Sunday, March 3, 2013

A Deeper Look At The Issues Invovled In The Cardinal O'Brien Case

I fail to see why this is so hard to understand for the Church.  If the Church ever get this maybe the gay bashing will stop and we will never have to deal with anymore Cardinal Keith O'Brien stories

The following piece from the Guardian/The Observer UK is by Kevin McKenna.  It's a hard hitting op ed on the Cardinal O'Brien case.  I'm not intending to kick O'Brien when he's down, but I'm not unaware of the fact he is not an exception--other than in the sense he's been exposed and he's a Cardinal.  McKenna's piece deals with the fact that there are a lot more priests where Cardinal O'Brien came from and it's critical Catholics get serious about this issue.  It's critical because there are thousands more young gay men who may think they can fix their gay issue in a clerical collar.  They can't and it's time we give them honest alternatives and a great deal of support if they do in fact determine they want to pursue the priesthood.

I have also not lost sight of the fact that Cardinal Keith O'Brien is not the victim in this story.  The now four priests and one ex priest who brought forth their charges are facing their own ordeal.  One does not break ranks in the black line.  I encourage readers to read this link, also from The Observer written by Catherine Deveney.  She was the reporter who originally broke this story, and like Kevin McKenna, she pulls no punches in telling the story of O'Brien's victims and what they've been through in the last week.

Unfit for purpose and in denial: a church that has lost all authority

Kevin McKenna - The Observer - 3/2/2013
Of all the theories advanced explaining why the Catholic priesthood attracts so many young gay men, this is the most valid: it is a direct consequence of the church's official attitude to homosexuality and the way that this has insinuated itself into the fabric of what we might call a traditional Catholic family with its roots in Ireland.

In such an upbringing homosexuality is still treated as the sum of all sins. Catholic families long ago found a way of dealing with abortion, extramarital sex and divorce, the other three horsemen of the Catholic apocalypse, whenever they occurred close to home, but not homosexuality. (This is so true it hurts.)

The others could all be processed and interpreted as very human failings stemming from the powerful instinct of physical desire and our need for affection and love. The Christian virtues of understanding, compassion and forgiveness are built to outlast initial shock and hurt in these "acceptable" moral failings. Not so homosexuality.

For how many Catholic parents have secretly prayed that their son "does not turn out gay" or obsess about their response if the eldest boy shows no interest in football and insists on taking a shower every day and buying all his own clothes? The church's pastoral care and guidance for its own gay community is nonexistent. Catholic gays are non-people in my church; they are "los desaparecidos" and one day many of us will be called to account for how we have treated them.

The church has nothing to say to a child reared in these circumstances and who is beginning to encounter issues with his sexual identity. And so, by a perverse irony, the Catholic priesthood becomes a viable option for him. For what better way to submerge your "problem sexuality" than by committing yourself to a life of celibacy and a lifetime of reflection on the burden that God has deemed you must bear for your redemption and his glory?

Neither of these, though, explains why a church which has become a haven for homosexual men has become so obsessive about warning the rest of us about the dangers of gay sex.

Cardinal Keith O'Brien, Britain's most senior Catholic cleric, has been accused of "inappropriate behaviour" towards four priests, stretching back 30-odd years. Thus far he has refused to "deny" the claims, merely to "contest" them. The press office for the Catholic church in Scotland, by way of explanation, lamely insists that the cardinal does not know the identity of his accusers, nor the details of which he is being accused.

Has such behaviour occurred so many times that the cardinal simply has trouble recalling specific instances? Or might he genuinely think that what the priests describe as "inappropriate behaviour" was merely a misunderstanding arising from an encounter with an over-affectionate and tactile boss?

The sullen "no comments" and "I can't help you" are curious, too. This is an organisation that has become the church's de facto witchfinder-generals, ever vigilant for examples of anti-Catholicism and never missing an opportunity to portray this country as bigoted and backward.

Like the entire hierarchy of the global Catholic church, they are in complete denial about a culture of sexual dysfunction that has been operating at its core for several decades. Hardly a year passes without an example of grotesque sexual behaviour, both homosexual and heterosexual, by a priest or bishop in the church.

