Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Bishop Robinson Speaks Of A New Sexual Morality And It's Time He's Heard

This T Shirt celebrates the more traditional campus hook up culture.

One of the stories I haven't posted on, but was really interested in was the talk given by Bishop Geoffrey Robinson to the New Ways Ministry National Symposium recently held in Baltimore.  In his speech to the Conference Robinson broached the approach to sexual morality that I have advocated for decades.  It's the relational approach which places 'thee' before 'me'.  The NCR just posted an editorial endorsing this approach.  The following are two excerpts which I found most important in the editorial:

Rather than trying to discern good or bad in objective acts -- was this act unitive and open to procreation? -- look at how the intentions and circumstances surrounding what a person does or doesn’t do lead toward or away from loving deeply. “Sexual acts are pleasing to God when they help to build persons and relationships, displeasing to God when they harm persons and relationships,” he writes.

Rather than narrowly focused attention on a few explicit Bible verses devoted to sexual morality, use the best of scripture scholarship to understand the Bible as the unfolding story of a journey, the spiritual journey of the people of God. No single verse or collection of verses can be seen as the final word of God on a subject, Robinson writes.

Then there is this towards the end of the editorial:
Unlike sex centered on “me,” our new Christian sexuality, centered on the other, would respond to the deepest longings of the human heart, promote commitment between people, cherish the long process of relationship-building and foster community.

In the end, Robinson is making a profoundly traditional suggestion about sexuality, because what he proposes is rooted in genuine personal responsibility. He writes: “Many would object that what I have proposed would not give a clear and simple rule to people. But God never promised us that everything in the moral life would be clear and simple. Morality is not just about doing right things; it is also about struggling to know what is the right thing to do. ... It is about taking a genuine personal responsibility for everything I do.”


I have to tell a short story here.  I was teaching sexual morality in CCD a decade or so ago, right as the Boston Globe was exposing the clerical sexual abuse scandal,  and blew my class away by taking this approach.  The boys were snickering and carrying on and the girls giving coy looks and toying with their books when I stopped teaching the traditional approach and took up the relational approach.  I started by asking them if they had heard of the studies which described which teenagers were most apt to be engaging in sex.  They hadn't.  So I informed them that we have learned the boys with the highest levels of self esteem were the most sexually active, followed by girls with the lowest self esteem.  I said that drew a picture, not of sexuality as an equal expression, but of sexuality based on a power differential that was abusive and selfish.  The snickering stopped.  One young man raised his hand and made my intended point.  He said, "you are stating that most teen age sex is abusive in the same way about what's going on in Boston".  I replied that I was not making that comparison, the statistics drew that comparison and they were replicated over and over again.

This began a long discussion about how sexuality either affirmed a relationship or confirmed one's individual level of self esteem.  Not once did these teenagers ask about the procreative aspect of sexuality because that idea was the furthest thing from their minds.  For them sex was not about making babies, that was what their parents did, it was about other things entirely.  It was an eye opening experience for both the boys and the girls.  Unfortunately, the next week, when we were supposed to continue this discussion, was preempted by a cup cake and pop party because the rest of this topic would be covered by a group brought in from the outside who would teach the diocesan approved 'abstinence only' approach.  I got the message loud and clear.

Not coincidentally, the NCR is also running a series of articles on the hook up culture at Notre Dame.  First off let me state unequivocally that this is not a problem unique to Notre Dame.  I was just as blown away with this same phenomenon when my daughter was attending my own Catholic alma materBack in my day we drank a lot of beer and because the drinking age was 19, a lot of that beer was drank at college approved and supervised parties.  Dating was still the 'hook up' of choice.  In my daughter's day the drinking age was back up to 21,  the drink of choice was Vodka and Ever Clear and spontaneous cell phone texting parties took place completely unknown to the student services staff.  Some of these parties were huge and many of them resulted in sexual hook ups.  The date rape culture was alive and well.  My daughter served on the campus disciplinary committee and the stories she told me were just mind boggling.  My boringly repetitive question was 'why aren't these incidents reported to the police?.  Her repetitive eyes rolling answer was the women won't press legal charges.  Which meant she and her committee were judge and jury for felony rape cases.  The attitude seemed to be, 'I got drunk, I got raped, I move on. He has another notch on his belt.'  Did I mention something about self esteem issues?

I think it's way past time our youth were given this relational approach to sexuality if only because it might empower our young women to say, and mean NO, and our young men to hear it.  When asked, they all say the same thing, the best sex I've ever had was when I was sober and when I was in love.  That attitude is not gender specific.  It's true for both men and women.  It's time we started teaching truth, and the truth about healthy sexuality is that it's expressed between two people who are each motivated to put the other first.


Monday, March 26, 2012

Jamie Manson Interviews Mathew Fox

Mathew Fox is not the least bit off base when he discusses Creation Spirituality.  I find him far more hopeful than Shelby Spong.

I've always like the thinking of Mathew Fox. Jamie Manson is running a two part interview with him, and the following is an excerpt from the first part. In this section Fox gives his thinking on the future of organized Christianity and Catholicism in particular.

So the church should be not only post-denominational, but post-institutional, too?
We have to move away from looking at religion as primarily a sociologically institutional vestment and start seeing it as yeast within society that raises up justice, compassion, healing, celebration, forgiveness and, of course, creativity. Leonardo Boff talks about "ecclesiogenesis," or "birthing church." What kinds of communities are we birthing? And what kinds of nonsense are we standing up to? There are forms of fundamentalism arising throughout Christianity and they are hijacking the real spirit that Jesus unleashed. We have to save Jesus from the church. (That's an interesting way of putting this idea, saving Jesus from the Church.  Personally I don't think Jesus needs to be saved from anything or anyone.  Christians need to be saved from the immaturity of their institutional religions.)

Do you think people must begin seeking church outside the walls of the institution?
Definitely. It's so clear that the institutional version of the church is melting before our eyes. I began The Pope's War with a quote from Fr. Bede Griffiths, who said to me at the very end of his life, "Don't even think about the Vatican. Don't look over your shoulder. It'll all come tumbling down one day like the Berlin Wall. Keep using your energy to grow new shoots." 

We are ready for a new era in Christianity. It doesn't mean we surrender our own traditions or roots. But there is such a thing as ecclesiolatry. Some people would rather worship the church and hide inside an institution while throwing darts and bombs at the so-called secular world out there. The truth is there is only one world, one creation. We have to stand up to ideology, which is like idolatry. It freezes up hearts, minds and souls. We have to listen to the Holy Spirit. She elects to make things new. The Holy Spirit has always been biased in favor of creativity. (I would also add adaptive evolution.)

Do you think this melting down of the institutional church could be part of the Holy Spirit's plans?
Absolutely. The premise of The Pope's War is that we've been given two schismatic popes, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, over the past three decades for a reason. And that is to shake us up so that we will press the restart button on Christianity.  (Schismatic might be strong, but what the current retrenchment is pointing out for a lot of Catholics is once you have crossed a certain point in understanding and consciousness, you can not go backwards.)


