Monday, November 30, 2009

It Takes An Abused Village To Collude In Abusing Children

As usual there is only silence from the big church on the hill regarding the Murphy Report on the Archdiocese of Dublin. The Vatican cover up continues.
Of all the commentary I have read on the Dublin Murphy Report the following is with out a doubt the best piece. I wish I had written it myself. The argument laid out in this piece is precisley why the entire idea of the Church based on an elite priesthood and the theology behind it must be re evaluated and re thought. The abuse crisis in the priesthood could not have continued for decades without the complicit help of a laity who had been taught to see themselves as 'less than' and the priesthood as 'much more' than themselves.

Church relationship with Irish society has itself been abusive
Irish Times, 11/29/09

IN HIS pastoral letter of February 1979, Archbishop of Dublin Dermot Ryan drew attention to the “corruption of the young”.

And he was quite specific about the forces that were responsible for it. He attacked “the modern era of enlightenment and permissiveness”, and stated that “the new frankness and openness in regard to sexual matters had not made people more healthy in mind and body, but less healthy”.
The corollary of Archbishop Ryan’s complaint was, of course, that a lack of frankness and openness in sexual matters would make for a healthier society, and would protect the young from corruption.

Like the three other holders of the office scrutinised in the Murphy report, Ryan certainly practised the first part of what he preached.
He was a great enemy of openness and frankness, and a great practitioner of the arts of evasion and cover-up. It was the second part of the formula – the protection of the young – that gave him trouble.

In 1981, for example, Ryan sent a Father X as curate to Clogher Road church in the Dublin Corporation housing estate of Crumlin. He knew that this man was a dangerous and manipulative paedophile who was set on attacking children, as Ryan himself noted, “from six to 16”.

He knew that X cultivated parents who involved themselves in school or parish activities so as to gain access to their children.
He knew that in one previous case, “Having got access to the home through this acquaintanceship, Father X abused a young son of six years of age.”
Yet not alone did Ryan send X to Crumlin to continue his assaults on children, but he colluded with the activities of his auxiliary bishop, James Kavanagh, in interfering in a criminal investigation into X’s behaviour, persuading one set of parents not to press charges against the priest.

As the commission concludes, Ryan took a “close personal interest” in the case of Fr X: “He protected Fr X to an extraordinary extent; he ensured, as far as he could, that very few people knew about his activities; it seems that the welfare of children simply did not play any part in his decisions.”

In attempting to come to terms with the institutionalised depravity of the Roman Catholic Church’s systematic collaboration with child abusers, it is useful to start by considering the contradiction between Ryan’s preaching about the “corruption of the young” and his role as a facilitator of sexual assaults on children.

Is there, indeed, a contradiction at all? Or are we not, rather, dealing with two sides of the same debased coin?

The arrogance and obscurantism of a church leadership that could rail against openness and frankness is in fact completely consistent with the same hierarchy’s consistent preference for secrecy over truth and for self-interest over the interests of children and families.

When all the numbing details of the report are absorbed, we have to reassemble the big picture of the institutional church’s relationship with Irish society. And we have to say that that relationship itself has been an abusive one.

The church leadership behaved towards society with the same callousness, the same deviousness, the same exploitative mentality, and the same blindly egotistical pursuit of its own desires that an abuser shows towards his victim.

It is important to say that this is not a comment on the Catholic faith. “The Church,” as the report puts it, “is not only a religious organisation but also a human/civil instrument of control and power”. It is this second aspect – the instrument of control and power – that we have to understand.

We know that all institutions and subcultures have the capacity to create systems of denial and self-protection – think, for example, of the toleration of paedophiles within Irish swimming, or the support of artists and intellectuals for the child rapist Roman Polanski.

But in the case of the institutional Catholic Church we have an organisation with an unusually powerful mechanism of self-protection: the capacity to convince the society it is abusing to take part in the cover-up. The damage the church has done to Irish society lies in the ways it has involved that society in the maintenance of an abusive instrument of control and power.

It is easy to miss a central aspect of this whole scandal. The report is concerned with the actions of the church authorities and describes in damning detail their sense of being above the law of the land.

(Cardinal Desmond Connell, for example, told the commission that “the greatest crisis in my position as Archbishop” was not, as might be imagined, his discovery of appalling criminality among his clergy, or even his own disingenuous public claims that “I have compensated nobody”, but the decision to allow gardaí access to diocesan files.) (This is the truth in the US as well. Bankruptcy is now the last ditch stand to protect files.)

But it is striking that parents, teachers and wider communities seldom went to the police either.
This was not a matter of ignorance. It is clear that some of the paedophiles were not secretive and cunning, but reckless and flagrant. In the early 1970s, for example, Fr James McNamee, who had built a swimming pool in his house into which only young boys were allowed, was so notorious among the children in his Crumlin parish that “whenever the older boys in the area saw Fr McNamee, they either ran away or started throwing things and shouting insults at Fr McNamee. Apparently he was known as ‘Father smack my gee’.”

If children were shouting abuse at a priest in 1970s Ireland, adults undoubtedly noticed. They must have known why.

Similarly, the appalling Patrick Maguire, who may have abused hundreds of children in Ireland, the UK and Japan, became, as the report notes, “astonishingly brazen”. He actually told the parents of a child he had just abused that the boy had a problem with his testicles. “Not surprisingly, the parents wondered how he had discovered that.”

Yet in most cases, parents who knew their children had been abused went to the bishop, not to the Garda. There may have been a mistrust of the Garda (sometimes well founded), or a fear of exposure in the courts.

But, in Archbishop Ryan’s internal notes on the Father X case there is a more extraordinary explanation: “The parents involved have, for the most part, reacted with what can only be described as incredible charity. In several cases, they were quite apologetic about having to discuss the matter and were as much concerned for the priest’s welfare as for their child and other children.” (What a sad statement this is.)

This was the church’s great achievement in Ireland. It had so successfully disabled a society’s capacity to think for itself about right and wrong that it was the parents of an abused child, not the bishop who enabled that abuse, who were “quite apologetic”.

It had managed to create a flock who, in the face of an outrageous violation of trust, would be more concerned about the abuser than about those he had abused and might abuse in the future. It had inserted its own “instrument of control and power” so deeply into the minds of the faithful that they could scarcely even feel angry about the perpetration of disgusting crimes on their own children. (I'm quite sure most of these parents felt quite angry, but that anger was over ridden by their reverence for and the need to keep the clergy on a pedestal. They had been enculturated to believe their very salvation depended on this dynamic.

This is, of course, precisely what paedophiles do to the children they abuse. They convince them that they are the guilty ones. The well-meaning local priest to whom Marie Collins – who has been a key figure in bringing this scandal to light – disclosed the fact that she had been abused as a child in Crumlin children’s hospital, told her “not to feel any guilt about what had happened”. He then, however, told her that “if she had guilt I could give her absolution”.

The suggestion that the victim should be absolved of sin speaks for itself. And it had its effect – Marie Collins did not disclose the abuse again for a number of years.

This ultimate triumph of making the victims guilty and their parents apologetic produced both an underlying contempt for the laity (especially in the working-class parishes where abusers were generally sent) and a sense of belonging to an untouchable elite.

The religious superior of the serial abuser Patrick Maguire captured both when he advised him not to pay too much attention to the views of the therapist he was attending: “You are a priest and you should not allow any person other than yourself to conclude that you ought not remain in ministry, albeit a limited one. I am distrustful of the capacity of any layman or woman to know what it means to be a priest.”

What it meant to be a priest was that, in the eyes of the church authorities, you were held to a different standard than the mere layman or woman. It was not just that you were not subject to the law, but that you were not really subject to Catholic teaching either.

All the episcopal fulminations about sexual sin were for the benefit of the ordinary punters. For the priests, there was a much more tolerant attitude. While bleating about the permissive society, the archbishops were often flippant about the sexual crimes of the clergy.
Cardinal Connell, for example, told Marie Collins that the action of an abuser in taking pictures of the genitalia of young girls in the hospital “was not serious as it only involved the taking of photographs”.

All of this did immense harm to the victims and to the church itself. But it also harmed Ireland as a whole. The abusive relationship between church and society in which people were induced to collude in the maintenance of a corrupt and cynical system of power and control screwed up the Irish relationship with authority.

