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.


  1. The first article is mind blowing fresh air and at first I wondered if it was a spoof article.It is the first article I have read that says what I have been feeling for years and it manages to say it all in one go.
    This priest is definitely my hero for Easter 2010.
    I shall be putting this on my blog and I hope it goes viral. Can anyone get him to go on the BBC News ? I am from the UK!! Brilliant, just brilliant. (I confess I did not progress to the second article after I read your comments.)

  2. Phil tomorrow I am going to steal a couple things off of your blog as I think they are totally appropriate for tomorrow.

  3. Here's is another "he said, she said" - with the roles reversed, from the bbc this morning. "She" asserts from evidence. "He" simply asserts (ex cathedra, as it were).

    Jesus did say he had come to cast fire on the earth, did he not? I do believe this is what's happening now.

  4. Next we have Maureen Dowd - on track for excommunication, I'm guessing:

    Thankfully she quotes Dolan saying, the church needs and wants criticism. Umm... that's news to me! But cover for her!

  5. When reading Jesuit Father Henri Boulad's letter I could hear the same views expressed right here in so many a blog. Time and again, here in this blog's message, in the messages that followers of this blog have received independently across the globe, the same voice speaks, which is not conspiracy, but the Holy Spirit speaking with the same voice and message for the Church for reform. It is the same message we have heard which serves the Lord, not Peter's denials and fears.

    If it is true that Fr Henri Boulad's letter was not even read by the Pope, those who have not made this letter available to him are just digging a deeper hole in which the successor of Peter can hide in his bunker, a deeper hole that buries and denies the Holy Spirit.

    Sister Mary Ann Walsh says " Holy Week is time when Catholics worldwide feel the pain of dying in Christ." Some are feeling the pain of the Truth and doing nothing about it.

    This year I feel the pain of Christ suffering, but not in the way Sister Mary Ann Walsh describes.

    Christ continues to suffer because the Pharisees have taken over the spirit of the Church, they deny Christ and create outcasts. Like Peter, the Pope denies Jesus when he has the opportunity to follow Jesus and obey His commands. He refuses to walk with Christ to the Resurrection, stops shorts and misses the point entirely of who and what caused Jesus' death on the cross.

    Sister Walsh says: "Society is finally seeing that sexual abuse of a child is a sin, a crime and often a sickness."

    Society has seen this long before the hierarchy in the Church. Parents and mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers saw it long before society and the Church.

    And it really does not matter which side of the political spectrum one is on to SEE that "sexual abuse of a child is a sin." My parents had a child in the 1960's with a rare birth defect and they heard about how children were abused in institutions that were supposedly created to help them. My parents opted to raise their child at home because they knew there was all kinds of abuse against these little ones and that sexual abuse occurred in many institutions, and that was in the 1960s and my parents were very conservative Catholics.

    The spin of the Sister is to weave this in such a way for the interests of the Bishops that excuses enablers of sexual abuse and abusers of all sorts, including that of abuse of conscience, abuse of the Lord and denial of His Holy Spirit.

  6. I agree with butterfly. What we are seeing is the Holy Spirit - independently moving many to speak out on behalf of the TRUE church, which the hierarchy seem to have abandoned.

    The Orthodox today recognize the woman who washed the feet of Jesus and anointed him - versus Judas who sold him.

    There is a powerful image of those of us who venerate him, versus those like Judas, who betray him

  7. Furthermore, the lie that the Pharisees in the Church are spreading and have been spreading for a long time is that "liberals" are responsible for the ills in society and in the Church. It is certainly a lie of convenience for those desiring power, glory and material riches for themselves.

  8. Bravo to Fr. Boulad for speaking the voice of truth in such a thicket of hypocrisy!! Thanks to him and others like Bill and you Colleen, we know the Truth lives!
    We have sent a check to help with "replacement money" to the homeless shelter here where "our" bishop has not only cut off Catholic Charities funding but demanded money already given back. Why? Because the parent organization of the shelter supported gay marriage in the last election.
    Another brave priest who is not afraid to speak the truth said to me, "And he does this on the Sunday I have to preach, 'Let him who is without sin cast the first stone'."

