Sunday, February 28, 2010

Is Mandatory Celibacy A Form Of Heresy?

Pope Gregory VII was no friend of married clergy or their wives.

The following is an excerpt from a longer article posted on Clerical Whispers. The article makes an interesting case concerning the 'heresy' of priestly celibacy. It's an interesting read in it's totality, and I encourage readers to take in the whole article. Maybe as just a way to kill time before the Olympic Gold Medal hockey game.

Speaking of which, no matter if the USA wins, it will not be another 'miracle on ice'. Both the Canadian and American teams are fully comprised of NHL professionals. In some respects it's a cross boarder NHL all star game. It's not a national referendum. Now if only Brian Rafalski would take the current resurrection of his game back to the Redwings...., but I digress from more important matters.

The Medieval Papacy

For more than 700 years after Constantine, Roman Emperors and later European monarchs controlled papal elections and personally appointed bishops and abbots who served at their discretion, not the Pope’s.

Monasteries and dioceses brought great wealth to these secular lords through Simony, although little accrued to Rome.

During all that time bishops and priests were married and Churches became Sacramental filling stations owned by mercenary clerics who willed them to family heirs, who then often bought and sold these valuable offices. (Hmmm, perhaps this could be another version of Monopoly.)

The Church had a strong need to curb priestly heirs’ power and corruption, and this problem was solved when Popes submitted to the Emperor’s secular authority, with agreement that Cardinals alone would elect future popes. (This needs more explanation, but perhaps I should read the book this whole article is based on: Illicit Celibacy and the Deposit of Faith.)

Finally, after a 700-year struggle, and desiring to eliminate future loss of wealth and control over married clerics, mandatory celibacy laws preventing future heirs were finally instituted.

Again, no vow was sought as it is today, it was demanded.

Failed Vatican efforts to end priestly marriage had continued sporadically until 1139 AD, and Pope Innocent II’s desire to seize clerical wealth and property.

Then, asserting that apostolic continence was the first priestly tradition, Innocent II reached back 700 years to Popes Damasus’ and Siricius’ use of Gnostic-Christian legend in support of his new effort to subdue the priesthood.

Previously, three councils in the 11th century had failed to end priestly marriage by selling wives and children of priests into slavery, with proceeds accruing to the Vatican treasury.

St. Bernard of Clairvaux correctly prophesied in 1135 AD, “Take from the Church an honorable marriage bed, and do you not fill it with concubineage, incest, homosexuality, and every kind of uncleanness?”

But Pope Gregory VII stated, “The Church cannot escape from the laity unless priests first escape the clutches of their wives.” (This is really quite a statement on a number of levels. In truth, it's very, very gnostic and not very Christian.)

Doctrine vs. Discipline

To justify modern papal demands for priestly celibacy, the Church today denies celibacy is a Church doctrine, claiming it is merely an ancient discipline freely initiated by the apostles.

This defense arose only after Vatican Council I in 1870, when the Church infallibly declared that “some new doctrine” may not be added to the Deposit of Faith.

Prior to that time the law was taught as a doctrine because all Church teachings that are claimed to be from the apostles are doctrines.

But, in order to retain control over the priesthood, the Church now denies the law of mandatory celibacy is a Church doctrine that changes Christ’s Sacramental doctrine of priestly matrimony, thus denying the Sacramental grace of matrimony originally given to them by Jesus.

This new terminology was necessary in order to obscure the reality that mandatory celibacy actually alters Jesus’ teaching.

At this point it is important for Catholics to understand the Church’s definition of ‘heretic’: “One who, having accepted the faith of Christ, corrupts its Doctrine.”

Today Christ’s original doctrine, allowing priests to marry and propagate, has been changed.

All popes from Innocent II until Benedictine XVI have knowingly supported this law and are therefore partakers of heresy.

Today St. Peter could not become a priest, because he was married.

The ‘discipline’ of apostolic continence is historically false. There is absolutely no evidence from the Deposit of Faith, none.

Church authorities today can produce no legitimate evidence of its truth. It is myth disguised as doctrine.

It is a doctrinal impediment that intentionally alters Christ’s infallible teaching, it denies a Sacramental grace from God, a sanctifying grace given to Christians by the Son of God, and thus voids all Church claims of infallible teaching authority.


The author of the above article is the author of the book. I may have to get this book because the point he is making is somewhat critical. Is it in fact heresy to use a 'doctrine' to circumvent a direct teaching of Jesus or the Apostles? That particular teaching is the choice the disciples and early Christians were given about choosing marriage or celibacy, and the very clear directive of Paul that marriage was far preferable to attempting a life style one in fact couldn't live.

But of course this question has bigger ramifications. If the Church somehow has the power to circumnavigate Christ's instructions on the acceptability of monogamous marriage for the Apostles, how in the world can it then turn around and claim it doesn't have the power to ordain women?

Secondly, accepting the gnostic notion of sexual continence making one more spiritual has had huge repercussions on the nature and role of sexuality with in Catholicism. None of these repercussions has been very beneficial or healthy for Christians--especially women-- because in essence the exalted status of the Catholic priest was achieved by denying the God given role of women for men. Real spiritual men don't need female 'companionship' and in fact, should they accept such companionship, they have accepted a lesser spiritual state. So much for Genesis and God's intentions about male spiritual needs.

Celibacy, and the theology which supports it, really is a core root issue in Catholicism. It denies the role of women in salvation history, it produces a warped view of sexuality with regards to spirituality, and it produces enormous hypocrisy with in the priesthood. It really needs to be re evaluated. Finally, for the majority of priests, it does not provide for occasions of sanctity, it provides for occasions of sin and exploitation. It's well past time to reform this reform.

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Catholic Pursuit Of A Culture Of Death In The Philippines

I have posted this photo previously. It truly haunts me, as does this topic in this country. Follow the link for the opinion of a more enlightened Catholic opinion, that of Cardinal Cottier.

Church 'has silenced women's rights debate'
Feb. 25, 2010 By UCA News

QUEZON CITY, Philippines — The church's catechism opposing the Reproductive Health Bill, which is now before Congress, has silenced election candidates on women's rights, a leading advocate of the proposed law says.

Politicians seem to have "all meekly acquiesced to the dictates" of the Episcopal Commission on Family and Life, which issued the "Catechism on Family and Life" for the 2010 elections, former Health Secretary Alberto Romualdez said. National, provincial and local elections will be held nationwide May 10.

The Catholic church teaches that married couples must have as many children as they can support and educate. It allows only for natural family planning methods.
The bill before Congress proposes allotting funds for a population control program to curb poverty. (This is not precisely true. Ultimately the Church teaches couples must allow all pregnancies that happen irrespective of whether they can support or educate them.)

Romualdez urged supporters of the bill not to allow "religious extremists to dominate the discussion or suppress it altogether."

"Reproductive heath advocates should view with concern the deafening silence of presidential candidates and politicians in general on the issue of reproductive health," he said.

Romualdez is the trustee of the Forum for Family Planning and Development. The organization is an association of national, business and other leaders funded by international donors, including United Nations Population Fund and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
At a recent forum on "reproductive health rights of Filipinos and the 2010 national elections," Romualdez and other supporters of the Reproductive Health Bill said the church was interfering in politics.

"Interference by a religious body in civil and political affairs is a violation of our constitution's section on the separation of church and state, and candidates should take a stand on this," Romualdez said.

Ramon San Pascual, executive director of the Philippine Legislators' Committee on Population and Development Foundation, told the forum the church should stay out of the debate.
"Priests and bishops are not allowed to become parents and to have families … and yet they are involved in the issue of taking care of the bodies of women," he said.

