Posted in category "Accountability"
Co-founder of the ultra conservative Family Research Council (with James Dobson), and board member of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), for decades Dr. George Alan Rekers was a prominent anti-gay activist.
So he did what any straight, family-oriented Baptist minister would do when they are looking for someone to carry the luggage on a ten-day European excursion. He went to rentboy.com and hired a prostitute.
On April 13, 2010 Miami New Times reporters took a photo of Dr. Rekers and a young man, “Lucien,” as they arrived at Miami International Airlines on Iberian Airlines flight 6123. Rekers was caught pushing an overloaded luggage cart. Reached by the New Times before a trip to Bermuda, Rekers said he learned Lucien was a prostitute only midway through their vacation. “I had surgery,” Rekers said, “and I can’t lift luggage. That’s why I hired him.” The Miami paper was quick to note that “medical problems didn’t stop him from pushing the tottering baggage cart” through the airport.
It would be impossible to stumble upon the rentboy.com hompage, which features well-muscled young men and youths rubbing each others crotches, and not figure out what the site means by “rent boy.”
The pictures of Lucien (real name: Jo-Vanni Roman) on his rentboy.com profile showed a shirtless young man with delicate features, guileless eyes, and sun-kissed, hairless skin. The profile touts his “smooth, sweet tight ass” and “perfectly built 8 inch cock (uncut). He describes himself as “sensual,” “wild,” and “up for anything”–“as long as you ask.” His “Tastes/Specialties/Fetishes include: Vanilla, Leather, Anal, Oral, Shaving, Spanking, Role Playing, Kissing, Toys, Feet. His “Talents” offer “Modeling, Go-Go Dancing, Stripping, Massage, Travel Companion, Tour Guide, Interpreter.”
Undoubtedly that part is where Reker spotted his experience as a “Travel Assistant.”
“In all honesty, I did go on the trip with him, Roman told reporters. “He was setting me up as a companion. In all honesty, he’s a very kind family-values man.” The young male escort was paid $75 a day plus expenses to travel with Rekers in April to London and Madrid.
Roman, 20, would give nude massages to Rekers, 61, every day during their trip. Rekers allegedly named his favorite maneuver the “long stroke”–a complicated caress “across the penis, thigh…and his anus over the butt checks. Rekers liked to be rubbed down there,” he said. He was “rock hard.” Rekers was “very gay for me” Roman said.
“Down there”… I thought only Catholic girls said “down there.”
Lucien/Jo-Vanni is the same age as a son that Rekers adopted more than four years ago, which might not be relevant were it not for Rekers vigorous opposition to adoptions by gays. Rekers testified in favor of nasty homosexual adoption bans in both Arkansas and Florida.
On his blog, ProfessorGeorge.com–right near the lame luggage excuse–there’s a post labeled: “Should homosexuals be allowed to adopt children?” This leads to a page full of outright falsehoods, including:
“Large research studies consistently report that a majority of homosexually-behaving adults have a a life-time incidence of one or more psychiatric disorders, while a majority of heterosexually-behaving adults do not suffer a psychiatric disorder…So my professional conclusion that homosexually behaving adults should not be allowed to adopt children is based on research and logic.”
“While he keeps a low public profile, his fingerprints are on almost every anti-gay effort to demean and dehumanize LGBT people,” said Wayne Besen, a gay rights advocate and executive director of Truth Wins Out, which investigates the anti-gay movement. “His work is ubiquitously cited by lobby groups that work to deny equality to LGBT Americans. Rekers has caused a great deal of harm to gay and lesbian individuals.”
While Rekers continues to maintain the Lucien/Jo-Vanni was brought along primarily for the purpose of carrying his luggage, he’s now also explains that he found the lad on rentboy.com because he wanted to have someone’s mortal soul, like Jesus did.
Rekers had a Facebook exchange with the gay blogger Joe. My. God. in which he posted this beautiful sentiment:
“I have spent much time as a mental health professional and as a Christian minister helping and lovingly caring for people identifying themselves as ‘gay.’ My hero is Jesus Christ who loves even the culturally despised people, including sexual sinners and prostitutes. Like Jesus Christ, I deliberately spend time with sinners with the loving goal to try to help them.”
“Mark 2:16-17 reads, “When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the ‘sinners’ and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: ‘Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ Upon hearing this Jesus said to them, ‘It is not the healthy that need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’ In fact, in a dialogue with hypocritical religious leaders, Jesus even stated to them, ‘I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.'”
“Like John the Baptist and Jesus, I have a loving Christian ministry to homosexuals and prostitutes in which I share the Good News of Jesus Christ with them (see I Corinthians 6:8-11.)”
“Contrary to false gossip, innuendo, and slander about me, I do not in any way “hate” homosexuals, but I seek to lovingly share two types of messages to them, as I did with the young man called ‘Lucien’ in the news story.”
“1) It is possible to cease homosexual practices to avoid the unacceptable health risks associated with that behavior, and 2) the most important decision one can make is to establish a relationship with God for all eternity by trusting in Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for the forgiveness of your sins, including homosexual sins.”
“If you talk with my travel assistant that the story called ‘Lucien,’ you will find I spent a great deal of time sharing scientific information on the desirability of abandoning homosexual intercourse, and I shared the Gospel of Jesus Christ with him in great detail.”
Joe. My. God responded: “Oh, well that explains EVERYTHING! Dr. Rekers is curing homosexuals ONE BY ONE by hiring them on MALE PROSTITUTION websites! Glory! Praise His Name!”
The Gay Moralist blogger, John Corvino, commented on Reker’s situation in a more serious, personal note: “I was once a closeted homosexual conservative myself, and I came close to entering the Catholic priesthood. I often wonder whether, had my life gone slightly differently–different influences, different opportunities, different choices–I’d be missing truths that seem obvious to me now.”
“I even wonder whether I might have acted out sexually in inappropriately ways–hiring male prostitutes privately while railing against homosexuality publically, or htting on college seminary students (not children) in my priestly care. While I’m no longer a believer, the phrase ‘There but for the grace of God’ still resonates with me.”
