Thursday, September 15, 2011

Stories From The Crazy World Of Clerical Catholicism

I just think the world of Fr Tom Doyle. Once again he has taken up his pen and used it like a sword.  This time he is taking on the case of Fr. Roy BourgeiousDoyle is acting as Bourgeious' Canon Lawyer in defending Fr Roy's priestly status with the Maryknollers, who are marching like good soldiers to the Vatican's demands.  The following is excerpted from NCR's coverage.  In this piece Fr Doyle contrasts the Vatican response to clerical support for women's ordination vs it's response to clerical sexual abusers.  For me personally, this huge discrepancy in the Vatican's treatment of these two issues has been a huge red flag pointing to how screwed up the thinking actually is in the Vatican.  Fr Tom doesn't appear to be any more impressed with this fact than I am.

......In one of several documents filed with Dougherty between Aug. 15 and Aug. 30, Doyle explains that Bourgeois’ defense is based on two rationales: first, Bourgeois’ right to not violate his conscience and, second, his conviction that ordination of women is not an infallible teaching.

Doyle said Bourgeois believes the teaching is not “so essential to the core beliefs of Catholic Christians that to question or reject it is tantamount to a rejection of the fundamental teachings of Jesus Christ which form the core of Catholicism as a people of God.” (I too have never understood how a discipline attached to the priesthood has risen in importance to a core dogma like that of the Resurrection.  Mind blowing.)

Bourgeois’ view of women’s ordination “is shared by countless others, including scripture scholars, theologians and church historians from among the ranks of the laity, priesthood and episcopacy,” Doyle said.
Bourgeois formed his views, Doyle said, “in an unselfish and honest manner, well-aware of the consequences of taking a position that is contrary to the present and past pope as well as most (at least) of the Vatican curia.” At the same time, argues Doyle, there is “no evidence of either consensus or unanimity among theologians, scripture scholars and bishops” that the ban on women’s ordination is “solidly grounded” in either tradition or teaching of the church, as asserted by the late Pope John Paul II in his 1994 apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis. (I'm not sure scripture and tradition were on JPII's mind.  I think it had way more to do with the power and infallible authority of the Papacy as defined by Vat I.)

“There is a massive body of scholarly work,” writes Doyle, “that credibly challenges the assertion that Jesus ordained anyone as priests and an equally credible and persuasive body of scholarly work that can find no consistent and continuous theological tradition that would support the preclusion of women from sacred orders, other than the tradition that official power in the church has been held by men.”

Doyle also challenged imposition of the punishment of automatic excommunication, saying it did not conform to the requirements of canon law in this case because Bourgeois’ actions do not involve a “malicious disregard” for church authority but rather his belief “that to act contrary to the dictates of his conscience … would be tantamount to a serious sin on his part.” 

In a separate document, Doyle submitted a list of quotes from St. Thomas Aquinas, Vatican documents, and the Gospel of Matthew upholding the primacy of conscience in Catholic teaching.

In the same vein, said Doyle, Bourgeois’ actions have not “gravely harmed” anyone, nor has anyone lost belief in God or been “so physically or emotionally damaged that he or she has been deprived of the ability to lead a happy and productive life” because of Bourgeois’ convictions or actions.

In contrast, Doyle notes some 20 members of the hierarchy in the United States, 15 in Europe and three in Canada, including some cardinals, “have been confirmed by credible sources to have committed the canonical delict named in canon 1395.2, that is, the sexual molestation of minors, or the crime mentioned in Title V of the Papal Instruction Crimen Sollicitationis, in force until May 18, 2001, namely sex with men.”

Those infractions, said Doyle, carry a punishment up to and including dismissal from the clerical state.
Yet no member of the hierarchy to date has undergone even a papal investigation, said Doyle, “much less any form of penal sanction. … To this date no archbishop, cardinal or bishop who has violated both canon law and civil law by sheltering known sexual abusers among the clergy or by knowingly reassigning known molesters to other assignments where they could and often did continue to violate the vulnerable, has been asked to resign, much less face justified canonical investigation and prosecution.”

Even among the thousands of priests across the globe who have been credibly accused of molesting minors or convicted in criminal proceedings, not one has been excommunicated, said Doyle, though most have been removed from the clergy ranks.

