Four Faces of the Church Scandal

The more I hear and the more I think about the present sex scandal in the Church, the more I am convinced that this crisis has four distinct but interwoven threads.

First, the problem of pedophile priests.  This atrocity is the most widely recognized piece of the puzzle; but it is also the only one that has been addressed and, to a significant extent, dealt with.  If any priest is today molesting a catechism student or an altar boy or girl, he will be quickly exposed and driven out.  That is why the Pennsylvania Attorney General report deals almost entirely with past, and not current priests.

Second, the problem of homosexual abuse/recruitment/”grooming” of seminarians and young priests, typified by the scandal of ex-Cardinal “Uncle Ted” McCarrick.  The pope’s refusal to even admit the existence of this problem indicates the difficulty of dealing with it. 

Third, there is the new gay advocacy, the growing presence and prominence of openly pro-gay priests and bishops, advocating for full acceptance of homosexuality in the Church and world. Father James Martin is only one of the most flamboyant examples.  The pope’s readiness to take McCarrick’s advice in appointing bishops like Cupich is yet another.

And fourth, tying them all together, is the ongoing tolerance of misbehavior that the Church has always regarded as mortal sin.  The cover-ups and protection of pedophile priests, the veil of silence regarding molesters like McCarrick, and the open encouragement of gay advocates like Martin, are all part of a single disease.       The pope’s refusal to address Abp. Vigano’s accusations, along with his track record in South American scandals, suggests that he is, to say the least, unwilling to be part of the solution.

There you have it; four ugly, tangled threads.  Much discussion these days is about how to untangle them. But it seems like a better idea to simply grab them all and rip them out of the Church!  Or, as Alexander the Great demonstrated with the Gordian Knot, just take a sword to them.  Throw the rascals out!

Despite the rhetoric, I don’t know exactly how to do it.  Certainly we must pray for Jesus to once again save His Church from the hands of those who are profaning his temple.  And we must speak out in some way to let the hierarchy, and the world, know where we stand.

May God help us, as laymen, to find a way to help fix this mess.

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Good Sense from Anthony Esolen

If you are already familiar with the writing of Anthony Esolen (in Magnificat, among other places), you will not be surprised that he has just injected a healthy dose of good sense into the current scandal. Writing on the online blog crisismagazine.com, his essay “What the Priest Scandal Is – and Is Not – About” is a breath of fresh air in the smoggy smokescreen some are trying to hide behind.

He describes 10 things to bear in mind when looking at the scandal.  One objection: I would call it a “Bishop Scandal” rather than a “Priest Scandal”, since bishops are in authority over the culpable priests, are fully responsible for the cover-ups, and many seem to be themselves guilty of “grooming” and other sexual abuse of minors as well as seminarians and other young men in their control. And it is bishops who tolerate and support gay “advocates” like Father James Martin. (The pope is, remember, a bishop himself.)

But whatever we call it, Esolen faces the reality of the scandal with unblinking eyes.  He calls the scandal what it basically is: from top to bottom, a homosexual problem.

He acknowledges what the guilty bishops owe to all catholics:

I do not require that my bishop be a saint. I do require that he be faithful to the teachings of the Church, and that he obey the law of the land. That is not too much to ask. If you are leading a double life, get out. We don’t need you. If you have ever covered for someone leading a double life, get out. If you have covered for someone who has molested a young person of either sex, get out. Please, leave us already. You have done plenty of harm.”

And he calls out the obscenity of those (including still-Cardinal Cupich) who say still-Pope Francis doesn’t have time to answer Archbishop Vigano’s charges because he is so busy with more important things.  We saw yesterday what more-important things are occupying Francis’ time: global littering!

I urge you to read the whole thing.  And then join Esolen’s call to the abusers and the cover-up artists: GET OUT!

 

 

Read It and Weep

 

I am almost at a loss for words to describe this sad situation.  And yet this may be a sign that the Church crisis is coming to a head.

A retired high Vatican official, Archbishop and former Papal Nuncio to the US Church, Carlos Maria Vigano, has announced that Pope Francis knew fully about McCarrick’s long-time homosexual abuse of seminarians and young priests.  He knew that Pope Benedict XVI had removed McCarrick from all activities, and he knew why. But Francis reinstated him!  He even sought his advice on appointments of new bishops!!

Archbishop Vigano is calling for the pope to resign, along with every bishop implicated in the cover-up.  He is right. They should.

At the moment, I cannot go on.  Read it for yourself. Read it and weep.

A Cry from the Heart of the Laity

To anyone concerned about the health of the Catholic Church, I highly recommend a post on First Things by Luma Simms, entitled “Fathers, Help Us”.  It is a pained and troubling cry from the heart of the laity, and it expresses a view that I share.

“There are many faithful and trustworthy bishops and priests…My last plea is to them: Heed your responsibility before God. Do you not know that you corrupt yourselves by your silence?”

