Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Pope Benedict On The New Evangelization--And Some Thoughts Of My Own

The Vatican has certainly got the poverty witnessing thing down.

Yesterday, as in Monday, Pope Benedict spoke to the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization.  He had a few interesting takes on some modern issues.  Modern man may be a number of things, but Christian isn't one of them.  The following is from Zenit.org.

Modern Man Is Distracted, Says Holy Father
Says Proclamation of Jesus Needs More Effective Method

VATICAN CITY, MAY 30, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is expressing satisfaction that his reflection on the crisis in Christian life has taken concrete form in the new Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization.

But the council, the Pope said today as he addressed its members at the conclusion of their first plenary assembly, has its work cut out for them.

Modern man is "often distracted and insensitive," he observed. "Because of this, the New Evangelization will have to be responsible for finding the methods to make the proclamation of salvation more effective."
The Holy Father's address was one of encouragement as he recalled his June 2010 announcement that set in motion the Curia's newest organization. (Wow, it's only taken a whole year to get this idea off the ground.)

Though secularization has left "heavy traces even in countries with a Christian tradition," he said, the Gospel "is the ever new proclamation of the salvation wrought by Christ to render humanity a participant in the mystery of God and in his life of love and to open it to a future of sure and strong hope."

Proclaiming Christ, the only Savior of the world, might seem more complex today than in the past, the Pontiff acknowledged, "but our task remains the same as at the dawn of our history. The mission has not changed, just as the enthusiasm and the courage that moved the Apostles and the first disciples must not change.
"The Holy Spirit who pushed them to open the doors of the Cenacle, making them into evangelizers, is the same Spirit that moves the Church today in a renewed proclamation of hope to the men of our time." (Hard to imagine those first Apostles were able to accomplish all that with out the supervision of the Vatican curia.)

The "new" in a new evangelization, Benedict XVI proposed, is "intensifying missionary action to correspond fully with the Lord's mandate."

"In the course of the centuries the Church has never ceased to proclaim the salvific mystery of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, but that same proclamation today needs a renewed vigor to convince contemporary man, often distracted and insensitive," he said. (I thought Jesus said the whole thing was about love.)

The Bishop of Rome said that even those who still maintain a link to their Christian roots need to understand that the faith is not a uniform to put on and take off at will, but rather "something alive and all-encompassing, able to take up all that is good in modernity." (Then why was the Vatican so worried about Bishop Morris wearing a suit and tie, and so indifferent to his pastoral ability?)

He urged the pontifical council members to devise a plan that can help the universal Church and particular Churches, one that is mindful of the lack of formation in younger generations.

And the key to success, the Holy Father reflected, citing Pope Paul VI, is holiness: "It is therefore primarily by her conduct and by her life that the Church will evangelize the world, in other words, by her living witness of fidelity to the Lord Jesus -- the witness of poverty and detachment, of freedom in the face of the powers of this world, in short, the witness of sanctity." (Uhhmmm, poverty and detachment?)


I sure hope Pope Benedict doesn't make this whole thing an exercise in dumping old wine into new wine skins.  He can't seriously think that anyone observing the actions of the Vatican curia would believe the line about poverty and detachment, or that there is freedom in the face of Vatican centrality, or that we're witnessing any form of real sanctity.  If he does, he should consider retirement.  The first thing the Church needs, if Benedict is serious about re evangelizing the west, is to live the countersign he wants the rest of us to be.  He should demonstrate a little poverty and in his case, less detachment.  He should demonstrate freedom in the face of the  powers of the world by refraining from being one of the powers of the world.  He's number five last I saw.  He could also stop confusing piety with sanctity.  Just because one beats oneself bloody or wears a cilice, or prostrates oneself in front of the Eucharist, that doesn't mean one has any sanctity.  Benedict's ideas about evangelization would go much further if he himself was the chief witness.

His predecessors, as in Peter, were highly effective at evangelizing because they actually lived what they taught.  They did as Jesus did.  It's pretty easy to get people to think about the importance of the Resurrection if you actually heal people, raise a few from the dead, or cast out a few demons--and then convince a whole bunch of other people they too can do the same.  I don't happen to think writing books has the same immediate effect.  Actually, I personally know it doesn't.  The operative word in the above sentences is THEY did it. 

The power of Christian witness is in community, and that community must be two or more.  Jesus sent his disciples out in pairs.  He said when 'two or more are gathered'. He hand picked twelve men and an unknown number of women to follow Him around.  He was never a solo act until the end--when He was seemingly powerless.  Think of the Garden of Gethsemane when He was at his most powerless and lowest point.  Where were His disciples? They were all sound asleep.  Just in case someone thinks Jesus was alone in the dessert, or at His resurrection.  Think again.  He was not alone.  There were just no humans around.

Christianity is not a solo act about saving ones soul.  It is all about communal witness. Unless Catholicism returns to that original teaching and witness of Jesus,  the new evangelization is not going anywhere.  Christianity was never about saving our own individual soul.  It was about building a collective consciousness and changing the worldOn earth as it is in heaven.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Chaput News Agency Runs Cardinal Pell's Thoughts On Bishop Morris--It's All Morris's Fault

Cardinal Pell's vibrant Catholic youth marching off to school.

I am shocked, shocked I say, that CNA (Chaput News Agency) would run an article with Cardinal Pell wholy supporting the Vatican in sacking Toowoomba's Bishop Morris.  Nothing like birds of feather flocking together--and covering each other when their feces hit the oscillator.

Cardinal Pell says Bishop Morris sacking 'a tragedy' but also 'a useful clarification'

Sydney, Australia, May 28, 2011 / 04:58 pm (CNA/EWTN News).-
It’s been nearly a month since Bishop Bill Morris of Toowoomba in Australia was dismissed from office by Pope Benedict XVI. Now the country’s most senior Catholic, Cardinal George Pell of Sydney, has given his first in-depth interview on the controversial sacking to CNA. (Of course it would be CNA, since Archbishop Chaput is being thoroughly hammered over his secret participation in the sandbagging of Bishop Morris.)

“Well, it was a tragedy. It should never have come to this,” Cardinal Pell told CNA while on a visit to Rome.

“Rome was very patient. You could say the dialogue had continued on for 13 years and unfortunately Bishop Morris felt unable to give satisfactory clarifications.”  (cough, cough)
Bishop Morris’s dismissal followed comments he made in a 2006 pastoral letter. In it he called for the ordination of women and married men, and suggested that protestant ministers could offer Mass to compensate for the lack of priests in his diocese. This in turn led the Vatican to order an investigation. (Morris called for no such thing.  He called for discussion.  But what's truth to CNA/EWTN and I think I remember more than one time when Chaput himself was a little loose with the truth.)

“Catholics stand with the Pope as the successor of Peter and his role is to strengthen his brothers and to defend the apostolic tradition, and it’s now Catholic teaching that women cannot be ordained priests. That’s not an optional belief; it’s now part of the Catholic package,” said Cardinal Pell. (Well now we get some truth, the Pope's role has nothing to do with insuring Catholics actually get the services and sacraments the Church exists to offer.)

Critics of the bishop who’ve spoken in recent weeks to CNA suggest that the problems in Toowoomba went far beyond the bishop’s public disagreement with Catholic doctrine on the priesthood.

They’ve claimed Bishop Morris - who preferred a shirt and tie to a priestly collar and bishops’ attire - did much to undermine Catholic identity and teachings during his 18 years in office.  (What is it with the uniform thing? A bishop is now his clothes?  Actually that might be true in Pell's world.)
Cardinal Pell was both balanced and charitable in his assessment of Bishop Morris’s legacy. (Cough, cough.)

“He’s a very good man. He had a lot of pastoral strengths. He’s got a lot of good points. He’s done of lot of good work. He’s got quite a strong following in the diocese.” (Except for the heresy and destruction of Catholic identity thing.)

