Monday, April 30, 2012

This Back To The Future Story Is One Reason Today Is More Of The Same

I can't help but wonder what would have happened had John Paul I not given way to John Paul II so soon after he was elected.  It is easy for me to believe the Holy Spirit was involved in the election of the man on the left, but all too human folks were involved with the man on the right.

This is another story I've been following that has recently popped up more in Europe than in the States.  From the Irish Independent, it deals with a thirty year old kidnapping/murder of a 13 year old daughter of a Vatican employee, the burial of a Mafia Don in a Basilica in Rome, rumors of massive bribes, and Mafia entanglement with the Vatican Bank.  I can easily imagine another Dan Brown novel written about this period of Vatican history.  Thirty years ago coincides with the Banco Ambrosiano scandal under JPII,  It is perhaps the sleazy story cited below which has motivated Pope Benedict to convene his committee of three octogenarian cardinals to deal with all the leaks springing out of all kinds of Vatican dikes.

Vatican 'accepted one billion lire' to bury crime boss in basilica next to former popes

 Michael Day - Irish Indepent - 4/30/2012
The Vatican is facing a deepening controversy over the burial 22 years ago of a notorious crime boss, with reports emerging that the church accepted a one billion lire (£407,000) payment from the mobster's widow to allow his interment in a basilica.

A source at the Holy See told the Ansa news agency that "despite initial reluctance" the then vicar-general of Rome, Cardinal Ugo Poletti, "in the face of such a conspicuous sum, gave his blessing" to the controversial interment of Enrico De Pedis, the former boss of Rome's notorious Magliana gang. The money was reportedly used on missions and to restore the Basilica of St Apollinare, where the mobster was laid to rest next to popes and cardinals after his death in 1990. (Isn't this a nice Roman way to describe the proper way for a Roman Catholic Cardinal to take a bribe?)

The claims, which the Vatican has not commented on, may explain how such a reviled criminal was buried in such a hallowed site. Last week, to deflect growing criticism and to help resolve a 30-year-old murder mystery, it emerged that Vatican officials had decided to move the remains of De Pedis from his special crypt.

Pressure mounted earlier this month when a prosecuting magistrate, Giancarlo Capaldo, claimed senior officials at the Vatican knew much more than they were letting on about the Magliana gang's links to the Holy See, and the gang's suspected kidnap and murder of Emanuela Orlandi, the 15-year-old daughter of a Vatican official, in 1983. "There are people still alive, and still inside the Vatican, who know the truth," he said. Some believe Emanuela's father had evidence linking the Vatican Bank, Istituto per le Opere di Religione, to organised crime, and that she was snatched to keep him silent. The theory is that De Pedis, who was shot dead in 1990, organised the kidnapping. (Perhaps one of these who are still alive and know the truth have been appointed to Benedicts' truth commission.)

For the past two decades, there has been speculation that Emanuela's remains were put in the tomb alongside De Pedis. The girl's brother, Pietro Orlandi, has joined those calling for the tomb to be opened.
The Vatican – under heavy scrutiny after a set of scandals – denies the claims and has hinted that investigators will be able to witness the re-opening of the crypt, in a bid to quash the rumours. "It seems that nothing has been concealed and there are no Vatican secrets to reveal," said a spokesman for Vatican, Father Federico Lombardi. (If you believe this, Fr Lombardi has another crypt in another basilica to sell you.)

It is likely that the body of De Pedis will be moved to a less high-profile place of rest. The location may be decided at an upcoming meeting. Even if the girl's remains are not found in the crypt, the mystery surrounding her disappearance will remain.

Other theories surrounding her fate are not in short supply. One, more palatable for the Vatican, suggests that Magliana gang members snatched her at the behest of Turkish extremists, who wanted to use her as a bargaining tool to win the release of Mehmet Ali Agca, the Turkish gunman who tried to kill Pope John Paul II in 1981. (Seriously, Dan Brown has a story here.)

But others have implicated Paul Marcinkus, the disgraced and deceased former head of the Vatican bank, which was involved in the bankruptcy of Italy's largest private bank, the Banco Ambrosiano, in 1982.
Soon after the news of the scandal became public, the president of Banco Ambrosiano, Roberto Calvi, was found hanging beneath Blackfriars Bridge in London. (Or maybe Dan Brown could follow this angle, after all Paul Marcinkus came to the Vatican from the Chicago clergy........)


I think my mind still has a tough time dealing with all the corruption in an Institution my poor brain has been entrained to think of as Holy.  The enormous amount of cognitive dissonance I still contend with too often resolves itself by using macabre humor.  None of the above is funny.  It is sickening and it is serious.  It involves huge bribes, murder and kidnapping, and Vatican involvement in money laundering for the Mafia.

Pope Benedict's octogenarians who are set to investigate these incidents have in some cases, their own skeletons starting with Cardinal Herranz.  In an earlier life Herranz was the personal secretary to Opus Dei founder, the now sainted Jose Escriva.  For those who don't know, OD members were high ranking members of the Board of the Vatican Bank and were heavily implicated in the Banco Ambrosiano scandal.  Only in the Vatican does it make sense to have the senior clerical member of OD investigate scandals involving OD members.  We will most likely wind up with the same kind of white wash the high ranking members of the Legion got when Cardinal DePaolis decided not to investigate the senior members of the order who helped make Maciel's multiple corrupt lives possible. This reminds me of one of John Allen's more interesting observations about the Vatican. They leave people in place to deal with their own messes as a form of penance.  Unfortunately this assumes the person left in place actually believes they made a mess. I haven't seen too much of that when it comes to criminal misconduct and cover ups.  The ongoing trial in Philadelphia proves the opposite case. The messes are almost always blamed on someone else, usually up the food chain, and said cleric was only being obedient.  That is when he wasn't being tempted by someone or something out to discredit or snare him in their evil ways.

There is reams of information on the Internet connecting the events surrounding Roberto Calvi and Banco Ambrosiano, the Italian mob family Magliana, the Italian Masonic Lodge P2, the death of JPI, Opus Dei, JPII, and western intelligence agencies.  The common link for all these disparate groups, besides money laundering and membership in two or more of the above listed groups, was fear of the influence of the Italian Communist Party and a general need to stamp out the 'red menace' while containing Soviet expansion.  

In most respects the recent Vatican crackdown on the left wing of the Church is a continuation of the exact same strategy which played out in the 80's.  Now the Vatican sends the CDF after sisters on the social justice path, back in the 80's it was assassins trained at the School of the Americas. The institutional Roman Catholic Church is just staying true to form.  As long as an organization or agenda is well right of center the Institutional Church will support it and work with it, even if it's criminal---and get paid well for doing so.  On the left side of things, only on a cold day in hell.

For readers who want a better idea of how this mess ties into the current Vatican intrusion into US politics, there is no better source than Betty Clermont's The Neo Catholics:  Implementing Christian Nationalism In America.



Sunday, April 29, 2012

Bishop Morlino Threatens A Wisconsin Parish With Interdict

The above graphic is from this article which gives more background on Bishop Morlino and the rocky relationship he has with the faithful in Madison, WI.

Bishop Robert Morlino must be getting desperate for a new color beanie.  Actually, he's really be working at this for quite some time.  This link will take you to past posts I've written about Morlino's attempts to curry favor with the Pope and 'pastor' his flock in Madison.  This time he is now threatening Canonical sanctions for the laity of a parish in Platteville, WI who are none too happy about the very traditional foreign priests Morlino invited in to minister at St Mary's Catholic Church back in June of 2010.  There was a serious clash of culture from the get go.  Bishop Morlino has now raised the stakes.