The 2008 surveys of the Social Weather Stations, a private research institution, found 71 percent of the nation and 86 percent of Manila City residents want the bill passed into law.

Urban poor group leader Fe Nicodemus reported that on Valentine's Day her group distributed 200,000 condoms while the church gave out rice. "Residents got the rice, then came to us" for the condoms, she said.

In a separate interview on Feb. 19, Archbishop Oscar Cruz, the church's national judicial vicar, said the church is exercising its role of reminding Catholics about right and wrong.

"The real problem of government officials is their futile wish for the bishops, priests and religious to act as if they know nothing, see nothing, say nothing even when said public officials engage in unethical and/or immoral plans, programs and projects," Cruz said.


The situation in the Philippines is truly an all out war between corrupt politicians and the Church on one side, and poor women and their advocates on the other. Only one side is paying any consequences in this war. It's not the celibate males of the Church nor the corrupt politicians. I find it very interesting that the families of those ruling politicians are much smaller than what they themselves advocate for others.

I just finished reading a report on the effects of the NFP mandate issued by Manila Mayor Jose Atienza in 2000. His decree stated this:

“the City promotes responsible parenthood and upholds natural
family planning not just as a method but as a way of self-awareness in promoting the
culture of life while discouraging the use of artificial methods of contraception like
condoms, pills, intrauterine devices, surgical sterilization, and other.”

The result of Executive Order #003, which is still in effect, has been devastating for Manilla's poorer families. Infant and maternal mortality has risen significantly and keeps rising. The number of families who have sunk below the poverty line keeps increasing. One of the top two reasons for admission to local hospitals is complications from botched abortions. HIV/AIDS is steeply rising, the number of infections now doubling in less than a year and the Church officials castigate government officials for distributing free condoms. All of this misery is happening in service to the "Culture of Life".

Although the report I linked is long, I found it interesting because it illustrates the exact same arguments put before the Vatican's Birth Control Commission during Vatican II. Those arguments convinced all but three members of the 57 person commission to vote for a change in the Church's stance on birth control.

One of the arguments which doesn't get enough play, is that NFP assumes an equal voice in the sexual relations with in a couple's marriage. Women have to have the ability to say no and have their husband respect this no. The fact is no such equality exists within the defined gender relationship in Catholic culture. This is certainly true in the vary Catholic Philippines:

As a way of coping with lack of access to family planning, women interviewed would
often try to refuse sex with their partner to avoid pregnancy. Fear of getting pregnant
because of lack of protection during sex is the primary reason why they refuse sex with
their partners. Women described how this puts a strain on their relationships and has led to
heated altercations, temporary separation and even sexual violence. More often than not,
women yield to their partners’ wishes rather than create a shameful situation where the
neighbors learn they fight because of sex.

My husband and I would quarrel when I refused to have sex for fear of getting
pregnant. He suspected me of having an extramarital affair. He would hit me
on the thighs. He left us for the province and didn’t communicate. I went to my
sister’s place with my six children and worked as a laundry woman to support
myself and my children. We were separated for one year.

Some women finally succumb to their husbands to avoid confrontation
and abuse:
We used to fight, shout at each other when I refused to have sex. My
husband would get mad when I refused and grab me. Because of these
problems, we separated for three months during which time I lived with
my mother. I feel embarrassed if people learn that we fight because of sex
so now I just give in to my husband’s sexual needs, all the time. Ako na
lang maghahanap ng paraan para di mabuntis. [I take it upon myself to
look for ways not to get pregnant.]

* * *
Sometimes when there’s no money to buy condoms and I don’t want to have sex
with my husband, he gets angry and forces me. I tell him, “Aren’t you ashamed
of yourself? You’ve got so many kids already and we don’t have privacy.” Our
house is very small; we sleep together with the kids. Only a thin wall separates
us from the neighbors and I don’t want them to hear us arguing so I just give in
to what my husband wants

Another erroneous underlying assumption in Catholic moral theology-as it pertains to women-is that there should be no such thing as an unwanted pregnancy. No matter the source of that pregnancy, they are all gifts from God. I guess this is really easy to say for men who won't ever experience pregnancy, or childbirth or for that matter, parenthood. Under those circumstances it's really easy to believe in a God who gives 'gifts' to others, no matter the causes. God sure is 'gifting' the women of Manila. How dare those women not revel in eight pregnancies in ten years.

And then in the Philippines we have the political interference another of the ubiquitous lay Catholic Evangelical Groups. (cult) This one is called El Shaddai. It's leader is a failed real estate developer cum healer who based his Catholic philosophy on the American Evangelical prosperity Gospel. Needless to say he is now very wealthy again, courtesy of his followers and the Philippine administration of Joseph Estrada. His youngest son is considered one of the richest of all Philippine legislators.

His group may be way out on the Evangelical scale, but it's well with in the Catholic sexual morality scale. The Philippine Church provides it's spiritual direction. It's political choice in the upcoming presidential elections is another Philippine real estate mogul who strongly believes in NFP. Talk about repeating the past. Can anyone say Marcos?

It's easy for American Catholics to get all distracted by American issues, but American women will always enjoy real reproductive freedom. Philippine women are fighting a fight American women won fifty years ago. In this battle the stakes really are life and death. Philippine women and children can be victimized by these Roman Catholic pro life values because Paul VI could not, or would not, place the safety and health of women and children above papal infallibility and tradition.

Nothing has changed in the last fifty years except for the numbers of silenced theologians and the number of corrupt politicians willing to use Church influence to further their personal goals. Oh yea, and the fact that now the Church is willing to sacrifice clerical abuse victims on the same altar of papal infallibility and tradition. Perhaps this is the real culture of death.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Uncle Dick And Papa Ben And My Shrinking Waistline

I try to look for the positive on a daily basis and lately it's been hard to find much that's positive in Roman Catholicism. At least from a progressives point of view. Anyway, yesterday I'm really slamming on the Bow Flex--(This is a commercial endorsement) and realised that the article I had written was really fueling my workout, not the 20 grams of protein power bar--(not a commercial endorsement, more of a Lenten penance.) Then I got on my Nintendo Wii fitness platform--(another commercial endorsement) and hit three consecutive perfect scores on the soccer balance game and personal bests in three yoga positions.

The yoga work out seems to have centered my mind and I had this strangle little thought. I realized the two personalities who have really influenced my life in it's anger and frustration quotient in the last twenty some years are Dick Cheney and Joseph Ratzinger. In a very real respect I was working off all the weight I had accumulated under their influence. By the way, I have lost 45 pounds in the last four months using the Body For Life program. (another commercial endorsement). I have fantasies of making the 2014 Bobsled team as I figure by then I could still push a bobsled and park my butt in the back, perfectly willing not to see what I was hurdling down. (commercial endorsement for practical cowardice--no offense intended to brakepersons.)

Low and behold, I discovered Maureen Dowd of the New York Times had come to the same conclusion about Cheney and Ratzinger way back in 2005:

Uncle Dick and Papa
By MAUREEN DOWD Published: April 23, 2005--NY Times.

It was a move so smooth and bold, accomplished with such backstage bureaucratic finesse, that it was worthy of Dick Cheney himself.

The éminence grise who had long whispered in the ear of power and who had helped oversee the selection process ended up selecting himself. In Cheneyesque fashion, he searched far and wide for a pope by looking around the room and swiftly deciding he was the best man for the job. (It seems Cheney still harbors similar thoughts about his own future.)