The damage to the church is incalculable. In response to last week's Observer story, the historian Tom Devine, a Catholic, described it as the church's biggest crisis since the Reformation. It means that the Scottish Catholic church has lost all authority to speak on matters of human relationships until it at least recognises the root of the problem. Quite simply, the Catholic hierarchy in Scotland is no longer fit for purpose. It hasn't been for a long time now: its default position is denial and concealment before accusing its critics of being motivated by bigotry. (There's probably a big dollop of unexamined self hate and denial as well.)

The Vatican says it will investigate the complaints of the cardinal's accusers. I have very little faith that an inquiry conducted in another country and of indeterminate legal structure and under the authority of another old man in Rome – identity, as yet, unknown – will deliver anything resembling a just outcome.

Nothing less than a full-scale investigation into the structure and leadership of the Scottish Catholic church will suffice to begin the task of recovering its lost authority. The commission to oversee this must be headed by an overseas cardinal of impeccable character and must comprise clergy and lay people in equal measure.

As a matter of urgency, the new pope must extend the gift of marriage to all priesthood candidates. Failure to do that will mean, in less than a generation, a priesthood comprised solely of social misfits and emotionally damaged refugees from reality. Ordinary Catholics have been incessantly grossly betrayed by the Catholic hierarchy. It is time we ignored the weekly collection plate until we receive some answers.


Roman Catholicism has to come to grips with the truth of homosexuality.  It has to come to grips with the truth of human sexuality.  It can not base it's entire thinking about sexuality on the book of Genesis.  It's time the Church grew up.  It can no longer afford to wallow in the hypocrisy and self serving clap trap of it's hierarchical class.  Intransigence in this area serves no purpose for the laity and is utterly undermining the credibility of the bishops.  This is not the end of this kind of story. It's just another opening chapter.  Wait until Africa is placed under a similar spotlight.  O'Brien was utterly contemptible on the gay issue, but that didn't stop him from being right on the married priest issue.  The next Pope has more than one big ugly mess to clean up.  Pope Benedict has left the stage just in time, but then I bet he knew that.


  1. It is definitely time for the Church to grow up already. The leadership is losing the young and the old are getting only older.

    The Pope has left the stage. However, his shadow still lingers on. Here's a link that, well, there has to be a divine message in there, imho.

  2. PS - I love what one of the commenters said at the link above:

    "Lighting, earthquakes, how many messages from the great beyond does it take? This pope said god was asleep? Its Benedict & his cardinals who were comatose."

  3. I appreciate these posts and the call for the hierarchy to change and open the church structure for participation of all followers of Jesus in this tradition. I don't see how any informed person can hope for any iota of that to happen in the lifetime of anyone living today. And why can't adult adherents of the Catholic tradition simply claim the right and empower themselves to be church in the way that they discern they are called to be. Must the red hat society be assigned the arbiter of everyone's spiritual life and faith practice? Be the church you want to see happen in the world!

  4. It's now clear to me why the hierarchy is dead-set against married priests. Because if some could marry, why not all?

    Till our day, a married priest has meant a heterosexual priest. But if the church were to allow priests to marry, they would then have to face "gay marriage" as well.

    And by the time the hierarchy ever gets to settling these issues, the laity will have woken up to the fact that priests are unnecessary anyway. See Gary Wills Why Priests? This is likely the path for the future: Just by-pass the control system set up to benefit clerics on every rung of the ladder. And implement the path of the early church and of Jesus, who never ordained a priest!

  5. I hardly know where to begin. Every cardinal papal elector should reflect deeply about the dynamics that led Cardinal O’Brien, Britain’s most senior Catholic cleric to become at once Bigot of the Year because of his homophobic statements to now resigned primate and resigned cardinal elector and acknowledged serial play mate of priests. They should not dismiss it as the moral failure of one man. Rather it is systemic.

    Tom Divine, a catholic quoted in response to the Observer story states: “It means that the Scottish Catholic church has lost all authority to speak on matters of human relationships until it at least recognises the root of the problem.” I would simply expand that to the worldwide Catholic Church as having no credibility on relationships. I’d also add sexuality.

    I am always amused when some official sexual statement is released by the vatican with great fanfare. There will be numerous references to other official church documents. Never, ever, ever do these documents make a reference to social or behaviorial sciences. This may also be part of the systemic problem and a great irony for a church that on many levels is science friendly.

  6. That's one of the dangers for the institution at this point in time. If they don't do something to reform the priesthood in a meaningful way, many Catholics will come to the conclusion the priesthood is a far bigger liability than necessity. At that point the hierarchy will have no one to blame but themselves, but most likely they will stay true to form and blame anything and everyone but themselves.

