Sunday, April 18, 2010

While the Pope did meet with victims of abuse in Malta, he also stayed on his favorite topic---the evils of the dictatorship of relativism. Is he willfully blind to the dictatorship of relativism practiced by the Vatican? In the meantime, Nicholas Kristoff writes an elegant piece on the 'other Catholicism'. The one I love. The one the actually lives the Gospel.

A Church Mary Can Love
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF - NY Times - Published: April 17, 2010

I heard a joke the other day about a pious soul who dies, goes to heaven, and gains an audience with the Virgin Mary. The visitor asks Mary why, for all her blessings, she always appears in paintings as a bit sad, a bit wistful: Is everything O.K.?

Mary reassures her visitor: “Oh, everything’s great. No problems. It’s just ... it’s just that we had always wanted a daughter.”

That story comes to mind as the Vatican wrestles with the consequences of a patriarchal premodern mind-set: scandal, cover-up and the clumsiest self-defense since Watergate. That’s what happens with old boys’ clubs.

It wasn’t inevitable that the Catholic Church would grow so addicted to male domination, celibacy and rigid hierarchies. Jesus himself focused on the needy rather than dogma, and went out of his way to engage women and treat them with respect.

The first-century church was inclusive and democratic, even including a proto-feminist wing and texts. The Gospel of Philip, a Gnostic text from the third century, declares of Mary Magdalene: “She is the one the Savior loved more than all the disciples.” Likewise, the Gospel of Mary (from the early second century) suggests that Jesus entrusted Mary Magdalene to instruct the disciples on his religious teachings. (I think it's more appropriate to use the term spiritual teachings.)

St. Paul refers in Romans 16 to a first-century woman named Junia as prominent among the early apostles, and to a woman named Phoebe who served as a deacon. The Apostle Junia became a Christian before St. Paul did (chauvinist translators have sometimes rendered her name masculine, with no scholarly basis).

Yet over the ensuing centuries, the church reverted to strong patriarchal attitudes, while also becoming increasingly uncomfortable with sexuality. The shift may have come with the move from house churches, where women were naturally accepted, to more public gatherings.

The upshot is that proto-feminist texts were not included when the Bible was compiled (and were mostly lost until modern times). Tertullian, an early Christian leader, denounced women as “the gateway to the devil,” while a contemporary account reports that the great Origen of Alexandria took his piety a step further and castrated himself.

The Catholic Church still seems stuck today in that patriarchal rut. The same faith that was so pioneering that it had Junia as a female apostle way back in the first century can’t even have a woman as the lowliest parish priest. Female deacons, permitted for centuries, are banned today.
That old boys’ club in the Vatican became as self-absorbed as other old boys’ clubs, like Lehman Brothers, with similar results. And that is the reason the Vatican is floundering today.

But there’s more to the picture than that. In my travels around the world, I encounter two Catholic Churches. One is the rigid all-male Vatican hierarchy that seems out of touch when it bans condoms even among married couples where one partner is H.I.V.-positive. To me at least, this church — obsessed with dogma and rules and distracted from social justice — is a modern echo of the Pharisees whom Jesus criticized.

Yet there’s another Catholic Church as well, one I admire intensely. This is the grass-roots Catholic Church that does far more good in the world than it ever gets credit for. This is the church that supports extraordinary aid organizations like Catholic Relief Services and Caritas, saving lives every day, and that operates superb schools that provide needy children an escalator out of poverty.

This is the church of the nuns and priests in Congo, toiling in obscurity to feed and educate children. This is the church of the Brazilian priest fighting AIDS who told me that if he were pope, he would build a condom factory in the Vatican to save lives.

This is the church of the Maryknoll Sisters in Central America and the Cabrini Sisters in Africa. There’s a stereotype of nuns as stodgy Victorian traditionalists. I learned otherwise while hanging on for my life in a passenger seat as an American nun with a lead foot drove her jeep over ruts and through a creek in Swaziland to visit AIDS orphans. After a number of encounters like that, I’ve come to believe that the very coolest people in the world today may be nuns.

