Thursday, March 31, 2011

George Weigel On Reforming Caritas

For Caritas gaining equal access to meds, not condoms is a very big problem.

George Weigel is back on the pages of and this time his target is Caritas and Leslie Anne Knight's failure to be Catholic enough as she and Caritas are way too under the sway of progressive thinking INGO's (international nongovernmental organizations)The following is an excerpt from the article and although full of attacks, Weigel never really does tell us what makes 'Catholic' concepts superior to INGO concepts--other than the fact they aren't INGO concepts.  It starts out with Weigel discussing the discontent in Caritas affiliated members over the impact of Knight's dismissal on their relationships with other providers.

.....If that's the case, it won't be because of anything the Vatican did. Rather, it will be because the INGO world is dominated by an unbending "progressive" orthodoxy on development and health-care questions that sits poorly with Catholic understandings of how people are empowered to break out of the cycle of poverty. INGO shibboleths are also in sharp conflict with Catholic understandings of the best way to fight the AIDS plague in Africa and other poverty-stricken parts of the world. There is very little public evidence that Caritas International, under Knight's leadership, challenged the rigidities in INGO thinking that are a real-world obstacle to empowering the poor and to driving down the incidence of HIV/AIDS. A case in point was her address to a "Catholic Networking Session" at the 2010 International AIDS Conference in Vienna.

There, Knight asked, "Is there a uniquely Catholic approach to the global HIV pandemic? And if so, what is it?" Her first answer: "I fear that there may be people here in Vienna this week who would answer that it is one characterized by dogma, hypocrisy, moralizing, and condemnation." True enough, given the attitude toward the Church's sexual ethic prevalent in the INGO universe. But did Ms. Knight challenge this caricature? Not really. The best she could manage was to lament that Catholic AIDS workers (the largest group of non-governmental care-providers for people suffering from AIDS) "are still dogged by these criticisms."

Nor, in answering her own question, did Knight say what she might have said, which is this: "Yes, there is a uniquely Catholic approach to the global HIV pandemic. It is an approach that takes seriously the dignity of the human person, which includes the capacity of men and women to change patterns of behavior that put themselves, their families, and their communities at risk. It is an approach that takes the spiritual and moral dimensions of the AIDS crisis seriously. It is an approach that stresses abstinence before marriage and fidelity within marriage -- both of which have been shown by independent scholars to drive down the incidence of AIDS in vulnerable populations. It is an approach that refuses to accept the empirically unproven claims that poverty, stigma, and low levels of education drive AIDS epidemics. And it is an approach that refuses to burn incense at the altar of the false god latex, where the real votaries of rigid dogma are to be found among those for whom condoms are instruments of salvation." (I'd love to see Weigel accepting medical care from an HIV positive doctor not wearing latex gloves.  Funny how we can worship a the latex altar for our hands, but not other appendages.)

Knight, I hardly need add, said none of this. To the contrary: She put the authority of her position behind a reiteration of the poverty/stigma/low-educational-levels mythology. Which is to say, she reinforced the rigidities that are the true obstacles to the "development innovation and collaboration" for which she called....


Weigel then goes on and rejoices that the Vatican is bound and determined to increase the "Catholic identity" of Caritas.  I guess that means Caritas will no longer be attempting to help alleviate all those mythical poverty, stigma, low educational issues.  They will probably now concentrate on spreading Catholic notions of dignity and spirituality.  That should be a lot cheaper than actually trying to change much of the material reality of the countries in which Caritas operates, and I bet the Vatican will have no problem coming up with something else for all that unused budget.

I still think there's more to this removal of Knight beyond her supposed weak Catholic Identity flaw.  I'd be more inclined to buy that line if the impetus for her removal had come from any other place than Cardinal Bertone and the Office of Secretary of State.  I can't help but wonder if certain governments haven't complained to the Vatican about Caritas and their ideas about fixing the 'myths' of poverty and low educational issues, especially as those issues effect women. Or if there hasn't been some pressure placed on the Vatican by wealthy for profit multi nationals (WPMN's)who don't want Caritas affiliates empowering local populaces to question their right to exploit them. Those WPMN's would probably really appreciate Caritas being policed by the Vatican to insure Caritas is espousing Weigel's notions of neo con Catholic identity. 

Weigel seems to want us to believe that Caritas's Catholic identity is based strictly on maintaining the correct attitude towards condoms, as if that alone is all that counts.  Maybe it does for him, and maybe it does for a Vatican obsessed with Papal authority, but I'm much more inclined to think what matters to Caritas includes far more than condoms and includes those 'myths' of poverty, stigma, and low education and the effects those 'myths' have on the very real lives of over two billion of us.  They may even be inclined to think that neo cons like Weigel spend way too much time worshiping at the altar of unfettered capitalism.



Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Tales Of Two Priests With Two Very Different Stories

Fr Donald McGuire with a few of Mother Theresa's nuns.  One wonders why these ladies never wondered about the constant presence of McGuire's very young 'traveling companions'.

Two big stories today about two different Catholic priests.  The first story I read was from the NY Times  about Jesuit Donald J McGuire and the second an NCR article about Maryknoll Roy Bourgeois.  They are instructive about the things the hierarchical arm of the Church considers to be of ultimate importance when it comes to the priesthood and priestly behavior.  The following is an edited version of the NCR story and it's followed by a short excerpt from the Times story.

Maryknoll Fr. Roy Bourgeois, the longtime peace activist and founder of SOA Watch, has received a letter from his order giving him 15 days to “publicly recant” his support of women’s ordination or face dismissal from Maryknoll.

The letter, which is dated March 18, is signed by Maryknoll Fr. Edward Dougherty, the order’s superior general, and warns Bourgeois that his dismissal will also be forwarded to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith “with a request for laicization.”

NCR received the letter in a fax from Bourgeois this morning.

Bourgeois, who attended and preached a homily at the ordination of Roman Catholic Womanpriest Janice Sevre-Duszunska in August, 2008, was notified by the same congregation shortly after that event that he had incurred a Latae Senteniae, or automatic, excommunication for his participation....

.......Speaking to NCR this morning, Bourgeois, who has been a member of Maryknoll for 44 years and a priest for 38, said that while the letter bought about “great sadness,” he does not plan to recant his support....

.....“Fr. Roy is the founder of School of the Americas Watch and he will be a part of the movement and he will be involved in the movement even if Maryknoll is going to follow through with this,” said Henrick Voss, SOA Watch’s national organizer......

.......With four days to respond to the letter from the order he’s served most of his adult life, Bourgeois, who was born in 1938, said the pushback he’s experienced from his support of women’s ordination has given him a “real understanding” of “what it means to be a priest.”
“I believe if we really take our faith seriously on these issues of justice and peace, there’s going to be consequences,” said Bourgeois. “I must say I’m just seeing now…that maybe I’m finally becoming a faithful priest. I finally really understand what this man Jesus was talking about when he said it’s not going to be easy.”


