Thursday, May 31, 2012

Cardinal Dolan Ain't Gonna Be Able To Laugh His Way Through This One

The gregarious Cardinal Dolan may be having more than one of these tonight as he's going to have a tough time explaining the following news story.

 I'm pretty tired right now, having just gotten home from work, but this article was in my own paper,  the Helena Independent Record.  I have a sneaking suspicion I know why they published this article, and it goes beyond the fact that it involves Cardinal Dolan.  Right down the road from the Archdiocese of Milwaukee is the Diocese of Madison WI, where our ex bishop Morlino now resides.  I'm willing to bet lots of money was paid to lots of accused priests in lots of dioceses to let abusive clerics ride off into the sunset and keep the lid on their sexual activities.  I'm not at all surprised that all of Cardinal Dolan's appointments were cancelled today.  I will be really interested to hear how he tries to talk his way out of this one.  I don't think using donations to pay off sexual predators is not exactly what any of us had in mind when we placed our money in the collection basket.

Wis. archdiocese no longer paying priests to leave

 Associated Press | Posted: Thursday, May 31, 2012 7:20 pm
The Archdiocese of Milwaukee and a former priest who received money to leave the ministry following allegations of sexual abuse say that payment and others were a form of charity meant to help men transition to a new life following the priesthood.
The archdiocese acknowledged paying suspected pedophile clergy after an abuse victims' group produced a court document Wednesday that mentioned a 2003 proposal to pay $20,000 to "unassignable priests" who agree to leave the ministry. The document from the archdiocese's bankruptcy proceedings includes minutes from a 2003 meeting of its Finance Council, which included then-Archbishop Timothy Dolan, now a cardinal and head of the New York archdiocese.
Council members discussed how the church should handle sexual abuse complaints, a possible budget deficit and how to cut costs. The $20,000 payments were among the options mentioned.
The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests characterizes the payments as a payoff to priests who molested children.
"This was a signing bonus for signing papers that would be sent to the Vatican," SNAP Midwest director Peter Isely said. "They needed to have been fired. You don't pay someone who has committed a criminal act. You fire them. Period."
The archdiocese says similar payments were made to men leaving the priesthood long before allegations of sexual abuse surfaced in the Catholic church. Archdiocese spokeswoman Julie Wolf said the payments were a type of severance pay.
"In a sense, it was a sense of charity to help those men transition from the clergy state to the lay state," Wolf said. The church has a responsibility not only to victims of clergy abuse, but to those accused of abuse, she said.
"The church is not giving this money, saying it's acceptable," Wolf said. "It's our calling as Christians to be forgiving."
It made sense at the height of the clergy sex abuse scandal to "move these men out of the priesthood as quickly as possible" and the money helped the men with the transition, Jerry Topczewski, chief of staff to Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki, said in a letter sent to church members Thursday. But the archdiocese has since ended the payments, he said.
Since the payments have now stopped, said Isely, the SNAP Midwest director, "Is this not a clear admission that they were wrong in the first place?"
"And isn't it time for Cardinal Dolan and his successor, Jerome Listecki, to acknowledge the deep moral wrong of taking Catholic charitable funds and funneling them to priest child molesters?" Isely said in a statement Thursday.
Wolf said she thought the last payments were made two or three years ago, based on archdiocese correspondence. The archdiocese paid out $90,000 to accused priests in the fiscal year that ended in June 2010, according to a letter Listecki sent members that year. It said nine remaining clerics who had been restricted from the ministry because of substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of a minor would be notified that financial assistance was ending.
Listecki also said any future reports of sexual abuse would be referred to civil authorities if the accused was still alive and the priest would be immediately removed from ministry.
Jerome A. Wagner said he accepted $20,000 from the Milwaukee archdiocese "because it was time to move on" after he was accused of assaulting a minor. He was never criminally charged and declined to comment on the allegations, but the archdiocese has acknowledged the accusations against him.
"I viewed it as a charity payment on their part to help me get along," Wagner said. "I just viewed it as help for me to readjust to a new way of life."
Wagner said he initiated the process to leave the church with the Vatican and was told by the archdiocese he would receive $10,000 at the beginning of the process and $10,000 when it was over.
Wagner used the money to attend a mortuary school in Illinois. He graduated in 2004 and is a licensed funeral home director in Fond du Lac, the same community where he left the priesthood in 2002.
Because the process of leaving the priesthood can take several years, Wolf said, the payments to accused priests are meant to quickly move them out of the ministry and save costs because a priest's salary alone can be about $55,000 a year. She did not know whether other archdioceses offered similar severances.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops didn't immediately respond to a message left Thursday asking about payments in other archdioceses.
The Milwaukee archdiocese acknowledged in 2006 that it gave $10,000 to former priest Franklyn Becker to help pay his health insurance until he became eligible for Medicare.
Dolan, who was archbishop when the payment was made, has denied allegations it was a payoff. Joseph Zwilling, spokesman for the New York archdiocese, said Thursday that "the cardinal has read and supports the statements that came out of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee" and would have no further comment on the issue.
Charles W. Linneman, 44, of Sugar Grove, Ill., is among those who think the payments were inappropriate. He is one of the former parishioners who have sued Becker, claiming they were abused by him. The Associated Press does not usually name victims in sexual abuse cases, but Linneman agreed to be identified.
He said the payment to Becker was the archdiocese's way of keeping the abuse quiet.
"It was just a quick way to wash their hands of him," Linneman said. "They kept him on for all those decades. It was very easy to get rid of him."
Dolan asked then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, to defrock Becker in 2003, about two weeks after Becker was arrested in California in connection to a sexual assault there in the 1970s. Becker was removed from the priesthood in 2004.
Linneman said he was an altar boy when he met Becker at St. Joseph's Parish in Lyons in 1980 and was abused by him when he visited Becker following the priest's move to Milwaukee. Becker did not return a call seeking comment.


It's just really amazing how the light of transparency and honesty -and leaking sensitive material- is just snow balling.  I imagine it's times like these when our hierarchy really wishes for the good ole days when they had armies and such things at their disposal to end all this excessive truth telling.  The winds of change continue to howl.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Vati-Leaks: The Titanic Has Hit The Ice Berg And The Crew Is In A Panic As The Captain Pretends It's All A Drill

This Church is in Northern Italy in Mirandola and was destroyed by yesterday's earthquake.  It's a real time symbol of the different kind of earthquake which has hit Vatican city.

I don't find it all that surprising that things are trending toward paranoia and panic in Vatican City.  That tends to happen when lots of people have lots to hide and all of a sudden the circles of silence, complicity, and trust based on mutual dirt, are suddenly exposed for the fragile things they are.  The Church may have been built on a rock, but the Vatican has been built on sand.  Thank God, for the winds of the Holy Spirit will have an easier time reforming the whole system.

The Curia is in a state of panic as rumours circulate about camera phones potentially being banned in the Vatican

Andrea Tornielli - Vatican Insider - vatican city- 5/29/2012
“The atmosphere is poisonous, heavy. Some claim that in the future we won’t be able to take mobile phones with inbuilt cameras into the Vatican.” The ban on camera phones is just a rumour that has been circulating around the Secretariat of State in the last few days, which have been the most difficult in the Vatican in recent years. “Somehow this is even worse than the storm caused by the Church paedophilia scandal,” said a priest who entered the great gate of Porta Angelica with brisk fearful steps.

Talking moles

Many outside the Vatican doubt the guilt of Paolo Gabriele, the Pope’s butler and no one seems to think he could have master-minded the leak of documents published in journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi’s book. We do not know the extent of his involvement yet. If the inquiry remains at this level, the doubts will inevitably grow. The net of moles, which allegedly includes a number of people, struck again, giving once more the same motives that had been put forward by the famous investigative reporter in the pages of “Sua santità” (His Holiness). The leak of Benedict XVI’s confidential papers could apparently have been an act to help the Pope. Few believe this to be true, mostly because the Vatileaks scandal has managed to besmirch the Holy See as a whole and its image is now in tatters.