Just like Mr. Cheney, once the quintessentially deferential staff man with the Secret Service code name "Back Seat," the self-effacing Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger has clambered over the back seat to seize the wheel (or Commonweal). Mr. Cheney played the tough cop to W.'s boyish, genial pol, just as Cardinal Ratzinger played the tough cop to John Paul's gentle soul.

And just like the vice president, the new pope is a Jurassic archconservative who disdains the "if it feels good do it" culture and the revolutionary trends toward diversity and cultural openness since the 60's.

The two leaders are a match - absolutists who view the world in stark terms of good and evil, eager to prolong a patriarchal society that prohibits gay marriage and slices up pro-choice U.S. Democratic candidates.

The two, from rural, conservative parts of their countries, want to turn back the clock and exorcise New Age silliness. Mr. Cheney wants to dismantle the New Deal and go back to 1937.

Pope Benedict XVI wants to dismantle Vatican II and go back to 1397. As a scholar, his specialty was "patristics," the study of the key thinkers in the first eight centuries of the church.

They are both old hands at operating in secrecy and using the levers of power for ideological advantage. They want to enlist Catholics in the conservative cause, turning confession boxes into ballot boxes with the threat that a vote for a liberal Democrat could lead to eternal damnation.

Unlike Ronald Reagan and John Paul II, the vice president and the new pope do not have large-scale charisma or sunny faces to soften their harsh "my way or the highway" policies. Their gloomy world outlooks and bullying roles earned them the nicknames Dr. No and Cardinal No. One is called Washington's Darth Vader, the other the Vatican's Darth Vader.

W.'s Doberman and John Paul's "God's Rottweiler," as the new pope was called, are both global enforcers with cult followings. Just as the vice president acted to solidify the view of America as a hyperpower, so the new pope views the Roman Catholic Church as the one true religion. He once branded other faiths as deficient.

Both like to blame the media. Cardinal Ratzinger once accused the U.S. press of overplaying the sex abuse scandal to hurt the church and keep the story on the front pages.

Dr. No and Cardinal No parted ways on the war - though Cardinal Ratzinger did criticize the U.N. But they agree that stem cell research and cloning must be curtailed. Cardinal Ratzinger once called cloning "more dangerous than weapons of mass destruction."

As fundamentalism marches on - even Bill Gates seems to have caved to a preacher on gay rights legislation because of fear of a boycott - U.S. conservatives are thrilled about the choice of Cardinal Ratzinger, hoping for an unholy alliance. They hope this pope - who seems to want a smaller, purer church - encourages a militant role for Catholic bishops and priests in the political process.

Cardinal Ratzinger did not shrink from advising American bishops in the last presidential election on bringing Catholic elected officials to heel. He warned that Catholics who deliberately voted for a candidate because of a pro-choice position were guilty of cooperating in evil, and unworthy to receive communion. Vote Democratic and lose your soul. "Panzerkardinal," as he was known, definitely isn't a man who could read Mario Cuomo's Notre Dame speech urging that pro-choice politicians be allowed in the tent and say, "He's got a point." (Quite a different scene this past year at Notre Dame.)

The Republicans can build their majority by bringing strict Catholics and evangelicals - once at odds - together on what they call "culture of life" issues. (Turns out Catholic bishops have generously included the Mormons as well.)

But there's a risk, as with Tom DeLay, Dr. Bill Frist and other Republicans, that if the new pope is too heavy-handed and too fundamentalist, his approach may backfire. (Benedict is turning out to be much more duplicitous than Dick Cheney.)

Moral absolutism is relative, after all. As Bruce Landesman, a philosophy professor at the University of Utah, pointed out in a letter to The Times: "Those who hold 'liberal' views are not relativists. They simply disagree with the conservatives about what is right and wrong."


The more I think about Dick and Joe the more the energy builds. It's time to go workout it all out and off. Dowd's article was just a tad bit prescient. Maybe too much for my tastes.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Saving The Head At The Expense Of The Body Is A Losing Healing Strategy

Muzzling Martin was sole outcome of summit
By John Cooney-Irish Indenpendent- Monday, February 22-2010

A WORTHY dirge was penned by the writer Aubrey de Vere to Owen Roe O'Donnell about the failure of the earls in Kilkenny's Council Hall before their vanquished flight to the continent.
It can be paraphrased in verse about the reining in of Archbishop Diarmuid Martin by Pope Benedict, the curial cardinals and his 23 fellow bishops at last week's Rome summit:

"Pope, Cardinals and bishops, ye talked and talked/In the Vatican's Salla Bologna, such a grand hall;/But this man whose game ya balked/Was the one man 'mong you all!'

The lamentable end to the two-day Rome talks was crystallised on Friday by Maeve Lewis, director of the One in Four abuse victims' support group. She expressed acute disappointment that Archbishop Martin could not say why their concerns, conveyed in an open letter to Pope Benedict, had not been addressed.

Archbishop Martin could not give a straight answer as to why the pope had not accepted unequivocal responsibility for the clerical abuse and cover-up by church authorities detailed in the Murphy report -- nor sought the resignation of Martin Drennan as Bishop of Galway .

It suggests he has been muzzled by the former head of the Vatican's inquisition. The one united voice -- in which the former Joseph Ratzinger ordered the Irish bishops to intone after the Roman summit -- is his own.

It was not by chance that one of the curial cardinals present at the meetings was a legal expert. It was his job to ensure that the Good Shepherd's published text did not contain anything that would subject the Holy See as a sovereign state to legal challenge from abuse victims. (This is most certainly the over riding reason for the Vatican's silence concerning it's own culpability.)

Any admission of the Vatican's culpability in its directives to bishops of reporting abuse complaints would intensify pressure for accountability from the elderly German pope.

Little wonder that victims' groups said Archbishop Martin returned from Rome not as strong in the Irish hierarchy as he was before and that abuse victim Andrew Madden described him as a changed man. (Chastened is probably more accurate. Perhaps he was told to shut up or he would be assigned a Vatican watch dog ala Archbishop Hunthausen.)

A stoic archbishop of Dublin told the abuse survivors that he would be "more optimistic" about the eventual outcome of the "process" of the Irish church's response to the abuse scandals. The next step will see publication in a few weeks' time of Pope Benedict's Lenten letter to the Catholics of Ireland.

But the prominent victims of clerical abuse in the Dublin archdiocese have no expectation whatsoever from this letter. Except for the additional acceptance by the Irish church of mandatory reporting to the gardai and HSE of complaints, the pope will mainly rehash the press release issued last Tuesday.

Archbishop Martin was not underestimating when he warned, before the publication of the Murphy Report, that its findings "would shock us all".

Three months on we have Bishop Drennan openly blaming Archbishop Martin for propelling the resignations of Bishop Donal Murray and Dublin auxiliary, Eamonn Walsh. Now there is talk of the pope declining the resignations of Bishops Walsh and Ray Field. But Bishop Jim Moriarty will step down at Easter.

Over the weekend the Irish bishops proclaimed the coming of the papal letter to the faithful. Yet only Archbishop Martin has offered the wise counsel that the letter may not be exactly what people are expecting.

Archbishop Martin is isolated, but remains the only bishop in real dialogue with victims. However, that dialogue is now firmly within the parameters prescribed by the Pope and "the Episcopal Gang of 24".


As long as this current Pope lives, Catholics can forget any meaningful admission of culpability by the Vatican when it comes to the systemic policy of covering up sexually abusing priests. Catholics can forget about the Vatican City States ever turning over the approximately two dozen abusers that currently live with in it's walls and are avoiding extradition to other countries. Catholics can forget about experiencing an authority structure which cares about them more than it cares about it's own survival and it's desperate attempts to avoid legal accountability for it's own criminal decisions.