Bishop Morlino warns dissenters to stop — or else

DOUG ERICKSON | Wisconsin State Journal - 4/28/2012
Madison Catholic Bishop Robert Morlino has moved to quell a backlash against a group of conservative priests in Platteville by warning parishioners they risk formal church censure unless they stop spreading "rumors and gossip."
The action by Morlino, which two Catholic scholars called highly unusual, appears to include the possibility of offenders being prohibited from taking part in church sacraments such as communion, confession and burial.
The warning came in a five-page letter Wednesday from Morlino to St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Platteville. The congregation has been roiled by opposition to the traditionalist priests, who began serving the parish in June 2010.
Within months, church donations fell by more than half, and about 40 percent of the church’s 1,200 members signed a petition seeking the priests’ ouster. The church’s 77-year-old school is set to close June 1, a loss many parishioners tie directly to the collapse of donations.
The letter, in which Morlino raises the prospect of invoking the church’s Code of Canon Law against dissenters, has stunned many parishioners.
"There’s almost shock and awe," said Myron Tranel, a member of the church’s finance council. "But mostly, there’s a lot of disappointment that the bishop has decided to deal with it this way."
Others applaud the bishop’s move, saying decisive action was needed because criticism had gotten out of hand.
"This is a warning shot across the bow — you either want to be a Catholic or you don’t," said Gregory Merrick, a member of the church’s pastoral council.
Diocesan spokesman Brent King said Morlino’s main message is that this should be a time of "prayer, serious introspection and forgiveness." The specific texts from the church’s code of law were included precisely so that they may never be needed, King said.
"The bishop’s caution that ‘this cannot continue’ should not be made into anything more than that — a caution," King said. (Last I checked, the word caution was not synonymous with 'threat'.  This is a threat.)
Standing by the priests
The priests are from the Society of Jesus Christ the Priest, a group known for traditionalist liturgy and devotion to strict Catholic teaching. They do not allow girls to be altar servers or allow parishioners to assist in distributing communion. Critics say they emphasize doctrine over pastoral care and institute changes in a heavy-handed way.
Morlino has stood by them and did so again in the letter to parishioners, the primary purpose of which was to announce his decision to accept the parish’s recommendation to close the school. The priests have admitted "that they undertook some changes in a way that was abrupt for many people," Morlino wrote, yet he said no one has provided concrete examples of the priests straying from church doctrine. (When this first erupted and donations dropped to half what they were, Morlino stated he would do everything to keep the school open.  At the time I wrote that 'everything' would not include money and the school would have to close.)
In the end, "the Catholic faith is being taught according to the proper understanding of the Second Vatican Council, and what remains are personal likes and dislikes, along with inflated rumors and gossip, some of which may even rise to the level of calumnious inciting of hatred of your priests, the faith and myself," Morlino wrote. (Operative words are "and myself".)
Where there are those who work to "incite hatred," there "may need to be more formal warning and action," Morlino wrote. An addendum cites many church laws, including one in which anyone who publicly incites animosities or hatred toward church authorities "is to be punished by an interdict or other just penalties."

‘A very severe penalty’
The term "interdict" carries great weight in Catholicism, said the Rev. Steven Avella, a history professor at Marquette University in Milwaukee and a Catholic priest. "Interdict is a very severe penalty that effectively prohibits the Catholic sacraments from being celebrated," he said.
The penalty was widely used in the Middle Ages and sometimes employed in the early years of the United States, he said. It has been used sparingly in recent history, he said. "Sanctions and penalties of this kind would only be a last resort — a sort of ‘nuclear option,’ if you will."
Dennis Doyle, a Catholic theologian at the University of Dayton in Ohio, said it is "a very unusual situation for a bishop to invoke the possibility of canonical penalties."
"This is a situation where push has come to shove and the bishop is asserting his authority and letting the people know, as it were, that he ‘owns the buildings and calls the shots,’" Doyle said.
Being interdicted differs from being ex-communicated in that the person under interdict is still considered a church member, Doyle said. (Like divorced and remarried.  You can look, but not touch.)

Questions over intent
Terry Busch, a church member who has been vocal in his opposition to the priests, wonders if he’s a target of the bishop’s message.
"There’s nothing I’ve ever said that isn’t true, but it sounds like if you say anything about the priests or the church, they’re coming after you," he said. "Now I don’t know exactly what that means. Do they send you to hell or take you to court?"
King, the diocesan spokesman, said that he would not engage in any "what if" speculation and that parishioners shouldn’t either, as it would only make healing more difficult. "The question of hypothetical penalties, for hypothetical crimes, is not one we will entertain," he said.
Even though the school will indeed close, "our hope is that, very soon, healing can come to the St. Mary’s Parish community, through prayer and forgiveness," King said. "That might sound idealistic, but in Christ, it is very possible." (The forgiveness will have to be a one way street.  The Diocesan spokesman didn't use the word 'reconciliation' which entails a two way street.)
Meanwhile, parishioners are trying to sort it all out. Rosemary Anderson, a St. Mary’s member who recently started attending services elsewhere, said St. Mary’s parishioners aren’t rebels and aren’t trying to make some grand statement.
"Platteville, Wisconsin, is not the hotbed of revolutionary movement in the world," she said. "We just want our parish community back." (You are now because your bishop intentionally decided to make you such.)
Even if the bishop were to take away her ability to participate at St. Mary’s, "he cannot take away, hurt or lessen my spiritual relationship with God," she said.
Merrick, a parishioner who supports the priests, said the church does not seek blind loyalty and is not eager to come down hard on people, yet basic rules and doctrine must be enforced.
"The church in the last 50 or 60 years has been very reticent to use its weight to corral people into toeing the line," he said. "The reason the bishop had to do this is that there was just a great deal of backbiting and meeting behind the scenes going on. (This from a man on the 'pastoral' council.  Bring on the cattle trucks.)

Read more:


Here we go for real, right back to the middle ages.  Oh wow, threatening--eergh I mean issuing a caution--to interdict upset laity has got to be the most mind boggling thing that has come down the Catholic pike in the last three weeks.   And there has been a lot of mind boggling things come down that pike the last three weeks.  My poor mind is truly boggled.  Actually, it's not that boggled since this is the action of one Robert Morlino who has never made a mistake he couldn't twist to make himself the victim of his own poor judgment.

There is one thing about this story should give the True Believers their own note of 'caution'.  While they may get off on the thought of their less True Believing fellow parishioners being 'pastorally' threatened with Interdict, they should also note the closure of their school.  They should note this for two reasons.  The first reason is they can not financially sustain their version of Trentan Catholicism on their own.  The second reason is their True Believing bishops won't let loose with any Diocesan money to help them keep their schools and physical plants.  Not only will True Believers inherit their wished for 'leaner and meaner' Church, they will also inherit a much smaller, less competent, less capable of providing needed services church. And they will still have to support the life styles and fantasies of their bishops.  In this case, Morlino is still planning to build his 70 million dollar Cathedral to replace the one that burned down in 2005.  Obviously there is no money for any school in Platteville and there was never going to be.  

Rather than re evaluate a decision that placed very conservative priests in the wrong area, Bishop Morlino is threatening the nuclear option.  It's hard to believe the desire for altar girls and lay Eucharistic ministers and some lay input into decisions effecting the parish is enough to bring on the threat of interdict.  This is all about the use of naked power and who has it and who doesn't.  As now as it ever was, forever and ever. Amen.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Reprise Of A Post From 1-6-2010 With A Message For Today

There is a reason for the obvious lack of any medical equipment in this clinic of Mother Teresa's and it's not lack of donations.