It deeply damaged the democratic and republican notion that power comes from the people, by creating a culture of shame, of weakness and of collusion. It taught us to live with, and believe that we loved, an arrogant and unaccountable kind of authority. (This is exactly what some members of the Roman Catholic hierarchy, in concert with like minded Evangelicals, are attempting to do in the US.)

If we are ever to awaken once and for all from the nightmare described by the commission, we have to unlearn that lesson and create forms of collective authority that are open, accountable, lawful and genuinely democratic.
Catholic Ireland shows what happens when a society is fundamentally controlled by an all powerful religious body. Ireland is a secular democratic country and has been for 80+ years. It is not a fundamentalist Islamic theocracy, but the truth is for much of it's existence it has been a fundamentalist theocracy. Anyone who thinks a theocracy is the best form of government needs to think about the points in this article. Power in the hands of an unaccountable elite is never benevolent, it is by definition abusive.
It seems incomprehensible to think that parents could side with a pedophile cleric against their own children, but it's certainly happened in this country. The current anti gay crusade will encourage devout parents to continue to reject their gay children. The Church will continue to interfere with and dilute the parent/child relationship. This is certainly ironic for a church whose latest crusade revolves around the primacy of that very relationship.
But of course that's all a lie and a smoke screen because the real truth is that the institutional church is way more interested in saving the last vestiges of it's own power as the primary relationship in a Catholic's life. At the bottom that's the real issue at debate. Is it the Church or the individual who is the primary bottom line for decisions in one's own life? Democracy says it's the individual, and that is the real threat behind all of Benedict's concerns about 'secular relativism'.
It's one thing to be one source of information for an individual, but it's quite another to be THE source, and the institutional church is very much still interested in being THE source. Ireland demonstrates in spades how disastrous that can be for a democratic society--but most especially for that society's children.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Some Thoughts For The First Sunday In Advent

Given the release this past Thursday of the Dublin report about priests and their enabling bishops who demonstrate a different notion of integrity, I thought I'd get the new week off to a better start with the words of encouragement from a priest of real integrity and a theologian with a different definition of who is worthy of sharing the Eucharist.

Acceptance Speech: Reverend Donald Cozzens: Voice of the Faithful Priest of Integrity Award
Long Island, New York October 31, 2009

I am honored to receive this award from brothers and sisters in the faith—from women and men I’ve known and admired for many years now. I especially admire the commitment of the National Working Group for Priest Support.

As you know, Pope Benedict has declared 2009 to be the “Year for the Priest.” Well, I think the Pope should declare 2010 the “Year of the Laity.”

Your voice, the voice of the faithful laity, has spoken with urgency and strength and clarity to church leaders and to the church as a whole at a time when the voice of priests and bishops is hardly heard at all—except to minimize, contextualize, and rationalize the abuse scandals and their cover-up that have led to the worst crisis ever faced by the U.S. Catholic Church.

You have spoken from your hearts—with hope and courage for a renewed and vital and humble church. And you have done so in the face of uncalled for mistrust, misunderstanding, and trenchant hostility from numerous church bureaucrats and authorities.

You have rightfully recognized, in perfect harmony with the Second Vatican Council’s teachings on the responsibilities and rights of the laity, that you have an obligation to speak out—in the name of justice and compassion—for reforms promised by the bishops and popes of Vatican II who sat in ecumenical council, the highest authority in the church.

With Pope John XXIII, you have insisted on Aggiornamento, the updating, so clearly, undeniably needed by our church—for its own sake, for the sake of the children, for the sake of the church’s mission to bring the hope and freedom of the gospel to a battered and bloodied world.

I’m sure you must wonder if anyone is listening to your voice…wonder if anyone understands the depth of faith and fidelity and passion with which you speak.

I’m afraid most Catholics in the U.S. haven’t heard of you. Of course, most Catholics don’t know the name of their own bishop. While most priests have heard of the Voice of the Faithful, many of us remain either indifferent or wary of your voice. While bishops certainly have heard of Voice of the Faithful, many accuse you of having an “agenda”, some Machiavellian scheme to refashion the church in such a way as to render it indistinguishable from the churches of the Protestant Reformation. (The enabling bishops and their cover up of 5000 abusers have certainly delineated Catholicism from Churches of the Reformation. Now the question is can the current structure make it distinguishable from the Mafia.)

As the years go by and your energy ebbs, you might indeed wonder: Is anyone listening? I believe Jesus of Nazareth asked himself the same question. But he went on preaching, teaching, and healing. Jesus’ voice was indeed THE voice of the Spirit. But I say, without hesitation, that your voice is of the Spirit.

Dear friends, don’t give up, “though your hearts may be weary.” Don’t give up, though no one in purple robes seems to be listening. Don’t give up, though you might be judged unfaithful rather than faithful.

You can’t give up because the church, in spite of deafness in many quarters, needs your voice, your commitment, and your witness.

You can’t give up because the women of the church and the world need you to stand shoulder to shoulder with them. We need women leaders in our chanceries and Catholic Centers. We need to hear the gospel preached in the voice of women as well as men.

You can’t give up because the men in holy orders are growing old and tired. The lifting of mandatory celibacy is the key to a healthy, revitalized priesthood and church.

You can’t give up because the world’s economic order is twisted and unjust and you are positioned to forge a more just and humane order.

You can’t give up because the church has barely set out on its grudging journey down the road of accountability and transparency.

You can’t give up because there remain victims of clergy abuse who need your support and compassion.

You can’t give up because children continue to be abused not only in rectories and schools, but also in their homes and neighborhoods. (Many mental health professionals think childhood sexual abuse is the scourge of today's society. One of the unintended consequences of the abuse scandal in the Church is raising the profile of this pandemic issue.)

Don’t give up. We priests, whether we realize it or not, need your witness of adult maturity and courage and integrity. You are the voice of hope to countless priests you may never hear from. (I have no doubt this is very true, and especially true because the voices of priests have been coerced into silence.)

There is yet another reason why you can’t give up. The church is in the midst of a major, powerful, wrenching period of conversion and renewal—the likes of which we haven’t seen in centuries.
We are too close to this conversion to see it in perspective, but we sense its muted thunder and urgent significance, its transforming power and spirit of hope.

By the workings of the Holy Spirit, you are “players” in this conversion and renewal. Your voice, your faith, your commitment to the gospel matter greatly.

So carry on, carry on.

As you meet here in significant numbers, remember what Thomas Merton wrote to Jim Forest, a discouraged young activist exhausted from his work for racial justice. Whether or not he saw any positive results from his work for racial equality, Merton wrote, he must carry on. Merton understood that seeing results in the young activist’s lifetime could not be the ultimate goal. Jim Forest’s faith, his vision, his integrity required him to persevere, even if his efforts seemed, at the time, fruitless. (This is a hard truth.)

So we keep on carrying on. Parishioners and priests speak the truth in love. And as we speak, we ask for the grace to listen as well. For it is necessary for us to listen—prayerfully, humbly, and with open hearts. Otherwise our voice will be heard as strident, whether we mean it to be or not.

Merton would be pleased, I think, to see the new movement surfacing, slowly to be sure, for “contemplative leadership” in government, business, education, the military, the church—and throughout the various dimensions of society.

The “contemplative leadership” movement, spear-headed by the Merton Institute for Contemplative Living, understands that spirit-grounded leadership begins with a vital spiritual life—a life of prayerful listening for wisdom, the whispers of grace, that forge respect and mutuality that in turn lead to authentic renewal and right reform.
Voice of the Faithful needs to be a part of this movement. Our voice needs to arise from a bedrock of trust that the Spirit is with us. Our voice will be heard if it is an authentically contemplative voice.
I see a link between the emerging contemplative leadership movement and the insight of the seventeenth century French philosopher, Blaise Pascal. Pascal wrote that all the evil in the world can be traced to our inability to sit still in a room.

Our voice—the voice of the faithful—is different after we sit still in a room. It has a different quality to it. It has the ring of humility and authenticity and patience. Our voice will also have a ring of quiet confidence and joy.

