Friday, May 31, 2002

"The Faith is pragmatic or it is an abandonment of the truth." -- unknown

"Fidelity to roots does not mean a mechanical copying of the patterns of the past. Fidelity to roots is always creative, ready to descend into the depths, open to new challenges, alert to the 'signs of the times.'" --John Paul II

"Indeed, the Catholic Church is set apart and distinguished by these three characteristics: unity of doctrine, unity of organization, unity of worship. This unity is so conspicuous that by it all men can find and recognize the Catholic Church." -- Pope John XXIII: Ad Petri Cathedram

I would love to start a discussion on identifying and implementing Catholic answers to the Church's current troubles rather than purely American solutions. (See wednesday's post) How do we as Catholics address this problem without violating our institutional structure? What can we, as lay Catholics, do to diminish the current dysfunction and to minimize the possibility of it's reappearance?

Since I don't know that any one reads my posts, I'm not sure how to go about this. If any one does stop by, I would love your take on this

I cleaned up and posted my earlier comments on the nature of Catholic hierarchy in the sidebar

Thursday, May 30, 2002

For some fabulous quotes from St Catherine on the priesthood, visit Disputations. The quotes were posted on Friday, May 24th.

I am obviously behind in my reading but I had to mention them since they filled me with such joy!

Wednesday, May 29, 2002

Reflections on the Dallas conference now appear in the sidebar as Silver Coins

Tuesday, May 28, 2002

I've been trying to clean up my site today to make it more readable so I didn't have time to post anything.

I'll start posting again tomorrow.

Friday, May 24, 2002

I've not much time today so I'll just post a quote:

"When you die, you carry in your clenched hand, only what you gave away."

I haven't a clue who said it, but I'm sure it's worth passing on.

Thursday, May 23, 2002

"By presuming to anticipate judgment here and now, people put themselves in the place of God and set themselves against the patience of God."

Wednesday, May 22, 2002

A hymn for reconciliation between our shepherds and our sheep
We will walk with each other, we will walk hand in hand...
And together, we'll spread the news that God is in our land
And they'll know we are Christians, by our love, by our love,
And they'll know we are Christians, by our love.

My understanding of the Church is that as long as there are Catholics in this world, her robes will always be dirty. I would rather stand in her soiled garments, (assuming, as my own, Her communal sin, participating in Her communal penitence, and sharing in Her powerhouse of faith) than stand naked in my own disgrace.

I don’t practice unthinking obedience to the Church (...although I do think that it's better than disobedience). I do practice thinking obedience. I believe in the holy Catholic Church. I believe that She is far wiser than me. I try to conform myself to her and hopefully to "think with the Church".

Perhaps, I' m particularly blessed. My bishop is orthodox in his teaching and in the liturgy. He's never asked me to violate my conscience. [No one in the clergy has ever asked me to do so.] He's a good shepherd ... and a lousy cop. I suspect that if he were a policeman, he might make a fine cop and a terrible shepherd. ... Who's to say?

My all-time favorite movie (at least today) is a Man for All Seasons. It's so quotable. Take for instance, the opening scene. Thomas More has guests in his home and they're all engaged in some idle bantering. In one quick exchange, More (the author of Utopia) is teased that "in Utopia, all priests are holy." And some one else laughingly chimes in "And therefore very few". Priests are men of God. Both the frailty of our humanity and the grace of divinity are operative.

I read somewhere that ...a war over religion is no different than two men fighting over who has the best imaginary friend.... I'm not sure why but I find this idea charmingly irreverent. I guess, more often than not, I am 'guilty as charged,' I need constant reminding that God isn't made in my image and likeness

On one Catholic blog site, there's mention of Bishop Curtiss exercising his legitimate authority as bishop in what appears to be a patiently corrective manner . Did I miss something or has obedience become the latest virtue to be transmogrified? I guess that would make rebellion a virtue and Lucifer a hero.

Just a thought - A great deal of Catholic criticism of our bishops seems to have moved beyond fraternal correction into something approaching sanctimonious condemnation. Of course, so does some of our fraternal correction. [Mea culpa]. It helps to remind ourselves that "there but for the grace of God, go I." Every day, I thank God that I am not subject to the 'loving fraternal correction' that our bishops have been enduring.

