Monday, January 4, 2010

Will The Rock Of Consequences Roll All The Way Up To The Rock Of Peter?

The force of justice is starting to pull the personal consequences for the clerical abuse scandal up the clerical hill. In time the clerical Vatican may come tumbling down.

The following is an excerpt from an article posted on Clerical Whispers. I have extracted the first part because I want to focus on what this Irish writer has isolated as the probable excuse for the Irish hierarchy protecting the Church before exercising compassion for abuse victims.

Survival, not compassion is priority for the Church

The campaign of Diarmuid Martin, the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, to be rid of turbulent bishops who, he believes, shared corporate responsibility in the diocese for the concealment of clerical child abuse seems unfair and quixotic.

Unfair and quixotic, because it is not these bishops who are primarily to blame for the concealment of this abuse. It is the culture, the ethos, indeed the very being of the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. Diarmuid Martin has not acknowledged this, maybe because he can’t, for it would defy his own identity as a major functionary of that Church.

And before I proceed, an acknowledgement.

I appreciate the Catholic Church is precious to many Irish people, including many readers of this newspaper, and that a challenge to the culture, ethos and being of that Church may seem tantamount to a challenge to them as worthy people, so entwined is identity often with religious affiliation.

And a related acknowledgement: there are many fine people in the Catholic Church, including Diarmuid Martin and many other clerics and ‘‘faithful’’. Nothing I write here (or otherwise) is intended to impugn their integrity or their worth as persons. Back to my point.

If someone believes in the following:

* that there is an all-powerful deity, who has created the world, who intervenes directly in our lives and with whom we have or can have a personal relationship;

* that there is an afterlife, encapsulated at least in part by consignment to either heaven or hell for eternity and that the deity will determine to which we will be assigned, on the basis of adherence to his/her laws and requirements;

* that, so distressed was this deity by the sinfulness of humankind that he consigned his son to earth to save humanity for its own evil and therefore from hell; and

* that this son, Jesus, who is also the deity, established a ‘‘one true church’’, which is the Roman Catholic Church, for the purpose of enabling the salvation of human kind (ie the avoidance of hell in the afterlife); if one believes in all this, then, unavoidably, one believes that the protection of the Church takes precedence over every other consideration and value, including the sexual abuse of children.

If, therefore, the exposure of the scandal of the abuse of children by functionaries of that Church which Jesus founded would damage the status and reputation of that Church, thereby weakening its capacity to enable the salvation of humankind, then that is the price which has got to be paid.

Those bishops who concealed the crime of clerical child sexual abuse may have done so for what they regarded as the best of reasons: the protection of the vehicle created by Jesus to ensure the everlasting happiness of humankind.

What weight has even the sexual abuse of children by priests of the Church by comparison with the everlasting happiness of humankind? (Reminds me of the Star Trek movie in which Spock tells Kirk the good of the many demands the sacrifice of the few.)


This article has certainly hit on the justification for the pursuit of an immoral strategy by the Hierarchy. I have no doubt at all that many bishops who obeyed the Vatican strategy of denial and cover up felt they were doing 'the right' thing. The protection of the reputation and mission of the Church necessitated the sacrifice of the bodies (and potentially their souls) of the few for good of the many.

There is a difference though between Spock's observation and the hierarchy's decision to cover up abuse for the greater good of the Church. Spock made his statement in context of a freely made choice on his own part that effected his life; the hierarchy made choices for other people and those other people paid most of the consequences. Now thank God, slowly but surely those consequences are rolling up hill, and like the author of this article, I too firmly believe the resignations of individual bishops is not rolling far enough up the hill. The summit of that hill is the very definition of what we mean by Jesus's church and how much authority the official church actually has for our individual salvation.