Further in this post Mathew Fox describes a state of denial that many of today's Catholics live in that blinds them to the actual reality of the Church.  It's easy to see this denial at work when well meaning Catholics defend the Church and it's priests in the face of mounds of evidence about abuses, corruption, and criminal cover up.  They see all this unfortunate truth as biased anti Catholic attacks.  The real truth is the anti Catholic attacks are actually being perpetrated on Catholic laity by the actions of our ordained leaders.  That is, this is the real truth if the Church really is the People of God and not just the clerical system.
I agree with Fox that the last two popes have served to shake us up and forced us to really take a look at what form--if any--of Catholicism we wish for the future.  When an individual is forced to make a decision, rather than go along for the ride, that individual at least has a personal stake in their own faith expression.  That's as true for any progressive as it is for any conservative.  The polarization we currently experience in the Church can also be seen as an expression of the fact that individuals are claiming their own faith expression, and they care about it.  That's not a bad thing at all.  The problem comes when one looks at what is being claimed as Catholic in the institutional form.

The institutional expression of Catholicism, as crafted under the last three popes--I include Paul VI as it was two of his decisions which really started the reverse swing-- has been purposely limited in a well thought out and executed campaign,  in favor of a wholly external form of Catholic identity.  It's all about command and control from above with obedience the highest form of Catholic expression.  This is the signature spiritual charism of all the new lay movements like Opus Dei, the Neocats, and the Legionairies.  The implied definition of God in this view is the Old Testament Patriarchal God of retribution and conformity, and not the New Covenant Jesus of love and compassion. The signature psychological trait is to conform one's self and conscience to an external source of authority.  Jesus called for the exact opposite.  He called for finding the God with in us as our source of authority.  

This particular form of Catholic identity is passive and receptive on the part of the laity.  The highest form of theology is apologetics.  Spirituality for the laity centers on various forms of ritual piety and Marian expression while mysticism is the purview of monastics.  There is no room for prophets because there is nothing left to reveal.  It is static and priest centered.  Some would say priest ridden.  It works well for a specific segment of the population or for the initial steps on a spiritual path.  It fails for everyone else, but especially for those who are past the initial steps of the spiritual path.  It places a particular notion of sexual morality ahead of social justice.  It encourages scapegoating and the ostracizing and expulsion of certain sinners from the conformist community.  It's leadership responds to the most rigid of it's flock and it acts from fear and in secrecy.  It is a 'self' centered church in which saving one's personal soul is the end game.  Jesus taught our job was to lose our 'self' to find life.  It is not surprising that this church is well on the path to remnant status in the West and as the educational levels continue to rise in the South the same shrinking will occur there as well. 

Many conservatives are pointing to the growth of this current Church amongst youth.  To some extent this is true, but it's also true that youth grow up and that's the problem with this current church.  It is not a church for mature thinking adults--well, unless that adult has developed a prodigious capacity to compartmentalize incongruity and logical inconsistency.  Or stops thinking about their faith at Confirmation.  

Vatican II started down a path that was going to take some time to bring to fruition.  It opened up a conceptual thinking about the Church, and the lay relationship to the Church, for which neither the the laity nor the clergy had any intellectual preparation.  Given this, it's not surprising a certain amount of chaos ensued.  It was a chaotic time all the way around.  But the vision Vatican II described was awesome and rife with the potential to launch Catholics into a brave new world---kind of like the first time a teenager gets the keys to his own car.  Unfortunately for Catholicism, the keepers of Peter's keys couldn't take the anxiety and took the keys back. Trouble is, when you get used to driving a car, riding passively on a bench seat in the great big bus is no longer going to suffice. You can't go back.  There's just not enough freedom to grow.  Where Vatican II Catholics wind up from here on out will be up to them as individuals because the Church no longer has any room for them collectively.  One thing I know, the solutions will be creative with probably a few wrecks along the way, but such is life itself and that's what makes it all worth living.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

A Really Powerful Comment About Today's Screwed Up Version Of Roman Catholicism

I don't know, maybe this quantum science version of life after death isn't much better than the Catholic version of hell.  I know it's a little big for the blog formatting, but it's really is worth reading.  So is the blog I found it on, Carnival of Anarchy

I think I mentioned in the last post I was having some technical difficulties which precluded me from posting.  Tonight I've been catching up with a number of blogs I follow or have made comments on and came across the following comment to this NCR article on Pope Benedict's negative musings about the shift towards gay marriage and co habitation in the US.  This comment really struck a chord with me because it brought back vivid memories of me trying to help my daughter deal with the some of the same issues during her confirmation classes.  Bad theology most certainly does make for bad psychology.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Mar. 12, 2012.
I've never personally heard anyone ridicule chastity. I've never heard anyone ridicule someone who chooses to wait until marriage to have sex. I've never heard anyone ridicule parents of large families but my cousin has. A devout Catholic blue collar father of eight, his friends and co-workers told him he was crazy each time he told them his wife was pregnant. He started saying "Isn't that great?" before they could.

It's rude and none of anyones business to make comments about how many children couples want to have. It's also rude for clergy and parents of large families to make comments about parents who have smaller families. The problem is that the hierarchy and those who describe themselves as "orthodox" Catholics can't shut up about our sex lives. It seems the only thing the Church is concerned with lately is sex. It seems strange that men who supposedly don't have sex are so obsessed with it. Then again as a man I know I think about sex more when I haven't had it for a while.

I think you had a poor choice of words when you said we should "ridicule poverty, sex abuse, hunger, homelessness, deadbeat dads, materialism, dictatorships, hopelessness, and drug abuse". I think you meant that we should concentrate our concern on those social ills. That's different than ridicule. Unfortunately I often hear people, mostly conservatives, ridiculing poor people, especially poor black people.

I'm disgusted by the reactionary drift of the Church, of its clergy and most devout members becoming right wing Republicans united with the Christian Right and its idiotic culture wars. The leadership of the Church and their "orthodox" fans reject the modern world. Everything about it they label "The Culture of Death". Unlike the Amish and other groups they don't remove themselves from it. They want to change it and us. They want to repeal Vatican II. "The Reform of the Reform" is doublespeak meaning "It never should have happened, we want to get rid of it, but since it was a valid Council we have to call it something else."

I used to say conservative Catholics want to go back to the 50's. Our EWTN station announced an event highlighting "the Golden Age of American Catholicism, the 1950's. I don't say that anymore because when I said it to my 87 year-old mother she told me that in the 50's they wanted to go back further.

I feel like a Democrat at a Republican rally. I don't feel at home in the Church anymore. I believe it is the original church that goes back to Christ the way I believe the United States goes back to the Revolution and President Obama is its 44th president, something some right wingers including Catholics dispute. But I've resigned myself to being a lapsed or "Christmas-Easter" Catholic. I go to mass sometimes but I no longer feel guilty when I don't. The less I think about the Church the less angry I feel but it's impossible to ignore its criminal conspiracy of child rape and cover up and the pope and bishops involving themselves in our laws and government. The only reason I give money to my parish collection is that I'm married with one child still in religious ed yet to be confirmed and my wife insists. It makes me sick to know that some of it is being used to fund the bishops' war on gays, contraception, women's rights and their all but spoken alliance with the Republican Party.

The Old Testament seems a Bronze Age myth with a brutal God. My daughter picked it up through religious ed. She told me she doesn't like God anymore, that He's mean. She said He says He loves us but then punishes us, lets bad things happen to us and sends us to hell if we don't do what He says. I said Jesus wasn't like that. She said He's God so He's mean too. She knows about the Trinity, that Jesus is one with The Father and The Holy Spirit. She doesn't let Him off the hook. He's part of the same God who killed His children in the Old Testament. 