Perhaps humiliation coupled with a sense of personal betrayal fuels the 'righteous anger' of many contemporary Catholics (both liberal and conservative). The Church - or, as they put it, the hierarchy - has fallen short of their expectations, so the Church - or, as they put it, the hierarchy - must change.

I'd like to suggest that maybe it is their expectations that will have to change.

The Church's gift of holiness is an attribute of Christ. It's not the merit-badge for good men.

The holiness of the priesthood is also independent of the goodness of man. It is the holiness of Christ. A man's priesthood is undiminished by that man's depravity. A morally depraved and unrepentant man who bears the mark of ordination is a holy priest. A priest in such moral disrepair is perfectly competent to perform his priestly duties. He serves at the discretion of his bishop. A bishop in such straits (if we should find one) is also fully competent to perform his ecclesiastic functions. He is a Prince of the Church and a holy priest, who serves at the discretion of the Pope.

It is not legitimate to say that the office is holy even when the man is not. Nor is it legitimate to claim that we are loyal to the office, while being disloyal to the man. The quality of bishop adheres to the man; the quality of priest adheres to the man. The office of bishop (absent the man) is a simple emptiness waiting for the bishop's presence.

It is equally illegitimate to claim that one is loyal to Rome, while being disloyal to one's own bishop. One can only be loyal to Rome through one's bishop. One can only be obedient to Rome through obedience to one's bishop.

One of the hardest and highest virtues in the church is obedience.

Forgiveness and Justice
I heard a story a long time ago about something that happened in northern Christendom sometime about the year 1000. It's a story about Catholic forgiveness.

Way back then, counts ruled the world, or a least their own small corner of it. Some counts were good and some were bad. One particular count was entirely depraved. He had a tremendous sexual appetite for young boys. He kidnapped, sodomized, tortured and murdered his young male subjects. Then he would discard their bodies like yesterday's trash.

There wasn't a peasant family in the neighboring area that was untouched by his atrocities. Eventually, the count was brought to justice and sentenced to public execution. He asked of the Church forgiveness and he received the sacraments.

At his execution, he broke down and wept. He begged the people for their forgiveness. All of the damaged families and bereaved parents, who were present for the occasion, found it in their hearts to forgive him. They even rejoiced in their forgiveness of him. Then they watched him die.

It may be an old wife's tale. I was told that the events actually took place. Either way, the moral of this story is simple: forgiveness and justice don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

There's another lesson. The count had no need of the peoples' forgiveness. He had already received absolution. It was the people who needed to forgive so that they also be saved.

Tuesday, May 21, 2002

"It is in the shelter of each other that the people live" - Anon

Monday, May 20, 2002

Thoughts on why the pope has been so slow to react to the American problem --
exploring the nature of Hierarchy and the role of subsidarity in the life of the Church - (now in sidebar)

Thoughts on Religious Freedom - (now in sidebar)

Sin is more serious than crime. Spitting on the sidewalk is a crime. It is not a sin. Abortion is a sin. It is not a crime.

I have heard the accusation advanced that the Church used hush money to buy silence from the families. There is an ugly but necessary corollary to this argument. Catholic parents are content to sell their kids down the river for a few lousy bucks. I was raised by Catholic parents. I am a Catholic parent. I take umbrage at that claim. It adds insult to injury.

I have heard the argument made that Catholic youth have a reverential (and dangerous) respect for the authority of priests. This is a translation of the old argument that we are ignorant, superstitious, unhealthily subservient, witless and dangerous to democratic ideals.

Since we are raising our children to believe that a priest's word trumps the bounds of propriety, Catholicism itself is dangerous to the welfare of America's children. If a Catholic teenager is this morally inept, we better make sure that the state replaces the family as the primary educator of 'our' youngsters.

By allowing people to buy the more blatant message, Catholic parents are buying into the more subliminal argument.

It seems that I have no argument with Cardinal Law. I'm more than happy to defend him. More importantly, I'm beginning to feel that he needs no defending. I have read a great deal on the crisis in Boston. I don't see any signs of the alleged cover-up. The victim knew. The perpetrator knew. The parents knew. The Bishop knew. Ergo no cover-up.