Dr. Rekers posted this final message on his blog: “I am immediately resigning my membership in NARTH to allow myself the time necessary to fight the false media reports that have been made against me. With the assistance of a defamation attorney, I will fight these false media reports because I have not engaged in any homosexual behavior whatsoever. I am not gay and never have been.” – George A. Rekers, Ph.D.
When queried about Reker’s resignation, spokesman David C. Pruden said that NARTH never pressured Rekers to resign from the organization, where he served on the board and the scientific advisory committee. “We didn’t need to,” he said. “(Rekers) very graciously suggested it from almost the first press report.”
“Without judging anyone else, let me say that I do know that if being stupid or even a hypocrite eliminated someone from public involvement, almost all of us who were honest would have to live alone in a cave somewhere,” Pruden added. “I know I would.”
TV comedy shows jumped all over Dr. Rekers’s spring vacation revelations. Among the most hilarious are Colbert Report’s “Alpha Dog of the Week – George Rekers;” and The Rachael Maddox Show.
On September 8, 2001 Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, prefect of the Congregation of the Clergy, wrote a letter to Bishop Pierre Pican of Bayeux-Lisieux, warmly applauding him for refusing to report a priest accused of sexual abuse to the civil authorities. The priest, Abbot Rene Bissey, was sentenced in 1998 to 18 years in jail for the repeated rape of a boy and sexual assaults on ten other boys. Bishop Pican received a three month suspended sentence for withholding information.
“I congratulate you for not denouncing a priest to the civil administration,” Cardinal Castrillon wrote. “You have acted well and I am pleased to have a colleague in the episcopate who, in the eyes of history and of all the other bishops in the world, preferred prison to denouncing his son and priest.”
In it, the cardinal said relations between bishops and priests were not simply professional but had “very special links of spiritual paternity.” Bishops therefore had no obligation to testify against “a direct relative,” he stated. The letter cited Vatican documents and an epistle of Saint Paul to bolster its argument about special bishop-priest links.
“To encourage brothers in this episcopate in this delicate domain this Congregation will send copies of this letter to all bishops’ conferences,” Castrillon Hoyos wrote.
Spanish newspapers reported that Cardinal Castrillon told an audience at a Catholic university in Murcia, Spain on April 16, 2010 that he had consulted with Pope John Paul II and showed him the letter. He said the pope had authorized him to send the letter to bishops worldwide.
This letter languished in relative obscurity since 2001. It was posted on the web by Golias, a French Roman Catholic lay organization based in Lyon, France. It can be seen here.
The letter caught fire when SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) caught wind of it and a planned visit to the United States by Cardinal Castrillon. He was invited to preside at a traditional Latin Mass at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC on April 24th, honoring the fifth anniversary of the inauguration of the Holy Father. It was to be the first time in almost 50 years that the Tridentine Mass would said from the Shrine’s high altar.
The Paulus Institute had been planning the Mass for three years to honor Pope Benedict XVI, who allowed the Traditional Latin Mass to be more widely celebrated early on in his papacy. The group said it had originally asked Cardinal Castrillon to celebrate the Mass because he was a prominent voice in the movement to restore the traditional liturgy.
Paul King, president of the Paulus Institute, told reporters that the decision to choose another celebrant for the Mass had a lot to do with potential picketers and the costs associated with heavier security. SNAP said they would picket the Mass if Cardinal Castrillon was the celebrant.
When asked if he thought Cardinal Castrillon was disappointed, King responded, “I think so. He’s an interesting person and a devout person.”
On April 22, 2010 radio interview Cardinal Castrillon continued to defend his letter: “The law in nations with a well-developed judiciary does not force anyone to testify against a child, a father against other people close to the suspect. Why would they ask that of the church? That’s the injustice.”
” John Paul II, that holy pope, was not wrong when he defended his priests so that they were not, due to economic reasons, treated like criminal pedophiles without due process.”
The 2001 letter congratulating a bishop for hiding a pedophile priest was not Cardinal Castrillon’s first impolitic decision.
From 2000 to 2009 he also a ran the Pontifical Commission, Ecclesia Dei, dealing with traditionalist rebels who broke from Rome in 1988 and were excommunicated.
He conducted the talks that led to the January 2009 decision to readmit the four banned bishops of the Society of Pius X to the Church, which caused an uproar when it emerged that one of them, Richard Williamson, had denied the Holocaust. The controversy was highly embarrassing to Pope Benedict, who said he did not know about Williamson’s views, even though they could easily be found on the internet.
A staunch conservative from Columbia, the steely-eyed Castrillon, 80, drew the wrath of victims of American-priest sex abuse for denying that the Catholic Church had any particular problem with pedophiles in its ranks. Castrillon headed the Congregation for the Clergy from 1996 to 2006.
The cardinal accused unnamed insiders and enemies elsewhere of feeding the sex abuse scandals hurting the Catholic Church.
“Unfortunately there are…useful idiots inside (the church) who lend themsevles to this type of persecution,” Castrillon said. “But I’m not afraid to say that in some cases it’s within the Masons, together with other enemies of the church.”
He would not give details, however, saying that “since I’m not stupid, I don’t tell everything I know. Only drunks, children and idiots tell, and I’m not a child, nor a drunk, nor stupid.”
“For generations,” ChurchOuting.org proclaims, ” in Catholic churches across the country, LGBT youth are told they should be ashamed of who they are and that they should lead loveless lives as social and religious abominations. The emotional, psychological and spiritual abuse inflicted on them by Catholic priests and our church hierarchy is in reality as damaging as the physical or sexual child abuse anyone would quickly condemn. Yet to this abuse, few raise their voices and say “ENOUGH!”
“It is shameful that in many Catholic churches, this abuse is being supported by men, who are gay themselves, leading closeted lives of self-persecution and quiet desperation.”
“Even more shameful, is that many of these priests, while remaining silent, actually lead duplicitous lives rich with romantic and sexual relationships — both homosexual and heterosexual.”
“This hypocrisy must end.”
Churchouting.org intends to “out” Catholic clergy members in the Washington Archdiocese that are leading secret gay lives, or, straight priests having affairs with parishioners, that are anti-gay civil rights or silent on the issue. More on the organization and it’s campaign here.
