Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Two WaPo Articles With Very Different Messages.

Jesuit Father Henri Boulad issues a heart felt appeal for reformation.

A big thanks to frequent commenter TheraP for giving me the heads up on this article.

A call for a Catholic reformation
By Henri Boulad Egyptian Jesuit - Washington Post

Holy Father,

I dare to speak directly to you for my heart bleeds upon seeing the abyss into which our Church is falling. Hopefully, you will forgive the filial frankness, inspired by the liberty of the children of God to which St. Paul invites us and for my impassioned love for the Church. (Me too.)

I will be pleased also that you forgive the alarmist tone of this letter for I know that little time remains and that the situation remains dire. Let me first tell you a little about myself. I am an Egyptian Lebanese Jesuit of the Melkiterite. I will soon turn 78. For the last 3 years, I have been the rector of the Jesuit school in Cairo. I have also carried out the following responsibilities: superior of the Jesuits in Alexandria, regional superior of the Jesuits in Egypt, professor of theology in El Cairo, director of Caritas-Egypt, and vice president of Caritas International for the Middle East and North Africa.

I am well acquainted with the Catholic hierarchy of Egypt having participated over many years in meetings as president of superiors of the religious orders of Egypt. I have very close relations with each one of them, some of whom are my former students. I also personally know Pope Chenouda III, whom I saw frequently. As far as the Catholic hierarchy of Europe goes, I had the opportunity to meet personally with some of its members such as Cardinal Koening, Cardinal Schonborn, Cardinal Daneels, Cardinal Martini, Archbishop Kothgasser, Bishops Kapellari and Kung, other Austrian bishops and bishops of other European countries. These encounters occurred during my annual trips to give conferences throughout Europe, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Hungary, France, Belgium, etc. During these visits, I spoke and engaged with diverse audiences and the media (newspapers, radio, television, etc.) I did the same in Egypt and the Near East.

I have visited 50 countries on 4 continents and have published some 30 books in 15 languages--mainly in French, Arabic, Hungarian, and German. Of the 13 books in German, perhaps you have read Sons and Daughters of God which was published by your friend, Fr. Erich Fink of Bavaria. I say this not to brag, but rather to tell you simply that my intentions are grounded in a realistic knowledge of the universal church and its current situation in 2009.
Returning to the reason for this letter, I will try to be as brief, clear, and objective as possible.
In the first place, there are several topics [the list is not exhaustive].

Number 1
Religious practice is in a constant decline. A continually shrinking number of seniors [who will soon disappear] are those who frequent the churches in Europe and Canada. The only remaining remedy will be to close these churches or change them into museums, mosques, clubs, or municipal libraries as is now being done. The thing that surprises me is that many of these churches are being completely renovated and modernized at great expense with the hope of attracting the faithful. But this will not stop the exodus.

Number 2
Seminaries and novitiates are emptying out at the same speed, and vocations are in sharp decline. The future is very somber and one has to ask who or what will bring relief. More and more African and Asian priests are in charge of European parishes.

Number 3
Many priests abandon the priesthood. The few who remain--whose median age often is beyond that of retirement--have to be in charge of many parishes in an expedient and administrative capacity. Many of these priests, in Europe, as well as in the Third World, live in concubinage in plain sight of the faithful who normally accept them; this occurs with the knowledge of the local bishop who is not able to accept this arrangement, but who needs to keep in mind the scarcity of priests. (This is a great description of the classic "avoidance/avoidance conundrum, otherwise known as 'damned if you do, damned if you don't")

Number 4
The language of the church is obsolete, out of date, boring, repetitive, moralizing and totally out of synch with our age. The message of the Gospel should be presented in all its starkness and challenges. It is necessary to move towards a "new evangelization" to which John Paul II invited us. But this, contrary to what many think or believe, does not mean repeating the old which no longer speaks to us, but rather innovating and inventing a new language which expresses the faith in a meaningful way for the people of today.

Number 5
This is not able to be done without a profound renewal of theology and catechesis which should be completely reformulated. A German religious priest whom I met recently was telling me that the word "mystic" was not even mentioned once in "The New Catechism." I could not believe it. We have to concede that our faith is very cerebral, abstract, dogmatic, and rarely directed to the heart and body. (As I read this paragraph I was thinking, "and they wonder why Catholics are going New Age?" and then I read the following paragraph.)

Number 6
As a consequence, a great number of Christians are turning to the religions of Asia, the sects, "new-age," evangelical churches, occultism, etc. This is not unexpected. They go to other places to look for nourishment that they don't find in their own home. They have the impression that we give them stones as if it were bread. The Christian faith in another age gave a sense of life to people. It appears to be an enigma to them today, the remains of a forgotten past.

Number 7
In the moral and ethical areas, the teachings of the magisterium repeated " ad nausaeum," about marriage, contraception, abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality, married priests, the divorced who remarry again, etc. etc., no longer affect anyone, and only produce weariness and indifference. All of these moral and pastoral problems deserve something more than categorical declarations. They need a pastoral, sociological, psychological and human treatment that is more evangelical.

Number 8
The Catholic Church, which has been the great teacher of Europe for many centuries, seems to forget that this same Europe has arrived at its maturity. Our adult Europe does not wish to be treated as a child. The paternalistic style of a church "mater et magistra" is completely out of touch and no longer works today. Christians have learned to think for themselves and are no longer inclined to swallow just anything that someone else proposes.

Number 9
The most Catholic nations of the past, for example, France, "the first-born daughter of the church," or ultra-Catholic French Canada, have made a hundred and eighty degree turn and have fallen into atheism, anti-clericalism, agnosticism, and indifference. Other European nations are proceeding down the same path. We are able to state that the more a nation was dominated and protected by the church in the past, the stronger is their reaction against it today.

Number 10
The dialogue with other churches and religions is in a worrisome decline today. The great progress made over the last half century is on hold at this time. Facing this almost devastating situation, the church's leadership reacts in two ways:

1. They tend to minimize the seriousness of the situation and to console themselves by focusing on a resurgence of the most traditionalist factions and on growth in the Third World countries. 2. They appeal to their confidence in the Lord who has sustained the church for over 20 centuries and who is able to help them overcome this new crisis. (Do they ever go on endlessly about the 'resurgence of the most traditional factions'.)

To this I respond.

Neither relying on the past nor holding on to its crumbs will solve the problems of today and tomorrow. The apparent vitality of the churches in the Third World today is misleading. It appears very probable that these new churches eventually will pass through the same crises that the old European Christianity encountered. (It's not a probability, it's a certainty.)

Modernity is irreversible and having forgotten this is why the church today finds itself in such a crisis. Vatican II tried to reverse four centuries of stagnation, but there is an impression that the church is gradually closing the doors that it opened at that time. The church has tried to direct itself backwards towards the council of Trent and Vatican I rather than forward toward Vatican III. Let's remember a statement that John Paul II repeated many times, "There is no alternative to Vatican II."

How long will we continue playing the politics of the ostrich hiding our heads in the sand? How long will we avoid looking things in the face? How long will we continue turning our back and rejecting every criticism rather than seeing it as a chance for renewal? How long will we continue to postpone a reform that has been neglected for too long a time?

Only by looking forward and not backward will the church fulfill its mission to be the light of the world, salt of the earth, and leaven in the dough. Nevertheless, unfortunately what we find today is that the church is the caboose of our age after having been the locomotive for centuries. I repeat again what I said at the beginning of this letter. Time is running out! History doesn't wait especially in our era when it its rhythm flows ever more rapidly.

Any business when confronting a deficit or dysfunction examines itself immediately, bringing together a group of experts, trying to revitalize itself, and mobilizing all its energies to overcoming the crisis. Why doesn't the church do something different? Why doesn't it mobilize all its living forces to have a radical aggiornamento? Why?

Because of laziness? Lethargy? Pride? Lack of imagination? Lack of creativity? Culpable passivity in the hope that the Lord will take care of things and because the church has weathered other crises in the past?

