Saturday, March 20, 2010

Letter To Irish Catholics From The Vatican Bunker

Pope Benedict has released his letter to the Irish people on the abuse crisis. As I read the entire letter two parts struck me very forcefully. Section four deals with some of Benedict's ideas as to how the prevailing culture impacted the spread of the abuse, and the last section with his ideas on concretely addressing the crisis.

4. In recent decades, however, the Church in your country has had to confront new and serious challenges to the faith arising from the rapid transformation and secularization of Irish society. Fast-paced social change has occurred, often adversely affecting people’s traditional adherence to Catholic teaching and values. All too often, the sacramental and devotional practices that sustain faith and enable it to grow, such as frequent confession, daily prayer and annual retreats, were neglected. Significant too was the tendency during this period, also on the part of priests and religious, to adopt ways of thinking and assessing secular realities without sufficient reference to the Gospel. The programme of renewal proposed by the Second Vatican Council was sometimes misinterpreted and indeed, in the light of the profound social changes that were taking place, it was far from easy to know how best to implement it. In particular, there was a well-intentioned but misguided tendency to avoid penal approaches to canonically irregular situations. It is in this overall context that we must try to understand the disturbing problem of child sexual abuse, which has contributed in no small measure to the weakening of faith and the loss of respect for the Church and her teachings. (This section is all about focusing the light of the crisis on the Post Vatican II church. Unfortunately for Benedict the majority of the abuse had it's origin in the pre Vatican II church. This whole paragraph is an intentional red herring.)

Finally he ends this 5000 word missive with his concrete proposals:

14. I now wish to propose to you some concrete initiatives to address the situation.
At the conclusion of my meeting with the Irish bishops, I asked that Lent this year be set aside as a time to pray for an outpouring of God’s mercy and the Holy Spirit’s gifts of holiness and strength upon the Church in your country. I now invite all of you to devote your Friday penances, for a period of one year, between now and Easter 2011, to this intention. I ask you to offer up your fasting, your prayer, your reading of Scripture and your works of mercy in order to obtain the grace of healing and renewal for the Church in Ireland. I encourage you to discover anew the sacrament of Reconciliation and to avail yourselves more frequently of the transforming power of its grace. (This is an exhortation to recommit to the special spiritual power of the sacramental priesthood. It is a call for the sheep to follow as before, as if the betrayal of this whole concept had never happened.)

Particular attention should also be given to Eucharistic adoration, and in every diocese there should be churches or chapels specifically devoted to this purpose. I ask parishes, seminaries, religious houses and monasteries to organize periods of Eucharistic adoration, so that all have an opportunity to take part. Through intense prayer before the real presence of the Lord, you can make reparation for the sins of abuse that have done so much harm, at the same time imploring the grace of renewed strength and a deeper sense of mission on the part of all bishops, priests, religious and lay faithful.
I am confident that this programme will lead to a rebirth of the Church in Ireland in the fullness of God’s own truth, for it is the truth that sets us free (cf. Jn 8:32). (Wow, talk about back to the very past that engendered this mess. Again this is a symbolic reaffirmation of the notion of the special spiritual power of the priest. The truth is Eucharistic Adoration can be accomplished in any church in which the consecrated host is present--and without all the pomp and clerical dress.)
Furthermore, having consulted and prayed about the matter, I intend to hold an Apostolic Visitation of certain dioceses in Ireland, as well as seminaries and religious congregations. Arrangements for the Visitation, which is intended to assist the local Church on her path of renewal, will be made in cooperation with the competent offices of the Roman Curia and the Irish Episcopal Conference. The details will be announced in due course. (With all due cynicism I suspect the final report will probably be plagiarized from the report on US seminaries and will focus on gay priests.)

I also propose that a nationwide Mission be held for all bishops, priests and religious. It is my hope that, by drawing on the expertise of experienced preachers and retreat-givers from Ireland and from elsewhere, and by exploring anew the conciliar documents, the liturgical rites of ordination and profession, and recent pontifical teaching, you will come to a more profound appreciation of your respective vocations, so as to rediscover the roots of your faith in Jesus Christ and to drink deeply from the springs of living water that he offers you through his Church.
(Why not a nationwide synod that actually includes lay people? Guess Benedict wanted to put a stop to that kind of thinking so he proposes a nationwide clerical Mission.)