So when you read about the scandals, remember that the Vatican is not the same as the Catholic Church. Ordinary lepers, prostitutes and slum-dwellers may never see a cardinal, but they daily encounter a truly noble Catholic Church in the form of priests, nuns and lay workers toiling to make a difference.

It’s high time for the Vatican to take inspiration from that sublime — even divine — side of the Catholic Church, from those church workers whose magnificence lies not in their vestments, but in their selflessness. They’re enough to make the Virgin Mary smile. (Unfortunately, the Vatican, Opus Dei, the Neo Cats, the Legionaires, and other conservative apostolates and their supporters will never let this happen.)


Do I think that Pope Benedict cares about the victims? Yes, but not as much as he cares about defending and protecting his fantasy of the priesthood and hierarchical authority and his supposed direct pipe line to God. I keep hoping to read a quote of his that actually mentions his desire to clean out the filth in the Vatican, but I don't. I keep hoping to read that he met with victims as an equal and not surrounded by reminders of his authority. It never happens.

Here's John Allen's report on Benedict's meeting with Maltese victims:

Lombardi said the session took place in the chapel of the residence of the papal nuncio, or ambassador, in Malta. It began with a moment of silent prayer, and then Benedict moved near the altar to meet the victims one-by-one, allowing them to say "whatever they wished to say," Lombardi said. (yes, this is exactly the kind of setting which is going to foster one on one honest communication. Let's not forget boys, just who you are talking too.)

The pope also responded to the victims individually, in either English or Italian, Lombardi said, but did not offer any general remarks.

The meeting concluded with a common prayer in Maltese, and the pope gave each victim a rosary.

The victims were accompanied by two local Maltese bishops, while the pope was joined by a senior Vatican official, his private secretary, and his nuncio in Malta.

Everything about this meeting is contraindicated in doing real therapy for real healing. I suspect a number of these victims will experience some form of PTSD triggering and when the Vatican fails to deliver meaningful change they will join other survivors who have met the Pope and been sorely disappointed with the over all experience. A point John Allen makes:

On previous occassions when victims have met the pope, their first-blush reactions are generally positive, but over time some have argued that the promise of those meetings has not yet resulted in sufficient policy changes.

It is very very difficult for me to imagine Jesus standing at the Arc in the Temple and meeting with the sexual abuse victims of His anointed Apostles and handing them rosaries. "I'm on it, really." he says. "Go and sin no more." It's much easier to envision Mary coming unglued with Jesus for his lack of empathy, token concern, and obvious need to remind victims of his authority.

The Church of Mary would have dropped the pomp and met with victims in their reality, where victims actually have to live the consequences of priestly abuse. Like in prison.

Speaking of Mary, the Vatican has formed another visitation body to look into Medjugorge. Apparently in some messages Mary is not towing the company line. I will get into this visitation in more detail in another post, but there is zero question in my mind, that this visitation will not return a favorable report. At this particular time, when the entire authority structure is being put under a microscope, the Vatican can' afford to have Mary floating around and demanding they clean their act up. Especially when her seers are all married lay people. One last thought, it's really interesting that most of the fraud associated with Medjugorge has come from ordained clerics. Coincidence or part of the message?


  1. He should have washed and kissed their feet, laid prostrate begging forgiveness for the harm they had suffered.

    At the end I think it would have been appropriate for some subaltern to slip each one an envelope with a formal apology. It should also contain a check to reflect serious attempt at contrition for the damages suffered. The checks, depending on circumstance should be in the region of the hundreds of thousands to tens of millions. If the money is not enough there should be an offer to negotiate a fair amount. And there should be an offer to settle all other matters outstanding within a reasonable period of time, say a year or so.


  2. Security word is "imple" - reminds me of "imp" - prankish - and "pimple" - like the hierarchy is a pimple on the church and some imp might lance the pimple as an inspired prank "for the good of the church"!

    Glad you posted the Kristof piece. And I loved your image of Mary! It rang so true! If only she'd appear to the pope and say such things!!!