In researching this article I have spent a great deal of time rereading parts of the New Testament. There seem to be so many contradictions. It finally dawned on me that Jesus was actually teaching on different levels, attempting to meet people where they were in their spiritual development. John's Gospel stays at stage four or stage five thinking where as Mathew's flips back and forth between stage five and stage two. It's no wonder that true believers and progressives can find individual passages which confirm their world views. Sometimes these passages follow each other. Here's an example in Mathew:

Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. (18:18)

We are all familiar with the above because it is used to underline the teaching authority of the Institutional church ad nausea. But, Jesus follows this statement directly with these statements:

19 Again, (amen,) I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father.
20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them."

How are we to take these following statements, as some sort of Universal Law of Religious Chaos? That when ever two of us get together and pray for something on which we agree, that Jesus and His Father will grant their blessing?

Well, their does seem to be an implied caveat, the two or the many, have to be gathered in Jesus's name and Jesus certainly didn't condone every thing. He gave us two great commandments which transcended the individual stipulations of Mosaic law. Love the Lord our God with our whole heart, soul and mind, and Love our neighbor as ourselves. In other words, what we pray for in His name, is to be prayed for in love, for love, and with love.

The truth is we can spend our entire lives trying to come to grips with these two laws, so it's no wonder as time went on we concocted reams of individual rules to make things less open ended and very much more black and white. Historically we took Jesus's stage five thinking and encoded it into man's stage two rules.

Jesus was well aware of this kind of thinking. Just previous to the above quoted verses Jesus is asked by a disciple, "who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?" This is a perfect example of stage two spiritual thinking. It's hierarchical. Jesus pulls a child to Him and says these words:

3"Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.
4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
5 And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.
6 "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.

7Woe to the world because of things that cause sin! Such things must come, but woe to the one through whom they come!

It seems to me that we, the entirety of the People of God, Jesus's Church on Earth, should take heed of the very next statements of Jesus:

8 If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter into life maimed or crippled than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into eternal fire.
9 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into fiery Gehenna.

10"See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.

Our self proclaimed eyes and hands and feet, our institutional structure and it's clergy, have truly sinned. It is better, Jesus says, to be maimed, crippled and half blind, than to lead the flock, especially it's children, into sin.

Perhaps it would be better for Catholicism if our hierarchy accepted they would be better off if their notion of clerical privilege was reduced--if they cut off a hand and a leg and poked out an eye, metaphorically speaking, rather than ever again put a millstone around their necks by thinking their concept of Church and their place in it was more important than the little ones.

Until that happens, and it maybe never, I will remember that two or more of us gathered in His name will be blessed, and our prayers answered.


  1. Quote from the article: * that this son, Jesus, who is also the deity, established a ‘‘one true church’’, which is the Roman Catholic Church, for the purpose of enabling the salvation of human kind (ie the avoidance of hell in the afterlife); if one believes in all this, then, unavoidably, one believes that the protection of the Church takes precedence over every other consideration and value, including the sexual abuse of children."

    This type of rationalizing & justification and prioritization indicates to me that the writer could justify just about anything that was devoid of compassion or grace from God to supposedly "save" others. This is a type of reasoning that is militaristic and secular relativism, and says, 'oh well, there's collateral damage when we have to fight an enemy by defending ourselves, saving ourselves.' Fighting sin with sin, or fire with fire, or an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth mentality or thinking is exactly what Jesus taught against and came to deliver us from this evilness and type of sin.

    It behooves me, all this rationalization and jibber-jabber rattling in defense of heinous crimes against children committed & enabled by those who call themselves shepherds of the Lord. Jesus speaks to these types as you point out Colleen. I pray that they "get" the message very soon, for the wages of sin is death.

    Also, the avoidance of hell and placing that avoidance of hell into the afterlife, reduces faith and restricts the growth of one's spirituality in the here and now relationship with God, the Blessed Trinity. One needs to die to sin, but the RCC hierarchy is not doing this, but is enabling it further by staying stuck in rationalizations for sin.

    The ten commandments, for example, were meant for our good. But the religious turned it into a way to condemn others, label people, placing the laws of men over the laws of God's good intent. This is misuse and destruction of God's intentions which were meant to aide us and for life to flourish in the goodness of God's grace in the here and now and in the afterlife.

