Sunday, September 30, 2012

Cardinal Schonborn Drops A Bomb But No One Seems To Have Heard It

Where is the media coverage on the latest doings in the Austrian Church?

The following short article is from Britian's Tablet.  It's about the only Anglo outlet that covered this story, and this little bare bones article would seem to be the extent of the Tablet's coverage.  This is mind boggling to me, because Cardinal Schonborn has essentially announced the Austrian Catholic Church is on life support.

Vienna cuts 75 per cent of parishes

The 660 parishes in the Archdiocese of Vienna are to be drastically reduced over the next 10 years to just 150.
The Archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, made the announcement to a startled audience of journalists at the annual media reception at the archbishops' palace on 20 September. (I can well imagine the media was startled.  Maybe that's why there hasn't been any coverage.)

The main factors behind the restructuring are the declining number of churchgoing Catholics and the shortage of priests. Parishes in the archdiocese will in future be much larger, with three to five priests in charge, one of whom will be responsible to the archbishop. Each of these large parishes will be run jointly by priests and lay Catholics.

Cardinal Schönborn described the move as "probably the greatest structural reorganisation of the Vienna archdiocese for 200 years".  (Maybe since the Reformation.)


Cardinal Schonborn announces this on September 20 and outlets like America, NCR, and Commonweal haven't uttered a peep?  Why is this?  Is it just to stark a story to report?  Maybe.

Cardinal Schonborn is essentially announcing a 75% down sizing in the Austrian Catholic Church.  Off hand I can't think of too many enterprises that have announced this kind of massive cut and still survived.  JPII and Pope Benedict seem to have accomplished their goal of a 'remnant church' in Austria.  Whether this will continue to be a viable church remains to be seen.  I'm not naive enough to think this is strictly an Austrian phenomenon.  I suspect France will be next and more dominoes to fall as time progresses.  It would seem to be a propitious time for a synod on a New Evangelization, but stacking that synod with the cast of characters who did so much to bring about the remnant church hardly seems to be the path of renewal.  Maybe the timing of this announcement is Cardinal Schonborns way of making a point.  Retreating to the past is not a form of new evangelizing and it doesn't work.  

Or maybe it's Schonborn's way of sending a message to his rebellious priests and laity, that in the much smaller Austrian Church of the immediate future, their participation is not necessary.  I would hope that's not the intended message, but in today's Church in Europe who knows.  I do know 400 rebellious priests is more than enough to get a good start on a truly reformed Catholic Church and maybe that's what's in the cards in Austria.  

New Blog Layout

At least I have the sun glasses in common.

I've spent the last week or so fighting a vicious cold and spending way too much time at home.  I got bored and started messing around with the blog format.  I figured if the NCR can do it, so can I.  I kind of like this format because it's got some versatility.  If readers click on any of the options on the header, you can change the presentation of the blog and the content it brings up.  The most recent posts will always be displayed first.  I clicked on the 'mosaic' link and was dumb founded with the number of older posts this displays.  It really does give a mosaic of the posts I have written here for the last four or so years.  I can't believe it's been that long.

To access the old side bar, just slide your cursor to the right hand edge and it will pop up the side bar with all the features I had previously loaded.  I'm going to run this for a week or so and would appreciate reader feedback.  If it's mostly positive I will maintain this look. 

Saturday, September 29, 2012

About Mantillas And Memories

Back in my childhood, when hats were mandatory for Mass, I never quite understood why my official Mousketeer hat didn't qualify, but Kleenex did.  Don't they look innocent?  I think the idea was to keep us all ignorant and innocent.

Heidi Schlumpf wrote an op ed piece on the NCR which has generated a lot of comments.  It's about the burgeoning trend amongst young conservative women to wear head veils and mantillas to Mass. The following is an excerpt, and because I disagree with Heidi that this trend is purposely or inadvertently showing submission to patriarchal society, I edited out all of that speculation.

....If traditionalist Catholic blogs are to be believed, veil wearing in church is making a comeback. The biggest supporters? Young women, who see it as a countercultural sign of their devotion to the church. A recent Facebook photo of a young woman, hands folded in prayer and head topped by a lace veil, garnered dozens of "likes" and comments gushing about how it's an "amazing way to express our faith" and "honor the Blessed Mother," as well as an antidote to "immodest dressing." (Seems like an awful lot of weight to throw on a lace doily.)

Other websites supporting a return to head covering for women note that it's a privilege, not a sign of submission, since the only other "covered" things at Mass are clergy, the tabernacle and the chalice. That's a stretch. Most supporters cite 1 Corinthians 11:5-6, which says that "any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled disgraces her head ... she should wear a veil." (I'd have to say this is a stretch, but it's kind of cute in it's really stretched out grasping at straws.)

It's not surprising that traditional Catholics who prefer their nuns in habits and priests in cassocks would want to get in on the dress-up fun. And I understand the power of a nonverbal message sent through clothing. It's why police officers wear uniforms, gang members wear colors and Packer fans wear cheeseheads.
But some of these enthusiastic would-be veil wearers don't seem to see the contradiction in "getting up the courage" to wear a veil as an in-your-face expression of submission and humility. A few even noted how great a veil is for "blocking out distractions" at Mass, as if fellow worshipers are an annoyance during private me-and-God time.  (Truthfully though, the TLM is designed to encourage the Mass as a private me-and-God time, and too many priests celebrate it that way for themselves.)

A little history (beyond the romanticized "it was better then" type) might be in order. Veils and other head coverings, for both women and men, have had various meanings throughout history, and it is true that style of dress sometimes signified marital status, purity and virginity, or deference before a deity. While men sometimes have covered their heads for prayer (think Jewish yarmulkes), the cultural requirement for women to cover their heads has often extended not just to prayer and worship but to include any time she was in public (think Muslim hijabs). (But in both cases the idea was to suppress the sexual in favor of the spiritual. Dualism has a long rich history all it's own.)
For centuries, the church's interpretation of Paul's (admittedly confusing) words in 1 Corinthians 11 has been that women should cover their heads at Mass -- a tradition that was enshrined into church law in the 1917 Code of Canon Law. Since the 1983 code revision did not address the head-covering canon (1262), veil wearing is no longer required.


I found a lot of the comments just totally fun to read.  The young trads have absolutely no idea what a somewhat diabolical farce this hats in Church for women decree really was in actual practice.  There was no self affirming choice about it. No self respecting mother with daughters ever failed to have at least one clean piece of Kleenex and one bobby pin in her purse.  My mother had to have more than one emergency hat set because she had three daughters.  I can remember more than one occasion in which I seethed with anger because I had to have a stupid piece of Kleenex on my head and my brothers didn't.  No public embarrassment for them.   