In the Gospels, Christ warns us that "the children of darkness manage their affairs better than the children of light."

So then, what needs to be done? The Church of today has an urgent and compelling need for a three-pronged reform.

1. A theological and catechetical reform to rethink our faith and reformulate it in a coherent way for our contemporaries. A faith that has no significance and gives no meaning to life is nothing more than an ornament, a useless superstructure that eventually implodes upon itself. This is the current situation.

2. A pastoral reformulation that re-thinks from head to toe the structures inherited from the past.

3. A spiritual renewal to revitalize the mystical and to rethink the sacraments with the view of giving them an existential dimension, one that connects with life. (Any reformation which does not have this task as it's guiding principle will fail.)

I would have much more to say about this. Today's church is too formal, too formalistic. One has the impression that the institution suffocates its charisma, and in the end what one finds is purely external stability, a superficial honesty, a kind of facade. Don't we run the risk that Jesus will describe us as the "whitened seplechres"?

In conclusion, I suggest convoking a general synod at the level of the universal church in which all Christians would participate-Catholics and others-to examine with openness and clarity the issues raised above and their ramifications.

Such a synod would last three years and would conclude with a general assembly-let's avoid the word council-which would synthesize the results of this exploration and draw its conclusions.
I end, Holy Father, by asking your pardon for my outspoken boldness and I ask for your paternal blessing. Let me also tell you that in these days I live in your company thanks to your extraordinary book, Jesus of Nazareth, which is the focus of my spiritual reading and daily meditation.

With the utmost affection in the Lord,
Henri Boulad
Henri Boulad, S.J. ix a priest in Egypt and rector of the Jesuit school in Cairo.


Too bad Fr. Boulad is a Jesuit. This letter probably never made it to Benedict for that very fact.

And now another call for Catholics to commiserate with our leadership and leave it in place because they are the 'good guys' suffering just like Jesus. Sr. Mary Walsh is the Spokesperson 'person' for the USCCB.

Holy Week and the suffering Church
By Sister Mary Ann Walsh Director of Media Relations, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops - Washington Post

Holy Week is time when Catholics worldwide feel the pain of dying in Christ.

It comes this year as media reports bring up heartrending, often previously published, stories with a new twist - how the Vatican handled the cases. Efforts to link stories to culpable inaction by Pope Benedict XVI cause reasonable people anguish given all that the pope has tried to do to address this crisis. (Except he never bucked his boss. He swallowed his whistle in favor of obedience and let Maciel and others ravage and ravage and ravage. He practiced the cowardice of obedience instead of the courage of conviction.)

Since 2002, the church in the United States has had a policy of zero tolerance, which means a priest or deacon who has admitted to or been found guilty of sexually abusing a minor can no longer engage in public ministry. Likewise, the church has developed screenings and processes to ensure that the children in its schools and religious formation programs today are not subject to abusive behavior, whether by a cleric or lay person. This has solved one problem by excising child abusers from parishes and dioceses. (Except in Lincoln, Nebraska which is the exception that proves the rule: Catholicism is at core a tyranny of autocratic leadership.)

Yet another problem has emerged. Society is finally seeing that sexual abuse of a child is a sin, a crime and often a sickness. Now we ask with hindsight why those in authority did not act more quickly in addressing the problem, more stringently in dealing with offenders, and more compassionately when hearing the victims. It is little comfort that many in charge acted with woefully inadequate knowledge, the same inadequate knowledge that has bedeviled psychology, law enforcement, even families for half a century or more. It is not an excuse - some things, such as not harming the weak, you should know instinctively. However, it is a fact that all of us now know more now than we did 50, 40, 30, 20, and even 10 years ago. We treat physical and mental illness today in ways different from how we did in the 1960s. The police who once for the sake of peace in the precinct took a "Get out of Dodge" approach to many crimes no longer practice such expeditious law enforcement. And while we still believe in the power of prayer, no one in the church thinks a 30-day retreat and a firm purpose of amendment can cure a sexual abuser. (Pedophilia was a crime 50, 40, 30, 20, and even 10 years ago. Aiding an abetting was a crime and is a crime. Families do not shuffle their 'Uncle Teds' to other families or reassign them at family gatherings so Uncle Ted can return to 'family' life and prey on other families.)
New knowledge means new obligations for church leaders, of course. Not knowing is no longer acceptable. Inaction will no longer be tolerated by law enforcement, fellow clerics and the Catholic community. Signs of such realization have been shown, for example, by Pope John Paul II who declared "there is no place in the priesthood or religious life for those who would harm the young" and Pope Benedict who said bluntly: "I am ashamed and will do everything possible to ensure that this doesn't happen in the future." (Unless your name is Maciel and one of your supporters is the richest man in the world. Then JPII thought you were an 'efficacious guide for youth'.

For many, the emphasis of Holy Week is on Good Friday, a day that's good not because Jesus died a terrible death that day, but because the death led to His subsequent resurrection. It holds deep meaning for Catholics now who seek meaning from the tragedy of pedophilia.

Pedophilia has had terrible effect on many and reminds us of sinful humanity than is around us and within us. It has made a long Good Friday for many, especially those victimized by this sin and crime. But as the church has learned while dealing with these wounds, as it did with the crucifixion of Jesus, the pain can lead to a church purified of sin. (No Sister, all you and Benedict are proving is that Catholics can only be assured that the Vatican attitude to this crime depends on who is at the wheel. Benedict did squat except obey JPII until Benedict got the wheel. There is nothing to prevent this happening all over again with a different hand on the wheel.)

With the current spate of news stories about inaction in the face of pedophilia, Catholics rightly feel numbness like that of Holy Saturday when the Apostles and followers of Jesus were stunned by the events around them. The message, however, is that Jesus' death led to new life. The Church is still learning through its pain. The comfort of Christ awaits, which is something victims/survivors need and deserve and something the entire Church, from Pope Benedict to the newest baptized child, can take hope in. (No, actually we can't because nothing has fundamentally changed concerning the management structure which allowed this to happen. Benedict himself is the prime example that obedience trumps conscience when it comes to the clerical caste.)

Sister Mary Ann Walsh is Director of Media Relations for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.


In my opinion, and it's a strong one, Benedict will get zero sympathy from me because he found it far more expedient to practice the cowardice of obedience rather than follow his conscience. His example is not one worth emulating, it's one worth castigating, and it's all too symbolic of what we can expect in the future. No amount of spin can change this fact. Period.
My spiritual mentors emphasise and emphasise that it is not enough to admit mistakes, one must learn the lessons in the mistakes and then let that knowledge change your behavior. Benedict first needs to admit he made mistakes, that those mistakes were part and parcel of the clerical culture of which he was a huge component, and then take that knowledge and make meaingful changes in his behavior and by extension the culture in which he is the symbolic head. To do anything else is to miss the resurrection moment entirely.
Instead of concentrating on Christ crucified, Benedict needs to concentrate on Peter the betrayer. After all, he is in Peter's line of succession, not Jesus's.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

AB Dolan was working the press Sunday at Mass most like to insure a change his lid color to red.
Pope Benedict being 'scourged at the pillar,' says New York archbishop
New York City, N.Y., Mar 30, 2010 / 06:22 am (CNA/EWTN News).-

In remarks following Palm Sunday Mass, Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York urged Catholics “to express our love and solidarity” for Pope Benedict, who, given the recent media onslaught over sex abuse allegations, is “now suffering some of the same unjust accusations, shouts of the mob, and scourging at the pillar, as did Jesus.” (I haven't noticed anyone dragging out actual whips. I personally find this whole line insulting in it's papal idolatry.)
Following the March 28 Mass in St. Patrick's Cathedral, the prelate began his brief statement by stating that the “somberness of Holy Week is intensified for Catholics this year” as the “recent tidal wave of headlines about abuse of minors by some few priests, this time in Ireland, Germany, and a re-run of an old story from Wisconsin, has knocked us to our knees once again.”