In his memoir, The Journal of a Soul, Pope John XXIII spoke of his complete confidence in the maxim: Absolute Trust in God in the present and complete tranquility in regard to what is going to happen in the future. (The operative words are tranquility in regards to the future. Fear for the future can not be operative in a healthy trust and faith in God. The current abuse crisis surely shows what happens when decisions are taken in fear of the future.)

While Pope John had complete confidence in the maxim, my own confidence isn’t quite complete. Perhaps I haven’t learned to sit still enough. (It would help if I wasn't typing while I was sitting.)
Might we consider sitting still for the first five minutes of every Voice of the Faithful meeting—before every meeting with a bishop or pastor, before meeting with the media or drafting our press releases?

You who love the church and you who have dared to speak your truth in love should sleep well—no matter how small the steps of renewal and conversion might be in your lifetime. You have taken the gospel seriously. You have taken the Second Vatican Council seriously. You have tried to act responsibly and faithfully. Now that, it seems to me, is integrity.

If only we priests were more united, we would do well to honor Voice of the Faithful with our “Laity of Integrity Award.” It would be well deserved.
Thank you for honoring me with this award. You have my love and respect.

Rev. Donald Cozzens
John Carroll University


People have asked me how I envision the future of Catholicism. I respond, "It really doesn't matter what I envision, because the direction of the future is already unfolding. The Church will be a contemplative Church because the further one walks the contemplative path the more one comes to understand we are all connected, we all share the same God, we are all in the soup together. We may be different vegetables, meats, and spices but we are all part of the same soup."

If the spiritual leadership of the world's religions don't get this, there will be no future for mankind. Otherwise one of the strands of humanity, one of those strands which insists on it's superiority to all the other strands, will take us all to the grave in a vain attempt to prove their superiority. The sad thing is they will do so in the even more vain attempt to prove their superiority to themselves.

It's happening in Catholicism this very minute. One strain of Catholicism, an unhealthy part of the clerical strain, is taking this Church down the drain in order to maintain it's illusion of superiority over the rest of us. The level of psychological denial of some of them, like Bishop Murray of Limerick, Ireland, is breath taking:

Last night, when questioned about the culture of cover up in the Dublin Archdiocese, Bishop Murray flatly denied he was part of such a culture.

"I wish to state that I never deliberately or knowingly sought to cover up or withhold information brought to my attention. There were, as the report notes, occasions when roles or responsibilities were not clear or where I did not have full information concerning cases in which I was asked to become involved," he said."As I indicated in 2002 in response to one particular case, if I had succeeded in deriving more information, it might have been possible to prevent some of the dreadful suffering of child abuse in that instance. I very much wish that I had been able to do so." (Bishop Murray was thoroughly castigated in the Murphy report for his handling of any number of abuse cases, not just how he investigated them but how he dealt with the victims. The victim he refers to in the 2002 case committed suicide two days after meeting with the Bishop and his board of advisers.)

A contemplative Church by it's very nature is a threat to the clerical sacramental church. A contemplative Church values personal experience, spiritual insight, and equal communal sharing. In some respects it truly is the antithesis of what we currently have. A contemplative Church would have a very different understanding of the Eucharistic meal and who belonged at the table, and this wouldn't be dictated from above, but dictated from an individual's heart. In closing I offer the thoughts of John Dominic Crossan on the Eucharist. This is taken from a longer article in the Washington Post. (My thanks to the Progressive Catholic Voice for the link.)

By John Dominic Crossan

The Christian Eucharist has two intertwined layers. First, it is bread and wine, the standard summary of a Mediterranean meal, the normal synthesis of Mediterranean eating. It is, in other words, about food. Throughout his life, Jesus insisted that food, as the material basis of life, was to be fairly and equitably distributed to all God’s children around God’s table. He imagined God-as-Householder (he said “Father” but that was patriarchal normalcy) of the House-World or Homemaker of the Home-earth. And his question was - as in any well-run family - whether everyone had enough or some members had far too much while others had far too little.

Second, none of that was about compassionate charity but about distributive justice. (The Roman Empire did not crucify you for insisting on the former but for insisting too much on that latter.) So Jesus, having lived for non-violent justice died from violent injustice. When one dies an ordinary death, we speak of the separation of body and soul. But a violent death - like crucifixion - involves a separation of body and blood.

In forging the magnificent eucharistic ritual, those twin layers were inextricably linked together to proclaim this: if you live for justice very strongly you could die from injustice very swiftly. When those earliest Christians participated in that ritual, they understood all too well what it meant and to what they were committing themselves. They were pledging themselves to a way of life by participating in the life (definitely) and death (possibly) of Jesus.

They did not have time to debate about the exact mechanics of the “transubstantiation” of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ (watch for red herrings, always watch for red herrings) because they were too acutely aware of their own “transubstantiation” from Roman citizens to Christian traitors.

Finally, then, we can face our question. In general: who should accept the eucharistic ritual? Those and only those who are intentionally, self-consciously, and publicly committing themselves to live like Jesus and, if unfortunately ever necessary, to die like Jesus. That is, of course, an on-going lifelong process and it is precisely such eucharistic participation that initiates, continues, and consummates it. The eucharist both proclaims and empowers a life, as Paul would say, “in Christ” or, better “in the body of Christ.”

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Uganda, The Family, Catholicism and Totalitarianism For Jesus.

The American 'Family' political 'tools' at a "C" Street prayer meeting. In Uganda these prayers won't be necessary because the notions of a free press, women's rights, and legal accountability for politicians will be things of the past.

Over at the National Catholic Reporter John Allen's latest Friday column is on the appropriate response from the Catholic Church to the proposed Ugandan homosexuality bill. This bill calls for capital punishment for gays under certain circumstances, and the incarceration of people who know about gays and refuse to report them. These are just the two most egregious components amongst a host of other delightful notions of democracy.

Allen spends time detailing African fears about left wing influence in African culture and politics and uses these fears as the basis upon which the Catholic response needs to walk. He cites the reaction of African prelates to the Canadian Anglican Church who came out strongly opposed to the bill. These fears of left wing cultural subversion were prominent at the October synod for Africa. What Allen left out completely was the very intense and obvious right wing subversion which has culminated in this piece of legislation being introduced by a Ugandan politician who is a member of the C Street Family.

The following is an excerpt from an interview on NPR radio with Jeff Sharlet. Sharlet has done extensive research into the Family and is the author of the book "The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power".

GROSS: Let's talk about The Family's connection to Uganda, where there's a, really a draconian anti-gay bill that has been introduced into parliament. Uganda already punishes the practice of homosexuality with life in prison. What would the new legislation do?

Mr. SHARLET: Well, the new legislation adds to this something called aggravated homosexuality. And this can include, for instance, if a gay man has sex with another man who is disabled, that's aggravated homosexuality, and that man can be - I suppose both, actually, could be put to death for this. The use of any drugs or any intoxicants in seeking gay sex - in other words, you go to a bar and you buy a guy a drink, you're subject to the death penalty if you go home and sleep together after that. What it also does is it extends this outward, so that if you know a gay person and you don't report it, that could mean - you don't report your son or daughter, you can go to prison.

And it goes further, to say that any kind of promotion of these ideas of homosexuality, including by foreigners, can result in prison terms. Talking about same sex-marriage positively can lead you to imprisonment for life. And it's really kind of a perfect case study in the export of a lot of American, largely evangelical ideas about homosexuality exported to Uganda, which then takes them to their logical end.
(Yes, This Ugandan legislation absolutely takes the American hate rhetoric to it's logical legal end. This is why Chris Matthew's drilling of Bishop Tobin on abortion is so important. What is the logical end of the abortion debate given it's use of murder, killing, and death culture rhetoric?)

GROSS: This legislation has just been proposed. It hasn't been signed into law. So it's not in effect yet and it might never be in effect. But it's on the table. It's before parliament. So is there a direct connection between The Family and this proposed anti-homosexual legislation in Uganda?

Mr. SHARLET: Well, the legislator that introduced the bill, a guy named David Bahati, is a member of The Family. He appears to be a core member of The Family. He works, he organizes their Ugandan National Prayer Breakfast and oversees a African sort of student leadership program designed to create future leaders for Africa, into which The Family has poured millions of dollars working through a very convoluted chain of linkages passing the money over to Uganda.
GROSS: So you're reporting the story for the first time today, and you found this story - this direct connection between The Family and the proposed legislation by following the money?