I didn't know what to tell her so I said that the Church doesn't talk anymore about hell being a place where people are burned with fire but a state of being separated from God, thinking immediately "how is that less scary?" . I said the Church changes what it says about things even though it says it doesn't. Limbo is an example. I said it to calm her down and keep her love for God. She said when she can't sleep she prays to God but He doesn't help. I said He doesn't always answer our prayers the way we want. I said all the stuff you're supposed to but God scares her.

She's going through what I did as a kid, being scared of death and going to hell if she dies with some mortal sin on her soul, of a big mean scary God who says He loves her but might punish her in the worst way possible. I've come to think it's a form of child abuse to teach kids a lot of the Bible. If it was a movie we wouldn't let them see it. I think it's abusive to scare and fill them with guilt by telling them that things like missing mass, having sex before marriage and using birth control could land them in hell.

I have mixed feelings about my responsibility as a Catholic father. The stuff she says makes me angry. It makes me want to tell the Church to stop hurting my daughter. It makes me feel protective of her. It doesn't seem what she should be getting from her faith but it's only a milder form of what I got fifty years ago when I learned that Protestants were going to hell and I would too if I committed what seemed like an endless list of mortal sins. I laid awake thinking about death and worrying I'd die in my sleep and go to hell before I could confess one.
Our faith is ruled by guilt and so much of it is about sex. In the new translation we are told to beat ourselves saying "Through my fault, through my fault, through my own grievous fault". It sounds like "Guilt, Guilt, Guilt!".
I think that deserves ridicule.


There is so much I could write about this comment, especially the sentences I put in bold type face.  I'm not going to though because I think it deserves to stand alone, and sometimes silent affirmation is more powerful. 

Gay Men Can't Be Allowed To Marry Because Straight Men Can't Control Themselves

This is a diagramatic scheme of the typical brain of a straight male as espoused by lawyers for the Alliance Defense Fund.

After some technical difficulties and work related issues, I am back and ready to roll.  The past week has seen some fascinating stories come to light in the Catholic world, but I've chosen to hi lite an article from Huffington Post by Kent Greenfield for it's singular honesty about the gay marriage debate.  He asks a very pertinent question:  "Is the sexual promiscuity of straight men a reason to oppose gay marriage?"  This is a pertinent question because the defense of marriage arguments will wind their way to the Supreme Court most likely sometime next year, and so far, the opponents of gay marriage seem to be making the case that marriage exists to control the sexual expression of straight men.  I kid you not.  The following excerpt contains Mr Greenfield's analysis of this defense of marriage strategy.

In the debate, Jordan Lorence, the Senior Vice President of the Alliance Defense Fund, argued that the main reason we have marriage is not to recognize emotional ties or validate meaningful relationships. Rather, the real reason is to protect society from the promiscuity of straight men. When men and women find themselves in close proximity, he argued, they produce children. It's the nature of men to want to have sex. Marriage is a way to constrain these urges and to channel them into long-term, exclusive commitments so that the children produced have a stable family structure. He bolstered his argument by referencing the decay of the traditional family in the "inner city," and quoting then-candidate Barack Obama's 2008 speech on the need for black men to be good fathers.

If we ignore the the race-based stereotypes implicit in his critique, we are left with an assertion that straight men cannot be trusted with their powerful sexual urges. We need the institution of marriage to constrain them. (Lorence is not alone in this argument, by the way. New York's highest court held in 2006 that marriage could be restricted to straight couples because "it is more important to promote stability, and to avoid instability, in opposite-sex than in same-sex relationships," in part because straight relationships "are all too often casual or temporary.")

This does not seem like a rational argument to me, and not just because it's more than a little bizarre to base an argument about gay marriage on the sexual proclivities of straight guys. Taken seriously, the argument overstates the power of marriage to constrain the urges of straight men (consider Bill Clinton, for example), and understates the power of marriage to validate and acknowledge loving, committed relationships between two people. (And it totally ignores the purposes of sex for women, other than producing children.)

But more importantly, the argument misses the point. The crucial question that the Supreme Court must answer is not whether it is rational to award the marriage right to straight couples but whether it is irrational to exclude same-sex couples from the marriage right. And the proclivities of straight men are neither here nor there in that analysis. You cannot judge whether denying gay marriage makes sense by talking about people (straight couples) who will not be affected at all.

Unless, of course, you believe that recognizing same-sex marriages will make straight men even more promiscuous or less likely to be good fathers. I am left wondering if that is the unspoken fear of many gay marriage opponents -- that men in straight marriages will find the lure of gay marriage so tempting that they abandon their wives and children. Does that sound rational to you?


I'm not sure Mr Greenfield's last sentence is the real unspoken fear of gay marriage opponents.  I don't think it's about straight men leaving their marriages for gay marriages, I think it's about straight men leaving marriage off their sexual table altogether.  Which says what about the maturity level of straight men?  Not much.  And it it says even less about the maturity level of those who think using this strategy is legally rational.  Yet, I think there is a big core of truth in this idea that marriage primarily exists to control the sexual promiscuity of straight men and to additionally force them into taking care of the progeny that results from their promiscuous ways.  It fits the male dominated fear based mind set that underpins so much of the conservative view of the world.  Consequently, I don't find it the least bit surprising that the idea of woman as a sexual being in her own right isn't even part of this equation.  

In this primal juvenile male view of sex, women don't have or need sex, the have, and need to have, their man's babies.  Gay marriage upsets this neat little gender differential equation.  It takes marriage out of the realm of controlling male sexual virility and puts it squarely in the realm of validating love relationships. Oh my, marriage then becomes a girly relationship thingy having very little to do with virile male sexual conquest.  Can't sell a whole lot of porn if this relationship idea of sex and marriage takes hold amongst straight men.  Why straight men might take to seeing women as real beings worthy of respect rather than objects for penis insertion.

I sincerely hope the anti gay marriage crowd continues to make this argument because it's core issue is just as demeaning to the humanity of straight men as it is to gay men and all women.  But then so much of the current debate on so many issues is inherently about demeaning the dignity and value of others in order to shore up the fears we have about our own dignity and value.  What makes the gay marriage issue so very important is that sexuality is a core human attribute and it's worth and value has historically been derived by a pragmatic survivability equation.  It was important in this equation to define sexual moral expression on the basis of it's utilitarian value. Human survival depended on the over production of children.  That's not true anymore.  Human survival now depends on balancing child birth with resource availability, and one of those necessary  resources is a stable home environment.  And that resource is directly dependent on the quality of the relationship between the couple.  But God is far sighted and good, and low and behold, human sexuality has an additional aspect of cementing the bond between two people, and that isn't dependent on one particular form of sexual activity.  Oh, and it also explains why women are capable of orgasm without peg A being inserted into slot B.


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

“It was a fishing, crabbing, shrimping, trash-collecting, draining the pond expedition. "

There is absolutely no way the real powers that be in the USCCB want this man testifying in a criminal trial.  They can't take the chance Bishop Finn would feel compelled by his personal conscience to tell the truth and expose the utter lack of institutional conscience..

I am getting real angry.  Angry enough to throw money changers out of temples, or sick and twisted Roman Catholic Bishops metaphorically out of their cathedrals.  The following excerpt is from the NY Times.  It deals with the current attempt by lawyers from two dioceses to pry records from SNAP. These are records which have nothing to do with the cases being litigated, and everything to do with destroying SNAP.  Hence the title of this post which is a quote from SNAP Director, David Clohessy.