“Anytime this horror, vicious sin, and nauseating crime is reported, as it needs to be, victims and their families are wounded again, the vast majority of faithful priests bow their heads in shame anew, and sincere Catholics experience another dose of shock, sorrow, and even anger,” Archbishop Dolan said. (AB Dolan hasn't exactly been forthcoming on the idea of reporting. see below.)

But the Archbishop of New York found a more troubling aspect of the recent spate of news. “What deepens the sadness now is the unrelenting insinuations against the Holy Father himself, as certain sources seem frenzied to implicate the man who, perhaps more than anyone else has been the leader in purification, reform, and renewal that the Church so needs,” the archbishop asserted. (If this was true, Dolan would not now be Archbishop of New York since his history is replete with protecting the 'filth' at the expense of victims.)

“Sunday Mass is hardly the place to document the inaccuracy, bias, and hyperbole of such aspersions,” he added.“But, Sunday Mass is indeed the time for Catholics to pray for … Benedict our Pope.” (Nice cop out.)

“And Palm Sunday Mass is sure a fitting place for us to express our love and solidarity for our earthly shepherd now suffering some of the same unjust accusations, shouts of the mob, and scourging at the pillar, as did Jesus.”

Archbishop Dolan then defended Pope Benedict from the articles attempting to establish that he mismanaged sexually abusive priests. (Wait until the press gets on the notion of Benedict mismanaging the assignments of bishops who covered up, coddled, and transferred abusing priests---like AB Dolan.)

“No one has been more vigorous in cleansing the Church of the effects of this sickening sin than the man we now call Pope Benedict XVI,” Archbishop Dolan stressed. “The dramatic progress that the Catholic Church in the United States has made – documented again just last week by the report made by independent forensic auditors – could never have happened without the insistence and support of the very man now being daily crowned with thorns by groundless innuendo.” (I think he's mixing up Benedict with the Boston Globe as it was the Globe without which this 'dramatic progress' could never have happened.)

“Does the Church and her Pastor, Pope Benedict XVI, need intense scrutiny and just criticism for tragic horrors long past?” the prelate asked. “Yes! He himself has asked for it, encouraging complete honesty, at the same time expressing contrition, and urging a thorough cleansing.” (Benedict has never asked for any of this as it pertains to himself--just others.)

“All we ask is that it be fair, and that the Catholic Church not be singled-out for a horror that has cursed every culture, religion, organization, institution, school, agency, and family in the world.”
“Sorry to bring this up,” Archbishop Dolan concluded, “… but, then again, the Eucharist is the Sunday meal of the spiritual family we call the Church. At Sunday dinner we share both joys and sorrows. The father of our family, il papa, needs our love, support, and prayers.”


Archbishop Dolan certainly passes Pope Benedict's loyalty test. Not surprising since Dolan owes his entire career as an archbishop to principally to Benedict. AB Dolan found himself promoted to the Archbishopric of Milwaukee just under a year after his installation as an auxiliary bishop in St. Louis. Dolan wasn't just on the fast track, his rise in the American Church has truly been meteoric. Interestingly enough, Dolan replaced Archbishop Weakland in Milwaukee. Dolan was supposed to be a savior, coming in to clean up the mess left by Weakland.

So how did he do as a cleanser of Benedict's 'filth' in Milwaukee? Here's the review of his tenure from

Archbishop Timothy Dolan “Clergy Abuse Fact Sheet”
Dolan record as Archbishop of Milwaukee, 2002-2009

Note: There are 67 clergy offenders from the Milwaukee archdiocese substantiated child sex assault reports, including 2 deacons and 20 religious order clergy.
In August of 2002, a bishop for less than a year in St. Louis, Dolan was appointed archbishop of Milwaukee, to replace the disgraced Rembert Weakland. Weakland had just been discovered to have paid a former Marquette University seminarian a half a million dollars in hush money for a sexual abuse allegation that Weakland characterized as a sexual relationship.

While in Milwaukee –

Dolan has failed to report direct admissions by clergy sex offenders concerning prosecutable cases of child rape. In February of last year, Sr. Norma Gianni was convicted of child sex assault in Milwaukee County after victims went to police. Yet archdiocesan officials, under the direction of auxiliary Bishop Richard Sklba, had obtained a previous confession [see article].

In March, Fr. Bruce McArthur was sentenced for child sex abuse in Juneau County although McArthur had also admitted to the archdiocese that he had assaulted children in several parishes in Milwaukee and a hospital chaplain West Bend [see article].

Dolan is leaving priests or clergy in ministry or publically presenting themselves as priests in the Milwaukee archdiocese, in violation of the 2002 U.S. Bishops Charter to Protect Young Children, including Fr. Joseph Mika, who has admitted to child sex assault while a pastor in the Green Bay diocese and is now living with Dolan’s permission in Milwaukee. Victims groups in Milwaukee are claiming there are more such clergy still working under Dolan [see article].

Dolan secretly paid off one of Milwaukee’s most notorious priest child molesters, Fr. Franklyn Becker, in exchange for the priest to sign papers to leave the priesthood. Dolan sent a delegate to Becker to then assure him that the archdiocese would not publicize why he had left the priesthood [see article].

In a June deposition released in November, former Milwaukee archbishop Rembert Weakland revealed what had long been suspected that Dolan’s number two man, Bishop Richard Sklba was his “go to man” in all sex abuse cases and covering up child sex crimes from authorities and parishioners [see article and the relevant page from the Weakland deposition].

Dolan has refused to remove Sklba from his post, saying that he has “complete confidence” in Sklba [see article].

Dolan, according to Weakland, has never once talked with him about the scores of abusive priests in the archdiocese nor has Dolan read or viewed Weakland’s deposition admitting to concealing and transferring sex offenders to “every parish” in the Milwaukee archdiocese [see article and the relevant page from the Weakland deposition].

In September, Dolan told archdiocesan leaders that due to fraud cases filed against abusive priests and their bishops the archdiocese is going to face a “big financial hit” that is likely, according to archdiocesan officials, to lead to bankruptcy [see article].

Dolan has repeatedly lobbied against sexual abuse reforms in Madison, including a bill that would allow childhood victims of sexual abuse by non-blood relatives to bring cases to Wisconsin civil courts [for example, see article].

Last year, Dolan permitted a letter to be published in the Catholic newspaper describing clergy child sex abuse victims as “prostitutes” [see memo].

Weekly church attendance under Dolan in the Milwaukee archdiocese has dropped every single year and the rate of decrease is increasing at an alarming rate [see press release with links].

Other informative documents from Milwaukee about the clergy abuse crisis and cover up --
Read a 2004 history of sexual abuse of children in the archdiocese of Milwaukee.
Read the entire transcript with video excerpts of former Milwaukee archbishop Rembert Weakland's deposition.

Dolan’s record as Auxiliary Bishop of Saint Louis, 2001-2002

Before his appointment to Milwaukee, Dolan was briefly auxiliary bishop of St. Louis, where he was put in charge of the abuse response for the archdiocese by Archbishop Justin Rigali, who was subsequently promoted to cardinal archbishop of Philadelphia. (Cardinal Rigali is another story in and of himself, and another example of Benedict's failure to extend his concern for the 'filth' to his loyal subordinates.)
While in St. Louis --

Dolan left at least three priests in ministry who were charged in civil court with child sex assault, including one, Fr. Thomas Graham who was later convicted by a jury [see article].

May have failed to supervise Fr. Gary Wolken, a priest sex offender living with Dolan at Our Lady of Sorrows rectory in St. Louis. Wolken was arrested in 2002 for raping and sodomizing a boy from age 7 to 10. Wolken had already been under suspension for child sex abuse [see article].

Wrote a letter to the judge at Wolken’s sentencing to keep Wolken from prison, praising Wolken. Wolken was sentenced to 15 years Dolan refuses to release the letter [see article].

Besides Wolken, Dolan was also living at Our Lady of Sorrows with another priest sex offender, Fr. Michael Campbell. Campbell was removed from ministry for substantiated abuse reports in 2002. Dolan praised Campbell to parishioners saying he trusts him so much he would go to him for confession [see article].