Mr. SHARLET: Yes, it's - I always say that The Family is secretive, but not secret. You can go and look at 990s, tax forms and follow the money through these organizations that The Family describe as invisible. But you go and you look. You follow that money. You look at their archives. You do interviews where you can. It's not so invisible anymore. So that's how working with some research colleagues we discovered that David Bahati, the man behind this legislation, is really deeply, deeply involved in The Family's work in Uganda, that the ethics minister of Uganda, Museveni's kind of right-hand man, a guy named Nsaba Buturo, is also helping to organize The Family's National Prayer Breakfast. And here's a guy who has been the main force for this Anti-Homosexuality Act in Uganda's executive office and has been very vocal about what he's doing, in a rather extreme and hateful way. But these guys are not so much under the influence of The Family. They are, in Uganda, The Family.

GROSS: So how did you find out that Bahati is directly connected to The Family? You've described him as a core member of The Family. And this is the person who introduced the anti-gay legislation in Uganda that calls for the death penalty for some gay people.

Mr. SHARLET: Looking at the, The Family's 990s, where they're moving their money to - into this African leadership academy called Cornerstone, which runs two programs: Youth Corps, which has described its goals in the past as an international, quote, invisible family binding together world leaders, and also an alumni organization designed to place Cornerstone grads - graduates of this sort of very elite educational program and politics and NGO's through something called the African Youth Leadership Forum, which is run by -according to Ugandan media - which is run by David Bahati, this same legislator who introduced the Anti-Homosexuality Act.

GROSS: Now what about the president of Uganda, President Museveni? Does he have any connections to The Family?

Mr. SHARLET: Well, first, I want to say it's important that you said it, yeah, it hasn't gone into law. It hasn't gone into effect yet. So there is time to push back on this. But it's very likely to go into law. It has support of some of the most powerful men in Uganda, including the dictator of Uganda, a guy named Museveni, whom The Family identified back in 1986 as a key man for Africa.
They wanted to steer him away from neutrality or leftist sympathies and bring him into conservative American alliances, and they were able to do so. They've since promoted Uganda as this bright spot - as I say, as this bright spot for African democracy, despite the fact that under their tutelage, Museveni has slowly shifted away from any even veneer of democracy: imprisoning journalists, tampering with elections, supporting - strongly supporting this Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2009.

He's come out just this - just last week and said that this bill is necessary because Europeans are recruiting homosexuals in Uganda, that Europeans are coming in and trying to make Ugandans gay. And he's been rewarded for this because this is sort of where these sort of social issues and foreign affairs issues and free market fundamentalist issues all come together.

GROSS: How did The Family create its relationship with Museveni?
Mr. SHARLET: In 1986, a former Ford official name Bob Hunter went over on trips at the behest of the U.S. government, but also on behalf of The Family, to which - for which both of which he filed reports that are now in The Family's archives. And his goal was to reach out to Museveni and make sure that he came into the American sphere of influence, that Uganda, in effect, becomes our proxy in the region and that relationship only deepened.

In fact, in late 1990s, Hunter - again, working for The Family - went over and teamed up with Museveni to create the Uganda National Prayer Breakfast as a parallel to the United States National Prayer Breakfast and to which The Family every year sends representatives, usually congressmen.

GROSS: What's the relationship of Museveni and The Family now?

Mr. SHARLET: It's a very close relationship. He is the key man. Now...

GROSS: So what does that mean? What influence does The Family have on him?

Mr. SHARLET: It means that they have a deep relationship of what they'll call spiritual counsel, but you're going to talk about moral issues. You're going to talk about political issues. Your relationships are going to be organized through these associates. So Museveni can go to Senator Brownback and seek military aid. Inhofe, as he describes, Inhofe says that he cares about Africa more than any other senator.

And that may be true. He's certainly traveled there extensively. He says he likes to accuse the State Department of ignoring Africa so he becomes our point man with guys like Museveni and Uganda, this nation he says he's adopted. As we give foreign aid to Uganda, these are the people who are in a position to steer that money. And as Museveni comes over, and as he does and spends time at The Family's headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, a place called The Cedars, and sits down for counsel with Doug Coe, that's where those relationships occur.

It's never going to be the hard sell, where they're going to, you know, twist Museveni's arm behind his back and say do this. As The Family themselves describes it, you create a prayer cell, or what they call - and this again, this is their language from their documents - an invisible believing group of God-led politicians who get together and talk with one another about what God wants them to do in their leadership capacity. And that's the nature of their relationship with Museveni.


Either John Allen has been bought and paid for or he didn't do his homework. There is not one mention of right wing influence in Uganda in his article for the NCR. Allen makes it sound as if somehow left wing agitators are completely responsible for this backlash law against homosexuals.
Excuse me, John, but the real truth is just the opposite--just as it is with too many other right wing crusades. Everything these right wingers bring up in their fear based bs is precisely how they themselves operate.

I can just imagine the laws coming in the future in Uganda and elsewhere when the logic of the hate rhetoric about abortion is taken to it's conclusion. There will be more calls for more executions. Uganda has already demonstrated how the negative and false rhetoric about birth control and condoms has been responsible for the sudden upswing in HIV/Aids cases. Uganda has already demonstrated how the American evangelical fixation on demons and spiritual cleansing has been responsible for the upswing in literal witch hunting. Which is, interestingly enough, another topic the African bishops spent a great deal of time in their synod, and which John Allen did not care to report on.

Here's one last, but very important section from the NPR interview with Jeff Sharlet. It deals with the Family's Catholic connections and the Family's political attitudes.

GROSS: Now, Bart Stupak is Catholic. Joe Pitts is Evangelical Christian, and you say that together, they represent the Evangelical/conservative-Catholic alliance known as co-belligerency. That's a new term to me. What does it mean?

Mr. SHARLET: Well, it's an idea that goes back into the '70s with one of the gurus of modern Christian-right thinking, a guy named Francis Schaeffer, but it really picked up steam with the work of a man named Charles Colson. Chuck Colson some listeners may remember as the Watergate felon, Nixon's sort of henchman who went to prison - was born again, as he writes in his book, through The Family, through their intervention and bringing him to Christ. They actually helped get him out of prison by writing letters to the parole board and everything else. And he had this idea. He's an Evangelical. He had this idea that Catholics and Evangelicals, who historically in American life have been at each other's throats, could work together on culture war issues, that they could be co-belligerents in the culture war. And I think The Family has been one of the vehicles at which that's happened at the elite level, despite the fact - and I think this is important when we look at someone like Bart Stupak - The Family began as a virulently anti-Catholic organization.

And even to this day, Doug Coe, the leader of the group, says, you know, now he's got a much more open mind. You can be a Catholic and love Jesus just the way you can be a Jew and love Jesus or be a Muslim and love Jesus. In other words, being a Catholic in his mind doesn't qualify you as a Christian. And actually when I visited the C Street House, when Bart Stupak was living there, there was a woman who was sort of functioning as an administrator, and she was a Catholic. And she told me that she still goes to Mass, but she keeps it secret because she knows Doug would disapprove. (I'm sure Dougie wouldn't disapprove if she had the same access to bishops that Stupak does.)

GROSS: Now, you mentioned that The Family thinks it's important to have their people and their concerns represented in both the Republican and the Democratic Party. Is there an active strategy to actually have Family-affiliated politicians in the Democratic Party?

Mr. SHARLET: Yeah, I think it's always been very important to The Family, going back to the beginning of the group's roots in the 1930s, when they actually formed with the idea that democracy wasn't going to work. Remember, this was in the 1930s, and they're looking around the world, and they see communism as this incredibly powerful world force, and fascism is, of course, too. Well, they certainly don't want to be communism. Fascism they are a little more sympathetic to, and there were a lot of sort of early-American fascists in the group, but it's still a problem because it's a cult of personality. They put Hitler and Mussolini where Jesus is. (I'm sure this is why they love the Legionaries and Opus Dei.)
So they come up with this idea of a third way, that they later start calling totalitarianism for Christ. And they predict that the United States will pretty quickly embrace this and will get rid of political parties because democracy doesn't work. People arguing and debating doesn't work. They don't want a Republican Party, a Democratic Party. They want one big party - theirs.