'But it's a crime' you might argue and I would agree. It is a crime very much like rape. We owe the victims of this crime the same or even greater protection than we owe adult women who are victimized by rapists. We also owe them the same liberty and the same dignity.

As a woman, I have the right to report and I have an equal right not to report. It is my right to decide. My failure to report a rape may endanger other women who might be subsequently molested. My failure to report, however, is an option and not in itself a crime. To my knowledge, no victim of abuse has been charged with criminal conspiracy, aiding and abetting or any of the other myriad criminal charges that might be applied.

Legally, adult victims of sexual crimes have the right not to report such crimes. We have the right to address rape in the manner most conducive to our self-healing. We have the right to interpret our experience and a limited right to define our response. If or when this right is denied, an additional injustice is committed and an added injury is imposed on the victim.

Our society denies children equal protection. Admittedly, children are not in a position to make these judgements which is why they have parents. If failure to report is a crime, the parents should be held criminally liable, not the Church.

I am sure that by now your blood is boiling. Stop for a minute though, and think about the assumptions and implications of laws that mandate the reporting of child abuse. All such laws require that the state be notified of abuse. To my knowledge, no law suggests that the appropriate authority to receive such notification is the parents of the child.

Yet it is the parents of the child that are responsible for that child's welfare. The state will never love 'my' child with the same particularity as a parent. I agree whole-heartedly with the concept of mandatory reporting. I disagree strongly with the designation of the appropriate authority.

The presumption of such laws is that the state has a greater interest in the child's welfare and a higher authority in determining the child's 'best interests'. I don't buy into that belief structure. Personally, I think that the family has a natural priority to which the state is subject.

The law should require that child abuse be reported to the parents and it should provide them with appropriate remedies in the pursuit of justice.

I recognize that there are cases where substantial and chronic abuse occurs within the home. Under these unique conditions, alternate reporting should be mandated. Once reported, however, the emphasis on corrective action should be family-centric.

The sanctity of the family is not a buzz word for me. It is a necessary structure in the fabric of Christendom. The role of the state is to protect the family and not to usurp it.

Reflections on pre-Vatican Catholic Formation of Cradle Catholics - (now in sidebar)

Before this most recent series of scandals, I had been ruminating on the recent history of the Church. I have a child's memory of the pre-Vatican Church, an adolescent's memory of the Vatican moment and an adult's understanding of the aftermath. I am simply Catholic. I believe that the Council was a movement of the Holy Spirit. Much was lost and much was gained.

I have often wondered however how the Church I knew became the Church I know. I have wondered how the America I knew became the America I know. To me, it seems that the key to this mystery is human sexuality. A re-orientation of our understanding has transformed the world.

If one could imagine a conspiracy to destroy us, one could only applaud the genius of the conspirators. It seems that no other power on earth could change us so utterly. I think that it's Michael Jones, (In Culture Wars), who outlines the effect this unleashing of sexuality had on the religious orders back in the '60s. As I said, the devil has shown his genius.

Still, a huge group of the faithful have remained faithful. A portion of the faithless (such as myself) have returned to the Faith. What power now can turn us from our calling?

Yet again, the devil shows his genius.

The emotion of humiliation is immediate and terribly intense. If, however, we are guarded and thoughtful, the impact of humiliation may be far less enduring.

Still, this initial humiliation changes our psychological location in the discussion. They are pedophiles. We are embarrassed. They are priests. We are the laity. They are the hierarchy. We are the people of God. We are the 'real' Church.

We, the laity, the people of God, must bring them, the runaway clerics, the prideful hierarchy, into obedience to the will of God (no doubt as reflected in the 'democratic' will of the people). We will lead. If they are astute, they will follow. If they do not follow, they will be overthrown or perhaps worse, they will be reduced to irrelevance.

Personally, I will not be separated from my priests, I will not be separated from my bishops. I will not lead them and I will not call them to account. I am Catholic. They are not accountable to me. They are accountable for me. They are not answerable to me. They are answerable for me.

I may be the muscle of the Mystical Body but they are the skeleton. They provide the form for the exercise of my function.