Infamous dismissal

Yesterday Fr. Lombardi claimed that there is no connection between the motion of no confidence in the Vatican Bank’s former president, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi and the Vatileaks issue. On Thursday the IOR’s lay supervisory council removed the banker who had been chosen by Cardinal Bertone in September 2009 and who was also a leading writer for Vatican daily broadsheet L’Osservatore Romano as well as a friend of the newspaper’s director, Gian Maria Vian. The next day the committee of cardinals met to ratify the vote, but no statement regarding their verdict has been released as yet. The very harsh letter by Carl Anderson, one of the four board members, containing the reasons behind the dismissal of Gotti Tedeschi, whose professional image has been destroyed, was intentionally published. The banker was also accused of not “ explaining the distribution of certain documents” he kept. The way he was dismissed is brand new in the history of the Holy See and could have major repercussions, if and when Gotti Tedeschi will decide to speak up.

Is it time for the cardinal to retire?

According to the moles, the real target of the Vatileaks operation, is allegedly the Vatican Secretary of State, Tarcisio Bertone. The whole thing would have been orchestrated to pressure him into retiring. However, objectively speaking, the explosion of the Vatileaks scandal seems far too extreme for its aim to be the simple removal of a cardinal who will turn 78 in December. Unless one were to believe (and some do) that the ambitions of those who would like to take his place might be the hidden motive behind the storm that is raging inside and outside the Curia and if we were to look even further, perhaps we would find the power struggle for the succession of the ageing Pope at the root of the problems. Ratzinger wanted Bertone by his side because he trusts him and has no intention of removing him, even though the cardinal himself offered to resign. His management of the Secretariat of State has been the target of heavy criticism. However, as happened before, in times of crisis, the ecclesiastical institution has clammed up to protect its clerics. (Absolutely, it's always to protect the clerics and has very little to do with 'protecting the Church from scandal'.)

Pope's secretary targeted
Fr. Georg Gänswein, Benedict XVI’s personal secretary, is facing a difficult time, since Paolo Gabriele had worked alongside him in the papal apartments for six years. Fr. Georg’s influence has grown in the last two years as have the rumours concerning attempts to drive him away from the Pope, such as his possible appointment as bishop in Germany, now that the Diocese of Regensburg is to become vacant and its current bishop is to become cardinal in Rome and cover a different office. But there are very few who believe that the Pope will get rid of his trusted secretary.


Virtually everything the Vatican has done in so many different area has been designed to protect the clerical system, not shepherd God's Church.  In the last 20 or so years nothing has angered me more than the obvious decision to sacrifice the church on the altar of maintaining the all male celibate priesthood.  I can't for one minute believe that the men who run Roman Catholicism can't see that they are killing the spirit of this Church in maintaining this policy.  Until the clerical system is completely rethought there will be no change in any of the sexual or gender issues because this current system is founded in sexual purity and a gender identity which believes men are both superior to and victims of the feminine.  Gay marriage is a no go because this priesthood can not survive without gay priests and it will not attract gay priests if gay men can marry. 

It's disheartening to witness this implosion, and it's also true that the old must make way for the new.  We can not put new wine into old wine skins. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

On Pentecost Sunday The Holy Spirit Was Most Definitely In Vienna. I'm Not Sure About Rome

I like these two spiritual leaders a great deal.  I am not surprised to see them together on Pentecost Sunday.
The following is an excerpt from a longer article and is taken from the official website of the Dalai Lama.  I have an idea of sorts of where religion and spirituality are headed in the twenty first century and these two men figure prominently.  It is utterly uplifting to me that while the Vatican is imploding, the Holy Spirit was alive and well at the Pentecost Mass in St Stephen's Cathedral.

His Holiness Meets Cardinal Schönborn and Makes a Pilgrimage to St Stephen's Cathedral

May 27th 2012
Vienna, Austria, 27 May 2012 - On the concluding day of His Holiness's visit to Austria, he met Mr Sebastian Kurz, Secretary of State (Deputy Minister) for the Interior and had a cordial conversation with him. Shortly afterwards, Cardinal Schönborn came to meet him again and His Holiness immediately expressed a wish to visit St Stephen's Cathedral. He explained that since 1975, as part of his commitment to work to promote religious harmony, he has adopted a practice of making a pilgrimage to the places of worship of other faiths whenever he can. He told the Cardinal how on several occasions in the course of silent prayer in Lourdes and Fatima, for example, and when visiting Christian monasteries, he has been very moved by the thought of the thousands of millions of individuals who have found immense benefit in the teachings of Jesus Christ.
The two spiritual leaders discussed various aspects of monastic life, such as the great silence according to which Christian monks either keep total silence or speak only for a brief stipulated period once a day. They then went together to meet the press.

His Holiness explained again to the press that one of his lifelong commitments is the promotion of inter-religious harmony. He spoke of how, soon after coming to India he had been impressed by the religious tolerance and harmony he found there, how many of the world's major religions, as well as many that originated in India, live together side by side. He expressed his bewilderment that Catholics and Protestants in places like Northern Ireland, and Shia and Sunni Moslems elsewhere, people who follow the same God and the same teacher, could quarrel so bitterly with one another. Since all religions, despite their philosophical differences, convey similar messages of love and compassion it is contradictory for there to be conflict between them. (Precisely why I have such high regard for Cardinal Schonborn. He no longer acts as if he is trapped in the rules.  He acts as if he is fully seeking to live the Spirit.)

The venerable Cardinal publicly addressed His Holiness, “It is a great joy for us in Austria to receive your visit. You have shown great love for our country and I hope we have also shown our great love for you. You have spoken of your conviction that we must work to foster inter-religious harmony. I am a Dominican monk, just as you are a monk, and I believe we both find common human ground in religious life. The conflict you speak of relates to our need for a change of heart. I believe the religious call is to everyone's need to change their heart of stone to a heart of flesh and love.”
His Holiness and the Cardinal answered several questions from the press relating to the current lost generation in Europe and the indications and meanings of faith before leaving for the short drive to the Cathedral. They arrived to find pews filled with people awaiting the start of the Mass on this Sunday of Pentecost. The Cardinal briskly escorted His Holiness around the Cathedral, explaining the history and significance of various chapels and images on the way. He invited His Holiness to attend the Mass, which he readily accepted and was escorted to a seat in the choir.

In his opening words to the congregation, the Cardinal explained that he was pleased to announce the presence among them of a special guest, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, a man he described as having deep respect for people of every faith. The Cathedral was then filled with the sublime music of Schubert's Missa Solemnis sung and played by choir and orchestra. As he left the Cathedral, beaming with joy, His Holiness's words were, “Wonderful, wonderful.”


When I came across this story this morning, my heart skipped a beat.  I have for years meditated on the paths of these two spiritual leaders and how the spirituality at the heart of Catholicism would be so well served if these two came together.  And they have, and on Pentecost no less, and they shared the same spiritual energy of Catholicism's greatest spiritual treasure--the Mass.  This is the future if there is to be any hope for Catholicism as a leading voice for spirituality in the secular world.

Pope Benedict would do well to contemplate on the path taken by the Dalai Lama.  The other 'His Holiness' retired from leading the Tibetan government, getting out of politics altogether.  In the Dalai Lama's case this broke a 400 year tradition of being both the political and spiritual head of Tibet.  He handed those responsibilities over to qualified lay men and Tibet will eventually become a secular democracy right along with it's Chinese occupiers.  The Dalai Lama now concentrates on spreading the spiritual message of compassion and love as the two attributes which can foster peace and human dignity in the world.  Imagine if Pope Benedict took the same path, and turned the political and temporal aspects of Catholicism over to qualified Catholics of both the lay and clerical kind.  He would take Catholicism back to how it originally divided these responsibilities.  With the Vatican now crashing down around him, there couldn't be a better time.  He could then concentrate on grooming a successor, and I can't think of better successor for the future of the Church in the modern world, than Cardinal Schonborn. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Response From The LCWR To The CDF Is Coming Soon

The Ya Ya Sisterhood could show the Vatican men a thing or two.  So can the LCWR.