I was looking for something else when my search engine came up with this post from two years ago.  I think it's highly pertinent given the recent results of the CDF investigation.  It's hard to believe this investigation has been going on for over three years.  Since the original reasons cited the same problems as the result, I can't help but wonder if the results were held in abeyance until they might have some specific impact at some specific time in the US.  Anyway this post certainly took me back to the future.

Progressives Must Stop Ignoring Certain Conservative Beliefs About Holiness

Sometimes I come across articles that leave me pondering for quite awhile. This happened to me the other day when I came across an article written by Susan Shields for the website "Council for Secular Humanism". Ms. Shields an ex member of Mother Teresa's Sister's of Charity. I'm going to quote the part that caused me a certain amount of mental angst:

Three of Mother Teresa's teachings that are fundamental to her religious congregation are all the more dangerous because they are believed so sincerely by her sisters. Most basic is the belief that if a sister obeys she is doing God's will. Another is the belief that the sisters have leverage over God by choosing to suffer. Their suffering makes God very happy. He then dispenses more graces to humanity. The third is the belief that any attachment to human beings, even the poor being served, supposedly interferes with love of God and must be vigilantly avoided or immediately uprooted. The efforts to prevent any attachments cause continual chaos and confusion, movement and change in the congregation. Mother Teresa did not invent these beliefs - they were prevalent in religious congregations before Vatican II - but she did everything in her power (which was great) to enforce them.

Once a sister has accepted these fallacies she will do almost anything. She can allow her health to be destroyed, neglect those she vowed to serve, and switch off her feelings and independent thought. She can turn a blind eye to suffering, inform on her fellow sisters, tell lies with ease, and ignore public laws and regulations. (These behaviors are endemic to every single one of the right wing traditional apostolates approved of and singled out for praise by the Vatican in the last forty years.)

Women from many nations joined Mother Teresa in the expectation that they would help the poor and come closer to God themselves. When I left, there were more than 3,000 sisters in approximately 400 houses scattered throughout the world. Many of these sisters who trusted Mother Teresa to guide them have become broken people. In the face of overwhelming evidence, some of them have finally admitted that their trust has been betrayed, that God could not possibly be giving the orders they hear. It is difficult for them to decide to leave - their self-confidence has been destroyed, and they have no education beyond what they brought with them when they joined. I was one of the lucky ones who mustered enough courage to walk away......


Taken together these three beliefs describe a very sad definition of the path to holiness. They also describe logical extensions of the belief that man's material existence has meaning only in terms of his soul and that since the fall of Adam and Eve, our bodies are condemned to suffering in order to appease God and purify our immortal souls from the filthy stains of material existence.

Take the first one for example: "the belief that as long as a sister obeys she is doing God's will."

There's no question that with in the Sisters of Charity, as it is in Opus Dei, the Legionaries, or any number of other twentieth century apostalates, obedience to the will of the founder was equated with obedience to God. This was not just an attitude freely assumed by members, it was promulgated by the founders themselves and they were backed by the Papacy. Why wouldn't they be? This demand for obedience to the founder is exactly what the Vatican demands of every Catholic with regards to the Pope.

The problem is neither the Pope nor any given founder is God. Jesus did not say God is obedience, He said God is love. Every parent has experienced the fact that our children can still love us dearly without feeling the need to obey every jot and tittle of what we say. And if a parent matures with their child in parenting, one finds that they actually love their children more when those children think for themselves, act decently on their own initiative, and stop demanding approval for everything they do.
None of those free acts of a maturing child is an assault on the fundamental parent/child relationship. It is instead both a deepening and a broadening of the relationship. What a parent really learns as their child matures, is the reason for and nature of, forgiveness. Forgiveness is not a 'get out of hell' free card. Nor is it a reset button to engage in the same failed strategy. It's an opportunity to change direction, learn a lesson and grow some more. Parental forgiveness is often the weedkiller in our children's garden of life

The second belief is in some respects even more damaging than the first: "the belief that the sisters have leverage over God by choosing to suffer. Their suffering makes God very happy. He then dispenses more graces to humanity." There are so many fallacies here. No human person has the capacity to leverage God. That's a description of a very small god, but it gets worse. The thought that this god is happy being leveraged by our suffering makes him an even smaller God. That he would then dispense more grace to humanity because of his happiness with our suffering makes him very very minuscule on the god scale. Puts him about as far up the god scale as the parent who beats their child to get the rush when they cry and then gives the child candy to shut them up until the next time. It's called abuse dynamics.

Then we come to the third belief: "that any attachment to human beings, even the poor being served, supposedly interferes with love of God and must be vigilantly avoided or immediately uprooted". For Mother Teresa and the Sisters of Charity this belief can be restated as the love of the concept of poverty as a path to holiness. Their ministry actually has very little to do with an effective relational love with the poor. It has to do with their individual choice to live in, and surround themselves with institutional poverty.

This is probably why Mother Teresa never built a world class hospital with all of her hundreds of millions in donations, or did a great deal to eradicate poverty in the areas in which her convents and clinics operated. These initiatives served as way stations for sufferers in which her sisters were given the opportunity to evangelize and 'save' souls. It was this that took precedence over alleviating suffering or providing real medicine. The truth is she didn't need a world class hospital to evangelize and save souls--she needed hundreds of convents and that's precisely what she built.

In honesty, Mother Teresa never claimed to be in the business of lifting the yoke of poverty or eradicating disease in the areas in which her enterprises operated. She forthrightly said she was in the business of Catholic evangelization and the saving of souls. The poor people she worked with were not victims of choices not their own. Instead they had been given a wonderful opportunity from God to both achieve her definition of holiness, and offer their unchosen suffering for others. And of course, they provided the means by which she and her fellow sisters could achieve their definition of holy poverty. In this respect, she would have been working against her definition of their best interests to do otherwise.

Not one of these three beliefs are espoused by LCWR congregations, which makes me wonder if that's not part of the problem they are having with the Vatican. There's nothing like making poverty a short ticket to heaven to soothe the consciences of people whose own greed makes that poverty possible. No wonder Mother Teresa had many good things to say about the Duvalier's in Haiti. Just think of all the opportunity the Duvalier's provided for the people of Haiti to experience holy poverty.
I think progressive Catholics need to put some time and effort in understanding this dynamic in the traditional and conservative Catholic mind set. Ignoring it will not make it go away nor lessen it's influence in the Vatican and subsequently on Catholic laity.

Tom Roberts Tells It Like It Is

Tom Roberts mentions the 5.8 earthquake in Virginia last year.  One of the buildings to suffer damage was the National Cathedral.  What makes this photo even more synchronistic is the bishop of West Virginia, Mickael J Bransfield sits on the Board for the National Cathedral, once served as rector, and has now been named by two witnesses as an abuser in the Philadelphia trial of Msgr Lynn.  This clerical system has to go.

The National Catholic Reporter has just printed an editorial written by Tom Roberts.  It is generating an enormous number of comments for the short time it's been up. I have reprinted it in full.

LCWR earthquake snaps tensions present since Vatican II

NCR Commentary - Tom Roberts - 4/24/2011
It is almost instinctively that one reaches, when attempting to explain what is going on today in the Catholic church, for metaphors out of the natural world -- storms, earthquakes, seismic shifts -- to get at the magnitude of events.

We search for the terms that explain what we're experiencing: phenomena beyond the ordinary disturbances we've learned to weather one season to the next. Just as seismologists or climatologists begin to put together patterns over time, to construct a mega-image of what is happening, so are we. Another piece of the puzzle has just fallen into place for us with the delivery last week from the Vatican of the "Doctrinal Assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious."

The 5.8 earthquake that hit the East Coast in August was insignificant by West Coast standards, yet it was felt hundreds of miles from its epicenter in Virginia. Geologists explained that the earth's crust in this part of the world is more dense and less disturbed and fractured than that in the usual earthquake zones, allowing the seismic waves to travel further than they would, say, in Los Angeles or San Francisco.