And of course that doesn't happen. So by the 1940s, they begin really actively recruiting and seeking out Democrats. They've been sort of mostly Republican, but they seek out Democrats. For most of their history, those Democrats were Dixiecrats. Strom Thurmond used to file confidential reports, leaking, essentially, protected Senate information to The Family's leader. Herman Talmadge, all these guys - Pat Robertson's father, Absalom Willis Robertson, a Dixiecrat senator from Virginia.
In recent years, the Democrats that they've identified, guys like Bart Stupak, Heath Shuler, Mike McIntyre, Mark Pryor, even Senator Bill Nelson down in Florida, another conservative Democrat, they are a faction within the Democratic Party that has become an obstacle to many of the core values of the party. That's what The Family means when they speak of bipartisanship as this idea that Jesus doesn't come to take sides, he comes to take over. The Democrats do tend to be folks who get into Congress, and I think a lot of them - I think this needs to be emphasized - Democrats and Republicans get involved with this with the best of intentions. (So did a lot of people who supported Hitler and Mussolini and Marcial Maciel, and these people somehow bought into the notion that their charismatic leaders were above and outside the usual legal accountabilities. Ireland is now dealing with the same ugly truth about their own Catholic and secular leadership.)


The Ugandan situation is not a joke. The influence of the Family and it's philosophy is critical for Americans to understand--especially American Catholics. The same strategy that has been so effective for these 'totalitarians for Jesus' in Uganda is the same strategy that is playing out in the US debate on health care. The strategy is simply this: Get well meaning people to work against their own rights and interests for the sake of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ and to the direct benefit of His self appointed charismatic unaccountable political 'tools'.

This is evil and it has to be named for what it is. The real threat to democracy and Catholicism is not secular relativism, it is religious totalitarianism and too many of our Catholic bishops--and Catholic writers--have either been co opted or blinded in the name of Jesus.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Reservations About This Notion of "Mental Reservations". The Murphy Report And The Irish Abuse Crisis

Retired Cardinal Archbishop of Dublin, Desmond Connell, never lied. He just engaged in some 'mental reservation'. This is his 'believe me' face.

Below are two stories from the Irish Times concerning the release of the government report detailing the abuses and cover ups of clergy sexual abuse in the Dublin Archdiocese. The first deals with the report itself and some of the details contained in it, but mainly focuses on the clerical culture of lies and cover ups. The second explains retired Cardinal Connells' use of 'mental reservation' which allowed him to deceive, lie, and cover up, while maintaining a sinless conscience.

Bishops lied and covered up
Mary Rafferty Irish Times 11/27/09

THERE IS one searing, indelible image to be found in the pages of the Dublin diocesan report on clerical child abuse. It is of Fr Noel Reynolds, who admitted sexually abusing dozens of children, towering over a small girl as he brutally inserts an object into her vagina and then her back passage.

That object is his crucifix.

The report details how this man was left as parish priest of Glendalough (and in charge of the local primary school) for almost three years after parents had complained about him to former archbishop of Dublin Desmond Connell during the 1990s.

In 1997, he was finally moved and appointed as chaplain to the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dún Laoghaire.
The report helpfully informs us that there were 94 children aged 18 or under as inpatients here. The hospital authorities were told nothing of Reynolds’s past or of suspicions that he was a child abuser.

This kind of callous disregard for the safety of children is found over and over again in the report. Bishops lied, cheated and covered up, almost as a matter of course, in a display of relentless cynicism spanning decades. Children were blithely sacrificed to protect priests, the institution and its assets. It is, consequently, difficult to avoid the conclusion that what lies at the heart of the Catholic Church (at least in Ireland) is a profound and widespread corruption.

The Dublin report divides the bulk of its analysis into chapters devoted to individual priest abusers. But reading through the stomach-churning details of their crimes, another parallel reality appears.
Behind almost each one of these paedophiles was at least one bishop (often more) who knew of the abuse, but failed to protect children.

Some of them, Pontius Pilate-like, washed their hands, merely reporting it up the line. Others actively protected the criminals in their midst by destroying files and withholding information. Their handling of complaints is variously described as “particularly bad”, “disastrous” and “catastrophic”.

Dermot Ryan stands out as the most callous of the Dublin archbishops. He failed properly to investigate complaints against at least six of the worst offending priests.
Kevin MacNamara was little better, but his tenure was considerably briefer, limiting some of the damage he did.
John Charles McQuaid is severely criticised in one case, but it was not within the commission’s remit to examine his reign in any significant detail. His response to the pornographic photos of two children taken by one of his priests is a damning indictment of the impact of priestly celibacy. He viewed the criminal act as an expression of “wonderment” by the priest at the nature of the female body. (As if children possess the 'wonderment' of the female body. This is truly sick.)

And what of Desmond Connell, perhaps the most reviled of them all? A complex picture emerges of a man unsuited to the task facing him, attempting to deal with the enormous scale of abuse in the archdiocese, and ultimately failing. While he did, for instance, engage with the civil authorities, unlike his predecessors, he, nonetheless, continued to maintain secrecy over much of what the diocese knew of their child-abusing priests.

As for the many Dublin auxiliary bishops, two stand out as being particularly awful. There is arguably enough evidence in this report to send bishops James Kavanagh (now deceased) and Donal O’Mahony (retired) to prison for failing to report crimes. Or at least, there would be if there existed such an offence. Incredibly, there is none.
We certainly used to have one; called misprision of felony, it was conveniently dropped from the statute books in 1998 when the felony laws changed. The effect was that no priest, bishop, or indeed lay person, could be charged with failing to report criminal activity of which they were aware.
What a sigh of relief the bishops of Ireland must have breathed.

The report describes Bishop O’Mahony’s involvement in the cases of 13 priests from its sample of 46 under investigation. It mentions that he was aware of allegations against several more. His cover-up over his 21 years in office was extensive.
Bishop Kavanagh directly attempted to pervert the course of justice by seeking to influence one Garda investigation and by convincing a family to drop a complaint against another priest. He appears at various stages in a number of other cases, always failing to act to protect children.
Bishop Donal Murray of Limerick is also indicted as having handled a number of complaints badly. He will have very serious questions to answer over the coming days.
Recently retired bishop of Ossory Laurence Forristal equally stands condemned, which is all the more egregious as he was in charge of the archdiocese’s efforts during the 1990s to respond to the crisis and draw up child protection guidelines.
Bishops James Moriarty of Kildare and Leighlin, retired Bishop Brendan Comiskey and Auxiliary Bishop of Dublin Eamon Walsh also all knew of complaints of abuse at various stages.

A week before the broadcast in 2002 of RTÉ television’s Prime Time Cardinal Secrets (which led to the establishment of the Dublin commission), Cardinal Connell engaged in a pre-emptive strike. He had refused to appear on the programme. He chose instead to circulate each of his 200 parishes with a letter read out at every Mass that Sunday. In it, he apologised for the failures of the past, but blamed them on a lack of understanding within the church of paedophilia.
The commission is categorical in its refusal to accept this plea of ignorance as an excuse. It refers bluntly to the inconsistency between such claims and the decision in 1986 to take out an insurance policy to protect church assets from abuse victims.

At that time, we are told that the archdiocese knew of allegations of child sex abuse against 20 of its priests.
The report further notes the documented history of the church’s detailed awareness of paedophilia as both crime and sin spanning the past 2,000 years. The first reference dates from AD 153.
Finally, the report refers to the fact that archbishop Ryan displayed as early as 1981 a complete understanding of both the recidivist nature of paedophilia and of the devastating damage it caused to child victims.
There had been a consistent denial from church authorities that anyone knew anything about either of these key factors until very recently.

Perhaps most damning of all is the report’s findings as to the general body of priests in Dublin. While it gives credit to a small few who courageously pursued complaints, it adds that “the vast majority simply chose to turn a blind eye”.

What emerges most clearly from the report is that priests, bishops, archbishops and cardinals had the greatest difficulty in telling right from wrong, and crucially that their determination of what constituted wrongdoing was vastly different from that of the population at large.
This fact is worthy of reflection on the part of all those who remain connected to the church through its continuing and often central involvement in the provision of services such as education and health throughout the country.

