Posted in category "Politics"
There were no chorus of “Huzzahs!” from American Catholic conservatives for Pope Benedict XVI’s latest encyclical, Caritas in Veritate (“Charity in Truth”). The Vatican released the document on July 7, 2009 – just a day before the opening of the Group of Eight meeting in Italy and the week of president Obama’s visit with the pope.
In fact, there was very little coverage of it at all in conservative Catholic blogs and websites, except for a few who thought Pope Benedict had been hijacked by the Peace and Justice crowd, and that the liberal media gave short shrift on the pope’s passage on family protection and bioethics. In fact, in this document the pope linked economics to modern cultural issues. And ethics.
The pope used Caritas in Veritate primarily to criticize the current economic system, “where the pernicious effects of sin are evident” he growled. The pope urged financiers in particular to “rediscover the genuinely ethical foundation of their activity” and also called for “greater social responsibility” on the part of business. “Once profit becomes the exclusive goal, if it is produced by improper means and without the common good as its ultimate end, it risks destroying wealth and creating poverty.”
“Today’s international economic scene, marked by grave deviations and failures, requires a profoundly new way of understanding business enterprise,” Benedict stated. “In the search for solutions to the current crisis, development aid for poor countries must be considered a valid means of creating wealth for all.”
John Sniegocki, a professor of Christian ethics at Xavier University in Cincinnati, said one of the most controversial elements of the encyclical, at least for some Americans, would be the call for international institutions to play a role in regulating the economy.
“One of the things he’s saying is that the global economy is escaping the power of individual states to regulate it,” Mr. Sniegocki said. He also said the encyclical also contained elements “very critical” of how the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank “have required cuts in social spending in the third world.”
Caritas in Veritate has infuriated George Weigel, a conservative Catholic intellectual close to Pope John Paul II. Weigel ventured that this social encyclical is a hybrid, “blending the pope’s own insightful thinking on the social order with elements of the Justice and Peace approach to Catholic social doctrine…There is also rather more in the encyclical about the redistribution of wealth than about wealth-creation–a sure sign of Justice and Peace default positions at work.”
“Indeed,” he goes on, “those with advanced degrees in Vaticanology could easily go through the text of Caritas in Veritate, highlighting those passages that are obviously Benedictine with a gold marker and those that reflect current Justice and Peace default positions with a red marker.” (Get it…red marker…commie, pinko, socialist, bleeding heart liberal…sigh.)
Trying to come to terms with this awful document, Weigel opines: “Benedict XVI, a truly gentle soul, may have thought it necessary to include these multiple off-notes, in order to maintain peace within his curial household.”
However, that pat on the head for Pope Benedict doesn’t change anything. In fact, a clue to how he really feels about our unbridled, Bush-era American capitalistic system–and how that opinion is reflect in Caritas in Veritate, came several months before the release of the encyclical during a question-and-answer session with 400 priests ministering in Rome. This session was reported by Zenit, the official Vatican new agency.
A pastor from a poor neighborhood asked how church members could do more to push for a real reform of the global economic system. Pope Benedict said he did not want to give a simplistic answer to a complicated question about the reality of global finance and said that, in fact, the complexity of the current situation is what delayed the publication of his social encyclical, tentatively titled Caritas in Veritate.
On the level of global economic systems, the pope said almost every person in every country is feeling the consequences of “these fundamental errors that have been revealed in the failure of the large American banks; the error at the basis of it is human greed.”
“We must denounce this (system) with courage, but also with concreteness because moralizing will not help if it is not supported by an understanding of reality, which also will help us understand what can be done concretely to change the situation,” he said.
While the global financial system must be reformed, the pope said, individuals also must accept the fact that they will have to make some sacrifices in order to help the poor and move the world toward justice. “Justice cannot be created only with economic reforms, which are necessary, but it also requires the presence of just people,” Benedict said.