So Fr Roy was excommunicated right pronto after attending a women's ordination ceremony and it's taken a little over two years for the Maryknollers to toss him out and have him laicized.  This is after all the work he has done in the last thirty years or so to shut down the School of the Americas.  Next we have the NY Times story about the Jesuits and serial pedophile Fr. Donald McGuire.  McGuire gained his fame as a charismatic globe trotting spiritual retreat leader of the very conservative bent, most noted for his two decades of work with Mother Theresa and her order.  It only took the Jesuits 40+ years to get around to tossing out McGuire and getting him laicized----and that was only after the Feds had put him in prison for interstate sexual trafficking with minors.

Jesuit leaders in Chicago largely ignored or kept secret numerous reports, spanning four decades, that a prominent priest was sexually abusing teenage boys, lawyers for victims charged on Monday in a motion for punitive damages in a Chicago court.....

......The former priest, Donald J. McGuire, now 80, was convicted on several counts of sex abuse in state and federal courts in 2006 and 2008, and is serving a 25-year federal sentence.

The newly public documents date from the early 1960s, when a concerned Austrian priest, in imperfect English, first observed in a letter to Chicago Jesuits that Father McGuire, newly ordained and studying in Europe, had “much relations with several boys.” The reports extend into the last decade, when Father McGuire reportedly ignored admonitions to stop traveling with young assistants, molesting one as late as 2003, as law enforcement was closing in. The legal motion argues that Father McGuire’s superiors in Chicago turned “a blind eye to his criminal actions.”....

Terence McKiernan, president of, a victim advocacy group that has long monitored the church’s response to sexual abuse charges, said that the series of warnings given to Jesuit leaders by parents and fellow priests was unusually long and clear.

“I have never seen such detailed and frequent notice received by the priest’s superiors, so many ‘directives’ regarding the priest’s future behavior, and so much evidence presented to his superiors that those directives were being violated, without the priest being removed from ministry,” Mr. McKiernan said.
His group has posted a history of the case and many of the key documents.


I understand there's a difference in the eyes of the Church between doctrinal heresy and moral sin, but the juxtaposition of these two stories demonstrates just how skewed this view of clerical reality is in the current climate.  Fr. Roy Bourgeois made the mistake of disagreeing with a doctrine he felt demonstrates injustice and unwarranted gender discrimination with in the Church. But for Fr. Roy, women's ordination is just in keeping with the main theme of his priesthood. He has spent the vast majority of his soon to be ended clerical career working for issues of social justice and civil rights.  He has frequently found himself facing possible prison. The story of the damage the graduates of this school have done to South American Catholic leadership is well documented.  Fr Roy is a true Catholic hero to a lot of Catholics who care about more than the salvation of their own pathetic souls.

Fr Don McGuire is a priest of a different persuasion for a different kind of Catholic mindset. Extensive Jesuit records chronicle a man who purposely targeted conservative Catholic families in order to get access to their sons.  These families would trust this spiritual confidant of Mother Theresa to the point they allowed their young teen age sons to travel the world with him while he ministered to Mother Theresa's flock.  At the same time this conservative hero is using the Sacrament of Confession to coerce these young boys to minister to his perverted sexual needs.  This is a pattern which is getting so predictable it's sickening.

As for the Chicago Jesuits, it's pretty easy to see they chose to value their own reputation and McGuire's high level contacts with the conservative branch of the Church over virtually any concern for McGuire's victims.  And no, I am not letting Maryknoll leadership off the hook, but they seem to be acquiescing to Vatican pressure, and no such pressure was placed on the Jesuits in McGuire's case.

When I look at the connections between JPII and Maciel, and Mother Theresa and Fr McGuire, I see some things I don't like.  Is there a fundamental narcissism in conservative Catholicism which blinds otherwise good people to the perverted narcissism in the religious figures they trust and admire?  Is the emphasis on saving one's personal soul a sort of spiritual cancer which enables self serving predators to function with impunity? 

I frequently read true believers slam progressives for their selfish need to follow their own consciences and essentially worship themselves in their definitions of Catholicism and God.  Maybe that's got some truth to it, but progressive Catholicism doesn't seem to have near the same kind of track record conservative Catholicism has for exalting sacrament abusing narcissistic sexual predators.  There's got to be a message there.


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Pastor Rob Bell And The Heaven And Hell And Choice Thing: Not The Usual Thinking At All

Rob Bell's ideas of heaven and hell are not quite like this.

While conservative Catholics are stirred up by the Fr. Corapi story, conservative Evangelicals are all stirred up by the latest book from mega pastor Rob Bell.  One is living through his own personal hell while the other would say he chose it for himself.

Critics heated Up By Bell's Hell

By Cathy Lynn Grossman  USA Today  3/16/2011
RNS) Talk about hellfire! One of the nation's rock-star-popular young pastors, Rob Bell, 40, has stuck a pitchfork in how Christians talk about damnation.

Pastor Bell's Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, arrived in stores Tuesday (March 15).

Critics pounced before the book was even published, provoking weeks of fierce infighting among pastors, theologians and anyone else who scans the Christian blogosphere.

In Love Wins, Bell claims:
  • Heaven and hell are choices we make and live with right now. "God gives us what we want," including the freedom to live apart from God (hell) or turn God's way (heaven).
  • Death doesn't cut off the ability to repent. In his Bible, Bell sees no "infinite, eternal torment for things (people) did in their few finite years of life."
  • Jesus makes salvation possible even for people who never know his name. "We have to allow for mystery," for people who "drink from the rock" of faith "without knowing who or what it was."
  • Churches that don't allow for this are "misguided and toxic. 

Small wonder that traditionalists call him a false teacher of a Jesus-optional gospel, leading innocents to damnation and a traitor to the evangelical label. (Those were probably just the nice things.)

In an interview with USA TODAY, Bell jokes: "I am not aware that labels are the highest form of goodness and truth." He rebuffs critics who say he presents a Jesus-optional Christianity: "Jesus spoke of the renewal of all things. He said, 'I have sheep who are not of this flock.' Through him, extraordinary things are happening in the world." (Jesus also said 'there are many rooms in my Father's house.)

Bell's view is "that God is love, that he sent Jesus to show us that love, that love demands freedom. So making definitive judgments about other people's destiny is not interesting to me. The heart of God is to rescue everyone from everything we need to be rescued from."

It's a mercy that Bell doesn't read his press or social networks.

Justin Taylor of the Gospel Coalition, a network of traditionalist scholars and pastors, says Bell's views are "dangerous and contrary to the word of God. ... If Bell doesn't believe in eternal punishment, then he doesn't think sin is an offense against a holy God." (Seems to me a certain Pope would agree.)

It was Taylor's critique last month, based on reading a few chapters, that triggered explosive arguments radiating from Christian sites to CNN. Now that he has read all 200 pages, Taylor is even more convinced of Bell's errors.

"Whether you like it or not, the Bible presents true teaching and warns against false teachers, even those who look like great people," says Taylor, digging at Bell's highly stylized videos circulating online and among churches coast to coast.