In this Year for Priests, I commend to you most particularly the figure of Saint John Mary Vianney, who had such a rich understanding of the mystery of the priesthood. “The priest”, he wrote, “holds the key to the treasures of heaven: it is he who opens the door: he is the steward of the good Lord; the administrator of his goods.” The Curé d’Ars understood well how greatly blessed a community is when served by a good and holy priest: “A good shepherd, a pastor after God’s heart, is the greatest treasure which the good Lord can grant to a parish, and one of the most precious gifts of divine mercy.” Through the intercession of Saint John Mary Vianney, may the priesthood in Ireland be revitalized, and may the whole Church in Ireland grow in appreciation for the great gift of the priestly ministry. (Just in case we weren't getting the gist of things, Benedict spells it right out. There will never be a rethinking of the priesthood on his watch. Just a rehashing of the fantasy.)

I take this opportunity to thank in anticipation all those who will be involved in the work of organizing the Apostolic Visitation and the Mission, as well as the many men and women throughout Ireland already working for the safety of children in church environments. Since the time when the gravity and extent of the problem of child sexual abuse in Catholic institutions first began to be fully grasped, the Church has done an immense amount of work in many parts of the world in order to address and remedy it. While no effort should be spared in improving and updating existing procedures, I am encouraged by the fact that the current safeguarding practices adopted by local Churches are being seen, in some parts of the world, as a model for other institutions to follow. (This only applies to efforts which don't touch on the priesthood.)


Benedict did encourage Irish bishops to report abuse to civil authorities, but did not mention anything about changing the canonical norms they all followed that led them to 'misunderstand' the Vatican's intentions about Pontifical secrecy. Benedict probably should have instructed the laity to report to the civil authorities before one word was uttered to clerical authorities because that's the only way a victim will ever get any kind of transparency.

It's a mystery to me as to why this visitation will only include some dioceses. I wouldn't be shocked if those dioceses are the very same ones that the Irish government has already investigated or is slated to investigate. Keeps the bad press to a minimum.

I think Pope Benedict is attempting the impossible. Rather than really address the problems of the priesthood he is trying to return to the very past notions of priesthood which generated this whole mess. That is actually one very good definition of insanity--constantly repeating the same failed strategies expecting a different outcome. Clerical sexual abuse is not a product of today's permissive culture. It has been a cancer in the Church for centuries and centuries. It's was various forms of clerical abuse which spawned the Reformation, that resulted in the reforms of the monastic communities in the twelve hundreds, that fueled the Inquisition, that resulted in the abuses heaped on indigenous populations.

The problem with clerical abuse is at it's root it is about the artificially exalted power of the clerical caste. It is not really about sex. The sexual expression is just a symptom. Benedict will never address the root issue because he has benefited enormously on a personal level and seems incapable of seeing this problem, much less addressing it. In this respect he is like Hitler holed up in his bunker while Berlin exploded around him. Benedict too seems to be an absolute dictator so trapped in his cherished fantasy he is unable to deal with reality. I suppose this is why we are exhorted to Eucharistic Adoration and Confession while Catholicism circles the drain.


  1. Excellent post. Thank you so much.

    I have put a link to you on my own piece on this issue at my blog: Blue Eyed Ennis.

  2. I'm trying to understand the underlying theology here; apparently, if the Irish people hadn't neglected their sacramental and devotional practices, this would have somehow mitigated the abuse by Irish clergy? It seems like that's what he's implying.

    What would that say about God if it were true? And what does that say about Benedict that he (apparently) believes in such a God?

  3. Truly and honestly PP that's the one place I didn't want to go precisely because of what it says about Benedict's view of God.

    That's why I opted for the uphold the exalted priest angle, which also says quite alot about Benedict's notion of God.

  4. Thanks for reading Philomena and I appreciate the link.

  5. Yes, it would appear that to the pope, the problem is just a spiritual one. Not a carnal one. If the Eucharist is truly Body, then the Body itself has been defiled!

    To think that the same priests who baptized children may have looked upon them with longing.... as their soon-to-be-victims.

    Sell the monstrances as a reparation! Let go of all the pomp and pretense!

    Exalt the people - the TRUE Body of Christ!