I've been meaning to post this essay by Mary C Johnson for about a week, but between actual work, the latest Legion mess, the Vatileaks and Vatican Bank stories, I almost forgot that the LCWR Board meets the end of this week to determine a response, or non response,  to the Vatican's CDF investigation mandate.  The following is an excerpt of this longer article.

The Vatican Lays A Cunning Trap For American Nuns

 Mary C Johnson - Huffington Post - 5/21/5012
At the end of this month, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious will meet to formulate a response to a Vatican trap whose cunning is best appreciated within the long tradition of religious authorities who craft impossible dilemmas for those they perceive as threats.

Two millennia ago, the chief priests sent someone to ask Jesus, "Should we pay taxes?" If Jesus said yes, he would pit himself against Jewish resistance to Roman occupation and therefore, in Jewish eyes, against God. If he said no, the Romans could execute him for sedition. Instead, Jesus famously replied, "Render to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's."

In the 15th century, Joan of Arc's ecclesiastical inquisitors asked her, "Do you know yourself to be in God's grace?" If Joan answered yes, she would commit heresy because the Church had long taught that no one could be certain of being in God's grace; if no, they could interpret her answer as an admission of guilt. Joan looked them in the eyes and replied, "If I am not in God's grace, may God put me there; if I am, may God so keep me."
Today, the Vatican tells the women of the LCWR, "Submit to our oversight and control of your every action for the next five years." The Vatican's official "or else" clause remains unstated but clear to all involved. "Submit to our authority, or call yourselves Catholic no longer."......

......In the 50 years following the Second Vatican Council, the American sisters represented by the LCWR have engaged in discernment and renewal, a process initiated by decree of the popes and bishops at the Council. Not without controversy from Catholics nostalgic for long habits and authoritarian discipline, LCWR Sisters have abandoned traditions that infantilized their members. They've educated themselves, many earning advanced degrees. Inspired by the examples of Jesus and the founders of their religious communities, they moved into ministries with people on the margins: prisoners, the homeless, women, gay and lesbian people, immigrants.

And yes, some of them have occasionally spoken to advocate for gay rights, for women's ordination, for a healthcare plan the bishops opposed. Throughout the process, the LCWR has sought "to develop leadership, promote collaboration within church and society, and serve as a voice for systemic change." The Vatican hasn't been happy to see women blossom as real leaders and they especially don't like that "systemic change" stuff......

.......Now the Vatican is telling these women they're not Catholic enough.
If the LCWR submits to Sartain's oversight, they assent to being treated as ecclesiastic children who don't know what's best for them; they relinquish the haven they've created to challenge and support each other. As Sister Jeannnine Grammick, founder of New Ways Ministry, a group that works with gay and lesbian Catholics and has been cited in the Vatican assessment, told The New Republic, "If we comply, if we submit to what is being asked by the Vatican, it would be a repudiation of all the renewal that we've done in religious life. I don't believe that nuns will say we can do that."

If they don't submit, if the sisters disband the LCWR and regroup in a configuration beyond Church control, then the official Church will claim that they aren't really Catholic any more. If the Vatican would declare any group of sisters to be outside the Catholic Church, then those sisters might risk losing anything their communities had accrued over the years -- housing, savings, medical care.

Even more significantly for many, sisters who have never considered themselves anything but Catholic would find themselves banished.

The sisters of the LCWR face two basic choices: submission or exile.
Like Jesus, like Joan of Arc, the sisters may find a way to reframe the discussion -- or they may choose not to respond at all. I'm afraid that ultimately it won't matter. The religious authorities of their days didn't really care how Jesus and Joan responded; in the end, they had Jesus crucified and Joan burned at the stake. In service of Vatican power and the moral authority the bishops claim is theirs alone, what harm is there in inconveniencing a few old nuns? (Yea, really, what's a little elder abuse on top of all the other abuses perpetrated by this hierarchy on lay Catholics?  In for a penny, in for a pound.)

As the sisters gather to formulate their response, their years of prayer and discernment will serve them well. These are strong, centered women placed in an impossible position by powerful men who feel threatened. May Jesus and Joan show them the way.


I find both the response of Jesus to the Chief Priests and St Joan's response to her inquisitors brilliant not just because they answered cunning questions, but because they separated out some real truth.  As I look at this LCWR problem, separating out the real truth is not going to be as easy, but the sisters could try a response along these lines:  "We give to Jesus the obedience that is Jesus' and to our order the obedience that is our orders'.   This might work because the Vatican is demanding obedience from the umbrella group the LCWR, and not the individual orders, and secondly sisters do not take vows to the Pope or any bishop.  This way the orders themselves could demand their membership drop out of the LCWR agreeing with the CDF that the LCWR was, oh I don't know, somewhat unwieldy.  That would put Archbishop Sartain in the position of supervising an organization that no longer exists. Should the CDF then push the issue, they would look foolish. On the other hand, looking foolish does not seem to be a problem for the men of the hierarchy.  They are on something of a role with this 'looking foolish thing'.

Once the members of the LCWR made themselves ex members of the LCWR, they could then agree to meet informally once or twice a year for tea and chocolate and a chat around a camp fire.  Kind of like the Ya Ya Sisterhood:

 Little Vivi: These are the headdresses of the queens that have gone before us. They come from Indian holy ground... the jungles of the ancients... prairies of the Norwegians... and the forests of the mighty Amazons. The royal crowns of our people.
[pouring something from a jar into a glass]
Little Vivi: This is the blood of our people, the wolf people, the alligator people, and the moon women from which we gain our strength to rule all worlds.
[Hands glass to Little Teensy. Little Teensy shakes head no]
Little Vivi: It's ok, it's just chocolate.
[Teensy drinks]
Little Vivi: Teensy Melissa Whitman: I declare you, Princess-Naked-As-A-Jaybird.
Little Teensy: [whispers] Ah Cha Cha!
Little Vivi: [turns to Little Caro] Caro Eliza Bennett: I declare you, Duchess Soaring Hawk.
[turns to Little Necie]
Little Vivi: Necie Rose Kelleher: I declare you, Countess Singing Cloud. And I: Viviane Joan Abbott, am hereby and forever Queen Dancing Creek.
[pulls a knife out of a shield]
Little Necie: Now, wait just one second y'all... I don't think we should be cutting ourselves with that knife...
Little Vivi: Silence!
[nicks her hands with knife and passes it down to Little Teensy]
Little Vivi: We are the flames of the fires, the whirling of the winds. We are the waters of the rains and the rivers and the oceans. We are the rocks and the stones. And now by the power invested in me, I declare we are the mighty Ya-Ya priestesses. Let no man put us under. Now our blood flows through each other as it's done for all eternity. Loyal forever. We raise our voices in the words of Mumbo Gumbo... YA-YA!
All little Ya-Ya's: YA-YA!

No offense intended, but you get my drift.  Who needs men supervising them when they have been "the flames of the fires, the whirling of the winds, the waters of the rains and river and oceans.  They are the rocks and the stone......and the blood that built the American Church.   Amen Sisters.  YEA-YEA!

Pentecost Message To Pope Benedict: Clean Up The Mess You Call The Vatican

Paolo Gabriele was really close to the Pope.  Perhaps the Holy Spirit is sending Benedict a message.  Kind of like the Archangel Gabriel is used by the Holy Spirit to give some pretty important messages.
Like everyone else I've been following the 'butler did it' story coming from the Vatican.  And I, like a lot of other people, have a hard time understanding why the butler would do it, especially on his own initiative.  After giving it some thought, and reading dozens of articles, I can see where the butler, Paolo Gabriele, could have done it for at least three reasons.

The first one is he is a true whistle blower.  He was hired during JPII's reign by the at the time papal secretary and now Cardinal of Krakow, Msgr Dziwisz.  Dziwisz has been implicated by reporter Jason Berry as one of Maciel's financial beneficiaries as JPII"s gatekeeper.  It could be that Gabriele was truly fed up with the corruption surrounding access to the Pope which under JPII was the ultimate 'pay for pray' scheme.  Hence we get the leaked stories about the EU100,000 truffle donated by some rich Italian and the 10,000 donation from the Italian journalist for an interview with Benedict.  These kinds of stories would be directly in Gabriele's purview, but it doesn't explain anything else.