But Richard Mouw, president of the world's largest Protestant seminary, Fuller Theological Seminary based in Pasadena, Calif., calls Love Wins "a great book," well within the bounds of orthodox Christianity and passionate about Jesus.

The real hellacious fight, says Mouw, a friend of Bell, a Fuller graduate, is between "generous orthodoxy and stingy orthodoxy. There are stingy people who just want to consign many others to hell and only a few to heaven and take delight in the idea. But Rob Bell allows for a
lot of mystery in how Jesus reaches people."

Below are excerpts from Rob Bell's Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Has Ever Lived:
"A staggering number of people have been taught that a few select Christians will spend forever in a peaceful, joyous place called heaven, while the rest of humanity spends forever in torment and

 hell with no chance for anything better. It's been clearly communicated to many that this belief is a central truth of the Christian faith and to reject it is, in essence, to reject Jesus. This is misguided and toxic and ultimately subverts the contagious spread of Jesus message of love, peace, forgiveness, and joy that our world desperately needs to hear." (Especially now when mankind is doing a damn good job of making the planet our very own living hell.)

At the center of the Christian tradition since the first church has been the insistence that history is not tragic, hell is not forever, and love, in the end, wins."

"When people say they're tired of hearing about "sin" and "judgment" and "condemnation," it's often because those have been confused for them with the nature of God. God has no desire to inflict pain or agony on anyone."

"For some, the highest form of allegiance to their God is to attack, defame, and slander others who don't articulate matters of faith as they do."

"None of us have cornered the market on Jesus, and none of us ever will." (But a certain mindset thinks they have.)


For all the notoriety Bell has gotten for his tome, one thing I personally found compelling is his emphasis on the power of human choice to set our course and determine our world.  He underscores this by pointing out that the word 'heresy' means to choose.  Bell believes God's love is there for us to choose to find.  It is always available without our having to earn it.  We only have to choose it.    Too often the more traditional theology sees choice as a curse and a negative sort of event.  All that original sin thinking is not particularly inspiring or hopeful and doesn't lend itself to relating to God in those inspiring hopeful kinds of ways.  It too often turns the God of Love into the irrational parent of punishment, propelling some believers into acting like God chooses favorites and they are it.

Bell uses another thought which I also found compelling, and that's the notion of Jesus as a rock which gives water.  This references the command of God to Moses.  When the Israelites were dieing of thirst in the desert Moses is told to bang on a rock with his staff.  Lo and behold out pours water from the least likely of sources.  Seek and ye shall find will be true even if it seems a totally unlikely possibility. God becomes free to be as Jesus says He is, not as some of us might think He should be. 

I suspect though, it's Bell's notions about redemption after death that is not sitting well with Evangelicals, and especially Evangelical pastors.  That's not a notion that exactly supports the idea that pastors are really all that necessary.  Should this kind of thinking take hold, Evangelical pastors might have to go along with the notion of Purgatory so they too can claim some influence on what happens after death.  Next thing you know Pat Robertson will be selling indulgences through the 700 Club and Calvin will be spinning in his grave.  

In any event this is pretty far out theology for an Evangelical leader.  It will be interesting to see if this kind of theology starts to make some headway.  I'm sure the Tea Party and the Republican Party will do all they can to see it doesn't.  For them hell sells and sells well.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Now We Learn Humanae Vitae Was Not About Life, It Was About Papal Authority

Unfortunately babies will not find real sustenance in eating the pages of Humanae Vitae

Conservative moral theologian Germain Grisez, has recently released a set of personal documents surrounding the deliberations of the Pontifical Commission on Birth Control.  Grisez served as Fr. John Ford's secretary during the latter part of the deliberations.  Ford was famous in the US for having been a primary contributor in the drafting of the minority report.  It should be noted that the minority report represented exactly seven people associated with the commission of 72.  Four were dissenting priests, and the other three were voting members, Cardinal Ottaviani and two bishops, one of whom was Karol Wojtyla.  The following excerpt is from CNA and this link will take you to the NCR article.

New documents reveal inner workings of papal birth control commission

New documentation from a renowned moral theologian is shedding light on a controversial moment in Catholic history – the 1963-66 commission that considered the question of contraception prior to Paul VI's encyclical “Humanae Vitae.”
“The idea of what happened with the commission has been shaped by people who were pro-contraception.” said Germain Grisez, Professor Emeritus of philosophy and moral theology at Mount St. Mary's College in Maryland. “It's their account of what happened, that has been circulated over the years.”
Now, Grisez is seeking to set the record straight, by releasing documents that few in the Church have ever seen before.
They can be viewed through his website, at
According to Grisez, who assisted commission member Fr. John Ford in his work, several misunderstandings about the commission date back to 1967 – the year before Pope Paul VI condemned artificial contraceptive methods in his encyclical “Humanae Vitae.” 
During that year, a number of commission documents containing pro-contraception arguments were leaked to the public and the press.
The move led to the popular misconception of the Pope “overruling” a commission, although the commission had no authority to make decisions.
Those who supported the traditional teaching, like Fr. Ford, could have responded in kind with their own document leaks. But they chose not to do so at the time, considering themselves bound to keep the commission's work private and wait for the Pope to speak authoritatively.
“The people who weren't supportive of a change in Church teaching, believed that their knowledge of what the commission had done was confidential,” Grisez explained. “They didn't go around talking about it.”.....(Perhaps this is because they were very busy in the background secretly working on Paul VI.)
According to Grisez, this one-sided perspective on the commission's work made it appear that Pope Paul had simply disregarded the majority report.
But the new documents shows that the Pope took both sides of the issue seriously, and gave advocates of artificial contraception every chance to make their case.
It also shows how the commission's secretary general, Fr. Henri de Riedmatten, managed to exert a strong influence in favor of contraception, despite the opposing position of commission president Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani.(I love this, Reidmatten represented the thinking of 65 persons on the commission, and Ottaviani represented himself and six other clerics.)
Grisez noted that the Pope, rather than ignoring the pro-contraception arguments, was legitimately interested in considering the questions raised by new methods.
“He was perfectly happy to have a lot of people on the commission who thought that change was possible. He wanted to see what kind of case they could make for that view.”
But the Pope never intended to hand over his teaching authority to the commission. 
“He was not at all imagining that he could delegate to a committee, the power to decide what the Church's teaching is going to be,” Grisez said.
Some proponents of a change in teaching believed that Pope Pius XI's encyclical “Casti Connubii,” which condemned artificial birth control in 1930, had not conclusively settled the kinds of questions raised by new methods of hormonal contraception. 
They initially argued that the contraceptive pill was different from older methods, and could be accepted without contradicting prior teaching.