In a similar way, the shockwaves emanating from the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), a gathering unlike any that preceded it in tone, purpose and language, have reverberated through the relatively undisturbed crust of the institutional church's presumptions and leadership culture. The assessment of the nuns is the latest of the aftershocks. This council, popularly known as Vatican II, did not announce anathemas; did not condemn heresies, as was the case with others; did not dwell on dogma or establish new lines for who's in and who's out of the community.

Instead, to state the matter broadly, it asked that we all go to the roots of who we are as a people of God and to figure out what that means in the contemporary world. And while it is a far more complex story -- indeed, a universe of stories -- than can be done justice in the space of this essay, we can know some things about what's happened since we began to feel the rumblings beneath the ecclesiastical crust.

One of the realities shaping today's news is that the bishops and the nuns took very divergent paths in the wake of the council, and that has set up an unfortunate dynamic. Kenneth Briggs explains the growing tension between bishops and nuns in Double Crossed: Uncovering the Catholic Church's Betrayal of American Nuns. The sisters in the United States, he contends, were largely overlooked in historical accounts of the development of both church and nation because of their "exclusion from positions of power within the Church. Their subjugation to a male clerical order not only kept them out of the public eye but also ultimately crushed their efforts to refashion themselves boldly and creatively."
 Many of the problems experienced by women religious in the last half-century, he argues, derive from "the hierarchy's refusal to make good on the promise of renewal" implicit in the council documents. (This is especially true about the hierarchy and the clerical system itself.)

The rumblings that began to disturb the church's crust in the mid-'60s swelled to a giant heave at the end of that decade with the debate over Humanae Vitae. It may seem jarringly inappropriate to raise that old squabble anew and in this context. But it was important and remains relevant. The Catholic landscape was rearranged in a big and unique way. The laity, in this instance, led by their own experience and by prominent theologians, said no. They said they did not accept the church's ban on the use of artificial contraception. And that was that. Little has changed since. That decision, informal but widespread, created quite a rumble. The church stood, minus, perhaps, a gargoyle here and there. God remained in the heavens, and life went on, but a key new insight pervaded those in the pews. The fear of eternal damnation for disregarding a teaching that didn't make sense began to evaporate as a reason to obey. (This point can not be stated enough.)

Religion scholar Phyllis Tickle says global Christianity is going through one of its every-500-year upheavals, when old "carapaces" are cracked and encrustations of habit and practice and belief are jarred loose. In each of those cycles, she says, we're left asking, "Where's the authority?" (This 500 or so year upheaval perfectly reflects changes in human consciousness and world view.  500 years ago coincided with a major earthquake in both human knowledge and world view.)

The birth control controversy forced that question in a bold and new way in the Catholic world. One senses that just as the United States is trying to find, post-Sept. 11, how power works in a world more shrunken, interconnected and broken by technology than ever before, so, too, are the bishops trying to figure out how their authority works in an increasingly fractured church where the trappings and presumptions of an all-male monarchy have little hold on the contemporary Catholic imagination. Power and authority no longer function as they once did. (Nor do most western Catholics want it to function as it historically has.)

In the church, no greater challenge exists to hierarchical power and the traditional way of doing things than the sisters. Following the council, the women did what they thought the gathering had mandated: They dug deep into their own histories, reviewed their founding documents, reflected long on the lives and examples of their founders. Many came out of that period of intense prayer and scrutiny with startling conclusions. One of them was that their mission was to be more than cheap labor for the hierarchy.

Another was that, having rediscovered their original "charisms," they saw their work taking them beyond the walls of cloisters and convents and into the wider world, particularly at its margins and among the poor.
An inevitable result of all of the introspection and meditation on their lives, their histories and their missions was a new discovery of themselves as women. In fact, Briggs speaks of them as a kind of pre-feminist movement. Nuns were performing tasks normally reserved for men long before many other women in society. They ran schools and hospitals and other institutions. They were, he writes, "distinguished leaders in charge of big, complex structures. They were, in short, the CEOs of institutions before women were CEOs of institutions."

Thousands were earning college degrees in the 1950s and carrying their new knowledge and skills into a wide range of new professions, says Briggs, who writes that the "total of doctorates awarded to sisters more than doubled" between the 1950s and 1970s.

Through the long arc of their history in the United States, it is a simple fact that women religious built the church. We wouldn't have the Catholic school system without them. We wouldn't have a hospital system without them. We wouldn't today have a Catholic presence in many of the worst parts of our cities without them. We wouldn't have ministry to the displaced, unwanted and hurting without them. In many cases we wouldn't have any ministries or education programs in our parishes and dioceses without them. And in some of the priest-poor sections of the country, we wouldn't have parishes without them.

We are, at the same time, Catholic, and bishops are an important part of our story. So it must be asked, Who would want to be a bishop in today's church? The ground is shifting beneath it in unprecedented ways. The old symbols of power are disappearing. The baronial bishop's residence in Boston has been sold off to pay for the sex abuse scandal; the one in Philadelphia is up for sale. Bishops' authority everywhere is compromised, their moral stature diminished as the world keeps hearing through trial testimony and released documentation how the leadership culture of the Catholic church ignored the horror that was being done to children in order to protect their priests and the reputation of the clerical culture.

For the majority of ordained men alive today, it must seem at times as if nothing is as it was, that what they signed up for decades ago is gone.
And that includes the way nuns act today. It includes the way nuns think today, the fact that they would engage in re-imagining God in the multiple human manifestations that reflect his/her images. That they would entertain questions about women's place in the church, ordination of women, how the church treats homosexuals -- all fly in the face of good order and the community as men have constructed it.

The eight-page doctrinal assessment -- an indictment, really -- calls into question the lives, motives, spirituality, fidelity, theology and ways of approaching the church and the world of members of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, an organization representing more than 80 percent of the nation's sisters.

The document is properly anchored in papal quotes about the need for "consecrated persons" to have total "allegiance of mind and heart to the magisterium of the bishops" as did their founders and foundresses. As is often the case, those at greatest risk from a breakdown in presumptions and the surfacing of questions paint church history in crisp, neat lines. But the reality of some of those founders and foundresses is far more jagged and involved a great deal more struggle with the institution and those in power than contemporary papal admonitions to obedience and allegiance would reference.

There's a consequence to the nuns having been the builders of the church, the ones on the ground, the representatives of the church where the hurt is, where people are actually living, being cared for and dying. They're known, they're trusted and they inspire an admiration and loyalty that will not be abandoned in this time of testing.

This should not be a contest between men and women. It shouldn't be a test of who is more important to the church. It shouldn't be a win-lose matter. But the men have forced it to this point.  (I disagree, the men have not forced it to this point except to force Catholics to finally admit human consciousness has changed and the clerical system can not and does not represent this change.  One could say it is the Holy Spirit that is moving for this change. After all the men started the process at Vatican II.)

Yesterday, nuns were approached by Catholics at Sunday liturgies across the country with a simple question: What can we do to help? I am told by one sister that nuns from other countries have sent messages of solidarity, asking if there's anything they can do.
In one parish on the East Coast, a sympathetic message of support for the sisters from the pulpit brought a loud and sustained round of applause. Certainly it wasn't a singular experience. Laypeople everywhere are looking for whatever way they can do to support the nuns. Petitions are circulating in the ether and attracting thousands of signatures.

I'd bet that most bishops really don't want this fight at this time. With all that needs fixing in the church today -- and with the amount of brokenness for which the leadership is responsible -- now is not the time to be casting aspersions on any other groups, and certainly not on the sisters.