    I can't help but see disaster coming on many fronts because God is not truly sought after in Truth, but is ignored in favor of rationalizations to sin and worldly gain.

    The RCC is like the huge corporate and secular inorganic farms that operate crowded, abusive, filthy, unhealthy conditions for the animals and flocks, feeding them corn (dogma) that they cannot digest to fatten them up & increase profits (fill the pews), are infused with antibiotics (rationalizations for sin) that create drug resistant mutated forms of human disease (mental and spiritual abusive stagnation and death).

    It is a form of farming or shepherding which is deadly and contrary to God's designs for its living creatures. If we eat the food that the current shepherds in the hierarchy are feeding their flock, we will eat also the germs of sin and catch the infections that mutate to stronger and deadlier forms of sin.

    Always inspired by your blog Colleen. I was also inspired by the Creative Advance blog.

  2. Colleen, There are now three of us who are noted present in this gathering praying that Jesus will find a way to put responsibility for criminal action where it belongs in the hands of the last and current successor of Peter. But it goes further back and the authoritarian mind set that kept getting stronger and stronger in our church is really what is responsible for this awful leadership. Vatican I was part of it as the Church had lost authoritarian control of so much its political realm that it wanted to tie the spiritual realm down to ONLY the Bishop of Rome. According to Hans Kung, this statement of infallibility did not pass on the first vote . It was only after the conclave was first concluded and many went home and it was reconvened that this terrible proclamation was established. It was enforced by denying old age benefits to those who would not go along. The Arch Bishop of St. Louis was so pained that he never again took the pulpit! Many more secure clergy in Europe left and founded the Old Catholic Church.

    Vatican II on the other hand was called by a wise and conservative old man, John XXIII who knew that things could not go on unchanged. A lot was changed --then there was the sudden unexplained death of the saintly man John Paul I. After that with JP II, the insiders in the Church allowed such sects as Opus Dei and the Legionaries of Christ more and more power. In fact it may have been Opus Dei itself that was responsible for the election of JPII. We soon got an Opus Dei litmus test for episcopal appointments which cleared the way for Benedict's Papacy a position that he de-facto ran for 12 or more years behind and ill and aged JP II. Instead of decent and moral sexual theology, we got censorship of all the great theologians of the second half of the twentieth century all by Cardinal RATZ. We got an ever increasing authoritarian outlook when anything new was proposed.

    In science it has been no different. If the Episcopacy had the gumption to this time look down the Galilean telescope of observation, they would see that way over half of the human blastocysts fail to implant in a normal situation. The Episcopacy is without any facts when they say that the BC pill is and abortant. They are without any facts when they claim that a person is ensouled with conception. If that were true our great God would be allowing a 60 to 80 % natural abortion rate. This episcopacy is harming humanity worse now than it did in the time of Galileo as they are preaching ineffectually that to use stem cells is using human beings for experimentation. They are preaching that families are sinning when they use good and reliable methods of BC, they allow a “natural mehtod” that is in fact far from natural. This group of Bishops is not coming to the rescue of the suffering but living and breathing children that require health care, clothing, a home and education, they are turning their backs. Yes, the Karma seems very bad for them! I think we as the People of God should be praying not for vengeance but for change.

    It begins with a change in structure. I think, Colleen, you once again hit the nail on the head when you mentioned that perhaps we need a structure more like the evangelicals, few or no Bishops to support such a bulky overhead and any person of authority needs to be both term limited, as they are in most Religious orders, and elected from below by the People. So let us Pray! dennis

    PS as the great Mr. Spock also was found of saying, “Live well and prosper!” To do this we need to take better care of the weakest amongst us.

  3. Colleen, I've never commented here. What cogent and truth-telling thoughts! I've also passed you post on to many friends and colleagues in SNAP.

    As the father of a young man sexually abused by clergy, this issue will always be painfully personal. That this same wonderful, gifted young seminary graduate committed suicide as the direct result of abuse by a priest will wound his mother and me, and all who loved him for the rest of our lives. (My avatar shows his grave marker.)

