconsin Governor Scott McCallum, hurt by a third-party candidacy, lost to pro-abortion state attorney general Jim Doyle.

Several pro-life candidates for Governor were turned back by voters Tuesday night, including Tennessee, where pro-abortion candidate Phil Bredensen defeated pro-life Congressman Van Hilleary.

In Illinois, pro-abortion attorney general candidate Lisa Madigan won a narrow election. Madigan has promised to attack crisis pregnancy centers in the state.

Pro-life advocates generally fared well in state legislative contests.Nebraska Right to Life director Julie Schmit Albin said in a statement that pro-life lawmakers will enjoy a three to five seat gain in the state's unicameral legislature. All of the candidates in the election victories oppose research that involves the destruction of human life, which has become a key issue in the state legislature. Pro-life advocates also made gains at the NU Board of Regents.

Legislative pro-life victories will have a profound effect on pro-life legislation in Wisconsin.Wisconsin Right to Life executive director Barb Lyons said, "the 2002 elections resulted in a net gain of 4 right to life seats in the State Senate." Lyons indicated her state gained two pro-life lawmakers at the state House level.

In Tennessee, Pro-lifers swept every contested race in the state Senate with only one endorsed candidate losing. In the State House, pro-life Tennesseans now hold 51 solid pro-life votes (37 Republicans and 14 Democrats) to 27 solid pro-abortion votes. Twelve more members hold "mixed" records but can be reliably expected to lean pro-life.

Nearly 82% of West Virginians for Life Political Action Committee's endorsed candidates were victorious in their election bids. In fact, sixteen of seventeen Senate candidates elected Tuesday are pro-life.

Alaska Right to Life executive director Karen Vosburgh told the Pro-Life Infonet her organization lost two pro-life votes in the state Senate but gained four in the state House, including the election of a former Alaska Right to Life president.

Highlights of key races for Governor:

Alaska: Pro-life Sen. Frank Murkowski (R) defeated pro-abortion Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer (D) 56% to 41%.

Arizona: Although votes are still being processed, it appears that pro-abortion state Attorney General Janet Napolitano (D) defeated pro-abortion former Rep. Matt Salmon (R) 47% to 44%.

Arkansas: Pro-life Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) defeated pro-abortion state
Treasurer Jimmie Lou Fisher (D) 53% to 47%.

California: Pro-abortion Gov. Gray Davis (D) defeated pro-life candidate Bill Simon (R) 48% to 42%.

Colorado: Pro-life Gov. Bill Owens (R) defeated pro-abortion candidate Rollie Heath (D) 63% to 33%.

Illinois: Pro-abortion Rep. Rod Blagojevich (D) defeated pro-life
state Attorney General Jim Ryan (R) 52% to 45%.

Kansas: Pro-abortion candidate Kathleen Sebelius (D) defeated pro-life state Treasurer Tim Shallenburger (R) 53% to 45%.

Maryland: Rep. Robert Ehrlich (R), who votes mostly pro-life, defeated pro-abortion Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend (D) 51% to 48%.

Michigan: Pro-abortion Attorney General Jennifer Granholm (D) defeated pro-life Lt. Gov. Dick Posthumus (R) 51% to 48% with 97% of precincts reporting.

Minnesota: Pro-life State House Majority Leader Tim Pawlenty (R) defeated pro-abortion state Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe (DFL) 45% to 36%.

New Mexico: Pro-abortion Rep. Bill Richardson (D) defeated pro-life state Rep. John Sanchez (R) 57% to 38%.

Ohio: Pro-life Gov. Bob Taft (R) defeated pro-abortion candidate Tim Hagan (D) 58% to 38%.

Oregon: Pro-abrotion state Supreme Court Justice Ted Kulongoski (D) defeated pro-life state Rep. Kevin Mannix (R).

Pennsylvania: Former Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell (D), who is pro-abortion, defeated pro-life state Attorney General Mike Fisher (R) 53% to 45%.

South Dakota: Pro-life state Sen. Mike Rounds (R) defeated pro-abortion candidate Jim Abbott (D) 57% to 42%.

Wisconsin: Pro-abortion candidate Jim Doyle (D) defeated pro-life Gov. Scott McCallum (R) 45% to 41%.