The questions the nuns are asking, the topics they discuss, the views they dare express publicly that might be at variance with the bishops emanate from their lived experience as well as their education. Whether the bishops want to acknowledge the fact, they are the same questions and concerns that occupy the community at large, and they're not going to magically disappear.

Xavier Le Pichon, a French geophysicist, is known for constructing a comprehensive model of plate tectonics, but also for extracting from his knowledge of the activity of the earth's plates deep insights into human behavior and the dynamics of human community. In an essay, he writes: "As I knew from my own scientific experience, the weaknesses, the imperfections, faults facilitate the evolution of a system. A system which is too perfect is also too rigid because it does not need to evolve. This is true in politics; it is true within a society, within families, within nature." I think it can be inferred, without unduly stretching the point, that this holds true as well for the Catholic church and its ecclesiology. 

A perfect system, he writes, "is a closed system that can only evolve through a major commotion; the evolution occurs through revolutions." In one case, it's the cracking of rigid rocks; in the other, one might extrapolate, it is the slow crumbling of ecclesial systems that have become too rigid or that discover that their usefulness has been overrun by time, circumstance and new insights.

The Vatican assessment has, indeed, begun a "major commotion." In ways that no new evangelization campaign ever could, the critique of the sisters has unified Catholics to rally to a good cause as Catholics, because they are Catholics. They will do whatever they can to protect the nuns. Bishops should be ready for the onslaught of letters and petitions.
The U.S. hierarchy is aiming its rage at the sisters, but the temblors moving the earth beneath their feet have little to do with women who serve the poor and dare to ask unsettling questions.


This is quite an essay and I don't have much to add to it except to hi light the most important point and that is that whether the Vatican likes it or not, the days when docile laity connected the clerical system as being the Roman Catholic Church are over.  In spite of what the USCCB would like us to believe, it is not the Roman Catholic Church which is experiencing 'anti catholic' attacks.  It is the Roman Catholic clerical system which is under attack.  In their minds it may still be that they connect themselves with and as the totality of the Church, but that's no longer true in the minds of the laity.  We can separate out the two issues.  One is no longer synonymous with the other.  The sisters of the LCWR, along with the courageous survivors of clerical sexual abuse, whether they intended this or not, have been hugely instrumental in fostering this shift.  They have forced us all to spiritually grow up and get out from under the cassocks of our clerical leadership.  That's a very good and Holy thing.  

Monday, April 23, 2012

Floods and Trends

This is a prophetic sign as the hierarchy is at the end of it's ability to drain off the clerical abuse crisis.

There is so much information flooding out from the Catholic world on so many different topics and events, it's pretty hard to keep up with the flow.  Just in the last two weeks we have endured:

1) The USCCB call for their crusade in favor of their definition of religious freedom, which is really an overt attack on the Obama administration.

2) Bishop Jenky of Peoria give a sermon on socialism, fascism, Hitler and Stalin and how somehow President Obama 'could' belong in the same company.

3) A Holy Thursday homily from Pope Benedict directly criticizing the Austrian priests for doctrinal dissent on priestly discipline, including the ordination of women.

4) News reports out of Ireland about the silencing of at three priest/theologians, and information there are more who wish to remain anonymous in order to avoid further discipline including loss of priestly faculties.

5) The announcement of yet another government investigation of an Archdiocese, this time it's Melbourne in Australia, and this time it was triggered by the horrific number of suicides linked to abusing priests.

6)  The on going abuse trial in Philadelphia in which testimony from three different witnesses has implicated Bishop Bransfield of Wheeling, West VA as an abuser---charges Bransfield, who is in Rome with the group of millionaires known as the Catholic Foundation, has denied.  Additional testimony has revealed a three year relationship of some sort between Cardinal Bevilaqua and a woman known around the Chancellery as 'Fatal Attraction'.

7) Another request from Bishop Finn's attorneys for SNAP documents coupled with the decision from the judge in Finn's case that he continue to trial.

8)  An attempt by a group of Gonzaga alumni to rescind Gonzaga's invitation to Archbishop Tutu to serve as their commencement speaker and receive an honorary degree because Tutu espouses 'culture war' positions at odds with Catholic teaching.

9)  The pending complete rehabilitation and reconciliation with SSPX.

10) The results of the CDF investigation of the LCWR and the implementation of an oversite group of three bishops.

This is a lot of stories to keep up with and it's overwhelming in it's sheer volume for such a short time.  There are trends in all these stories.  For one the priest abuse crisis is far from over.  As more and more information from Philadelphia comes out the more incredulous I am with the perversity with in the Archdiocese.  One sub trend in this testimony is that predators were protecting themselves by threatening black mail against other sexually active priests up to and possibly including Cardinal Bevilaqua.  Which makes me wonder just what is the basis of the 'loyalty' so important to the Vatican in it's promotion of bishops.  Why is it so important that SNAP be silenced?  I'm seriously beginning to wonder if it isn't because too many dots will get connected if SNAP collects too much information from intentionally isolated survivors.

Another trend is the universal and very quick condemnation of any discussion which threatens the existence of the current male celibate priesthood.  Which again, makes me wonder just why it's so important that we not change this system and open it up to at least married men and a female diaconate.  Could it be that the actual version of 'loyalty' this system operates on can't be sustained with married men and women because it has nothing to do with loyalty to Jesus or the Church itself?

Finally, there is the LCWR investigation and it's outcome.  It's pretty obvious the CDF, but especially the USCCB,  somewhat suddenly does not dare trust the LCWR to be left to it's own devices.  One reason I wonder why that is because I am well aware the current head of the CDF was a long time leading member of the USCCB. Cardinal Levada himself does not having a shining record when it comes to clergy abuse.  What do those LCWR sisters, who are after all,  out and about in parishes and other Catholic activities, possibly know about the real comings and goings and doings and not doings of members of the USCCB?  Perhaps it is a great deal too much for their own good.

I wrote last week the flood is coming for the clerical system.  This week points to some serious cracks in the foundation.  It won't be long before the whole clerical edifice is swept away and I imagine the Church will survive this specific flood.  After all, Jesus did say something about the gates of hell not prevailing against the Church and the clerical system is far from the entirety of the Church--no matter what they think about themselves.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Is It Time To Root Out Radical Masculinists From Catholicism?

Some earlier radical feminists who scared the bishops.  Maybe it was because they both wore pointy hats and drank tea.

The latest salvos of salvation from the Vatican have certainly set the Catholic world ablaze.  So much so there must have been some blazing keyboards ignited from all the zeal.  Between the pending rehabilitation of the SSPX and the smack down of the LCWR the blogosphere has been alive with debate.  A lot of acrimonious debate.  A lot of not very Christian debate, and since the Vatican doesn't want laity and religious to debate anything, it's not very Catholic either.

I've read a lot of comments, hundreds and hundreds on the National Catholic Reporter alone.  A number of comments about the LCWR situation stood out, but one really made me laugh, in a good way.  "How come the hierarchy is never accused of radical masculinism."  Good question.  Maybe that's because the Vatican doesn't allow for the concept of radical masculinism because it doesn't have the authority to recognize such a concept. Jesus did after all only ordain 12 men and called God 'Father'.  Of course Jesus also mentioned something about God being like a hen spreading it's wings over it's chicks, but Jesus must not have really meant that, or it was a translation error, or a later add on by some radical feminist masquerading as a male scribe in a monastery and out to undermine Jesus' one Holy, Catholic, Apostolic and very male Church.  I have my doubts we will ever ever get a sermon from Pope Benedict denouncing radical masculinism.  