What makes this article important, is that the unofficial spokesman for the USCCB, Bill Donohue, comes right out and states this.  Of course the official USCCB spokesperson, Sr Mary Ann Walsh says it ain't so.  For once I believe Bill Donohue knows what he is talking about.

.......The network and its allies say the legal action is part of a campaign by the church to cripple an organization that has been the most visible defender of victims, and a relentless adversary, for more than two decades. “If there is one group that the higher-ups, the bishops, would like to see silenced,” said Marci A. Hamilton, a law professor at Yeshiva University and an advocate for victims of clergy sex crimes, “it definitely would be SNAP. And that’s what they’re going after. They’re trying to find a way to silence SNAP.”

Lawyers for the church and priests say they cannot comment because of a judge’s order. But William Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, a church advocacy group in New York, said targeting the network was justified because “SNAP is a menace to the Catholic Church.”
Mr. Donohue said leading bishops he knew had resolved to fight back more aggressively against the group: “The bishops have come together collectively. I can’t give you the names, but there’s a growing consensus on the part of the bishops that they had better toughen up and go out and buy some good lawyers to get tough. We don’t need altar boys.” (Like they haven't already been doing this.)

He said bishops were also rethinking their approach of paying large settlements to groups of victims. “The church has been too quick to write a check, and I think they’ve realized it would be a lot less expensive in the long run if we fought them one by one,” Mr. Donohue said. (Not to mention a whole lot more lucrative for their 'non altar boy' attorneys.)

However, a spokeswoman for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Sister Mary Ann Walsh, said Mr. Donohue was incorrect.
“There is no national strategy,” she said, and there was no meeting where legal counsel for the bishops decided to get more aggressive.(Who needs a meeting when it can all done by email and then deleted.)


Here we have the USCCB using their clout in an attempt to destroy SNAP. We also have them using that same clout in a trumped up battle about birth control being an issue of their religious freedom, and all this while they are still spending oodles of money 'defending marriage', fighting statues of limitation on sexual abuse, and tossing honest out gays from their church related jobs.  Their credibility is in the toilet. Their teaching authority in shreds. They are losing on everyone of these issues, and yet they won't stop and re evaluate, much less retreat. Why are they doing all of this?

Well, I think a person needs to look at some other moves in order to draw conclusions.  One of those moves I looked at is where the loudest voices are situated.  Archbishop Neinstedt is leading the 'defense of marriage' crusade, but he also is sitting on one of the seminaries, St Johns, which has been thoroughly documented as a breeding ground for pedophilia and active gay clergy.  Archbishop Chaput has been moved to Philadelphia, and Philadelphia has another major nest of seminaries and groomers whose names pop up all over the abuse scene.  Plus it's been targeted by two Grand Jury investigations and the Archdiocesan official in charge of abuse investigations through two Cardinals is also facing criminal charges.  Cardinal Dolan has been moved to New York from Milwaukee, where there are currently some 500+ abuse victims in the process of litigation.  Milwaukee was also home to Rembert Weakland and one of the worst serial abusers in US Catholicism, Lawrence Murphy. Dolan has so far avoided testifying in Milwaukee cases and putting him in New York certainly helps that. The two law suits targeting SNAP from Kansas City/St Joseph and the Archdiocese of St Louis hold their own terrors for the American clerical system.  In the first a sitting bishop, Finn,  is facing criminal charges, and in the second, testimony could implicate a whole host of our current leadership including Cardinals Dolan, Rigali, and Burke.  Then there is California with another well documented grooming seminary and hundreds of millions in payouts to survivors, which has helped Cardinal Mahony avoid testifying. And then there are those other well documented nests of abusive cronyism on the East Coast involving dioceses whose sitting bishops were proteges of Cardinals Law and Egan.  Finally it should not be forgotten that two of our worst clerical protectors, Cardinals Levada and Burke now head the CDF and Apostolic Signatura respectively, two Vatican dicasteries which deal with clerical abusers and have access to tons of information.

I think the Vatican is desperate to maintain the American clerical system and keep it's obvious flaws secret.  Consequently it has authorized American bishops to do what ever is necessary to see to it that this system stays in tact and in control of the vast wealth of the American Church.  If that means taking out SNAP and bashing gays, and fomenting trumped up religious freedom crusades, so be it.  One of the secrets the Vatican  is desperate to keep the lid on is the fact the upper levels of the American clerical family is very gay in a very personality disordered and closeted way, very incestuous,  very compromised,  and willing and able to engage in criminal or any other activity to keep the truth from American laity.  They will do almost anything to protect their personal status and power-----and keep their sexual truth from their mothers.

As I see it, the really big threat to the American hierarchy is the criminal trial of Bishop Finn.  The USCCB will do anything to keep him from having to testify because I truly believe Bishop Finn will actually tell the truth under oath and he has a great deal of truth to tell.  Truth about men like like his mentor Cardinal Rigali who happened to be the Archbishop of St Louis when Finn was serving in the Archdiocese, and whose influence with John Paul II got Finn his title of monsignor.  When Rigali moved to Philadelphia late in 2003 Finn was then under Cardinal Raymond Burke who had just come from his own clerical sexual abuse mess in La Crosse Wisconsin where he seemingly never had an abuse accusation that was credible. In 2004 Finn signed on with Opus Dei and miraculously,  two months later found himself the coadjutor bishop of Kansas City/St Joseph to which he was elevated as bishop a year later.  So Finn is connected to a number of people who really don't need him taking the stand, and lest I forget, that includes a fellow priest with him in St Louis, another one of Rigali's St Louis proteges, Cardinal Timothy Dolan.  Did I mention yet the US hierarchy is incestuous?

In my analysis, Bishop Finn is potentially a very serious weak link for the entire clerical chain.  It is paramount he not testify or at the very least the damage minimized.  Ergo target SNAP.  All the rest of the machinations are a smoke screen to keep Catholic laity from understanding and dealing with the truth of our hierarchy.  Men like Richard Sipe and Tom Doyle and Eugene Kennedy know how sick this clerical system is, but for some reason their knowledge goes no where.  Is it because the laity are just to enmeshed with the system to deal with it, or because we can't emotionally afford to believe it?  If anyone thinks all this is over, they would be wrong because the next generation of priests fits the Finn profile to a T and that's a guarantee the system stays functioning exactly as it does now, or more likely, it gets even more abusive.  Here's a link to a Richard Sipe article which may shed some light on what our bishops are actually protecting.

Monday, March 12, 2012

It's More Complicated Than The Freedom From Religion Foundation Seems To Understand

Hmmm, we should probably dump that whole Genesis as literal thing. 

The New York Times ran an advertisement from the Freedom From Religion Foundation which is generating a lot of comment in Catholic circles. Some people seem to think it's just another salvo in the Times crusade against Roman Catholicism. Those people must have forgotten the Times also ran the Manhattan Declaration ad, but that was a few years ago so maybe they just forgot.  The current ad is based on a letter to liberal and nominal Catholics written by Annie Laurie Gaylor which was posted on the home page of the FFRF website.  I thought I would be so kind as to answer her letter.

'You are an enabler. And it's got to stop.'

Dear 'Liberal' Catholic:

It’s time to quit the Roman Catholic Church.