    Thanks for your analysis. Especially the asides!

  6. This is just sick, to link VII with the evil creation of pedophile Priests! It is simply outrageous!

    If the Pope would ponder on the beginning of the last century to WWI and WWII and the killing and slaughter that took place in that age, would he still so blindly defend VI? If only he would go on a long retreat!

    Very sick indeed. Your analysis is points out well the disturbing characteristics that keep the RCC stupid and in the dark on so many an issue.

    If the priesthood were such holy men, they would be holy men. They are not.

    I'm sorry, but sitting in front of the Holy Eucharist is a cop out and a dodge from reality. If they truly believed in Jesus Christ they would know he is everywhere, not in some room or enclosed in some tabernacle.

  7. How do you say "pablum" in Latin?

    Jim McCrea

  8. ## About these:

    "(This is an exhortation to recommit to the special spiritual power of the sacramental priesthood. It is a call for the sheep to follow as before, as if the betrayal of this whole concept had never happened.)"

    "(Wow, talk about back to the very past that engendered this mess.....)"

    "(With all due cynicism I suspect the final report will probably be plagiarized from the report on US seminaries and will focus on gay priests.)"

    ## Exactly. Business as usual :( I can almost guarantee that gays will be blamed - and how will blaming the wrong people help ?

  9. "How do you say "pablum" in Latin?"

    ## Try - pabulum :)

  10. Truly Benedict is in denial of the reasons and causes of this scandal. The thinking People of God in Ireland and all over the world will not put up with this intellectual manure. This is intellectualism used as a defense of the defenseless. The implosion in leadership begins at the very top and in the theology of a man that gets caught in the refusal to acknowledge of the any truth or responsibility for of what has happened and continues to be present.

    Infallible from this man, indeed! It doesn't take a PhD to see that this pope can not be considered beyond question in ANYTHING he does or says. He simply does not show the length and breadth of thought to move in a direction that will be helpful to the scandal and only leads this institution into more damage of itself and those unfortunate enough to continue to have any faith in this leadership. I think the depth of this scandal goes to so many places in the Church that we are only at the tip of a much bigger problem and the Pope sees no way out except to appeal to the glorious past of a leadership that was not questioned. That past was not at all glorious as the problems of power and the lack of celibacy have been with this organization since it decided to pattern itself as a Roman Empire. This authoritarian system is now showing fatal cracks that can not be mended by the current group of OLD thinkers that inhabits the stinky Vatican museum. The windows have been nailed shut, the minds inside closed, and left to their own stench.

  11. Colleen, I am thinking that the investigation that the Pope and Vatican will have in Ireland will be similar in nature to the "investigation" aka Inquisition of the US Sisters. It will be used as a political opportunity and tool to further destroy VII, alienate the entire idea of it, centralize the control of the Taliban Catholics under the leadership of the aging misguided scholar Ratzinger and to scapegoat homosexuals.

    PP, you do bring out a good point about the theology of the Pope, which as I understand it says he believes that God has punished the Irish people with pedophile priests, and that it is the Irish people's fault for the pedophile priest. He's saying the pedophile priests are teaching the Irish people a lesson. Very sick idea of God to imagine that God would have anything to do with molesting children as a way to punish people. Sick. Sick.... and perverted view of God who is good, not evil.

    How perverse to imagine that God is not good. Also, this says Benedict does not really know what Jesus did. Nor does he know what His Father does.

    "A son does what He sees his father doing."

    I wonder what Benedict saw his father doing? His father was a police officer.

  12. My guess is the Irish situation is predominantyly the same as the US--ephebophelia. I know the report was that 70% of the reported acts were with boys. In the US that percent was about 80%, and the boys were mostly post-pubescent.

    Evil and good begin in the heart of each person. The darkened souls of some priests chose evil acts. Some in authority responded in a corrupt or misguided manner. I look at what happened on all levels as a fundamentally spiritual crisis. Men mostly who did not think and act as if they belived the words, "Through Him, with Him and in Him."

    Here is the wise advice Benedict gave: "I also propose that a nationwide Mission be held for all bishops, priests and religious. It is my hope that, by drawing on the expertise of experienced preachers and retreat-givers from Ireland and from elsewhere, and by exploring anew the conciliar documents, the liturgical rites of ordination and profession, and recent pontifical teaching, you will come to a more profound appreciation of your respective vocations, so as to rediscover the roots of your faith in Jesus Christ and to drink deeply from the springs of living water that he offers you through his Church."