Zenit reported that Lesley-Anne Knight, the secretary-general of Caritas Internationalis, a Catholic agency “committed to combating dehumanizing poverty that robs people of their dignity and to promoting the rights of the poor,” said in a press release that the encyclical, which reflects on Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Populorum Progressio (“The Development of Peoples”) “highlights how a blind pursuit of profits over ethics had become detrimental to people and the planet.”
Knight continued: “The crisis exposed systemic failures generated by careless speculation for the benefit of a handful of people and at the expense of millions of poor families. But the crisis offers a unique chance to refashion globalization to work for the majority.”
Read Caritas in Veritate here.
Does anyone, infamous or not, deserve to be outed? Do they have the right to privacy, but not a right to hypocrisy,” as openly gay Rep. Barney Frank believes?
“Outrage,” a new documentary from filmmaker Kirby Dick, takes issue with the secret lives of closeted gay politicians–especially conservative Republicans who outwardly oppose gay rights. See the “Outrage” trailer here.
It’s long been considered socially unacceptable to “out” closeted gay politicians. “Outrage” makes the argument that when they take positions harmful to millions of gay people, it’s unacceptable to let them stay in the closet. “Traitors to their people” is how one person in “Outrage” describes politicians who live gay lives in secret while campaigning and voting against gay rights in public.
The film features interviews with former New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey; Washington Blade editor Kevin Naff (who tells the story of how he met FOX News anchor Shepard Smith in a gay bar); David Phillips, the DC IT technologist who tells his story about sleeping with Sen. Larry Craig in graphic detail); muckraking BlogActive blogger Mike Rogers, journalist and author, Michelangelo Signorile, and many more.
The public has developed an increasing appetite for private details in public lives, and the press are no longer sticklers for convention. Bad news for closeted conservatives.
If a closeted politician or religious leader is too outrageous in his condemnation of homosexuality, he may well find himself in the daily paper or headlining the six o’clock news. This is what happened to the Rev. Ted Haggard, a fundamentalist minister who was head of the largest evangelical church in America, and a powerful voice for evangelicals nationally.
Mike Jones, the male prostitute Haggard paid for sex and drugs, said he made his outing allegations against Haggard in response to Haggard’s political support for a Colorado Amendment 43 on the November 7, 2006 ballot that would ban same-sex marriage in that state. Jones told ABC News “I had to expose the hypocrisy. He is in the position of influence of millions of followers, and he’s preaching against gay marriage. But behind everybody’s back [he’s] doing what he’s preached against.”
Catholic leaders–including bishops and cardinals–were also exempt from public scrutiny until the advent of the clergy sex abuse scandal broke everything open. Since then, such powerful figures as Legionaires of Christ head Fr. Marcial Maciel, Cardinal Hans Hermann Groer of the Archdiocese of Vienna, Austria and Archbishop Juliusz Paetz of the Archdiocese of Poznan, Poland have all been dragged into newspapers with accusations they abused young priests, seminarians, monks and youths.
Michelangelo Signorile is a gay American writer and national talk show host. His article, “Cardinal Spellman’s Dark Legacy” was published by New York Press on April 23, 2002. Read the whole article here. It details the hypocrisy of New York Archbishop Francis Cardinal Spellman’s known, but closely guarded, gay life.
“Two Sundays ago,” the article begins, “the rector at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Monsignor Eugene Clark, gave a homily that inspired the kind of PRIEST BLAST GAYS headlines that New York’s tabloids thrive on. Standing in for the embattled Cardinal Egan, Clark blamed the sex abuse scandals on gays, railed against homosexuality as a “disorder” and said it was a “grave mistake” to allow gays in the priesthood.”
“Yet, among the several skeletons in gay-basher Clark’s closet is that he in fact dutifully worked as secretary for one of the most notorious, powerful and sexually voracious homosexuals in the American Catholic Church’s history: the politically connected Francis Cardinal Spellman, known as “Franny” to assorted chorus boys and others; who was New York’s cardinal from 1939 until his death in 1967.”
“The archconservative Spellman was the epitome of the self-loathing, closeted, evil queen, working with his good friend, the closeted gay McCarthy henchman Roy Cohn, to undermine liberalism in America during the 1950s’ communist and homosexual witch hunts.”