After being suspended in March 2002, Dolan's friend Campbell showed up just weeks later, in April, on the altar of a nearby parish (during Holy Week, no less) to the consternation of many parishioners [see article].

Dolan failed to meet with abuse victims or reply to direct abuse reports [see article].

Archbishop Dolan is himself the perfect example of why the media can not let Benedict off the hook. The abuse crisis is not just about individual predators, it is more correctly a systemic crisis aided and abetted by various forms of misguided loyalty and obedience in the episcopacy.

Benedict himself, as Cardinal Ratzinger, repeatedly caved in to other clerics and JPII when it came to this issue. He had ample opportunity to follow his conscience and blow his whistle but chose silence and obedience. For this alone his castigation of Irish bishops and other clerics rings not just hollow, but self serving. Kind of like Dolan's defense of Benedict.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Is Another Global Gathering Of Bishops In Our Future?

Could I see such a sight as this again in my lifetime? It might happen..............

Pope considers emergency 'abuse summit'
Senior clergy call for crisis gathering of bishops as fears grow that the scandal is spiralling out of control
By John Phillips in Rome - Independent - Sunday, 28 March 2010

As pilgrims, tourists and the faithful congregate in St Peter's Square today to collect olive branches during a solemn Palm Sunday Mass, an embattled Pope Benedict XVI is coming under mounting pressure to call an emergency synod of bishops from around the world to hammer out a new strategy to deal with the worsening child abuse scandal, Vatican sources say.

A number of Roman Catholic prelates have strongly urged the Holy See that such an extraordinary synod, or conference, be held on the grounds that the German pontiff and the Vatican evidently cannot cope effectively on their own with the spiralling image crisis. (I suppose dealing with the image crisis is a lot more palatable than actually dealing with the abuse crisis.)

"There is a deep feeling of unease in the Vatican at the moment," said one well-placed source in the Holy See. "Senior people in the Curia feel under siege from parts of the international media as they see it trying to nail the Pope for allegedly covering up or mishandling abuse cases.

"Many bishops have let it be known they want Benedict to convene a special synod or worldwide conference of bishops to examine the problem because of a growing feeling that the Vatican cannot handle this."

The source added: "There is a realisation that the scandal is not going to stop. It is not one country or five countries but an increasing number."

Among aspects of the paedophilia maelstrom to be dealt with, Benedict currently has resignation letters from three Irish bishops sitting on his desk in the Apostolic Palace. Even as he considers them, Cardinal Sean Brady of Armagh, the primate of all Ireland, is considering whether to resign, a decision which, as he said in his St Patrick's day homily, he is reflecting on between now and Easter.

The three bishops, James Moriarty, Raymond Field and Eamonn Walsh, tendered their resignations following the publication of the Murphy report into abuse.

"It is quite possible that Brady will resign," said one Vatican insider. "He could go with his head held high and if he goes, others would follow." (I imagine retirement or resignation is starting to look pretty good to a number of red hats. Guys perfectly happy to let the current captain go down with his barque.)

Vatican sources poured scorn on the suggestion on Friday by Der Spiegel magazine that Benedict might consider resigning over the affair.

However, in addition to the damage to the image of the Catholic church from the scandals, described as a "catastrophe" by some senior Vatican officials, Benedict will celebrate his 83rd birthday on 16 April, and papal advisers are concerned about the effect the stress from handling the crisis may have on his health as he braces himself for another round of tiring public appearances celebrating Easter. Before last Christmas, papal doctors told the pontiff, who suffered two minor strokes before his election, to slow down, persuading him to slim down his gruelling Christmas schedule and prohibiting him from making any more tiring long-haul foreign trips. (Retirement for health reasons may be more palatable to Vatican insiders than forced retirement for mismanagement on an epic scale.)

The Vatican media and its tiny press office have gone into overdrive to fend off criticism of Benedict himself for his record during his period as Archbishop of Munich from 1977 to 1982 and as head of the Holy Office from 1982 to 2005.

Benedict has received messages of support from around the world, with many commentators pointing out that from the outset of his pontificate he made it clear he intended to clean out what he termed emphatically "the filth" in the church, marking himself out as the first occupant of St Peter's throne publicly to declare war on sexual abuse by paedophile priests. (The problem with his war is that it hasn't included the officers and has been incredibly lenient on the foot soldiers.)

The Vatican's insistence that coverage in the United States by The New York Times and other newspapers of the case of the American priest Lawrence Murphy has been biased has found considerable resonance among many hardened veterans of the Holy See press corps. They feel that Father Lombardi, the Pope's chief spokesman, a Jesuit who is also head of Vatican Radio, made a fair point by underlining that the late priest's alleged abuse of 200 deaf schoolboys in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, dated back to the period from the 1950s to the 1970s and was only brought to the attention of the Vatican in 1996 when Murphy was dying and his case had been legally proscribed by judicial authorities in the US. (OK, but there were also the Bryndan Smyth and Maciel cases occurring at the same time and the Vatican was made aware of those cases long before there was any action.)

In an attempt to bolster the church's flagging image, the extraordinary synod of bishops would examine issues that critics say were missing from the Pope's pastoral letter to the Irish church last weekend, especially what new administrative penalties, including removal, should be adopted to discipline bishops who cover up abuse. The culture of secrecy is seen not only as bad in itself, but as something that may have encouraged abuse because priests knew they may be shielded from the full rigours of the law. (And given fresh territory with ecclesiastical blessing.)

The Pope's advisers see the abuse crisis as "a catastrophe" for the image of the church and watched aghast as the Pope's brother was targeted. "Benedict's brother came out badly as an irascible guy who clipped children behind the ear and threw a chair at choristers and who may have heard about abuse but done nothing," said the insider. "At the time this was par for the course, with the general attitude being hear no evil, see no evil."

The resignation of the Irish bishop John Magee, described as a removal by Vatican sources rather than a voluntary move, has nevertheless gone some way towards convincing church circles that the Pope is willing to see heads roll. "The removal of Magee was a big thing here because he had a lot of clout, he had a lot of friends and had been secretary to three popes. He had little option but to resign because he knew what is in the [Irish government] report," said one source. (Was he removed or did he resign? Accepting a resignation is not the same as involuntary removal for cause.)

The feeling that the Holy See is out of its depth was underlined by Monsignor Charles Scicluna, the Vatican's Promoter of Justice, or chief prosecutor, who is seen as having done a lot of very good work dealing with abuse cases. He acknowledged that his department was insufficiently staffed to handle paperwork that often runs into thousands of pages for just one victim.

Cardinal Walter Kasper has also defended the Pope, saying he was the first to recognise the need for a harsher stance against offenders. He says attacks on Benedict go "beyond any limit of justice and loyalty". Cardinal Kasper said in an interview published yesterday in the Italian daily newspaper Corriere della Sera that the church needs to be more vigilant and that the path the church is on is "irreversible". (There's that loyalty word popping up again.)

Next month the Pope is scheduled to travel to Malta, the day after celebrating his birthday with his brother in the papal apartments high above St Peter's Square. The visit will be the first of a series of short trips his doctors have authorised as long as he stays in his "backyard" in the Mediterranean and Europe.

The abuse issue has also provided an arena for clashes between commentators. The Daily Telegraph's Damian Thompson has attacked the religious affairs correspondent of The Times, Ruth Gledhill, taking her to task for what he perceives as anti-Catholic bias. And several writers have criticised Christopher Hitchens for writing of the Pope: "Ratzinger himself may be banal, but his whole career has the stench of evil." (I'm surprised Damian Thompson didn't write his missive in Latin.)


The Independent is also featuring another article today based on an NCR article from 2001. This one deals with the abuse of nuns by priests in Africa and elsewhere. It too, is worth a read because the abuse of nuns by male religious is another one of those closet doors the Vatican has done much to keep closed. It had too if it's campaign to isolate clerical abuse to gay priests in Anglo countries was to carry the day. I'm glad to see this article resurrected because full disclosure of priestly abuse is mandatory and it is hardly isolated to 'gay' priests in Anglo countries.