Irish, American, Australian, Canadian, and now German abuse victims know first hand how much they really count to the Vatican. They count only as much as they are perceived to be a threat to the Vatican. Victims can take heart in the fact they must count a lot because the Vatican is bending over backwards to avoid dealing with them on it's own behalf. Can't take a chance on criminal prosecutions and law suits. Can't take a chance on any meaningful real life accountability. Can't admit any mistakes. Mistakes are only made by national episcopacies, not the Vatican. Apparently we are supposed to ignore the fact the national episcopacies all made the exact same criminal mistakes. The Church is only universal when it serves the Vatican's interests. Otherwise it's each episcopate for itself--especially when it comes to legal accountability.

I feel very badly for Archbishop Martin. I saw him as the one bishop who understood the real danger inherent in this crisis might be in setting up a war between the laity and lower clergy with the hierarchy. He really did his best to attempt to get the Irish hierarchy on the same page as the Irish laity. He was succeeding, but it looks as if the Vatican determined in advance that the price of his success was too high for the Vatican to pay--especially over a dieing church in Ireland. Better to heed the advice of Vatican attorneys and stay silent while keeping Vatican eyes focused on the South, on the Philippines, on any place in which the constant use of the sexual morality card still had some authority.

I suspect Archbishop Martin spends some of his time staring at walls, reflecting on where he personally moves from where he's currently positioned. Does he squander his moral authority with the Irish Church in favor of protecting the German pope or does he follow his heart. If he follows his heart he keeps his soul and his moral authority. If he follows the Vatican line he puts another nail in the coffin of Jesus's church in the West. I bet recently his eyes have tracked towards Germany. Will a German bishop take a principled stand or will the Pope's country of origin fall in line, repeating a past German mistake?

There is a kind of karmic dogma which says that those things in your past that you refuse to heal will keep repeating until you finally deal with them and heal them. These situations aren't always about one's own transgressions. Very frequently they are about situations in which one was victimized and just couldn't deal with the situation at the time. Some psychologists think this kind of mechanism is operating in abuse victims who become predators themselves or continue to experience victimhood in other aspects of their lives. Other psychologists would see this as learned behavior, and others as maladaptive neural entrainment.

Sometimes this process gets played out on a very big stage. Institutional Roman Catholicism is currently experiencing this 'karmic' play on a global stage. The strategy of protecting the clergy at the expense of the victims is not a healing strategy. Moving the nexus point up the food chain to protecting the Vatican at the expense of national churches is not a healing strategy. A physician does not keep cutting off various parts of the body strictly to save the head.

Unfortunately Benedict is not a physician nor a healer--not for the church and not for himself. This karmic cycle is going to keep repeating until the lesson is learned and the healing happens. If the Vatican is incapable of learning the lesson it may be that the various national churches cut off the head. And maybe that's the ultimate lesson we all need to learn: the Vatican is not, in fact, the head of the Catholic Church, Jesus is.

Monday, February 22, 2010

For an explanation of where the lit areas are in the brain, and what it may signify click here. It appears compassion is as deep seated in human neural functioning as fear or anger and involves some of the same centers. A theology of God based in compassion can be just as powerful as one based in fear and anger.

If there has been one incident in the past year which really underlines the differences in neural mapping between the world view of the conservative Catholic base and the progressive Catholic base, it's been in the passionate responses to the rape of the nine year old Brazillian girl and the subsequent therapeutic abortion of her twin fetuses. As Archbishop Fisichella is finding out, there is no room for compassion when it comes to the absolutist position on fetal life--not for the girl and certainly not for him.

Move to oust head of Pontifical Academy for Life
Feb. 19, 2010 By Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY -- Several members of the Pontifical Academy for Life have suggested that the academy's president, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, be replaced because he "does not understand what absolute respect for innocent human lives entails." (This is a beautiful statement about Grand Scale morality and how no compromise can be tolerated because it is an attack on the entire moral structure. Even when the issue concerns a totally innocent sexually abused nine year old girl, her situation can not be used to violate the Grand Scale morality about the total evil of abortion.)

The controversy stems from Fisichella's criticizing a Brazilian archbishop's response to 9-year-old girl's abortion for lacking compassion.

The call came in a statement distributed to some news outlets Feb. 18, five days after the academy ended an annual meeting at the Vatican. It was signed by five of the academy's 159 members.

The Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, told journalists Feb. 19 that the group had not yet made a copy of their letter available to Pope Benedict XVI or the Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.

"It's a bit strange that persons who are members of an academy address a request of this kind without addressing it to the competent authorities," Lombardi said. "It's astounding and seems incorrect that such a document be given public circulation." (This might seem astounding to Father Lombardi, but it's perfectly reasonable to the five signatories because a Vatican authority figure violated the Grand Scale moral belief.)

Lombardi also said "the natural place to discuss" the group's criticisms would have been during the general assembly itself and not in the public arena.

The criticism of Fisichella stemmed from an article he wrote last year, which said a Brazilian archbishop's response to an abortion performed on a 9-year-old girl had shown a lack of pastoral care and compassion. (The absolutist position has no room for compassion or understanding. Understanding in this case only involves understanding there can be no compromise.)

The Vatican, reportedly after complaints from some Academy for Life members, later issued a clarification reiterating its teaching against abortion and saying the Brazilian archbishop had, in fact, acted with "pastoral delicacy" in the matter.

When the academy met at the Vatican Feb. 11-13, many observers expected the disagreement to take center stage. But the issue was not directly raised, according to participants, and Fisichella told Catholic News Service that the atmosphere at the meeting was "serene and calm."

In their statement, the five members said they had made "a political decision" to not publicly question Fisichella's leadership during the assembly's proceedings because "an open challenge to Fisichella in the assembly would have divided the academy." (Essentially they weren't going to take a chance on submitting their point of view to a general consensus. There is no such thing as a legitimate general consensus of opinion when it comes to issues of fundamental morality. There is only fundamental morality.)

Another reason the group decided not to openly dissent during the meeting, it said, was because they believed there was "a reasonable hope that the Holy Father will recognize the need to provide [the archbishop] with an occupation better suited to his abilities." (Like silent retirement.)

However, several days after the assembly concluded, the group decided to publish its critical statement, in part because of an opening address Fisichella delivered to the academy Feb. 11. The statement said the archbishop not only did not retract what he said in his 2009 article, but claimed that the Vatican's subsequent clarification -- issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith -- had vindicated him.

According to the statement, Fisichella described criticism against him as "personal attacks ... motivated by 'spite.'" (Probably not. They are more likely personal attacks motivated by disgust that he failed to tow the absolutist line. In that sense they may be directed at him but aren't really about him.)

The proceedings of the pontifical academy were not public. Asked to verify the account given by the five signatories, an official at the academy told CNS Feb. 19 that an academy member "has no right to publicize" proceedings from a private meeting. (Apparently they do.)

The statement said the lack of a public and open challenge to Fisichella "has created the unfortunate impression that academicians are behind his presidency, resignedly or otherwise."
"Far from creating unity and genuine harmony in the academy, Fisichella's address on the 11th of February had the effect of confirming in the minds of many academicians the impression that we are being led by an ecclesiastic who does not understand what absolute respect for innocent human lives entails," it said. (He probably doesn't understand the moral principle in the way that his detractors do, and he never will.)

"This is an absurd state of affairs in a Pontifical Academy for Life, but one which can be rectified only by those who are responsible for his appointment as president," it said.