The organization takes its inspiration from the success of sexual abuse survivors in Boston, who banded together and went public with their stories of rape and sodomy by priests that were moved around by complicit bishops. They went public because the institutional church did not respond to their requests for individual justice, and to do something about the problem of sexually predatory priests. Instead, the church wanted to protect the clergy involved, protect the church, by sweeping the problem under the rug and attempting to shame or cajole the people who came forward into silence.
Terry Nelson, owner of the blog Abbey-Roads, has a different take on the behavior of homosexual clergy:
“The fact is, many same sex attracted men have struggled to live according to the teachings of the Church, and as all of us who admit to being sinners, many fall – and rise again. Priests are not perfect, to preach the truth about homosexuality is not hypocrisy – even if a priest fails to live up to his vows from time to time. If he repents and strives to live accordingly, in time he will be victorious. On the other hand, perhaps there are ‘bad’ priests living duplicitous lives, and exposure could perhaps bring them to repentance? I don’t know.”
I believe Mr. Nelson is correct that many Catholic priests see their lives this way – a struggle and a rising and falling. But the church is failing them in one important regard: because they need to live closeted lives, and pretend they’re straight or sexless, there is no where they can go to get affirmation and support as celibate gay Roman Catholic priests. They need to hide. This situation can breed a compartmentalized life and justifications for aberrant behavior.
(Ex) Fr. Tom, who blogs on The Gospel According to Hate, had this illuminating personal memory of a visit to the annual U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops gathering in Washington:
“Every year without fail, gay Catholic men stood silently outside the bishopsâ€™ hotel, holding candles and keeping a twenty-four-hour vigil in protest of the churchâ€™s hypocritical, psychologically outdated, and pastorally damning teachings concerning the LGBT community.”
“Passing the protesters, I wasnâ€™t the only seminarian averting my eyes, afraid that if I looked a gay in the eye that he would know, that the truth of his glare would strip away my clerical shield, and that I would be proclaimed a â€œknownâ€ homosexual.”
“Each of the four years that I attended, the damn bus took forever to pull away, and I sat there, from behind the safety of the reflecting bus windows, looking at the courageously grieved gay protestors.”
“No one on the bus spoke of them. We just stared, silently accepting their judgment, our hearts heavy with shame. Then we were whisked back to the safety of the seminary, the homoerotic dormitory, and the corresponding compartments of our collective clerical closet.”
I commend the founder of ChurchOuting.org, D.C. attorney Phil Attey, for his courage in taking on this fight and backlash. Even if he doesn’t publish one name, just the threat of exposure is going to put a big crimp in the swinging lifestyle of some gay cardinals, bishops and priests.
But I also caution him not to out gay clergy that go about their work in a quiet way. Gay Catholic priests cannot come out to their bishops and expect to be a pastor for very long. They have to be closeted–they have no choice.
However, as pastor, they have credibility with Catholics in the pew – the people the bishops are most concerned about. If the pastor doesn’t condemn gay people, if they stress dignity and respect for all, then gradually this teaching is going to seep down.
I would also not equivocally out gay bishops. Some of them may do what they can behind the scenes to change or mitigate things.
However, what I would do is put gay cardinals and bishops who are actively anti same-sex marriage and civil rights on notice they are not going to protect themselves, or further their careers in the church at the expense of gay people. They need to pick another issue, or, they are going to find themselves feeling the pain of what they advocate.
The megalomanic bishop of Scranton, Pennsylvania, stepped down on August 31, 2009. Even the Pope had enough.
Ordinary Catholics had expressed their opinion on his leadership: the Diocese of Scranton’s annual fundraiser fell $274,000 short of its $5.3 million goal–the first time in the two decades since the establishment of the annual drive the diocese did not reach its goal.
Critics of the bishop’s management of the diocese – including his ongoing efforts to consolidate schools and churches – say at least part of the fundraiser’s shortfall was caused by parishioners who withheld donations out of protest.
Pope Benedict XVI accepted the resignation of Bishop Joseph F. Martino, 63, from the pastoral governance of the Diocese of Scranton for “health reasons.”
Watch a video of the press conference here.
At the press conference, Martino himself alluded to the divisions his style had brought to the diocese, and the toll it had taken on him mentally and physically: “For some time now there has not been a clear consensus among the clergy and people of the diocese of Scranton regarding my pastoral initiatives or my way of governance. This development has caused me great sorrow, resulting in bouts of insomnia and, at times, a crippling physical fatigue.”
“I seek forgiveness from anyone whm I may not have served adequately as bishop, due to my human limitations,” Martino said, adding later, “As the song says, you have to know when to hold them and when to fold them. And I think it’s time to move on.”
This controversial bishop, who gained national prominence for his strident pro-life advocacy and aggressive criticism of pro-choice Democratic politicians, was still more than a decade away from reaching the Church’s automatic retirement age of 75. Martino’s abrupt resignation, along with the fact he was not reassigned to another post within the Church–but ushered to a rural retreat center–has some church insiders suggesting that the highly unusual move was far from voluntary–and quite possibly the work of a Vatican that has been decidedly less openly critical of the Obama Administration. Church insiders also say Martino had worn out his welcome with his brother bishops in the U.S., as he began to totter dangerously over the line of separation of Church and State with his demagogue pronouncements on his Catholic teaching.
Martino’s departure came just weeks after the Archbishop of Santa Fe became the first Church leader to speak out publicly about the increasingly political behavior of a small minority of bishops within the conference. Archbishop Michael Sheehan told the National Catholic Reporter on August 12 that he spoke out during the bishops’ meeting in June, arguing that they risked “isolat(ing) ourselves from the rest of America by our strong views on abortion and the other things. We need to be building bridges, not burning them.”
From the start of his six-year tenure in Scranton, Martino alienated many with his abrasive style. He frequently clashed with the local Catholic universities–including the Jesuit-run University of Scranton–and was dismissive of their ruling bodies, arguing as bishop he would not heed their advice.
Martino seemed to take special pleasure in catigating institutions and individuals that he felt were failing to represent Catholic values.
Last February, Martino blasted another local college, Misericordia University, for inviting Keith Boykin, an openly-gay author, Clinton administration staffer and Harvard Law classmate of President Obama, to speak on campus. The university, run by the Sisters of Mercy, was “seriously failing in maintaining its Catholic identity,” Martino charged. He also sought to close down the institution’s program on diversity.