“During Spellman’s reign and long afterward, all of New York’s newspapers in fact cowered before the Catholic Church. On Spellman’s ordered New York departmen stores–owned largely by Catholics–pulled ads from the then-liberal New York Post in the 1950s after publisher Dorothy Schiff wrote commentary critical of his right wing positions; Schiff was forced to back down on her positions.”
“In the original bound galleys of former Wall Street Journal reporter John Cooney’s Spellman biography, The American Pope–published in 1984 by Times Books, which was then owned by the New York Times Co.–Spellman’s gay life was recounted in four pages that included interviews with several notable individuals who knew Spellman was a closeted homosexual.”
“Among Cooney’s interview subjects was C.A. Tripp, the noted researcher affiliated with Dr. Alfred C. Kinsey of the Institute for Sex Research, who shared information that he had on Spellman regarding the prelate’s homosexuality. In a telephone interview with Tripp last week, he told me that his information had come from a Broadway dancer in the show One Touch of Venus who had a relationship with Spellman back in the 1940s; the prelate would have his limousine pick up the dancer several nights a week and bring him back to his place. When the dancer once asked Spellman how he could get away with this, Tripp says Spellman answered, “Who would believe that?”
“U.S. ambassor to Ireland and friend of the Church, William V. Shannon, reviewed The American Pope for Book Review. Shannon’s review was scathing, attacking Cooney for even bringing up the subject at all: ‘Prurient interest in the sex lives of public figures serves no useful purpose.'”
“A Jesuit priest wrote a letter to the Book Review, published a few weeks later: “Cardinal Spellman’s sex life does not matter, but (his) homosexuality does…It matters to thousands of people whose jobs, relationships and whose very lives are threatened because of their sexuality, all the while being forced to view and eat the hypocrisy of their church. And it enrages people that church men and women can retain their jobs, hiding behind their clerical and religious statutes while their own people suffer persecution, disease and discrimination.'”
“Sadly, the Jesuit’s words still ring true today, almost 20 years later. While Spellman has long been dead, his legacy of hypocrisy lives on: there are closeted homosexuals –often condemning ‘sexual immorality’ publicly while having gay sex privately–throughout the uppermost echelons of the church today.”
My personal opinion: the Censor Libororum feels closeted lesbians and gays are entitled to their privacy whatever their personal opinions…. the threat of “outing” a relationship or sexual situation has been used by unscrupulous or jealous people for revenge, profit or politics. It happened to me. (See my LCSW post on June 10, 2006 – “Edward Murphy of The Stonewall Inn” for another example.)
However, if elected leaders and members of the hierarchy are sexually active gays and lesbians, and homophobic in public statements, I firmly believe they should get the hook out of the closet, and join the people they are condemning at the pillory.
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.
Tony Blair has challenged the “entrenched” attitudes of the Pope on homosexuality, and argued it is time for him to “rethink” his views.
During an April 8, 2009 interview with the U.K.’s leading gay magazine, Attitude, the former Prime Minister said: “Organised religions face the same dilemma as political parties when faced with changing circumstances.”
“You can either A: hold on to your core vote, basically, say ‘Look let’s not break out because if we break out we might lose what we’ve got, and at least we’ve got what we’ve got, so let’s keep it.’ Or B: you say, “Let’s accept that the world is changing and let us work out how we can lead that change and actually reach out.'”
Asked about the Pope’s stance, Mr. Blair blamed generational differences and said: “We need an attitude of mind where rethinking and the concept of evolving attitudes becomes part of the discipline with which you approach your religious faith.”
“There are many good and great things the Catholic Church does, and there are many fantastic things this Pope stands for, but I think what is interesting is that if you went into any Catholic Church, particularly a well attended one, on any Sunday here and did a poll of the congregation, you’d be surprised how liberal-minded people were. The faith of ordinary Catholics is rarely found “in those types of entrenched attitudes,” he said.
Not all British Catholics applauded with his remarks.