It's your moment of truth. Will it be reproductive freedom, or back to the Dark Ages? Do you choose women and their rights, or Bishops and their wrongs? Whose side are you on, anyway?
The vast majority of Catholics already practice reproductive freedom.  We've already chosen sides, and we certainly know our votes vastly out number our Bishops votes.

It is time to make known your dissent from the Catholic Church, in light of the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops’ ruthless campaign endangering the right to contraception. If you're part of the Catholic Church, you're part of the problem.
Granted the campaign is pretty ruthless, but I also think being a member of the Republican party is also being part of the problem.  Thank God most women see the duplicity and power mongering going on in both the RC Church and the Republican  Party.
Why are you propping up the pillars of a tyrannical and autocratic, woman-hating, sex-perverting, antediluvian Old Boys Club? Why are you aiding and abetting a church that has repeatedly and publicly announced a crusade to ban contraception, abortion and sterilization, and to deny the right of all women everywhere, Catholic or not, to decide whether and when to become mothers?  When it comes to reproductive freedom, the Roman Catholic Church is Public Enemy Number One. Think of the acute misery, poverty, needless suffering, unwanted pregnancies, social evils and deaths that can be laid directly at the door of the Church's antiquated doctrine that birth control is a sin and must be outlawed.
I know, I know, you make some valid points, but the real problem globally is lack of education for women.  Give women enough education and even the big bad meanies in the Catholic Church can not sway a woman's decision to make her own choices about her reproductive life.  The big bad meanies just haven't accepted the fact that once women reach a certain understanding there is no going back to their thought control. 

A backer of the Roman Catholic presidential candidate says that if women want to avoid pregnancy we should put an aspirin between our knees? Catholic politicians are urging that the right to contraception should be left up to states? Nearly 50 years after the Supreme Court upheld contraception as a privacy right, we’re going to have to defend this basic freedom all over again?
But seriously, this isn't about liberal Catholics.  This is about a small bunch of men fearful they are losing control of society and trying turn back the clock.  As you point out, they lost this battle fifty years ago.  It's embarrassing and annoying, but then doddering old uncles frequently are.

You’re better than your church. So why? Why continue to attend Mass? Tithe? Why dutifully sacrifice to send your children to parochial schools so they can be brainwashed into the next generation of myrmidons (and, potentially, become the next Church victims)? For that matter, why have you put up with an institution that won’t put up with women priests, that excludes half of humanity?
Actually I sent my daughter to Catholic schools precisely so she could experience the brain washing and learn how to defend against it. As to women priests, that's coming, but first things first.  The clerical system as we know it has to continue to implode.  Something new will Rise from the ashes.  Catholics believe in Resurrection and that hope is hard to let go of, irrational as it may seem.

No self-respecting feminist, civil libertarian or progressive should cling to the Catholic faith. As a Cafeteria Catholic, you chuck out the stale doctrine and moldy decrees of your religion, but keep patronizing the establishment that menaces public health by serving rotten offerings. Your continuing Catholic membership, as a "liberal," casts a veneer of respectability upon an irrational sect determined to blow out the Enlightenment and threaten liberty for women worldwide. You are an enabler. And it’s got to stop.
A very large chunk of us are not patronizing the establishment-at least financially- and I don't think my continued participation casts a 'veneer' of respectability on anything. It's my choice, and it's not really enabling because I don't pretend to agree with or support the more irrational  sexual aspects.   I prefer to think of this choice as witnessing a counter sign and some Catholics pay a huge price for that witness.

If you imagine you can change the church from within — get it to lighten up on birth control, gay rights, marriage equality, embryonic stem-cell research — you are deluding yourself. If you remain a “good Catholic,” you are doing “bad” to women’s rights. You’re kidding yourself if you think the Church is ever going to add a Doctrine of Immaculate ContraCeption.
I'm not trying to change the doctrine on BC. Why change something very few follow anyway? It's the gay rights issue I am working on.  That one drives teenagers to suicide and impressionable terrified young gay men into this very dysfunctional priesthood.  What I don't think you understand is there is another Catholic Church beneath the USCCB.  That river beneath the official river flows much cleaner and much more Christ like.  That's the Catholic Church I'm enabling.

It is disgraceful that U.S. health care reform is being held hostage to the Catholic Church’s bizarre opposition to medically prescribed contraception. No politician should jeopardize electability for failure to genuflect before the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. (Question to ask your Bishop: Does he hold up an umbrella against the rain? Isn’t that just as “unnatural” as using a condom or diaphragm?)

Every politician has free choice.  Perhaps you should be reminding politicians there is often a price to pay for doing the right thing. Besides, astute politicians have to be seeing that on the issues you raise the majority of the flock will not vote the Bishops' line.
Your Church hysterically claims that secular medical policy is “an assault against religious liberty.” You are savvy enough to realize that the real assault is by the Church against women’s rights and health care. As Nation columnist Katha Pollitt asks: Is it an offense against Jehovah Witnesses that health care coverage will include blood transfusions? The Amish, as Pollitt points out, don’t label cars “an assault on religious liberty” and try to force everyone to drive buggies. The louder the Church cries “offense against religious liberty” the harder it works to take away women’s liberty.
Believe me I get all that.  The task is then is to engage fellow Catholics in conversation so they too can get all that.  Leaving isn't going to change any one's vote, or correct any of the lies coming from the USCCB.  A handful of liberal Catholics can probably change more minds over coffee and donuts than this $52,000 ad in the Times. Both sides can't seem to accept the fact $$$$ only goes so far.  It's one on one engagement that really changes peoples attitudes.  It is precisely for that reason gay marriage is gaining acceptance.  Sometimes some other face besides Benjamin$ is more effective.
Obama has compromised, but the Church never budges, instead launching a vengeful modern-day Inquisition. Look at its continuing directives to parish priests to use their pulpits every Sunday to lobby you against Obama’s policy, the Church's announcement of a major anti-contraception media campaign — using your tithes, contributions and donations — to defeat Obama’s laudable health care policy. The Church has introduced into Congress the “Respect for Rights of Conscience Act, ” a bill to place the conscienceless Catholic Church's "rights of conscience" above the rights of conscience of 53 percent of Americans. That the Church has "conscience rights" to deny women their rights is a kissing cousin to the claim that “corporations are people.” The Church that hasn’t persuaded you to oppose contraception now wants to use the force of secular law to deny contraceptive rights to non-Catholics.
I do get the 'institutional' conscience scheme.  I also get the USCCB changed course in mid stream to individual consciences--the Taco Bell talking point--because some attorney somewhere must have told them the institutional conscience thing was never going to be court approved. This is a dangerous game the Bishops are playing because a number of my Catholic friends are now taking the conscience tactic to their taxes--remote complicity and all that. There could be a silver lining to this freedom of conscience debate.  Imagine if thirty million Catholics refused to pay for another neo con war.
But is there any point in going on? After all, your misplaced loyalty has lasted through two decades of public sex scandals involving preying priests, children you may have known as victims, and church complicity, collusion and coverup going all the way to the top. Are you like the battered woman who, after being beaten down every Sunday, feels she has no place else to go?
No, I actually feel like the big sister who offers a place to go--a refuge with in the family.
But we have a more welcoming home to offer, free of incense-fogged ritual, free of what freethinker Bertrand Russell called “ideas uttered long ago by ignorant men,” free of blind obedience to an illusory religious authority. Join those of us who put humanity above dogma.
Oh oh, my dogmatic self righteous radar just went off.
As a member of the “flock” of an avowedly antidemocratic club, isn’t it time you vote with your feet? Please, exit en Mass.