  13. Elastico I hope to give my take on this particular passage sometime this week.

    Indigenous cultures elevate only their respected elders to these positions of mentoring in spiritual maturity. In many more cases than not, the group of elders which is held in highest esteem for their insight are the grandmothers.

    Unfortunately in Catholicism that wisdom is not just lost but purposefully put down. Until this changes the priesthood has a monster hole right in the middle of it's spirituality.

  14. Elastico,

    Hans Kung says that Celibacy is unfortunate as it keeps qualified people from participating in the leadership and clergy. It is however more than just unfortunate because sex is a human need such as food, exercise, sleep, micturition, etc.. Celibacy is a deprivation that should not be required of any human being. This state of life requires a person to live without deep interpersonal relationships and is the basis of schizoid personality problems. It keeps people from developing wholesome personality structure. It attracts people who may already have schizoid personality disorders.

    That some people were able to live celibate and holy lives was in spite of celibacy not because of it. Some people who are sleep deprived are able to function, but not fully. Some who are hungry for long periods of time do function somewhat, but no long term deprivation adds to the creativity or psychological well being of anyone. That this deprivation could be behind the awful character problems in the RCC clergy is very apparent. I think it is incumbent upon people who believe in this state of life to prove it is healthy instead of vice versa. That fact is that they can not!

    Masturbation is a relatively healthy way of responding to human needs when one is without a mate, but it is called mortally wrong by these men. If you check Richard Sipe’s data, you see that only about 50 % of these men are really celibate at one period of time. This has to produce serious feelings of guilt (shame!) in this group of men that see themselves as in the state of mortal sin. If one already feels he is going to hell, what is to stop him or her from actions that are horrible, and reprehensible?

    Yet, the argument is for others to prove that this deprivation is harmful. We see the proof all over in the neurosis of so many of our clergy and, of course, the scandal and the lack of any creative solution by the Bishops. The clergy wants respect because they say that they deprive themselves. Wow, this is a rather silly reason to respect someone. Yes, we should help them so that they would be able to live more creative and less neurotic lives. Instead, the Bishops want to manipulate the People of God into believing that the life of a clergyman is somehow a higher form of life than that of a married person. This type of manipulation has led them to misogyny, homophobia, unacceptable financial manipulations all in the name of respecting their celibate authority. They need help not respect!! They need to take the

  15. RDP, the inference of your theory is there would be no marital infidelity then as there is an outlet for sex within the marriage. (or maybe you think fidelity is an archaic marital expectation because of this uncontrollable sex need, at least for males). Also by inference, one would expect no abuse/sex problems in the Protestant churches or even in education. But clearly there have been enormous, largely unreported, problems in those institutions, and there are no celibacy restrictions in either.

    CKB, I see no monster hole as you do. If Christ is truly the center of human existence, the alpha and omega, then grandma and grandpa as well as every other human, are but tangents. That again is what Benedict is addressing. The gaping whole in spirituality needs to be filled by Christ because Christ is the center. Not the self. Not the elder. But Christ, always. If any mentor has something to say that brings a soul closer to Christ, they should be heard. (Your last sentence I hope was a rhetorical flourish; otherwise it comes across as mean-spirited and frankly, quite uninformed and vacuous.)

    Where we do agree is that most bishops should be removed or should retire, but I'm sure for different reasons.

  16. The underlying reality is that Ratz is implying that the abuse is somehow the fault of the Irish laity. Re-read what he is saying.

    Granted that for many Irish, their faith was only skin deep - and steeped in mere externals - but as a nation, they most certainly believed in God. And for many of them - they expressed their love of God in meditation before the Most Blessed Sacrament & in the Rosary, etc.

    If done properly, these are NOT mere externals - they are an active prayer life.

    That being made crystal clear, it is not the general Irish populace who need to be commended to prayer & penance: it is their Clergy & Bishops. Because the abuse is obviously THEIR fault. And their inaction against the guilty clerics & religious is THEIR fault.