This summary of the election results from a pro-life perspective is courtesy of the Pro-life Infonet which doesn't, to my knowledge, have this sort of information on a webpage, but sends it out in a daily e-mailing that's well worth the five seconds it takes to sign up for. I'm not going to italicize it because it's long:

Pro-life candidates held on to or won Senate seats including eight of the ten top Senate races in the country. In contrast, EMILY's List, the pro-abortion political group, lost 17 of their 22 top races.

Congressional races were also kind to pro-life advocates."Two-thirds of the newly elected House members are pro-life. Once again, the pro-life issue has proved to be a winning issue for candidates."Exit polling conducted by the Fox News Channel revealed the pro-life position continues to help candidates at the polls.

Abortion appeared to be a major factor in the election of pro-life candidate Jim Talent in the Missouri Senate race. According to exist surveys conducted by the Fox News Channel, voters picked abortion as the second most important issue on which they based their vote. Of those voters, approximately 80 percent chose pro-life candidate Talent over pro-abortion Senator Jean Carnahan. "It would certainly be fair to say Sen. Carnahan was defeated on the pro-life issue," explained Doug Johnson, legislative director for National Right to Life.

In both the Georgia Senate and Governor races, where pro-lifers Saxby Chambliss and Sonny Perdue won upset victories, nine percent of voters based their decision mostly on the abortion issue. Chambliss received 73 percent of
the vote of those voters in his race and Perdue 65 percent of the abortion voters in his victory.

Approximately 14 percent of Minnesota voters said abortion was their
top issue -- third highest of all political issues. There, pro-life candidate Norm Coleman had a 81-17 percent edge over pro-abortion candidate Walter Mondale and abortion voters gave pro-life gubernatorial-nominee Tim Pawlenty a 76 to 9 percent edge over his nearest foe.

Pro-life Democratic candidates also fared well.
In Maine, pro-life State Sen. Mike Michaud (D) defeated pro-abortion candidate Kevin Raye (R) 52% to 48%. Pro--life Democrat Lincoln Davis won the race to represent a Tennessee congressional district. And in Louisiana, a pro-life Democrat Rodney Alexander will advance to the December runoff in another district.

Highlights of key Senate election results:

Arkansas: Pro-abortion Attorney General Mark Pryor (D) defeated pro-life Sen. Tim Hutchinson (R) 54% to 46%.

Colorado: Pro-life Sen. Wayne Allard (R) defeated pro-abortion candidate Tom Strickland (D) 51% to 45%.

Georgia: Pro-life Rep. Saxby Chambliss (R) defeated pro-abortionSen. Max
Cleland (D) 53% to 46% with 99% of precincts reporting.

Iowa: Pro-abortion Sen. Tom Harkin (D) defeated pro-life Rep. Greg Ganske (R) 54% to 44%.

Louisiana: Pro-abortion Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) will run against pro-life state Election Commissioner Suzanne Haik Terrell (R) in a Dec. 7 runoff election. Landrieu captured 46% of the vote, while Terrell garnered 27%.

Minnesota: Pro-life candidate Norm Coleman (R) defeated pro-abortion former Vice President Walter Mondale (D) 50% to 48%

.Missouri: Pro-life Rep. Jim Talent (R) defeated pro-abortion Sen. Jean Carnahan (D) 50% to 49%.

New Hampshire: Pro-life Rep. John Sununu (R) defeated pro-abortion Gov. Jeanne Shaheen (D) 51% to 47%.

New Jersey: Pro-abortion ex-Senator Frank Lautenberg (D) defeated mixed-record candidate Douglas Forrester (R) 54% to 44%.

North Carolina: Pro-life candidate Elizabeth Dole (R) defeated pro-abortion candidate Erskine Bowles (D) 54% to 45%.

Oregon: Pro-life Sen. Gordon Smith (R) defeated pro-abortion Oregon Secretary of State Bill Bradbury (D) 58% to 38%.

South Carolina: Pro-life Rep. Lindsey Graham (R) defeated pro-abortion
candidate Alex Sanders (D) 54% to 44%.

South Dakota: Pro-abortion Sen. Tim Johnson (D) defeated pro-life Rep. John Thune (R) y a narrow margin.

Texas: Pro-life Attorney General John Cornyn (R) defeated pro-abortion candidate Ron Kirk (D) 55% to 43%.


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