“The contrast is striking: Thirty-eight bishops who have committed grave sexual crimes which have resulted in serious emotional and spiritual damage to innocent Catholics have faced no disciplinary action, while four bishops who have followed their consciences and publicly questioned Vatican practices or doctrine out of concern for the spiritual welfare of the faithful have not only been humiliated but removed from office.”

Doyle concludes by asking on Bourgeois’ behalf that the process that has arrived at an ultimatum “be seriously and fearlessly re-evaluated” by outside theologians against the backdrop of concerns raised in his correspondence.  (Like this will ever happen.)


For myself, the Vatican's insistence that supporting the ordination of women is an equivalent canonical crime to the criminal sexual abuse of minors, is the straw that broke my Catholic back.  When I compare the treatment of Australia's Bishop Morris to the treatment given abuser bishops like Thomas Dupre of Springfield MA I literally brain lock.  I get angry.  I have to stop my Catholic self from trying to make sane an insane propositionIt is truly insane to equate questioning a discipline to sexually violating the innocence of children.  I can not really fathom what kind of mind creates this kind of equivalence. I can think of no other situation which so clearly shows the innate sickness in the Vatican clerical culture.

I hope Frs Doyle and Bourgeious enjoy some sort of success with their attempt to get the Maryknollers to think before they mindlessly obey, but I don't hold out much hope that will ever happen.  What I take hope from is the rising frequency of clerical voices who are saying enough of this kind of insanity.  Today's NCR and other publications are carrying multiple stories about bishops and priests who are finally voicing objections to current Vatican policies regarding priestly discipline.  It's about time.  Unfortunately it's probably too late.  In the time it's taken for these men to find their voices, the Vatican has been left far too free to propagate the kinds of thinking Fr Doyle is attacking in his defense of Fr Bourgeious, and that's left millions of Catholics no choice but to exercise the primacy of their consciences and leave the Church.  The sad part is the men who currently populate the Vatican will never be able to deal with the fact they are the prime movers for this vast exodus.  They are far too blinded by their own peculiar insane clerical culture.

There are two other stories which also speak to this clerical insanity.  The first is the continuing Archbishop Hepworth story going on down in the land of Oz.  Cardinal Pell has found the situation too enticing to keep quiet and has leveled veiled accusations at Archbishop Wilson of Melbourne.  Pell is implying Wilson was purposely dragging his feet in dealing with Hepworth's allegations. Not surprising really, since Pell and Hepworth are true 'smells and bells' kinds of clerics and have done quite a few things together.  This, a long with some grandstanding by an Aussie politician, has forced Wilson into issuing a letter explaining his side of things. This should all make for a very interesting ad limina visit to Pope Benedict in October. 

The second story is the controversy over Fr Frank Pavone, head of Priests for Life, and Bishop Patrick Zurek of Amarillo, Texas. Fr Frank's vocal supporters, including the histrionic right to life folks with Operation Rescue, are more less accusing Zurek of purposely sabotaging a potent right to life organization for the sake of money. estimated 100 million over 18 years is a lot of money.  It's hard to see where this kind of money might have been spent since PFL doesn't seem to have done a whole lot with it except to use some of it to raise even more of it.  Fr Pavone is another one of EWTN's talking clerical heads who may have let his head get too big for his clerical collar--or so implies the Bishop of Amarillo.  In any event, the citizens of Amarillo can rejoice in the fact Operation Rescue is set to use all kinds of visual media to parade their aborted fetus photos all over town and sky.  Said reason for this visual extravaganza is to support Fr. Pavone.  Pavone for his part has appealed to Rome to circumvent Zurek's order for him to return to diocesan priestly duties.  And for good measure, Pavone has also decided to ask for incardination in another diocese.  So much for obedience and submission to the will of one's bishop. Maybe Bishop Zurek has a point about Fr Pavone's head size relative to his collar size.  

I suppose I shouldn't find this so ironic, but Fr Pavone, like Fr Bourgeious, is appealing his recall on the grounds of supremacy of personal conscienceAnd so in the crazy world of Catholic clericalism we come full circle---no matter if the starting point is on the left or the right.


  1. I'm not surprised at Pavone's downfall. The irony is Amarillo offers no place to get an abortion, as I recall when I lived there from 1976 to 1981. The closest place was in Lubbock, which is more than 100 miles away. Perhaps former Bishop Yanta offered Pavone minimal supervision and they were centered so they could go to Dallas, Denver or Oklahoma City to do their protests.