On March 29, 2009, former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Newt Gingrich, was received into the Catholic Church. He has not said publicly why he converted, but his third wife, Callista Bisek, is Catholic. Mr. Gingrich had been a Baptist.
But a comment he recently made may contain a hint: “Over the course of the last decade, attending the basilica…reading the literature, there was a peace in my soul and a sense of well-being in the Catholic church.”
Mr. Gingrich, a conservative Republican who has not run for elective office since he was forced out of Congress in 1999, has toyed with running for president in the past and is much-rumored to be considering a 2012 bid. It is not clear how his Catholicism might affect his political future, but in a recent Twitter post Gingrich commented President Obama has “anti Catholic values.”
“It is sad to see,” he texted, “notre dame invite president obama to give the commencement address Since his policies are so anti catholic values”
Based on his sexual infidelities and multiple marriages, some U.S. Catholics question Rep. Gingrich’s self-promotion as a spokesman for authentic “Catholic values.”
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.”
This week, Pope Benedict XVI received the U.S. Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, her husband and members of her entourage at the close of his regular Wednesday General Audience in Rome.
Pelosi, a self-proclaimed “ardent Catholic,” has sparked criticism from some conservative U.S. Catholic bishops for her pro-choice views. She arrived in Italy on Sunday for an eight-day official visit.
As Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi is second in the line of succession to the U.S. presidency, behind only Vice President Joseph Biden, another Catholic who also disagrees with Church teaching on abortion and birth control.
Benedict’s willingness to meet Pelosi gave some pro-life Catholics agita.
By meeting Pelosi, Benedict signaled he wants lines of communication to remain open with the new American leadership, even though there is no meeting of minds over the issue of abortion.
Benedict and Pelosi each issued a statement following the meeting.
“His Holiness took the opportunity to speak of the requirements of the natural moral law and the church’s consistent teaching on the dignity of human life from conception to natural death,” the Vatican statement read, “which enjoin all Catholics, and especially legislators, jurists and those responsible for the common good of society, to work in cooperation with all men and women of good will in creating a just system of laws capable of protecting human life in all stages of development.”
In a statement issued by her office Wednesday, Pelosi said it was “with great joy” that she and her husband, Paul, met Benedict. She said she had praised “the church’s leadership in fighting poverty, hunger, and global warming, as well as the Holy Father’s dedication to religious freedom and his upcoming trip and message to Israel.”
“I was proud to show His Holiness a photography of my family’s papal visit in the 1950s, as well as a recent picture of our children and grandchildren,” said the California congresswoman.
Pelosi’s statement did not mention the pope’s comments on abortion.
The pope’s statement can certainly be read as a rejection of Pelosi’s statements of last summer, when she suggested that the church’s position on abortion had been fluid and ill-defined; and that it’s acceptable for Catholics in public life to take a pro-choice position.
What was said–or unsaid–in that small room in the Vatican that fact remains each of these two Catholic leaders profess to care deeply about the welfare of children–those born as well as the unborn.
The pope cannot be a single issue Catholic–the way some U.S. bishops and pro-life Catholics are–if he is to attend to the Gospel’s work of justice for all, especially people in need.
Before she went to the Capitol to be sworn in as the first woman Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi attended Mass at her (and my) alma mater, Trinity College in Washington, DC. The late Fr. Robert Drinan was the celebrant, and he offered the Mass in honor of the children of Darfur and Katrina, praying there that “the needs of every child are the needs of Jesus Christ himself.”
“He challenged us,” said Pelosi of the homily, “by saying ‘Imagine what the world would think of the United States if the health and welfare of children everywhere became the top objective of America’s foreign policy! It could happen–and it could happen soon–if enough people cared.'”
“He continued,’Let us reexamine our convictions, our commitments, and our courage. Our convictions and our commitments are clear and certain to us. But do we have the courage to carry them out? God has great hopes for what this nation will do in the near future. We are here to ask for the courage to carry out God’s hopes and aspirations.”
“As he led us in prayer that day, Father Drinan said, ‘We learn things in prayer that we otherwise would never know.'”