Rest assured,  it was intended to be a public embarrassment and humiliation when Father so and so would  comment from the altar that certain uncovered heads were disrespecting their Lord and Savior.  Every daughter's mother would instantly start searching for the emergency hat set. Those lace doilies had really nasty tendency to fall off short clean hair, unless the bobby pin virtually went through your scalp, and gulp, they were so light a somewhat oblivious young lady wouldn't even notice she was sinfully hatless.  Whether intended to be or not, this policy was a true from of sexual othering, and it got to be really oppressive at least in the sense that one's worthiness to be at Mass could be dependent on a piece of Kleenex.  

One thing I wish the young traditionalists would acknowledge is that even though they are attending the same rite that predates Vatican II, they are attending that rite in context of the Vatican II church. What is spiritual choice for them as they understand it, was just another mandated occasion of sin for those of us who actually lived the pre Vatican II church.  There was no choice about incidentals like head coverings for women.  There was only sin and condemnation if one was out of compliance, but the real problem is that the punishment for incidentals was way too often the same as the punishment for serious sin.  There never seemed to be any nuance, and I suppose this got raised to it's most hurtful and yet farcical apex in the Church's sexual morality in which masturbation sent one to hell just like 'real forcible rape'.  Lots of us could never figure out why that was. but too many of us swallowed this kind of thing without ever really looking at it.  We were all too conditioned and all too afraid.  The young trads are not steeped in that kind of conditioning and that kind of fear and they can thank Vatican II for that.

My last thought about this retro trend, is that it's just another example of how the thinking in the 'reform of the reform' is all about externals.  I understand why that is.  It's to the hierarchies advantage to have Catholics entwining their spirituality with externals since the priesthood is the biggest 'external sign of God's grace'. If the priesthood is to be kept on it's pedestal, the Vatican has to put place of primacy on an externally reinforced spirituality.  The problem is Jesus taught the exact opposite.  To follow Him one had to internalize their spirituality, make it the foundation of who one was and from where one acted.  This is not selfishness.  This is removing the external boundaries between oneself and the God who is found with in. When your fellow worshipers are a distraction to your spiritual life, you haven't got an authentic spiritual life in any meaningful Christian sense.  I have come to the conclusion the apparent unbridgeable gap with in the Church is not necessarily between trads and progressives, but between those whose faith is reinforced primarily through external symbols, and those whose faith has been internalized and there for don't prioritize all the external cultural identity markers.

Or to put this differently.  It wasn't the external uniform that made Michael Jordan the basketball phenom he was.  It was his innate drive and ability.  He made the Bulls uniform mean something, not the other way around.  Same thing with the vaunted Yankee pin stripes.  Those pin stripes would be as vaunted as the Cubs pin stripes, except for the fact the Yankee pin stripes were worn by a bazillion Hall of Famers.  So my advice to the young female trads going the mantilla route is this:  God doesn't care what you wear on your head, it's what you actually do with your life.  Live your life well, as an example of truly understanding what it means to follow the Way, and eventually that mantilla on your head may mean something real.  Right now, it just brings back memories of some of the more farcical laws of the old Church.


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

German Court Confirms The Bishops Pay To Pray Decree

Now that the German courts have agreed with German bishops there's no where for a German Catholic to appeal their rights of baptism.

German courts have upheld the Roman Catholic Church's position that if one doesn't pay Germany's church tax, one is not a member of the the Church--at least as far as the State in concerned.  The decision was handed down earlier today.  It was brought about by the 2007 lawsuit initiated by Canon Lawyer Hartmut Zapp.  He maintained that under Canon Law membership in Catholicism was determined by belief and baptism and not by paying any Church tax.  That would be true in the United States, but not in Germany and not in Rome.  In Germany, money talks more about your commitment to Catholicism than your participation in the Church.  The following is an opinion piece written by KIaus Krammer, an editorialist with the multi media group Deutsche Welle.  He takes the position that rights come with obligations and yes, you must pay to pray.

Opinion: You have to play by the rules of the game

Germany's Catholic bishops currently meeting in Fulda are probably hugely relieved – at least the future of church taxes in the country is secure! (I firmly believe this entire thing is aimed at Germany's cultural Catholics who didn't bother to do anything about the Church tax until the abuse crisis. Now that they have, they can no longer be cultural Catholics.)

Can you opt out of church tax and still remain a Catholic? The Leipzig Federal Administrative Court says in a ruling – no. It's a decision that won't come as a surprise to experts who are well-versed in the topic and one that anyone with good common sense would agree with. If you're a member of a community, a club, a party or any other social group, you usually have two things – rights as well as obligations.

It's no different in the Church. Those who leave a group can't complain that they want to continue claiming benefits of membership or filling its posts. (This assumes the only way you can support the Church financially is by the tax.  I can support other aspects of the Church while avoiding bishops. Germans can't.)
The Freiburg “church rebel” Hartmut Zapp announced in 2007 that he was leaving the church as a “body corporate of public law” and has not been paying church tax since. Still, he continues to see himself as a religious member of the Catholic Church. As such, he wanted to continue claiming the full blessings of the Roman Catholic Church.

No partial exit from the Church
Zapp, a retired professor, had reason to hope he would be successful in court. The German episcopacy and the Vatican weren't officially in absolute agreement over the definition of church membership. But this approach of Zapp's has ceased to exist since last week. In a decree blessed by the Vatican, the German Bishops Conference made it clear – either you're a member of the Church with all rights and obligations including church tax – or you're not.

That probably played a role in the federal court's ruling on Wednesday. In a statement, the court said the state was obliged to collect church taxes from church members. Those who voluntarily leave the Church are no longer members of the Church in the eyes of the state, regardless of their motives for leaving the faith.
But the judges also remarked that how religious communities deal with their rebels is the Church's business and not the state's. (I don't think there's much question the German Bishops released their statement last week just before this judicial decision came down in order to influence the decision.  They went to great pains not to call this 'excommunication' precisely to side step a 2006 Vatican objection.)

Beliefs more important than tax
So Hartmut Zapp is de facto no longer a member of the Roman Catholic Church since he left the Church. But that can't stop him from continuing to practice his Roman Catholic faith within the framework of remaining possibilities. And who knows – perhaps he can unofficially receive one of the seven sacraments, since individual priests sometimes give it out of a sense of pastoral responsibility without asking whether the worshipper is actually a member of the Church. (The framework of remaining possibilities is to attend Mass. Period.)

It's doubtful whether this ruling will end the discussion over whether church taxes are justified. The fact that billions will continue to be collected in religious tax doesn't just benefit the Church. The money is used to finance a huge range of social and charitable services and institutions in Germany and around the world. It also ends up helping people who don't belong to any church at all. (And it has been used to enable clerical sexual abuse and the lavish lifestyles of German bishops and these are reasons people don't want to pay it.)