“But the diocese was divided quite badly and the bishop hasn’t demonstrated that he’s a team player. I mean even at the end he didn’t wait for the official Vatican announcement.” (This is true only if one member of the Temple Police equals 10,000 other Catholics.)
“He sent around messages to every parish, to all his priests, the Australian bishops before the official announcement and since then he’s made a number of public announcements which haven’t been helpful.”

As for critics of the Pope’s decision to sack Bishop Morris?

“There’s been a predictable chorus from a minority but such is life.” (In his wildest dreams.) 
The job of rebuilding things in Toowoomba now falls to Bishop Brian Finnegan of Brisbane who has now been appointed apostolic administrator until a new bishop can be found. Cardinal Pell said it’s time “to look to the future.”
“You know, life moves on, but also I think it will be a useful clarification for people that Catholic doctrine is there to be followed and bishops take promises to defend the integrity of Catholic teaching.” (They certainly don't take any vows to defend Catholic children or provide Catholic sacraments.  That's the certain message I've gotten in the last month.)

Cardinal Pell believes that it’s this orthodox approach that is reaping apostolic benefits in many parts of Australia including Sydney. He points to an increased number of priestly and religious vocations, vibrant university chaplaincies and the legacy of World Youth Day in 2008. (I notice he doesn't mention anything about benefits like increased Mass attendance or happy and content laity.)

“Young people don’t see the Catholic Church as being inevitably in decline at least in most parts of Australia.” (That's most likely true because the vast majority of them don't actually give a damn.)
“We’re doing what Christ wants, and I think that if you do that you’ve always got to be optimistic”
“There’s life and energy and promise.” (cough, cough)


It has been a long long time since I have ever read anything this self serving.  Chaput and Pell are truly in world of their own.  It's a world where they can drag out their own publications in which they more or less interview themselves, claim it's truth because they said so, and then fly off to their Vatican nest where they can indulge in Vatican plumage.  I think there's a part of this Church that has truly gone off the rails.  The inmates really are running the asylum.  No wonder Benny is talking to astronauts.  At least the astronauts are are in fact out of this world.  Maybe that 's a start.

The line that really got me was the one in which Pell castigates Bishop Morris for not being a team player and sticking with the Vatican game plan.  EXCUSE ME, Morris had already been kicked off the team.  Why should he continue playing on the Vatican team, by the Vatican game plan?  Only in a world of their own.

I really am beginning to believe the Holy Spirit is indeed inspiring the Pell's and Chaput's of the Catholic world to concretely show us how little they are attached to our actual world. We are being presented with a choice of cosmic proportions.  We can choose to support this nonsensical world of Pell and Chaput or we can choose to follow the teachings of Jesus. 

In all honesty I can't see a photo of St Peter's anymore without thinking of it as the Catholic Hogwarts and the Pell's and the Burke's as faculty members of school of religious magic.  Like Richard Sipe has observed about the seminary system, it's the stuff of fourteen year olds.  I'd rather be a muggle than have to swallow the 'teaching' coming from our clerical wizards.

Pope Benedict Ministers To Shuttle Astronauts

Here's a story about an interaction of Pope Benedict's that is forward --as in progressive-- in it's look. Since we haven't gotten too many of these kinds of messages lately, I thought I'd print the article in full. I hope this means it is now OK for Catholics to admit heaven is not 'up there' or 'out there'. For some folks, this would be a major re orientation in their thoughts about God and the supernatural.

Pope Benedict XVI Makes 1st Heavenly Call to Astronauts in Space

Robert Z. Pearlman, SPACE.com Contributor, Space.com Sat May 21, 6:30 pm ETHOUSTON — In a first for The Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI called to the heavens on Saturday, but instead of reaching God, he spoke to two Italian astronauts and their 10 colleagues working on board the International Space Station (ISS).
"Dear astronauts, I am very happy to have this extraordinary opportunity to converse with you during your mission and especially grateful to be able to speak to so many of you as both crews are present on the space station at this time," said the Pope, reading in English from prepared remarks. [Video: Science & Faith Merge in Pope's Space Station Talk]
The video call, which began at 7:11 a.m. EDT (1111 GMT), originated from the Foconi Room of the Vatican Library in Rome, Italy. It was organized by the European Space Agency (ESA), whose astronauts Paolo Nespoli and Roberto Vittori are currently working in space.
The conversation marked the first time that the Pope has spoken with astronauts in orbit.
"This conversation gives me the chance to express my own admiration and appreciation to you and all those collaborating making your mission possible and offer my heartfelt encouragement to bring it to a safe and successful conclusion," the Pope said. [Photo: Pope Benedict XVI speaks with astronauts]
Joining the two Italians for the space-to-ground conversation were the U.S. and Russian crew members of space shuttle Endeavour’s STS-134 mission and the space station’s Expedition 27.
ESA astronaut Thomas Reiter, who like Pope Benedict XVI is German, joined His Holiness in The Vatican together with the president of the Italian Space Agency Enrico Saggese and General Giuseppe Bernardis with the Italian Air Force.

"An adventure of the human spirit"
After a brief introduction, the Pope asked the astronauts and cosmonauts questions concerning their unique vantage point in space and how it affected their view on a variety of subjects ranging from the violence experienced between nations to protecting the Earth's environment to their personal connection to God.
"Space exploration is a fascinating scientific adventure. I know you have been studying your equipment to further scientific research and to study radiation coming from outer space. But I think it is also an adventure of the human spirit. A powerful stimulus to reflect on the origins and on the destiny of the universe and humanity," the Pope said.
"In the midst of your intense work and research, do you ever stop and reflect like this, perhaps even pray to the creator? Or will it be easier for you to think about these things once you have returned to Earth?" he asked.
"When we have a moment to look down [at Earth], the beauty is the three-dimensional effect and the beauty of the planet is capturing our heart ... capturing my heart," replied Vittori. "And I do pray. I do pray for me, for our families, for our future."
The Pope, speaking in Italian, also addressed Nespoli about the recent death of his mother, mentioning that he had prayed for her.
"Holy father, I felt your prayers and everyone's prayers arriving up here, where outside the world we orbit and we have a vantage point to look at the Earth and we feel everything around us," Nespoli replied. "I felt very far but also very close and the thought of feeling all of you near me at this time has been a great relief."

"Tell me of your experiences"
Turning to the subject of practical concerns, the Pope asked the crew members about the absurdity of violence seen on Earth, specifically citing the assassination attempt earlier this year on the wife of Endeavour’s commander, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
"I know that Mark Kelly's wife was a victim of an attack and I hope her health continues to improve,” he said. "When you are contemplating the Earth from up there, do you ever wonder about the way nations and people live together down here and about how science can contribute to the cause of peace?"
"Thank you the kind words, your holiness, and thank you for mentioning my wife Gabby," Kelly replied. "It's a very good question. We fly over most of the world and you don't see borders. But at the same time, we realize that people fight with each other and there's a lot of violence in this world and it is really an unfortunate thing."
"On Earth, often people fight for energy. In space, we use solar power and we have fuel cells on the space shuttle, but on the space station, it's the science and technology that we put in to the space station to develop a solar power capability [that] gives us pretty much unlimited amount of energy. And if those technologies could be adapted more on Earth, we could possibly reduce some of that violence," Kelly said.
The Pope also asked the astronauts if they saw "signs of phenomena" that we need to be more attentive to protecting the Earth’s environment.
"On the one hand, we can see how indescribably beautiful the planet that we have been is, but on the other hand, we can really, clearly see how fragile it is," replied Ron Garan, a NASA astronaut serving as a flight engineer on the space station. [Amazing space photos by astronaut Ron Garan]
"The atmosphere for instance," he continued. "The atmosphere when viewed from space is paper thin, and to think that this paper thin layer is all that separates every living thing from the vacuum of space and all that protects us is really a sobering thought."
Asked by the Pope what the most important message the astronauts could convey on their return, Endeavour mission specialist Mike Fincke stressed exploration and cooperation.
"We can look down and see our beautiful planet that God has made and it is the most beautiful planet in the whole solar system. However, if we look up, we can see the rest of the universe. And the rest of the universe is out there for us to go and explore. The International Space Station is just one symbol, one example of what human beings can do when we work together constructively," Fincke said.
"So our message I think, one of our many messages, but I think one of our most important messages is to let the children of the planet, the young people know, that there is a whole universe for us to go explore. And when we do it together, there is nothing we cannot accomplish," he said.