  3. Interestingly, EWTN did not cover this event on tv (that I am aware of).

    Agreed with p2p's comment - a reasonable & charitable solution. It is what those who are of Christ SHOULD do. Of course this is on the assumption that the "old boys" are capable of such behavior.

    From what I have been able to discern of similar "let's pretend to apologize' scenarios, that's all they are. Pretense. PR moves.

    In the real world, victims would not all be polite. They would speak up forcefully. Even if they managed to remain civil, Ratz & co. would get quite an earful.

    When Ratz went to Australia, he did the same 'meet & greet' routine, which was openly labelled as a farce by victims' groups globally. They also noted that Aussie police were used to forcibly move out the homeless. And that anyone who was 'interfering with the pilgrims' (i.e. peacefully protesting the presence of the Pope) was subject to immediate arrest & BIG fine.

    While I do not advocate the flinging of excrement at Ratzginer (as happened to JPII in the US & elsewhere), I DO very much advocate STRONG public protest against him. in any & all future Popestocks.

    Especially in the UK, where the anti-Vatican sentiment is VERY high. And many ex-pat Irish live there....

    Anon Y. Mouse

  4. Much longer article on Lena, the pope's US counsel, from the WaPo:

  5. TheraP -

    "If only she'd appear to the pope and say such things!!!"

    A good rhetorical question, which has a very interesting answer:

    Has Mary EVER appeared to a Pope? To the educated? To a high-ranking cleric?


    There is a reason for that. Actually, several. For starters, the recipient of a message was ALWAYS one who was poor & either illiterate or uneducated. A simple soul (in the best sense of the word) who would believe. The visionaries were usually either little children or nuns.

    WHY? If you read the messages from 1846 to present, you will see that they ARE aimed squarely AT THE VATICAN. They are increasingly urgent requests for THEM TO REPENT & REFORM. As they are global leaders who were & are leading souls to hell.

    If the common man (the 'simple') were sinning, who is at fault? Who is supposed to be teaching the Gospel to them by the personal example of their lives? Priests & Bishops. If the leader set a bad example,what do you expect the little guys to do?

    At LaSalette, Fatima, Akita & Garabandal in particular, the messages were aimed right at the Vatican.At the then (or soon to be) reigning pope. In response, they ignored & obfuscated the messages. Or allowed their underlings to do so - and even evilly edit them to death. Or condemn them.

    "The priests, the ministers of my Son, by their wicked lives & love of money & honors & worldly things have become cesspools of impurity..." That was in 1846.

    This is 2010. The 'clock' has been ticking for quite some time now.

    Anon Y. Mouse

  6. From Reuters, via the NY Times:

    Uncertain Leadership In Vatican as Abuse Crisis Rages

  7. What's with the rosary?

    Is this the parting gift for losers on this game show?

    I've got an idea for the best use of the Legion of Christ's ill gotten wealth. Take the $20 billion or so and distribute it to the victims of sexual abuse. Don't take up any other collections, don't fight the victims in court. Simply allocate $20,000 million to the victims. Fold the evil order. Solve the problem. Become a hero and a saint in the meantime.

    Incidentally I'm in complete agreement with Colleen and most of the commentators here. Include the laity in the decision making, and the authority of the Church. Include women as did Jesus.

    This isn't going to happen under Benedict. The next pope had better get on the case or the next pope could be the last pope.


    Here's my word verification: "peray" I read it as pray

  8. My question was simply a rhetorical irony. But...

    Yes, indeed, even in the Old Testament, God chooses the least likely recipients for messages or leadership or prophecy. But do they listen? No! Then there's the Parable of Jesus, where the landowner thinks: "Ok, I'll send my son!" We know how that one worked out.

    Makes you wonder if God has washed has hands of pope-picking!

    I suppose if a truly humble person were selected as pope, then God might act to and through that person. Otherwise... did prophets ever need to couch their words in "infallibility claims"?

    This is so frustrating!

  9. I'm not much of an expert in the matters posted here on this blog. But I do have an advanced degree in business, for what that's worth these days.

    It occurs to me that for all their wealth the bishops and cardinals don't have a clue about managing these assets.