Pope Paul encouraged the commission to pursue this line of inquiry –  not expecting that the commission's work, after being leaked to the public, would be set on the same plane as his judgment. (This is describing an entirely different world view and one I have difficulty digesting.  It states the judgment of a pope is on some other higher plane than the rest of us.)
“He never intended the commission to be a public body, or that its study should be publicized in print,” Grisez emphasized. “He thought they were going to study, and make their presentation to him, so he would understand it and think the matter through.”
This spirit of inquiry, however, had consequences he did not intend.
“When the documents were leaked in 1967, Paul VI was extremely upset about it. He sent a letter to all the bishops and cardinals who were on the commission, about the documents. It wasn't what he had in mind at all.”
In the end, the majority of commission members actually lost interest in attempting to argue that contraceptive pills could be squared with “Casti Connubii.”  (Hmmm, doesn't seem there are too many people left alive to dispute this statement.)
Instead, they simply advocated the acceptance of contraception, without attempting to reconcile this prospect with the previous teaching of the Church.

“Almost nobody, in the end, was arguing that the pill was anything different,” Grisez recalled. 
“In the commission documents, you wouldn't find much of a case anywhere for that – although that was the starting point for the whole thing.”
Pope Paul VI considered their work, but grew more convinced than ever that the majority position was not correct.
“He became absolutely clear, in his own mind, that the pill was wrong. That led to the declaration in 'Humanae Vitae.'”

But in the public realm, the groundwork had already been laid for the disastrous reception of “Humanae Vitae” in 1968, through the leaking of the majority report that supported contraception.
Grisez hopes the new documentation he is providing might undo some of that damage, and help many people open their minds to the Church's teaching on sexuality.

“It would help the Church now, if people had a more sound notion of what did happen – an understanding of Paul VI's actual mentality, wanting to study the question without intending to hand over his authority.”  (If this was true, he would have given the commission the mandate to come up with support for the position stated the 1930 encyclical Casti Connubii.  That wasn't their mandate.)

The comments after the CNA article are fun to read in juxtaposition against the comments after the NCR article.  After forty years the debate rages on but the numbers don't change.  An overwhelming number of lay Catholics reject Humanae Vitae.  They are not interested in having the size and spacing of their families arbitrarily decided by a papal encyclical whose main motivation appears to have been preserving the mythical notion of the infallibility of papal teaching and the equally mythical notion of the constancy of Catholic tradition. 
Cardinal Sounens maintained at the time, that the Church could not afford another Galileo affair by rejecting the latest science on human reproduction, but even he could not persuade Paul VI to change his mind. So as Grisez decidedly implies, the welfare of women, families, and children were sacrificed on the altar of papal infallibility.  Such is still the case in developing countries where over population and AIDS runs rampant and Church charities are the largest source of health care.  No wonder the Vatican is leery of a lay mother running Caritas.  What if in her compassion for the plight of other women she turned a blind eye to the distribution of condoms?  Which reminds me, Germain Grisez was one the loudest voices attacking Catholic Relief Services for their alleged distribution of birth control and birth control information in Africa. 
One of the comments which irritated me after this CNA article was one bringing up the proverbial 'Islamic breeding hordes will take over Europe' mantra and wasn't Paul VI prescient in his understanding of this inevitability if white Europeans contracepted themselves out of existence.  Underlying this rational seems to be the idea that Catholic marriages are morally duty bound to provide cannon fodder for an Islamic war or engage in some sort of fertility contest with Islamic women.  No wonder gay marriage is the biggest threat to Catholic civilization.  What a waste of fertile sperm and ovum.  That would be like having an ammunition factory which only produced blanks.  Can't be having that.

On a more serious note, actually much more serious note, I can't help but wonder if these folks really understand what's happening in the Middle East.  The over throw of the leadership of one country after another is not just about democracy.  In every one of these countries the riots started over food prices and food availability.  Food.  They started over food.  Babies need food.  God did not design babies to live on air alone.  Grisez needs to think about this because white European babies can starve just as well as Islamic or African or Philippine babies and democracy will not magically solve food shortages as the Japanese are now finding out.

Paul VI was wrong in 1968 and Benedict the XVI is just as wrong now.  The Earth can not sustain unlimited population growth and the magical thinking behind papal infallibility will not change that one iota.  Kudos to Philippine President Benigno Aquino who is holding fast on behalf of his five point strategy regarding the Philippine Women's Reproductive Health bill and doing it against the full power of the Catholic church.  That kind of coercive power over the lives of lay women, men and their families needs to be broken once and for all.  Especially now as Germain Grisez is telling us Humanae Vitae was never about the Will of God, it was always about the will of popes.  Now that we know the rest of that story it's time to close the book and bury it in the Vatican Archives.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The USCCB's Jolly St Tim Must Think The Laity Has Been Lobotimized

Archbishop Timothy Dolan in his capacity as President of the USCCB, (as opposed to 60 minutes glad hander), has issued the official response for the abysmal situation in Philadelphia.  Interesting that he doesn't actually mention Philadelphia or Cardinal Rigali, but we are to be assured all our bishops are seriously going to enforce the zero tolerance policy as stated in the Dallas Charter.  No mention of ever holding bishops accountable in any way should they once again fail to enforce the Dallas Charter.  I guess the USCCB thinks that's the responsibility of Grand Juries at which time bishops will have enough time to contact their travel agents for a very quick and permanent trip to Rome:

"In light of the recent disclosures about the Church’s response to the sexual abuse of minors by priests, I have been asked by my brother bishops, gathered for the recent meeting of the Administrative Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, to offer reassurances that this painful issue continues to receive our careful attention, that the protection of our children and young people is of highest priority, and that the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People that we adopted in 2002 remains strongly in place.

Over the past nine years, we have constantly reviewed the high promises and rigorous mandates of the Charter, as we continually try to make it even more effective. Thanks to the input of our National Review Board, Catholic parents, professionals, the victim-survivor community, law enforcement officials, and our diocesan victim-assistance coordinators, we keep refining the efficiency of the Charter. We want to learn from our mistakes and we welcome constructive criticism. In fact, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has a long-planned review of the Charter scheduled for our June meeting.  (If this is all so true, then explain why two heads of the National Review Board have quit in frustration, and one referred to your group as "like dealing with the Mafia".

The arrival of April, National Child Abuse Prevention Month, provides us the providential opportunity to unite with all Americans in a renewed resolve to halt the scourge of sexual abuse of youth in our society.

We bishops recommit ourselves to the rigorous mandates of the Charter, and renew our confidence in its effectiveness. We repeat what we have said in the Charter: “We make our own the words of His Holiness, Pope John Paul II: that the sexual abuse of young people is by every standard wrong and rightly considered a crime by society; it is also an appalling sin in the eyes of God” (Address to the Cardinals of the United States and Conference Officers, April 23, 2002). We remain especially firm in our commitment to remove permanently from public ministry any priest who committed such an intolerable offense. (Citing John Paul the Great Enabler does not increase my confidence in the believability of your words.  I am just as interested in removing any bishop who enables any priest--or themselves as that's been true in some cases.)

