Tuesday, July 31, 2012

"A Hint Of Hypocrisy"



Earlier today Tom Roberts posted a very good editorial at the National Catholic Reporter about the two interviews NPR's Terry Gross did on the CDF's displeasure with LCWR.  (Wow, are there enough acronyms in that sentence?)  Roberts makes the point there is more than a little 'hint of hypocrisy' in the whole idea of compromised bishops having anything at all to say to any Catholic about 'giving scandal'.  The following in an excerpt from his article.  It's starts at about the half way point of the article:

......While the bishops view the nuns as in need of supervision and have accused the nuns of "betraying core values of the church" and causing "scandal to the faithful," Gross asked if there wasn't a bit of hypocrisy in those allegations, if the same charges might apply to "the institutional church that appears not able to reform itself and to be in the need of outside supervision."

It is an obvious and fair question, given the ongoing scandal and continued revelations about how the hierarchy mishandled the crisis over decades. Blair, in his answer, attempted to relativize the enormity of the scandal, even attempting to soften the reality by referencing "the mystery of iniquity in the church," noting that even Jesus didn't get it perfect, that he had chosen Judas, the betrayer, as one of the Twelve. Noting that bishops are the successors of the apostles, he implied it would logically hold that today's bishops would be visited by the same iniquity. (Jesus made no mistake.  Judas was a necessary instrument in salvation history. I could make a similar point about these bishops. They are forcing Catholics to re evaluate the relationship between power and real authority.  Our bishops are now doubling down on power because they no longer have any real authority. The more cappa magnas that come out the clerical closets can not mask the fact they are not wearing any 'clothes'.)

That strange rationalization aside for the moment, the reality is that more than a quarter-century of evidence has accumulated. Hundreds of thousands of pages of documentation are available, much of it stored online at bishopaccountability.org, that shows bishops:
  • Callously disregarded the welfare of the most vulnerable in the community as they secretly moved priests who raped and molested children from parish to parish;
  • Hid records and lied about the abuse to parents, reporters and prosecutors;
  • Lifted millions from diocesan coffers without informing the community to secure silence from victims and their families;
  • Did whatever necessary, from declaring bankruptcy to payouts of hundreds of millions in settlements, to avoid trials, which would have exposed in great detail the depth and breadth of the scandalous behavior and bishops' roles in protecting predator priests. Five years after a settlement in Los Angeles, the archdiocese is still fighting release of documents mandated by that settlement. We haven't heard that its lawyers are working pro bono.
  • Have no fear of losing their jobs no matter how irresponsibly they've acted and no matter how much scandal they've caused. The only bishop to have resigned because of the scandal was Cardinal Bernard Law, who, until his recent retirement, maintained membership on at least six of the highest level departments in the Vatican, including the one responsible for naming other bishops. Judas was distraught enough after his betrayal that he went out and hanged himself. No one wishes suicide on anyone, but bishops who have deeply betrayed the community know that in the princely circumstances of today's secretive hierarchy, one needs only wait out the scandal.
Blair went on to say, "I think we've done everything humanly possible we can, as a body, to try to deal with this problem." (Except of course,  for the one thing that might really make a difference, make yourselves fully accountable to some other agency not called the Vatican.)

It is difficult to judge, of course, what all is humanly possible. What was done, however, is not a matter of conjecture, but record. And the record of more than 25 years clearly shows that everything the bishops did -- the education programs, the national review board, the local review boards, the charter and the office for children and youth, and on and on -- was the result of a reaction to intense public pressure. It wasn't that they did all that was humanly possible. It was rather that they did all they had to do to try to put the scandal behind them.

 Nothing they did was voluntary. In the years before the crisis exploded anew in 2002, 17 years after the first national stories ran (in NCR) about the scandal, they had, in fact, rejected many of those same suggestions they ultimately adopted. They had, as a body, scoffed at the warnings and vilified the messengers of bad news.

A nonreligious university, Penn State, has demanded more accountability of football coaches and administrators than the church has of its spiritual leaders. (At least someone took some lessons from the bishops failures to deal with their cover up.)

Blair recited what have become standard episcopal talking points about the priest sex abuse scandal. The scandal is "a dark cloud" over the church. He wouldn't try to "defend the indefensible." And "there were tremendous failures." But the bishops must move on, being "teachers of the faith ... And if we have to -- if we are to continue that mission, well, that includes our responsibility for church teaching. And that's the issue here with the doctrinal assessment" levied against the nuns.