There are some positive signs, such as Bishop Morlino of Madison WI, whose statement here confronts the elephant in every room of the Church.  Homosexual clergy and the resulting tolerance of sexual corruption, along with its accompaniment of cover-up, must be identified by name.  It appears that few of the worst perpetrators remain among the priests.  But the McCarrick scandal has revealed that the corruption in higher levels persists (to say the least).

And the cleansing of the Temple will require the naming of names. Apologies that start “We deeply regret…” are frankly of no use at this point.

Fathers, especially bishops, must shoulder the job of cleansing and rebuilding. They must lead in driving from the Temple those who have profaned it.  If the USCCB continues to stonewall, and the pope continues to dance around the issue, the Church may be deservedly wrecked.

The Church Scandal; The Laity’s Role?

I am sure all Catholics are thinking about this crisis. McCarrick, the Pennsylvania AG report.  Silence from the USCCB and from Rome.  Several thoughts, starting with defensive ones.

First, the enemies of the church are having a good time. The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Grand Jury project once again displays the sins of the church’s recent past, but says nothing about the present or future.  The report rehashes what has already come out in many (most? all?) dioceses’ victim settlements, including that of my own diocese in Helena, Montana.  The PA AG made a big deal about the scandal he has uncovered; it should help his reelection.  The NPR commentator/expert today was asked “Are these abuses continuing today?”, and he answered “The Grand Jury would probably say yes.”  Without any evidence.  That is the anti-Catholic sentiment we are up against.

But the Church has created this problem, and we cannot complain too much when our enemies use it to attack us. 

Many of the faithful bemoan the “abuse crisis”.  But, as many have noted, we are dealing with a sexual crisis, not just an abuse crisis.  The general absence of new cases charging current-day abuse of altar boys/girls or catechumens is noteworthy; in the present environment, they would be all over the news.

The current focus of the ongoing crisis appears to consist of two active scourges:  homosexual molestation of male seminarians by senior clergy, and continuing cover-up of such molestations (an echo of the past cover-ups).  This crisis is summed up in the scandal of Cardinal McCarrick, and of the higher clergy’s apparent ignoring of this detestable “open secret”.  While sexual abuse of minors is obviously criminal, sexual molestation of adults who employ them or are otherwise in authority is a grey area in criminal law (remember Clinton/Lewinsky?). But it is clearly a mortal sin.

The Church will only suffer further degradation and loss of credibility until this scandal has been addressed and fixed. And it will not be fixed by new organizational policies or training programs or public relations gimmicks.

As with any mortal sins, there can be no forgiveness without repentance and penance from those committing the scandalous molestations and those who failed in their responsibilty to stop it.  Unfortunately, the Church has failed to convince anyone that it has demanded either repentance or penance.

Crime, of course, must be dealt with in a different way. Criminal abusers must expect punishment; our legal system deals in justice, not mercy.  The higher clergy who engaged in covering up criminal abuse would appear to have committed obstruction of justice (at least).  Statutes of limitation generally block prosecutions for these crimes of the past.  But the Church must not recognize any such limitation in dealing with institutional corruption and individual sin of such magnitude.

This brings us to the question: what is to be done.  Specifically, as lay members of Christ’s Church, what are we to do? 

First of all, we must pray for our clergy and our Church.  We must ask God to forgive our sins and to heal his Church. 

But we have a duty to do more.  It is not a matter of our presuming to direct Jesus in healing His Church.  As we know, the Church is a divine institution run by weak, fallible, confused human beings.  They can be in error, and they can and do sin.  We are not only children of God, but also citizens of the Church, the City of God.  We, too, have responsibilities.

It would be wonderful if we could look to our Pope to take the kind of dramatic action needed to stop this sexual scandal.  Jesus overturned the moneychangers’ tables, to take back God’s temple from those who were profaning it.  But the likelihood of our current pope doing this seems remote.

So here we stand, the laity watching helplessly as scandal succeeds scandal.  Most priests must feel similarly powerless. Bishops and Cardinals have the power to act, but seem unwilling to do so.

So what is the role of the laity in ending scandal?  What are we to do? Perhaps we must simply begin this conversation.

 

More Stars in the Palm of God’s Hand

This is the Robin’s Egg Nebula. Actually a dying pair of stars surrounded by stardust.  While not a galaxy, still worth a look.

See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
the highest resolution version available.

Here we see one galaxy devouring another.

See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
the highest resolution version available.

This is the Red Rectangular Nebula.

See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
the highest resolution version available.

Here are a couple more. The one on the left is twice as big as our Milky Way.

See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
the highest resolution version available.

This handful  is only a few of the estimated 100 BILLION galaxies that exist, each with an average 100 BILLION stars.  But keep it in perspective:  This entire, unimaginably vast universe, this galaxy of galaxies, was in the beginning compact and small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. We learn this not from theologians, but from astrophysicists,  scientists.  Though the Psalmist told us long ago, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmaments display his handiwork.”  And Genesis foretold the Big Bang.