The second and better possibility is that Gabriele is in league with others further up the chain to discredit the cronyism surrounding Cardinal Bertone, the corruption in the Vatican bank, and the utter countersign to Jesus Christ represented by the whole operation.  In this scenario the butler gets to add his beefs--the pay for papal access--and becomes a central depository for other leakers who have other fish to fry.  Big fish.  The butler agrees to this because he is so close to the Pope he would be above suspicion.  By default he becomes the designated fall guy for the rest of his fellow leakers.  He is the Sancho Panza for other Don Quijotes.

The third possibility is the Gabriele story is a false flag operation and he is falling on his sword for the Papacy itself, and his family will be very well taken care of while he undergoes his martyrdom and the Vatican tries to recover from the fallout.

My money is on scenario number two. My mind keeps returning to Archbishop Vigano and his leaked letters which warned Benedict of the dismay his transfer to the US as Papal Envoy would engender in others who were trying to clean up the corruption in the Vatican.  My mind turns to Cardinal Bertone whose tenure as Secretary of State has been one embarrassing fiasco after another, and one power grab after another.  My mind turns to the Vatican Bank and how suddenly Carl Anderson has become it's spokesman as if Carl Anderson some how has more credibility than anyone else.  Then there is the fact Carl Anderson does represent the KofC which is a very big player in the life insurance business which allows Carl and his boys to donate millions to the pet causes of various Cardinals and Archbishops. For these men Carl would have a great deal of credibility.  Millions of dollars of credibility.

And finally, my mind turns to Benedict who is too old to deal with all of this and has to feel utterly betrayed by the removal of Ettore Gotti Tedeschi as Director of the Vatican Bank.  Gotti is a friend, who answered directly to Benedict and who also had a large part in the writing of Caritas en Veritate.  Twenty four hours after this news he gets the second blow that his private butler has been arrested as the man behind Vatileaks.  I'm sure Benedict will be getting some more personal blows, but that's what happens when a person turns their back on governing in favor of continuous writing to shore up his legacy as a teaching pope.  Unfortunately, his predecessor, with his help, made sure the Papacy returned to being a monarchy with all power for all facets of the Church vested in the Pope.  Perhaps this has turned out to be to big a vision for the talents of one man--for any man.  Perhaps this is why Vatican II had a different governing vision.

Poor Benedict has a mess on his hands and no matter how many times he sermonizes on the 'rock weathering storms',  storms do eventually wear down, create cracks, and break apart rocks.  Thank God the Church is the People of God, not the Vatican curia and City State.  For the sake of any credible future for the Roman Catholic Church, this distinction can not be made enough.  Catholics need to start distancing themselves from the mess called the Vatican.  It is not the Church no matter how much it's done recently to convince us these two separate truths are actually just one.  Perhaps this is the message the Holy Spirit is trying to send one very old pope and one very old and corrupt Vatican.


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Legion: A Never Ending Nightmare Continues

This man done enough 'wrist slapping' over the Legion.  Now he needs to do an exorcism.

The AP has released an article from it's Rome bureau in which Legion Director Fr. Corcuera admits he failed to investigate rumors concerning Fr Thomas Williams when he took over the order from Maciel in 2005.  Now he claims he will investigate all accusations against Legion priests.  It is incomprehensible that eight accusations of sexual misconduct have surfaced in the last three weeks, forced by AP investigations, when the Vatican has supposedly been investigating this group for two years.  Why in the world should anyone believe anything that spews from the mouths of Legion leadership or the Vatican about this group?  Sigghhhh.

Legion No. 1 admits he knew of priest's kid in '05
VATICAN CITY (AP) — The head of the embattled Legion of Christ religious order admitted Tuesday to covering up news that his most prominent priest had fathered a child and announced a review of all past allegations of sexual abuse against Legion priests amid a growing scandal at the order. (In truth it would be more accurate to describe it as a 'scandal of an order'.)

The Rev. Alvaro Corcuera wrote a letter to all Legion members in which he admitted he had heard before he became superior in 2005 that the Rev. Thomas Williams, a well-known American television personality, author and moral theologian, had a child. He said he took Williams' word that the rumors were false.
Corcuera said that after becoming superior in 2005, he confirmed Williams' paternity yet did nothing to prevent him from teaching morality to seminarians or preaching about ethics on television, in his many speaking engagements or his 14 books, including "Knowing Right from Wrong: A Christian Guide to Conscience."

Williams, for example, was the keynote speaker at a Legion-affiliated women's conference just last month in the U.S. and was scheduled to speak at another one in October.
Williams admitted last week he had fathered the child after The Associated Press confronted the Legion with the allegation. In a new statement Tuesday, Williams said he had resisted his superiors' encouragement to keep a low profile after the allegations were known to them.

"I foolishly thought that I had left this sin in my past, and that I could make up for some of the wrong I had done by doing the greatest good possible with the gifts God has given me. This was an error in judgment, and yet another thing I must ask your forgiveness for," he wrote, according to the text obtained by the AP. (Wrong, he thought he had it all sufficiently covered up, and the Maciel debacle left Legion brass still ripe for a little black mail.)
Williams has not identified the mother or said whether he was supporting the child or involved in the child's life. The Legion has said the child is being cared for.

Revelations of Williams' child and subsequent cover-up have further eroded the Legion's credibility and compounded the scandal at the order, which in 2009 admitted that its late founder, the Rev. Marcial Maciel had sexually abused his seminarians and fathered three children with two women. For years, the Legion had denied the abuse allegations and publicly discredited the seminarians who went public with their accusations in 1997.
Maciel, who founded the Legion in 1941 in Mexico, died in 2008.

The scandal is particularly grave given that Maciel was held up as a model for the faithful by Pope John Paul II, who was impressed by the orthodox order's ability to attract money and young men to the priesthood. Maciel's double life, and the continuing problems of the cult-like order, have cast a shadow over John Paul's legacy since the Vatican knew of Maciel's crimes as early as the mid-1950s, yet he continued to enjoy the highest Vatican praise and access until he was finally sanctioned by Rome in 2006.

In 2010, the Vatican took over the Legion after determining that the order itself had been contaminated by Maciel's influence and needed to be "purified" through a process of reform that is under way.
Following an AP investigation, the Legion on May 11 admitted that seven priests were under Vatican investigation for allegedly sexually abusing minors and other sacramental violations, an indication that Maciel's crimes were not his alone. Five of the seven concern sex abuse accusations, the Legion clarified Tuesday. Two concern violations believed to involve using confession or spiritual direction to have inappropriate sexual relations with women.

Corcuera also revealed that a Legion priest is currently under criminal investigation in the U.S. for alleged sex abuse and that three others had been cleared. Three former Legion priests have been referred to civil authorities, he said.
In his letter Tuesday, Corcuera announced that the Legion was going to review all past cases of allegations of sexual abuse to ensure that they were handled properly. Victims of Legion priests and critics of the order have said there are many more cases of abusers which have been well-known to the leadership but covered up for decades.

"Are there other cases waiting to be discovered, more scandals ready to attack your faith and trust? I can never say for sure Corcuera wrote. "I can, however, tell you that we are following the lead of Pope Benedict XVI in dealing with abuse and sexual misconduct in the Legion." (No, what is actually happening is you are being forced in to doing so by the AP who has taken complaints by victims and members far more seriously than the Legion. Benedict is leading nothing.)

Corcuera's letter is unlikely to stem the outrage among the members of the Legion's lay branch Regnum Christi, for whom Williams was a major point of reference in the United States and a top public defender of Maciel when the allegations of his crimes were leveled years ago. Many had forgiven the Legion for its decades of deception concerning Maciel, thinking it was an isolated case. The recent revelations show otherwise. (And there will be more. Jesus weeps for Regnum Christi.)