"Spearheading humanity's exploration"
Vittori, who launched with Endeavour on its 16-day final mission, carried to space a silver medal donated by the Pope. [Photos of Space Endeavour's Final Launch]
"We are struck by the mystery of His Greatness," said the Pope. "That is why the medal I gave Robert as a sign of my own participation in your mission represents the creation of man as painted by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel."
Vittori displayed the medal during the video conversation, letting it float in front of him.
"I took with me the coin and I allow this coin to float in front of me to demonstrate microgravity. I shall thank you very much for this opportunity and I would like to allow this coin to float to my friend and colleague Paolo," Vittori said. He will make return on Earth on the Soyuz. I brought it with me to space and he will take down on Earth to then give back to you."
The Pope thanked the crew members for this "wonderful opportunity" to talk with them.
"Humanity is experiencing a period of extremely rapid progress in the fields of scientific knowledge and technical applications," he said. "In a sense, you are our representatives spearheading humanity's exploration of new spaces and possibilities for our future, going beyond the limitations of our everyday existence."
"You have helped me and many other people to reflect together on important issues which regard the future of humanity. I wish you the very best for your work and for the success of your great mission in the service of science, international collaboration, authentic progress and for peace in the world. I will continue to follow you in my thoughts and prayers and in bidding I impart my historic blessing."

Saturday, May 28, 2011

According To John Allen, Pope Benedict Is Engaging In A Quiet Revolution

 If Pope Benedict could get out side himself and stand back away, he might be able to see there are a few too many holes in the long black wall for him to fix.

I had to kind of laugh at the latest posting from John Allen. While the National Catholic Reporter has been running multiple stories on the Ratigan/Finn fiasco in Kansas City, MO, John apparently feels it necessary to even things up by reporting on Pope Benedict's crackdown on the Cistercian Abbey at the Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem. OK, I admit Jerusalem is more important on a global scale than Kansas City, but may be not for American Catholics. Allen's article dealt with more than just this one issue, but I have chosen to concentrate only on his assertion that Benedict is quietly cleaning up "All Things Catholic". Here's the pertinent part of Allen's article.

Benedict's 'Quiet Revolution'

A funny thing has happened as the story of a recent Vatican crackdown on a legendary monastery in Rome has made its way into the English-language press. I mean that literally -- the story has been turned into a joke, thereby obscuring its real significance.

For those with eyes to see, the suppression of the Cistercian abbey at the Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem, one of the traditional seven major pilgrimage sites in Rome, rates far more than placement in a "news of the weird" column. Instead, it's the latest chapter in what might be called a "Quiet Revolution" under Pope Benedict XVI, referring to a reform in clerical culture beginning in Rome and radiating beyond. (I don't think John remembers what he wrote last week.  That article included referring to a just released book in Italy about how the Vatican clerical culture is something of cess pool of sex and various other sins.)

The essence of it is this: it's the end of the "by their fruits, you shall know them" logic that once translated into a free pass, or at least a strong benefit of the doubt, for superstar clerics and high-profile groups charged with misconduct. Once upon a time, the working assumption in officialdom often was that if someone is doing great good for the church, then allegations of sexual or financial impropriety against them were likely bogus, and taking them too seriously risked encouraging the enemies of the faith.

Without great fanfare, Benedict XVI has made it clear that today a new rule applies. No matter how accomplished a person or institution may be, if they're also involved in what the pontiff once memorably called the "filth" in the church, they're not beyond reach. (Then what's Cardinal Sodano still doing around, or Bernard Law, or the virtually intact corrupt leadership of the Legion?)

That's the deep significance of the Vatican's recent action vis-à-vis the Cistercians at the Basilica of Holy Cross in Jerusalem, though you certainly wouldn't get the point from most English-language coverage. A BBC headline on Thursday was typical: "Pope shuts down lap-dancing monastery," it said, playing off the fact that an ex-nightclub performer turned Catholic nun, Anna Nobili, once performed something called "the holy dance" in front of an audience at the basilica that included Vatican dignitaries.

In reality, however, the basilica was hardly a running joke.
First of all, the Cistercians have been at the basilica for almost five centuries, since 1561, and at one stage the Abbot of Holy Cross was also the Abbot General of the entire order. Given Benedict XVI's keen sense of tradition, as well as his reverence for the monastic life, it would take more than a dancing nun to trigger the suppression of the entire abbey. (Certainly it would need at least three complaints from the Temple Police.)

Further, until quite recently the basilica was actually seen as a major success story. The consensus was that a renaissance was unfolding under Cistercian Abbot Simone Maria Fioraso, an ecclesiastical mover and shaker if ever there was one. Vocations were growing, and the basilica had become a crossroads for Italian nobility, political VIPs and pop culture icons.

In the autumn of 2008, Fioraso scored his greatest PR coup. He organized a six-day reading of the entire text of the Bible, called "The Bible Day and Night," carried live on Italian state TV. The marathon was kicked off by Benedict XVI, and concluded by the Vatican's Secretary of State, Italian Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone. A slew of other Vatican potentates took part, along with celebrities such as actor Roberto Benigni and the former president of Italy, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi. (American Cardinals William Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Daniel DiNardo of Houston also participated. DiNardo was in town for a Synod on the Bible, which was the occasion for the Bible-reading festival.)
It's tough to overestimate what a media sensation the event constituted in Italy. Headlines proclaimed, "Holy Cross in Jerusalem becomes a superstar." (In the post Vatican II Church there is only room for one superstar and that would be the Pope.)

Yet around the same time, rumors began to swirl that something wasn't quite right. Some critics charged that Fioraso seemed more interested in cozying up to social elites than in the traditional disciplines of the monastic life, while others raised questions about money management, especially given that the monks ran a successful boutique and hotel, apparently without clear accounting of the revenue flows. More darkly, there were rumors of "inappropriate relationships" carried on by some of the monks, understood to be code for some sort of sexual misconduct. (Oh yea, the sex thing is much worse than the money thing. I can't help but wonder if the money thing has something to do with where the Cistercians banked or didn't bank--as the case may be.)

All that might once have been dismissed as envy or defamation, especially given Fioraso's reputation as a rising star, but not this time. The Vatican's Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life launched an Apostolic Visitation, which ended in the dramatic decision to suppress the abbey entirely and to send its roughly 30 monks packing. The decree was signed by Brazilian Archbishop João Braz de Aviz, Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, and by American Archbishop Joseph Tobin, his secretary. It was approved by Benedict XVI.

As is its practice, the Vatican hasn't provided a public explanation; in typically euphemistic argot, officials say only there were "numerous allegations of conduct incompatible with the vowed life." The gist is that there were real problems at the abbey, in terms of both financial accountability and personal morality.
As one official put it, "It was not a good scene."

The suppression is part of a pattern under Benedict XVI, which began with crackdowns against high-profile clerics such as Gino Burresi, founder of the Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the Legionaries of Christ. More recently, in September 2008 Benedict laicized a well-known priest in Florence, Lelio Cantini, whose Queen of Peace parish was regarded as among the more dynamic in the country. Earlier this year, Benedict permanently removed Fernando Karadima from ministry, a legendary priest in Chile known as a spiritual guide to a large swath of the clergy and episcopacy.

