Tag Archives: Catholic

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.

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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 my own in Helena.  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 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 other 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.  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.

 

My Sin of Snobbery

As you may know, I winter in Montana and summer in Florida.  (“To winter” and “to summer” are used as verbs among a certain set.)  Florida’s southwest gulf coast is beautiful, warm, and old.  Very old.  At 70, I am somewhere around the median age in my neighborhood, whereas in Montana I am the oldest man I know.

I am pleased to see that the churches here in Florida, at least the Catholic ones, are full on Sundays.  During the season (“the season” refers to only one of the four seasons), there are four Sunday masses, packed full.  With old people.  A general absence of crying babies.

Something else is noticeably absent: crucifixes.  I have been to four of this diocese’s churches, and the only ones I have seen are the small ones carried atop a pole in the entry procession.  I went snooping around the cathedral one day after mass, and found a beautiful crucifix sculpture, hidden in a small alcove between chapels, invisible to the congregation.  The ciborium of the host was also not visible, being kept “off-stage” in the wings.

The entire feeling of the services in these churches could only be described as, well… protestant.  Mainline protestant.  The Methodist church of my youth.   Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

But when I compare my Florida experience with that of my Helena home, I cannot help but focus on what is missing.

Helena is blessed with one of the most beautiful churches I have ever seen, let alone prayed in.  Its beauty may have spoiled me for other, more modern church architecture.  But that is not the main thing

And it isn’t the crucifix.  One of St. Helena’s few flaws is that the gold crucifix is subsumed (consumed?) by the dazzling gold grillwork reredos behind it.

When I come to church, I am seeking an encounter with holiness, sanctity.  I find it every time I enter St. Helena Cathedral.  But I have not found it once, at least not to any similar extent, in the churches of Florida.

I know how precious the mass has been throughout history and around the world.  I have read of masses celebrated secretly in miserable prisons, in hidden closets and secret forest clearings.  I know that holiness can be found anywhere it is earnestly sought.

In perspective, my quibbles and complaints sound very much like first-world problems, indeed pure snobbery. I come to church with the mind-set of a theater critic. I want every church to meet the standards of my magnificent home cathedral.  I want every priest to have a good voice (or at least a good sound system).  I want a good cantor and good music selections.   (And I wish the bible readings were in better translation.)

Some of this is, as I realize, pure snobbery.  I need to get over it, and to recognize the blessing of having churches to attend and eucharists to receive. 

But some of it may matter a great deal.  In the present war for the soul of the church (and thereby the world), many things must matter.  Crucifixes are not simply a decorator’s choice.

I’m back…

I must apologize to you, faithful reader, for my long absence.  I have been busy with a big change in my life.

I have joined the Catholic Church.   Finally.

You, faithful reader, are probably not surprised.  If you have followed my “spiritual progress reports” on this site, you must have seen it coming.  Strangely, I did not.

My reasons are easily summarized.  The gratitude problem: having no proper way to say “Thank You” for so many inexplicable blessings.  My need for moral guidance and support in battling my pride, my selfishness, my sloth, and my many other sins.

My need to make sense of existence.  My need for awareness of sanctity.  My need to learn to love better.

And, perhaps above all, my need for Hope in the face of despair.  Seeing this beautiful western world falling apart, seeing evil triumph on every side, seeing madness replace sanity.  If we are not in God’s hands, then all is lost.

“But what about the Pope?””, I hear you ask.  This bizarre modernist clown of a pope?  Join him?

For decades I have been growing closer to the Church precisely because of its popes.  Saint John Paul II and Benedict XVI were the world’s clearest voices for reason, reality, and love.  JPII on communism, BXVI on Islam, and both on Western modernism, were lighthouses in a darkening world.  They showed the way.

I have written elsewhere on the shabby, secular, relativist, liberation-theologist, enemy of all that his predecessors built.  His presence was the final hurdle I had to get over before I could seal the deal.

But I was reassured by several thoughts.

First, I was asked by a counselor: “Who is the Head of the Church?”  I am old enough to spot a trick question when I hear one, so I caught the point.  Jesus Christ is the Head of the Church.  Not the Pope.

Second, I was reminded that the Catholic Church has survived intact, with doctrine essentially unchanged, for twenty centuries of  turmoil, often led by bad, weak or foolish popes and filled with cynical, power-hungry, licentious agnostic priests.  The only word for such vigorous survival is “miraculous”. No other human institution even comes close.

Third, I see daily demonstration that my concerns about the present pope are shared by many, many others in the Church.  I want to join and support them in their brave, often lonely defense of truth.

So, on September 21, I became a Catholic.  A dissident Catholic, but Catholic nonetheless.