Much more important than the financial aspect is the fact that comprehensive Church membership means a fundamental recognition of a faith-based community. That's despite all the serious criticisms that can rightly be made of the Church as an institution. (Except in their decree, the bishops state you can't separate the institution from the faith. They had to say this in order to pretend this decree has any justification in Canon Law or Church teaching.

It's only when clear limits are set that tough discussions and an atmosphere of constructive debate is possible. And both are sorely needed by the Catholic Church in the face of massive problems in many different areas. (It's pretty hard to have that sorely needed constructive debate when one side sets all the limits and that some of those limits depend on where you happen to live.)


Germany is not the only European country that has a version of the church tax.  Germany is unique because so far it's the only country that has decided to determine lay rights on the basis of whether a financial obligation is met through that tax.  This is most certainly an interesting collusion between Church and State, and one that confuses Catholic sacramental rights with secular authority.  It's a very symbiotic relationship which mostly benefits the position of the hierarchy with in the Church and State.  The State collects the tax but does not supervise it's use by the hierarchy.  That's a heck of a deal.  There are other ways collected tax money can be distributed through religious organizations to benefit everyone in a given nation and put some accountability in the equation.  The US has it's own Faith based initiatives which don't impact the rights of Church members one little bit, but does ask for a certain amount of accountability for the funds---HHS mandate not withstanding.   In Germany the State isn't asking hospitals and colleges to provide birth control as an option.  No, it is actually determining who belongs to and has rights in a given Church and there is no option about it. 

It's not surprising then that the Germans who are most up in arms about this decision of both the State and the Church is the progressive wing.  That shouldn't be surprising since this decision is really aimed at the reformers, the dissenters, those who are very angry about the clerical abuse crisis, and cultural Catholics whose participation is limited to marking passages through life.  German authorities apparently won't put up with Catholics who make their disagreements known through their pocket books. Catholic identity is now officially for sale in Germany.  Which interestingly enough, has irritated German conservatives because dissenters can stay in the Church if they pay the tax and in their view this makes the sacraments for sale to anybody.  Honest to God, Jesus weeps, or maybe He's searching to find his slightly used whip.

This whole idea is just so foreign to me.  I keep waiting for a list of exceptions to the rule, exceptions like poverty, temporary financial straights, fixed incomes, and discernment of commitment, but there has been no word said about anything like this.  It's all pay or you don't pray.  This is truly anti Catholic and the fact it was approved by Rome's German bishop is beyond sad.  This actually reminds me of legal prostitution in Nevada. If you don't pay up front, you don't play and that too is enforced by the State and you can't plead poverty.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Important Words From James & Karen, And They Speak To The Same Thoughts 2000 Years Apart

I thought I'd repost a video I linked to during the last presidential election.  It seems to go with today's readings, especially this one, the second reading from Jame's 3.  The video is Karen Armstrong's 2008 TED address in which she announces the beginning of the Charter for Compassion.  Part of her message is that compassion compels us to go beyond toleration of the 'other' to appreciation for the other.  That's a tough jump, one our current climate is not encouraging, and one I have a difficult time with in regards to a certain institution and some of it's representatives.  First some words from James.

Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist,
there is disorder and every foul practice.
But the wisdom from above is first of all pure,
then peaceable, gentle, compliant,
full of mercy and good fruits,
without inconstancy or insincerity.
And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace
for those who cultivate peace.

Where do the wars
and where do the conflicts among you come from?
Is it not from your passions
that make war within your members?
You covet but do not possess.
You kill and envy but you cannot obtain;
you fight and wage war.
You do not possess because you do not ask.
You ask but do not receive,
because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.

And now some words from Karen.  (I kind of wonder if in James' time we would ever have been allowed to hear any words from Karen.)

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Synod For Evangelization? Or Remaking The Church In The Elitist Image Of Opus Dei

Oh good.  Opus Dei's Greg Burke will get to spin everything that comes out of the Synod for the New Evangelization.

The following article from Catholic News Service is another of those articles that just makes my day.  Looks like the Synod on the New Evangelization will be another one of Benedict's puppet shows:

Pope appoints Archbishop Gomez, 35 others as synod members

VATICAN CITY -- Pope Benedict XVI has appointed Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez and 35 other cardinals, bishops and priests to serve as full members of the Synod of Bishops. (Oh good, Opus Dei.  I bet AB Gomez isn't the only one.)

The papal appointees, whose names were announced Tuesday, will join more than 200 other synod members who were elected by their national bishops' conference, serve as the head of a Vatican office or were elected by the Union of Superiors General, the organization for the heads of men's religious orders.
The synod is scheduled for Oct. 7-28 at the Vatican to explore the theme, "New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith." (Oh good, not one woman will be part of this synod.)

Twelve cardinals, including Australian Cardinal George Pell of Sydney, and diocesan bishops from Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe also were named synod members by the pope. (Oh good, Cardinal Pell will be there.  I'm sure anglo churches will have reason to rejoice in his presence.)

The prelate of Opus Dei, Bishop Javier Echevarria Rodriguez, and the president of the Communion and Liberation movement, Fr. Julian Carron, were among the papal appointees, as were the superiors general of three religious orders of men: the Camillians, the Schonstatt Fathers and the Carmelites.
According to Vatican rules, only priests, bishops and cardinals can serve as full voting members of the synod, but the popes always have appointed laymen and laywomen to be among the synod's experts and auditors. That list is expected to be published shortly. (Oh good, the very head of Opus Dei will be there, and Communion and Liberation.  Where or where is the Legion of Christ representative and Kiko Arguello?)

U.S. Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington was appointed by Pope Benedict to serve as the synod's recording secretary, a key role that involves presenting a broad overview of the topics to be discussed and then summarizing hundreds of speeches by synod members in preparation for the synod's work in small groups to develop proposals and recommendations for Pope Benedict. (Oh good, Cardinal Wuerl will be there, as recording secretary no less. I'm sure he will have a back stabbing knife or two with him, if only to use to excise personally offensive passages in any document.)

The synod members elected by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops are: Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York; Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky.; and Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio. Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson, Ariz., originally elected as an alternate, also will participate instead of Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago, who is undergoing chemotherapy treatment. (Oh good, Cardinal Dolan, AB Kurtz, and AB Garcia-Siller--more Opus Dei sympathizers. Unfortunately for them, the token 'centrist' alternate will also be going.)


It looks to me like the Synod for the New Evangelization will be convened not to celebrate Vatican II, but to put the final nail in it's coffin and to celebrate the final take over of the Vatican by Opus Dei.  Nothing like substituting Catholic elitism for evangelization.  This is indeed something to rejoice in if you are convinced that killing most of what's left of the Church in the West is a good thing.  No question that Pope Benedict and his predecessor have had that goal in mind for the last forty five years.  Better for the Church to take it's marching orders from Opus Dei and Communion and Liberation than leave it up to that agent of religious chaos, the Holy Spirit.  No self respecting wealthy conservative could ever let the mooching rabble dictate God's policies for God's people.  Can't be lettin' the takers destroy the Church of the makers.  Been this way since Constantine.