All those cases, and others like them one could mention, pivoted on charges of sexual misconduct and abuse.
Also part of the picture are Benedict's policy moves to expedite procedures for weeding abusers out of the priesthood, including a recent set of revisions to canon law, as well as his decision earlier this year to create a new financial watchdog authority with the power to ride herd over once-untouchable entities such as the Vatican Bank or Propaganda Fide. The overall impression is that this is a pope weary of scandal, doing what he can to clean house.  (Sticking fingers in a few holes in the dyke is not going to stop the dyke from collapsing. This kind of selective cleansing is too little too late for way too many people.)

Critics, of course, will object that this quiet revolution remains incomplete until it reaches into the episcopacy -- that is, until the bishops who presided over the sexual abuse crisis, or various financial scandals, or other forms of "filth" in the church, are themselves brought to account.
Whatever one makes of that objection, the fact remains that even an incomplete revolution is still a revolution. And that's no joke.  (An incomplete revolution is by definition not a revolution--it's a failure. And that too is no joke.)


Unfortunately for Allens' attempt to paint a rosy picture of Pope Benedict, one can not carry out a meaningful revolution against 'filth' from the source of the filth and corruption.  Nor can one do so when one has made a career out of being part of and enabling the 'filth' while importing more of the filth into the Vatican.  This is just another attempt at putting lipstick on a pig--I just couldn't resist quoting another well known person whose stated mission is cleaning up another cess pool of iniquity.  I don't much believe her either.

But I have other issues as well.  I would like to ask Pope Benedict why he keeps asking us to pray for abusive priests etc when the spiritual solution has been a total failure.  Why does he keep asking us to pray for vocations when that prayer has patently not been very successful.  Why does he keeping asking to go back to a well that has run dry.  I want to know when he is going to pull his fingers out of these holes and stand back and look at the dyke, because the problem is the dyke, not the holes.  That dyke is the Roman Catholic concept of priesthood that Benedict has been working over time to re convince us actually works.  I admit it's worked for him.  He's now the most powerful Catholic cleric on the planet, but I question just how well that clerical power translates into meaningful spiritual fruits.  It doesn't seem to translate any better than high church Latin translates into every day English.  Clerical power leading to spiritual efficacy is most often times a no go.  Which is why it too often leads to clerical abuse under the guise of spirituality.

Allen mentions Fr. Ferdanando Karadima.  I was unfamiliar with this man and this particular case.  In reading up on him it was like reading up on Chiles' own national version of Maciel.  I mean this goes right down to the fact accusations were essentially ignored until the man hit his 80's and was then retired to a 'life of prayer and penance'.  Karadima seems to have had a personal mission to make the Pinochet dictatorship a model of concern for the poor.  (Where have we heard something similar just recently?)  In the process of making Pinochet's regime a version of Catholic Social Justice, he was boinking his hand picked teen age acolytes. When I read the NY Times article on this affair, I was struck with the language used by Karadima's victims--it was all about power. Karadima's power over them.  They don't really mention the sexual abuse.  They all mention the power abuse.  But of course, that's what sexual abuse of any sort actually is, just another tool of abuse by those who have power over others.  That is precisely the real problem with the dyke that Benedict can't see while he has his fingers in those sporadic holes.  

The underlying problem of abuse in Roman Catholicism is all about power and since Benedict himself is the pinnacle of that abusive power structure, he can not fix the problem.  He has to believe plugging some egregious clerical holes is fixing the problem.  To do otherwise negates himself.  But you see, negating the self is the real source of spiritual fruitfulness. Not the simple kind of surface negation the pious believe in, but the real core kind of negation that comes when one understands they can't take a damn thing they've accomplished with them to their grave,  and that it doesn't matter in the end that they can't take it with them.  None of it matters.  What matters is how we've acted towards and with others.  What matters is understanding that real spiritual connection calls for the emptying of the 'ego I' from the spiritual equation.

I've written before that my Native friends have an expression they use to describe this ego less state of spiritual connection.  They say one must become like a hollow bone and let Grace flow without personally impeding it.  They also have another saying.  This one talks about not getting in the way of one's own medicine.  Medicine meaning unique spiritual gift or understanding.  In other words, one really needs to be careful about not inserting the self in front of the gift.  What Pope Benedict does not seem to get is that his notion of the clerical priesthood seems purposely designed to get in the way of it's own medicine.  I suppose that's why he's been somewhat good about plugging holes while failing to see the dyke.  His vision of priesthood puts the priesthood smack dab in front of the medicine of the priesthood.  This is precisely why none of the spiritual solutions he calls for to fix the priesthood work.  The priesthood itself is in the way of the solutions.


Friday, May 27, 2011

I Propose A Biblical Solution To The Vocations Crisis

These are rumored to be urinals at the Vatican.  OK, it's probably photo shopped, but they do say one picture is worth a thousand words.

I have some thoughts about the issues Cardinal Pell of Australia has articulated in this homily on lack of vocations. Pell gave these thoughts during an ordination ceremony for five priests for the Archdiocese of Melbourne.  Here's his pertinent thoughts:

WHEN there are no vocations of any type for decades we need to examine the priorities of the Catholic community itself, said the Archbishop of Sydney, George Cardinal Pell.

“Some Catholic communities unfortunately are not life giving,” said the cardinal in his homily as five young men were ordained to the priesthood in an “historic celebration for the Church” at St Mary’s Cathedral last Saturday.

“Some Catholic communities can be contraceptive, even while Catholic life seems on the surface to continue vigorously.

“This phenomenon of different growth rates deserves examination and discussion
, although focusing energies on the promotion of faith, on encouraging the recognition and love of
Jesus as the son of God as well as the son of Mary (‘I am in the Father and the Father is in me’), on regular prayer, Catholic orthodoxy, and an explicit and regular explanation to young people of the need of priests and Catholic leadership and service in many areas is essential; and sometimes missing or obscured.”

I got to thinking about this different growth rates thing and the contraception thing and the fact he as a single celibate male is castigating others for not having enough orthodox children to support his life style choice, and it dawned on me there is a solution.  Pope Benedict could mandate polygamy for the priesthood.  After all there is far more biblical justification for polygamy than there is celibacy.  And even if some of the sister wives were engaging in illicit contraception, this wouldn't matter as a priest could just add more wives to compensate for the 'dry' wives.  And speaking of 'sister' wives, they could literally be sisters in the convent sense.  This is already rumored to be happening in Africa, and the West has hundreds of unused convents not yet taken over by orthodox new orders of nuns that would be available for use as communal homes.  Imagine it, one priest could be personally responsible for literally creating dozens of new priests.  Laity would then only have to keep a keen eye out for the 'incest' thing which seems to be sort of endemic in these kinds of situations--at least I noticed this when living in Salt Lake City.  Those traditionalist Mormon polygamy practitioners did seem to be in jail for incest quite frequently.  I suppose the solution would be to just transfer those too attractive young female relatives to another parish.

Speaking of incest, I think Maciel was kind of on this track of polygamy rather than celibacy.  He just didn't have it fully thought through. He was pretty polygamous in his actions, but didn't have the courage of his convictions to come out and show JPII and Benny how advantageous his solution to the vocations crisis could be.  Plus he screwed the whole thing up, which put the Legion way off track in following Nuestro Padre's total example.  The Legion really could have been legion.  I guess some other orthodox cult leader will just have to make a better attempt to get it right.  Obviously this whole idea would not appeal to feminazi heretical progressive women, so we can't expect this church shaking idea to be embraced from the left---well maybe some of the men. Men like John Edwards for example.

