Monday, February 19, 2018

On the abuse of minors by priests and religious ...

The battle against sexual abuse will last for a while, so we must not delude ourselves into thinking that the solution simply lies in introducing new rules and guidelines. - Hans Zollner, S.J.

I came across one of the best articles I have ever read on the issue of sexual abuse in La Civilta Cattolica, which I discovered thanks to Fr. James Martin's Facebook page.  I skimmed through the article at first, and then read select sections more closely.  One thing I noticed is that it does not get sidetracked by the old argument that it's a homosexual problem and not a pedophilia problem.  I once insisted that was the case, agreeing with many who pointed out how flawed the John Jay Study was for its ideological reluctance to deal forthrightly with the role of homosexuality.  I disagree now.  It may indeed be part of the problem, but there remains a deeper, more profound problem of 'corruption' if you will.  Perhaps this is one positive result of viewing sexual orientation issues through a sexual equality, gender neutral lens - at least in theory.  The homo stuff just gets in the way of that ever so illusive, deeper problem.

Anyway, the following section from the article seems to me to nail one of the more fundamental problems behind the ability to deal with these issues: The bunker mentality.  (So typical of an armed and defensive 'Church Militant' mindset, where everyone and everything else is the enemy.)

We should briefly mention that many perpetrators of sexual abuse manage to elude or even manipulate their superiors so that the latter are too prone to believe whatever the former promise them (“I won’t do it anymore”). The result is that they exercise a false mercy. This also leads them to the erroneous reasoning that they need no outside help because they believe they have all the means and strategies necessary to solve the problem themselves. In this way, they dig themselves into their own bunker and fail to see that they have constructed a closed system as we saw in Ireland or in the Catholic communities in the United States and Australia, all places that have seen a string of frighteningly frequent and longstanding abuse.
The same is true for some religious congregations and new spiritual communities founded around the time of the Second Vatican Council and which for many years, particularly for the number of vocations they were attracting, held out great hope for the Church. In the last few years, however, we have seen that several of these religious groups – some of which assumed strongly conservative ecclesial positions tied to traditional forms of liturgy and theology – ended up being centers of various forms of serious abuse. Among the more notable cases are the Legionaries of Christ (Mexican foundation), the Community of the Beatitudes (French), the Comunità Missionaria di Villaregia in northern Italy, the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae (primarily in Peru), as well as the group that gravitated around Fr. Fernando Karadima in Santiago de Chile.
Such cases did not always involve the abuse of minors but rather of protected persons, including male and female novices and students. Under the pretext of vows of obedience and strict religious observance, extreme relationships of dependence were formed. Criticism was not allowed and fundamental norms of the spiritual tradition were simply ignored, like the separation between the internal and external forums, not to mention abuses of sacramental confession (the seal of confession or the absolutio complicis, that is, the absolution of someone with whom the priest-confessor himself broke the sixth commandment).
We could write entire chapters on the personalities of the founders of the above congregations. Some of them, because of sexual abuse, financial irregularities or plagiarism, were expelled from their own communities or sanctioned with ecclesiastical penalties, even including excommunication. Often they were able to boss others around and lord it over the operations of their congregations for decades, and no one would dare question their absolute power and demands, which were speciously justified in a spiritual way. Since there was no control mechanism and no system of checks and balances, they were able to do whatever they wanted.
Not all of these founders were or are priests, and this unveils an even more basic problem: when an (ecclesial) environment isolates itself and shuns open communication or an adequate process of formation and human development, the risk of abuse increases exponentially. - Finish reading here.

The Church as field hospital.

Friday, February 16, 2018

I just don't know what to say.

Battle Between Carnival and Lent by Jan Miense Molenaer

Yet I do a post.

Many people are angry and trying to come up with reasons for the latest mass killings.  They want to claim this or that reason for why and how it happened.  People who think they have the solutions and all the answers - until the next one.

I'm no longer surprised by this stuff - my only surprise is that it wasn't worse.

So let's do Lent.