    And as THEIR fault has resulted in the mass defection of the Irish ppl from the pews - regardless of the level of their individual faith - it is THEY (Clergy & Hierarchy) who need to prostrate themselves before Christ in the Tabernacle & repent.

    ...while He still allows them breath. As it is THEY who will be called to account for the THOUSANDS of innocent souls which they have damaged.

  17. Dear Elastico,

    Your inference is not at all what I am implying. While in the general public infidelity is certainly high, It has not been shown that mature couples seeking spirituality have an extremely high rate. The problem with celibacy is that it is certainly a deprivation and is not a mode that leads to mature interpersonal interactions. I did not imply that Protestants and school systems were free of sexual abuses. I think the reason that they are not having the problems of the Roman Catholic Church over these issues is that when discovered authorities mostly did not attempt a cover up. I don’t doubt that all sexual abuses are under reported in all sectors of society, but attempting to hide it and officially under report it is a very serious legal and spiritual problem! Certainly it is no recommendation for the spirituality of the celibate priesthood if they are rapists at the same rate as is found in the general public.

    I do understand that celibacy is only one of the crucial problems leading to this extremely unfortunate scandal and leadership crisis. It is however an important one, as it demands deprivation and does not promote deep interpersonal relationships. In other words it provides the makings for serious character-logic disorders in those who try to practice this privation. People that are successful and holy celibates are so in spite of celibacy not because of it. Elastico, the Bishops and possibly you, do not consider the importance of good interpersonal relationships that lead toward spirituality. Unfortunately, many marriages are unsuccessful because one or more members have not reached a level of maturity and spirituality to know that there is no such thing as absolute love between them. That in fact, they both must each work daily to preserve and strengthen their bond. It sounds like a lot of work and is, but without help from another, it is much harder to grow and develop stronger personal character. So marriage, not celibacy, is a better state if one wishes to approach the behavior required for God’s two greatest commandments of love.

    My last expressed thoughts in my previous post were not purely rhetorical and were informed. I am sorry that you do not understand them. If they seem mean to you, I am sorry, but they are merely factual statements. This is a big problem in the Church that there are factual observations that fail to be recognized but like child abuse are simply ignored.

    In Ireland as in the United States and the rest of the world, this scandal and expanding leadership crisis is not the fault of the lay section of the People of God, but IS the fault of a blinded response by the clerical leadership. Benedict does not get that and it is more than too bad because it is expanding his own leadership crisis and imploding the Institution.

    Yes, we do agree that most of the current Bishops should be removed and you are correct when you say that our reasoning is different.

    May we gain God’s grace through understanding and the peace that brings.

  18. I'll expand a little more on what I was driving at. Jesus stated that when TWO or More are gathered in His name He will be there.

    Two is not a celibate one. Symbolically a ritual priesthood representing only one sex is not two as is described for the well being of human in Genesis. I don't see how this can be good for the Church. Substituting the mental construct "Holy Mother Church" does not have the same impact on developing a mature spirituality as having the mentoring and input from real live women.

    That's why I think there is a real hole in the spirituality of the priesthood. It's a designed to be a solo effort of celibate men. It represents only half the human equation.

  19. RDP- this statement by me("Your last sentence I hope was a rhetorical flourish; otherwise it comes across as mean-spirited and frankly, quite uninformed and vacuous.") was not directed at anything you wrote. It was directed, if you will read that paragraph closely, to CKB, who made a statement about Eucharistic Adoration and reconciliation in the original blog post.

    Regarding your take on the psychosexuality of celibacy, you and I must personally know a lot of different types of priests. I have run into virtually none that were any more or any less adjusted or maladjusted than the population as a whole.

    Again, I point out that if access to sex was the answer, other institutions would have very few problems. Clearly they have big porblems--most recently check the news report on the Boy Scouts.

    Like you, I prefer facts. With 80% of the clergy abuse problem in the US being ephebophilia, the way to solve a huge chunk of the abuse problem is not through celibacy but by screening gay men better. After all, the buggering victims (80%, John Jay report)were predominantly post-pubescent boys. I am hoping the seminary visits of the recent past in part were about addressing that.