If Benny proposed this, imagine the numbers of priests it would attract.  If secular society has a little bit of a problem with this, the sister wives could have legal contracts in place in lieu of secular marriage licenses.  Kind of like the Church already thinks about gay marriage.  What's good for gays is good for priests.  Besides, the tax issue could be solved by declaring each extended family a religious organization, which is after all, exactly what the Vatican already thinks a family should be.  

So there you have it, the perfect solution to the priest shortage.  Can't wait to hear from the Vatican about my solution.  Why I might even get a preferential job cleaning the gold urinals in the Vatican.  What more could a post menopausal Catholic woman ask for?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Hey USCCB! The Flock Doesn't Need Ayn Rand Economics

I can't begin to estimate how many of my fellow co workers need this solution to unexpected expenses--and we take care of the least of the least.


50% of Americans Couldn't Come Up with $2,000

By Caitlin Dickson May 23, 2011
Nearly half of Americans are living in a state of "financial fragility," a new paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research reveals. To determine this statistic, researchers from the George Washington School of Business, Princeton University, and Harvard Business School asked survey participants whether they would be able to come up with $2,000 for an "unexpected expense in the next month." 22.2 percent predicted they would be "probably unable" and 27.9 percent said they'd certainly be unable to foot the unplanned bill. The hypothetical cost "reflects the order of magnitude of the cost of an unanticipated major car repair, a large co-payment on a medical expense, legal expenses, or a home repair." But, it was the participants' method of coping that really determined their fragility:
Taken together with those who would pawn their possessions, sell their home, or take out a payday loan, 25.7% of respondents who were asked about coping methods (equal to 18.6% of all respondents) would come up with the funds for an emergency by resorting to what might be seen as extreme measures,” the authors write. “Along with the 27.9% of respondents who report that they could certainly not cope with an emergency, this suggests that approximately 46.5% of all respondents are living very close to the financial edge.


The first thing one has to take into consideration with these statistics is they do not reflect how many of these respondents were heads of households.  If you add in dependents, this figure is way beyond 50% of the American population.  This is the single most illustrative, if devastating, statistic I have seen yet which adequately describes the true economic situation for the average person in the United States.  There are a whole bunch of well educated folks in this number.  The very kind of folks who are routinely called 'liberal elitists'.  There are also a whole bunch of people who call those folks 'liberal elitists' who are in the same sinking boat.  It's time they all got together and realized they share the same boat.

As far as American Catholicism goes, it's time laity realized way too many of our bishops don't get any of this because they don't spend near enough time with the folks in the pew who can't come up with $2000 for  a medical co payment--much less the same amount for the latest cathedral building project.  I understand it's way more fun to play with the people who can pay for your latest Cathedral project, but a bishop's mandate is to serve the people who can't make the medical co payment.  When bishops get in bed with Ayn Rand inspired economic 'morality' they are not walking the same walk their original Apostolic models walked.  They can keep telling us they are, but we know better.  In case bishops haven't noticed, laity can read The Acts of the Apostles as well as they can. 

Between what Bishop Finn has just admitted too, on top of what Cardinal Rigali has admitted too, added to what Archbishop Dolan has written Congressman Ryan, I have completely lost any faith in the body politic of American bishops to ever act like their Apostolic predecessors.  The USCCB can no longer expect to cover all their other indiscretions with the abortion diaper.  It just ain't gonna stretch.  The stench is too strong.  I hope and pray 2012 is the last election Americans have to put up with the leadership of the Republican Catholic church and their self serving sucking up to the totally unrepresentative top 2%.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Never Ending Nightmare Never Ends--Now It's Bishop Finn In Kansas City

Bishop Finn is another in a long line of conservative bishops who practice sexual abuse strategies exactly like their supposed more liberal brethren.  Duplicity in not a matter of liturgical preferences.  It seems to be a career necessity.


Bishop admits failure in priest's child pornography case 

Bishop Robert Finn: 'I should have done differently and I'm sorry'

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- One day after newspapers across the nation featured front page articles about a U.S. bishops' sponsored study on the causes of the clergy sex abuse scandal, which blamed much of the crisis on the sexual revolution of the 1960s, another clergy abuse news story was on the front page of The Kansas City Star: A local priest had been arrested for possession of child pornography.

To many, the most disturbing revelation in the story of Fr. Shawn Ratigan, 45, a priest in the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese since 2004, was that diocesan officials knew his personal computer had been found last December to contain many photographs of young children, including at least one of a nude girl.
But they did not share the information with members of the diocese or its review board. Instead, Bishop Robert W. Finn moved the priest to a local home for religious sisters.

Even after the priest attempted suicide, the diocese kept the information surrounding his transfer secret.
The diocese went public about Ratigan's computer photographs last week after the priest was arrested by local police May 19 and charged with three counts of possessing child pornography.

Catholics throughout the diocese expressed shock and anger as the revelations spread. Even within the local chancery office the information was "devastating," according to one source.(Why in the world would any sane Catholic express shock?  Where have they been for the last ten years?)

At a May 20 session at the parish where Ratigan served as pastor for a year, Finn fielded questions from distraught parishioners. He revealed during the session that he had considered placing the priest, after learning of his troubles, at the diocesan archives so he could do work that "wouldn't put him in contact with children."

According to guidelines established by the U.S. bishops in their 2002 Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, independent review boards in each diocese are to help the bishop "in his assessment of allegations of sexual abuse of minors."

But a member of the review board in the Kansas City diocese told NCR the group had never been notified of the Ratigan matter.

"We haven't been presented the case; we haven't been asked to look at the case," said Jim Caccamo, who serves on the board and said he first learned of the allegations against Ratigan after hearing news reports of his arrest.

"There's nothing normal about this," Caccamo said, referring to the delay between when the diocese first learned of Ratigan's possession of child pornography and the priest's arrest.
"My question will be: Why did it take five months?" ..................

.............The Kansas City case, while involving only one priest, seems to reveal a pattern long associated with the clergy sex abuse scandal: Local bishops make the final decision regarding whom to notify when priests are accused of abuse or, as in the case of Ratigan, suspected of possessing child pornography.
A source inside the Kansas City diocesan chancery said people there first learned of Ratigan's arrest from the news report last Thursday. That person, who is familiar with the review board process, also said that the system has been "exposed as a sham." (It was a sham from the get go.  The Dallas Charter  provided no over site for bishops.  That was as blatant a message as the USCCB could give laity.  Bishops answer to Vatican City, not lay review boards.)

"If they're not even given the information, then there's no point in having a review board at all," the person said. "We should just go right to the authorities."  (The light dawns.)

According to a letter released from the Kansas City diocese late Friday afternoon, Finn said he first learned that a laptop computer owned by Ratigan contained "many images of female children," including one of an "unclothed child," in December. The bishop said that he described one of the images to a police officer and was told it "did not constitute child pornography."

A Kansas City police spokesman told the Star Friday that diocesan officials reached out to a ranking police officer who serves on a diocesan committee.  (Oh my what a surprise.)

The spokesman said the officer was told there was a "single image of a young naked girl on a computer, nothing sexual in nature," and was not shown the photo or told there were other images.

After Ratigan attempted suicide Dec. 17, when emergency workers found him unconscious in his closed garage with his motorcycle running, Finn said he sent him "out of state" for psychiatric care, according to the letter.

When the priest returned to the diocese, Finn said in the letter that he sent him to a community of the Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Eucharist with instructions to not attend or participate in events where children were present. Finn also said the priest "did not have his computer or his camera in his possession during this period." (And I bet the sisters knew nothing.)

Records obtained by NCR indicate Ratigan accessed his Facebook account as late as March 9, and posted several status updates that day using his cell phone.  (And I bet it had a camera.)

After the diocese became aware that Ratigan had attended several functions involving children, Finn said in the letter that the diocesan vicar general contacted the police again May 12.