Oh.  I just want to mention that I'm also surprised by those priests - who hear confessions and have heard them for years - complain that they don't understand Pope Francis and what some Cardinals are saying about discernment, and so on.  Sinners get it.  The sacrament of penance is for sinners - people who sin and keep trying.  I can't over simplify that enough.  Nor can the Pope.  I don't have a lot to say about it.  One simply has to ponder it deeply.

We're all sinners. 

Those who don't admit it and those who feel themselves justified and judge and condemn others, are assassins.

I've been thinking of what the Pope said last year on Ash Wednesday:
It is the time to reflect and ask ourselves what we would be if God had closed his doors to us. - Pope Francis 2017
I can't stop thinking about it.  How much worse would I be?  What would I be if God had not allowed me to receive him in Communion when I was still so far away from him? What would I be if he didn't allow me to confess my sins, sometimes day after day, repeated sins - over and over and over?  How much worse, how much more corrupt and hypocritical?  Yet His mercy endures for ever.

So far I'm not doing so well with Lent.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Holy Father will have much to suffer.

The Holy Father's conversation with the Jesuits in Chile.

Online, I noticed some photos of a near-empty piazza at the Vatican yesterday for Ash Wednesday.  I understood it as an attempt to show how unpopular the Holy Father is, as well as to contrast the size of the crowd with the large crowds who attended Pope Benedict's audiences and liturgical celebrations.  That's a very worldly way to judge this pontificate, it is very much how we treat politicians and celebrities - it is not how God judges.  Clearly, it is an attempt to shame Pope Francis.  Shame is good, however, especially for a Jesuit Pope, as Francis made clear: "we must also remember that shame is also a very Ignatian grace." 

The Holy Father's message to the Jesuits in Chile is very revealing of how aware he is of all the hostility there is towards this pontificate. 

There are doctrinal resistances. But for my mental health, I do not read the websites of this so-called “resistances”. I know who they are, I know the groups, but I do not read them simply for my mental health. They tell me when there is something very serious, so that I am informed about it. It is regrettable, but we need to move forward. When I perceive resistance, I try to talk, when dialogue is possible; but some resistance comes from people who believe they have the true doctrine and accuse you of being heretical. When I find no spiritual goodness in these people, for what they say or write, I simply pray for them. I feel sorry, but I will not dwell on this feeling for my mental health. 
On Amoris laetitia, the exhortation dedicated to marriage and the family, the Pope said, “I believe that one of the things the Church needs most today - and this is very clear in Amoris laetitia’s pastoral perspectives and objectives - is discernment. We are used to “you can or cannot”. I, too, have received during my formation this way of thinking “so far we can, so far we cannot. I don’t know if you remember that Colombian Jesuit who came to teach us morals at the Collegio Massimo; when he talked about the sixth commandment, one dared to ask the question: “Can fiancées kiss each other? If they could kiss each other! Do you understand? And he said, “Yes, they can! There is no problem!They just need to put a handkerchief between them. This is a mindset of “doing theology” in general. A mindset based on limits. And we bear the consequences of this”. - Vatican Insider

As an aside, the Holy Father's anecdote regarding fiances kissing through a handkerchief to illustrate a theology based on limits - or how far you could go without sinning, is something people my age are probably familiar with.  For example, as a kid, our pastor always asked the boys in confession if 'touching ourselves' resulted in 'complete self-abuse?'  I had no idea what that meant and I asked one of my friends - he said that Father explained it to him pretty much as follows: 'If you have an orgasm, it's a mortal sin, but you can do it up until that point, and it's only a venial sin.'   It seems pretty ridiculous now.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Ashes sprinkled or marked?

I prefer sprinkled.

Outside of the monastery, I have never seen it done that way in the United States.  When on the forehead, I wipe them off once back in the pew.

Happy penance!

Saturday, February 10, 2018

In your dreams.

I had a dream last night that I was swimming naked in a public pool.  All the swimmers were naked.  When I emerged, I couldn't find my clothes and tried to find something to cover myself with.  I entered a tavern and the proprietor told me he had something to put on.  It was a dated leather jacket and huge pair of workman's pants - which I did my best to make them look stylish, but the jacket had to go.  The proprietor looked at me approvingly and handed me a cool t-shirt.