Also in February, Martino sent a letter to the leaders of three Irish-American organizations threatening to close St. Peter’s Cathedral in Scranton during St. Patrick’s Day celebrations if groups “honor pro-abortion officials” by inviting them to speak or otherwise be honored during events in which the church might be involved. Ultimately, the Mass was held, but not before he again threatened to shut the cathedral if members of the local Catholic teachers’ union were invited to march in the St. Patrick’s Day parade. Bishop Martino refused to recognize the union.
During the 2008 presidential campaign Bishop Martino focused particular attention on vice presidental nominee Joseph Biden, the Scranton’s native son and Catholic Democrat. The bishop declared that Biden would be denied Communion if he tried to receive it at any church in the diocese, which covers the northeast corner of the state. “I will be truly vigilant on this point,” said Martino. And he warned his parishioners there would be dire consequences for supporting Biden and the Democratic ticket. In October, just prior to the election, Martino directed that a letter be read at all Sunday Masses, charging that a vote for a pro-choice politician was the same as supporting “homicide.”
Bishop Martino also called on priests and Eucharistic Ministers to act on their own to deny Communion–the central element of Catholic belief and worship–to any public officials “who persist in support for abortion and other intrinsic evils.”
One of major incidents contributing to Martino’s downfall came when he showed up unannounced as a voter-education forum at a Honesdale parish. Martino took the microphone and proceeded to criticize the organizers for discussing a comprehensive election guide, “Faithful Citizenship,” endorsed by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, instead of the letter he had drafted for the diocese on abortion.
When a nun at the forum reminded Martino that Faithful Citizenship had been prepared and endorsed by the entire bishops’ conference Martino responded, “No USCCB document is relevant in this diocese. The USCCB doesn’t speak for me,” he declared. “The only relevant document…is my letter. There is one teacher in this diocese, and these points are not debatable.”
Such comments didn’t endear him to the parishioners who organized the forum, or to his immediate superior, Philadelphia Cardinal Justin Rigali. As the head of the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities, Rigali is just as opposed to abortion as Martino. But he is a much more politic figure.
Many think Martino finally overstepped this spring when he started training his sights on Bob Casey, Jr., the Democratic senator from Pennsylvania and a staunchly pro-life Catholic. Casey’s late father, the former governor of Pennsylvania, is still revered by Catholics for speaking out against the Democratic Party’s support for abortion rights. Bu that didn’t stop Martino from sending Casey letters–also issued as press releases from the Diocesan office–warning the sentor that his oppostion to abortion was insufficient. In one such letter, Martino wrote that Casey “persist(s) formally in cooperating with the evil brought about by this hideous and unncessary (abortion) policy” and suggested that the senator could be denied Communion in the Scranton diocese.
The situation came to a head this spring, when King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, PA invited Senator Casey to speak at its commencement ceremony. Objecting to Casey’s vote to confirm former Kansas governor Kathleen Sebelius (a Catholic who supports abortion rights) as Secretary for Health and Human Services, Martino said it was “sad and disappointing” that the college chose to honor a Democrat who could not “muster the courage” to oppose “the pro-abortion agenda.”
Two days before Casey’s address at King’s College, Cardinal Rigali issued a statement “applauding” the senator for introducing legislation to promote policies that encourage women facing unplanned pregnancies to carry their babies to term. In the highly ritualized world of Church communication, the Cardinal’s announcement was akin to a public smackdown of Martino. One month later, Martino was summoned to Rome, and submitted his resignation. It was formally accepted in July, and he was out by the end of August.
During his farewell press conference, Martino was unapologetic. “I did what my mother told me to do,” Martino said. “She would also say, ‘Well, you do the right thing.’ And my conscience is clear.” He said he wasn’t trying to become a rallying point for the most vociferous foes of abortion, but he defended them saying they are often too readily dismissed by the media and even within the church because of their “passion.”
He praised vocal pro-lifers as “very dear to the Lord” because of their outspokenness, and said “bishops should encourage” them as they try to “overturn a profound cancer in our society, this sin, frankly, of murdering 50 million people (referring to the number of abortions since Roe v. Wade in 1973). I think we have become quite blase about that, and that scares me very much.”
“By the world’s standards perhaps I have not been successful here,” Martino concluded. “But I did what I thought was right.”
Clearly, not everyone agreed with that self-assessment.
The bishop’s high-profile controversy, and reports of low morale among the diocese’s parishioners and priests, did not go unnoticed around the country and in Rome, church observers say.
“It’s not the people who left the church that bothers Rome,” said Joseph K. Grieboski, a Scranton native and founder and president of the Washington, D.C.-based Institute on Religion and Public Policy. “It’s the people who stayed and are disaffected.
“People who are going to leave are going to leave no matter what, and the bishop became an excuse. It’s the people who stayed and said, ‘I stayed despite him,’ that’s what bothered Rome and that’s what bothered his fellow bishops.”
A few days ago, Pope Benedict XVI asked the Italian Bishops’ Conference for an “assessment” after the editor of its newspaper, Avvenire, was accused by another publication of homosexual behavior and harassment.
“His Holiness has asked for information and an assessment of the current situation,” said a statement posted last week on the website of the bishops’ group, which publishes the daily Avvenire.
Yesterday, Dino Boffo, director of the Italian Catholic newspaper Avvenire, resigned–ostensibly in the wake of a tumultuous feud with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
The row erupted after Boffo ran a series of stories in Avvenire that criticized the immigration policies and personal life of the prime minister.
Letters from readers complained that a Roman Catholic newspaper had a moral duty to denounce divorce, consorting with teenage girls, naked poolside parties and the prime minister being caught on tape telling a prostitute to wait for him in “Putin’s bed” while he showered.
Boffo, the editor, began to weigh in. “People have understood the unease, the mortification, the suffering this arrogant neglect of sobriety has caused the Catholic Church,” Boffo wrote last month.
Under cover of a paper owned by his brother, Paolo Berusconi, the prime minister retaliated.
Under a front page banner headline, Il Giornale, ran an article accusing Avvenire, the official newspaper of the Italian Bishops Conference, of running a “moralistic campaign” against Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, 72. The article went on to scrutinize Dino Boffo, 57, Avvenire‘s top editor, claiming he had a homosexual affair and had accepted a plea bargain in 2004 for harassing the wife of his lover.