The assessment takes issue with the nuns for not engaging more overtly in the divisive anti-abortion political tactics that the bishops have employed -- largely ineffectively and at great cost to the church's credibility -- since 1973. It argues that the nuns have not engaged as actively and vociferously as the bishops in the culture's anti-gay campaigns. It accuses the sisters of entertaining undefined "radical feminist" notions, and it takes them to task for daring, as women, to question the church's exclusion of women from the decision-making counsels of the church and from ordination. They should expunge such questions from their minds because the church has declared that such thoughts are out of bounds and not to be entertained.
The degree of accountability the bishops would require of women, then, would include a prohibition against entertaining questions that occur naturally to anyone outside the closed, all-male, celibate culture (and even many within who dare not admit publicly to such thoughts) and condemnation largely for things they haven't done.

These are the crimes, the infractions, the women will have to spend endless hours devising a response to; they will have to justify their lives, their ministries, their very being in a way no bishop would ever require of a group of priests or bishops. Declared heretics of the right are given a special papal appointee in a specially arranged office to hold their hands through their continued denunciations of the church. The nuns are given papers outlining a hostile takeover.  (This is just a brilliant summation of the handling of SSPX vs the LCWR.)

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This is one of the best articles I have read from Tom Roberts in quite awhile.  It's got an edge to it, and I think more Catholics who care about any real future for this Church need to have a little more of an edge when it comes to confronting the corruption of the hierarchy.  I'm using corruption here in the sense not just of secular and psychological corruption, but spiritual corruption.  I can't believe Bishop Blair came up with the Judas comparison.  Judas at least had the decency to remove his corruption from the body politic, where as our current crop of betrayers insist on staying in place and attacking the hands that feed them.  Judas had more integrity by far.  Even Jesus Himself didn't mince words when it came to the corruption in Jewish Temple and with Temple priests.  Maybe it's time we all took the lesson.

For myself, I have to admit Bishop Cordileone's appointment to San Francisco and Bishop Blair's attempting to defend the indefensible have set my dander on edge.  Not because I think either man is capable of effecting change--they are not-- but because each case represents another purposefully struck crack in the foundation of the Church in the US. The only US Catholics that seem to count anymore are the ones who don't question and actively support the hierarchy, those who have money and are still willing to use the Church as a tax shelter, but most especially, those willing to do both.  Unfortunately, that's not just true for the US, it's a strategy playing out across the first world, and it's real aim is to maintain Western control of the resources of the developing world.  Given that, it does make perfect sense to hand hold the eternal nay sayers of the SSPX while simultaneously initiating a hostile takeover of the LCWR.  When it comes to maintaining control in the developing world, the SSPX and their particular philisophical bent are far more valuable than LCWR.  In fact, the LCWR is a major threat precisely because they have inroads in the developing world with women's religious congregations, and those congregations are actively involved in social justice issues.

The truly sad thing is all of this is very traditional and very cyclical.  The official messengers have corrupted the message for the sake of temporal power and influence since the Donation of Constantine.  The focus of the hierarchy in terms of dominance and control has changed given the geopolitical situation, but the march of history is always to maintain it's political might and economic status.  The West is pretty much lost for the JPII/Benedict Church.  Once the boomers exit the stage, the pews will be very empty.  The developing world is not all that far behind. The Church of pomp and power is on it's last legs, and that is a good thing. Now maybe we can form one that will actually be about the teachings of Jesus, get past the 1700 year failure with the temptations in the desert, and advance in our Gospel understanding to the Transfiguration.
 

44 comments:

  1. Great commentary! I read the article you referenced this morning and posted it to twitter. More of us need to express our outrage over this ridiculous display of tone deafness by the Hierarchy. They squandered their moral authority and have done nothing to earn it back. A great Mea Culpa like the one the author mentions in his post would have done nicely. If they had done that, in a timely fashion, they may have been forgiven by their flock. As it stands now, they only dig the hole deeper for themselves with each denouncement on morality.

    What a spectacle. No wonder Americans are fleeing organized religion in droves.

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  2. The Roman Episcopacy are no longer following in The Way of Christ. Are they following a life of delusion or one of power and greed? Some don't even know themselves. One thing for certain it would be unethical to follow them. I no longer believe a word they say starting with the current and former pope. BTW the financial scandals of the RCC are just as bad as are the sexual ones. dennis

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    1. "Some don't even know themselves." Dennis I know how you intended this, but I think the bigger truth actually is, "they don't know themselves". That's why so many of them are in the closet.

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    2. Unethical to follow the Church?

      Er. What would you recommend instead?

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    3. Follow your heart, i.e. Love, i.e. Christ.