So what does it mean?  I knew immediately.  I have pretty much bared all on Facebook and blogs - and I'm poorer for it.  But I look good thin, wearing baggy trousers and a tight t-shirt. 

[Once again, I think I need to remove some posts.]

Friday, February 09, 2018

Busy connecting dots, are you?

Then connect them all the way back...

back to JPII.

The hermeneutic of continuity.

Dare we join the dots?

When the circus performers are in town, they sometimes perform for the Holy Father at the General Audience - in costume.  Circus performers are itinerant workers.  In the top photo with Pope Benedict XVI, "the event was organized by the Vatican office that looks out for the welfare of migrants, refugees, seamen as well as prostitutes and street children — people who by force or choice live without stable homes."

I used to make fun of these things as well, and it was easy to insinuate a gay theme to it all, but it is also feeding spreaders of calumny and detraction who love playing connect the dots and hunting down homo-heretics and demons.

Mark Shea's remarks about Cardinal Marx's remarks about gays...

Mark asked me what I thought, and I responded - spontaneously - as follows, albeit edited to complete my thoughts for this post.
Sure - drag me into this. Haha! I had posts up which I removed [on Cardinal Marx].  [Because] I have gay friends and relatives [on Facebook] I don't want to alienate. Heck - I have a childhood friend whose daughter is legally married to a woman. So what can I say?
Except I'm not ashamed to say 'I'm against it' but I accept the civil reality of it.  [It's legal.]  I know [or think] the Church in Germany is compromised because they benefit from State tax - [people familiar with the system] know the legal ins and outs of that. So I was disappointed - to say the least - at how Cardinal Marx was quoted by media, evidently he's tried to correct that?  [Not sure.]  Most people will not be convinced by that [If he did retract it, since both sides of the issue want it to be what he said in the first place].   Be that as it may, I can't see the Church blessing any union which simulates sacramental marriage. I can't see any gay Catholics wanting that. I certainly don't. Civil unions/marriage is best left to the State, and those who accept that are fine with me. I would bake them a cake if asked - [it doesn't mean I approve of gay marriage, nor am I acting as a witness to theirs]. (Two friends of mine were married a couple of years ago but I didn't attend - though I don't agree with gay marriage, I didn't attend because I don't like weddings. I sent a card though.)  [It was a blank card and I simply signed it.  They know my position on the matter.]
The real point here - as I understand it - is Sacramental Marriage - the Church can't do that for same sex partners - the state may/can - but the Church can't. It doesn't have the power to do that - much like ordaining women to the priesthood.
However.  The Church can welcome gay people and their families [if they come to inquire, and for those already there] - they don't have to kick them out. They can baptize and confirm their kids, educate them, bless their homes - treat them like any other couple - even bury them. But it can not bless same sex marriages. (Marriage suggests marital/sexual relations - the Church is clear on it's teaching that it in no way can condone homosexual acts.) Now if the partners mutually refrain from sexual-romantic activities and live together chastely, I suppose a friendship blessing could [theoretically] take place - but why? I know no one who lives in fidelity to Catholic teaching who would want that sort of 'recognition'. Once again - I would not. [Incidentally, the two guys I know who married would never expect a Church blessing, nor even desire it.]  
The recent death of a famous actor who kept that part of his life and his faith quiet - he is one of many I think - [ he just may have kept his private life private to avoid condemnation by Catholic inquisitors]. (I also remember your friend from church you got in trouble for - Perry I think?)  [My point here is that many faithful gay Catholics live discrete, quiet lives, and do not expect special recognition or approval - likewise they don't expect to be condemned or ostracized because of who they are.]  
Anyway, good people may disagree with me on this - but I suspect this is the way the German episcopate may be thinking - although some undoubtedly would accept same-sex unions/marriage and bless them. I'm against it. - Facebook response to Mark Shea's Patheos essay here.