Should the Pope call for an emergency synod of the world's bishops, the good which might come out of such a gathering would depend on a number of factors. The first factor is if it would indeed by a full gathering or just a selection of hand picked representatives. The second issue is who would set the agenda and what would be it's scope. If it consisted solely of a Dallas type meeting it would accomplish nothing that couldn't be done in national synods. If, on the other hand, it was convened to take a serious look at the priesthood and reform of the clerical system, some good might come of all the misery of all the abuse victims.

If it is essentially called as some type of 'loyalty' test where the assembled bishops rubber stamp Vatican bureaucratic proposals it will be a disaster. If it does not include input from abuse victims, laity and women, it will amount to nothing more than a repudiation of the collegiality concepts laid out in the documents of Vatican II and not represent meaningful reform at all.

Should it be taken over by conservative elements and used to further their agenda of 'reforming the reform', it will be an unmitigated disaster and spell the end of Roman Catholicism as it's currently known.

The fact there are voices in the Vatican even calling for such a gathering is indicative of just how serious this issue has now become, and perhaps just how close the media is to uncovering some real truth. If it should happen that the code of silence which surrounds the culture of the Vatican itself is broken, the recent revelations will seem like the good old days.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Two Palm Sunday Messages

Thanks to Rocco Palmo at Whispers in the Loggia for quickly making the following two texts available. The first is from Pope Benedict's Palm Sunday homily, and the second is from Archbishop Diamud Martin of Dublin.

Pope Benedict:

"Man can choose a convenient way and avoiding any hardships. He can also descend, into the vulgar. He can sink into the morass of lies and dishonesty. Jesus walks ahead of us, and leads us higher. He leads us towards what is great, pure, he leads us to the healthy air of the heights: towards life in truth, towards the courage not to be intimidated by the chatter of prevailing opinions; towards the patience that endures and supports others. He leads us towards openness to the suffering, the abandoned, towards the loyalty that is on the side of the other even when the situation becomes difficult. He leads us to a willingness to bring help, towards a goodness that can not be disarmed not even by ingratitude. He leads us to love – he leads us to God."

And now Archbishop Martin:

At the final moment on the cross Jesus is tempted once again: “If you are the Son of God, save yourself”, they cry. But Jesus had not come to save himself. He had come to give his life out of love for us, so that we could have life. Jesus who is just – and is recognised as such by Pilate – is unjustly condemned, yet he forgives those who orchestrate his death.

This Gospel account teaches us something about the Church from its very beginning and it tells us something about the Church today and how we are called to live as members of the Church of Christ.

The Church in Dublin is still stung by the horrible abuse which innocent children endured through people who were Christ’s ministers and who were called to act in Christ’s name. How was it that the innocence of children was not embraced; how did it happen that in our Church the temptation to protect institution was given priority over healing the most innocent and the vulnerable.

Many ask me: “How could such harm have been done within the Church of Christ; How can I remain in such a church?"

The only answer is for us to remember that the Church is the Church of Jesus Christ and it is his self-giving alone that brings hope for renewal and give the strength to remain faithful to his message and his mission. Reform and renewal in the Church, sorely needed, can never be a task which we as humans can undertake on our own. It will only come when we convert, that is when we change direction in our lives, and allow Christ’s example of fidelity to be the driving force in our lives. Reform in the Church will come when we all reform.

You may reply: "I have no responsibility for what happened. Why ask me to repent and convert?” Jesus though innocent, gave himself so that others might live. Reform of the Church must come from within us. It must come from a change within each of us. It is not a question of us asking how I can remain in such a Church, but rather that as the disciples of Jesus we all take responsibly for the Church, but within the Church, within a community of men and women who believe and who live out the love of God in their lives. The Church will not be reformed as the Church of Christ by cries from outside, of those who do not believe. Renewal is a matter of faith and of understanding what it means that Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world. His kingdom is not of this world but it must be realised day by day within this world, by those who understand the meaning of Christ’s self-giving love, which aimed not to save himself but to bring life to others.

So many things damage the face of Christ in his Church. So many things damage the body of Christ. If we really understand how we all belong to the one body then we cannot feel that the answer to renewal in the Church can come about by leaving the Church or by leaving it to others.

I as Archbishop of Dublin am committed to working with all of you who wish to renew our Church, to purify our Church from all that has damaged the face of Christ. These have not been easy days for me personally. But with the many believers who wish to journey together on the path of renewal, I know that that path will inevitably be a way of the Cross.

When we journey along the way of the Cross we do not know what that way will entail and how long our journey will take. The challenge is not to follow the short-cuts of the disciples who found that fleeing was the quick and easy answer; the challenge is not to follow the hypocrisy of Pilate who places his own position ahead of his responsibility towards an innocent man; our challenge is not to get trapped in irrelevant questions of prestige and status as did some disciples at the Last Supper. Our challenge is to be like Jesus who, with all the anguish and fear it entails, does not flinch or waver in remaining faithful to the will of his Father, even at the price of enduring the ignominious death on a criminal’s cross.

I think I know which message resonates with me.
I wrote earlier today that the Church needed it's wise pastoral voice to heard in more than a hushed whisper. Archbishop Martin may represent the beginning of a prayer answered.

The Winds Of Karma Rock The Ivory Tower

Strong karmic winds are blowing the lid off this papacy. Can any of Benedict's trusted hands really catch it?

As Archbishop, Benedict Focused on Doctrine
By KATRIN BENNHOLD and NICHOLAS KULISH New York Times - March 27, 2010

MUNICH — When Pope Benedict XVI was archbishop of Munich and Freising, he was broadly described as a theologian more concerned with doctrinal debates than personnel matters. That, say his defenders, helps explain why he did not keep close tabs on a pedophile priest sent to his archdiocese in 1980 and allowed to work in a parish.

Yet in 1979, the year before Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future pope, approved the Rev. Peter Hullermann’s move to Munich, the cardinal blocked the assignment to the local university of a prominent theology professor recommended by the university senate. And in 1981, he punished a priest for holding a Mass at a peace demonstration, leading the man to ultimately leave the priesthood.

Pope Benedict’s four-and-a-half-year tenure as archbishop is among the least-examined periods of his life, but his time presiding over 1,713 priests and 2.2 million Catholics was in many ways a dress rehearsal for his present job tending to the Roman Catholic Church’s more than one billion members worldwide.

As archbishop, Benedict expended more energy pursuing theological dissidents than sexual predators. Already in the early 1980s, one could catch a glimpse of a future pope preoccupied with combating any movement away from church tradition. Vatican experts say there is little evidence that Benedict spent much time investigating more than 200 cases of “problem priests” in the diocese, with issues including alcohol abuse, adultery and, now under the microscope, pedophilia.

“His natural habitat was the faculty lounge, and he hadn’t even been a faculty chair,” said John L. Allen Jr. of The National Catholic Reporter. “He would be the first to concede he was much more interested in the life of the mind than the nuts and bolts of administrative work.” (The life of the mind can be a much safer place to spend time relative to the challenges of actually spending time with people.)

Andreas Englisch, a leading German Vatican expert and the author of several books on Benedict, said that Cardinal Ratzinger “was never interested in bureaucratic stuff,” and noted that when he was first asked to be archbishop of Munich, he considered turning down the post because he did not want to work as “a manager.” In his autobiography, Benedict described taking the post as “an infinitely difficult decision.” (That's an interesting statement. No mention of working as a shepherd, of guiding people--just managing things. I bet it was a difficult decision, but let's face it, Archbishops have a much brighter future in the Church than plain old theologians.)

His management decisions are now the central focus of the widening scandal in the church in Germany. His supporters say that although he approved Father Hullermann’s move to his archdiocese, they assume that he may not have paid attention to a memo informing him that the priest, who had sexually abused boys in his previous posting, was almost immediately allowed to resume parish duties.