Pope Benedict appointed Fisichella as president of the academy in 2008.

The signatories of the statement included: Luke Gormally, a senior research fellow of the London-based Linacre Center for Healthcare Ethics; Christine De Marcellus Vollmer, chairwoman of the Washington-based Alliance for the Family; Msgr. Michel Schooyans, a retired professor of theology and philosophy at the Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium; Dr. Maria Smereczynska of Poland; and Dr. Thomas Ward, president of the U.K.-based National Association of Catholic Families.

Vollmer sent Catholic News Service a copy of the statement Feb. 18. In an e-mail, she said that despite hopes that the controversy over the Brazilian abortion had been properly clarified, Fisichella had "reignited the crisis" with his speech to the academy.

The abortion case prompted an unusual series of statements from different Vatican departments, as well as worldwide commentary. After doctors in Recife, Brazil, aborted the twins of the girl, who had been repeatedly raped by her stepfather, Archbishop Jose Cardoso Sobrinho of Olinda and Recife announced the excommunication of the girl's mother and the doctors involved, saying the abortion was "a crime in the eyes of the church."

Fisichella, in an article published March 15 in the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, reiterated the church's teaching on the serious evil associated with direct abortion and the penalties involved. But he also wrote that the local archbishop had put too much emphasis on the punishment of automatic excommunication incurred by the girl's parents and the doctors who carried out the abortion and didn't show enough pastoral care or compassion for the people involved.

The girl "should have been defended, hugged and held tenderly to help her feel that we were all on her side," Fisichella said. (To a more progressive empathic thinker, this is entirely appropriate, but to a moral agenda thinker, the girl isn't an issue, the moral principle is the entire issue.)

Four months later, the doctrinal congregation published in the Vatican newspaper a clarification saying that any confusion over the church's stance on direct abortion had been caused by "the manipulation and exploitation of Archbishop Rino Fisichella's article."

Before the academy met at the Vatican, one of the five signatories of the Feb. 16 statement, Schooyans, had widely circulated among journalists an article he wrote criticizing Fisichella.
While he didn't name the archbishop directly, the monsignor quoted from the archbishop's March 15 article and said it was one example of many in which some members of the church were engaged in a dangerous form of "bogus compassion." Schooyans was not present at the academy's assembly.

When asked about the priest's critique, Fisichella told CNS Feb. 12, "If a member of the academy, if some people, for reasons of political exploitation, wanted to misconstrue my words, it is not my responsibility. Rather it's the responsibility of those who wanted to create a situation of conflict."
(Unfortunately for Archbishop Fisichella, responsibility isn't an issue for the Fr. Schooyans of the world because the only thing that counts is the moral principle and the end really does justify the means.)

I've gone back and reflected on this particular story a great deal in the last year. It really does serve to illustrate the fundamental differences in world views between conservative religious believers and progressive religious believers. To a conservative, who is concerned with defending historic core principles, (in this case historic usually means family or birth culture), the principle always takes precedence over singular circumstances. There are no exceptions.

I suspect this particular case doesn't go away because it does not lend itself to dispassionate logic for either side in this debate. This kind of case generates real emotion in both progressives and conservatives. My original reaction to this story of Archbishop Cardoso's excommunication of the doctors and mother of the nine year old was a very strong physical disgust. Just like some folks react to other folks eating worms. I had such an adverse physical response because the Archbishop's official response violated my world view about the importance of compassion, and more deeply than that, it violated my personal historical experience of Catholicism. My Catholic experience had always placed pastoral compassion above rigid enforcement, placed relationship above obedience, had taught love of God and others over fear of hell. My brain was not conditioned to obedience and absolutism, but to love and union with the Mystery of the faith.

I'm aware that right now the meta paradigm for the Vatican is the truth of the history and tradition of Roman Catholicism and thoroughly grounding that truth in the hierarchical Petrine tradition of papal infallibility. Nothing, no matter how illogical or indefensible will be allowed to interfere with that meta paradigm. Any means will be used to justify that end, even abuse victims of all kinds.

My difficulty is that I truly believe Jesus meant that authentic authority to be grounded in Christ like compassion, not what currently passes for papal infallibility. Jesus taught constantly about practical compassion and very little about infallibility. Maybe what He really meant when He gave the keys to Peter is that as long as Peter acted compassionately through love, what Peter bound or loosed would be honored in heaven. That's a whole different kind of basis for Papal infallibility. It's a whole different intellectual basis for papal infallibility and it's reasonable in the definition of reason used in yesterday's post, because it involves emotion as well as rational thought. It's holistic and there for healing, not divisive.

Maybe some day.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

A Really Important Post Containing A Really Important Article

There are 'real' reasons why talk radio works far better for conservatives than it usually does liberals, but Rachel Maddow seems to combine reason and emotion in a way which is crossing ideological boundaries.

I strongly encourage my readers to read this entire article for a deeper explanation of the neural processes that produce our responses to metaphorical linguistics. I've written in the past that real spiritual conversion is a total body process that rewires our neural connections. Our sense of self is NOT divorced from our experiential biochemistry and is there for a construct we receive from others. This article is great in helping to explain all this, but the following explains how it effects our understanding of the proper moral organization of family and politics.

Blinks, Worms, and Spankers
Excerpt from an article by George Lakoff, Huffington Post, 2/21/10

Nick Kristof, in his February 14 column, discusses three experiments distinguishing conservatives from liberals.

*In one experiment, the strength of blink reflexes to unexpected noises was measured and correlated with degrees of reactions to external threats. Conservatives reacted considerably more strongly than liberals.

*Another experiment was based on the fact that disgust reactions create glandular secretions that change skin conductance. Subjects were shown disgusting images (like some eating a handful of worms). Liberals reacted mildly, but conservative reactions went off the charts.

*A third study showed a strong correlation between attitudes toward spanking and voting patterns: spanking states tend to go Republican. The experimenters correlated spanking preferences with what they called "cognitive styles." As Kristof reports it, "Spankers tend to see the world in stark, black-and-white terms, perceive the social order as vulnerable and under attack, tend to make strong distinctions between "us" and "them," and emphasize order and muscular responses to threats. Parents favoring timeouts feel more comfortable with ambiguities, sense less threat, embrace minority groups -- and are less prone to disgust when they see a man eating worms."

All three results follow from a cognitive science study called Moral Politics, which I published in 1996 and was reprinted in 2002. There I observed that conservatives and liberals had opposite moral worldviews structured by metaphor around two profoundly different models of the ideal family, a strict father family for conservatives and a nurturant parent family for liberals. In the ideal strict father family, the world is seen as a dangerous place and the father functions as protector from "others" and the parent who teaches children absolute right from wrong by punishing them physically (painful spanking or worse) when they do wrong. The father is the ultimate authority, children are to obey, and immoral practices are seen as disgusting.

Ideal liberal families are based on nurturance, which breaks down into empathy, responsibility -- for both oneself and others, and excellence: doing as well as one can to make oneself better and one's family and community better. Parents are to practice these things and children are to learn them by example.

Because our first experience with being governed in is our families, we all learn a basic metaphor: A Governing Institution Is A Family, where the governing institution can be a church, a school, a team, or a nation. The Nation-as-Family version gives us the idea of founding fathers, Mother India and Mother Russia, the Fatherland, homeland security, etc. (Mother Church, Father Joe.)

Apply these monolithically to our politics and you get extreme conservative and progressive moral systems, defining what is right and wrong to each side. (Or to our theology)...