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    4. So true Momma, One could also try following the Gospels.

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    5. Jesus gave us the Church, however. One can't truly love him whilst spurning (even attacking!) his gifts to us.

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    6. No, Invictus, I've had to choose to follow Jesus instead of the Church as well. I still go to Mass, but sometimes painfully. It hurts me as much to say it as it does you to read it. But it is true for me and for many faithful around us.

      Could we all be sinners, or dupes? Couldn't the voice of the Spirit be in there somewhere? Did Jesus look like the docile, obedient type to you? Or instead, could part of following the Lord and loving the church be not allowing the lies we're told to go unchallenged, the silk-wearers to continue unchecked, the preachers of a holy hate to be called out?

      Matt Connolly

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    7. Well said Matt. I like you and my wife have felt for a long time the the leadership in the chruch have ben out of touch with everything outside of the walls of the Vatican. We will no longer follow blindly. I still call myself a Catholic but with some shame. The coverup of the abuse is church wide not isolated to the U.S. We have looked to our brothers and sisters of the local Episcopal church to return to God's plan and love for us. I think there will be a time when the U.S. Catholic Church will need to break away from Rome and find it's own path.

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    8. The Church isn't there to be followed blindly, it's there to be followed faithfully and charitably. Mismanagement in the Church doesn't mean we're suddenly justified in going our own way.

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    9. And again, until you see that the people here and elsewhere do what they do for love of God and God's people, you are stuck in this same feedback loop. For me, I'm regretful when I leave "the church's way" to go "my own way." When Love demands that path, then that's where I go, and many times not very well when I'm on my own and don't have the benefit of my church with me.

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    10. What in your path is so loving, then, that you can no longer follow the Church?

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    11. Try to look at it this way: if we are evil at the core, then adherance to doctrine despite what we see and feel would be valid. If that is what leads you to God, I would not stop you. I would celebrate with you.

      However, if we are inherently good at the core, the temple of the Lord, then what we see and hear has some import, does it not? Without rejecting my mother church who taught me, I can see that the stance toward sexual abuse is cowardly and unloving. I know that when I listen to gay people speak of marriage, they simply yearn for the same joys I do, strive just as hard, love God just as much. I know you don't need an issue by issue breakdown.

      It is my duty, and not my joy, to bring that to my family. My family needs my love to help them become more loving, even when they tell me to shut up and sit down. And believe me, this journey has shown me much more of my cowardice and selfishness than of some heroic nature.

      In short, the loving uncomfortable sharing of who God has truly made me is more important than the furtive acquiescence to a series of doctrines, even if I end up dead wrong. We're all pilgrims here, and on a foggy road at that. Stop acting like you are the only one Jesus leads.

      Matt Connolly

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    12. Matt I really get what you are writing here, especially when you write that the journey has shown more of my cowardice and selfishness than of one's heroic nature.

      I was talking to someone yesterday and remarked that I could have made my life a whole lot easier if I had just accepted the rule thing and not asked for the mystic thing. Once that mystic thing got in gear everything was open to examination and that most assuredly meant me. The one thing Thomas Aquinas wrote that really resonates with me is the quote attributed to him after he had had his mystical experience at the end of his life. "My work was so much straw."

      That's the point many people are missing in Lauri Brink's statement about going beyond Jesus, and that's once you have a true mystical experience and know on a profound level that all things are in God and connected with one another, Jesus is the one leading you beyond what the Church thinks it knows of Him.

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    13. Jesus approves sodomy because of your private revelation?

      Well, at least you're telling it how you think it is, I suppose. But it's a big deal, because it overturns...everything.

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    14. Matt,

      Mishandlings of sexual abuse did not occur because of doctrine, so your attempt to excuse your rejection of doctrine because of mishandlings of sexual abuse is not a sound one.
      If you think I'm acting like that, you've got very much the wrong impression. Nothing I say rests on personal inspiration, everything I say is basic, basic basic Church teaching. I'm not qualified to go past that, and nor would I want to.

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    15. "Nothing I say rests on personal inspiration." How sad. God touches you. If you can't see that, I can see why you won't allow it for anyone else.

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    16. I am saying very basic things. Personal inspiration (or private revelation, as it's otherwise described) is not necessary in affirming something as basic as the the divinity of Jesus, the trinity, the authority of the Church, or the purposes of marriage.

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  3. Yes, Bishop Blair; There is a dark cloud over the church.

    Percent of Americans surveyed who say they had no religious affiliation in, respectively, 1990 and 2011: 6%, 19%
    (Source: Pew Research Center)

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    1. And I bet half of those losses were raised Catholic, and no it doesn't have anything to do with how they were catechized.