“In the beginning…” it was all in God’s hand.

The Sacred Second

We measure things.  It is one of the things humans do. Mostly because we plan to use them.  

Measurements are of two kinds: natural/intuitive and artificial/synthetic.  Natural ones came first.  Feet based on an average foot (mine, I say without bragging, are exactly one foot long – including the shoe. This makes for a useful way to walk off distances.)  Cubits based on an average forearm of about a foot and a half.  An inch is about the length of a thumb knuckle.

The metric system, on the other hand, is artificial/synthetic, based on…something. (I don’t know what.)  Built on our numbering system, it is more easily used in science and math.

The only area where a natural/intuitive system still prevails in its traditional un-metricized form is our measurement of time.  Natural constants still govern here. A year is one revolution in earth’s orbit around the sun: one cycle of seasons.  A day is one rotation on the earth’s axis: one cycle of light and darkness.  In between a year and a day we have more artificial measures: months and weeks.  And below the day, we have sub-divisions of hour, minute, and second.

Our awareness of the passage of time is a difficulty for us. In late afternoon we ask “where has the day gone?”  Our clocks tell us, but we are still surprised. 

Years are even more so.  On our birthdays and New Year’s Day, we celebrate or mourn the elusive passing of another year; we ponder, for a day, the mysterious year ahead, before moving on into uncharted daily existence.

Even at the much smaller scale, it is hard to track time without mechanical assistance.  Try to concentrate on a single subject or thought for a full minute, without looking at a clock. For me, distractions invariably arise, especially the distraction of wondering how much of the minute has elapsed.  To some extent, this is the problem of reverse concentration: try not to think of an elephant. 

But the crux of the problem is the difficulty of measuring time with our mind alone.  The only way I can make myself aware of the passage of a minute is to count to 60. In other words, to count seconds.

Why are seconds so much easier for us to embrace than any larger measure of time?  Check your pulse. If you are healthy and resting, your heartbeat should be right around 60 beats per minute: a natural standard.

Tiny, fragile, elusive, the second is nonetheless the most tangible form in which we can consciously confront time. It cannot be an accident that it is also the measure of our life blood nourishing our very existence.  The last second-long heartbeat is the end of our earthly life. And long before our birth, the second-long beats of our hearts mark what we are and will become.

The passage of time is thus the passage of life.  Prisoners are said to count the days of their sentences by chalk marks on the cell wall.  If they didn’t do so, they might lose track of the passage of time and their sentences would become infinite.  

Every second is a gift from God.  This can be said of day, week, month and year, of course.  But they slip past us.   Such gifts deserve thanks.  It is appropriate to try to insert a prayer of thanksgiving into every second.  But is it possible?

I am trying.  I find that simply thinking “Thank you, Lord” can be done in about a second.  I can’t do it every second, of course.  But I can do it often.

And I can try to live my life in such a way that I feel grateful for every second.  Some days this is easier than others.  But I can try.

I can try.

Another APOD stunner

See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download  the highest resolution version available.The Ring Nebula declares the glory of God.

Courtesy of the Hubble Space Telescope.  NASA at apod.nasa.gov

Ah, Memories: “I Am That Man!”

I am fascinated by the way little children seem to want to have a past, some fond memories they can reflect on.  Four-year olds ruminate (speculate?) on their own brief life. “Remember when I was little and I used to sleep with my stuffed hedgehog?” says the boy who still does so.

This thought comes to me as I re-visit a pleasant memory of my own brief life as a Catholic.

In RCIA at the age of 69, after a spiritually wasted life, I was finally getting serious about many things, including the Bible readings.

 I was taken aback by one of the vineyard parables (Mat 20):  the one where the owner pays the same daily wage to late-arriving workers who only put in an hour’s work as he pays to the laborers who worked the full day.

As a former union representative, I rose to point out the unfairness of this.  It would violate wage and hour laws, not to mention any union contract.  The result would be a grievance, a federal charge, or a walkout.  The late worker would be singled out for derision as the owner’s stooge.  Salvation economics, I was told,  were different from labor economics.

But later, at my first communion, the daily reading was that very same parable.  And after re-hashing the same issues in my mind, it suddenly dawned on me – I was that man! I was that laborer who showed up near the end of the day and happily, if a little guiltily, collected my wages.  And, most amazingly, the other workers seemed happy about it; no grievances were filed.

These thoughts were triggered by a beautiful essay on Dappled Things (dappledthings.org) by Jonathan Macdonald, entitled “Fifteen Years a Catholic”.  I recommend it.

 

10 Galaxies in One Snapshot!

See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download  the highest resolution version available.

I have mentioned APOD below.  Here is a recent beautiful example of how the heavens declare the glory of God.  This is the Needle’s Eye galaxy.  In the lower left is a chain of four galaxies (Burbidge’s Chain), with the two on the left interacting.  I can count at least five others.