    God only knows how many other boys and girls, men and women have felt left with no option other than ending their own lives, as a result of the selfish abuse of clerical power. - Not to mention the "walking wounded", victims still alive, but shamed and tormented by the memories of their abuse.

    SNAP and others call all this: Soul Murder.

    Thank you for shining a light into the "darkest corners", which most lay Christians - Catholic or otherwise - clearly go out of their way to avoid ... religiously.

    ... And thank you especially for the reminder that their angels look continually upon the face of God.


  4. My heart goes out to you John, and to the families who share your pain. I am not sure who make me angrier, the bishops who act as if throwing money-our money-at the problem should solve it or the laity who close their eyes and hearts to what is going on.

  5. John, thanks for your comment and I too share the pain with you in a very personal way. May very best friend in the world was a priest who was sodomized his first week in the seminary which continued through out the first year and then he was sodomized by another priest the first week in his first rectory.

    He spent his entire priestly life attempting to come to grips with all of this and a large part of that time he was suicidal. He described it to me as having hole in his soul, a part of his core self he could never heal and never fill. He was also one of the most gifted healers I have ever had the privlege to know.

    After he died he made a very concerted effort to get a message to me, one that in many respects is the reason I write about Catholic spirituality. He said death was so much more than life and "that the magic was real". This is a reference to a long standing battle he and I had about the truth of the Eucharist. I kept insisting it was something real was going on and he kept insisting it couldn't be because the Church had it all screwed up.

    The Church still has it all screwed up, but the magic is real. He gave me a kind of mission with that statement and Enlightened Catholicism is part of that mission.

  6. One last comment. I use SNAP and Bishop accountability info all the time. You are doing good and important work and are truly the voices in the wilderness calling all of us to accountability and I know full well that we are all complicit in many ways.

  7. Thank you both for your encouraging words. I truly feel for you, Colleen.

    If I may, here is the story of our son, Eric:

    and especially our guest blog post at:

    From our experience, the overwhelming majority of clergy abuse victims and their families leave the active practice of their faith; and their Church(es). It also seems that our Churches are quite happy (and relieved) to be rid of us. Regrettable collateral damage, I believe is the term.

    The loss of one's faith community is often an unexpected *additional loss* on top of the original abuse.

    For obvious reasons, I confess that I am intrigued by your account of your contact with your dear priest friend. Feel free to contact me offline at the email linked in my blogger profile, if you like.

    in X-C,
    john iliff

  8. I think my last comment was unduly negative.

    I should say that maybe not most, but many survivors, and their friends, significant others and families are able after a time to re-connect with a faith community. Sometimes it is one of the 12-Step communities, and/or hopefully one of the historic apostolic churches.
    By an odd series of coincidences, we were able to connect with a local Anglo-Catholic [Episcopal] parish, which helps facilitate much on-going healing in our lives.

    Thank you for allowing me to tell some of our story.
    You are doing a wonderful work with this blog. Back to 'lurking".

    john (and monica)

    'Never for the sake of peace and quiet deny your own experience or convictions.' -- Dag Hammerskjöld

  9. ".....if one believes in all this, then, unavoidably, one believes that the protection of the Church takes precedence over every other consideration and value, including the sexual abuse of children."

    ## That does not follow - on the contrary, believing all that *should lead* to protecting children. The writer's moral reasoning comes from Macchiavelli, not from the Gospel or from the moral teaching of the Church; which has made it abundantly clear that evil is *not* to be done that good may come. To protect the Church by doing evil is to harm it.

    "He who seeks to save his life, will lose it" - how does that not apply to Churches ? Sorry, but any protection of the Church that is not based on the Gospel, is worthless. It cannot be helped by such means. How can it be helped by adopting such monstrously unChristian morals. It is a great disservice to the Church to imply that it adopts such horrible moral principles.

    BTW, the Church doesn't need protecting.