The Il Giornale article openly admitted that the article was in response to Boffo’s criticisms of Berlusconi’s private life, and called Boffo a hypocrite.
In a statement, Mr. Boffo described the report as an “absurd” attempt to smear his reputation. Mr. Boffo described himself as “the first victim” in the 2001 harassment case. He didn’t elaborate on the matter.
After the story appeared, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State and deputy to Pope Benedict XVI, telephoned Mr. Boffo to offer his “solidarity.”
He was joined by Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, the Archbishop of Milan, who said he had offered Mr. Boffo his “esteem and gratitude.”
Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, the head of the bishops conference, described the attack on Mr. Boffo as “disgusting.”
Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, former secretary to the late Pope John Paul II and now Archbishop of Krakow in Poland, said it was “the first time a Catholic paper has been attacked with such violence.” He added that he was “very worried by the moral decadence into which Italy is sliding because of the behavior of certain important political leaders.”
Il Giornale ‘s attack escalated when another editorial aimed at the Catholic Church itself, mocking not just the “hypocrisy” of sexually active priests with “weak flesh,” but even the “Mitteleuropean” accent of Pope Benedict XVI, a German.
Earlier in the week Il Giornale reported how Dino Boffo had been successfully sued by a woman who claimed that he had tried to steal her husband from her in 2001. The matter, which involved a couple from Terni, near Perugia, was settled out of court in 2004 with Boffo agreeing to pay a small fine. The article claimed Boffo had been listed by police in document as a gay man “noted for this kind of activity.” (It’s not clear–harassment or chasing married men??)
The story dragged in the Italian goverment with Robert Maroni, the Interior Minister, was forced to telephone Mr. Boffo to assure him no such police document existed.
Officials said the alleged police document appeared in reality to be an “anonymous letter” sent to Italian bishops earlier this year.
Prime Minister Berlusconi and his allies had hoped to patch up his relationship with the Catholic Church after months of articles linking Berlusconi with teenage models and “spicy” parties. He denied he paid for sex after an Italian prostitute went public with claims that she slept with Mr. Berlusconi at his residence in Rome.
“Gossip isn’t enough to crucify someone,” Vittorio Feltri, the editor of Il Giornale wrote.
In April, the premier’s wife announced plans for a divorce, accusing him of “consorting with minors.”
“I’ve never had ‘relations’ with minors and have never organized ‘spicy parties,’ retorted Berlusconi. “I’ve simply taken part in engaging dinners which were absolutely in line with morality and elegance. And I’ve never knowingly invited anyone to my house who was not a serious person,” the premier told Il Giornale.
After photos of scantily clad guests and a naked man partying at his Sardinian home were published, Berlusconi then found himself embroiled in an escort scandal when Patizia D’Addario claimed she and other women were paid by Bari businessman Gianpaolo Tarantini to attend parties at the premier’s residences.
Berlusconi admitted that he was “no saint” after the left-leaning daily La Repubblica and sister weekly Espresso posted audio takes and transcripts that it alleges are of conversations between the premier and a call girl on their websites.
Friends of the prime minister warned him he is wadding into dangerous waters with the church that could harm him politically. Many Italians care about what candidates have its normally implicit support. The church generally supports candidates on the right, like Mr. Berlusconi, making the current confrontation that much more unusual and significant.
But Berlusconi’s popularity has started to drop in the polls, and he appears deeply worried about further damage, especially from moderate Catholic voters. This week he announced he was bringing defamation lawsuits against several publications that have been critical of him, part of what his critics and allies alike worry is a dangerous trend toward treating any criticism as disloyal and possibily illegal. (Hmmmm…does this sound familiar in some Church circles??!!)
As part of an effort to mend relations with the Vatican, Mr. Berlusconi had planned to attend a high profile religious service and dine with the Vatican’s No. 2 official when the Holy See issued a statement withdrawing the dinner invitation. The statement also said that Mr. Berlusconi wouldn’t attend the service, known as the “Perdonanza,” or the annual day of pardon for sins.
Mr. Berlusconi’s plans to attend the Perdonanza was seen by the Italian public as a gesture in the direction of atonement.
The service was established in the 13th century by Pope Celestine V, who decreed that anyone who entered the basilica on August 28 and 29 could receive a plenary indulgence–if they have already confessed to their sins in private and taken Communion.
In its statement, the Vatican said Mr. Berlusconi’s dinner plans with Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who officiated Friday’s service, was called off partly out of concern that the meeting woul be “exploited.” The Vatican official said the Holy See didn’t want to be viewed as giving a “benediction” to Mr. Berlusconi’s political positions and his personal life.
The situation become more complicated and shaded when Gian Maria Vian, editor of the Vatican’s semi-official daily, L’Osservatore Romano, didn’t speak out on behalf of Boffo in an interview with the Italian newspaper Il Courier della Sera.
Vian restated the decision of the Holy See’s newspaper not to write about Berlusconi’s private life because the paper is international and is not designed to cover controversies in Italian politics.
Vian further expressed his opinion that some recent editorials in Avenire were exaggerated when, for example, one article compared the government’s position on immigration to that of the Italian administratin prior to the Holocaust.
The comments of Vian were interpreted as constituting a point of contention between the Vatican newspaper and the Italian Bishops’ Conference. Benedict XVI sought to dispel any ideas of a rift by personally calling Cardinal Bagnasco, president of the conference, and affirming his esteem for the episcopal body.
Both in articles published in Avvenire,as well as in the letter to Cardinal Bagnasco tendering his resignation, Boffo, who is married, insists on his innocence and states that Il Giornale‘s accusations are not true.
He thanked the Church for its support, but aded that it “has better things to do than strenuously defend one person, even if unfairly targeted.”
Boffo said he believes the attacks against him are due to the fact that Avvenire is a voice that is independent of “secular power.” He asks, “What future of liberty and responsibility will there be for our information?”
Cardinal Bagnasco expressed in a communique gratitude to Boffo “for the commitment shown over many years with competence, rigor and passion, in fulfilling such a precious assignment for the life of the Church and of Italian society.”
The cardinal also expressed his “closeness and support” to the former director.
Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco was in the news a few years ago when he claimed that permitting gay marriages was merely the beginning of slippery slope. “Why then say ‘no’ to incest? Why say ‘no’ to the pedophile party in Holland?” he asked.
Draw your own conclusions.
The Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), an association that icludes the leadership of most U.S. women’s congregations, is under investigation by the Vatican.
Cardinal Levada said the assessment of the LCWR will be conducted by the Bishop of Toledo, Ohio, Leonard P. Blair. Bishop Blair is a member of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Doctrine.
The Vatican assessment became necessary, according to Levada, because at the 2001 meeting between LCWR and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which took place in Rome, the women were invited “to report on the initiatives taken or planned” to promote the reception of three areas of Vatican doctrinal concern: the 1994 apostolic letter Ordinatio sacerdotalis, the 2000 declaration Dominus Jesus from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and “the problem of homosexuality.”
Cardinal Levada informed conference leaders: “Given both the tenor and the doctrinal content of various addresses given at the annual assemblies of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious in the intervening years, this Dicastery can only conclude that the problems which had motivated its request in 2001 continue to be present.”
The National Catholic Reporter, an independent newspaper, said the Vatican ordered the probe because the sisters had not addressed issues raised by the Vatican in 2001 about their promotion of church teaching on homosexuality, salvation and the priesthood, which the Vatican said is reserved for men.
The ripples from a keynote by Sinsinawa Dominican Sister Laurie Brink at the 2007 LCWR assembly roused the Vatican machinery into action.
In that keynote address, titled A Marginal Life: Pursuing Holiness in the 21st Century,” Sr. Laurie Brink urged leaders of Catholic religious orders to make clear, if painful choices about the future of religious life. She began with this assumption: “Old concepts of how to live the life are no longer valid.” The rest of the speech outlined four possible options or outcomes as a starting point for discussion.
– “Death with dignity and grace” as opposed to becoming a “zombie congregation” that staggers on with no purpose. This option must be taken seriously, since the average age of the 67,000 sisters and nuns in the United States is 69. Many retreat ministries are closing, and large “mother houses” are struggling with finances, while some congregations no longer invite or accept new candidates.
– Brink noted that some orders have chosen to turn back the clock – thus winning the favor of Rome. “They are putting on the habit, or continuing to wear the habit with zest…Some would critique that they are the nostalgic portrait of a time now passed. But they are flourishing. Young adults are finding in these communities a living image of their romantic vision of religious life.”
– During this era of crisis and decline, some Catholic religious orders have chosen to enter a time of “sojourning” that involves “moving beyond the church, even beyond Jesus.” “Religious titles, institutional limitations, ecclesiastical authorities no longer fit this congregation, which in most respects is post-Christian,” added Brink, a former journalist who is a biblical studies professor at Chicago’s Catholic Theological Union.
For these women, the “Jesus narrative is not the only or the most important narrative…They still hold up and reverence the values of the Gospel, but they also recognize that these same values are not solely the property of Christianity. Buddhism, Native American spirituality, Judaism, Islam and others hold similar tenets for right behavior within the community, right relationship with the Earth and right relationship with the divine.”
She described the Benedictine Women of Madison as having a commitment to “ecumenism” which led them “beyond the exclusivity of the Catholic Church into a new inclusivity, where all manner of God is welcomed. They are certainly religious women, but they are no longer women religious as it is defined by the Roman Catholic Church. They choose as a congregation to step outside the Church in order to step into a greater sense of holiness.”
– Finally, some women are fighting on, hoping to achieve reconciliation someday with a changed, egalitarian church hierarchy. “Theologians are denied academic freedom. Religious and laywomen feel scrutinized simply because of their biology. Gays and lesbians desire to participate as fully human, fully sexual Catholics within their parishes,” Brink said. Many Catholics also oppose the “ecclesial deafness that refuses to hear the call of the Spirit summoning not only celibate males, but married men and women to serve” as priests.
Read Brink’s 2007 address and the keynotes from the LCWR 2008, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003 and 2003 assemblies here.
The blog, Journey to a New Pentecost, provided a very crisp and thorough assessment of the LCWR investigation. You can read it here.
Brink’s comment about being “post-Christian,” and the sentence: “They are certainly religious women, but they are no longer women religious as it is defined by the Roman Catholic Church,” may have been the spark that ignited the gas can.
Amy Welborn, a Catholic blogger who writes on Beliefnet said: “If you are going to be post-Christian, then be post-Christian. I don’t say that with snark. It’s just reality. If you’ve moved on – move on. Step out from the protective mantle of identity that gives you cachet, that of ‘Catholic nun.'”
Here was a comment on America Magazine’s blog that summed things up for this conservative reader: “The Vatican investigation is long overdue. If you want to be a social worker then be a social worker–not a nun. A nun’s first allegiance is to the Church. I am quite tired of running into nuns who: look like aged hippies, push for women’s ordination, push for abortion, push homosexuality as an ok lifestyle and do this, supposedly, in the name of Christ.”
Sr. Jeannine Gramick, former co-director of New Ways Ministry, commented on the probable political reasons for the investigation: “It is difficult for me to believe that the CDF (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) has not already made a predetermined conclusion. This seems to be the Vatican’s modus operandi. An “investigation” process puts a veneer of fairness to the result. Consider the investigations of theologians like Charles Curran, Leonardo Boff, Roger Haight, etc. etc. No matter what the investigating party does to please them (or not please them) the outcome will be the same. For example, in the Vatican investigation of Fr. Robert Nugent and me, Bob agreed to make some “profession of faith” about the church’s teaching on homosexuality while I refused. The sanction for each of us was identical.”
“In this case, I expect the predetermined outcome to be a change in the canonical relationship of LCWR to the Vatican. The Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR), the traditional group of nuns formed in 1192 by Cardinal Hickey, was not to be the official group representing women religious to the Vatican. By 1195, they not only had canonical status but also were favored over LCWR (e.g., CMSWR had more delegates than LCWR at the synod on Religious Life.) The Vatican would like CMSWR to be the official representative of the leaders of US women’s communities. I think the Vatican is using this investigation to usurp LCWR’s role and replace them with CMSWR.”