“He certainly would not have realized anything; he was in a different sphere,” said Hannes Burger, 72, who covered the church, including during Benedict’s time as archbishop, for the Munich-based daily Süddeutsche Zeitung.

“He held beautiful sermons and wrote beautifully, but the details he left to his staff,” said Mr. Burger, who interviewed the future pope several times before he went to Rome. “He was a professorial bishop, with Rome as his goal.”

Three decades ago it was common practice in the church to ignore or cover up incidents of molestation, or, in severe cases, to transfer priests to faraway parishes. Even outside the church, both victims and law enforcement authorities were less likely to take decisive steps to expose and combat abuse.

But Benedict’s track record in handling such cases under his direct control has assumed new relevance because he presides over a church troubled by scandal. He has to weigh whether and how severely to punish bishops who failed to act to deal with abuses in their domains.

In fact, in his efforts to combat child abuse in 2010, Benedict faces a dilemma over how to handle the same kind of institutional secrecy that was practiced by his own archdiocese in 1980. The future pope himself chose “co-workers of the truth,” as the motto for his time as archbishop. (Someone should really sit down with Benedict and dialogue with him about his notion of love in truth. First it's the other way around, and secondly the kind of truth one finds is not a list of rules from the catechism. Like Aquinas, if Benedict ever has a true spiritual experience, he may find his total life work appears to be 'so much straw'.

The case is alarming, wrote the German newspaper Die Zeit last week, not “because Ratzinger was guilty of an exceptional offense.”

“It is the other way around: It is significant because the archbishop acted as probably most other dignitaries in those years,” it wrote. “In 1980 Joseph Ratzinger was part of the problem that preoccupies him today.”

Benedict was a stern disciplinarian on the issue that propelled him up the church hierarchy. An early enthusiast for reform in the Catholic Church in the early 1960s, he soon changed his mind and joined the ranks of those trying to put the brakes on the liberalizing forces unleashed by the counterculture movement. (Was it an event or a person, who got to Benedict?)

His time in Munich was marked by confrontations with the local clergy, theologians and priests who worked there at the time.

Cardinal Ratzinger ruffled feathers almost upon arrival in Munich by ordering priests to return to celebrating First Communion and first confession in the same year, rather than having the first confession a year later, a practice that had become established over the previous decade, and which its advocates considered more appropriate for young children.

One priest, the Rev. Wilfried Sussbauer, said he wrote to the archbishop at the time questioning the change, and said Cardinal Ratzinger “wrote me an extremely biting letter” in response.

After receiving the letter, Father Sussbauer and other priests asked for an audience with their archbishop in 1977. They did not get one. But the visiting sister of President Jimmy Carter did. When the priests found out, they called Cardinal Ratzinger’s office. “We asked, ‘Who is more important, your own priests or the sister of the American president?’ ” Father Sussbauer, 77, recalled. “Then suddenly we got an appointment.”

Cardinal Ratzinger was already something of a clerical diplomat, traveling as the official representative of Pope John Paul I to Ecuador in 1978. And with two conclaves to select a new pope in 1978, it seemed at times as if the archbishop already had one foot in the Vatican.

“His predecessor as archbishop was simply more aware of the practical problems of pastoral work,” said Wolfgang Seibel, a Jesuit priest and editor of the Munich-based magazine Stimmen der Zeit from 1966 to 1998. “He didn’t have enough time to leave his mark.”

How closely he would have watched personnel decisions, especially with an administrative chief, Vicar General Gerhard Gruber, who had been in his post since 1968, is an open question. But the transfer of Father Hullermann from Essen would not have been a routine matter, experts said.
Mr. Englisch, the Vatican expert, said that transferring a problem priest was “such a difficult decision” that it would necessarily have required his opinion.

“I think the guy who handled it would have gone to his archbishop and said, ‘This case of transferring a priest is not common, and we should really have an eye on him,’ ” Mr. Englisch said. Referring to Benedict, he added, “I don’t think that he really knew the details; I don’t think he was really interested in the details.”

“As they say in the legal profession, you either knew or you should have known,” said the Rev. Thomas P. Doyle, who once worked at the Vatican Embassy in Washington and became an early and well-known whistle-blower on sexual abuse in the church. “The archbishop is the unquestioned authority in that diocese. The buck stops there.”


I could maybe cut Benedict some slack if he was falling back on the age old pastoral notion of belief in the healing efficacy of a true confession, but that's a pastoral justification for his lack of action in Munich. It would be out of character for someone who saw his position as one of 'managing', enforcing truth, and staying in the pristine world of his thoughts. That person would be inclined to delegate both authority and responsibility and claim he knew nothing, was not responsible, was tied up in other concerns. This is exactly what Benedict is claiming concerning Fr. Hullerman.

I also find it interesting that one of the self perpetuated views Benedict promotes about himself is that of the reluctant leader. We read he didn't want his position in Munich, he wanted to retire from the CDF but JPII wouldn't accept his resignation, he was not keen on being Pope as he preferred retirement with his brother in Bavaria. And yet, he never acts on these longings, instead taking positions with even more 'managerial' responsibilities, in which he doesn't do much managing. He continues to read, write, and act primarily as an academic theologian who just happens to wind up in situations in which he has all the authority he needs to make his theology a virtual doctrinal system. We now have a situation in which the academic Ivory Tower is synonymous with the Papal Throne.

This is not a good situation. There are very good reasons brilliant academics who live in their head are not put in charge of Universities. The first reason has to do with the fact these brilliant people do not do day to day responsibility well at all. They don't prioritize in the same way a real managerial type does, and they do not deal well with situations which fall outside their comfort zone--which tends not to be a very big zone. For all of Einstein's brilliance, he was never President of Princeton.

Another reason, a kind of stereotype which has some truth, is that channelized academic brilliance tends to be lacking in common sense and wisdom. Wisdom is an intelligence which is a product of both head and heart--literally, but that's another post. Heart intelligence is relational intelligence. It's about relationship with people, not ideas. If this papacy has a signature flaw at this point, that signature is all about priority of ideas and ideals over people. It is not a papacy whose hallmark is pastoral wisdom and this is a trait which is pronounced on all levels of heirarchical authority. There is no voice of pastoral wisdom at this point in the Church. Those voices have been silenced or choose to be unheard whispers. This is what's killing the heart, and therefore, the soul of this Church.

Bill Lyndsey has written a very important post about the karmic cycle Catholicism finds itself in at this point. He makes the point that the Church's karma is Benedict's karma. What Benedict has set in motion, even as far back as Munich, is coming home to roost. Jesus made this same observation about the religious authorities of His time. He pointed out that in destroying Him they would set in motion the energy which destroyed them. This is perhaps a point Benedict might want to meditate on this coming week. Perhaps then he would stop blaming everyone and everything else for his current travails.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Turns Out All Those Seminarians Were Right About Maciel

CNA - 3/26/2010

In a communique released on Thursday, the top leaders of the Legionaries of Christ acknowledged and asked forgiveness for the “reprehensible actions” of their founder, Fr. Marcial Maciel. Jim Fair, communications director for the Legion, told CNA on Friday that the communique was issued during the territorial directors annual meeting in Rome after a discussion on the current state and future of the order.
The March 25 statement's recognition of the allegations against the order's founder comes nearly four years after the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith completed a canonical investigation in 2006.

Though the scandals surrounding Fr. Maciel have been alluded to by leaders within the movement in previous documents, homilies and conferences, the recent statement is the first one to be jointly written and signed by the all the territorial directors of the movement.

“We had thought and hoped that the accusations brought against our founder were false and unfounded, since they conflicted with our experience of him personally and his work,” reads Thursday's statement. “However, on May 19, 2006, the Holy See’s Press Office issued a communique as the conclusion of a canonical investigation that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) had begun in 2004.”

“At that time, the CDF reached sufficient moral certainty to impose serious canonical sanctions related to the accusations made against Fr Maciel, which included the sexual abuse of minor seminarians. Therefore, though it causes us consternation, we have to say that these acts did take place.”