Very truly,

Annie Laurie Gaylor
Freedom From Religion Foundation


 Ms Gaylor made some good points, points I myself have made, but like a lot of non believers, she does not seem to understand the attraction of religion.  If Catholicism was just a club it would be much easier to leave.  But it's not a club, especially for cradle Catholics.  It's very much who we are because it's how we grew up and some of us grew up steeped in the dream of Vatican II about a Roman Catholic Church which would walk it's talk and not hide behind it's ritual.  Unfortunately a minority of our leadership were too scared or too self centered to come out from behind the ritual. Their personal ego needs controlled the dream, turning the dream into a nightmare for too many Catholics.  Liberal Catholics get all that.  The Church won't wake from this fear induced nightmare if it's left to the devices of the hierarchy.  There has to be another voice crying out in the dream wilderness. 

The other point Ms Gaylor misses is the existence of that other Catholic Church.  The river beneath the river.  The one that is pastoral, that does practice what it preaches, that has been the soul force for social justice movements through out the Church's millennia.  The USCCB is not in sync with that river at all.  They are sailing their silly barges on the other river.  That river flows on the back of money sources that far exceed those of the other river, but money is not the fuel that really powers the true Church.  That fuel is love.  So no, I don't really think liberal or nominal Catholics need to fully deconvert.  They just need to keep their lights lit with in the church and have some patience while the hierarchy continues it's trajectory towards implosion.  Oh yea, and vote because we out number the bishops and their true believers by the millions and millions.  No amount of bishop ranting can change that fact.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Pope Benedict: Chastity Is The Foundation Of Catholic Sexual Morality

This is just too funny, I couldn't pass it up.

Pope Benedict's chat with Archbishop Neinstedt and his fellow bishops from Minnesota etc. has generated quite a bit of comment.  I have chosen not to write on the 'gay marriage threat to culture' aspect or his take on the evils of co habitation, but on Benedict's insistence chastity is one of the foundational planks of Catholic sexual morality. It is, but it shouldn't be.  Relationship should be the foundation of Catholic sexual morality.  The following is from Vatican Insider:

Benedict XVI's message to U.S. bishops: “Sexual difference is a question of justice”

Alessandro Speciale - Vatican Insider - Rome  3/9/2012

These are real sore points in the United States where recently, in many states, marriage between same-sex couples has either been approved or is being discussed.

Next autumn Minnesota will vote on the introduction of a ban on same-sex marriages to their state Constitution and the Archbishop of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, Mgr. John Nienstedt – who led the delegation of prelates on their Ad Limina visit to the Pope – is at the front line of the electoral campaign.
(Pope Benedict is definitely giving the papal seal of approval to Archbishop Nienstedt's refendum to ban gay marriage in Minnesota. 2012 must be the year Rome tries to remake the US in it's own image and likeness.)
During his speech, Pope Benedict XVI condemned “the powerful political and cultural currents seeking to alter the legal definition of marriage.” He asked the Church in the U.S. to “resist this pressure” with a “reasoned defence of marriage as a natural institution consisting of a specific communion of persons, essentially rooted in the complementarity of the sexes and oriented to procreation.” ("Reasoned" is precisely where the arguments for Prop 8 are failing in court.)

Sexual differences - he added - cannot be dismissed as irrelevant to the definition of marriage. Defending the institution of marriage as a social reality is ultimately a question of justice, since it entails safeguarding the good of the entire human community and the rights of parents and children alike.”  (This all sounds nice and reasonable except that the children of gay parents are left out, and the Church itself marries childless couples all the time.)

At a time when the Church in the United States has a very short fuse in as far as Barack Obama’s Administration is concerned, over the exemption of Catholic organizations from offering health insurance cover that includes contraceptive care, Benedict XVI expressed his concern at the threats to the “freedom of conscience, religion and worship” – topics which were already addressed in a previous speech to U.S. prelates. 

 These threats - the Pope said in today's meeting - “need to be addressed urgently, so that all men and women of faith, and the institutions they inspire, can act in accordance with their deepest moral convictions.”(This statement is quite disingenuous. It is not the individual conscience which is the driving force for US Catholic bishops.  It is the institutional conscience that bishops are defending.  Women have zero say in determining that 'conscience', and that 'conscience' is hell bent on restricting the freedom of women to make decisions with regards to their own bodies.)

 What worries the Pope the most, is the “contemporary crisis of marriage and the family, and, more generally, of the Christian vision of human sexuality.” Indeed, “a weakened appreciation of the indissolubility of the  marriage covenant and the widespread rejection of a responsible, mature sexual ethic grounded in the practice of chastity,” lead to a “grave societal problems bearing an immense human and economic cost.”(This idea of grounding a mature sexual ethic in the practice of chastity is spiritually infantile.  More on this in my own remarks.)

 Benedict XVI also showed concern for the drop in the number of Catholic marriages and the widespread tendency of young couples to live together before getting married: a “widespread practice” which is however gravely sinful, not to mention damaging to the stability of society.” Bishops were urged therefore to “develop clear pastoral and liturgical norms for the worthy celebration of matrimony which embody an unambiguous witness to the objective demands of Christian morality, while showing sensitivity and concern for young couples.” (I'm sure the bishops will work diligently to come up with programs that place the importance of the chastity of these young people far and away above their actual relationships.)

With regard to these topics and to virtues such as chastity, which is often “ridiculed”, Benedict XVI aknowledged that these could partly be attributed to “deficiencies in the catechesis of recent decades.”


In all the debate and conversation surrounding the HHS birth control mandate or gay marriage very few people have gone to the heart of Catholic sexual morality.  I'm glad Pope Benedict has decided to emphasize this heart, this foundation.  That heart and foundation is sexual chastity.  Here is the definition of chastity from the Catholic Encyclopedia:  Chastity is the virtue which excludes or moderates the indulgence of the sexual appetiteThe use of the term 'appetite' in a similar definition to food is intentional.  If one peruses the entire section on chastity, one finds the comparison between the sexual appetite and the food appetite as the bedrock of the whole article--with one fundamental difference.  A human being can die from hunger, which is a bad thing,  but a human being is actually sanctified by intentionally and permanently denying their sexual 'appetite'.  

No where in this definition of chastity does one find the notion of sex as a fundamental relationship between two people.  A reader will find the idea of sex as expressed in the reproductive relationship between male and female. This reproductive relationship defines the action of 'moderates' in the above definition of chastity. Sex in context of reproduction in a valid marriage is the only licit form of sex.  This is all very utilitarian and denies any meaningful relational context for sex. It denies any ideas which suggest sexual expression maybe a real human need in expressing  love between two people.  Sex is after all,  an intense form of touch that has a secondary reproductive pay off if engaged in between a male and a female, but it always retains it's primary tactile function of validating and expressing love between two people.