I agree with Amy Welborn. I also tend to agree with Jeannine on the politics of the situation. LCWR gave the Vatican the opening it needed by Sr. Laurie Brinks candid–but public–remarks about the choices facing the communities of the LCWR and the options a few members have chosen to pursue. They were imprudent, considering how many enemies LCWR has in the Church.
However, in addition to ideological purity, there is also the issue of property and endowments. These aging communities are sitting on a lot of very valuable real estate. I think the church definitely has an interest in what happens to it when communities begin to fold and the property is sold off. What happens to the money? That may be easier to influence or manage if a more traditionalist group of sisters is involved.
There is another investigation underway running parallel to the investigation of the LCWR.
On March 10, 2009, the Vatican ordered an apostolic visitation of the institutions of the Legionaries of Christ following disclosures of sexual impropriety by the order’s late founder, Father Marcial Maciel Degollado. The letter was signed by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Sectetary of State. It was addressed to Father Alvaro Corcuera, director general of the Legionaries and its lay association, Regnum Christi.
In 2006 Pope Benedict XVI disciplined Fr. Maciel. He was banned from exercising his ministry in public and told to retire to a life of prayer and penitence, following allegations that he sexually abused about 30 boys and young men over a period of 30 years. The Vatican initially stonewalled the sexual abuse investigation for well over a decade.
The Legionaires of Christ were much admired by the late Pope John Paul II for its conservative views, strict loyalty to Vatican teaching, fund raising ability and success in attracting seminarians.
But it was not until Fr. Maciel’s death in 2008 that his secret life was revealed. In February 2009 the Legionaries admitted he kept a mistress and fathered a daughter who is now in her 20s.
The leadership of the order recently admitted that Maciel, a cult figure among Legionaires, led a “double life” after the discovery of his liaison with the mother of his daughter.
Several prominent Catholic commentators said publicly–and some Vatican officials said privately–that the situation called for an outside investigation into the Legionaries of Christ, in order to ascertain the truth, determine whether officials of the order covered up Father Maciel’s misconduct and judge whether Father Maciel’s teachings could still inspire the order.
Also at stake in the investigation is the significant estate Maciel left behind–which his daughter could have a claim to…
The probe could also uncover more cases of sexual abuse similar to those committed by Fr. Maciel.
“We have testimonies that there have been other Legionaires who followed Maciel’s example,” said Jose Barba, the legal representative of eight former Legionaries who started court proceedings against Marciel in 1998. “The ramifications of the problem exist throughout the Legionaires of Christ,” he added.
It will be interesting to compare the end result of each investigation. It will also be interesting to see if Fr. Maciel’s daughter pursues gaining an inheritence or is offered a settlement by the order. Children of priests and bishops laying claim to church property is one of the reasons priestly celibacy became a requirement years ago.
“For whatever ways any representative of the church has hurt, offended, dismissed, ignored, any one of you — I ask you, the church asks you, for forgiveness,” Bishop David A. Zubik of Pittsburgh said in an April 8, 2009 reflection during a special “service of apology” at St. Paul Cathedral.
Bishop Zubik apologized for sins, including sexual abuse, committed by clergy and any other representatives of the church and asked for forgiveness.
He noted that many of the several hundred people present had come to the service with “hurts that you hold, perhaps painfully so, in the inner recesses of your hearts.” He said, “You call me, as leader of the church of Pittsburgh, to not only not forget the sins of those who have hurt you, but you charge me with the need to continue the work to secure that the sins not happen again.”
Bishop Zubik said that “while the church is truly divine, fully given its mission as the body of Christ by Jesus himself, we are also a very human church, comprised of people who are human and sinful.”
Read Bishop Zubik’s entire Service of Apology reflection here.
He ended his reflection by quoting a statement Sister Thea Bowman made at a concert for people suffering from AIDS.
“Thea Bowman said: ‘I have come tonight seeking a blessing. I have come tonight seeking a healing. I don’t usually talk about myself, but tonight I want to tell you a little about me. I have cancer. More important, I have something in common with my brothers and sisters who have AIDS–weight loss, hair loss, loss of voice, weakness, fatigue, exhaustion. I’m here tonight to say, God is! God made me! God loves me. I want to live my best; I want to love my best; I want to do my best; I want to give my best.'”
“Like Sister Thea, I stand before you tonight on behalf of the church seeking your blessing, seeking your forgiveness, seeking a healing so that we as church can live our best, love our best, do our best, give our best.”
Archbishop Raymond Burke, Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, issued an apology this week to “my brother bishops” for statements he made on a videotape by Randall Terry, the former head of Operation Rescue. In Burke’s statement of apology he said that Terry and some of his associates had visited him in Rome and asked to videotape an interview “to share with pro-life workers for the purpose of their encouragement.” The interview was conducted on March 2, 2009.
Terry said he conducted the 12-minute interview as part of his campaign to persuade the church to oust American bishops who allow pro-choice backers to receive Communion.
But instead of private showings to supporters, Terry played the interview for reporters on March 25 at the National Press Club. He also put the tape on his website, A Humble Plea. You can see it here.
Terry traveled to Rome with a delegation of anti-abortion activists to ask Vatican officials to remove U.S. bishops they felt were not doing enough to stop abortions. “One of the reasons we are here is to specifically request the transfer of Bishop Loverde of Arlington, VA and Archbishop Wuerl of Washington, DC,” Terry was quoted as saying at the time. Archbishop Wuerl is currently head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Obviously, Terry would like to see these bishops removed, and have in their place bishops who would refuse Communion to any elected representative or government official involved in any capacity to allow legalized abortion.
Other U.S. prelates singled out by Randall for “rejecting church teachings” were Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony and the former Archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.
In the tape, Burke called on parishioners to pressure reluctant bishops to withhold Communion from Catholic politicians who back legalized abortion. Burke said the failure of some bishops to stand up by withholding Communion is “weakening the faith of everyone.” He said, “It’s giving the impression that it must be morally correct to support procured abortion.”
Burke also went one step further, agreeing with Terry that voting for Barak Obama for president was a “form of cooperation” with “evil” and the Catholics who did so need to bear the moral responsibility for their action. “Well, your vote is either a vote to put someone in office who will do what is right and just, or someone who won’t.” He went on to say “we can’t be content with the fact that some 55% (of Catholics) – or whatever it is – who for whatever reason, supported this anti-life program.” He urged Catholics in the United States to let the president know abortion “is the number one issue.”