So much for the teachings of Jesus Christ this Church is supposed to be about.  Much better for a money  and power obsessed right wing church to follow the teachings of Escriva.  No wonder this has all pegged my sarcasm meter.

In Germany: Catholics Must Pay To Pray

The bishops decision in Germany- no tax money, no sacraments- is another major sign of the utter dysfunction in the institutional church's understanding of the message of Jesus.

While we Catholics here in the US have been embroiled in a religious freedom battle of dubious origins, Catholics in Germany are facing a very different religious freedom battle.  The origins of this battle have a history of dubious machinations by the Vatican, machinations the Vatican is still in up to it's neck.  It is now official policy in Germany that if one opts out of the Church tax, one has also opted out of their canonical baptismal rights to the sacraments.  In Germany, it's no longer about baptism, but about money.  The following article is from Euronews and has been edited for length.

German bishops get tough on Catholics who opt out of church tax

By Tom Heneghan, Religion Editor
PARIS (Reuters)- Germany’s Roman Catholic bishops have decreed that people who opt out of a “church tax” should not be given sacraments and religious burials, getting tougher on worshippers who choose not to pay.

Alarmed by a wave of dissenting Catholics quitting the faith, the bishops issued a decree on Thursday declaring such defection “a serious lapse” and listed a wide range of church activities from which they must be excluded.

Germans officially registered as Catholics, Protestants or Jews pay a religious tax of 8 or 9 percent of their annual tax bill. They can avoid this by declaring to their local tax office that they are leaving their faith community.

The annual total of church leavers, usually around 120,000, rocketed to 181,193 two years ago as revelations about decades of sexual abuse of children by priests shamed the hierarchy and prompted an apology from German-born Pope Benedict.

“This decree makes clear that one cannot partly leave the Church,” a statement from the bishops conference said. “It is not possible to separate the spiritual community of the Church from the institutional Church.” (This is certainly an interesting theological point of view.  It has no biblical justification.)

Church taxes brought in about 5 billion euros (4 billion pounds) for the Roman Catholic Church and 4.3 billion euros for the Protestant churches in 2010, according to official statistics. (This is roughly 6.5 billion US.)

 The bishops said the consequences of leaving the church had not been clearly spelled out in the past. Some Catholics have tried to remain active in their parish or have a religious burial despite leaving the church to avoid paying the tax.

The Vatican gave its approval for the decree before it was issued, the statement said.
Catholics who leave can no longer receive sacraments, except for a special blessing before death, the decree states.

They cannot work in the church or its institutions, such as schools and hospitals, or be active in church-sponsored associations such as charity groups or choirs.

They cannot be godparents for Catholic children and must get a bishop’s permission to marry a Catholic in a church ceremony. “If the person who left the Church shows no sign of repentance before death, a religious burial can be refused,” it added.

The bishops conference said local pastors would invite all leavers to meet to discuss their reasons for quitting, explain the consequences and offer a chance to rejoin the church.


It's amazing to me how the Vatican and it's lackey national bishops seem able to punish the laity every which way, but are incapable of dealing with their own failures.  I guess it's OK to squander away, literally steal, or use laity donations for political reasons by our bishops, but it's not OK for laity to say NO to such uses of their donations by not donating.  One would think in a moral church that followed it's own teachings, that their might be a conscientious objector clause for laity who seriously don't want to enable the institutional church in illegal, immoral, or wasteful spending.  One would be wrong to think such a thing. 

I have always been able to separate the institutional church from the spiritual church.  It's one way I've been able to keep my spiritual sanity.  I guess I was wrong because when it comes to money and sacraments, in Germany,  it takes one to get the other.  I think in the old days this was called simony, but I'm sure Pope Benedict has concocted some rationalization for why this isn't so.  I'm sure this rationalization will include some quote or another from some document of Vatican II.  Please excuse me while I puke.

For a different, more wholesome take from the views of another German, Cardinal Gerhardt Mueller, the soon to be head of the CDF,  check out this link from Iglesia Descalza.  It's a translation of his acceptance speech for his honorary doctorate from the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru.  I derived some hope from this speech about a man who will soon have a great deal of influence in the direction of the teaching aspect of the institutional church.  Oh by the way, the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru was just recently stripped of it's right to call itself Catholic, much less pontifical for it's having "gravely prejudiced the interests of the Church".  I guess this must make Cardinal Mueller's honorary doctorate not worth the paper it's printed on.
Perhaps this Peruvian university failed to tithe---or something.  Does this kind of insanity ever end?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Same Thing Only Different

Fr Emmet Hoffman, an acclaimed hero on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation is now an accused sexual predator. Although his story is about the Great Falls/Billings diocese, the Helena diocese is facing similar class action suits about boarding schools and the priests and nuns who ran them.

A point frequently made by fans of conservative Catholicism is that the media focuses on the Catholic priesthood to the exclusion of other sexual abusers.  Normally the comparison is made to the public school system, but the difference in sheer numbers and accounting for what constitutes abuse between the two institutions makes it very hard to compare the two in any meaningful sense. Native American tribes offer a different comparison.  One of the untold stories about the poverty, alcoholism, drug abuse, and social upheaval on our reservations involves epidemic sexual abuse.  I have refrained from commenting on a story I know all too well until it was covered by a major media outlet.  Hence, I have decided to reprint in full a story from the New York Times.  This story describes one reservation, but it also describes the real life existence of children on many reservations.  This story is decades in the making.

A Tribe’s Epidemic of Child Sex Abuse, Minimized for Years

By - NY Times - Published: September 19, 2012
SPIRIT LAKE INDIAN RESERVATION, N.D. — The man who plays Santa Claus here is a registered child sex offender and a convicted rapist. One of the brothers of the tribal chairman raped a child, and a second brother sexually abused a 12-year-old girl. They are among a number of men convicted of sex crimes against children on this remote home of the Spirit Lake Sioux tribe, which has among the highest proportion of sex offenders in the country.

Federal officials are now moving to take over the tribe’s social service programs, according to members of the tribe, government officials and documents. The action comes after years of failure by government and tribal law enforcement officials to conduct proper investigations of dozens of cases of child sexual abuse, including rape. (This is because families protect families, and to some extent, all tribal families are connected in ways whites don't understand. It also has to do with a concept of forgiveness that goes way beyond the typical Christian concept--at least as it's enacted publicly.)