There is no moral system of the moderate or the middle. Because of a neural phenomenon called "mutual inhibition," two opposing moral systems can live in brain circuits that inhibit each other and are active in different contexts. For a nonpolitical example, consider Saturday night and Sunday morning moral systems, which coexist in the brains of many Americans. The same is true of "moderates," who are conservative on some issues and progressive on others, though there may be variations from person to person.

Kristof doesn't mention Moral Politics, though he got a copy at a Democratic Senate retreat in 2003, at which we both spoke. If Moral Politics is still on his bookshelf, I suggest he take a look. I also recommend it to anyone who wants to understand the difference between conservative and progressive moral systems.

Conservative Populism and Tea Partyers

After the Goldwater defeat of 1964, conservatism was a dirty word and most Americans wanted to be liberals, especially working people who were highly unionized. Lee Atwater and colleagues, working for the 1968 Nixon campaign, had a problem: How to get a significant number of working people to become conservative enough to vote for Nixon.

They intuited what I have since called "biconceptualism" (see The Political Mind) -- the fact that many Americans have both conservative and progressive views, but in different contexts and on different issues. Mutual inhibition in brain circuitry means the strengthening of one weakens the other. They found a way to both strengthen conservative views and weaken liberal views, creating a conservative populism. Here's how they did it.

They realized that by the late 60's many working people were disturbed by the anti-war demonstrations; so Nixon ran on anti-communism. They noticed that many working men were upset by radical feminists. So they pushed traditional family values. And they realized that, after the civil rights legislation, many working men, especially in the South, were threatened by blacks. So they ran Nixon on law and order. At the same time, they created the concept of "the liberal elite" -- the tax and spend liberals, the liberal media, the Hollywood liberals, the limosine liberals, and so on. They created language for all these ideas and have been repeating it ever since.

Even though liberals have worked tirelessly for the material benefit of working people, the repetition of conservative populist frames over more than 40 years has had an effect. Conservative ideas have spread in the brains of conservative populists. The current Tea Party movement is an attempt to spread conservative populism further.

Sarah Palin may not know history or economics, but she does know strict father morality and conservative populist frames. Frank Rich, in his February 14 NY Times column, denied David Broder's description of Palin as "perfect pitch populism" and called it "deceptive faux populism" and a "populist masquerade." What Rich is missing is that Palin has a perfect pitch for conservative populism -- which is very different from liberal populism. What she can do is strengthen the conservative side of bi-conceptual undecided populists, helping to move them to conservative populists. She is dangerous that way. (She is especially dangerous because she is portrayed as a 'nurturing' mother with the first dude at her side being protective and guiding. He is her silent, but obviously macho, and ever present male Guardian Angel. He is the perfect foil in case Sarah comes across as too much of a feminist.)

Frank Rich, another of my heroes, is a perfect pitch liberal. He assumes that nurturant values (empathy, social and personal responsibility, making yourself and the world better) are the only objective values. I think they are right values, values that define democracy, but unfortunately far from the only values. Starting with those values, Rich correctly points out that Palin's views contradict liberal populism and that her conservative positions won't materially help the poor and middle class. All true, but ... that does not contradict conservative populism or conservatism in general.

This is a grand liberal mistake. The highest value in the conservative moral system (see Moral Politics, Chapter 9) is the perpetuation and strengthening of the conservative moral system itself!! This is not liberal materialism. Liberals decry it as "ideology," and it is. But it is real, it has the structure of moral system, and it is physically part of the brains of both Washington conservatives and conservative populists. The conservative surge is not merely electoral. It is an idea surge. It is an attempt to spread conservatism via the spread of conservative populism. That is what the Tea Party movement is doing.

False Reason and Real Reason: The Obama Mistake

It was entirely predictable a year ago that the conservatives would hold firm against Obama's attempts at "bipartisanship" -- finding occasional conservatives who were biconceptual, that is, shared some views acceptable to Obama on some issues, while keeping an overall liberal agenda.
The conservatives are not fools. Because their highest value is protecting and extending the conservative moral system itself, giving Obama any victory at all would strengthen Obama and weaken the hold of their moral system. Of course they were going to vote against every proposal and delay and filibuster as often as possible. Protecting and extending their worldview demands it. (This is precisely what is happening in the Vatican as well. The Vatican of the last forty years is all about strengthening the moral system entrained in the brains of pre Vatican II clerics. It has never been neurologically about conversion to Jesus's far different moral view. Jesus even said that to get His teachings His disciples were going to have to abandon their FAMILIES and by extension the moral thinking their families espoused.)

Obama seems not to have understood this -- or wants to appear that way.
We saw this when Obama attended the Republican caucus. He kept pointing out that they voted against proposals that Republicans had made and that he had incorporated, acting as if this were a contradiction. But that was to be expected, since a particular proposal that strengthens Obama and hence weakens their moral view violates their highest moral principle.

Such conservative logic explains why conservatives in Congress first proposed a bipartisan committee to study the deficit, and then voted against it.

That is why I don't expect much from the President's summit with Republicans on February 25. Why should they do anything to strengthen Obama's hand, when it would violate their highest moral principle, as well as weakening themselves electorally. If Obama thinks he can shame them in front of their voters, he is mistaken again. Conservative voters think the same way they do. (Conservatives are also highly guilt driven. Benedict is allowed to manipulate through guilt because he is 'one of them' and a paternal authority figure. Obama is an 'other' and his introduction of guilt will only result in more obstinance because it will not be seen as morally instructive, but as an attack. Think of the relationship between Jesus and the Pharisees.)

During the 2008 presidential campaign, Obama used framing perfectly and articulated the progressive moral system (empathy, individual and social responsibility, making oneself and the world better) as well as it has ever been done.

But he changed after the election. Obama moved from real reason, how people really think, to false reason, a traditional view coming out of the Enlightenment and favored by all too many liberals.

We now (finally!) come to the point of going through all those experiments in the cognitive and brain sciences. Here are the basic differences between real and false reason, and the ways in which all too many liberals, including Obama during the past year, are wed to false reason.

Real reason is embodied in two ways. It is physical, in our brain circuitry. And it is based on our bodies as the function in the everyday world, using thought that arises from embodied metaphors. And it is mostly unconscious. False reason sees reason as fully conscious, as literal, disembodied, yet somehow fitting the world directly, and working not via frame-based, metaphorical, narrative and emotional logic, but via the logic of logicians alone. (This can not be stressed enough. Real reasoning is a total body experience. One feels real reasoning. False reasoning is a game the conscious brain plays to alleviate it's unconcsiously generated fears and it has little real power to persuade anyone. It's Jesus's whole concept of 'ears to hear and eyes to see'. All of this is the fundamental reason He taught through metaphor. He was looking for conversion, or the rewiring of neural pathways.)

Empathy is physical, arising from mirror neurons systems tied to emotional circuitry. Self-interest is real as well, and both play their roles in real reason. False reason is supposed to serve material self-interest alone. It's supposed to answer the question, "What's in it for me?,"which President Obama assumed that all populists were asking. While Frank Luntz told conservatives to frame health care in terms of the moral concepts of freedom (a "government takeover") and life ("death panels"), Obama was talking about policy minutia that could not be understood by most people.
Real reason is inexplicably tied up with emotion; you cannot be rational without being emotional. False reason thinks that emotion is the enemy of reason, that it is unscrupulous to call on emotion. Yet people with brain damage who cannot feel emotion cannot make rational decisions because they do not know what to want, since like and not like mean nothing. "Rational" decisions are based on a long history of emotional responses by oneself and others. Real reason requires emotion.