“We later came to know that Fr Maciel had fathered a daughter in the context of a prolonged and stable relationship with a woman, and committed other grave acts,” the communique added.
“After that, two other people surfaced, blood brothers who say they are his children from his relationship with another woman.”

“It has taken us time to come to terms with these facts regarding his life,” the leaders said. “For many, especially the victims, this time has been too long and very painful. We have not always been able, or found the way to reach out to everyone in the way we should have, and in fact wanted to. Hence the need we feel to make this communique.”

“We ask all those who accused him in the past to forgive us, those whom we did not believe or were incapable of giving a hearing to, since at the time we could not imagine that such behavior took place. If it turns out that anyone culpably cooperated in his misdeeds we will act according to the principles of Christian justice and charity, holding these people responsible for their actions.” (Maciel didn't accomplish his predations in a vacuum. People knew and colluded. This will not just be a matter for Christian justice. It will also be a matter of criminal accountability.)

The Legion of Christ became the subject of an Apostolic Visitation after the double life of its founder, Fr. Marcial Maciel, came to light.

The five bishops who were appointed to carry out the Apostolic Visitation of the Legion of Christ, which began on July 15 of last year, will present their final report to Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone on April 30, after eight months of work.

Looking ahead to the end of the visitation, the Legion leaders wrote, “We will embrace with filial obedience whatever indications and recommendations the Holy Father gives us as a result of the apostolic visitation, and we are committed to putting them into practice.”

“The past months have helped us to reflect on our identity and mission, and they have also moved us to review various aspects of our institutional life, humbly and in all simplicity,” they added.

The communique concluded by listing multiple “resolutions” that the group will now adhere to, including honoring the “truth” about their history, continuing “to offer safety” for minors, improving cooperating with bishops and other institutions in the Church and redoubling their “dedication to their mission of offering Christ's Gospel to as many people as possible.”


The Legion and Maciel will be where the rubber meets the road for Benedict on his recent statments concerning accountability for clerical abuse and the culture of ecclesiastical cover up.

Benedict's previous action of forcing Maciel into retirement after fifty years of predation hardly constitutes serious canonical sanctions. It was precisely because Maciel wasn't defrocked, that the Legion was able to stonewall and delude it's membership about the truly egregious nature and longevity of Maciel's so called 'double life'. Benedict sort of had his cake and ate it too, with this decision. Apologists like John Allen can cite it as an example of Benedict's tough attitude towards clerical abusers, but the reality is it left the Legion enough to wriggle room to keep deceiving it's members and bilking it's supporters for another four years.

It took DNA paternity tests, which can't be wiggled around, that finally forced the Legion to admit to Maciel's duplicity, but then it took another whole year and the revelation Maciel abused his own sons before it would issue this admission that all those seminarians who had been 'alleging' abuse for four decades were actually telling the truth.

I find it utterly fascinating that the Legion issued this statement at this time. Perhaps Benedict called in some favors in order to get the heat off of himself. In any event, this very belated admission on the part of the Legion isn't even remotely a start on cleansing this particular organization.

The real start will occur when someone confesses that there was indeed a full blown cover up, that it had the approval and complicity of very high Vatican sources, and there were very specific reasons for engaging in it. I still feel that uncovering the truth behind Maciel and the Legion will lead to some really ugly truth about the 'smoke of Satan' with in the Vatican. This investigation should have been turned over to Interpol, not Chaput and company.
Here's the official Legion commentary after Benedict 'invited' Maciel to a life of penance.
"In reference to the news regarding the conclusion of the investigation of the accusations made against Fr. Marcial Maciel, our beloved father founder, the Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ offer the following statement:

"1. Fr. Marcial Maciel has received during his life a great number of accusations. In the last few years, some of these were presented to the Holy See so that a canonical process would be opened.

"2. Facing the accusations made against him, he declared his innocence and, following the example of Jesus Christ, decided not to defend himself in any way.

"3. Considering his advanced age and his frail health, the Holy See has decided not to begin a canonical process but to 'invite him to a reserved life of prayer and penance, renouncing to any public ministry'.

"4. Fr. Maciel, with the spirit of obedience to the Church that has always characterized him, he has accepted this communique with faith, complete serenity and tranquility of conscience, knowing that it is a new cross that God, the Father of Mercy, has allowed him to suffer and that will obtain many graces for the Legion of Christ and the Regnum Christi Movement.

"5. The Legionaries of Christ and the members of the Regnum Christi, following the example of Fr. Maciel and united to him, accept and will accept always the directives of the Holy See with profound spirit of obedience and faith. We renew our commitment to work with great intensity to live our charism of charity and extend the Kingdom of Christ serving the Church."
Essentially Benedict gave Legion leadership four more years to delude it's followers and reap their donations. This is tough leadership in the face of evil. God must be ever so pleased.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Demanding Credibility From The Pinnacle Of Priestly Power Is A Fool's Mission

There will be no accountability from Constantine's successor--err I mean St Peter's---as long as this man truly believes in the exalted status of the sacramental priesthood.

Credibility gap: Pope needs to answer questions
Excerpt from an Editorial - National Catholic Reporter - 3/26/2010

The first reported clergy sex abuse stories, dating back in NCR to 1985, focused on the misconduct of priests who had been taken to court by parents of molested children -- parents who had gone to church officials, but received no solace. Instead, what they received from church officials was denial and counter accusation.

Almost from the beginning of the coverage of these trials, it was clear the clergy sex abuse story had two consistent components: the abusing priest and the cover-up by the bishop.
The story grew as more survivors of abuse came forward. What soon became evident was that this was not primarily a story of wayward priests, but of an uncannily consistent pattern by individual bishops. In nearly every instance, bishops, faced with accusations of child abuse, denied them, even as they shuffled priests to new parishes, even as they covered up their own actions.

The story was first flushed out in the United States and soon across Canada. By the year 2000, sex abuse accusations were turning up across the globe. In the United States, the scandal flared anew in 2002 when a judge released thousands of pages of documents dealing with the sex abuse scandal in the Boston archdiocese. Suddenly, ordinary Catholics had access to the patterns involved in the cover-up and to the unfiltered language of memos and legal depositions and letters that outlined how church officials sought to protect perpetrators and marginalize their victims. All at once, the public outrage was commensurate with the hierarchy's outrageous behavior. The story would repeat itself around the country: Wherever documents were released or legal authorities conducted investigations, the depth of clerical depravity and the extent of hierarchical cover-up were far greater than previously acknowledged by church authorities.

Knowing they had an unprecedented crisis of credibility and facing potential multibillion-dollar liability, the U.S. bishops met in Dallas in June 2002. The whole world, represented by more than 800 members of the press, was watching.

There the prelates unveiled what came to be a "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People." It was intended to protect children from molestation, establishing a "one strike and you're out" policy for offending priests. It did nothing, however, to hold accountable individual bishops who engineered the cover-up. (A study done by a Dallas newspaper put the figure of 63% on the number of American bishops who engaged in this strategy of cover up. A super majority is not likely to accept any official sanction for the problem.)

By early 2001, responsibility for managing the church's response to the ongoing crisis was delegated to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, headed by Cardinal Ratzinger. The Vatican, by then, viewed the crisis as beyond the boundaries of any one national church.

Crisis crosses borders

In the last decade the story has not gone away. Rather it has continuously reared its head in nation after nation, especially in those countries with a free press and independent judicial system. A dominant characteristic of this story is that where and when it has emerged it has done so without the aid of church hierarchy. To the contrary, it has taken lawsuit after lawsuit, investigative report after investigative report, to bring this horrendous story to necessary light.

Another part of the pattern of this dispiriting tale is that church officials have never been in front of the story. Always late, always responding, and, therefore, at every step of the way losing credibility. This seemed to be the case once again with Benedict's pastoral letter to Irish Catholics.