Seriously though, I think if I were a member of the LCWR I might bring this point up with my very new bishop overseers.  How otherwise will the LCWR recognize their radical feminism without it's dualistic counterpart.  I mean really, much of Church teaching is based on dualistic concepts like God/Satan, good/evil, sacred/profane, bishop/nun. In God's dualistic creation one would think there would also be this very threatening thing called 'radical masculinism' to counter balance 'radical feminism'.  It only stands to reason there would be such a thing and after all Pope Benedict is very much into reason.  

Perhaps we could see radical masculinism added to the next Vatican list of contemporary secularist sins.  Maybe someday we will also see the Vatican link abortion, birthcontrol, pornography, and clerical sexual abuse to radical masculinism because in it's very nature radical masculinism is selfish and ego centered and has thoroughly separated male sexuality from it's procreative roots.  Maybe we could also find the Vatican linking personal power games, the pursuit of greed for selfish gain, the need for domination and control, and demanding obedience and submission without accountability and personal responsibility as other core attributes of radical masculinism.  These could someday be identified as serious deficiencies which need to be rooted out from our male Catholic religious and clergy. 

I suspect the fact none of that will ever happen is the biggest proof radical masculinism is alive and well in the Roman Catholic Church.  In the meantime Sister Simone Campbell of the DC lobbying group Network has her finger on what is motivating both the Vatican and the USCCB :  "I think we scare them." I think they do too. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The CDF Names Archbishop Sartain Overseer Of The LCWR

Seattle Archbishop Sartain is now the Pope of the LCWR.  Hope he's still in the mood to allow for a little choice.

Today we not only get the good news about SSPX, we also get the release of the results of the CDF investigation of the Leadership of Catholic Women Religious. This investigation was initiated in 2009 and should not be confused with the Apostolic Visitation of religious orders under the auspices of The Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life headed at the time by Cardinal Rode, and carried out by Mother Mary Claire Millea.  The CDF investigation was after heresy and dissent.  Gosh darn it all, didn't they find just that. I am shocked.

 The following is the final paragraphs of the letter written by the CDF and given to the USCCB.  It names Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle as the man assigned to head the five year program whose mandate is to get the ladies in line with the Vatican and redo just about everything involved in the LCWR.  He will be assisted by Bishop Leonard Blair, who conducted this investigation for the Holy See, and Bishop Thomas Paprocki who has garnered some fame for his fascination with exorcisms. (Bishop Paprocki is another one of those intellectual bishops from Illinois.)

Therefore in order to implement a process of review and conformity to the teachings
and discipline of the Church, the Holy See, through the Congregation for the Doctrine of the
Faith, will appoint an Archbishop Delegate, assisted by two Bishops, for review, guidance
and approval, where necessary, of the work of the LCWR. The Delegate will report to the
CDF, which will inform and consult with the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life
and Societies of Apostolic Life and the Congregation for Bishops.
The mandate of the Delegate is to include the following:

1) To revise LCWR Statutes to ensure greater clarity about the scope of the mission
and responsibilities of this conference of major superiors. The revised Statutes will be
submitted to the Holy See for approval by the CICLSAL.

2) To review LCWR plans and programs, including General Assemblies and
publications, to ensure that the scope of the LCWR’s mission is fulfilled in accord
with Church teachings and discipline. In particular:
- Systems Thinking Handbook will be withdrawn from circulation pending
- LCWR programs for (future) Superiors and Formators will be reformed
- Speakers/presenters at major programs will be subject to approval by
3) To create new LCWR programs for member Congregations for the development of
initial and ongoing formation material that provides a deepened understanding of the
Church’s doctrine of the faith.
4) To review and offer guidance in the application of liturgical norms and texts. For
8-The Eucharist and the Liturgy of the Hours will have a place of priority in
LCWR events and programs.
5) To review LCWR links with affiliated organizations, e.g. Network and Resource
Center for Religious Life.
The mandate of the Delegate will be for a period of up to five years, as deemed
necessary. In order to ensure the necessary liaison with the USCCB (in view of Can. 708),
the Conference of Bishops will be asked to establish a formal link (e.g. a committee structure)
with the Delegate and Assistant Delegate Bishops. In order to facilitate the achievement of
these goals, the Delegate is authorized to form an Advisory Team (clergy, women Religious,
and experts) to assist in the work of implementation. (Where have we seen this charade acted out before? Oh, I know, with those ever so effective Diocesan review boards for clerical abusers.)

It will be the task of the Archbishop Delegate to work collaboratively with the officers
of the LCWR to achieve the goals outlined in this document, and to report on the progress of
this work to the Holy See. Such reports will be reviewed with the Delegate at regular
interdicasterial meetings of the CDF and the CICLSAL. In this way, the Holy See hopes to
offer an important contribution to the future of religious life in the Church in the United States.


I wrote way back in 2009 that this investigation was aimed specifically to bring the LCWR congregations in line under male leadership, and that the other one conducted by Cardinal Rode was kind of smoke screen.  The Vatican under Cardinal Levada wanted the LCWR leadership muzzled and for political reasons.  This letter certainly states the LCWR will be muzzled.

If readers take the time to read the entire CDF letter, and if you can remember some of the talking points from three years ago, you will laugh.  The letter even mentions the key note address given by Sr Lauri Brink at the 2007 LCWR convention in which she outlined four possible paths that LCWR congregations could take in the future.  She called the third one Soujorning in a New Land not yet Known" and the Fourth one "Reconciliation for the Sake of the Mission".  I knew at the time this third approach had thoroughly upset the Temple Police.  I am hardly surprised this particular speech was singled out in the CDF letter.  I just wonder how many congregations will now take this path rather than put up with the total ecclesial male domination called for by path number four.

April 18th is turning out to be a very sad day for progressive Catholics.  But before more traditional and conservative Catholics take too much delight in this most recent salvo from the Vatican, I hope they think about who the hell is going to foot the bills for the enormous infrastructure of Roman Catholicism when all that's left in the pews is them because the rest of us have gotten the message and left.

Pope Benedict's 7 Year Legacy Maybe Crowned With SSPX

Now I get why everything Pope Benedict does is focused on the right side of things.  It's his right sided glasses.

Pope Benedict turned 84 yesterday and will mark his seventh anniversary as Pope tomorrow.  Today word has come through John Allen that SSPX seems ready to return to the fold.  What a birthday/anniversary present that will be for this Pope since he's spent over one million dollars trying to effect this very thing. The one consistent thing about Benedict is it seems impossible to be too reactionary for his tastes in liturgy and obedience.  The following is from the Irish Times.  It was written by Patsy McGarry.  I suspect she speaks for a lot of us that have moved well past lace, incense, and fear inspired obedience.

Pope has consistently come down on dissent within the church like a hammer

OPINION: TOMORROW is the seventh anniversary of the election of Pope Benedict XVI on April 19th, 2005. The scenes on St Peter’s Square that afternoon illustrated what this divisive figure has meant for his church.

Middle-aged and older people were crestfallen. A man sat at one of the great fountains in the square and wept openly. Around him danced seminarians from the North American College.
Well-scrubbed and in cassocks, they could not contain their glee. “Benedicto, Benedicto, Benedicto,” they shouted. “It’s a regular party,” a seminarian from Pittsburg told this reporter.

For them, the election of John Paul II’s enforcer as pope represented the final defeat of that liberal Catholicism ushered in following Vatican II which they and their mentors see as at the root of all that is wrong in the church today. The rigid certainties enforced by the new pope had so much more appeal for them than the porous, inclusive Catholicism of the previous generation.  (As did ritual magic as opposed to the hard work of practical mysticism.)

Pope Benedict’s views were well-known, as were his attitudes to dissent. As prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger helped to force closed many windows thrown open by Pope John XXIII and Vatican II.