Obama assumed that Republicans would act "rationally" where "rationality" was defined by false reason -- on the logic of material self-interest. But conservatives understood that their electoral chances matched their highest moral principle, strengthening their moral system itself without compromise.

It is a basic principle of false reason that every human being has the same reason governed by logic -- and that if you just tell people the truth, they will reason to the right conclusion. The President kept saying, throughout Tea Party summer, that he would just keep telling the truth about policy details -- details that most people could not make moral sense of. And so he did, to the detriment of all of us.

All politics is moral. Political leaders all make proposals they say are "right." No one proposes a policy that they say is wrong. But there are two opposing moral systems at work in America. What moral system you are using governs how you will see the world and reason about politics. That is the lesson of the cognitive science behind Moral Politics and all the experiments since then. It is the lesson of all the research on embodied metaphor. Metaphorical thought is central to politics. (And it's critical to spiritual thinking.)

Finally, there is the lesson of how language works in the brain. Every word is neurally connected to a neural circuit characterizing a frame, which in turn is part of a system of frames linked to a moral system. In political discourse, words activate frames, which in turn activate moral systems. This mechanism is not conscious. It is automatic, and it is acquired through repetition. As the language of conservative morality is repeated, frames are activated repeatedly that in turn activate and strengthen the conservative system of thought -- unconsciously and automatically. Thus conservative talk radio and the national conservative messaging system are powerful unconscious forces. They work via principles of real reason.

But many liberals, assuming a false view of reason, think that such a messaging system for ideas they believe in would be illegitimate -- doing the things that the conservatives do that they consider underhanded. Appealing honestly to the way people really think is seen as emotional and hence irrational and immoral. Liberals, clinging to false reason, simply resist paying attention to real reason.

Take Paul Krugman, one of my heroes, whose economic sense I find impeccable. Here is a quote from a recent column:

"Republicans who hate Medicare, tried to slash Medicare in the past, and still aim to dismantle the program over time, have been scoring political points by denouncing proposals for modest cost savings -- savings that are substantially smaller than the spending cuts buried in their own proposals."

He is following traditional liberal logic, and pointing out a literal contradiction: they denounce "cuts in Medicare" while wanting to eliminate Medicare and have proposed bigger cuts themselves.

But, from the perspective of real reason as conservatives use it, there is no contradiction. The highest conservative value is preserving and empowering their moral system itself. Medicare is anathema to their moral system -- a fundamental insult. It violates free market principles and gives people things they haven't all earned. It is a system where some people are paying --God forbid! -- for the medical care of others. For them, Medicare itself is immoral on a grand scale, a fundamental moral issue far more important than any minor proposal for "modest cost savings." I'm sorry to report it, but that is how conservatives are making use of real reason, and exploiting the fact that so many liberals think it's contradictory. (The "Grand scale" argument is precisely why Catholic bishops can so easily practice 'mental reservation' and other deceptions which appear to contradict the Gospel message when it comes to the sexual abuse crisis.)

Indeed, one of the major findings of real reason is that negating a frame activates that frame in the brain and reinforces it -- like Nixon saying that he was not a crook. Dan Pfeiffer, writing on the White House blog, posted an article called "Still not a 'Government Takeover'," which activates the conservative idea of a government takeover and hence reinforces the idea. Every time a liberal goes over a conservative proposal giving evidence negating conservative ideas one by one, he or she is activating the conservative ideas in the brains of his audience. The proper response is to start with your own ideas, framed to fit what you really believe. Facts matter. But they have to be framed properly and their moral significance must be made manifest. That is what we learn from real reason.

The NY Times is home to a lot of traditional reason, often based on false principles of how people think. That is why the reporting of those experiments brightened my day. Perhaps the best way to the NY Times mind is through the science of mind.

Kudos once more to the Times' science reporting on those experiments.

George Lakoff is Goldman Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley. His latest book is The Political Mind: A Cognitive Scientist's Guide to Your Brain and Its Politics.


I can not stress how important it is for progressives to understand the neuroscience involved in the above. Logic, as we currently define it, has no moral authority to change anybody because it is a head game. On some level Benedict knows this, which is why he can write such beautiful logic in his encyclicals but then turn around and use the 'disordered homosexual' and abortion cards as the primary basis on which to further his brain entrained notions of the traditional family and traditional Catholicism. The use of the term homosexual punches both the paternalistic sexual morality button, and just as importantly, the disgust button.

The 'reason' and logic of his encyclicals is brain candy for liberals and as such has zero impact on the conservative forces to which he is really pointing his papacy. In other words he disarms liberals by soothing their need for 'truth' by using the logic of false reason, and then reinforces his conservative supporters through gay bashing and reinforcing their notions of traditional family and traditional liturgy.

This is powerful stuff and liberals have to get over their reliance on logic and realize even they are subject to the rules of neural entrainment. There really is a method to what appears on the surface as conservative madness. The neural processes are the same even though the starting and ending points seem diametrically opposed. All of this is why our political battles are also our religious battles. I'll have more on this tomorrow.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Clerical sexual abusers found that they could abuse with impunity while Cardinal Ratzinger's office 'investigated' their 'moral failings'. Oh yea, and they could also avoid any criminal prosecution.

The Pieces of the Puzzle Are Falling into Place: Catholic Officials, a Global Web of Childhood Sexual Abuse, and the Judgment of History
By MARCI A. HAMILTON Thursday, February 18, 2010

In 2002, the Boston Globe broke the story of Cardinal Bernard Law's cover-up of widespread childhood sexual abuse by serial pedophiles in the Boston Archdiocese. In the wake of the coverage, United States Senator Rick Santorum, himself a Catholic, declared what many assumed to be true -- that the problem was peculiar to Boston. According to Santorum, the child sexual abuse had been caused by the lax morals of a very liberal city.

Santorum's particular theory was laughable, but his core assumption that the problem was geographically limited needs to be examined carefully – for although this claim of exceptionalism has proved completely false, it has continued to be repeated, in other contexts, all over the country and the world. And as long as the problem of Catholic clergy child sex abuse is seen as local, ending it will be elusive – because strings are being pulled from high up in the hierarchy.

Pretending Each City's – and Diocese's – Problems Were Specific to It Alone

Yet, in 2002 and after, the media still covered the Boston story as if it were distinctive to Boston. And, after the Boston scandal broke, the Bishops held an emergency meeting in Dallas and declared that the issue was behind them. Of course, today we know that was hardly the case.
After the Boston situation received publicity, victims of child sex abuse by Catholic priests started coming forward in many other American cities, with the pattern of abuse and cover-up repeating itself again and again. There is no room here to list them all, but they have included Bridgeport (Conn.), Chicago, Cincinnati, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Portland, San Diego, and Spokane. There were recycling bins for the abusers in New Mexico, Maryland, and Canada. A priest could abuse several children in just about any state, take a break in New Mexico (where more children could be abused), and then be sent back to either the original diocese for re-posting, or another city. A handful of honorable prosecutors made the issue a priority, documenting the problem through grand jury reports -- but only a handful. The assumption continued to be that this must be a localized problem in certain dioceses, not one that was endemic to the organization – that is, entrenched throughout the entire Catholic hierarchy and system. (The Archdiocese of Santa Fe had it's own large scandal in the nineties, which included the then current Archbishop, who was forced to resign over his sexual entanglements with five adult women. Why the protocol adopted in Santa Fe wasn't adopted nationwide until 2002 is pretty interesting in and of itself. The Archdiocese barely avoided bankruptcy and paid out over 50 million in settlements. This is a perfect example of the 'localized' phenomenon. Although in Santa Fe's case, it wasn't so localized)

The media in each city focused on the abuse in that city, and the bishops in each city said, after some abuse was finally brought to light, that it was all history now.