The annual outside audits by forensic experts will continue, checking that we remain faithful to the processes in place to protect our young people, promote healing of victims/survivors and restore trust. We also thank our diocesan review boards, and those who lead our extensive programs of child protection and background checks for all priests, deacons, teachers, youth workers and volunteers in our expansive apostolates to young people.

In short, the progress made must continue and cannot be derailed; we want to strengthen it even more; we can never stop working at it, because each child and young person must always be safe, loved and cherished in the Church. We are encouraged in this resolve by the words of Pope Benedict XVI to the bishops of the United States during his Apostolic Visit in 2008: “It is your God-given responsibility as pastors to bind up the wounds caused by every breach of trust, to foster healing, to promote reconciliation and to reach out with loving concern to those so seriously wronged."

Most Reverend Timothy M. Dolan
Archbishop of New York
President, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops


I could write quite a treatise in response to this, but it probably wouldn't be all that charitable or professional, so instead I will lift a comment from a frequent contributor to the NCR blogs, Aileen.  It's much better than I would have done.  I especially agree with her last paragraph.

Words,   words,   words...

Words,   words,   words...   The fact is,   Bishop Dolan,   you and your episcopal confreres got caught red-handed in your clericalism,   self-protectionism and obfuscation,   again.     Until you put yourself and your bench of bishops under the same microscope of intrusive investigation and repercussions that you have imposed upon laity,   you are nothing but slick talk.     The epicenter of sexual abuse is among your own clerical ranks.
Two thirds of bishops over a fifty year period to date (by public record) have been involved as criminal accomplices in the commission of felonies (conspiracy cover-ups,   intimidating and silencing victims,   moving predators around,   allowing them to remain in ministry).     The members of the USCCB voted a decade ago to exclude themselves from the provisions of their own charter.     Have you no shame?     Do you really believe that your listeners are stupid? ...or perhaps lobotomized?
In many dioceses your "review boards" have become little more than rubber stamps for hierarchical PR — review board members who resigned in disgust have blown the whistle on that bit of bait-and-switch.
Your VIRTUS program was created by your own Catholic risk management group — The National Catholic Risk Retention Group, Inc. — whose mission statement verifies that its purpose is to manage legal liability risk for your 'corporate brand' and protect the financial assets of the RCC,   ...not God's people.
Save your fancy words for the courts.     Eventually you will find yourself there.     The Philadelphia grand jury was acting in the prophetic service of God to clean up the corruption in high places that RCC hierarchy won't.     There is actually scriptural precedence for God using even outsiders in other nations to bring retribution for heinous crimes and sins.
The original apostles were cowards who abandoned the Lord and ran away from the cross — Peter denied even knowing Him.     Their successors are carrying on that ignoble tradition.     Dolan is so eager to eventually wear the cardinal's "red" (which ostensibly represents a willingness to die for Christ and his flock) is the time to step up to the plate and earn it!     Enough of circling the hierarchical wagons to protect themselves!     Enough talk! 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Pathetic Vatican Performance At The UN

The Vatican's representative to the UN Archbishop Tomasi demonstrating the logic in claiming human rights abuses against those who perpetrate human rights abuses.

Here's the full address of Archbishop Silvano Tomasi to the UN Human Rights Commission concerning the rights of homosexuals. It's beyond pathetic in it's reasoning.  No wonder 64% of practicing Catholics support gay rights.

 "Mr. President, the Holy See takes this opportunity to affirm the inherent dignity and worth of all human beings, and to condemn all violence that is targeted against people because of their sexual feelings and thoughts, or sexual behaviours.

We would also like to make several observations about the debates regarding “sexual orientation”.

First, there has been some unnecessary confusion about the meaning of the term “sexual orientation,” as found in resolutions and other texts adopted within the UN human rights system. The confusion is unnecessary because, in international law, a term must be interpreted in accordance with its ordinary meaning, unless the document has given it a different meaning. The ordinary meaning of “sexual orientation” refers to feelings and thoughts, not to behaviour.  (That's a new one on me.  I'm pretty sure the American Psychiatric and Psychological Associations have a more inclusive definition that includes behavior.)

Second, for the purposes of human rights law, there is a critical difference between feelings and thoughts, on the one hand, and behaviour, on the other. A state should never punish a person, or deprive a person of the enjoyment of any human right, based just on the person’s feelings and thoughts, including sexual thoughts and feelings. But states can, and must, regulate behaviours, including various sexual behaviours. Throughout the world, there is a consensus between societies that certain kinds of sexual behaviours must be forbidden by law. Paedophilia and incest are two examples.  (What a clever way to equate gay sex with incest and pedophilia. There is no bar too low for the Vatican when it comes to gay sex.  I'm surprised he left out bestiality.)

Third, the Holy See wishes to affirm its deeply held belief that human sexuality is a gift that is genuinely expressed in the complete and lifelong mutual devotion of a man and a woman in marriage. Human sexuality, like any voluntary activity, possesses a moral dimension : it is an activity which puts the individual will at the service of a finality; it is not an “identity”. In other words, it comes from the action and not from the being, even though some tendencies or “sexual orientations” may have deep roots in the personality. Denying the moral dimension of sexuality leads to denying the freedom of the person in this matter, and undermines ultimately his/her ontological dignity. This belief about human nature is also shared by many other faith communities, and by other persons of conscience.  (Uhmm, I guess this means there is no such thing as a heterosexual orientation or identity.  Just a moral use of our biological apparatus, and in the case of women no choice about pregnancy, ontological dignity be damned.)

And finally, Mr. President, we wish to call attention to a disturbing trend in some of these social debates: People are being attacked for taking positions that do not support sexual behaviour between people of the same sex. When they express their moral beliefs or beliefs about human nature, which may also be expressions of religious convictions, or state opinions about scientific claims, they are stigmatised, and worse -- they are vilified, and prosecuted. These attacks contradict the fundamental principles announced in three of the Council’s resolutions of this session. The truth is, these attacks are violations of fundamental human rights, and cannot be justified under any circumstances.
(Unless they are aimed at gays and then it's just too bad because those gays could have stayed in their closets like us priests.)


So there we have another dose of Vatican logic and even a spoonful of sugar won't make that go down.  But there is another intriguing aspect to this story.  It involves the US State Department and Latin American countries blaming the US for misrepresenting the Vatican position.  They voted yes on the gay rights declaration because they thought the Vatican now approved it.  Say What? 
Somehow the US State Department convinced twenty more countries to vote for the declaration on gay rights because some of these countries say the US misrepresented the Vatican's position.  It strains my imagine to believe any Latin American diplomat would believe the Vatican changed it's homophobic mind, but it doesn't strain my imagination to believe they might blame the US for misleading them into voting for this declaration rather than admitting it was the right and just thing to do in spite of the fact it wasn't the Catholic thing to do.  

No wonder, given the pathetic logic of the Vatican,  that 64% of practicing Catholics in the US now support gay unions or marriage. It may not be the Vatican's Catholic thing to do, but it's the right Catholic thing to do.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

When Religion Is It's Own Worst Enemy

A lot of truth in this poster and it's one reason religion is taking a nose dive in the West.