This would be exactly like the very scientific fact that a mother holding and hugging her child is absolutely essential to the well being and neural development of that child.  If the relationship between mother and child is devoid of a tactile component, the child does not prosper and grow no matter how much formula is jammed down it's throat.  We also know that adults who are starved for touch, also do not prosper and grow.  That's why nursing homes and residence facilities are allowing 'therapeutic pets'.  The therapy is not coming from any scintillating conversations between a cat and it's slave/owner.  I can attest to that fact.  It comes from the touch and the purring and the snuggling and the body warmth and the smiling that engenders---for the cat at least.  So we know touch is critical for all humans at all times, and at certain times in our maturation, the primary and most important form of touch is sexual.  But the Church is advising that denying this fact is holy and sanctified and better than anything else we can do.

In the interests of helping Pope Benedict properly catechize us Catholics, I offer the section from the encyclopedia which describes the highest form of chastity for women:

The first-mentioned is the virtue of those who, in order to devote themselves more unreservedly to God and their spiritual interests, resolve to refrain perpetually from even the licit pleasures of the marital state. When this resolution is made by one who has never known the gratification allowed in marriage, perfect chastity becomes virginity. Because of these two elements — the high purpose and the absolute inexperience — just referred to, virginal chastity takes on the character of a special virtue distinct from that which connotes abstinence merely from illicit carnal pleasure......The special virtue we are here considering involves a physical integrity. Yet while the Church demands this integrity in those who would wear the veil of consecrated virgins, it is but an accidental quality and may be lost without detriment to that higher spiritual integrity in which formally the virtue of virginity resides. (I guess this is a very circumspect way of saying the physical presence of the hymen is not as important as it used to be unless you want to be a consecrated virgin.)  The latter integrity is necessary and is alone sufficient to win the aureole said to await virgins as a special heavenly reward (St. Thomas, Suppl., Q. xcvi, a. 5). Imperfect chastity is that which is proper to the state of those who have not as yet entered wedlock without however having renounced the intention of doing so, of those also who are joined by the bonds of legitimate marriage, and finally of those who have outlived their marital partners.

I love the definition of 'imperfect chastity' because many many of my fellow Catholic teen age virgins back in the day surely thought we were perfectly chasteIt seems Pope Benedict is right, we were imperfectly catechized because even though we thought we were perfectly chaste and truly virginal, we actually weren't  because none of us had formally renounced the intention to marry.  Well, moving right along.....

Up above I wrote this sexual morality we are supposed to espouse was spiritually infantile.  It truly says God  really loves Catholics who perpetually vow to keep themselves in the prepubescent sex is icky stage.  

For me it's not just that, it's that this underlying foundation of chastity is scientifically ignorant and reduces the sense of touch to an after thought which mostly serves to get us in trouble.  If touch is a sort of mistake or challenge to our spirituality on God's part, why in the world create a material universe in which touch is the newest perceptual sense a sentient consciousness needs in which to navigate in this new reality of matter?  What if touch and sex are not supposed to be vilified, denied, and controlled but lived as the highest form of spiritual expression we have in this reality.  Jesus healed through touch.  Babies are conceived through sexual touch. Children are made safe and secure when they are held and rocked. Domesticated animals are defined so on the basis of allowing and enjoying humans to touch and guide them.  We may think our brains are what makes us all that and a bag of chips, but it's also our ability to use touch to communicate, and most importantly to communicate love.  I know, I asked my cats.


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Ohio Republican Catholics Pick The Mormon Over The Catholic

I wonder if Mint ever thought he would beat his Catholic competitors for the Catholic vote.

Hmmm....looks like Rick Santorum has a Catholic problem.  Perhaps he's getting some Catholic backlash over the bishops grand standing about birth control--or his own grandstanding for that matter.
 In any event I agree with Rachel Maddow and Chris Mathews, someone in the Santorum camp needs to convince Rick to shut up about sexual issues, especially women's sexual isssues. 

Loudly Catholic Santorum loses Ohio Catholic Vote

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor
(CNN) - Rick Santorum, a conservative Catholic who is outspoken about faith-based issues, lost Catholic voters by a wide margin in Ohio on Tuesday, potentially a key factor that allowed Mitt Romney to squeak out the narrowest of victories overall in the state.

According to CNN’s exit polls, Romney took 43% of Ohio Catholics on Super Tuesday, compared to 31% for Rick Santorum, and Romney beat Santorum overall by 38% to 37%.
Catholic voters counted for a third of Ohio’s Republican electorate, the largest share of Catholics in any Super Tuesday state.

“The margin of Romney's win among Ohio Catholics is surprising, given Santorum's traditional Catholicism,” says John Green, a political science professor at the University of Ohio. “Romney's margin among Ohio Catholics - especially in the three largest metropolitan areas - may account for his close win in Ohio.”
Green notes that Romney, a Mormon, has consistently won the Catholic vote in this year’s Republican primaries. That pattern runs counter to speculation that Catholics would focus more on hot-button issues at a time when Catholic bishops are battling the Obama White House over government-mandated contraception coverage.

Romney has denounced the Obama administration’s contraception rule but Santorum has gone further, making social issues a cornerstone of his campaign. Last week, the former Pennsylvania senator said that John F. Kennedy’s 1960 speech in which the then-presidential candidate advocated an absolute separation of church and state nearly made him throw up.

The Catholic vote is one of the largest swing blocs in the country, voting for the winning presidential candidates from both parties in recent elections. But the bloc is so diverse, including many Catholics who differ with church leaders on social issues and many who have drifted from the church, that many religious and political experts dismiss any notion of a “Catholic vote.”

In Ohio, the most contested of the 10 states to cast ballots on Tuesday, Catholics represented one of GOP primary’s main constituencies. Another major bloc, white evangelicals, comprised almost half of the Ohio vote, and broke for Santorum over Romney by 47% to 30%.

One progressive Catholic group made political hay out of Santorum’s weak showing among Ohio Catholics, emailing reporters a statement titled “Santorum campaigns on divisive wedge issues, promptly loses Catholic vote.”

“Catholic voters care more about economic issues that affect their families than they do about socially divisive wedge issues like contraception,” said James Salt, executive director of Catholics United, in the statement.
“Mainstream Catholics want leaders who can address the moral challenges of our day like income inequality, underwater mortgages and poverty,” Salt continued, “not leaders who perpetuate a never-ending culture war that divides our community.”



Tuesday, March 6, 2012

10 Years Later And The More Things Have Changed The More Some Have Stayed The Same

The following extended extract is the conclusion of an assessment of the Catholic Church ten years after Boston.  It was written by Richard Sipe.  While I encourage readers to take in the whole document, I have chosen to publish his conclusions because they neatly summarize how far our clerical leadership has come since Boston, and that's mostly no where.  While it is certainly true that programs have been instituted in parishes, dioceses, and Catholic institutions to deal with childhood abuse, those policies do not touch the underlying clerical culture which bred and protected clerical abusers, and that abuse is not just about children. It's also about relationships with women and the laity in general.  As Richard Sipe points out in his conclusion, it is important to understand the workings of the clerical culture because culture trumps reason every time.

The title of this volume—Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church: A Decade of Crisis:is actually a question. What has the Catholic Church learned?  No one in June 2002 could possibly imagine the worldwide scope or dimensions that questions about abuse by Roman Catholic clergy would assume by 2012. The head of the U.S. Bishops’ Conference, Wilton Gregory, proclaimed triumphantly in 2004, “the problem is history.”  
My reflections focused on five fundamental issues that impinge on the Catholic Church and underlie its processes of learning about and preventing clergy sex abuse: secrecy, scandal, crisis, mandated celibacy, and clerical culture.  