    There is no magic man behind the curtain and EPBXVI has given up on the ruby red slippers. For Catholicism there is no going home. There is only going forward into the unknown.

  7. And your last sentence describes the real mission Jesus gave to His followers: "Be the church you want to see happen in the world." The Church is not a noun. It is a verb which is why we must 'be' the Church.

  8. Signs and wonders accompanying a potential change in Catholicism? Isn't that in the Gospels somewhere? Either that or God does have a great sense of humor. LOL

  9. Yes! We are the ones we are waiting for!

  10. There was an earthquake after Jesus died, recorded in the Gospels. "The earth shook" and tombs opened. Lightening and earthquakes etc. are also evidence of theophanies. Along with thunder. But the blind and the deaf continue to ignore them!

  11. Excellent commentary here. Thank you.

  12. I don't know why more of us don't see it that way. Perhaps there are some who still buy into the idea that only a "validly ordained priest" can preside at the Eucharist, and stuff like that.

    For a long time I worried about what a Catholic Church without progressives would be like. When I realized it would be exactly the same, I decided I had no reason to stick around, at least as an active money-contributing participant. (That wasn't the only reason, but it was a big part of it.)

    But it took me a while to get to that place, and different people have different reasons for not having reached it yet.

  13. Wild I think the Church is physical sciences friendly but not social sciences friendly and not all that friendly to certain aspects of the life sciences. Although I couldn't help but notice that bishops will use social science when it's to their advantage. Mahony comes to mind.

    I agree 100%. The Institutional Church can't have much credibility on sexuality if it has so little knowledge of healthy relationships, and especially healthy relationships involving sex.

    I think I'll fall over if anyone in the hierarchy ever admits the Cardinal O'Brien's of the Church represent a systemic problem.

  14. That's a true but sad statement. The Catholic Church with or without it's progressives would be the same Church. Have progressives really been that neutered. It certainly looks like it.

    I guess it also explains in a backwards way why the Vatican is truly afraid of the conservative wing, but not the progressive wing. Operating from fear is a very bad idea because eventually you will create what you fear.

  15. I don't mean to minimize the contributions of progressive Catholics, by the way. I see that you understood what I meant, but I can also see how someone else might not. I'm just talking about the internal workings of the church. Progressives have no influence on how the church functions. The only power we have is the power to withhold our money. Whatever other influence we might have is independent of our active participation in the church.

  16. I agree, TheraP, "the blind and the deaf continue to ignore" the evidence of theophanies. Or, they will in their fear & lack of true faith blame the wrath of God on some poor scapegoats, rather than accept that God is speaking, as a warning to all, to reform, to go and sin no more.

    References to thunder and lightening can be found throughout the Bible. In Exodus 19:16 (New International Version) "On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled."

    References to lightening and earthquakes in Isaiah 29:6.

    Also in Revelations here: 4:5, 6:12, 8:5, 11:13, 11:19, 16:18

    And yes, Colleen, it is both, as TheraP exclaims. It was a small rumble felt at the Castle where the ex-Pope is vacationing. It was felt in Rome too.

    One sign, lightening, is from on high, and the other is from below.

  17. I think that what Jesus meant by "church" is like that which is used in Job as "tent." Our tent, our dwelling, our body that is ensouled with the life of God within. No one but the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit is authorized to "be assigned the arbiter of everyone's spiritual life and faith practice." There are no references to any "red hat society" being in charge of tents that don't belong to them and were not made by them either.

    Didn't Jesus say "Call no one else your teacher?"

    We must be that which we seek to find in the world for ourselves. You say it very well, Pace: "Be the church you want to see happen in the world!"


  18. Isn't McKenna a hypocrite? He never misses a chance to savage the Catholic Church while taking his thirty pieces of silver from Scotland's only (if dire) Catholic newspaper. He's a clown minus the nose (I think) but not surprising that he's gained favour here. As for the Catholic Church "growing up" - gerragrip! It's not the Church at fault - ever met a faithful Catholic with AIDS? Didn't think so.
    Here's what educated Scots think of Mzzzz Deveney and her "victims". She's aimed at the right target (or one of them) but for manifestly the wrong reasons. Do you all KNOW who these "victims" are? Scoundrels, to a man.