In 2003, ex-governor of Oklahoma Frank Keating drew parallels between the behaviour of some US Catholic bishops and the Cosa Nostra. It drew a storm of protest, and he resigned from his position as chairman of the church-appointed oversight committee on child abuse.
However, it is not too far-fetched a comparison to the Irish church in the light of the three investigations into its behaviour we have had to date.
The organised, premeditated pattern of secrecy and concealment of crime is worthy of the world’s most notorious criminal fraternity.

Irish Times 11/27/09

One of the most fascinating discoveries in the Dublin Archdiocese report was that of the concept of “mental reservation” which allows clerics mislead people without believing they are lying.
According to the Commission of Investigation report, “mental reservation is a concept developed and much discussed over the centuries, which permits a church man knowingly to convey a misleading impression to another person without being guilty of lying”.

It gives an example. “John calls to the parish priest to make a complaint about the behaviour of one of his curates. The parish priest sees him coming but does not want to see him because he considers John to be a troublemaker. He sends another of his curates to answer the door. John asks the curate if the parish priest is in. The curate replies that he is not.”

The commission added: “This is clearly untrue but in the Church’s view it is not a lie because, when the curate told John that the parish priest was not in, he mentally reserved the words '…to you’.”

Marie Collins, who was abused by a Dublin priest, “was particularly angered by the use by the Church authorities of ‘mental reservation’ in dealing with complaints,” the report said.
It continued that Cardinal Desmond Connell had explained the concept to the commission as follows:

“Well, the general teaching about mental reservation is that you are not permitted to tell a lie. On the other hand, you may be put in a position where you have to answer, and there may be circumstances in which you can use an ambiguous expression realizing that the person who you are talking to will accept an untrue version of whatever it may bepermitting that to happen, not willing that it happened, that would be lying. It really is a matter of trying to deal with extraordinarily difficult matters that may arise in social relations where people may ask questions that you simply cannot answer. Everybody knows that this kind of thing is liable to happen. So mental reservation is, in a sense, a way of answering without lying.”

Example of how they experienced the use of such ‘mental reservaton’ by Church authorities in Dublin were supplied to the commission by Mrs Collins and fellow abuse victim Andrew Madden.
In Mrs Collins’s case, the Dublin archdiocese said in a 1997 press statement that it had co-operated with gardai where her complaint of abuse was concerned. She was upset by it as she had reason to believe otherwise. Her support priest Fr James Norman made inquiries and later told gardaí he that when he did so, the archdiocese replied “we never said we co-operated fully” - placing emphasis on the word ‘fully’ - with the gardaí.

In Mr Madden’s case, Cardinal Connell emphasised he did not lie to the media about the use of diocesan funds for the compensation of clerical child sexual abuse victims.

He explained to Mr Madden he had told journalists “that diocesan funds ARE (report’s emphasis) not used for such a purpose; that he had not said that diocesan funds WERE not used for such a purpose. By using the present tense he had not excluded the possibility that diocesan funds had been used for such purpose in the past. According to Mr Madden, Cardinal Connell considered that there was an enormous difference between the two.” (So do ten year olds who discover this notion of 'mental reservation'.)

In May 1995, Cardinal Connell denied that diocesan funds were used in paying compensation to abuse victims.
When it emerged on RTÉ in September that year that Ivan Payne was loaned €30,000 by the archdiocese to pay compensation to Mr Madden, Cardinal Connell still insisted this was not compensation by the archdiocese. (No, because it was a loan. Even if it was never paid back or there was no expectation that Payne would ever pay it back, technically it is still a loan and lets Cardinal Connell keep his innocent head held high.)

He threatened to sue RTÉ, but did not do so.


The Murphy report is just one more report which accurately and damningly portrays a clerical culture which is corrupted by incredible levels of self protection. This third report in a series of government investigations into clergy and religious abuse by the Roman Catholic Church will only continue the steep decline in Catholic participation in Ireland. The bishops have no one to blame for this decline other than themselves, but ultimately the Vatican. I'm sure however, that more creative use of 'mental reservation' will allow them to sooth their consciences.

This use of mental reservation allows some clerics to continue to blame the WHOLE abuse crisis on gay men because SOME gay men did abuse. It will also allow some Church apologists to damn the entire media as anti Catholic because some media have criticised and exposed the corruption in the hierarchy. The Church is not the hierarchy.

I appreciate the stance taken by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, the current Archbishop of Dublin. He has made no bones about the fact what happened on the watches of his predecessors was appalling. Unlike his predecessor Cardinal Connell, Archbishop Martin has not engaged very much in the use of mental reservation. Unfortunately for him, the now thoroughly trashed innate trust in the hierarchy will essentially force him to start all over again in rebuilding the history of Catholicism in Ireland. I doubt he will be able to do it with out serious changes in clerical structure and methods of operation. Returning to the past is not an option because secular institutions, who are equally to blame in this crisis, will not be allowed by the Irish public to return to the past. (And there is also the demographic crunch in the Irish priesthood with the vast majority of priests now over 70 years of age.)

In the US the current favored strategy is declaring bankruptcy. This strategy has far less to do with actual finances and far more to do with keeping files sealed and locked. It's just another form of 'mental reservation' designed as a last ditch effort to protect the secrets of the clerical system.

The Vatican is also playing the 'mental reservation' game. I suppose this isn't surprising given they invented it. Neither the CDF nor the Irish papal nuncio answered letters of inquiry from the Murphy commission for documents relating to the Dublin abuse situation. Neither one acknowledged receiving the letters of inquiry. Their response was silence justified by the fact that the Murphy Commission didn't follow DIPLOMATIC protocol. Apparently the Commission was supposed to go through diplomatic channels rather than the ecclesiastical channels as found in Canon Law. How neat is that? For the Murphy Commission this was a no win situation. Had they followed diplomatic channels they undoubtedly would have been denied a response because they didn't follow Canon Law and go through ecclesiastical channels.

The Vatican reserves to itself the determination as to when it will be treated as a Nation State as opposed to the governance structure of Catholicism. This has a lot to do with why Cardinal Law is in Rome as opposed to potentially in a Massachusetts jail cell. Unlike in Ireland, a bishop could be brought to justice for aiding and abetting crimes in the US. Best to get them out of country and claim diplomatic immunity. There are dozens of clerical abusers from any number of nations ensconced in Rome and the Vatican City States enjoying diplomatic immunity.

The clerical abuse scandal stands as the most potent and tragic symbol of religious authority substituting itself for God and the attendant corruption this spreads. The Vatican will not clean up it's own act until it's forced too. That is also a long long long tradition. But before then it has and will use every tactic in the book to protect the status quo. In the past that included torture and murder, and now the hierarchy uses 'mental reservation', intimidation, and legal tricks.

It would be really nice if the hierarchy would try more positive strategies like honesty and transparency. It would be nice if the hierarchy believed in it's own teaching, that Jesus will be with the Church until the Church is no longer needed. That takes faith and trust, the two values which the abuse crisis amply demonstrates the hierarchy doesn't have. Instead they have placed their trust in the strategies of corrupted power.
Thank God they aren't getting away with it any longer. Seems Jesus is still protecting His Church and using the most abused and marginalized of His people as the precious chalice through which accomplish this. That too is very traditional. Goes all the way back to the very beginning.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Bill Donohue Castigates Chris Matthews For Not Playing Slow Pitch Soft Ball With Bishop Tobin

'Hardball' host gives 'insulting lecture' during interview with Bishop Tobin, Catholic League charges
Washington D.C., Nov 24, 2009 / 03:06 pm (CNA).-

On Monday Bishop Thomas Tobin tangled with television pundit Chris Matthews on MSNBC’s “Hardball” about the relation between religion and politics as well as the legal status of abortion. Matthews’ comments, which charged that the bishop has overstepped his authority, were criticized as a “rant” and an “extended lecture.”
Bishop Tobin, of the Diocese of Providence has been critical of Rhode Island U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy’s attacks on the Church for opposing abortion. Rep. Kennedy recently revealed that the bishop had asked him to refrain from receiving Holy Communion in 2007 because of his public contradiction of Catholic teaching.