Following an investigation, police officers found more pornographic materials of children -- including "up-skirt pictures that were covertly taken," as well as a nude photo of a minor female.

According to court documents, detectives determined May 13 that many of the images "were taken in and around the churches and schools Ratigan has been associated with."

Officers arrested Ratigan May 19. The priest is being held on $200,000 bond, with arraignment expected Monday.

The day after the first news accounts appeared in Kansas City, Finn visited the parish where Ratigan last served as pastor. Standing in the sanctuary alone at the lectern, Finn was grilled by outraged and disillusioned parish members.

For just under three hours Friday parishioners at St. Patrick's parish, where Ratigan had served for about a year, expressed outrage at Finn -- asking why the priest was not brought to the police when the diocese first knew of his troubles in December, and how parishioners could ever trust Finn, or even the Catholic church, again.

"I should have done differently in this regard and I'm sorry," admitted Finn at one point to the crowd of 300, which also included parents of children who attend the parish school, which Ratigan would visit frequently.
"Don't trust me. Trust our Lord Jesus Christ, trust his church."  (I don't think too many people are left who confuse Jesus Christ with Roman Catholicism.)
One after another -- mother after mother, father after father -- lined up to speak directly to Finn as he stood alone at the lectern next to the parish's altar. Many were in tears. Others were speaking at the top of their voices, almost without the words to express their anger.

One, a woman who identified herself as a member of the parish for over 10 years, recounted how she had seen Ratigan tickling young children at the school's daycare program.

"As soon as you knew what was going on, why the Hell didn't you tell me something?" she asked, her voice shaking.

"When a priest becomes our priest, he becomes a part of our family. And this family deserves to know what is going on in this church." (Not true.  A priest is first and last a part of the bishop's family.  The idea that he's a part of the parish family is a lay delusion.)

Earlier in the questioning, a man who identified himself as a teacher at the parish school asked whether there were any warning signs of Ratigan's predilection towards children, and if there were, why he was still assigned to a parish.
Finn replied, at first that "we did not have complaints before" and "we have a priest shortage in our diocese and we needed a pastor here." (This is utterly stunning as a defense for Finn's actions.)

For the rest of the article,  here's the link. 


Just in case Catholics in the heartland thought they were immune from the clerical abuse scandal, Bishop Finn has taught them differently.  Oh and just in case they believed the tripe in the John Jay report about the wild sixties and seventies, they now know clergy sexual abuse favors no particular generation or decade.  Only the technology of availability has changed, theoretically keeping things more anonymous and safe for the abuser, but making things less safe for our girls.

I  don't even know where to go with any of this.  How much more of this do we have to take before Catholics of all political and theological stripes wake up to the fact that this issue will  not go away until the laity wise up and demand that there are changes in how our hierarchy does business.  If there is a major cosmic lesson in all of this, and there is, it's that we have got to stop looking for God outside ourselves and realize external divine authority of any kind is an ego illusion.

Our connection with God is first and foremost found with in, not outside ourselves.  Faith is called faith precisely because it functions for us directly in the face of uncertainty.  Life itself is an uncertainty.  There are no guarantees.  This is where the current Vatican is flat missing the boat when they aren't sinking the barque.  Jesus said to go with in and find that connection, the Vatican is telling us to look to them.  Poorly I might add.  The Eucharist serves to build a community of faith in which we rely on each other for support, but to also connect with the entire communion of the Church, past, present, and future through one ritual act---a communal meal.  It's pretty simple really, but we've had two thousand years to complicate the entire thing and now we have a leadership class which is unaccountable to the flock or each other.  That's not my idea of a community and it's not what Jesus ever intended.  How much longer will we need to really get this lesson?


Sunday, May 22, 2011

Caritas To Get A Major Dose Of Catholic Identity Speakers Direct From The Vatican

Fr Timothy Radcliffe is no stranger to laughter--or making others laugh in good ole fashioned conversation.  Except not with Caritas Internationalis.

Since it appears I wasn't raptured away, I guess I'll just have to get back to work and writing.  I did see an early morning cloud, shaped perfectly like a snowmobile, but even I suspected Jesus would not come for me on a snow mobile. Much too proletariat and since He didn't come at all it's back to business with His Church on earth--which isn't the least bit proletarian.

One story I've been following very closely is the one concerning the Vatican's sudden need to bolster the Catholic identity of Caritas Internationalis.  I have suspected for the last two years or so that Caritas has been under a concerted attack from the Temple Police.  In that sense I am not surprised that it's previous president Leslie Anne Knight was summarily 'retired'.  Seems to be the in thing in the Vatican right now, and after all a huge part of Catholic identity is all male leadership.  (Too bad for you Leslie, but don't feel bad, you are at least an actual woman who had an actual leadership role, Bishop Bill Morris was forcibly retired in part for only talking about women in a hypothetical leadership role.)  

I now see from info in the following article, that the upcoming summit will be deluged with Vatican officials approved by the Secretary of State Cardinal Bertone.  The recent Vatican frontal assault on progressives continues on and seems to encompass everything, but the cynic in me thinks this recent concern about Caritas's Catholic identity has more to do with their financial accounts than their identity.  A collective estimated five billion dollar budget just flat dwarfs the Vatican budget.  Besides I bet one of the first identity issues the Vatican insists on is that all the money that can get funneled through the Vatican bank.

EXCLUSIVE Timothy Radcliffe dropped as speaker at Caritas summit 

Robert Mickens in Rome - The Tablet - 20 May 2011

The Vatican has dropped Fr Timothy Radcliffe OP, the internationally renowned former head of the Dominicans, from giving the keynote address at next week's Caritas Internationalis (CI) general assembly in Rome, The Tablet has learned.

Fr Radcliffe was originally scheduled to deliver the opening address on Monday morning and speak about the theology that undergirds the work of Caritas. He had already prepared a 45-minute talk. Instead, that slot has been given to Capuchin Fr Raniero Cantalamessa, the charismatic preacher of the papal household, followed by Cardinal Peter Turkson, head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. 

The former Master of the Dominicans is one of several speakers and panellists who have been removed from the week long meeting's programme in order to "accommodate" the demands from the Secretariat of State that Holy See officials be given the major speaking roles, a CI spokesman told The Tablet on Friday adding that it would now be more like a "Vatican-style retreat".

He denied that the Vatican's main intention in changing the programme was to block Fr Radcliffe from speaking. "We're not reading it that way," he said. At least six Roman Curia officials will have major speaking roles at the 22-27 May general assembly, unprecedented in the confederation's 60-year history. (I can't help but wonder what makes this year so different.)

Two Vatican canon lawyers will be discussing the re-drafting of the CI rules and statutes. The Pope's Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone SDB, will preside at the assembly's opening Mass on Sunday evening.

Fr Radcliffe, 65, was Master of the Dominican Order from 1992-2001. A popular lecturer and preacher around the world, he has authored several top-selling books since he completed his term as head of the Dominicans. He also has long been associated with the work of Caritas and is currently a member of the board of Cafod, one of two British agencies that are part of the CI confederation.

People associated with the Caritas confederation have been careful not to make too much of the Vatican's recent moves to gain greater control over the organisation, fearing that any protests would only make the situation worse.  (Just like well trained puppies.)


In the interests of giving my readers some exposure to Fr. Radcliffe I encourage all to chase this video link and prepare to be entertained, challenged, and edified.  In this lecture Radcliffe talks about the future of Christianity in the twenty first century.  He summarily rules out the idea of a Catholic ghetto.  In fact he actually brings up Tom Monaghan's little venture in Florida as the antithesis of how Christianity must present itself. So grab a cup of coffee and a donut and enjoy.  It will become pretty obvious pretty quickly why Radcliffe is not speaking to Caritas, and more importantly why he should be, in his words, having conversation with Caritas.