For instance, where ecumenism was concerned and in his infamous Dominus Iesus document of 2000, he dismissed all reformed churches as not churches “in the proper sense”. They were merely “ecclesial communities”. All other faiths were “gravely deficient”. In 1997, he described Buddhism as an “auto-erotic spirituality”. Hinduism was based on a concept of reincarnation resembling “a continuous circle of hell”.
 (The potential addition of SSPX follows this trend of down playing ecumenism.  I can't wait for the spin about this move invented for the Jewish community.)

On celibacy, women priests or women in the diaconate, he was immovable. Similarly on the use of condoms even to combat Aids. On homosexuality he was virulent. In 1986, he described it as a “strong tendency ordered towards an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder”.

Where dissent was concerned he brooked no hostages. It extended to former colleagues such as Hans Küng. In 1966, at Küng’s instigation, the Catholic faculty at Germany’s Tübingen university appointed Fr Ratzinger professor of dogmatics. In 1979, Küng was stripped of his licence to teach because he challenged papal infallibility. In 1981, when Ratzinger became dean of the CDF, he upheld that decision.

In 1986, he stopped US priest Fr Charles Curran from teaching because of his views on sexuality and ethics. A Brazilian, Fr Leonardo Boff, was silenced twice by him, in 1985 and in 1991. Fr Robert Nugent and Sr Jeannine Gramick, who worked with gay people in the US, were sanctioned in 1999. In 1995, Sri Lankan theologian Fr Tissa Belasuriya was excommunicated by him over writings on Mary, original sin and the divinity of Christ. He was later reconciled with the church.
There were so many more. (Over a hundred more--that we know of.)

There is also something deeply insidious about the methods he and Rome use to silence those who disagree, as we have seen in Ireland. You might say Rome has ways of making you “think with the mind of the church” (sentire com ecclesia), in that memorable phrase directed by Rome at Fr Tony Flannery last month as he was told “ . . . to a monastery go!”

The Irish Times has, for instance, been aware for years of the curt silencing of three other Irish priests/theologians as they sought their way to a more compassionate, Christian understanding of human life. All three belong to different religious congregations.

In all instances, the head of their congregation was summoned to the CDF in Rome after anonymous complaint. The congregation head was advised to bring the “dissident” into line. He in turn contacted the congregation head in Ireland. The “dissident” was summoned and confronted with his aberration.
Usually, at local level, the relevant head has been kind. The priest/theologian in each case has been torn between a need to articulate his convictions for the benefit of the distressed and the consequences this for his congregation. Each priest felt he had to accept silence. (This is called forcing compliance through blackmail.)

In each case too, those of us in the media aware of it were asked not to write about this lest the sky fall and bring further misery on the already crushed. So Rome has had its way and through exploiting finer human emotions such as loyalty and respect. Clever? Yes, but hardly Christian.


Odds are Pope Benedict will salute himself with another pontifical prelature ala Opus Dei, or another Ordinariate like he created for the Anglican version of SSPX and all the lace wearing will be draping the bodies of men.  In the meantime I'm breathlessly waiting for the new Papal perfume in honor of this latest move.  Oh wait, Pope Benedict already commissioned his own special cologne.  

Pope Benedict can silence all the progressive theologians he can, and he will, and he can keep bringing into the fold all the reactionary cults he can find, and he will, but he will not be able to stop the flood of information pouring into the light of day about the corruption and criminal behavior of the Vatican and it's leadership.  Surrounding himself with fellow religious tyrants may make him feel safer, but it's a delusion.  The flood is for reform is building and building in one country after another.  Choices are being made and not just by SSPX.

AB Neinstedt took this approach to gay marriage in his edict to his priests, but  parishes and priests in Seattle, when given a choice, refused to load, proving that not all Catholics are compliant intimidated sheep.

In Seattle last Sunday parish laity voiced their opinion about Archbishop Sartain's request for using their parishes to gather signatures for Referendum 74, Washington's version of California's Prop 8.  The following is from the Seattle Post Intelligencer and printed in full because I so seldom see American Catholic laity make their own political statement and I wanted to give full kudos to Fr Tim Clark and the laity of Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church.

Catholic pastor applauded for shunning anti-gay marriage drive

Joel Connelly - 4/17/2012
The congregation at Seattle’s Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church gave the Rev. Tim Clark a standing ovation Sunday when he announced that the parish would not gather signatures for a referendum to repeal same-sex marriage.
The Parish became the sixth in Seattle to opt out of the petition drive for Referendum 74 that has been endorsed and foisted on parishes by Archbishop J. Peter Sartain.

“I am happy to report that Our Lady of the Lake parish-oners have been overwhelmingly and, thus far, unanimously supportive of the decision I made NOT to gather signatures in support of this Referendum,” Clark wrote in response to an e-mail.
“The standing ovation experienced during one of the Masses says less about me and much more about the health of this parish.  I only wished the archbishop could have experienced the sustained applause — the ‘sensus fidelium’ — of the people.  He needs to listen to this ‘voice.’ That is my prayer.”

Other parishes to shun the signature drive have includes St. James Cathedral, St. Joseph Church, St. Mary’s Church, St. Patrick Church and Christ Our Hope Catholic Church.
In several parishes, pastors have said that gathering signatures against marriage equality would, in the words of the Rev. Michael Ryan of St. James Cathedral, “prove hurtful and seriously divisive in our community.”
Archbishop Sartain, in a letter that Clark will place in his parish bulletin next week, asked the Catholic faithful in Western Washington to support Referendum 74.

Opponents of marriage equality need to gather 120,577 valid voter signatures by June 6 to block the state’s new same-sex marriage law from taking effect and put the issue on November’s ballot.
The archbishop said that all persons “should be treated with respect, sensitivity and love,” but reiterated church teachings on sexuality that are eschewed by many American Catholics.
“It is important to remember that all Christians are called to chastity, and sexual intercourse is so intimate and significant that it is intended only for a man and woman in marriage,” said the letter, cosigned by Archbishop Sartain and Auxiliary Bishop Eusebio Elizondo.

“When I first read the archbishop’s letter I was troubled by the content and his intentions,” Clark wrote.  “In conscience, I could not allow signatures to be gathered, to allow the faith to be politicized in this way.
“What troubles me is the message this whole approach sends which I find discriminatory and insensitive.  To follow through with his wishes would be hurtful, divisive and a countersign to what we are trying to foster in this Catholic community in Wedgwood.

“I deeply believe, and say this with boldness, that this approach is not in the mind of Christ.”

Clark is grateful that Archbishop Sartain did leave the decision whether or not to gather signatures to the discretion of pastoral leaders.

The conscience-driven dissent expressed by Seattle-area Catholics has been stifled elsewhere in the nation.
The Rt. Rev. John Nienstedt, archbishop of St. Paul-Minneapolis, is pressing to amend Minnesota’s state constitution to define marriage as only between a man and a woman.
In a fiery letter to priests that also condemned no-fault divorce and cohabitation outside of marriage, Archbishop Nienstedt said he would brook no public dissent from any priest in the archdiocese.
“It is my expectation that all the priests and deacons in this archdiocese will support this venture and cooperate with us in the important efforts that lie ahead,” Nienstedt wrote.
“There ought not to be open dissent on this issue,” he added.  “If any have personal reservations, I do not wish that they be shared publicly.”
Archbishop Nienstedt has also mailed out 400,000 anti-gay DVDs to Catholics in his diocese and refused communion to students wearing rainbows at a diocesan mass.