    I'm speculating here but I don't think it would take $20 billion to make the problem go away honorably. In fact that might be a very good deal, just from the business point of view.

    Win/Win anyone? Or is this too secular an analysis?


  10. p2p your analysis is quite reasonable. I'm quite sure the boys in the Vatican are burning some mid night oil over the assets of the Legion. There are folks out there who are trying to recover money their families donated to the Legion, especially directly to Maciel. Fraud and all that.

    I have also noticed that the Legion is in something of a fire sale mode. They have put their headquarters in CT on the market and also a college down south was just closed in the middle of the semester. There are supposedly other properties on the market. One wonders what this liquidation mode is all about.

    Anon I too find it interesting that Mary seems to have left the powerful and educated off her list of visitees. I think you are very correct in stating it's a matter of belief at first sight--so to speak.

    Speaking from personal experience, I had to have my mental world rocked to it's foundation before I stopped inventing rational reasons for what was happening to me.

    There was one time when my body was suddenly eight and a half feet tall and I was standing in an aura of golden light shaped like a triangle. I'm not really afraid, just over whelmed with how different everything looked at that heighth. The guiding force told me to touch my ceiling, which was eleven feet tall. I reached up and palmed the ceiling with no problem.

    I was exhausted when this experience ended and promptly fell asleep on the couch. The next morning when I woke up I was all set to call it some sort of weird hallucination, and then I saw my hand print on the ceiling. This experience was also witnessed, but up until I saw the handprint I was quite willing to chalk the whole thing up to a mutual hallucination.

    Point of the story is someone went to great lengths to get me to take any of this seriously.

    However, the message is overwhelming right now, and that message is two fold: the Vatican either has to go or completely revamp how it does business. Jesus did not guarantee the Vatican, He guaranteed the Church.

    The second is as important, if not more so, mankind has to get a handle on sexual energy and expression. Sexual abuse in all it's forms is not going to be tolerated much longer, and that includes the abuse of women as nothing more than Axolotyl tanks.

    (Sorry couln't refuse the Dune analogy. Khughes must be given credit though.)

  11. @ p2p: "I think it would have been appropriate ... to slip each one an envelope with a formal apology. It should also contain a check.... The checks, depending on circumstance should be in the region of the hundreds of thousands to tens of millions."

    Sure, the best answer to all hurts is lots of money, right?

    Don't you think that's a great deal over simplified? Really?

  12. @mah11,

    No money does not solve the problem. Neither does a rosary.

    Criminal law attempts to punish the guilty. Ecclesiastical law... well I don't know what it is supposed to do. But Civil law exists to attempt to resolve differences among citizens. When one has been harmed one can ask the court for remedies. The usual sorts of remedies are injunctions and the payment of money known as damages.

    Injunctions are orders of the court commanding one to do something (return the precious item, make children available for a visit from their father etc.) or to refrain from doing something (stop playing your music loud late at night, etc.)

    Damages, or money paid, may not make up for the loss of your parent, or the precious broken vase, or the use of your paralyzed legs but it does help the injured party. Payments to a victim are made as part of the justice system in an attempt to set things right. A well established concept in justice is that the victim is compensated for the harm by the person, or organization, or both, who caused the harm.

    Victims have very real losses. Some of them are monetary losses that are easy to understand and quantify. They may require additional health care, psychological counseling and other costs as the result of their having been abused.

    It may offend you to think that a price can be put on pain and suffering but it is done all the time. Check any insurance or actuarial website. Here's a link to an automobile insurance company associated with the AMA/CAA:

    If your eye offends you and your hand causes you to sin and you lose the use of both? $25,000 to $200,000 depending on coverage.

    And so I suggested that the priests who abused, the organization to which they belonged, and those who covered up the abuse have harmed the victims and should compensate them.

    The more I think about it the more I think the $20,000 million that would be paid to the 5,000 or so victims the RC Church has already acknowledged is a good deal. From a legal,moral, ethical, even Biblical point of view I think it is the right thing to do.

    Seeking to minimize the damage, re-victimizing the victims, and fighting this will be far more costly both in terms of money but also in terms of moral authority.