The Growing Realization that the Problem Was – and Is -- Greater and More General

Then the list of dioceses with sexual abuse allegations grew longer and longer -- to the point that no state was untouched. Priests started to complain that the "scandal" had started to taint all priests unfairly. Many lifelong – and especially, older -- Catholics rejected out of hand the notion that the problem was deep-seated, or that it might involve the entirety of the Church. For them, this was a short-term bump in the long history of the Catholic Church. Some, though, saw the pattern and formed the Voice of the Faithful -- a collection of devoted Catholics who see the child sex abuse scandal as having revealed an unfortunately built-in problem, not just an isolated set of criminal and tortious acts.

Editors began to treat the stories of abuse, though, as simply redundant, and often caved to the pressure from bishops not to engage in alleged "anti-Catholic bias" by covering one story after another about abuse by priests. The bishops hired public relations firms to spread the word that legislative reform in response to the knowledge of priest abuse was nothing but anti-Catholicism, and to repeat the false claim that all of the abuse had been publicly reported and was safely in the past. (I love this notion of anti Catholicism, it implies the institutional church, like a legal 'corporate person', is somehow a real human being capable of being emotionally 'hurt'. It isn't, even though Catholics are encouraged to think of the institutional church as a real live mother.)

However, lawsuits were filed in numerous jurisdictions, and discovery was demanded, with concomitant news coverage of the lengthening list of abuse allegations. The ambitious American bishops then began to vie among themselves as to who would be the most successful in turning back lawsuits and related legislative reform. Once again, there was an apparent pattern of behavior in response to the public revelations and the lawsuits. The very same arguments against the victims, their attorneys, and legislative reform in this area were floated in far-flung states -- from California, to Delaware, to Wisconsin, and more. (This use of human misery to further one's clerical ambitions really really angers me.)

A Problem that Crossed Not Just State, But National Boundaries

Still, the media treated the cases as location-specific. Editors were driven by the need for a contemporary and local "news hook" and did not invest in investigative reporting to cover the (much) larger story. National coverage of the Holy See's 1962 document, Crimens Solicitationes, which threatens excommunication for bringing "scandal" to the Church by telling outsiders about the sexual abuse of children was – and remains -- sparse. Yet that document provides an embarrassingly obvious hint that the problem was – and is -- endemic and entrenched, and that the cover-up has been constructed from the top down. Was the media in denial over child sex abuse (which is common in our society) or over heinous behavior by the largest church in the United States -- or both? Who knows? Either way, the denial was deep-rooted and pernicious, and unless one has been watching closely, the larger story has escaped the attention of most Americans.
The stories then started to float across the Atlantic from Ireland that many priests there had sexually abused Irish children. Lots and lots of children. Irish prosecutors dug deep and produced two reports. One report detailed how the Irish Church had victimized numerous children in church-run residential schools. Horrifying in itself, the report also served as a reminder of the many stories from Australia – stories that were never widely circulated in the United States -- of the omnipresent sexual and physical abuse of children in church-run residential schools there. The second report, which was 700 pages long and dubbed the "Murphy Report," and focused on the Dublin Archdiocese, painstakingly established that the hierarchy and the police had covered up persistent patterns of abuse. It also pointed to the Holy See as responsible in part for the perpetuation of abuse. (The chapter pertaining to the US residential schools has still not been written, and when it is will be devastating.)

In the end, some Irish bishops were held accountable, with four even resigning after being shamed out of their offices. Then, the current Irish bishops demanded a meeting with the Pope, because they placed significant blame for the pattern of behavior on the Holy See. That meeting took place this week at the Holy See.

The Murphy Report also confirmed that Irish abusers were being shipped to the United States, where they abused American children. Some were sent back and some were permanently dumped here.

Meanwhile, at the same time that the Irish bishops were demanding accountability from the Holy See, discovery in a Wisconsin case -- as I discussed in my last column -- showed that the Holy See and in particular, then-Cardinal Ratzinger (who, of course, is now the Pope) were the official handlers for abusing priests in the United States. The exchanges that litigation unearthed show that there is little question that bishops operated under orders from the highest levels of the Roman Catholic hierarchy on the issue of clergy who had been caught sexually abusing children.

Thus, we have come to know with a certainty that at a minimum, Ireland, the United States, and the Holy See have been linked. And only the Holy See has transnational powers within the group.

Even while all of this information was developing, moreover, there was still a pervasive belief that certain clerical orders were beyond reproach on the issue, especially the widely-respected Jesuits. The lawsuits against the Jesuits for abuse in Alaska were not covered nationally in the media. Then, Germany erupted with stories of pervasive abuse in Jesuit-run schools. The sex-abuse victims are still coming forward, but one rector was recently quoted as saying that he expected that, in the end, they would identify over 100 victims of a single Jesuit perpetrator. And abuse is not limited to this one perpetrator; once again, it is pervasive. In other words, the situation in Germany is a mirror image of that depicted in the first Irish report and of the Australian experience with church-run residential schools. There is an undeniable pattern and web of connections, even for those who would do all that they can to deny child sex abuse and deny wrongdoing by the Roman Catholic Church. That pattern has led to suffering that is beyond human imagination.

Let's face it: there are only two options here: Either the repeated pattern of abuse and cover-up around the world constitutes a giant set of uncanny coincidences, or there is a single source of power directly responsible for the global pattern. The answer is obvious and that is why there are lawsuits currently pending against the Holy See in the United States. History will judge all of us if we do not bring this institution to account for the suffering of children. The Church officials' current behavior makes the selling of indulgences in the fifteenth century almost look quaint.

Marci Hamilton, a FindLaw columnist, is the Paul R. Verkuil Chair in Public Law at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law and author of Justice Denied: What America Must Do to Protect Its Children (Cambridge 2008). A review of Justice Denied appeared on this site on June 25, 2008. Her previous book is God vs. the Gavel: Religion and the Rule of Law (Cambridge University Press 2005), now available in paperback. Her email is In the interest of full disclosure, she represents clergy abuse victims and other victims of childhood sexual abuse on constitutional and federal statutory issues, including one who is currently in litigation against the Holy See..


I'd like to give a shout out to one of my frequent readers for the heads up on the above article. I have made a personal vow not to let myself get too terribly distracted from the issues which are endemic to the sexual abuse crisis. One of those issues is the direct culpability and hideous leadership of the Vatican and Pope Ratzinger in particular. Another is the unexamined idea of loyalty--loyalty to one's superiors and loyalty to the Church. Especially if this loyalty takes precedence over one's commitment to truly honor and live the Way of Jesus.

In an instructive synchronicity, here's another link to an article I came across today. In the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, Argentina it's deposed bishop was given an eight year prison sentence for sexual abuse of a minor seminarian on December 30th of this past year. It seems that in both Santa Fe Archdioceses, there were concurrent abuse investigations going on--in the mid nineties--and both resulted in the removal of the sitting Archbishop only because the local media wouldn't let it drop. The Vatican stonewalled in both cases, which it could, because it was first in the line of reporting. Maybe this is just one of the 'coincidences' mentioned in Marcia Hamilton's piece.

When loyalty to the Papacy and the Church is held as a higher priority than serving and healing the children of God, the smoke of Satan has truly entered the Vatican under the guise of good. What is Satan attacking through unaccountable clericalism? Santa Fe--that is, our Holy Faith. This is no synchronicity and no coincidence. It is a message the Vatican desperately needs to get.