Saturday, May 21, 2011

John Jay Conclusions: Only In A World Of Their Own

I have been reading the John Jay report and various responses to it with a certain amount of fascination, and real anger.  It strikes me that this is a piece of paid for apologetics.  One 'slight' discrepancy which changes everything about what this report pretends to inform us about is arbitrarily reducing the age for defining acts of pedophilia to ten.  The following is the introduction to pedophilia in the current DSM IV.  The DSM is the bible of diagnostics used by all professionals working in the field of mental health.  We all use it so we are all on the same page and not In A World Of Our Own.

302.2 Pedophilia

Excerpt: "The paraphilic focus of Pedophilia involves sexual activity with a prepubescent child (generally age 13 years or younger). The individual with Pedophilia must be age 16 years or older and at least 5 years older than the child. For individuals in late adolescence with Pedophilia, no precise age difference is specified, and clinical judgment must be used; both the sexual maturity of the child and the age difference must be taken into account. Individuals with Pedophilia generally report an attraction to children of a particular age range. Some individuals prefer males, others females, and some are aroused by both males and females. Those attracted to females usually prefer 8- to 10-year-olds, whereas those attracted to males usually prefer slightly older children. Pedophilia involving female victims is reported more often than Pedophilia involving male victims. Some individuals with Pedophilia are sexually attracted only to children (Exclusive Type), whereas others are sometimes attracted to adults (Nonexclusive Type)........

I suppose when one Lives In A World Of Their Own, they can also determine the cut off age for acts of pedophilia.  In this particular clerical world, dropping the age to ten conveniently reduced the numbers of pedophile abusers to four percent of the total.  This in turn allows the John Jay researchers to definitively state:

“Priest-abusers were not `pedophile priests’,” the researchers state flatly.

Now that we have that down, we are also told, that because the vast majority of abusers self identify as straight, that clergy abuse is not a homosexual problem.  I couldn't find where they then stated all the abuse was a heterosexual problem. However they did state that clerical sexual abuse was exacerbated by the wild and whooly sexually permissive sixties and seventies.  Although I don't remember this, apparently there must have been a lot of sexually permissive drugged up naked kids running around during that period.  In any event, I'm still not quite sure how the John Jay researchers factually support this contention other than by the raw data.  Raw data can also be explained by other facts, such as the lag time between the abuse and a person getting strong enough mentally to actually report the abuse, or maybe just the fact the priesthood experienced a massive exodus during this period and that's why there are less abuse victims going forward.

The above is just my personal confusion about a few conclusions from this 1.8 million dollar study, but then perhaps it's me that lives in a World Of My Own.  In the meantime, I offer the words of Fr Tom Doyle, who is much more of an expert in this area of clerical abuse than I am.  He's interested in more than just the fuzzy self serving interpretation of the raw data.

Thomas Doyle, J.C.D., C.A.D.C.
May 20, 2011
I spent all of yesterday well into the evening reading the entire 143 pages of the report.  Today I reviewed the executive summaries and conclusions of 17 of the 27 reports on clergy sexual abuse that have been published between 1989 and 2011.  Most of these are from official sources such as the U.S. grand juries, the three Irish reports (Ferns, Ryan, Murphy) or the two Canadian reports that resulted from the Mt. Cashel debacle of the eighties.  Others are from Church sources such as the National Review Board Report of 2004,  The Bernardin Report of 1992 or Church sponsored reports such as the Defenbaugh Report (Chicago, 2006) or the first John Jay Report from 2004.  Most of the reports contained a section on causality.  None of the reports said anything about the effect of the culture of the sixties or seventies as a factor of causality but every one of them pointed to the various kinds and levels of failure by the bishops as the essential cause of the phenomenon of sexual abuse of children and minors by clerics.
            Some of the reports went into more detail about socio-cultural factors that had a causal effect but none of these factors included somehow shifting the blame to the "increased deviance of society during that time" as Karen Terry said in her statement released with the report.  There was unanimity about the effect of culture, but it was not the culture outside the church but the culture within.  Arthur Jones hit the nail squarely on the head in his NCR column on May 18 when he named arrogant clericalism as the culture that in many ways created the offending clerics and allowed the abuse to flourish.
            There is a third source of information that perhaps provides the most accurate data on clergy sexual abuse in our era and that is the data obtained by victims' attorneys in the six thousand plus civil and criminal cases from the U.S. alone.  Add to this the information from similar cases in Canada, Ireland, Australia, the U.K. and several other European countries and you have a picture that is much different than that proposed in this latest John Jay report.  The report refers to the sixties and seventies as the peak period with cases dwindling off after that period.  This apparently fits in with what some of the cynics have called the "Woodstock Defense"  The time lag in reporting is not to be explained by sociological data and its interpretation but by the emotional and psychological impact of sexual violation on a young victim.  Most take a decade or more to find the security and courage to come forward.  The victim support groups and plaintiffs' attorneys here and abroad are seeing a significant increase in victims who were violated in the fifties and even the forties.  As one of my astute friends remarked, these are the victims from the Big Band era so what does that constitute, the "Benny Goodman" defense?
            Those who see the main conclusions from the Executive Summary as support for the bishops' blame-shifting tactics are probably right.   Yet these conclusions are only a part of the whole story and in some ways they are of minor relevance.  The finding that the majority of cases occurred in the 1960s and 1970s can be quickly challenged.  It is more accurate to say that the majority of cases reported in the post 2002 period involved abuse that took place in the period from the sixties to the eighties.  Its way off base to assume that the majority of incidents of abuse happened during this period.  Fr. Gerald Fitzgerald founded the Paraclete community in 1947 to provide help to priests with problems.  From the beginning he was treating priests with psycho-sexual issues and in a letter to a bishop he said that 3 out of every 10 priests admitted were there because they had sexually molested minors.   Fr. Gerald wrote that letter in 1964.  Unfortunately it is difficult if not impossible to do a study of abuse victims between the 30's and the 50's but Fr. Gerald's information leaves no doubt that sexual abuse by priests was a significant phenomenon long before the free-wheeling 60's and 70's.  The one constant that was present throughout the entire period from before the 60's to the turn of the millennium has been the cover-up by the bishops and the disgraceful treatment of victims.  The John Jay researchers were commissioned by the bishops to look into the reasons why priests molested and violated minors.  They were not asked to figure out why this molestation and violation was allowed to happen.  That would have been deadly for the bishops and they knew it.
Nevertheless the researchers could not avoid the blatant role played by the hierarchy.  In this regard the report should not be written off as largely either irrelevant or enabling of the bishops' never-ending campaign to avoid facing their responsibility square on.  That's why it's important to read the whole report and not depend on the Executive Summary or Karen Terry's statement or the statements of any of the bishops or church sponsored media outlets.  Well into the body there is recognition of the real issues that have caused the anger and are the basis for the thousands of lawsuits and official reports.  The section entitled "Mid-1990's Diocesan Response" on pages 86-91contains a sobering antidote to the soft-peddling about priests who lost their way in the Woodstock Era.  To their credit the research team included information critical of the bishops' responses on several levels.  A few quotes:
The failure of some diocesan leaders to take responsibility for the harms of the abuse by priests was egregious in some cases. (p. 89)
Parishioners were not told, or were misled about the reason for the abuser's transfer (p. 89)
Diocesan leaders rarely provided information to local civil authorities and sometimes made concerted efforts to prevent reports of sexual abuse by priests from reaching law enforcement even before the statute of limitations expired. (p. 89)
Diocesan officials tried to keep their files devoid of incriminating evidence. (p. 89)
Diocesan leaders attempted to deflect personal liability for retaining abusers by relying on therapists' recommendations or employing legalistic arguments about the status of priests. (p. 89)
Dioceses, the interviewee reported, would intimidate priests who brought charges against other priests; he reported that the law firm hired by the diocese wiretapped his phone and went through his trash. (p. 90).  The interviewee was a priest-victim who had come forward in 1991.
            These citations do not represent exceptions. This was the operating procedure that was standard throughout the institutional Church until the public revelations that began in 1984 and reached a boiling point in 2002 caused widespread media attention, legal scrutiny and public outrage which in turn forced the bishops to change their tactics.  The John Jay report refers to the organizational steps taken by the bishops in response to the "crisis" and points out that no other institution has undertaken a public study of sexual abuse and as a result there are no comparable data from other institutions (Executive Summary, p. 5).  A similar study of the institutional response itself would show that the organizational steps including the John Jay and other reports were the result of the intense pressure on the bishops from outside the clerical enclave to face the reality of the nightmare they had caused.  It is true that some of these policies and procedures are very positive steps in the right direction.  What cannot be ignored however is the harsh reality that the Catholic hierarchy from the top down will remain defensive, in futile search for the trust, respect and deference they once enjoyed but which now is a memory.
            The report gave short shrift to mandatory celibacy and the all-male environment of the clerical world.  This will feed right into the defenses of those who try to claim that the problems are all from outside influences.  Yet the influence of mandatory celibacy and the sub-culture of which it is an integral part play a major role in the socialization and maturation processes of the men who will eventually violate minors.  The clerical culture should have been the subject of the 1.8 million dollar venture because if looked at closely and honestly it would have yielded information that not only provided believable reasons for the abuse nightmare but valuable though radical steps to take to avoid similar travesties in the future.  That would have been much too dangerous for the hierarchical establishment though, because without doubt, it would point to needed fundamental changes.
            There will be a variety of levels of both praise and criticism of this document.  Among the more valuable will be the critical responses of other academic professionals, especially sociologists, which will help place the document in a more realistic and relevant light.
            The report was released along with statements by Karen Terry, the lead investigator, Diane Knight, chair of the National Review Board and Blase Cupich, chair of the Bishop's Committee for the Protection of Children.  The most disturbing sentence of all of the documents presented with the report is from Karen Terry's statement: "The problem of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests in the United States is largely historical, and the bulk of cases occurred decades ago."  I am quite certain that Dr. Terry had no idea of how offensive this statement is to the thousands of victims who were abused decades ago and who still live with the intense pain that never goes away.  These people aren't "historical" they are now.   What happened to them years or decades ago is still real and still destructive in their lives. 
            While the bishops and their defenders bask in the illusion that this report validates their standard defenses and their self-affirmation for the procedures and policies they have created to try to heal the wound, the reality of the "phenomenon of sexual abuse" is something this report will not be able to answer.  What is important is not why the thousands of clerics went off the tracks and raped and violated tens of thousands of innocent children.  What is important is what the institutional Church has done, or to be more precise, not done, to help heal the thousands of victims who still live in isolation and pain.  More than anything else these men and women have had their very souls violated and in the words of some, murdered.  Rather than go to such great lengths to try to exonerate themselves the bishops could have done what they should have done...  Try, at least, to begin to understand the profound depth of the spiritual wounds inflicted on these many men and women, once innocent and trusting boys and girls.  Abandon the insincere promises, the endless efforts to hide the secrets and the debasing legal strategies to pound the victims into submission.  Once the official Church figures out how to authentically respond to its victims, and actually does it, then and only then will this abominable disgrace start to slowly move towards being historical.