While members of the tribe say that sexual violence against children on the reservation is common and barely concealed, the reasons for the abuse here are poorly understood, though poverty and alcohol are thought to be factors. The crimes are rarely prosecuted, few arrests are made, and people say that because of safety fears and law enforcement’s lack of interest, they no longer report even the most sadistic violence against children. In May 2011, a 9-year-old girl and her 6-year-old brother were killed on the reservation after being raped and sodomized. (Abuse of children by family members is never dealt with well in any society. That's one of the lessons Catholics are not getting about clerical abuse.  They don't want to understand the priesthood is the first family of most priests.)

“It bothers me that it is so accepted, that it is considered so normal. It’s lawless,” said Molly McDonald, who was a tribal judge until March, handling juvenile cases. (Catholics need to understand that this was also true within the priesthood, seminaries, and monasteries.)

The reservation has 38 registered sex offenders among its 6,200 residents, a rate of one offender for every 163 residents. By contrast, Grand Forks, N.D., about 85 miles away, has 13 sex offenders out of a population of 53,000 — a rate of about one in 4,000. In one home on the reservation, nine children are under the care of the father, an uncle and a grandfather, each a convicted sex offender, a federal official said. Two of the children, brothers who are 6 and 8, were recently observed engaging in public sex, residents said. (If the Roman Catholic priesthood had been subjected to the same criminal statutes, the numbers would actually be higher in the priestly reservation.)

“Those little boys are crying out for help,” said a neighbor, who called the Bureau of Indian Affairs Police but said that officers declined to take a report or notify child welfare officials.

Another member of the tribe said that police officers and social workers failed to act after a 9-year-old girl described giving oral sex to a man. (This is an important sentence. Once girls have been co opted, they too become sexual predators of younger males.)

Neither the tribe nor the federal government provided current figures on abuse, but in 2007 there were 26 confirmed cases of child sexual abuse and nearly 10 times as many allegations of abuse or neglect. Ms. McDonald said she presided over 20 to 30 cases of child sexual abuse each year. In 2011, fewer than a dozen cases of sex crimes against children were prosecuted by either the tribe or the federal government, which has jurisdiction, according to federal and tribal records. (This is not so far off from statistics about abuse in the priesthood.  There are way more accusations than prosecutions.)

Betty Jo Krenz, a former tribal social worker, said she oversaw 131 children — 100 more than the state’s average caseload. In some instances, members of the tribe say, there are generations of victims from the same family who have been preyed upon by generations of child rapists from other families. Others abuse their own children, including one tribal government employee who publicly complained that his young daughter had bitten his penis, according to a relative of the man and a federal official. (It is multi generational, and that too, is true of the priesthood. Only in the case of the priesthood it's about centuries.)

Federal agencies, however, have sought to minimize the extent of the problem, including disciplining employees who have spoken publicly about sexual abuse and questioning the competence of others, according to federal and tribal officials. (Ring any bells?)

Thomas F. Sullivan, a director of the federal Administration for Children and Families, who has emerged as a crucial whistle-blower, is among those who have been prevented from speaking to reporters, he said. Still, his periodic reports to his superiors in Washington have been blistering.

“If we fail in our role as leaders, we will deserve the same condemnation society so correctly applied to those leaders at Penn State and in the Catholic Church who, knowing of the abuse being inflicted on children by their colleagues, did nothing, failing in their basic obligation to protect children,” Mr. Sullivan wrote last month to his supervisors.
And weeks before the scheduled federal takeover on Oct. 1 of the reservation’s social service system, which is responsible for the care of the tribe’s sexually abused children, senior staff members at the Bureau of Indian Affairs continued to play down the issue.

Some Spirit Lake Sioux say that because few arrests are made, they do not report even the most sadistic crimes against children.

Hankie Ortiz, deputy bureau director of the Office of Indian Services, said the news media and whistle-blowers had exaggerated the problem. “Their social service program has made steady progress,” Ms. Ortiz said, adding that she was unable to discuss specific cases under privacy laws or because she was unaware of them. (Catholics have certainly heard this one before.)

Roger Yankton, the tribe’s chairman, did not respond to requests for interviews. (and this one.)
But in a letter published last month in The Devils Lake Journal, a local newspaper, tribal officials cast blame on whistle-blowers and a lack of federal money.

“The tribe’s elected leaders and its people are well aware of the gravity and difficult nature of these problems,” the letter said, “particularly because we live with their consequences every day.”

But members of the tribe say their leadership has often sought to hide abuse.

Ms. McDonald said that the police investigated sex crimes against children only if a victim requested hospitalization, and that tribal leaders frequently sought to sway judges’ opinions improperly. She said she was forced to dismiss many cases because social workers forgot to submit required paperwork. (I seriously doubt 'forgot to submit required paperwork' are the operative words.)
“The perpetrators know they can get away with it because the authorities don’t do anything,” said Joanne Streifel, a tribal elder.

Among the sex offenders is Quentin Yankton, 61, who stands 6 feet 5 inches and is a brother of the tribe’s chairman. He was first convicted of raping a child in 1976, state records show. In 1992, he was convicted of a similar crime after he forced his 15-year-old niece into sex. The girl became pregnant with twins, and DNA analysis showed that he was the father.

Mr. Yankton told the police, according to court documents, that he thought he was entitled to have sex with his niece because she told him that she had previously been sexually abused by her father.
(No comment, as it deserves no comment.)
Mr. Yankton was sentenced to 12 years in prison. The girl’s father was never prosecuted, but Alfred Longie, 67, a half-brother of the men, was convicted in 2008 for undressing and rubbing the genitals of a 12-year-old who had passed out after he had given her alcohol.

Joseph Alberts, 59, who plays Santa Claus for the tribe, was convicted of rape in 1983, and in 1986 was found guilty of committing lewd acts with a child under 14 on four different occasions. He served one year in jail for that crime and 18 months for the rape.

In another case, after a woman tried to burn down her house with her 5-year-old daughter inside, the girl was put in a foster home where a sex offender was living, according to Mr. Sullivan and a member of the tribe. Once the foster parent’s criminal record was discovered, the tribe removed the child and put her back in her mother’s home.

But when the child proved too much for the mother to care for, Mr. Sullivan said, she sold her daughter back to the family of the registered sex offender for $50 and a ride to Grand Forks.
 (In the Pacific Northwest and Rocky Mountain regions, Native American children in foster care are 5 times more likely to die in that care, than any other racial group. Obviously the sexual abuse is part of that equation.)


I have spent my time on more reservations discussing this abuse culture than I ever have spent in Catholic churches discussing the abuse culture in the Roman Catholic priesthood.  I have heard many Native American elders who were truly disgusted, and also baffled, as to why this is happening to the extent it's happening on their reservations.  No question alcohol and drugs are a huge part of it, but they also think it was the collision of white culture with their own culture.