  2. This post, for whatever reason, reminds me of the "Trail of Tears". It speaks of tragedy. An insane tragedy.

    The logic of Fr Doyle's position seems irrefutable, were it not that the Vatican does not use "logic" but instead pulls rank and seeks blind obedience "or else". Well, unless you're already a card-carrying red hat.

    For those who must walk away from insanity, a blessing. For those hanging on for dear life, a blessing.

    How sad that the reins of power lie in the hands of the insane. May God have mercy on their souls.

  3. Kathy, I'm beginning to wonder if Zurek's attempt to reign in Pavone wasn't actually initiated by the USCCB, or from New York via Dolan. I think it's interesting that parishes are already getting the heads up about Priests for Life from their bishops. It's almost like all the heavy groundwork was done before Zurek wrote his letter. And, canonically, the blast would have to come from Zurek because Pavone is incardinated in his diocese.

    Here's a few more updates, PFL is now suddenly organizing as an international rather than US 501c3 organization. This will take them beyond the purview of the IRS and the USCCB. This is happening in order to protect PFL from it's US political adversaries like Planned Parenthood and some turncoat Catholic Democrats. HMMMMMMM. Why do I think it's the Legion strategy and we all know how Maciel used all those untraceable international cash donations for his own 'outside' ministries.

    In the meantime Pavone has appealed to the Vatican and has publicly stated he will look to incardinate in a different diocese--again. He did this before when he ran afoul of Cardinal Egan in New York. That's how he wound up in Amarillo.

    And finally EWTN has issued a statement indicating they are trying to clarify Pavone's status regarding his TV work for them. Poor EWTN. Seems they just can't hang onto their talking collar heads anymore.

    Anon, your comparison to the "Trail of Tears" is really quite profound. For the orthodox, this parade of fallen Catholic gurus has to be a truly trying experience. No wonder so many of them attribute these failings to attacks from Satan. In reality, they are more than likely the result of Axis II personality disorders and Richard Sipe has the right of it.

  4. Colleen-I hadn't thought of the USCCB using Zurek to rein in Pavone, but now that you mention it, it makes complete sense. Another thing is that no matter where Pavone incardinates, his local bishop will likely want a cut of the funds. I wonder how Pavone would do with someone like Bruskewitz, Cordileone, Gracida or Finn. Finn in particular is in big trouble due to his mishandling of Fr. Shawn Ratigan. I was wondering how long it would take before EWTN declared Pavone persona non grata, just as they've done with Euteneuer and Corapi.

    Sipe is a psychologist, so I think he has the insight and training to recognize personality disorders when he sees them.

  5. You are right, Colleen, to highlight Tom Doyle's apposite contrast of the application of Vatican rules to cases of sexual abuse, to those which are a simple matter of Church discipline.

    To my simple mind though, the issue us even more fundamental: why on earth is the Vatican so obsessed with church rules of any kind? As I read the Gospels, the whole point of Christ's ministry was to point out the primacy of love, and the irrelevance of legalistic, scrupulous adherence to the rules of the religious authorities.

    This got him into a great deal of difficulty with those religious authorities - but which is the example that has endured and inspired the Church over the last 2000 years?

  6. Terry, I've thought about your question a great deal over the last twenty or so years. Why is the Vatican so obsessed with rules about clerical discipline and sexual acts?

    One explanation is Richard Sipe's et al, theorizing that many of our Catholic leaders have the maturity of post pubescent teenagers where sex and definitions based on clique identity are paramount. Coming from a psych background, I can see this as a legitimate part of the problem.

    There's another part of me though, that fully understands the Vatican has over the centuries created the 'perfect' secret society. It is composed of a very controlled membership--both in terms of who is eligible, celibate males, and the kind of brain washing needed to procure entry. It is obsessively hierarchical where admission to upper ranks is based on obedience and loyalty. In the main the members have no outside variables to control--like wives and families. The approved social circle are other members of the clergy. The Legionaires became a sort of distilled version of this which is perfectly demonstrated by the fact Maciel was able to live such a double life in total secrecy.

    In the end the Vatican seems to be protecting a very select and secret group from any kind of mediating influence. Gay priests have been a huge part of this because gayness itself predisposed these men to either enduring, or engaging in the system. In this sense gay marriage is a huge threat to the current Roman Catholic clerical system--almost right up there with the ordination of women. Ordaining women would blow a huge hole in the entire system. I also think, there are other power brokers that would prefer Rome stay exactly as it is because it's so useful for them.