Archbishop Burke should know the dangers of taping someone to forward an agenda for church politics. After all, he used the sneaky, undercover taping of Sr. Louise Lears at a Roman Catholic Womenpriests ordination at a St. Louis synagogne to impose the penalty of interdict on Lears, forcing her out of her ministry at a local parish, and barring her from Communion.
Burke denied that he gave the interview as the Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, but only as “a Bishop from the United States to encourage those in the respect life apostolate.” He went on to add:” I was never informed that the videotape would be used as part of a campaign of severe criticism of certain fellow bishops regarding the application of Canon 915 of the Code of Canon Law.”
After viewing the tape and reading the transcript, I’m not sure exactly what Archbishop Burke is sorry for, since he appears to genuinely believe in everything he said.
But ultimately, like any schoolyard bully, Archbishop Burke finds it easier to beat up a few religious and laity rather than go up against his “brother bishops.” They might be able to hit back.
He should be sorry he lost his nerve at the moment it counted, and backed down from a face-off on Canon 915. That would have taken some courage and conviction, since there is no guarantee Archbishop Burke would have prevailed.
Better to do things the sneaky way….with letter-writing campaigns, character assassinations, flyers left on the windshields of cars, and YouTube videos.
Hey, after all, what counts is that it is being done in the cause of the #1 moral concern.
My post, New Fr. Marical Maciel Degollado Sex Scandal, prompted a few comments. One came from Greg Krehbiel, who writes the blog, Crowhill Weblog. Mr. Krehbiel wrote, “I don’t think people have yet come to grasp with the real significance of this story. If a manifest fraud like Maciel was able to deceive so many devout, serious people (including the pope!) what does that imply?”
Mr. Krehbiel included a link to his excellent article on Google, “The True Significance of the Fr. Maciel Story.” Some key excerpts:
“Those of us who believed the accusations against Fr. Maciel were scolded and lectured in stern tones from on high, with brows furrowed in anger and the accusing finger wagging. We were told that Fr. Maciel was being persecuted by people who hated the church, but he, saintly fellow, was taking it all in stride, bearing it like Jesus, glad to be a martyr and take his part in the sufferings of Christ.”
“Specifically, what does this story tell us about movements, leaders, followers, charlatans, con artists and enablers of various sorts, and how does that affect our reckoning of the history of the church and the evidences of Christianity? How were so many people, including Pope John Paul II, fooled by this guy?”
“This is not an idle question for Christians, for although it’s certainly true that Fr. Maciel’s sins say nothing directly about the truth of Christianity, they have indirect but important implications for Christian apologetic and epistemology, and I think these implications haven’t been seriously addressed.”
An article to read next to Mr. Krehbiel’s is the late Fr. Richard John Neuhaus’s defense of Fr. Maciel, “Feathers of Scandal” which was published by First Things in March 2002.
Fr. Neuhaus’ withering reflection was inspired by the fallout from a 1997 story in the Hartford Courant, a Connecticut newspaper, that was reprinted in the National Catholic Reporter, “a left-wing tabloid,” Fr. Neuhaus called it. Read the NCR article here. It is about the testimony of several of the men who claimed Fr. Maciel sexually abused them as seminarians, and how the Vatican put a protective wall around the Legionaires founder, refusing to investigate any of their charges.
The Hartford Courant story had been coauthored Gerald Renner, formerly the religion writer for the paper, and Jason Berry, a freelance writer in New Orleans, the author of the books Lead Us Not Into Temptation: Catholic Priests and the Sexual Abuse of Children (1992) and Vows of Silence: The Abuse of Power in the Papacy of John Paul II (1996).
Here’s what Fr. Neuhaus had to say in Fr. Maciel’s defense:
“I am not neutral about the Legionaries. I have spent time with Fr. Maciel, and he impresses me as a man who combined uncomplicated faith, gentle kindness, military self-discipline, and a relentless determination to do what he believes God has called him to do. They are qualities one would expect of someone who at age twenty-0ne in Mexico vowed to do something great for Christ and his Church, and has been allowed to do it. In the language of the tradition, they are qualities associated with holiness; in his case a virile holiness of tenacious resolve that has been refined in the fires of frequent opposition and misunderstanding.”
“Nonetheless, because I care about the Legion, and because I was outraged by what I suspected as a gross injustice, I decided to go through endless pages of testimony, counter-testimony, legal documents, and other materials related to the Berry/Renner attack on Fr. Maciel. It was not an edifying experience. For Berry/Renner, it is worth noting, the case of Fr. Maciel is not all that important in itself, but it serves another purpose. ‘To many,’ they write in the recent NCR article, ‘the case against Maciel is important because it tests the Vatican’s resolve to pursue charges related to sexual misconduct at the highest levels of the Church.’ The ‘many’ includes, first of all, Berry and Renner. That is clearly the reason for the latest re-raking of the muck of their 1997 article. They report nothing substantially new in the allegations themselves; the only new thing is that the Vatican has again considered the charges and found them without merit. A cardinal in whom I have unbounded confidence and who has been involved in the case tells me that the charges are ‘pure invention, without the slightest foundation.'”
“It counts as evidence that Fr. Maciel unqualifiedly and totally denies the charges. It counts as evidence that priests in the Legion whom I know very well and who, over many years, have a detailed knowledge of Fr. Maciel and the Legion say that the charges are diametrically opposed to everything they know for certain. It counts as evidence that Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger and others who have looked into the matter say that the charges are completely without merit. It counts as evidence that Pope John Paul II, who almost certainly is aware of the charges, has strongly, consistently, and publicly praised Fr. Maciel and the Legion. Much of what we know we take on trust. I trust these people. The suggestion that they are either deliberately deceiving or duped is totally implausible.” (My emphasis)
A last point from Mr. Krehbiel’s article: “Christianity was spread by personal testimony. There was no Wall Street Journal or–God forbid–New York Times to verify the information. People believed the Christian testimony because they respected the lifestyle of the people they heard it from.
This is an important equation that lies at the root and foundation of Christianity–i.e., the fact that you live a decent life makes me want to believe what you say about God.”