I wrote above that this is generational and it is. Most of it in Native families can be traced back to the 1870's thru the 1930's when Native children were place in religious boarding schools. Guess what happened there.  In my own diocese of Helena there are two major class action law suits involve some 200+ natives against the diocese, the Jesuits and the Ursulines.  The Jesuits and Ursulines ran Western Montana's boarding schools.  It didn't' take many abusers to infect Native families, and I don't mean to imply this is exclusively a boarding school problem.  I do believe though, that sexual abuse of children was not part of Native culture until after they met white culture.  Couple sexual abuse with zero tolerance for the white man's alcohol and you have a recipe for disaster--generational with little end in sight.

This link will take you to the response of Bishop George Leo Thomas to the multiple law suits brought by Native Americans against the Diocese of Helena.  I feel bad for all the parties in this law suit.  What should have happened didn't happen for over a 140 years and has been passed on by five generations. Generational abuse is really difficult to heal, whether it's in tribes or clergy.  Jesus knew that which is why He had something to say about millstones around necks.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Fundamentalism And The Dalai Lama--And The Mess In The Middle East

After this weeks riots in the Middle East and the death of our Libyan ambassador, I have to say I think the Dalai Lama is on target.  It's time the world looked past religion, with all it's tribalism, and reach for a secular ethics we can all agree on.  From Huffington Post:


Dalai Lama Tells His Facebook Friends That 'Religion Is No Longer Adequate'

dalai lama
The Tibetan religious leader was quoting from a book he published last year, entitled "Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World," in which he argues that religion by itself may no longer provide a satisfactory solution to the ills of the world.
"Any religion-based answer to the problem of our neglect of inner values can never be universal, and so will be inadequate. What we need today is an approach to ethics which makes no recourse to religion and can be equally acceptable to those with faith and those without: a secular ethics," he wrote.
In a review of the Dalai Lama's work, however, the Los Angeles Times notes the 77-year-old Buddhist monk was by no means "denouncing faith," but rather highlighting the need for a universally shared ethos that is rooted in compassion and is relevant in this modern age:
A metaphor the Dalai Lama likes to use goes like this: The difference between ethics and religion is like the difference between water and tea. Ethics without religious content is water, a critical requirement for health and survival. Ethics grounded in religion is tea, a nutritious and aromatic blend of water, tea leaves, spices, sugar and, in Tibet, a pinch of salt. "But however the tea is prepared, the primary ingredient is always water," he says. "While we can live without tea, we can't live without water. Likewise, we are born free of religion, but we are not born free of the need for compassion."
Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, the Dalai Lama has long been a vocal advocate for compassion, religious tolerance and the need to bring together science and spirituality in the face of modern suffering.
In his 2005 book, "The Universe in a Single Atom: The Convergence of Science and Spirituality," he wrote:
The great benefit of science is that it can contribute tremendously to the alleviation of suffering at the physical level, but it is only through the cultivation of the qualities of the human heart and the transformation of our attitudes that we can begin to address and overcome our mental suffering... We need both, since the alleviation of suffering must take place at both the physical and the psychological levels.
For his dedication to science (particularly neuroscience) and its positive application in the world (both physically and spiritually), the Dalai Lama was awarded the Templeton prize this year.


I really wish Catholic leadership would take a few notes from some of the Dalai Lama's talks.  Catholicism can't keep insisting on 'Catholic Identity' as opposed to living a compassionate Christian life, especially in a world torn by sectarian beliefs.  What the world really needs is less self identity and more identification with the rest of the planet as we are all in this mess together.  I have to give Pope Benedict great credit for staying out of the sectarian issues in Lebanon and focusing precisely on this issue of seeing similarities and not differences.  In addition he stressed the need for Christians of all denominations to put aside their own issues and be a source of peace and compassion in an area that sorely needs it.  Now if only he could integrate recent scientific, or for that matter even older scientific knowledge, with Catholic doctrine.

In other news from the Middle East, Jayden Cameron (Gay Mystic) has a link to a very disturbing report from the blog Boiling Frogs.  The article details the US CIA's involvement in promoting the very Islamic militant fundamentalists now causing such havoc in the Middle East over the movie Innocence of Muslims.  The more information I read about this movie and it's producers, the more I can readily believe this is a false flag operation promoted by the Intelligence agencies of the US and Israel and is aimed at fostering enough outrage in the First World to authorize another preemptive war on Iran.  That's the whole trouble with religious fundamentalism.  It's various adherents can be led but not reasoned with and so we are looking at another precarious time in which big things could very well be afoot, precipitated and planned by the worst kind of folks the first world has to offer.

This is certainly one of those times when the prayers of all peace loving people are sorely needed.  This kind of consciousness can only be changed by prayer, compassion, and meaningful acts of resistance.  I can easily believe Benjamin Netanyahu will authorize a preemptive Israeli strike on Iran, and do it for two reasons, first because he has always wanted to, and secondly because it would have serious effects on President Obama's re election campaign.  Old energy will not go down easily and unfortunately, we may be right on the brink of another stupid self serving war.


Sunday, September 9, 2012

Bishop Morlino Denies He Is Endorsing Ryan--Just All Of Ryan's Ideas

Maybe Pope Benedict is behind Bishop Morlino's need to be a right wing politician while pretending to not be a right wing politician.  Or maybe Bishop Morlino is just asking for penance for his service to the School of the America's, or WHINESEC as it's now known in military double speak.

Catholics find fault and blessing with Ryan's politics

 Doug Erickson - Wisconsin State Journal - 9-9-2012
For months, Janesville Congressman and now Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan has spoken passionately about how Catholic social teaching helped shape his budget priorities.
And for months, leaders within his own denomination have ripped him.

A committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops blasted his federal budget approach for "unjustified and wrong" cuts to the poor. A busload of nuns motored through nine states, including Wisconsin, contending his fiscal priorities are "immoral" and would "devastate the soul of our nation."

But in Ryan's own Catholic diocese, the reception has been much more nuanced, even flattering at times. Ryan attends St. John Vianney Parish in Janesville, a church of about 1,400 households in the Madison Catholic Diocese.

While never commenting on specific budget proposals, Madison Catholic Bishop Robert Morlino has described Ryan as a Catholic in good standing and vigorously defended Ryan's right — and the right of any prayerful Catholic layperson — to form conclusions about the best ways to help the poor. (That may be true for Morlino about helping the poor, but its not true about how we should vote.)

"The fact that we're friends does not cloud my judgment when I say he is an excellent Catholic layman of the very highest integrity," Morlino said of Ryan on a Catholic radio show last month. (I am not totally convinced Morlino understands integrity.  I seem to remember a very messy law suit with the Phoenix Group over a $350,000 contract Morlino didn't feel like paying because Phoenix wouldn't violate the confidentiality of the respondents of the survey they did at Morlino's request.)