I stole the following comment from an NCR article by Michael Sean Winters discussing this BBC article.  I felt bad about the theft until I saw it was written by Jim McCrea who I consider a valuable member of this blog community---just as he is for many other progressive blogs.  The BBC article reports on a study done by two researchers whose data suggests that the future of religion in nine Western countries is decidedly dim.  Winters disagrees with the researchers in no uncertain terms, but Jim McCrea has the better take by far--at least as far as I'm concerned.

"People tend to think that "religion" is defined by the structures with which we are currently familiar. For many people that is ALL that religion is. As those structures fade, weaken, become irrelevant and/or boring and generally no longer appeal, then they (“religion”) will disappear.

“Habits of The Heart, by Robert Bellah et al., spoke convincingly of the tendency of Americans to seek a religion that will satisfy them, confirm their expectations, and make them feel good about themselves - in other words, a religion that will leave them where they are, one completely incapable of transforming them. “ (John Garvey, Of Several Minds” The Protestant Moment? Commonweal, 10/8/93) (We seem to like our political parties this way too.)

However, what is happening is not new and was predicted by the humanistic psychologist, Abraham Maslow, in his 1964 book, Religions, Value and Peak Experiences:

“Most people lose or forget the subjectively religious experience, and redefined Religion as a set of habits, behaviors, dogmas, forms, which at the extreme becomes entirely legalistic and bureaucratic, conventional, empty, and in the truest meaning of the word, anti religious. The mystic experience, the illumination, the great awakening, along with the charismatic seer who started the whole thing are forgotten, lost or transformed into their opposites. Organized Religion, the churches, finally may become the major enemy of the religious experience and the religious experiencer.”

Roman Catholicism today seems to find itself in a very similar situation. Throughout its historical foothold it has increasingly become irrelevant in the lives of large portions of the citizenry of those footholds. The preservation of the bureaucratic model has become the raison d’etre of organizational Catholicism. The next push for evangelization most likely will be just one more panicky attempt to rearrange the deck chairs on the sinking Barque of Peter.

For those who take religion seriously, belief is not a self-righteous claim to some privileged moral status. The spiritual discipline against self-righteousness is the very essence of meaningful and, may I say it – true religion. Until and unless people grasp the need for such a discipline, they will misunderstand the nature of religion to console, and equally importantly, to challenge and to confront.


Maslow's point that religions themselves are becoming the major enemy of religious experience will never be accepted by religious authorities, but that certainly doesn't make Maslow's observation wrong.  It only makes it more correct.  Nothing kills spiritual or mystical experience like religious certainty and the attendant sense of self righteousness this can engender in followers.  When a religion stops challenging and confronting it's own failures, flaws, misconceptions, and outdated doctrines it ceases to be a living entity.  It can no longer provide meaningful religious experiences for the vast majority of it's believers and those believers will look elsewhere for spiritual meaning.  And so it is entirely possible that nine countries in the West will soon be dominated by spiritual seekers and the religiously non affiliated and Roman Catholicism will fade to virtually nothing as a major cultural player.

Along these same lines, in Jamie Manson's latest article she talks about a class assignment she gave two very different groups of students.  One was composed of basic eighteen year old freshman, and the other was considerably older.  She asked them to create their own religion.  The vast majority of students in both groups created very similar religions which virtually ruled out any formal leadership structure or dogmatic moral code:

..."When I questioned both classes about this lack of leadership and a fixed moral code, I received the same answers. They do not trust religious leadership. Why? Because they believe that religious leaders are not living out the morality they espouse.
Not only do these students believe that they do not need a mediator between themselves and God, many believe that the mediator may actually taint or obstruct their relationships with the holy."

The reasoning Jamie found for this lack of leadership and moral code sounds suspiciously like Maslow's observation.  Hypocritical religious leadership kills religious experience.  It does not foster it.  It becomes it's own worst enemy. People, in larger and larger numbers, believe they are religiously better off with out religious leadership and the institutions that shelters that leadership.  This is not about rejecting religious/spiritual experience, but about rejecting the institutions and leaders who think they can dictate what becomes a static religious experience.

This is a big time serious message the Vatican needs to hear if it even remotely cares about the future of the Church in the West.  The Burke's of the Vatican have to understand they can not substitute irrational abusive moral codes and high religious theatre for legitimate religious experience.  This substitution might work for a small minority but for the vast majority it's a hypocritical turn off.  In his concluding remarks on the above linked study, Winters suggests the BBC sees the Church as nothing more than the Easter Bunny with property.  Trouble is MSW might have hit on the truth for a lot of people when it comes to legitimate religious experience versus institutional religion and it's too often hypocritical leadership.