Chris Matthews began the Monday evening “Hardball” segment with a clip of remarks by Rep. Kennedy’s uncle President John F. Kennedy, the first Catholic U.S. president. In his political campaign President Kennedy had said that a politician should not accept “instruction on public policy” from the Pope or any other ecclesiastical source.

In response, Bishop Tobin emphasized that all religious believers, including Catholic politicians, should put their faith before their career. (He did say this, but first Tobin tried to say that Jack Kennedy didn't mean what Jack Kennedy actually said. The statement quoted here was Tobin's fall back position after Matthews wondered if Tobin was trying to twist the meaning of what Kennedy actually said.)

“Nothing can become more important than your relationship with God,” he told Matthews, who is Catholic.
Bishop Tobin endorsed a return to U.S. law before the pro-abortion Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade. Matthews pressed him on this point, asking what laws he would write if he were a member of Congress.

“I am not a member of Congress, but if I were, I would never be in a position of supporting any abortion legislation that encourages abortion,” the bishop replied.

“What law would you pass?” Matthews pressed. “You’re coming down on Congressman Kennedy and other public officials. …Would you outlaw abortion?”

“That’s the direction our nation ought to move,” the prelate responded.

Asked to tell Catholics how they should vote as members of Congress, he said Catholics should vote for laws that “preserve and protect human life.” (Then get out there and tell congress to quit authorizing the production of more nuclear weapons.)

Matthews asked Bishop Tobin to be specific, asking whether women who procure abortions should be thrown in jail.
“I have no idea what the penalty would be,” the bishop replied.

Matthews professed agreement with the bishop’s moral views, but then claimed Bishop Tobin had “transgressed” into the area of lawmaking. He characterized the bishop’s reluctance to name specific penalties for a woman who procures abortion as an expression of “hesitancy” from the clergy.

“Words like ‘murder’ and ‘killing’ are used in the case of abortion but they do not seem to apply in terms of writing the law,” Matthews commented. “And I would urge you to consider the possibility of error here, because in getting into telling public officials how to set public policy, you’re stepping beyond moral teaching, and you’re basically assuming a moral authority which I don’t think is yours.

“As you admitted tonight four or five times, you don’t know how to write law, and writing law is very tricky in our secular society,” Matthews’ comments concluded.
“I will reflect on that if you reflect on the teachings of the Church,” Bishop Tobin responded. (This is the kind of response which so demonstrates the maturity level of our bishops. The fact Matthews was trying to point out is that while Americans may agree abortion is immoral, they do not agree it should be criminal in secular law. This is the very point Tobin refused to address, and then reduced himself to the above statement.)

Bill Donohue of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights characterized Matthews as having “spun out of control.” (Takes one to know one.)

“Matthews proceeded with an extended and quite insulting lecture,” Donohue charged in a Tuesday press release. “He had absolutely no interest in a discussion on the question of the morality and legality of abortion—all he wanted to do was to make the bishop sit there and listen to his rant. Indeed, his tirade was simply over-the-top.” (No Bill, Mathews was trying to get the Tobin to answer his question as the whether the good bishop saw criminal prosecution as part of his anti abortion platform for secular America. Does following Catholic teaching on abortion mean advocating for the incarceration of women and doctors? Tobin wouldn't answer.)

Donohue claimed that no non-Catholic would treat a bishop in such a way.
“But too many liberal Catholics, especially Irish Catholics, think they are exempt from the same standards of civility that apply to others.” (Ooooh, more projection.)

Pro-life advocate Jill Stanek wrote on her blog that she thought the Matthews interview should have focused on the question “Are preborns human or not?”
“If they are, then we need laws to protect them, just as we do all other innocent human life. If we're not sure - if the answer is above one's pay grade - then we should err on the side of life,” she wrote. (Jill doesn't answer Matthew's question either. If abortion is really murder, who goes to jail and for how long?)

The question of criminal penalties for women who seek abortions is a common talking point among supporters of permissive abortion laws. The issue was considered in an August, 2007 symposium titled “One Untrue Thing” on the conservative web site National Review Online.

In that symposium, Villanova University law professor Joseph Dellapenna said “none of the anti-abortion laws overturned by Roe v. Wade… treated the woman as a criminal.”

Rather, he explained, the laws treated the woman as a victim in part because of the dangers of abortion and in part because of the need for her testimony to convict the abortionist. (Targeting solely the doctor, while leaving the woman/man free of culpability, would most likely not pass constitutional muster. Both users and dealers go to jail in the war on drugs.)

In the same symposium Clarke D. Forsythe of Americans United for Life pointed out that before Roe the abortionist, not the prosecutor, tried to argue that an abortion-seeking woman should be treated as an accomplice. This was done “for the obvious purpose of undermining the state’s criminal case against the abortionist,” he wrote. (Sharing the responsibility is also morally consistent. The double standard served to make society feel less guilty about prosecuting abortion at all. Many men also found this system personally very beneficial, as they too weren't culpable as accomplices.)


Chris Matthews did get preachy, but then he always does. Half the time MSNBC can't do a decent transcription of his show because Matthews is always talking over his guests. What made this time different is that Bishop Tobin really helped bring it on himself by not coming close to answering any of Matthew's questions or points.

Matthews obviously hit a nerve if CNA feels compelled to attempt to answer the question Matthew's asked about criminalizing abortion. Tobin certainly didn't come close to any answer.

Bill Donohue calling out Matthews for his Irish Catholic incivility is a hoot. The responses of these men to Mathew's arguments is like watching play ground bullies compare the relative merits of their daddy's biceps. I'm kind of thinking this is because these pro life stalwarts have given very little thought to what criminalizing abortion really means. Maybe the idea of prisons full of America's teen age daughters isn't a pretty picture. It certainly appears that the idea of holding the male aspect of the abortion equation accountable isn't even in the picture.

This has been an interesting couple of weeks. Lots of backlash starting to appear, and I put this interview with Bishop Tobin in that category. For years and years the Catholic pro life movement has been allowed to function in a universe free from practical accountability. Not any more. It does appear that transparency and accountability are the buzz words around which the Catholic backlash is coalescing and finally, the pro life movement is starting to feel it. America really does want to know how far they are going to take the 'murder' 'killing' death language when it comes to abortion. That's the issue on which this debate will finally be decided.

Hope everyone has a blessed Thanksgiving. I will do what I've done since my dad worked for the Detroit Lions--watch them lose to the Packers on Thanksgiving. Those Thanksgivings do not involve too many fond memories. Most of the time the turkey got butchered rather than carved as dad would wax eloquently on and on about the parentage of Vince Lombardi and Bart Starr. Mom would just roll her eyes and pass the gravy. When it came to the Packers, Dad did have more than a smidgen of Bill Donohue even if he wasn't Irish--so did Vince Lombardi for that matter. Maybe it's a Catholic thing.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

More Backlash, The LCWR Politely Tells The Vatican, Thanks But No Thanks

This has been edited for length. The entire article can be read here.

Women religious not complying with Vatican study
"There's been almost universal resistance. We are saying 'enough!' "

Nov. 24, 2009 By Thomas C. Fox National Catholic Reporter

The vast majority of U.S. women religious are not complying with a Vatican request to answer questions in a document of inquiry that is part of a three-year study of the congregations. Leaders of congregations, instead, are leaving questions unanswered or sending in letters or copies of their communities' constitutions.

"There's been almost universal resistance," said one women religious familiar with the responses compiled by the congregation leaders. "We are saying 'enough!' In my 40 years in religious life I have never seen such unanimity."

The deadline for the questionnaires to be filled out and returned to the Vatican-appointed apostolic visitator, superior general of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Mother Mary Clare Millea, was Nov. 20. On that day, according to an informed source, congregation leaders across the nation sent Millea letters and, in many cases, only partial answers to the questionnaire. Many women, instead of filling out the forms, replied by sending in copies of their Vatican -approved orders' religious constitutions. A religious order's constitution states its rationale, purpose and mission.

The Vatican initiated the study in January, saying its purpose is to determine the quality of life in religious communities, given the decline in vocations in recent decades. From the outset, the women have complained they were never consulted before Vatican officials announced the investigation and there is no transparency in the process. Some have called the effort demeaning and intrusive. (It would have been a lot more believable if it included all congregations of nuns and sisters. Instead it left out monastic communities while appointing a monastic nun to lead it.)