In a column Aug. 16 in the Catholic Herald, the newspaper of the diocese, Morlino wrote that Ryan "is aware of Catholic social teaching and is very careful to fashion and form his conclusions in accord with (Catholic principles). Of that I have no doubt." Morlino said he felt compelled to mention the matter "in obedience to church law regarding one's right to a good reputation."
In the same column, Morlino said it is not for bishops or priests to endorse particular candidates or political parties. (Nudge nudge, wink wink.)

Similar approaches
Diocesan spokesman Brent King said Morlino is not speaking to secular media outlets about Ryan because his comments too easily get interpreted through a political lens. The bishop also feels he has said enough about Ryan, King said.

However, Morlino agreed to an interview with the State Journal on related issues, such as Catholic social teaching and government's role in people's lives. While never mentioning Ryan, Morlino laid out a world view closely aligned to the congressman's, one in which charitable giving is the preferred method to aid the poor, and big government is to be eyed warily.

"If people begin to look to government for everything, that's how we get toward a state-imposed socialism, which is never acceptable from a Catholic point of view because it's contrary to reason, which says that human labor should yield its fruits, and that those who labor own the fruits," Morlino said.
(I've always had a certain amount of trouble figuring out where Morlino is coming from. I don't have any idea where he gets the 'fruit thing'. Laborers do not own the fruits of their labor. Their corporate bosses do.)
Those with an abundance are obligated to share with those who lack basics, Morlino said, but the best way to do that is at the level closest to the people in need, a Catholic principle called subsidiarity.
"It's just common sense," Morlino said. "In other words, if I can help you directly, why should we bring it to the mayor or the government or the president of the United States, if I can just help you?" (Because most people do not lend a lot of help to people they don't know and in some cases the need is so vast it can't possibly be handled by individual charity.)

Charity first
Charitable giving respects individual freedoms and reduces bureaucratic costs, Morlino said. However, charity can't do it all, and government has a responsibility to those who are poor, especially in times of profound need, such as a natural disaster, he said. (In theory bureaucratic costs might drop, but there are a large number of charities whose overhead is astronomical.  Like Priests for Life.)

But in general, governments "should not be in the business of distribution of wealth," Morlino said.
Ryan has said similar things, invoking subsidiarity to bolster his view that the current "unsustainable" growth in government entitlement programs ultimately will hurt the poor.  (Please see the previous post on this blog.)

"If we keep growing government in debt," Ryan told EWTN, a Catholic television network, "we will crowd out the civil society — those charities, those churches, those institutions in our local communities that do the most to actually have a human touch to help people in need. That's what we want to empower. That's what we want to improve on." (Just how far would Catholic hospitals and Catholic Charities get without direct government assistance or programs like medicare and medicaid? Not very far.)

Sure does look to me like our most politically right wing bishops have decided they need to come up with some more forms of double speak to hide their blatant political activity.  The one thing I appreciate about Bishop Morlino's double speak is it centers on interesting ideas about subsidiarity and really exaggerated notions of American socialism.  He doesn't seem to be getting into gay marriage and abortion as much this election season as he did last season.  That's sort of a refreshing change.
On the other hand I keep waiting for some bishop, I suppose it won't be Morlino, to bring up the fact Ryan has changed his position on abortion in favor of Mitt's position--whatever that happens to be today, and that Mitt was affiliated with Stericycle.  I'm not getting why if abortion is the single thing on which we 'TRUE' Catholics have to make our voting decisions, that there hasn't been a peep about the Romney/Ryan ticket.
Maybe that's why all of a sudden Bishop Morlino is suddenly interested in subsidiarity and socialism--and not distributing wealth except via defense spending for Lockheed and WHINESEC.  
For those interested in a fairly comprehensive review of Bishop Morlino's tenure in Madison, here's a good link.  It's pretty impressive.

Coporate Welfare, Defense Spending, And Real Threats To Our Security

The F35 is the poster child for corporate welfare boondoggling.  No wonder Lockheed Martin is numero uno on the corporate pig list.  Unfortunately, eight other countries are also providing billions in slop for this pig.

I haven't written too much about politics lately but it isn't because I'm averse to swimming in those particular toxic waters.  I wanted to wait until after the conventions.  I wanted to see if either party would mention some of the real glaring issues this country needs to address if we are ever to get serious about budgeting woes.  Neither party really gave much in the way of particulars as to how we might accomplish that other than to concoct a few sound bites about taxes and welfare spending.  Bill Clinton was the only speaker who came close to dealing in real numbers.

I decided to look at which corporations slopped the most at the Government trough, because it is the lobbyists from these corporations who have the most real political influence in the US.  The following list is from the 2010 list, compiled by the US General Services Administration, of the top 100 trough feeders.  I have chosen to list the top 10.  I didn't find it the least bit surprising 8 of the 10 are primarily defense contractors, and the companies not listed as defense, Oshkosh Trucks and UTC most certainly provide hardware and services for the military.

1 Lockheed Martin Corporation (NYSELMT) Aerospace and Defense $35,828,421,340.83

2 The Boeing Company (NYSEBA) Aerospace and Defense $19,486,294,255.83

3 Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSENOC) Aerospace and Defense $16,797,921,451.22

4 General Dynamics Corporation (NYSEGD) Defense $15,249,055,811.75

5 Raytheon Company (NYSERTN) Aerospace and Defense $15,245,234,506.52

6 United Technologies Corporation (NYSEUTX) Conglomerate $7,721,459,648.98

7 L-3 Communications Holdings Inc. (NYSELLL) Communications and Defense $7,445,106,575.43

8 Oshkosh Truck Corporation (NYSEOSK) Trucks and Vehicles $7,243,489,906.25

9 SAIC Inc. (NYSESAI) Technology and Defense $6,796,280,361.66

10 BAE Systems plc (LSEBA.) Aerospace and Defense $6,561,185,112.84

The total defense budget for the US was an estimated 1.1 to 1.4 trillion dollars.  The variance is due to estimates paid in interest to foreign countries (China) for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.  This figure also includes most of NASA's budget,  a huge chunk to the Department of Energy for nuclear weapons, Homeland Security, the NSA and other intelligence agencies, and Veterans Affairs and pensions.

Both political parties are actually calling for reduction in defense spending.  The Republicans about 12% and the Democrats 22%.  For me there were three really mind blowing statistics in the second linked article.  The first is I spend about 45% of my tax dollars on defense spending.  The second is that while the tonnage of the US Navy is down from the Cold War, it is still larger than the next 12 biggest navies combined, and 10 of those twelves navies belong to our allies. The third mind blower was this:

Again in 2011, the GAO could not "render an opinion on the 2011 consolidated financial statements of the federal government", with a major obstacle again being "serious financial management problems at the Department of Defense (DOD) that made its financial statements unauditable".