Corcuera said that after confirming in 2005 that Williams had indeed fathered the child, he asked him to start withdrawing from his public work. But only in 2010 did he limit Williams' work as a priest. Williams, however, continued to write books, speak at conventions, author articles and, most significantly, teach morality to seminarians at the Legion's university in Rome. He only stopped teaching in February, abruptly, after a Spanish association of victims of the Legion forwarded the allegations against Williams to the Vatican.


It really would be in the Vatican's best interests to disband this organization before much more gets exposed.  This house of cards, based on serving the financial interests of the wealthy, promoting particular political interests, and bilking the innocent out of their money is about to collapse. I would disband this organization before Interpol gets enough complaints and decides it's in their best interests to do the investigating.  The Vatican has demonstrated over and over again, for fifty freaking years,  it has no real interest in 'investigating' this organization in any meaningful sense.  

Personally, I hope Interpol starts moving in on the Legion---- if they haven't already.  I also have no doubt this Vatican will do exactly as it has done, nothing.  Jason Barry has already shown how many Vatican bigwigs have benefited from Legion largesse and the fact those Vatican cardinals are still in power means the Vatican has way too much to lose to attempt to do anything but weather another Legion created firestorm.

Fr. Williams, who had a great deal of access to Maciel for over a decade, has to know way too much and it is most likely for this reason that Corcuera did nothing about the information he received in 2005.  The year 2005 was before Maciel was slapped on the wrist by Benedict.  JPII was still hanging on as Pope and Maciel was still untouchable, and so it seems Williams was able to make himself untouchable.  The fact this untouchable status continued into 2012 until the AP forced the issue should give pause to anyone who still trusts anything about the Legion or about this Vatican investigation.

For me, the Legion represents in an all too real form everything that is corrupt about the Roman Catholic clerical priesthood and hierarchy.  How it does it's business, how it abuses it's laity, how it thinks it's above the laws the rest of us mere mortals have to follow, how it is forced to protect the myth from scandal--demythologizing--rather than act like even half way decent human beings and deal with it's victims.

A commenter wrote the other day about Jesus confronting the demon who named itself 'Legion'. It remains to be seen if our Pope, an alter christus and apostolic descendant of Peter, will confront his own version of Legion.  Slaps on the wrist don't cut it.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Legion May Not Have A Charism, But ex LC/RC Certainly Do

Given the recent direction of the 'reform of the reform' it's pretty obvious the Legion will be undergoing no 'real reform'.

Robert McClory has a recent post at NCR in which he describes the Church as a family suffering with a parent who has serious issues.  As I was reading his article this morning my mind went to the Legion of Christ as perhaps the quintessential warning to Roman Catholicism of exactly what McClory was describing in his article.  The following two excerpts are the beginning and ending paragraphs of his article:

There's something troubling and neurotic about the aggressive campaign the institutional church is waging these days. Orders are given and compliance is expected from the highest levels down to the lowest. Clearly, "the reform of the reform" Pope Benedict XVI called for a few years ago is moving forward at an accelerated, almost frantic kind of pace.......At this point he goes on to recount the numerous demands for conformity issued by the Church in the last couple years, and he ends with this observation:

...... The church's credibility in the eyes of many, many Catholics has become so thin you can practically see through it, as the church sheds members at a record pace. The institution is like a deeply troubled parent obsessed with a rage for order, and is thus in grave danger of permanently harming himself and the members of the family. If this were a real human family, its responsible members would be gathering together to consider the kind of help "Dad needs." And at minimum, wouldn't there be some urgent discussion of a possible intervention before matters get worse?


It does seem to me that the Vatican, and especially the USCCB, is attempting to remake the Church in the image of the Legion, not that of Jesus Christ.  Obedience is everything, thinking is counterproductive.  But the Vatican and the USCCB aren't the only forces on this planet sending messages to Catholics. So is the Holy Spirit.  Given that,  I'm not surprised that at this very same time another Legion scandal hits the news, so I've also been following discussions on LC/RC blogs about the sudden removal of Fr Thomas Williams, the ever so handsome American face of the Legion.   Some of the posts, apparently coming from people still in the Legion, are disturbing.  One commenter stated when the new Vatican approved constitution comes out, it will include a barely modified version of the Legion vow of absolute obedience to their leadership. For some reason, what disturbed me was not this possibility, but the fact I wasn't surprised this vow is resurfacing in this order. 

The fact I knew on some level this bizarre vow of obedience would resurface made me really think about what this implied about my view the current Church.  It's not a pretty picture.  The rational part of my mind can't believe the Legion still exists in the first place--given the horrifically compromised life of it's founder, but more than that, the rational part of my mind can't accept the fact nothing of any substance is being done to actually reform the Legion.  Cardinal De Paolis still has Maciel's chain of leadership virtually in place and intact, having just shuffled around the same deck of cards.  What is that about?  Well, maybe it's about the Vati leaks documents in which De Paolis tells Benedict all about the Legion's financial status, but not so much about it's spiritual status.  Maybe there has been no reform of leadership because it's these very leaders that still have all those intimate contacts with very wealthy Mexican business leaders like Carlos Slim.  Maybe it's because the Vatican is well on it's way to creating an identical atmosphere of  intimidation and harassment used so successfully by Legion superiors to keep their seminarians and religious in line.  Maybe it's because the Vatican not only sympathizes with the obedience instilled in LC/RC members, but desires to use the same techniques in all seminaries, convents, and religious houses under Vatican or Diocesan auspices.  And finally, if our leadership has decided to reduce Catholicism to a Roman cult, it makes sense to try and keep it a rich Roman cult. The more conservative it gets,  the more revenue it generates from really rich,  really reactionary, really spiritually scared people.  The threat of hell apparently still plays really well in gated communities.

I don't believe for one minute the Legion ever had a legitimate charism, but I do believe the ex LC/RC members do have a legitimate charism, and that charism is to stand as witness to the incredible amount of spiritual and psychological damage that following the blind loyalty/blind obedience path does to sincere Roman Catholics whose desire is to follow Christ. It warps them, disempowers them, and permits their leadership to blithely ignore the rules they teach to others.  Hence we get Fr Williams the sexual philanderer teaching us all how to live Christian sexual morality.  Double standards do seem to be the order of the day in not just in the Legion, but throughout today's Roman Catholicism.  It's the usual hallmark of the 'do as I say, not as I do' style of parenting, and it's usually accompanied by the favorite child, always the enabler, having their own set of rules in comparison to the rest of the siblings.  Apparently the Legion is still one of the Vatican's favorite children, because in spite of a Vatican 'investigation' very little is actually changing with in the Legion.  The LCWR will not be so lucky.

Anyway, here's to the ex LC/RC's and their charism to continue to witness to the real evil in the Legion modus operandi,  because in doing so the rest of us will be able to get a clearer picture of a Church leadership which just can't seem to reform the Legion and what that failure portends for any reform of the Vatican/clerical system itself.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

No More Mr Nice Guy When It Comes To Vatican "Leakers"

The Vatican has indeed urged international financial reform--for everybody else.  Which is understandable given the Vatican is way too busy tracking down the whistle blowers who are exposing their own need for reform.

I got home from work last night in time to read the following AP article detailing the Vatican's ire with another book based on leaked documents. This time the documents include private correspondence to and from Pope Benedict. The book was authored by Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi. Nuzzi is the one journalist who has been most responsible for printing the Vati Leaks material and is apparently the 'leakers' go to guy. The material includes private correspondence between Benedict and Gotti Tedeschi, the Opus Dei head of the Vatican bank amongst other interesting revelations. The Spirit is most definitely moving in the Vatican, and those Holy winds are clearing the smoke of secrecy and shady dealings out into the light of day. No amount of papal sabre rattling is going to stop this wind. Jesus is taking His Church back from the bankers, careerists, and self centered clerical bling wearers.  He is giving it back to His people because that is what His people want.