Imagine if the amount of money spent on this study had been spent on trying to understand how to meaningfully treat the soul murder of clerical sexual abuse.  Oh, but that would mean bishops leaving the confines of the their own little world and entering ours.  Silly me.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Archbishop Dolan Is Effusive In His Praise For The Social Justice Inherent In The Ryan Budget Bill

A photo op of Archbishop Dolan as a cheesehead.  A Caesar salad can't be far behind
The Catholic Church is weighing in on the contentious House budget debate.
The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops sent Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan a letter yesterday commending his "continued attention" to Catholic social justice “in the current delicate budget considerations in Congress.”

The budget is not just about numbers,” Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan wrote in the letter. “It reflects the very values of our nation. As many religious leaders have commented, budgets are moral statements."

Last month, Ryan (R-Wis.) sent a letter to Dolan outlining how the church’s social teaching informed his budget.  (Probably not as much as Ayn Rand's teachings did.)

In the two-page letter, Dolan did not come out and expressly endorse the budget, insisting that he’s a pastor, “not a politician.”  (He's also terribly funny...Oh wait does he want me to take this statement seriously?)

But he praised Ryan’s attention to fiscal responsibility, the role of the family, the dignity of the person and human life and attention to the poor.

The letter also clearly disputes one of the chief rallying cries against the budget: That it would hurt the poor to benefit the rich.  (I guess you could say this, because in truth it kills the middle class to benefit the rich.  It's good for the poor in that it makes more of them.)

“In any transition that seeks to bring new proposals to current problems in order to build a better future, care must be taken that those currently in need not be left to suffer,” Dolan wrote. “I appreciate your assurance that your budget would be attentive to such considerations and would protect those at risk in the processes and programs of such a transition. While appreciating these assurances, our duty as pastors will motivate our close attention to the manner in which they become a reality.” (Hmmm,, seems Dolan is already assuring us Ryan's budget will become a reality.)

Ryan said in a statement that his budget “upholds the dignity of the human person and is especially attentive to the long-term concerns of the poor.” (As in you will be poor till you have the grace to die.)

“I hope Americans of every faith and political background will continue in constructive dialogue to address these great challenges in their economic and moral dimensions."

Dolan is the head of the U.S. Catholic Church and the archbishop of New York. Until 2009, Dolan served as archbishop of Milwaukee, near Ryan's Wisconsin district.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0511/55349.html#ixzz1MtsVK1f5


Glad to know the USCCB, courtesy of it's President, seem to think the Ryan bill is not only a paragon of Catholic justice values, but that it's also a done deal.  Such a done deal that they want to assure us they will keep their eagle eyes on 'the manner in which they become a reality'.  I'm sure more than one bishop will be paid handsomely to do so.  I doubt we'll see too many august Episcopal bodies at food pantries.  Unless it's for a photo op.

Budgets are not just a hypothetical moral statement.  They quickly become our living reality.  The last ten years have been quite the living reality.  We've gotten to the point where if one wants to remain in the middle class one also has to opt for becoming part of the military class.  The last statistic I saw said just under 25% of the American populace derived their main source of their income from the Military Industrial Complex.  I doubt there is any better statistic to illustrate what our budget priorities have done to our culture.  For some reason though, we are never allowed to view tax money to the MIC as a form of government subsidy.  I wonder why that is?  If this continues Americans will have two main avenues of employment, the MIC and Walmart.

But what really punched my buttons was Dolan insisting he was all about being pastoral and not political.  Puhllleassse.  I wish the USCCB would stop treating the flock like illiterate morons.  Obviously our bishops think being pastoral necessitates being political.  I just wish they would stop the lies  about this and get honest. I wish they would cite the passages in the Gospels where Jesus tells his leaders to become agents for one political party in Caesar's government, because I sure as shit can't find any.  Then again I have to remember that Constantine couldn't find any either, but it didn't make any difference.  Too many of our bishops of the last 1700 years or so have been for sale to the agents of Caesar.  Apparently it's one of  Roman Catholicism's unchanging traditions.

Now I'm waiting for the letter from the USCCB which informs us all that we will be returning to the glorious days of no meat on Fridays as their Irish and British brethren have done.  I can surely see this happening because our fast food joints have suddenly gotten off the red meat kick and would probably like the increased sales for their fish fillets and Caesar salads.  Since we've been treated to photos of Dolan eating everything else, perhaps we'll get a photo op of Dolan eating a Caesar salad.  How appropriate would that be?