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    2. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/15/opinion/sunday/douthat-can-liberal-christianity-be-saved.html?_r=3&ref=rossdouthat

      Odds are, according to the statistics, that the defections are from liberal Christian sects rather than from the Church.

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    3. Many of us more progressive catholics were certainly active as altar boys, members of the Arch Bishops Choir, attending 12 to 20 years of Catholic education. We were early on in our formation the conservatives whom Invictus speaks. He does have a point that as people mature, they may question the role of dogma and certainly must question a rather awful leadership.

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    4. Only if they have the courage to mature. The safe course is to compartmentalize the smells, bells, and confirmation level of theological understanding, and not question anything.

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    5. @rdp Dennis,

      I was a pre-Vatican 2 altar boy, chorister, and attended Catholic educational institutions for 17 years. Even today I am quite conservative in the manner in which I conduct my life. Am I now, or have I ever been conservative? No, not really, except in the old-fashioned sense of respect for the law, social institutions and others with whom I disagree. Those aren't modern conservative values in this libertarian, know nothing Tea Party age.

      In my professional life I cannot be associated with organizations or individuals who violate social norms, let alone laws, regarding the fiduciary responsibilities and the care of children. From a legal perspective a person in a position of authority is expected to live up to a higher standard when that person has a duty to others. This is what really gets me about the today's church. It attempts to avoid responsibility for criminal matters, discrimination, liability and negligence all in the name of religious freedom.

      p2p

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    6. Paul and Dennis, I think that's one of the attributes of this blog family that Invictus may not understand. We were all indoctrinated in the Church he and others want to return to, and we've all found our faith in the Vatican II Church. I too am something of a social conservative, especially in power relationships. Some of that of course, is due to professional training, but the foundation on which the professional training was laid, was definitely my post Vatican II faith. If that wasn't true, if my professional training was laid on my Baltimore catechism training, I'd be just another mental health professional who relied on education and title to force my thinking on my clients. There would be no such thing as dialogue in a therapeutic session. I might have followers, but I wouldn't have brothers and sisters sharing a very marginal road--a road where my clients expect me in no uncertain terms to walk my talk, or admit when I screw up, and by virtue of position in the 'family', I'm expected to protect and defend them from the excesses of the mental health system and/or make rational what appears to them to sometimes be irrational.

      Here's one last lesson I wish our leaders would comprehend. The days when people saluted the man because he held the rank are long gone. Now leaders are expected to be worthy of the rank and keep being worthy. There are no more free passes based on the symbolic definition of the title or rank.

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    7. "Here's one last lesson I wish our leaders would comprehend. The days when people saluted the man because he held the rank are long gone. Now leaders are expected to be worthy of the rank and keep being worthy. There are no more free passes based on the symbolic definition of the title or rank."

      Fair enough, pretty much. Why do you also reject doctrine, though? It doesn't make sense.

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    8. Invictus,
      Unworthy people promoting unworthy, flawed policy as doctrine. Using authority more and more to try to have their way. It is obvious.

      p2p

      (I said I wouldn't but I can't help mention that the last password was "HelperI") Hee, hee, hee.

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    9. It's not so much that I reject doctrine, although I most certainly do reject some disciplines and find the rationale for sexual morality very infantile.

      What I really find frustratingly offensive is the insistence on making Catholicism a closed system of thinking, because it limits the future. Closed systems can only beget what they already think they know, so creative imagination, the Holy Spirit if you will, has no input. We can never bring the kingdom to fruition if we aren't allowed to imagine a kingdom of justice and peace. Instead we spend too much of our creative imagination envisioning hell, as by doing so, make life on earth hell.

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    10. Colleen,
      You are a better person than me.
      p2p

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    11. How is it a "closed" system, Colkoch? Who are you to say that the Church doesn't envision justice and peace?

      Maybe you need a new parish, maybe write to the bishop? I've never known a parish (and young though I might be, I've known a few, in three countries and two continents) where the emphasis was on hell rather than peace, justice, and love. For you to get the impression you seem to hold here, something in your parish much be quite severealy mucked-up.

      Or, is it just that your experience of the Church comes only vicariously through hostile sources?

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    12. It operates as a closed system by self definition and actual practice as regards to Faith and morals. The 'Truth' never changes.

      I don't doubt for one second many parishes take the justice and peace side of the Church very seriously. Unfortunately the leadership is taking the culture war issues of abortion, gay marriage, birth control, and women's ordination much more seriously, and too many of our bishops are beginning to play the devil, hell, and heresy cards...at least in the US. Thomas Paprocki, who is one of the bishops assigned to rein in the LCWR, is a classic example of an American bishop who is playing the devil card. This is all about raising the fear level, not the love level.