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

General Benedict XVI Calls For Spiritual Combat

I choose to believe Benedict has a more positive outlook and isn't nearly as convinced about the need for spiritual combat as he keeps insisting.  In other words I have no ears to hear.
 The following is a fascinating take on sin from Benedict XVI.  He gave us these thoughts at Sunday's Angelus on August 13.  Spiritual combat is featured and dependent dualism is the name of the game:
 .....Lent and the cross exist "because evil exists," he said. And although many do not accept the term "sin" for offering a religious vision of the world and humanity, sin is "the profound cause of every evil," he explained. 
"In fact," said the Pope, "it is true: if God is eliminated from the horizons of the world, one can no longer speak of sin."  (It would seem to  me that when it comes to God, love would be the more critical concept but what do I know.)
He compared humanity's sense of sin to a shadow that only exists in the presence of the sun, and disappears when the sun is hidden. In such a way, he said, "the eclipse of God brings with it necessarily the eclipse of sin."(No, it doesn't necessarily follow that sin--no matter how one defines it-- would vanish if the concept of God was eclipsed.)
"Therefore the sense of sin - which is different from the 'sense of guilt' as psychology understands it - is acquired, rediscovering the sense of God."
The Pope said that King David's Psalm 51, a prayer of repentance written after he committed both adultery and homicide, expresses this sense.
"Against you only have I sinned," David tells God. (So David didn't sin against his fellow man?)
God's attitude is one of opposing the sin while saving the sinner, said the Pope. "God does not tolerate evil, because he is love, justice and fidelity – and precisely for this he does not want the death of the sinner, but that he may repent and live." (Nice job of paraphrasing the ole 'hate the sin love the sinner' mantra.)
He observed that God's saving intervention in human history has been evident from the time of the ancient Jews' liberation from slavery in Egypt. "God is determined to liberate his children from slavery," he reflected, "to guide them to freedom."
"And the most serious and most profound slavery is precisely that of sin. For this, God sent his son to the world: to liberate men from the dominion of Satan, 'origin and cause of every sin'." (I just can't buy this at all.  Choice is the critical component, and we are responsible for all of our choices.  If Jesus came to liberate men from the dominion of Satan, He seems to have done a lousy job.)
"He sent him in our mortal flesh so that he might become a victim of expiation, dying for us on the cross."(It doesn't get much more reductionist than this because if this statement is true Jesus wasted a lot of time teaching The way, the truth, and the light.)
"Against this plan of definitive and universal salvation, the devil is opposed with all his strength, as demonstrated particularly in the Gospel of the temptation of Jesus in the desert, which is proclaimed every year on the first Sunday of Lent," said the Pope.  (If Satan really wanted to be successful he would have skipped the desert and concentrated on convincing Pilate to let Jesus go.)
"In fact, entering into this liturgical time means aligning oneself with Christ every time against sin –  facing, both as individuals and the Church, the spiritual combat against the spirit of evil." 
It could be that I am not getting what Benedict is driving at, or this article is not translated nor edited well, but I don't buy that sin doesn't exist separate from God.  Nor do I believe that the existence of sin is dependent on the presence of God.  Even if Benedict is really referring to sin as a specifically religious definition for less than good behavior, I still do not buy it.  In my mind sin expresses some sort of deficiency in our ability to express love in our relationships with others.  Jesus most certainly taught that what we do to others we do to Him--good, bad, or indifferent,  and He defined our relationships in terms of love. Sin, on the other hand, is way too often defined in terms of obedience.  That is one huge difference between the Old and New Covenants.
And I am sure not getting why Catholicism is becoming all fixated on notions of Satan and spiritual warfare and how helpless and powerless we all are in the face of this personified evil force.  It's this kind of teaching that drives me crazy about Benedict.  He can be such a biblical literalist in some areas, but in other areas not so much,  and I can't tell what his thought process is that makes those determinations.  One could say he seems to practice a form biblical relativism.  
I do know though that sin, hell, Satan, and all the attendant fear those lines of thought engender have historically packed churches and brought in many many offerings.  As much as I hate to admit it, sin and hell and those kind of fears fill pews far better than women priests, gay marriage or other notions of social justice and human dignity.  This makes me wonder if religion in the psychological sense isn't a need deficiency proposition and that fact limits it's appeal in post modern cultures.  In cultures that place great emphasis on more optimistic notions of self improvement and self evolution, old paradigms of fear and insurmountable human deficiency just won't fly no matter who is wearing the clerical dresses or pronouncing the clerical words.  
Sin and repentance sound off key when people are working towards self responsibility, over coming personal ignorance, learning key life lessons, and striving for the freedom necessary to do those things.  In the old paradigms of sin and salvation slavery didn't much matter and could be interpreted as an easier life circumstance relative to other states with many more opportunities for sin.  But in the post modern paradigm which emphasizes personal freedoms, individual responsibilities and the pursuit of happiness, equal opportunity and human rights are critical an d slavery anathema.

The New Evangelization isn't going to go very far if it's based on old notions of sin and Satan.  It might go somewhere if it was based in the things Jesus actually taught about what makes life full, brings peace, helps people grow,  and enhances one's ability to love.  People might find out that those states of emotional maturity and intellectual integration will occasionally result in doing the things Jesus did--and that includes casting out 'demons'.

Monday, March 21, 2011

More Fallout At EWTN

Fr. Corapi in the old days before the solid black goatee.

First it was Fr. Thomas Eutenuer, and now it's Fr. John Corapi.  EWTN is having it's share of trouble with it's radioactive satan fighting corps of priests.  The following is taken from Fr. Corpapi's personal blog:

On Ash Wednesday I learned that a former employee sent a three-page letter to several bishops accusing me of everything from drug addiction to multiple sexual exploits with her and several other adult women. There seems to no longer be the need for a complaint to be deemed “credible” in order for Church authorities to pull the trigger on the Church’s procedure, which was in recent years crafted to respond to cases of the sexual abuse of minors. I am not accused of that, but it seems, once again, that they now don’t have to deem the complaint to be credible or not, and it is being applied broadly to respond to all complaints. I have been placed on “administrative leave” as the result of this. (One, he is not the first  priest by any means who was put on administrative leave for alleged violations of celibacy with adults, and two, his notoriety places him in a unique spotlight.)
I’ll certainly cooperate with the process, but personally believe that it is seriously flawed, and is tantamount to treating the priest as guilty “just in case”, then through the process determining if he is innocent. The resultant damage to the accused is immediate, irreparable, and serious, especially for someone like myself, since I am so well known. I am not alone in this assessment, as multiple canon lawyers and civil and criminal attorneys have stated publicly that the procedure does grave damage to the accused from the outset, regardless of rhetoric denying this, and has little regard for any form of meaningful due process.
         All of the allegations in the complaint are false, and I ask you to pray for all concerned.


First off I think Fr. Corapi should have let himself cool down a little before he wrote the above statement since it's loaded with I, me, myself statements.  Especially since he recognizes in his statement, "for someone like myself, since I am so well known."  Notoriety certainly does bring it's own issues.  I would have thought he would be even more sensitive to this kind of thing since it follows so closely on the heels of Fr. Thomas Euteneur's scandal whose own statement was loaded with I, me, and myself statements.  Rather than arguing for mitigation of the abuse protocols, Corapi's celebrity status argues the opposite in his case.  That he can't see that is pretty freaking amazing.

Unlike Euteneur, Corpapi is maintaining the allegations are false.  This is entirely possible, but as a trained psychotherapist, as well as priest, he has to be aware of the fact these kinds of allegations are part and parcel of the territory. Transference is a powerful defense mechanism and it exists whether one is a therapist or an employer.  The fact his home diocese is taking these allegations seriously enough to put him on administrative leave leads me to believe Corapi put himself in a position in which defending himself is going to be difficult, and that was either a function of idiocy or hubris on his part.  Or maybe he really did think his reputation was such that he could operate way differently than most folks in spiritual counseling or mental health.  It's pretty obvious Fr Euteneur fell to that kind of that kind of I'm  invincible thinking.  Perhaps it's only coincidental that the two were pretty close and linked with same kind of spiritual warfare theology.

It's been interesting to read the blogs of the right, even the centrist right.  The same kinds of excuses are coming out for Corapi as they did for Euteneur.  Corapi is under Satanic attack because he teaches spiritual warfare and the devil fears him, the woman accuser is an agent of Satan and why does she get to remain anonymous, Corapi is one of the few voices of true Catholicism so of course he must be discredited, and my personal favorite:  "even if it's true at least is was with a woman.  He's no gay pedophile."  

In the meantime inquiring minds want to know if EWTN is going to continue to broadcast Corapi's shows.  His program is still listed on their schedule but one never knows if anything a given bishop does about one of EWTN's talking heads applies to EWTN.  Fr. Corapi could be listed today and gone tomorrow--or not.

I'm beginning to feel some empathy for the righteous right.  Their faith has taken quite the beating lately from their cultic heroes.  Maybe EWTN should run a series on why it's very risky and a sign of serious spiritual immaturity to put so much of one's faith in the hands and teachings of celebrities with more than a touch of narcissism.  In any case, EWTN seems to have it's own version of a spent fuel pond irradiating all the other rods in the neighborhood which then periodically blow off radioactive steam.  True believers call this process sure evidence of Satanic attack.  I call it what is, a culture of narcissists attracting other narcissists who then make a habit of playing up the fears of their followers in order to fleece them. But then I do consider that kind of thing pretty Satanic in it's own right.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Is It Lay Passivity Or A Self Imposed Evacuation Zone?