Vatican: New book of leaked documents 'criminal'
VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican has denounced as "criminal" a new book of leaked internal documents that shed light on power struggles inside the Holy See and the thinking of its embattled top banker, and warned that it would take legal action against those responsible.
Pope Benedict XVI has already appointed a commission of cardinals to investigate the "Vatileaks" scandal, which erupted earlier this year with the publication of leaked memos alleging corruption and mismanagement in Holy See affairs and internal squabbles over its efforts to comply with international anti-money laundering norms.

The publication Saturday of "His Holiness," by Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi, added fuel to the fire, reproducing confidential letters and memos to and from Benedict and his personal secretary which, according to the Vatican, violated the pope's right to privacy.

Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said in a statement Saturday the book was an "objectively defamatory" work that "clearly assumes characters of a criminal act." He said the Holy See would get to the bottom of who "stole" the documents, who received them and who published them. He warned the Holy See would seek international cooperation in its quest for justice, presumably with Italian magistrates.

The Vatican had already warned of legal action against Nuzzi after he broadcast letters in January from the former No. 2 Vatican administrator to the pope in which he begged not to be transferred for having exposed alleged corruption that cost the Holy See millions of euros in higher contract prices. The prelate, Monsignor Carlo Maria Vigano, is now the Vatican's U.S. ambassador.
Nuzzi, author of "Vatican SpA," a 2009 volume laying out shady dealings of the Vatican bank based on leaked documents, said he was approached by sources inside the Vatican with the trove of new documents, most of them of fairly recent vintage and many of them painting the Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, in a negative light. (While it's sort of fun to read about the various personality squabbles with in the Vatican, it is the Vatican Bank which represents the real cancer within the Vatican curia.  It is the center of a very sick and twisted web. Besides, where is it written in the New Testament that the nascent Church had it's own bank with it's own "God's banker'?)

Much of the documentation is fairly Italy-centric: about a 2009 scandal over the ex-editor of the newspaper of the Italian bishops' conference, a never-before-known dinner between Benedict and Italy's president, and even a 2011 letter from Italy's pre-eminent talk show host Bruno Vespa to the pope enclosing a check for €10,000 for his charity work — and asking for a private audience in exchange.

But there are international leaks as well, including diplomatic cables from Vatican embassies from Jerusalem to Cameroon. Some concern the conclusions of the pope's delegate the disgraced Legion of Christ religious order in a memo to the pope last fall. (He warned that the financial situation of the order, beset by a scandal over its pedophile founder, "while not grave, is serious and pressing.") (LC/RC members take note:  This letter is about Legion finances, not Legion spirituality or abuses or your welfare within the Legion.  To the Vatican the real people of the Legion are not very high on it's lists of concerns.  It's Legion money, just as it always has been.)

Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, the head of the Institute for Religious Works, otherwise known as the Vatican's bank, gets significant ink, with reproduced private memos to the pope with his take on the Vatican's response to the global financial crisis and how to handle the church's tax exempt status amid Italian government efforts to crack down on tax evasion.

The bank has been trying for some two years to remedy its reputation as a shady tax haven beset by scandals, which include the collapse of Italy's Banco Ambrosiano and the death of its head, Roberto Calvi, who also helped manage Vatican investments and was found hanging from London's Blackfriars Bridge in 1982.

In a bid to show it has mended its ways, the Institute for Religious Works this week invited ambassadors from 35 countries in for a tour and a chat with its managing director as part of a new transparency campaign. The tour came on the same day Holy See representatives were in Strasbourg discussing the first draft of a report from a Council of Europe committee on the Vatican's compliance with international norms to fight money laundering and terror financing.

British Ambassador Nigel Baker, who went on the Institute for Religious Works tour, later blogged that the Vatican's reputation depends on showing that its institutions are transparent. "Plenty still needs to be done. But the Holy See needs to stick to its guns. It is in their interest, and ours," he wrote.


About ten years ago I had a vision of sorts in response to a question for which I had spent a lot of time trying to formulate a legitimate answer.  My question was prompted by the pathetic response of the USCCB to the abuse crisis.  For all it's high sounding rhetoric, the Dallas Charter was all smoke and mirrors because the bishops failed to make themselves accountable to anyone other than their individual selves and Rome.  I understood to have done otherwise, say make themselves accountable to even a USCCB judiciary group would never have made it past the JPII Vatican. JPII had been doing everything in his power to make the papacy unaccountable to anyone but God, and the bishops were seen to share in that same sort of unilateral power in their own dioceses.  If this precedent had been allowed to be set, why then the next thing you know bishops might want to take this whole notion further up the chain and expect the Papacy to be accountable to the kind of collegiality described in the Vatican II document Lumen Gentium.  Hence the vision.

I was taken to a small kind of root cellar thing and watched a knight of some sort go inside and down and return with a small but heavy bag.  He got on his horse and took off.  I was given to know this was a scene from around the turn of the first millennium and that the knight had retrieved a bog of gold from a hidden catch.  Then I was told if I wasn't asking the right questions I could never get the right answers.  I woke up from this vision understanding the problem with changing the monarchical papacy was first and foremost a problem of exposing the immense but hidden financial resources and their revenue streams, which were the real underpinning of the power of the papacy in the world. In other words, I had to stop thinking the power of the Roman Catholic Church was based on the power of Jesus, and understand it was based on the power of Caesar.  I also knew I would know the tables were turning when the Vatican Bank began to be exposed.  Once that happened it would also expose all the machinations both political and criminal that were facilitated by the existence of this bank. It was this wealth and it's contacts that precluded secular powers from seriously going after the Church or it's hierarchy.  If secular power wouldn't take on the Vatican, Catholic laity had no chance in hell of fomenting any real reform.  I was finally given to understand, that like with all secret organizations, it would be taken down from within by someone whose conscience couldn't take the truth and for whatever reason was willing to pay the price.

I have to say it's been pretty awesome to watch this vision start to come true.  Pope Benedict can whine all he wants, and start investigation after investigation from within the curia by his fellow like minded cardinals, but criminal activity has no inherent right to privacy.  The tables are indeed turning.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Hans Kung Say Thanks But No Thanks To A German Celebration of Vatican II

One wonders how much further the papacy will sink itself in the swamp of papal infallibility before some pope grabs Fr Kung's cane and saves the Church from complete cultic irrelevance.

The following is taken from Clerical Whispers, and I don't have much to add to the message Fr. Kung has sent.  Why in the world would one celebrate Vatican II when the last three popes have almost completely sold it out in favor of Vatican I notions of papal infallibility?  The Church really should be having a true memorial service, not a celebration.

Theologian Hans Küng has turned down an invitation to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council at the German Katholikentag at Mannheim, held from tomorrow until Sunday.

The Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK), Germany's largest Catholic lay organisation which is organising the Congress and has more than 12 million members, invited Fr Küng and the former President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Cardinal Walter Kasper, to participate in their "Council Gala".

But four days before the congress was due to begin, Fr Küng declined.

"I was honoured to receive the invitation but is one really in the mood to celebrate at a time when the Church is in such sore distress?" Fr Küng asked in his four-page reply.
"In my opinion there is no reason for a festive Council Gala but rather for an honest service of penance or a funeral service," he said.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

SSPX Is On The Path To SSPX-2, SSPX-3, and SSPX-4

I don't know if Pope Benedict is after SSPX priests, but I bet Gammarelli is after their clerical bling business. 

SSPX is making the news again, and this time I think traditionalists should take note.  There is a prophetic lesson for them on which to meditate.  Pope Benedict has bent over backwards to bring this group back in the Catholic fold.  He has done so, according to John Allen's latest take, at some expense to his Papacy and the unity of his own Vatican, not to mention the unity of the rest of Catholicism.  But with all such groups who pride themselves on their orthodoxy, they are splitting over whose vision of orthodoxy is most orthodox.  Consequently Bishop Fellay has been taken to task by the other three illicitly installed bishops of SSPX as giving away too much to the Vatican:

.....On April 7, Mallerays, de Gallareta and Williamson wrote to Fellay insisting that “agreement is impossible with Rome,” because after Vatican II “the official authorities of the church separated themselves from Catholic truth”.
The three prelates warned of the dangers of “placing ourselves in the hands of conciliar bishops and modernist Rome,” and said that Fellay is leading the society to “a point of no return” and a “deep division.”
On April 17, Fellay wrote back, telling his fellow prelates that they have an “overly human and fatalistic conception of the church,” seeing “dangers, plots and difficulties, but not the grace of the Holy Spirit.”
Fellay argued the traditionalists should embrace Benedict’s overture, since the pope “knows very well it would have been easier for him, and for us, to leave things as they were.”