Secrecy was and remains foundational to the operation of the Catholic clerical world. Reviewing several thousand legal procedures over the past ten years demonstrates to me how assiduously—and violently—American cardinals and bishops fight to keep incriminating and embarrassing documents secret.

Within a decade, the fulminating scandal fed by revelation upon revelation of Catholic bishops and priests abusing boys and girls and superiors covering up their crime spread like a string of Chinese fire crackers from Boston’s Back Bay to the Vatican and Pope, from Dallas to Dublin and Bishops Conferences around the world. Sex abuse by priests is no longer a secret, but a scandal properly so defined: a widely publicized allegation or set of allegations that damages the reputation of an institution, individual or creed. Clergy abuse of the vulnerable is the biggest scandal the Catholic Church in America has ever faced and most probably equals the Twelfth and Sixteenth Century scandals in Europe. For example: tapes recorded during an April 2010 meeting between a victim, his bishop abuser, and a cardinal (Danneels of Belgium) reveal the prelate urging the victim not to tell anyone that the bishop sexually abused him. The European press claimed the tapes provided some of the most damaging documents to emerge in the scandal rocking the Roman Catholic Church.

Again in 2010 another cardinal, Dario Castrillon Hoyos of Columbia, used the familial argument to defend keeping priest abuse secret saying, “it [reporting priest abusers to the police] would have been like testifying against a family member at trial.” He also claimed in a radio interview reported by the Associated Press “that Pope Benedict XVI, formerly Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, was involved in a 2001 decision to praise a French bishop for shielding a priest who was convicted of raping minors.” (All three of these examples involve Cardinals which means this secrecy and scandal avoidance behavior is set from the top.)

Not long after February 27, 2004 when the Report on the Crisis in the Catholic Church in the United States was published and made public along with the John Jay Report Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne M. Burke who served as interim Chair of the National Review Board said that the bishops did not want change, but only “business as usual.” She spoke in 2010 about the problem of “untruth” she sees in the church and the bishops.

The scandal of sex abuse by Catholic clergy has been a public relations nightmare—gargantuan and impossible. No spin makes gruesome facts go away. Many priests and bishops have violated in criminal ways their responsibilities as representatives of Mother Church. Scandal, of course, is not the real problem no matter how distressing; the crisis of betrayal of Mother Church’s children is the crux of the scandal. However, the question remains: has the church learned anything about truth and transparency in the past decade?  

There is wide based agreement that the Catholic Church is in a crisis mode. The crisis has to do with human sexuality—specifically bishops and priests who present themselves as celibate and chaste while they violate minors and the vulnerable under the cloak of their religion. The denial, rationalization, lies, and cover up of clerical crime by Church authority is in evidence and provides an ongoing scandal and crisis. 
There are repeated calls for the abrogation of the requirement of celibacy for ordination to the priesthood. Whatever the merits of the arguments, they will not solve all the problems of clerical sexual malfeasance. Bishops and priests exist in, maintain, and assiduously preserve a clerical culture within which secret sexual activity by clergy is tolerated. 

 Celibacy and chastity are taught in an educational mode and structure established for diocesan clergy at the Council of Trent. That tradition is dependent on a monastic-like schedule (horarium) and a system of sacramental confession and spiritual directors. It is no longer effective. Despite rules and screening procedures a significant number of clerical candidates are sexually active with one another or with priests—sometimes faculty. Celibate observance of religious order clerics has not proved better. But sexual activity in the clerical culture is not introduced from the bottom-up—from candidates for ordination—but from men established in the culture—priests, spiritual directors, rectors, superiors, even bishops. Homosexuality is a predominant operational orientation in clerical culture form Rome to Los Angeles.[23]
( Richard Sipe makes a very important distinction when he writes homosexuality is the predominant 'operational' orientation.)
Culture always trumps reason. Is it possible to revise clerical culture? History, theology and human nature all conspire in favor of reforming dysfunctional systems eventually. Theologically, clerical culture is mutable, no matter how firmly grounded in custom and tradition. Jesuit Bernard Lonergan (1967) wrestling with the possibility of  “transition of organization and structural forms in the Church” said among other things: “there is in the historicity, which results from human nature, an exigence for changing form, structures, methods; and it is on this level and through this medium of changing meaning that divine revelation has entered the world and that the Church’s witness is given to it.”[24]
Literary critic, Lionel Trilling (1965) talks about the power of forces that change culture. Somewhere in the mind “there is a hard, irreducible, stubborn core of biological urgency, and biological necessity, and biological reason, that culture cannot reach and that reserves the right, which sooner or later it will exercise, to judge culture and resist and revise it.”[25] There is hope. (This kind of evolutionary change almost always comes from the bottom up.  The top is too invested in it's own survival.)

Prevention of sexual abuse by priests and bishops presents a daunting agenda. A revision of clerical culture is required to deal effectively with clergy sexual violations of every stripe. The burden transcends the capacities and limits of law and psychiatry and rests squarely on the very core of religion and spiritual transformation—in theologian Bernard Haering’s words on “absolute sincerity and transparency.” Prevention will not occur without discussion of the realities of sexuality, celibacy, and the development of explicit and honest norms for sexual responsibility and accountability for human behavior on every level of the church. The darkness of secrecy breeds betrayal, abuse and violent assault. Revelations over the last decade have proved that. A Mother Church, that sustains, nourishes and, protects her children demands light, accountability, openness and truth. That is the task unveiled over the past ten years. It is vital that the Church respond. Any church that cannot tell the truth about itself runs the risk of having nothing significant to be heard.  (And less reason to be followed.)


Vatican Insider posted an article today about a book-“Golgotha, secret journey into the Church and paedophilia” written by Carmelo Abatte that also comes to similar conclusions as Richard Sipe.  I suppose this isn't surprising since Sipe was one of the experts Abatte contacted when writing the book.  At the end of the article is a quote from Patrick Wall, who is an attorney who has worked closely with Richard Sipe and Wall gives a very succinct account of how the clerical culture can over come reason:

 Patrick explained that there is a different way of thinking within the Catholic Church compared to the outside world. For the Church, the institution comes before everything else. The culprit always confesses his actions to someone, often to someone above him, this way subconsciously he feels less responsible. It’s the exact opposite of what a victim tends to do, which is to shroud him/herself in silence and to feel guilty despite being innocent. The guilty priests on the other hand are convinced that, if their actions really were evil and wrong, their superiors would not let them carry on. This is why they feel safe and remorseless. Those responsible of abuses, when they get a chance to have their say, are never ashamed to talk in detail about their actions, because they are convinced of being innocent.

The only other cultures I can think of that operate in the same fashion are intelligence agencies and organized crime syndicates.  All of these cultures depend on loyalty oaths to a hierarchy based on access to knowledge, on secrecy, and on avoiding scandal or detection.  The very sad thing is, there is zero reason for a Church leadership following the Way of Christ to have anything to do with these operating or organizing strategies.  Removing the discipline of celibacy or ordaining women is not going to change the basic culture. That is the lesson to be taken from intelligence agencies and organized crime.  Only when the laity demand transparency and accountability will there be any impact on the clerical culture.  Which leaves one last question:  Is the laity spiritually mature enough to demand this transparency and accountability?  The price for our unwillingness to pursuit these deep seated changes will continue to be paid for by us and our children.