Not exactly what I had in mind for alternative church services in the parking lot.

There have been a ton of topics I could have written about, but unfortunately I didn't seem to have any time to do much about it last week.  Things have settled down somewhat, at least for me, and here I am back at it.  Of all the articles I did manage to read in the last week, the one that stayed with me was one written by Jamie Manson for the NCR.  Actually, there were a number of very good articles posted in the NCR last week, like Eugene Kennedy's latest, but Jamie's really stuck in my head.  It may be because although Jamie was writing specifically about the passivity of the Catholic laity, I could see some of the same phenomenon operating in the faces of the Japanese people, especially the disassociation.

The following is the part of her article which really resonated with me:

 ...."The sexual abuse crisis is not an issue like women’s ordination, married clergy, or the inclusion of gay and lesbian Catholics. Those concerns are critically important issues of justice.

But the sex abuse crisis is much deeper and darker. It’s about the rape, sodomy, and psychological abuse of children and adolescents by priests. It’s about church authorities going to great lengths to cover-up and to protect predators. The hierarchy cannot use the Bible, Canon Law, or tradition to defend themselves against these crimes.

The comment sections of the NCR columns on the Philadelphia scandal offer some great suggestions for protesting the offending hierarchs. Many agree that the only way to get the church to respond in a decent and decisive manner is for the laity to withhold its money.

Much as I agree that such a tactic would work, am I the only one sickened by the fact that depriving the church of financial support is the only way to shock them into acting with integrity?  (No, I am way with Jamie on this one.  The fact we laity think money is the only voice we have is a statement in itself about what we really think about our leadership.)

Again, I ask, how is the church still surviving amid such a legacy of sexualized violence? What other institution in the U.S. would still persist amid corruption of this nature? What is it that keeps all Catholics from calling the hierarchy to accountability for the crimes that they have committed against children and adolescents over many decades?

Perhaps it is the passivity that characterizes Catholic inculcation that keeps us from believing that we have a voice, and that we, as baptized faithful, have a right to demand integrity from the church that we support and fund.

Or perhaps we’re suffering with garden-variety self-centeredness. If it didn’t happen to our child or in our parish, we don’t really have a stake in the issue. Often we continue our relationships with unjust or harmful institutions when the injustice or harm does not affect us directly. We separate our parish community from the wrongdoings of our overarching authority. (Or saving our own souls is more important to us than the fact our 'saviors' are destroying the souls of others.)

Or, perhaps, there is an even deeper psychological reaction at play here.

At the recent conference “Lost? Twenty-Somethings and the Church,” Dr. Lisa Cataldo, assistant professor of pastoral counseling at Fordham University, spoke of the role of dissociation in the responses of the clergy and the laity to the sexual abuse crisis. Cataldo explained that when parts of our worldview are threatened too much, they have to split off from our consciousness so that we can avoid dealing with them.

Dissociation usually occurs in response to trauma, and allows the mind to distance itself from experiences that are too difficult to process. Is it this psychological safeguard that has allowed the laity, whether intentionally or unintentionally, to continue to enable the hierarchy by attending liturgies and financially supporting the church?
Even if the reasons behind the laity’s continued involvement with the church are psychologically complex, Cataldo believes that we would be remiss if we did not recognize that the church’s crimes have had an indelible impact on young adult Catholics.

The evidence presented at the “Lost?” conference suggests that these repercussions have been sadly underestimated. Most young adult Catholics interviewed for the conference cited the sex abuse crisis as most damaging to their relationship with their church. Twenty-something panelist, Patrick Landry, summed up the thoughts of many when he reflected:

Children are the most precious gift we have. Not only was this abuse happening, but other priests -- and bishops possibly -- knew. It’s confusing for us who are in our twenties … what could have happened to this church that we grew up with such a strong connection to?

It shook our faith in the church as an institution. This is an organization that seeks to define how you should live -- and then you find out all these terrible things [are] going on in their houses.............

............If young adults cannot find much to respect about the institutional church, older adult Catholics should at least give them a reason to respect the laity. If we have felt unaffected enough by the crisis to keep silent, the wounds of young Catholics -- both past and present -- should inspire us to raise our voices.

If we truly believe that the Eucharist we receive is the body of Jesus, we must find the courage to oppose the religious leaders who continue to inflict harm on the body of Christ.

So often we lament the lack of integrity in church authorities. But if we continue to remain immobilized by denial, weariness, or complacency, we may leave the next generations asking, where was the integrity of the laity?


The comments to this article were disheartening to read because so many of them betrayed the very passivity Jamie describes.  Too many asked "what can we do".  Obviously there won't be any 'no fly zone' just as there won't be any international tribunal looking into issues of a global criminal conspiracy or a UN Security Council declaration of crimes against humanity---although the last two have actually happened in the case of far fewer victims.  There doesn't seem to be any higher authority to intervene unless the occasional secular legal authority chooses to do so, as happened in Philadelphia.  So what's a lay or concerned religious person to do? 

Lots of us have left or are in the discernment stage leading to leaving, and lots of us have stayed, and stayed mostly sullen and silent.  This isn't all that different from most families who experience abuse from one or both parents.  It is really really hard to deal with this kind of betrayal from the authority figures of our childhood.  In the case of Catholic priests, that authority was confused with divine authority and that makes it even more fear inspiring.  Disassociating is a very real solution for a divine problem.

One of the comments I found intriguing mentioned that out of a reported 1.1 million Philadelphia Catholics, a whopping 50 showed up for Cardinal Rigali's official mea culpa ceremony.  I wonder how many might have shown up if an alternative 'unofficial' ceremony would have been held by a priest of known integrity in the parking lot. Most of the Catholics I know who have left, have not rejected the Eucharistic aspect of Catholicism.  They have rejected the authority structure.  They have rejected what passes for Episcopal authority because it's bankrupt in it's integrity, and unaccountable for any of it's acts.  The stench inside the doors is too much. It covers up that which is hidden with in the doors.  The only Catholics who seem oblivious to this are either somehow above it all, or whose fear of hell keeps them solidly in denial.  The rest of us are stuck somewhere out in the parking lot.  Sort of in our own evacuation zone outside the toxic spiritual pollution.  If that's the case, maybe we should just have Mass out in the parking lot, celebrated by priests who feel the same way.  I'm sure the collections would be large enough to support the priests out there with the rest of us and there would be one other side benefit.  We wouldn't have to use the new Mass translation.  

In the meantime the desperate true believers and their unaccountable leadership could continue to desperately try to save a clerical system which is beyond salvation until they see they have to bury it for their own good.  Kind of like another situation that readily comes to mind.