By the time he issued the letter, the story had moved to his native country, Germany, and had touched him personally. In the past two months, there have been more than 250 accusations of sex abuse in Germany. From the German Catholic viewpoint, the pope's failure to mention anything about these abuse cases has pained them deeply and added to suspicions that the former archbishop of Munich has lost touch with his people.

Inexorably, a story that began with reports on trials in a few U.S. cities a quarter century back has now moved up the Catholic institutional ladder -- from priests to bishops to national bishops' conferences and to the Vatican itself. This last step is the one we see emerging this month. The new focus is unlikely to end anytime soon.

Time for answers

The focus now is on Benedict. What did he know? When did he know it? How did he act once he knew?
The questions arise not only about his conduct in Munich, but also, based also as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. A March 25 Times story, citing information from bishops in the United States, reported that the Vatican had failed to take action against a priest accused of molesting as many as 200 deaf children while working at a school from 1950 to 1974. Correspondence reportedly obtained by the paper showed requests for the defrocking of the priest, Fr. Lawrence Murphy, going directly from U.S. bishops to Ratzinger, then head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, and Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, now the Vatican secretary of state. No action was taken against Murphy.

Like it or not, this new focus on the pope and his actions as an archbishop and Vatican official fits the distressing logic of this scandal. For those who have followed this tragedy over the years, the whole episode seems familiar: accusation, revelation, denial and obfuscation, with no bishop held accountable for actions taken on their watch. Yes, there is a depressing madness to this story. Time after time, this is a story of institutional failure of the deepest kind, a failure to defend the Gospel of Jesus Christ, a failure to put compassion ahead of institutional decisions aimed at short-term benefits and avoiding public scandal. (But ultimately it was all done to protect the clerical culture and it's place in the scheme of things.)

The strategies employed so far -- taking the legal path, obscuring the truth, and doing everything possible to protect perpetrators as well as the church's reputation and treasury -- have failed miserably.

We now face the largest institutional crisis in centuries, possibly in church history. How this crisis is handled by Benedict, what he says and does, how he responds and what remedies he seeks, will likely determine the future health of our church for decades, if not centuries, to come.

It is time, past time really, for direct answers to difficult questions. It is time to tell the truth.


The story of Fr. Murphy and his two and half decade spree of abusing deaf children is another one of those individual stories to that so hi lights the entire problem. Very much in the same vein as Fr. Brendan Smyth. I am having a very difficult time getting my head around the fact that this man was left in place for twenty plus years with accusations beginning in the fifties, to prey on defenseless deaf kids. I can't get the picture out of my mind of Fr. Murphy brazenly picking out his victims at night knowing perfectly well no can hear him and better yet most of them can't communicate well enough to get accusations heard or understood by non deaf authorities. What a deal for him.

What kind of mind set lets this man continue in this setting? Effectively allowing the sinner to stay in the midst of his greatest temptation is not my idea of a pastoral spiritual decision. It's the same mindset that abuses pastoral authority in order to deny innocent children their rights as baptised Catholics to get at 'sinful' parents. It's a mindset that truly believes the foundation and bedrock of the Church is the clerical system. It's a mindset that truly believes that salvation history can not be enacted without the clerical priesthood. It's the sort of mindset that limits God by demanding we believe we can't get to Jesus unless it's through an ordained priest.

The theology of the priesthood even says the state of the priest's individual soul has no effect on his ability to 'confect' the sacraments or the Eucharist. Jesus works just as efficaciously through a predator priest as he does a saintly one. This is a neat loophole the size of Manhattan. I maintain it's the loophole that was the basis for many decisions which make no sense in terms of secular law---or justice or truth or meaningful accountability. 'Reducing' priests to the lay state mitigates against this notion. Better to hide their indiscretions and move them elsewhere. The Magic will work just as well some place else.

It's this notion of the priesthood which divorces the truth of the man from his sacramental actions which is in my way of thinking, a real heresy. Especially when those same special men use their special status to link innocent children with the 'sins' of their mothers. Somehow children are entangled in the odor of the sin of their parents, but neither Jesus nor clerical abuse victims are entangled in the sins of priests.

When I looked at the painting I posted yesterday I did have a very strange reaction. It took me awhile to realize I didn't see Peter, I saw the Pope. I saw Jesus in a state of despair, as if He clearly saw this current future when the whole notion of Peter and his primacy would lead directly to core violations of His teachings. Jesus said "What you do unto the least of these, you do to Me." "Unless you are an ordained priest", is not part of that teaching.

There will be no meaningful change in Catholicism until the tradition and theology of the Sacramental priesthood is looked at and changed. There must be real and meaningful accountability in the exercise of the priesthood. Until there is, changing add on doctrines like celibacy, are small band aids covering a huge cancer.

No such process will happen under this Pope. So far his solutions have been generated from this theology of the priesthood and are specifically designed to underscore the theology. He is bound and determined to create his 'leaner and meaner' Church primarily to keep it's exalted priesthood in tact.

Catholicism been engaged in a sort of cold war over the theology and power of the priesthood and resultant clerical system since Vatican II. It's time to disengage from the tactical battles over liturgy and sex and engage in the greater strategical issue. If that strategic battle isn't resolved, the rest of the tactical battles will never be resolved.
At this point I'm not sure that the best resolution isn't to completely vacate the battle field and let the clerical cancer kill what's left, but you never know, miracles have happened on battle fields before. I think that's probably how we got into this mess to begin with---way back in the days of Constantine--a miracle on a battle field in which the odds were definitely stacked in favor of the opposition.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Here I Thought Subliminal Imbedding Was A Thing Of The Past

"The Washing Of The Feet" by Fr. Seiger Koder. Is this just an interesting depiction or something more sinister? Enquiring minds will have to decide for themselves.

I don't have much to say about this one. Readers will just have to follow the links and come to their own conclusions. Here's the link to a school website which gives an idea of some of the teaching instructions in the Pauline Press material. Having first watched the video, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.

Clerical Whispers - 3/24/2010

Amidst the new abuse scandals whereby Catholics are directing their ire to Pope Benedict XVI, well-known German countryman priest Sieger Koder, who was previously promoted by Pope John Paul II to Monsignor, has painted a Jesus image performing a sex act with St. Peter.
The painting entitled “The Washing of Feet,” instead shows a faceless Jesus figure’s head ensconced in the genitals of a St. Peter figure, surrounded by sexual elements including the words “sex,” according to the feature film documentary “Rape of the Soul,” directed by Michael A. Calace, himself a devout Catholic. (Not exactly.)

Production studio Silver Sword International, which released the film, has made available the Sieger Koder scene, deciphered by the world’s foremost authority on pornography, Dr. Judith Reisman, and embed art expert Mr. Calace,
Dr. Reisman said, “People become mesmerized by this picture because they know that there is something very wrong, yet they can’t figure it out for themselves and thereby have a higher arousal from it, causing a continuous return to the imagery in their own mind.”

Sieger Koder, who was a Nazi soldier in WWII, painted the work for worldwide distribution, utilizing the same propaganda techniques of embedded imagery made famous by Joseph Goebbels, as clearly depicted in “Rape of the Soul,” alleges Calace. (Seems someone really doesn't like this painting.)

Catholic publisher Pauline Books and Media, incredibly describes this artwork on their own website as, “All the drama and intimacy of the encounter between Jesus and Peter are focused centrally where their two heads meet.” Pauline distributes Koder’s artwork internationally.
Mr. Calace stated, “In my opinion, and what concerns me most as a Catholic, is that Satan’s influence is alive and well in the highest levels of the Church, as it is evil that uses its own people to promote such heretical sexual behavior as one of the fuels to feed the driving force of anti-Catholic destruction from within the Church itself.” (Seems to me the hierarchy is doing a pretty good job of fueling this anti-Catholic destruction all on it's very own. Evil is like that.)

Embedded imagery programming along with stunning visual proof is identified and extracted in plain sight throughout the documentary, which discusses the cause and negative effects in both historical and contemporary artworks, and the Church's subsequent attempts at covering up scandals.