    The hierarchy should make a good act of contrition. Go and sin no more.


  13. Yes, it would be better to compensate without victims having to go through a legal battle. That, of course, would cut the lawyers out of this. But a legal battle is so psychicly costly!

  14. @ p2p: "No money does not solve the problem. Neither does a rosary."

    Indeed. So you agree. Way too simplistic.

  15. mah11, there's a previous blog on the homepage from Fr. Tom Doyle in which he discusses what's needed for victims to heal. No money is not the answer, but when victims lives are wracked with PTSD episodes, money helps because jobs are hard to hold and then become hard to get. Not to mention therapy isn't cheap and Catholicism does not have an equivalent to veterans hospitals to help the victims. Not that there couldn't be.

  16. Yada yada yada.

    The point, if you'll pardon me for sticking to it, is that the suggestion made by p2p, then joined by colkoch, that the pope should have gone to meet with victims with millions of dollars in hand is the result, to put it kindly, of immature, childish thinking. Enough said.

  17. I don't know it sure worked for fr. maciel. Seems it's the vatican's kind of thinking--or maybe only when it's them on the receiving end.

  18. Giving a rosary to each abuse victim IS somewhere between a game show consolation prize & a spiritual insult.

    ...frankly, I would rather have the Turtle Wax or the year's supply of Rice-A-Roni as the 'consolation prize'.

    I say 'spiritual insult' for good reason. I personally revere & say the Rosary. It holds great meaning for me. To give a rosary to the victims of clerical sex abuse is the equivalent of saying (subliminally):

    "You need to pray & repent"

    That is the message being sent. It is the wrong message; as the abusers & their Bishop-enables need to repent.

    Yes, the victims need to pray as we all do. But they & the general laity are NOT the ones in need of penance in this scenario!

    Anon Y. Mouse

  19. "Has Mary EVER appeared to a Pope? To the educated? To a high-ranking cleric?


    I'll go you one better: Has Mary ever appeared to ANYONE with the last 1000 years?

    No! Marilotry is one of the achilles' heels of Catholicism.

    Jim McCrea

  20. toeing the line, not towing

    the Arc in the Temple? The Ark of the Covenant (long lost, hence the raiders)

  21. Hey, folks, I'm a newcomer.

    I appreciate that there's a lot of anger for things covered up and mishandled -- I don't want to minimise anyone's outrage. And there are some wonderful suggestions, especially the bit about Benedict washing the feet of the abuse victims.

    However, I feel like this whole scandal is creating, in the bishops, something like the Step 1 in the 12-step programme: a dawning realisation of the full import of the issue, and an appreciation of any personal responsibility. This change doesn't always happen at once: sometimes it does, like Paul's experience on the way to Damascus, but sometimes it has to grow and expand more slowly. It's a really beautiful thing when a new awareness forces your present world to crumble, because humility opens up all sorts of new possibilities and causes the old things to fall away. But in my own life, it's come slowly like the dawn as often as it's come as a flash of lightning. Perhaps more often.

    Anyhow, I think we should cherish Benedict's audience as a sign that, finally, things are starting to go right, and not focus too hard on how incomplete they are at present. I certainly think we can focus on it some -- it allows us to imagine what sort of wonderful things could happen when we really let repentance and grace flow -- but I get really worried about the possibility of allowing ourselves to be singly focused on where the hierarchy is (indeed) falling short, because then we can't see where God is already working.

    I read the account of one abuse victim after one of these audiences, who said that it healed a great deal in him, because the pope availed himself to grief.

  22. Welcome to the blog Paul. It is beginning to look like a twelve step process, and some of our leadership might actually be getting to the second step.

    My own thought is that what they really need to do at this point is find a real life sponsor. Someone who could mentor them in the process of rediscovering their humanity--like victims themselves perhaps, or men like Tom Doyle, or Bishop Gumbleton who knows the situation from both ends of the equation.

    If the fantasy is maintained that they can do this effectively on their own, we will soon see them 'falling off the wagon'. Thanks for your input.