NB: I only publish this because Catholic inquisitors will find my response to Mark's post and accuse me of being too soft, too liberal, what have you.  I'm over this stuff and I find these discussions do more harm than good - I'm not a pastoral advisor or spiritual guide - this is just my position after years of hypocrisy.  I may be wrong - but it is simply my personal opinion.  That said, I firmly believe and support what the Church teaches, I trust the convincing power of the Holy Spirit, and I believe in the Gospel.  

And when I am lifted up from the earth, 
I will draw everyone to myself.

O my God, I firmly believe that you are one God in three divine Persons,Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I believe that your divine Son became man and died for our sins and that he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe these and all the truths which the Holy Catholic Church teaches because you have revealed them who are eternal truth and wisdom, who can neither deceive nor be deceived. In this faith I intend to live and die. Amen.

Thursday, February 08, 2018

Andy Warhol - just an ordinary homosexual.

Warhol's Vatican Exhibition

Many are discussing and reporting about the Warhol exhibit scheduled for next year at the Vatican Museum.  Since his death Catholics have been claiming him on account of his 'secret piety' which was only revealed after his death.  Warhol lived with his mom, prayed with her, went to Mass nearly every day and often sat alone in church.  He kept it secret. 

His secret piety is becoming legend now. I think at one time I disputed his 'celibacy', and or chastity. Maybe he was successful at living like a monk - maybe not. Most people are not 'without sin' therefore I expect in his endeavor to remain celibate he may have not been perfect. Which is kind of my point in calling him an ordinary homosexual.  Most people living in a secular milieu face difficulties in living a celibate life, especially those who work in the arts.   I like what Michael Davis wrote regarding Warhol:
Religion kept Warhol from going over the brink. He attended Mass almost daily. Other days he would just slip into St Vincent Ferrer on Lexington Avenue, drop into the back pew and pray. He spent his Thanksgivings, Christmases and Easters volunteering at a soup kitchen, and befriended the homeless and poor whom he served. He put his nephew through seminary. Though openly gay, he endeavoured to remain celibate throughout his life. When he refused to support the gay rights movement, many of his friends blamed his faith. - CH
Religion keeps us all from going over the brink.

I'm not sure Warhol actually thought of himself as 'openly gay' - even though that was his reputation.  I'm not suggesting he was into the identity politics we are today, I'm sure he knew he was gay.  Just like anyone else - any other guy attracted to guys.  He didn't have to join a movement.  I doubt it was his religion which dictated that attitude, it was simply ingrained.  Like his faith was ingrained - or confirmed - hence his attraction, devotion to Christ.  It's actually very typical, or ordinary.

Another famous actor died this past week.  I won't mention his name because nothing in his obituaries mentioned he was gay, nor did they cite a partner-survivor, though he had one.  I admire his discretion - and yes, his honesty.  How is that honest?  Warhol sneaked to Mass, slipped out for visits to the Blessed Sacrament.  The actor who just died never came out publicly, he kept his private life private, and in an interview talking about his faith, he revealed he was indeed faithful.  Perhaps he kept his personal life private because he was faithful and didn't want to politicize his 'orientation'? 

I believe there are many people like that.  Hidden, ordinary people who often lead difficult lives, falling and rising, whose hearts are fixed upon the Lord. 

I'm not so harsh in my analysis of Warhol as I once was.  I think he was just an ordinary homosexual, unfortunately getting a lot of attention for his Catholicism and asexuality - now interpreted as celibacy.  He can't be dismissed so easily.

Redux - Andy Warhol - a celibate Catholic?

That said, I'll re-post some comments I've written before:
Andy Warhol - a celibate Catholic? He sure was - he never married, and remained a Catholic all of his life. Warhol had a lot of problems - none beyond the reach of divine mercy, that is for sure, but he had issues.

Andy wasn't a model Catholic, but he seems to have been a 'faithful' Catholic.