According to Catholics for Marriage Equality, there are now 15 Seattle parishes and 10 outside Seattle that have opted out of the Archbishop Sartain's signature campaign.  If readers remember, when Fr Geof Farrow took a similar stance in California he found himself out on the street in a nano second with no outward support from his fellow priests.  To me, the fact that at least 25 priests and their parishes have elected not to participate in the Washington campaign is very indicative of how things have changed since 2008.  The USCCB can only punch the fear card so many times before thinking people reject the fear and voice their real truth.

Unlike Archbishop Neinstedt in Minnesota, I have to give Archbishop Sartain credit for allowing parishes to make up their own minds about R 74. That obviously took the courage that Neinstedt doesn't possess.  I do not make the mistake of confusing conviction expressed through edict with conviction expressed through choice.  If one has to mandate conformance to their conviction, that's a sure sign one doesn't believe in their conviction enough to let it stand on it's own merits.  That's about conviction in one's authority, which is the antithesis of Jesus's notions of servant leadership.  This kind of shepherding is akin to penning all the sheep in a semi while you do all the driving.  It's efficient but not exactly pastoral.  

Given the general negative reaction to the USCCB's call for civil disobedience I think our bishops have over played their political hand.  I doubt they will need too many semis to haul their sheep to their demonstrations.  That's a good thing.


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Another Government Investigation Begins In Australia

Chrissy and Anthony Foster were instrumental in bringing about the clerical sex abuse investigation just announced by the State Government of Victoria.  Their personal story is recorded in the book "Hell On The Way To Heaven".

The State Government of Victoria, AU is now the latest government agency to conduct an official probe into clerical sexual abuse.  I have been following this story for the last week or so primarily because it is the first such probe called for because of the number of suicides associated with clergy sexual abuse.  As such, it will have a slightly different angle.   The hyper link in the article will take readers to an earlier article in which more details are given.  A police probe linked 34 of the suicides to just two abusers, both of whom are now serving extended prison sentences.  Unfortunately for many victims, these two men were not imprisoned until they each had been sexually active for over thirty years.

Baillieu bows to pressure on church sex-abuse probe

Josh Gordon - The age - April 17, 2012
The Catholic Church and "religious organisations" are to be subjected to a year-long parliamentary inquiry into the handling of criminal abuse of children. Premier Ted Baillieu today said the inquiry will have powers to compel witnesses to give evidence and to elicit documentary and electronic information and will be conducted by the bipartisan Family and Community Development Committee of Parliament. It is to report to Parliament by April 30 next year.
The Government has come under pressure to hold an independent inquiry virtually since it took office, but the pressure intensified enormously over the past week with revelations in The Age about dozens of suicides linked to sexual abuse by priests.......

......The Government has come under pressure to hold an independent inquiry virtually since it took office, but the pressure intensified enormously over the past week with revelations in The Age about dozens of suicides linked to sexual abuse by priests.
The Age revealed police had detailed the suicides of at least 40 people sexually abused by Catholic clergy in Victoria.
In a damning assessment of the church’s handling of abuse issues, the confidential police reports said it appeared the church had known about a shockingly high rate of suicides and premature deaths but had "chosen to remain silent".
Written by Detective Sergeant Kevin Carson, the reports state that while conducting lengthy inquiries into paedophile clergy, investigators had discovered "an inordinate number of suicides which appear to be a consequence of sexual offending’’.
The reports by Sergeant Carson were dated September last year and February this year. The most recent report details the "premature deaths of young men in the years following sexual assault by Catholic fraternity".
The report links at least 40 suicides to the sexual abuse perpetrated by a small number of paedophile clergy, including Gerald Ridsdale, Bryan Coffey, Paul Ryan, Robert Best and Edward Dowlan.
This morning, Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart told radio station 3AW that some victims of abuse who came to the Catholic Church wanted to keep the matter private.
But he said he would co-operate with any independent inquiry launched into the abuse.
‘‘I would certainly co-operate fully with an inquiry and it may well clear the air,’’ he said.
‘‘With regard to what the inquiry is about and so on, I won’t commit myself until I know what the terms are but ... I said publicly on Friday that we will co-operate fully with any inquiry.
‘‘The matter has got to be addressed and ... there’s so much suffering and awful pain out there and it is just heart-rending to me and to so many others.’’


There are now government probes, trials, and investigations into clerical sexual abuse underway in roughly eight or so countries, plus the legal action at the International Criminal Court put together by SNAP. The scope of this problem is global and instead of abating as time has gone on, is getting larger. The Vatican's spin control has spun out and people's patience has run out. Finally governments are taking action.

The real question for me though, is why it has taken so long for any kind of accountability for either the priest abusers or the hierarchy that hid the problem? Whether it's easy to admit this or not, the reason is all wrapped up in the kind of Catholic culture we all grew up in. The Church dominated our lives. We lived and breathed Catholicism 24/7. This was especially true for those of us in Catholic schools, and even more true for the boys who opted to become altar boys. Catholic priests and religious held a higher authority for us than our own parents did. There is real truth in the stories from Catholics who went to Catholic schools in the fifties and sixties that we all lived in fear of Sister calling our parents, because we knew we were going to get it when we got home. Our parents put their trust in our religious teachers and nothing we children said was going to to impact that trust one wit. Any attention given the family from a priest was incredibly validating in an almost childish way. It was sort of strange to see one's parents reduced to fawning children in the presence of 'monsignor'. But it most certainly drove the point home that priests were of a different, more exalted nature. To question a priest was to question a god, and that deferential attitude only got worse the further up the hierarchical food chain that priest might be. Of course, most everything the Church taught was designed to make it that way.

I don't actually find it surprising that Catholic laity, even laity who had a responsibility to the community as police and prosecutors, shoved the problem back to the bishop. It was almost impossible to conceive of doing anything different. I also don't find it surprising that bishops did what they did because whether it was the deferential laity, the offending priest, or the bishops ecclesiastical superiors, everyone expected them to do exactly what they did---and to do it in silence and secrecy. God forbid the whole fantasy of Catholic culture be exposed for the fantasy it was.

Meaningful change always comes from the bottom up. Given that axiom, the first people to demand change and ask for some accountability were the survivors of clerical abuse. They were the most powerless and the most marginalized and they truly had nothing to lose. Then as more and more information came out, the laity began to demand change. Now, given the rise of priest associations in many countries, this call for change has made it up to the priesthood itself. The ground swell for change has gotten loud enough that our secular powers are now free to take action and we are beginning to see some accountability. The percolating hasn't made it up to the hierarchical level yet, and it may not given the psychological make up of our current hierarchy.

The one thing that has changed, and changed so radically there is no going back, is the suffocating reality of the old Catholic culture. Vatican II had a lot to do with the laity moving beyond that ghetto mentality, and it was furthered by Catholics actually moving out of their particular brand of Catholic ghetto and into the more culturally diverse suburbs. This time frame was a true break with the generational past on a number of levels. Unfortunately no real direction was given to this break, and in fact Paul VI's encyclical Humanae Vitae so muddied the waters that no one really knew which direction the Church was moving. That is until JPII clarified it for us and we began the fruitless attempt to move backwards. In the meantime clerical abuse was handled as it always had been handled. But worse than this, it was expected to be handled that way all through out the very long papacy of JPII. This enabled clerical abuse to continue unabated until the Boston Globe began the exposure of the whole filthy mess in 2002.

Ten years later the percolating continues but it's becoming more of a flood. I suspect it will take a flood of biblical proportions to topple our hierarchy and it's conception of itself. Thank God their own actions are adding more water to the flood. Who knows, perhaps in ten more years some intrepid cardinal will realize the Barque of Peter needs to redesigned in order to survive this flood. Jesus might have guaranteed the survival of the Church, but he didn't say a word about how that church would survive. At the moment though, the task before us is to help more victims become survivors and this inquiry in Victoria is another essential part of that task.