That line apparently hasn’t convinced everyone, as evidenced by an essay published on “Porte Latine,” the website of the French district of the Society of St. Pius X, in early May. (France is home to the world’s largest concentration of Lefebvrists, with some 120 of the society’s 500 priests.)
Fr. Régis de Cacqueray, superior of the French district, wrote that Benedict XVI still does not see “the calamitous consequences of the new religion which has unfolded over the last half-century in the church,” asserting that he’s under “grave and deep illusions” about Vatican II.
Cacqueray urged the society to “distrust like a plague the novelties introduced by Vatican II, and the popes which have come after the council.”
Such sentiment may be what Fellay had in mind when he told the Catholic News Service in early May that “there might be a split” should a deal with Rome occur.

I happen to think what Pope Benedict doesn't understand is that SSPX is a classic cult, with at least three of their four bishops unwilling to give up their autonomy to any other hierarchical structure or answer to any other authority, including their own leader. It's their way or the highway, and in this case, the Vatican will never ever be able to placate men who are this enamored of their own vision.  Even if the Vatican caved in completely and determined Vatican II to be a heretical counsel, it wouldn't be enough.  The three would then most likely start fighting with each other over who is to be the next 'real' pope of the Roman Catholic Church since the current crop of Catholic Bishops and Cardinals are all steeped in that 'new religion'.  

This was always going to be a no win situation for the Vatican, but now, it could be just another huge loss of face for an already weakened papacy.  I also don't find it the least bit surprising that suddenly Opus Dei is expressing their misgivings, going so far as to call for a loyalty oath to the teachings of Vatican II for anyone who wishes to enter the Church.  Of course it could also be they don't want to give up their status as the only group designated as a Personal Prelature of the Pope.  God forbid SSPX be given the same designation because then OD wouldn't have their singular access and it's quite easy to see SSPX attempting to take over their self proclaimed designation as the 'most orthodox and obedient' of all the various Catholic conservative cults.  

And that brings up another point which conservative/traditionalists should meditate on:  Just why do conservative traditionalists need all these 'new movements' each claiming to be Truer True Believers?  I look at all these movements and just laugh when conservative comments berate progressive or protestant movements for constantly spawning new protestant sects.  Excuse me?  Just what exactly have they done with in the Church.  How many parallel conservative sects does Catholicism really need?  Apparently one for every priest whose ego convinces him he is the proponent of the Truest Truth.

This was all so predictable, and it didn't take prophecy to make the prediction.  It's right there in the best of the science of cults and group dynamics.  Fellay should just take Benedict's offer, bring in those who wish to follow him, and let the others fight, splinter, and disintegrate like all real cults eventually do.  In the meantime it would serve Pope Benedict and the Church a whole lot better to turn his attention to progressive Western Catholics, where he is losing Catholics by the millions, or South America where he is losing Catholics by the hundred million.  Of course in those two situations the problems go far beyond what one SSPX apologist calls  'a few paragraphs in a few documents of Vatican II'.  It could very well be that those two situations are not just beyond the energy of an 85 year old pope, but the courage of his entire College of Cardinals, Vatican bureaucracy, and most of his 5000 hand picked bishops.  Given that I am sure we will see this Pope and this Vatican waste a lot more time on SSPX.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Cardinal Marc Ouellete On The Qualities Of The Modern Bishop---And Puzzlement That Priests Are Saying "No Thanks"

Cardinal Marc Ouellete is surprised priests are turning down promotion to bishop. I'm not. What sane priest wants to be part of this kind of 'pastoral' work?

A while back, I came across an article that quoted Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.  The article was a series of reflections on his first year as Prefect.  There was one statement I've found very intriguing and it has stayed with me for months.  He stated one of the surprises was the number of men who turn down promotion to bishop. The following is an excerpt from an article in Catholic News Ireland which has this observation:

RC priests reluctant to become bishops

An intimate of the present Pope, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, a Canadian, has just completed his first year as prefect of the congregation for bishops – the man who short lists possible bishops for appointment. In the interview with the Italian bishops’ newspaper he reveals that more priests turn down preferment that he could have expected.
Cardinal Marc Ouellet was interviewed for “Avvenire,” the newspaper owned by the Italian episcopal conference.
In the interview, he revealed among other things that it often happens, “more than I could have expected,” that the candidate chosen to be made a bishop does not accept the appointment.
He indicated the reasons for such refusals in the growing difficulty of fulfilling the role, in a society in which the bishops are under public attack, “in part as a result of the scandals and charges concerning sexual abuse.”
As for career ambitions – the cardinal cautioned – if a priest or a bishop aspires and maneuvers to be promoted to a prominent diocese, “it is better for him to stay where he is.”
And he concluded the interview by sketching the profile of the bishop the Church needs most today. A bishop who is at the same time a theologian and an apologist, a public defender of the faith:
“Today, especially in the context of our secularized societies, we need bishops who are the first evangelizers, and not mere administrators of dioceses. Who are capable of proclaiming the Gospel. Who are not only theologically faithful to the magisterium and the pope, but are also capable of expounding and, if need be, of defending the faith publicly.”
This profile of the bishop as theologian and “defensor fidei” fits Cardinal Ouellet himself perfectly.


There a number of statements from Cardinal Ouellete that are disturbing to say the least.  I have my doubts as to whether the abuse crisis and the less than flattering news coverage it has engendered is the main reason men are turning down promotion to bishop.  I can't help but wonder if this has far more to do with the final statements of Cardinal Ouellet in which he states bishops must be theologically faithful to the Magisterium and the pope and become professional apologists.  Cardinal Ouellete even puts an emphasis on proclaiming the Gospels, but says zero about living the Gospels.  Oh, and lest I forget, the word pastoral never even comes up.  

So much for the insight of St Francis: "Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary use words." Or: "It is no use walking anywhere to preach, unless our walking is our preaching."  No, it sure looks like our bishops are to follow the insight of Newt Gingrich who says people don't care what he does, just what he says. I'm not thinking the original Jesus movement would have lasted very long if Jesus just talked His talk and hadn't done more than a few things to back up all His talk.  My how things have changed.  Perhaps secularism isn't the threat the Church wants us to believe it is.  Perhaps the real threat is a leadership who thinks loud defensive ranting is somehow more effective than quietly living the Gospel and actually converting hearts as well as minds.

Sadder still is the thought that Cardinal Ouellete is considered a front runner in the papal sweepstakes. Part of this is due to his long association with Pope Benedict and part of it due to his current position.  No question he has a lot of say in who becomes part of the Magisterium and who doesn't.  That's got to help his chances. On the other hand,  I imagine it is difficult for him to deal well with men saying 'thanks, but no thanks' when it comes to becoming part of his exalted club.  I can also imagine he finds it much easier to blame this trend on the news coverage surrounding the abuse crisis rather than to think a little deeper---deep enough to consider it might also have something to do with the demands of Cardinal Ouellete's style of blind obedience to the Magisterium and papacy which was directly responsible for the abuse crisis.  

But then just maybe this problem with priests saying "NO" is all about thinking feeling committed Catholic priests don't want to be part of a system where the price of conformity is their souls.  Just maybe.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

A Cardinal Takes On Fundamentalist Thinking

There's a fun fascinating story behind these baseballs.  Cardinal Ravasi signed the second from the left, and Cardinal Schonborn signed the one on the far right.  Hmmm, no Cardinal Dolan?