Fact is, he really was gay and Catholic, before the hairsplitting on what all of that means began to be taken seriously, and subsequently sanitized and legitimized and normalized. Pier Vittorio Tondelli was a gay Catholic too - faithful by the time he died - before, not so much.
People: gay people who are Catholic, remain Catholic, even if they do not practice the faith or live in sin. Those whose conscience has been formed correctly do not try to say a sin is not a sin. Homosexual orientation is not a sin of course - but the behavior is. Some people who are active homosexuals are like that - hence they stay away from the sacraments. In doing so they do not say the behavior is not sinful - they know it is - and they know that they cannot act out and be a faithful Catholic. And in a very real way - they are faithful for that. Tondelli was like that until his actual conversion, and so was Warhol - to an extent. For all of the issues within the manufactured reality and public persona of Warhol, he remained Catholic - and most likely 'unintentionally' celibate. But chaste? Like a virgin? That may be what he said.
Perhaps what may be most notable about Warhol is that he did not try to promote homosexuality as something good or equal to heterosexual love and marriage. He did not try to promote sinful behavior as virtuous. In that respect he perhaps can be called a 'proud sinner' - although sitting at the back of the church during Mass pretty much cancels out any pride aspect. - Warhol

It's kind of strange how much Warhol is gaining so much attention for being Catholic, while today gay Catholics are marginalized for simply saying gay, or two men sharing a house pose a scandal to others, or a Lesbian can be denied communion at her mother's funeral, or a priest is labelled for promoting a gay-Catholic author who famously converted before he died.  The ironies could be developed into a new litany - for private use of course. 

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

On little faults and imperfections and 'little sins' ... A saint speaks.

So I don't have to.

I don't have to be right either.  I don't have to please people, much less 'correct' people.

However, today these words of wisdom from a sainted Jesuit seem to confirm my intuitions on a related subject.
Nothing makes more visible how much The Son of God hates sin than what he has done to destroy it. Is it not too much to say that he wanted to descend from heaven and die himself to wipe it out?… The Son of God has hated sin as far as to want to die in order to destroy it…. 
I speak of the faults that Christians who live in half-heartedness are accustomed to commit deliberately and of which they make for themselves habits that they hardly bother to correct. Such are the minor angers, the minor swipes, the words of contempt, the slight gossip, the mockery, the lies, the irreverence and the voluntary distractions in prayer, the desire to please people, the humorous talk that can produce nasty thoughts, the curious looks, too great a love of neatness in dress, laziness, the minor overindulgence in drinking and in eating, the negligence in things that pertain to duty, as in the instruction of servants and in the education of children; in a word, all sins of whatever kind they may be, when the issue is slight or there is more lack of consideration than malice. I say…that these faults, above all when they are actual—when one often falls back into them, when one neglects to mend one’s ways from them, when one counts them for nothing—I say that these are the greatest evils. 
Of many reasons that present themselves in order to prove this, I choose not but one sole of them, which will be the whole subject of our discussion. The little sins are great evils because they are great dispositions to the greatest sins; they are all mortal in this sense that they lead to the death of the soul, that they dispose to mortal sin; they dispose to it, both from the side of God whose graces they deplete, and from the side of the individual whose forces they exhaust. - St. Claude La Colombiere

Thou hast placed men over our heads. - Rule of S, Benedict

In closing, I want to share something else to consider ...

The judges chosen by God to save Israel were not always holy people. Some of them did not come to a very brilliant end. We observe in them all kinds of faults. Yet God saves Israel through them and assures them of victory.
There can also be, and will be in the New Testament, apostles, persons who have accomplished great things and were not themselves holy when at the height of their mission and works.
In the Life of Teresa of Avila we come upon a remark which is somewhat terrifying for priests, or apostles in general. She writes: 'At the Last judgment, how many of these trees will we see who appeared like beautiful oaks, branches extending far and wide, sheltering birds of the air that take refuge in them, yet when the come to the Last Judgment we see that tree with its trunk eaten away by the worm of pride and vanity.' They have achieved some good works - but their work has not profited them, and may only gain them condemnation. - Where The Spirit Breathes,  Marie-Eugene of the Child Jesus, OCD