  20. Yes Colleen to grow and develop in relationship with a partner contributing to the growth of the other, weather it be emotional, intellectual, physical, psychological or spiritual is to lead into real relationship and allows one to see the Christ in the mate first, and then to a lesser extent in others. This type of mature relationship positively contributes to a person’s love of others and his or her God. It vastly contributes to a persons feelings of well-being.

    Without a one on one relationship, it is difficult to see any strong bonds occurring and puts a person at a distinct disadvantage for growth or development, spiritual or otherwise. Yes a celibate may grow more muscular, and even intellectually and emotionally but there will be no bonds and no help, and therefore that person is always disadvantaged and deprived. Physical deprivation of a mate makes no more sense than does chronic sleep deprivation or hunger.

    The horrible deprivation that a young man or woman goes through to be celibate does not contribute to maturity and is often a hinderance to much personality or spiritual progress. Celibacy seems to also attracts those that fear being with others and in of itself causes neurosis and schizoid emotions. It also sometimes attracts some who have no intention of physical celibacy but only want the power of a trusted (celiboid) Father. This rule may also attract certain predators. A celibacy rule is not a positive development in the life of an institution or a person, and over the long run as we have seen in the RCC, contributes to sever problems of one sort or another.

    Elsastico, having spent several years in a seminary and a lifetime in both brain and mind research, I must admit that many of my priestly colleagues were trapping in a non maturing social system. I think you also might benefit by checking over the research of Richard Sipe. For many years I played tennis every Saturday with a priest that taught medical ethics and we had many discussions about the neurotic behavior of priests being particularly disturbing. dennis

  21. Dear elsatico,

    I want to also comment on your last paragraph,
    I think it is not so simple as to screen out gay men! If you noticed I commented that the rule of celibacy often attracted predators who had no wish to remain celibate. There are predator priests that prey exclusively on women and those that prey exclusively on men. There are even some that the sex of the prey matters not! Since the priesthood is all male, we might expect more predators that prey on men. There is no increase in sexual predatory activity in the gay community as a whole than in the heterosexual community. Finally, your idea that it is some how worse to rape a child of one age or another does not make any spiritual, ethical, psychological or legal sense..

  22. rdp, it does make sense if one is desparate to justify a celibate male clergy by blaming it on gays. Too bad the level of homosexual activity by straights goes up significantly in the all male environments of prisons and naval ships. The priesthood, the use of exclusively young male altar servers, and the all male seminaries represent the same issue of an all male environment.

    As you point out, the priesthood offered a few other things that may just have been very instrumental in attracting a lot of gays and a lot of pedophile predators--instant trust and instant status. No other profession had quite the door on the closet that the priesthood did. People saw what they needed to see, what they were taught to see, not what might have actually been there. The mirror on that particular closet door was quite effective--so to speak.

  23. Colleen, I can tell you that running from celibate life turned out for me to be a warm and corrective psychological and spiritual experience. I recall a dream that I had just prior to asking for a sabbatical from the seminary. I was ridding a speed bike and road it over a cliff. I could see the lights of the city below and felt fearful of death. When I landed I just kept ridding. I interpreted and reinterpreted this dream but it meant for me the need to change my life which I did. Although I wanted a priestly ministry and felt called to have one, I rearranged my life to one of a scientist, academic neuro anesthesiologist) and later a child and adult psychoanalyst. Now as I center and meditate in my illness and near total retirement, I some how feel compelled to bring truth to the pseudo power of this very faulty clerical leadership that looses more respect from the People of God by the day. NO, I was never abused myself, thank God, but I knew more that idle gossip as a young seminarian. dennis s

  24. I think a lot of us know more than we let on, professional ethics and all. It gets frustrating hoping people can understand that some opinion is based on real live interaction with the problems inherent in celibacy. It's no accident that self medication is rampant in the priesthood and one of the largest complaints is loneliness not lack of sex.

    It's the lack of meaningful equal relationships which is most debillitating, not necessarily the lack of sex.

  25. Over a life time, Colleen, I suppose you are somewhat correct, but for a young man and in my experience a young woman, physical celibacy is much more a problem than most in the church believe. The very physical acts of an intercourse of two people trying to especially please the other are something special and necessary to engender a special life time of a most loving relationship. I once moderated a PhD level class of about sexuality and this seemed to be the consensus of those 5 years. By the way these classes were at least 70% women with an average age of 49. dennis