I read Emily Stimpson's post about David and Kevin Clohessy, I agree that it is heart breaking. It tears at the heart strings and demands an emotional response. Suddenly both the abused adolescent and the abusive priest are innocent victims of a ruthless and uncaring Church hierarchy bound by secrecy and the 'will to power'. I don't mean to appear dispassionate, but there are other ways to read this particular story.

One interpretation is the struggle of two sons for their parent's, or perhaps even God's, devotion. We can see Cain and Abel, Ishmael and Isaac, Esau and Jacob, David and Kevin. This could be the story of an internecine war that reverberates in the halls of power and topples an empire. One might see these men as heroic protagonists with a 'victimized' Church laying in shatters at the feet of such epic contestants. One might marvel at the destructive fury and power unleashed by a simple sibling rivalry. One might cry over the devastation and the shattered lives wrought by their fevered hubris.

In some future history, we might compare these brothers' outrage with the bloody rivalry between England's Elizabeth and Mary, Queen of Scots. ..Or again… we can see them as 'innocent victims.'

The point of view lays in the telling of the tale. The truth lies somewhere beyond our fantasies.

I do not really have a well formulated or firmly held opinion about the Catholic scandal. Instead, I have a mass of doubts and questions and uncertainties. I take small bites out of the 'mystery of evil'. I gnaw at it first from one direction and then later from a quite different position. I worry it like a dog with an old bone. I drop it and then I return to it again and again. I am not yet ready to bury this old bone.

It occurs to me that the attention of Catholics and the general public has been effectively diverted from the real issue and the real sin. There has been a determined effort to divert us but I think we are eager for diversion. Suddenly, this crisis is no longer about disordered sexuality and the consequences of our shared disorder. Instead, it appears to be about the mismanagement of human resources. Actually, it has become an attack on the structure of the Church. …[More on this later.]

Thoughts on Cardinal Law - (now in sidebar)

It would seem by now that everything that can be said about the Catholic scandal has been said. Yet most of the discussion leaves me slightly uncomfortable. Perhaps my understanding is faulty, but it seems that we are missing some vital elements in the discussion. We might be missing some of the hard truths of Catholic belief.

We live in an American culture and so it is natural that we accept American premises. Yet it is precisely these premises that disturb me.

Catholicism is more than a private religion. It is an entire culture with its own premises and hidden assumptions. Some of these assumptions differ radically from the American model. This radical difference is one that naturally lends itself to antagonistic confrontations because it challenges America's most deeply held and cherished assumptions.

In sincere conversations with committed Catholics, many of my insights(?) on this crisis have been initially met with angry denunciation. It is only their love for me that has allowed these friends to hold their anger in abeyance and truly listen. More often than not, they are swayed by my 'pre-Vatican' opinions.

I mention this because you are strangers and I would beg the same indulgence from you. I ask that you put aside your initial reactions and simply hear me out. When you get over your anger, read my message again. Obviously, I could be wrong about everything. At the same time, it is possible that my slightly different stance offers some small addition to the Catholic response.

When the scandal in Boston first cropped up, I was really embarrassed. I love bragging about my Church. I think Catholic is the only sane way to live in the world. It’s a peace and a joy that just bubbles over into laughter and prayer.

I'm not disrespectful of other religions, I simply think that Catholic is better. Obviously, my non-Catholic friends disagree (or they too would be Catholic) but we respect each other's positions so its all good. Still I would love to see every one embrace the Church.

For me, initially, the current crisis seemed an impediment to broadcasting my pride in (and my love of) the Church. I didn't know how to address the issue in my own mind, let alone in conversations with non-Catholics. I prayed and then I wrote what I had learned through prayer.

This was my (almost) initial and certainly prayerful reaction to the scandal:Thoughts on Solidarity - (now in sidebar)

I spent my first 10 years in the pre-Vatican church. Eventually, I wandered far from home, ...(sinning extravagantly)... and yet never quite losing my 'Catholic accent'. Today I consider myself a prodigal Catholic. I think of the Church as my mother, and I see no advantage in an alternative Christian vision that would render me a 'motherless child.' I love being home again. I mention this by way of introduction because one's background invariably influences one's thinking.