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    13. Abortion, gay marriage, birth control, and women's ordination (alongside WMDs, the environment, economic fairness, the role of women etc) are issues of peace, justice, and love.

      It's not either/or, it's about a holistic approach which allows us to see the importance of all of these issues. There's no point planting trees if we're blind to the gendercide of the global abortion industry, just as there's no point praying for the unborn if we're blind to the need to reform the social and economic systems which drive women to kill their offspring.

      It's all connected. The Church sees that, the Church teaches that, and we should do too.

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    14. (I replied to this one. Did it not go through, Colkoch?)

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    15. Sorry, it went through but I forgot to check the comment moderation file for a couple of days. I always feel like an idiot when I do that.

      I wish I could agree with you, but from my perspective about the Church in the States, things are not at all balanced. Everything here is abortion, birth control, and gay marriage. The Vatican actually seems more hung up on the women's ordination thing. You and I actually mostly agree about what you have written, except for one major issue. Abortion is a male issue too. It's not just a woman killing her baby. It's also men failing to act responsibly or on their responsibilities. If there is one thing I would hope you get from this blog it's that the Church has made too much of it's morality of sexual procreation the sole function of women and their biology. The sole moral responsibility of women. It's not. Women do not self impregnate. I really do wonder of enforced celibacy and living in an all male culture truly does warp good men's minds to the fact so much of what is wrong with our world can be laid at the feet of men. I'm not implying women would be better, but I am saying the current reality is men control the show.

      The future will be different and we will see how women will actually function with leadership roles through out the globe. I think it's very symbolic that in the London Olympics there are more women than men competing. The feminine is rising, it breaks my heart this Roman Catholic Church can not allow this to happen with in it's own structures.

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    16. It's not just a woman killing her baby, often because of a man refusing to meet their share of responsibility, but it is also a global industry which is killing girls on a scale sufficiently massive to show up on demographic records.
      Gendercide is a feminist issue, so why aren't feminist Catholics pro-life? At what point did feminist Catholics decide it represented good faith to fight for the killing of unborn babies?
      Eurgh, I suppose that's best left as a different topic for a different discussion on a different day.

      To get back to the real issue, except in cases of rape (a tiny, tiny proportion of procured abortions) the woman has consented to the sex and accepted the chance that a child may be conceived and calculated the reliability of the father. The father is greatly in the wrong if he does not then live up to his natural responsibilities, but the woman in the situation is not to be considered as an innocent child in the matter!

      The Church teaches and has always taught that the morality of sex is inherently one shared between the man and the woman, and you will be unable to find any authoritative source which asserts otherwise.

      I have a strong feeling that if you had been taught better and more comprehensively about Catholic teaching through the centuries, you'd be much more supportive of it!

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    17. (Only 45% of Olympic competitors are women, up from 42% in Beijing. Maybe 50% in Rio though!)

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  4. The bishops are envious as they know the sisters are living the Gospel, and the bishops are not, and the sisters' assets will plug the bishops' financial holes nicely.

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  5. Yes envy is murderous, and the Bishops are both envious and greedy. dennis

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  6. Some bishops are being held accountable. Bishop Raymond Lahey of Nova Scotia was defrocked. Many priests who have abused young people are also now being defrocked instead of transferred to other parishes. So there are changes happening. So I think bishops have to watch their steps also, which is a change from the past.
    Mark

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    1. Mark, the problem is that Lahey was found with hundreds of thousands of photos, a passport with numerous Thai stamps, and had (and still has) a male partner for over 10 years. He himself asked to be laicized. A couple of other bishops have been censured for sex with women. Not one has been disciplined for covering up the sex abuse crisis or transfering known pedophiles. Bishop Finn has been indicted for this and he is still in charge of his diocese. That's the problem in the accountability department.

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  8. As always, Colleen, kudos for another outstanding, excellent, superlative blog. (Not anonymous, Betty Clermont)

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  9. It is time for all Catholics who are angry with the church leadership to grow a pair and let their voice be heard. Just like in an election you vote out someone who has not lived up to their campaign promises. We have sat in the pews for to long and have been scared to speak up. Our leadership from the Pope on down put theit pants on one leg at a time like the rest of us. Time to wake up.

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    1. The good thing is more and more of us are waking up. That is one good thing about all the retro decisions coming from the Vatican and the USCCB. They are forcing choices on the laity.

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