In December 2011, the GAO found that "neither the Navy nor the Marine Corps have implemented effective processes for reconciling their FBWT." According to the GAO, "An agency’s FBWT account is similar in concept to a corporate bank account. The difference is that instead of a cash balance, FBWT represents unexpended spending authority in appropriations." In addition, "As of April 2011, there were more than $22 billion unmatched disbursements and collections affecting more than 10,000 lines of accounting."

That last little line about the $22 billion in unmatched disbursement and collections?  Here's a way to comprehend what that really means.  In the same year 2010, the government spent 17 billion on TANF, or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.  Which means the Navy and Marines are losing track of more money than we are spending on welfare assistance.  Gosh, I wonder why I didn't hear about this at either convention?

I do have to point out that the SNAP budget, otherwise known as food stamps is separate from TANF. It has gone up from about 32.9 billion in 2007, just as the Great Recession started to hit with it's massive increase in unemployment,  to an estimated 75 billion in 2011.  I don't think there is a better statistic to illustrate how much the Great Recession has hurt the American populace than this one.  

The politicians aren't really talking about this in any meaningful way, but we as a country have to decide where our priorities lie. It can't just be babbling about changes in medicaid/medicare, social security and welfare.  It also has to include our entire strategy for what constitutes our defense/security priorities in view of future challenges, and a rapidly changing world, because defense numbers are staggering.  That pretty F35 pictured at the top of this post is now estimated to cost over 1 trillion dollars for the initial purchase cost and lifetime operation of this one fighter system.  That's just one system.  We have a whole lot more of these systems and yet, we also have a crumbling infrastructure.  Seems to me jobs are jobs.  The government can create them by buying the engines of war or they can create them by fixing our very necessary infrastructure.

Some very smart people are suggesting the US's real security issue is it's unemployment level and escalating poverty. I happen to agree.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Two Stories, Two Men, Same Problem

No word from Cardinal Dolan about Bishop Finn's guilty finding, and no word from Cardinal Dolan on Fr Groeschel's spewing too much honesty.  Funny, since Dolan has collaborated with both of them.  "Et tu Tim?"

I've been following the Fr Groeschel and Bishop Finn stories and have to say I have been truly saddened by the underlying implications. Too many of our clerical leadership still do not get clerical sexual abuse, but even sadder, seem incapable of processing clerical sexual abuse because they themselves are clerics.  And the other implication from these two stories is the more orthodox the clerical leader, the less their ability to rationally deal with clerical sexual abusers.

I don't honestly know if this apparent lack of rationality is intentional, in order to protect the priesthood, or if it's truly from being blinded by their own priesthood.  Here's a quote from Bishop Finn to a gathering of his diocesan priests that illustrates the 'blinded by their own priesthood' kind of thinking.  It's taken from Laurie Woodstein's article in the NY Times;
"After Father Ratigan was arrested, Bishop Finn met with his priests. Asked why Father Ratigan was not removed earlier, the bishop replied, according to the testimony, that he had wanted “to save Father Ratigan’s priesthood” and that he had understood that Father Ratigan’s problem was “only pornography."

There are two things in the above quote which I find particularly striking.  The first is Finn's admitted desire to 'save Father Ratigan's  priesthood" and the second is Finn describing Ratigan's problem as "only pornography". 

The first is the sentiment of someone who put the man's priesthood ahead of the man's needs. After all, Ratigan did immediately attempt suicide once Finn's vicar, Robert Murphy confronted him.  Rather than send Ratigan to a local  psychiatrist,  Finn sent him to an out of state psychiatrist affiliated with Opus Bono Sarcedotti.  OPB is yet another Tom Monaghan/Legatus funded right wing organization.  One of the reasons for it's existence, other than functioning as sort of a job placement agency for accused priests, is to defend priests from false allegations. The psychiatrist, Richard Fitzgibbons, returned Ratigan back to Finn after a 48 hour stay with a report that Ratigan suffered from depression and was most likely a victim of unfounded harassment from school principle Julie Hess. Poor Fr Ratigan was not any sort of pedophile or clerical abuser.  Since Ratigan has subsequently pleaded guilty to federal counts of pornographic production and was placed on a suicide watch, it seems Dr Fitzgibbons let his agenda blind him to the real needs of his suicidal patient.  Exactly like Bishop Finn couldn't see past Ratigan's dog collar to deal with the real severely hurting human behind the collar.  For both men it was about 'saving Ratigan's priesthood', and not his life.  I didn't write that last sentence to make a victim out of Ratigan, but to illustrate the point that if Bishops like Finn can't even see the human need in their own priests, why in the world would we ever expect them to identify with the victims of those priests?

The second thing which I find striking is the 'only pornography' statement.  This is coming from the same man who wrote a 2007 pastoral letter on the insidious and soul destroying effects of pornography.  I don't get the implications of his observation it's 'only pornography' in regards to Ratigan.  Does he not write his own pastoral letters? If he does write those letters, does he not really believe what he writes? Or is it that he believes pornography doesn't have the same soul destroying effects on the more ontologically gifted cleric?

On to Fr Groeschel.  This story has generated enough print that one more story from me is hardly necessary, but I do have one point to stress.  The observations Fr Groeschel made to the National Catholic Register are the exact observations he has consistently made since the abuse crisis exploded in 2002.  In stories which report on his therapeutic work with offending priests he gave some of them the exact same excuses that Richard Fitzgibbons gave Shawn Ratigan:  depression and alcoholism.  These priests were victims of other issues rather than being pedophiles or abusers.  Groeschel most certainly blamed at least one victim for colluding in their abuse.  Groeschel also advocated the same line as Bill Donohue that the press was 98% wrong and pushing the abuse story out of anti Catholic animus.  

The connection between Bishop Finn and Fr Groeschel is the same connection they have with many other self described orthodox priests, bishops, and cardinals.  The reputation of the Church and the preservation of their own offices comes first, and these two self identifying marks are so closely intertwined, these men can't separate one from the other.  In other words, a media expose on the Church becomes a personal attack on Fr Groeschel, and a media expose of Bishop Finn is twisted into an attack on the Church.  In addition both of these men share the same lay enablers-- Tom Monaghan and Bill Donohue--who have taken on the crusade to see that this same confusion also exists in the minds of orthodox laity. 

Unfortunately all this accomplishes is to keep the Church from moving forward, victims from healing, and pretty much assures the same abuses and cover ups will continue.  After 10+ years of relentless exposure there is one big difference.  Neither the Bishop Finn's of the Catholic world, nor the Fr Groeschel's of the Catholic world get a free pass from laity or secular authorities.  They are finally accountable to forces outside their own egos.