The decisions by congregation leaders not to comply follow nearly two months of intensive discussions both inside and across religious congregations. They follow consultations with civil and canon lawyers, and come in the wake of what some women religious see as widespread support by laity for their church missions.

With about half of the responses from the nation's 59,000 women religious accounted for, only about one percent answered, as directed, most or all of the questions contained in the study's working paper, officially called an Instrumentum Laboris, according to one informed source.

By contrast, according to the source, congregations representing, by far, the greater majority of women religious decided not to comply and answered only a few, or none, of the questions. Many of the 340 U.S. apostolic congregation heads instead sent letters to Millea stating that what they were sending was what the Vatican was looking for.

"Cover letters [to Millea] have been respectful and kind," one woman, familiar with the responses, told NCR. "Many of the letters have essentially said that what we have to say about ourselves has already been said in our religious constitutions."............

Several women religious said that, in discerning their responses to the questionnaire which they felt were intrusive, there emerged a new sense of identity and resolve. One said that for years women religious have focused on the needs of others. This time they had to focus on themselves.

She said women religious have been virtually unanimous in spirit that they have been living out their missions, as directed by the gospels and by the Second Vatican Council, which called upon religious communities to go out in the world to work among the poor and to build more just and peaceful structures.

She explained that in the process church prelates lost the control over women religious congregations they once had. She said many women religious believe the investigation is part of an effort to regain that control. (It's a little late in the day to try re establishing control over the one part of the Church that still has any independence. It's hardly the fault of the LCWR that they weren't perceived to be important enough or high profile enough for the men to bother with--until it was too late.)

"Vatican II took us out of the ghettos and into ecology, feminism and justice in the world," she said. "The Vatican still has a difficult time accepting that."

Some of the women interviewed by NCR cite an irony involved in the investigation. One said that it is "unlikely the Vatican wanted us to come out of this being more confident of our identity as self-defining religious agents, but that is exactly what has happened." (Good for you, now if only diocesan and religious priests would take the hint.)

Another said: "At first, many women were asking, 'How do we respond? Then we were asking, 'How do we respond faithfully in keeping with our identity?' And soon we were asking, 'What is that identity?' " (Seems to me the clerical priesthood needs to answer the same question.)

Still another said that at first when confronted with the questionnaire, many women religious congregation heads felt isolated. But after discussions within their communities and after regional meetings with other women religious and after consultations with their canon lawyers, they overcame the initial sense of isolation and grew in common resolve.

Several women said canon lawyers told the women they were not required to answer all the questions. Religious, unlike bishops, priests and deacons, who make up the clergy, are not officially part of the church's hierarchical structure. According to this reasoning, women religious are responsible to their congregation leadership and to their constitutions.

NCR contacted several canon lawyers consulted by women religious communities. These canon lawyers declined to be interviewed for this story.

All along, said one woman religious, the challenge has been to respond to the Vatican in a way that breaks a cycle of violence. She said that the women religious communities have attempted to respond by using a language "devoid of the violence" they found in the Vatican questionnaire and within the wider study. She characterized the congregation responses as "creative and affirming," and part of an effort to set a positive example in "nonviolent resistance."

"On the one hand we didn't want to roll over and play dead," she said. "So the question was, "How do you step outside a violent framework and do something new?' That was the challenge that emerged." One congregation, she said, cited a U.S. bishops' statement concerning domestic abuse in its response letter to Millea. "The point is, there have to be more than two choices: Take the abuse and offer it up, or kill the abuser." (A lot of us are trying to find this other way to deal with the heirarchy.)

Women religious, she said, are asking if there is a "Ghandian or Martin Luther King way" to deal with violence they felt is being done to them.

At issue, according to several women religious, is the role women religious are to play in the world today. As much as any other element in the church, women religious claim Vatican II's documents as a call go out in the world, loved and blessed by God, and to serve within it.


Three cheers for the LCWR and may this polite and non violent response reverberate through out the Vatican. This is real leadership and I am impressed beyond my wildest hopes. Thank you once again sisters for reminding us what it really means to respond with integrity and Christian charity in the face of inauthentic religious power and control.

What ever will Rode and Levada do now? Whatever they decide, I'm willing to bet it won't be in the form of an apology.

The Problem With The Professional Priesthood Is It's Not Professional

Is Catholicism training priests as professional clerics, or fixating pious young men in co dependent adult immaturity?

The recent initiative in Washington DC,, has provoked a great deal of discussion and comment, and not just on this blog. There seems to be more consensus rallying around the idea of outing bishops and cardinals, rather than rank and file priests. That's pretty much where I stand because that's pretty much the nexus of the real problem.

Fr. Geof Farrow has presented the case against outing in the most practical and pastoral terms. I most certainly respect his opinion. He is one gay priest who has paid the price for insisting on personal integrity. He has earned the right to be heard. He asks the question lots of people are asking, does the end justify this means? It's a question I've given a lot of thought to in the past week or so. One I have trouble answering myself.

If a similar situation existed in other professions it would be addressed by professional ethics committees who had real teeth to enforce professional ethics. This is certainly true in my own field in which I have witnessed both psychiatrists and therapists called on the carpet by peers and seriously sanctioned for violations of professional ethics. These sanctions were not just professional, but in some cases--most notably sexual abuse cases--came after and on top of criminal and/or civil prosecution. Losing one's license to practice, even for a temporary time, causes a great deal of economic hardship and seriously impacts the ability to find further work in the profession. So does going to prison.

These are sanctions with real teeth and no professional therapist wrings their hands about fellow professionals who abuse the therapeutic relationship. We don't waste time making excuses because some of our fellow professionals lack maturity or have failed to come to terms with their own issues. We know that the abuses of some of us impact the professional credibility of all us, but more than that, we know that abuse is antithetical to everything we try to promote in our professional relationships about the inherent dignity of our clients. Abuse denies the very reason we exist as a profession.

I don't understand why the priesthood has no similar peer review or ethical process. In fact, it's just the opposite. Our bishops purposely removed themselves from any accountability in the Dallas Charter. This decision makes them unaccountable even to each other, which is why Fabian Bruskewitz in Nebraska hasn't been called on the carpet for his complete refusal to comply with the Dallas charter. In this respect, bishops have reserved for themselves the right to abuse with zero accountability. I say zero accountability because there has been virtually zero accountability for offending bishops, certainly from fellow bishops, but most conspicuously from the Vatican itself. In those few situations where there was a modicum of personal accountability it was enacted by the bishops themselves by retiring, but only after they had been publically exposed. They lost no benefits, salary, housing, or sacramental authority. Unlike Fr. Geof Farrow who lost it all.

Given this situation, what legitimately Christian means is there to enact some kind of accountability for abusing priests and bishops? Are we supposed to exercise a form a charity which has not been shown to clerical victims and never will be? Are we supposed to accept that we need to let some people get away with abuse for the sake of those who minister on the sly, under the radar of their bishops?

Am I supposed to extend to priests sympathy and understanding for their particular plight, (brought on themselves by their own decisions), while insisting on a much different professional accountability for myself and practitioners in my own very similar field? Am I to operate under the assumption that priests have no real professional standing, and are not professionally accountable because of that? Or am I to concede that in general priests are too immature and dependent on the hierarchy to deal with the consequences of their decisions and behaviors like other adults. If any of this is true, than why in God's Name, would I look to them for leadership of any sort?

If priests and bishops really feel that publicly pointing out abuse and violations of their professional code of conduct is unfair, (Canon Law) then let them come up with a real peer review board, a professional ethics board which has real teeth. If the Vatican doesn't like it because it usurps their supposed authority, too bad. It's not real authentic authority anyway.

SNAP has proven beyond a doubt that without a real alternative to a bishops' absolute authority, there are very few options for any kind of meaningful accountability outside of public exposure. I don't have to like it, and in fact I don't, but the alternative is to leave the status quo in place. That will be only result in more and more victims and more and more tolerance of a co dependent, immature, and easily victimized priesthood.

Is that really the kind of professional religious leadership an adult laity needs, or does it more reflect the kind of professional 'leadership' the Vatican wants? I think I know that answer to that question.