In John Allen's latest column in which he lays down the possible replacements for Benedict XVI, he has this to say about Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi , who along with Cardinal Tim Dolan,  Allen lists as a long shot:

1. Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, 69, Italy, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture
The case for: Ravasi is undeniably brilliant, conversant not just in theology but across a staggering variety of disciplines, including world literature, art, science and philosophy. He’s pioneered the “Courtyard of the Gentiles” project, the Vatican’s most successful recent effort to engage secular non-belief. Ravasi typically comes off as funny, relaxed and affable, and is remarkably down to earth for a man of his erudition, having written not just learned tracts but also popular columns in Italian newspapers.
The case against: In the tribal world of Italian church politics, Ravasi has always been a tribe unto himself – which is part of his charm, but it also means he has no natural base of support. There are also questions about his ability to bend the Vatican to his will, as well as whether his classically European intellect is suited to the new global realities of Catholicism.

I found Allen's description of Ravasi very interesting and couldn't stop myself from comparing him to Cardinal Dolan.  Low and behold,  Catholic News Service ran the following article about Ravasi on the same day Allen posted his thoughts.  Again, I couldn't help but compare Cardinal Ravasi's attitude toward fundamentalist thinking with Cardinal Dolan and his right hand man Bill Donohue.  I think I know which one I would prefer to lead Roman Catholicism.

Well-formed faith makes dialogue with opponents easier, cardinal says
By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The recent call for the resignation of top officials at the Pontifical Academy for Life stems from some members' concern that inviting speakers who oppose church teaching in their scientific practice confuses the faithful and compromises the academy's commitment to the truth.

Any kind of "neutral scientific description" of practices opposed to church teaching have "absolutely no place in our academy," wrote Joseph Seifert, an academy member and founding rector of the International Academy of Philosophy in Liechtenstein.

However, a Vatican cardinal who has been leading a global initiative engaging Catholics, atheists and agnostics in dialogue said
when Catholics are well-formed in their faith they have nothing to fear from listening to opposing views.

It's a shaky or fundamentalist grasp of faith
that sparks suspicion or fear of the other, said Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture. The cardinal spearheads and coordinates the "Courtyard of the Gentiles" project, which seeks to promote discussions between Christians and nonbelievers on themes as diverse as art, spirituality and bioethics.

"Oftentimes this
fear (of dialogue) stems from the fact that the person doesn't feel capable of defending or justifying his own reasons, hence he doesn't want to listen to the other," he told Catholic News Service May 10. (Sometimes this fear is so strong people literally don't hear the other because their mind is totally involved in developing rebuttals which often include points the other person hasn't even brought up.)

The culture council, too, faced negative reaction and controversy in November, he said, when it hosted an international conference on the latest research using adult stem cells.

Though the conference topic focused on adult stem cells, some of the speakers were also involved in research using embryonic stem cells, which the Catholic Church opposes because it involves the destruction of human life. However, the church supports research and therapies utilizing adult stem cells, which can develop into a variety of specialized cells, alleviating degenerative illnesses by repairing damaged tissues.

Cardinal Ravasi said the conference was a success because the key to successful dialogue in any field is not to pick just the best and the brightest,
but to choose the most qualified experts who also are open to a mutual exchange of ideas and criticism.

An obstinate fundamentalist attitude, open hostility or blatant indifference are recipes for failure no matter how famous or accomplished the expert,
he said.

A handful of members of the Pontifical Academy for Life had harshly criticized the academy's plans to host a conference in April on adult stem-cell research that would have featured some of the same speakers as the council for culture's event.

Academy organizers canceled the meeting a month before it was to be held
due to a lack of funding; members critical of the event praised its demise citing concern that scientists not in line with church teaching speaking at a Vatican-sponsored event would confuse the faithful. (Lack of funding? More likely a threat from well healed fundamentalists to remove all kinds of funding from other areas if this conference went forward.)

Another Vatican-related advisory group, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, had a working group meet to discuss developments in stem-cell research in mid-April. The meeting was held behind closed doors to avoid any media-stoked speculation or controversy.

The latest disagreement at the life academy comes from the reaction of a few members to a workshop held in February on the causes, prevention and treatment of infertility.

Seifert wrote a sharply critical six-page open letter to the life academy's president, Bishop Ignacio Carrasco de Paula, and distributed to media outlets, saying the academy's directory board should resign.

He said the infertility workshop was "possibly the worst day in the history" of the academy because there was too much emphasis on "a neutral scientific discussion" of infertility treatments rather than scientific presentations that were "primarily from an ethical and magisterial viewpoint."

The Pontifical Academy for Life, established in 1994, "was explicitly founded to deal with (scientific) matters in the light of anthropological, theological and moral truth," Seifert wrote.

"Any 'purely scientific' treatment of (topics) falsifies them by failing to take into account the most important truths about the questions at hand," said his letter, dated May 4.

Father Scott Borgman, an academy official, told CNS that the academy was created for scientific research to further "the promotion and defense of human life from conception to natural death."

Firmly rooted in "the stability of knowing what the magisterium teaches," the academy also wants to be aware of advances in scientific research even if they do not conform to church teaching, he said.

"This doesn't mean that we uphold people's teachings that are against church teachings," he said. But there is research that does respect Christian morality being conducted by researchers whose scope also includes methods that do not conform to church teaching and "we want to be able to be open to dialogue" to find the latest therapies that the church can endorse.

Msgr. Michel Schooyans, an academy member and retired professor at the Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium, told CNS that dialogue with people who don't agree with church teaching may be acceptable outside of the Vatican, but inviting such experts to a Vatican-sponsored event, he said, gives them an opportunity to "falsify the doctrine of the church in respect to human life."

"When you start compromising the Vatican you are starting a process that troubles public opinion" and confuses the faithful about what the church believes, he said.
(As far as the Vatican goes, how do you further compromise an institution that has amply demonstrated it's capacity to compromise itself?)

When asked whether he believed such a situation could damage the church or would confuse Catholics, Cardinal Ravasi said, "No, that's not true."

However, Catholics need to be well-formed first, he said, hence the importance of the Year of Faith to strengthen people's understanding of what their faith teaches.

"When you are well-formed, you can listen to other people's reasons," he said, so solid, serious catechesis goes hand-in-hand with respectful dialogue.

A solid Catholic identity -- whether as a layperson, a religious or as a Catholic institution -- provides the needed foundation for confronting differing opinions and also for critiquing views, since listening doesn't always mean agreeing, he said.

When asked specifically about the tensions at the life academy, he said, "this is why it's necessary to have a precise identity," which means "an identity that's serious and well-formed, not just fundamentalist."


One of the points in this article that struck me very forcefully is just how powerful the fundamentalist voices are in the Vatican.  Apparently it takes one letter from one man to cause enough of a scare for the Vatican to cancel a conference on stem cell research because a few of the presenters are not card carrying Catholics with the reactionary forces seal of approval. There is very little doubt left in my mind as to who is really running the Vatican, and it's not Benedict.  I should hardly be shocked to find that Joseph Seifert is a card carrying member of Opus Dei.

I take these observations from Cardinal Ravasi as a warning to the Vatican itself.  It can be read as a statement which says, "you are destroying your own credibility in the informed educated world by your constant caving to reactionary fundamentalist agitators."  And he would be right, because an informed Catholic identity is not synonymous with a fundamentalist approach which is too weak and terrified to tolerate any dialogue of any sort, much less any dissent. Cardinal Ravasi is defending the strength and intelligence of the Catholic faithful, while fundamentalists like Seifert demean the faith and intelligence of the Catholic faithful.  One is asking that Catholics be treated as thinking responsible adults, the other is asking Catholics be treated like lazy ill educated children in need of direction and protection.  Not surprising Cardinal Ravasi comes across as a man who has wrestled with his faith and is mature and comfortable with in it.  Seifert?, well, he seems to be projecting his own struggles onto the Vatican.

Roman Catholicism could use a Pope with the approach and qualities of Cardinal Ravasi.  If John Allen is right and this man is 'a tribe unto himself', he may indeed be just the man for the job.  As to controlling the Vatican curia, there's a simple solution for that, start over.