  9. There's an addendum to the letter which is very interesting in its proposal;

  10. Last link I'm offering today:

    It gives an account of how the present and previous pope, aided by the Opus, have reversed Vatican II through shrewd rewriting of canon law. Which now spreads infallibility much wider than it did and makes any reform all that much harder to undo.

    Put that with the fact that Benedict is particularly elevating those well-versed in canon law (or history, as someone said a day or two ago). Rewriting history and canon law. To the detriment of the People of God.

    Join the Orthodox!!!
    (Or do as prompted by the Spirit.)

  11. Addendum also available here: (scroll down)

  12. Father Boulud's letter is the most refreshing and truthful statement of facts of the christian church today. Although his letter is to the catholic church it is really to all christian churches. All churches, catholic and protestant need to heed his advice. The church (all denominations ) are out of step with the modern world. We all need a church that addresses the problems of today with the love and salvation of Jesus in the first century

  13. TheraP-

    Interesting NCR article.

    "Back to the Future", "Forward to the Past".

    The irony is that re-centralizing all decision making power back to the Curia in the Vatican has(... love the irony...), also re-centralized all responsibility to the Curia in the Vatican.

    Which means, among many things that I'm sure will also be revealed, that the Curia/Vatican "owns" the pedophilia

    The present Pope wanted his cake...

  14. More avoidance from the USA Bishops' Conference via their spokesperson.

    Does she think we buy this disingenuous claptrap?

    The suffering has been caused by clergy and religious who raped and abused children, and she wants us to theologise it! Get real sister and think about genuine sorrow, reparations and commitment to ensuring it can't happen again.

  15. I have been out with some painful illness while the evidence presented here of vast church hemorrhage is apparent. It comes down to a
    Benedict and many others in the curia that do not have the depth of Character to fix this mess. Even if I am misjudging Benedict and he sincerely tries to truthfully face this leadership crisis, he likely would be no more successful than a John Paul I when he announced that he would clean up the Vatican Bank. May the People of God gain grace by not fearing truth and not fearing to act truthfully. We can continue to inform ourselves, and act from our consciences while attempting to center on where the Spirit leads!

  16. Yes, Anonymous! They have cast the net and closed it - thus proving they are in control of the whole shebang! Talk about painting yourself into a corner...

    Let them eat cake - indeed!

  17. Excellent article - thoughtful words from this Jesuit!

    During Holy Week, rather then public repentence & reform, Ratzinger has ordered his bulldogs (Opus Dei bishops & layfolk, etc.) to go on the offensive. Equating any critique of the Pope as an attack on Christ himself. While Ratz himself has been mum on the issue.

    Do they think the tide of allegations have ceased?

    What will they do when the victims of abuse in US Catholic schools come forward? The orphanages here?
    Do they think the boys' school for the deaf in WI is the ONLY abuse case?

    Those of us who have long memories know of the sexual abuse of boys in Catholic orphanages, mental health institutions, homes for the handicapped, reform schools/halfway houses run in the NY/NJ region. Both within living memory - and dating back to the early 1900s.

    Search on the New York Times archives, as I have. You will be...disgusted. Much has been swept under the rug. The most recently publicized cases were in the 70s & 80s involving the mental health institutions. All conveniently the deaf boys in Milwaukee. And many times worse then that scene. Much worse.

    You may thank Cardinal Spellman for that.....there is a hint there. A BIG one. And his former secretary & successor Cardinal Cooke, for neatly covering it all up. And the postulator of his 'cause'.

    Put 2+ 2 together....

    Anon Y. Mouse

  18. Anon, I remember very vividly going over the details of the situation with mental health hospitals in NY/NJ when researching a therapeutic model which came out of that mess. It was truly revolting research from a professional/ethical standpoint. Not to mention a personal/human standpoint.

    The therapeutic model which rose out of those ashes--client generated-- was and is very good. That's another story, but it does have a hopeful resonance for the current mess in Catholicism.

    Google Gheel Belgium for the other side of the Catholic story on residential treatment. I believe I've written about Gheel but giving it more exposure is still pure bliss.