Two weeks ago Bolivian citizens voted to approve a new constitution. Exit polls estimated about 60 per cent of voters had approved the document that is designed to give more rights to the indigenous minority and give the government more control over the economy. It would also allow the president, Evo Morales, to run for a second five-year term.
Mr. Morales is an Aymara Indian who leads the ruling party, the Movement to Socialism. The campaign pitted poor, heavily indigenous western areas where Mr. Morales is revered against whites and mixed-race mestizos in the natural gas-rich tropical lowlands.
The campaign to change the country’s constitution sparked a religious battle.
Pre-referendum campaign ads by evangelical christians showed Bolivia’s leftist president dressed in the garb of a traditional shaman. An image of Jesus Christ arrived to knock Mr. Morales off the screen, and a document labeled “New Constitution” appears amid flames. “Choose God. Vote No” the ad advises.
At the heart of fight is the new constitution’s stated goal of “refounding” Bolivia as a “socially-just state guided by indigenous beliefs–including elevating the female Andean earth deity, PachaMama, to the same stature as the God of Christianity. Bolivia’s previous constitution allowed for freedom of religion, but specifies Roman Catholicism as the sole state religion.
The new constitution recognizes broad new rights for Bolivia’s Indians, termed “originating indigenous farming peoples” in the document, and demands “decolonization” of all aspects of society.
For Christians, whose faith arrived in Bolivia with the Spanish Conquistadors almost 500 years ago, the fight is over fundamental values, which they say the new constitution shoves aside, and replaces with ultra liberal concepts, or worse, indigenous religions.
They contend the new constitution appears to opens the door to abortion and gay marriage, although it doesn’t speak directly to either issue.
The Catholic church hoped the constitution would define life as beginning at conception, and marriage as being between a man and a woman. The text doesn’t offer a clear definition on either point, instead offering broad statements such as one that “guarantees the exercise of sexual and reproductive rights,” language that has religious groups worried. “One of the problems with the constitution is that it’s full of ambiguity,” said Robert Flock, vicar general of the Santa Cruz archdiocese. The constitution “could open the door to a civil law allowing homosexual marriage if there was a public will to do that.”
The Catholic church disavowed the evangelical christian ads, but followed with its own detailed critique of the proposed constitution, handed out after Mass in cities around Bolivia prior to the election. While praising Mr. Morales’ focus on the poor, it raised concerns about his effort to concentrate power in his hands.
In a country that is officially 95% Catholic, the stance by church leaders carries significant weight. So much so that on the day before the referendum Mr. Morales–who has actively promoted indigenous beliefs, including appointing traditional medicine men to his government–publicly declared himself a Catholic, though believing “quite a bit” in PachaMama.
Former Papal Envoy to the U.S., Archbishop Jean Jadot of Belgium, died last week at the age of 99. Jadot’s predecessor and successor as papal delegates to the U.S. received the red hat of a cardinal. Jadot never received one in recognition of his work here. In fact, he is the only Vatican diplomat assigned to the United States that was never made a cardinal. Why not a red hat?
In 1973, Pope Paul VI sent Archbishop Jadot to Washington, DC to serve as the apostolic delegate to the United States. The pope told him he was chosen partly because he was not part of the Vatican bureacracy, and thus might not be as pliable in the hands of powerful American bishops; who to Paul VI’s view were often more businessman than pastor. Jadot was sent to press the American church to carry out the reforms of Vatican II, and find candidates for future episcopal appointments who were willing to do so.
Although largely undone by the conservative appointments of Pope John Paul II, Jadot had a hand in over 100 nominations, including such well known names as Roger Cardinal Mahoney of Los Angeles, Joseph Cardinal Bernadin of Chicago, Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen of Seattle, Archbishop Rembert Weakland in Milwaukee, Archbishop Francis Hurley of Anchorage, and Bishop Walter Sullivan of Richmond, Virginia. All of these bishops have made an effort to outreach to Catholics on the margins, including gay people.
As a Washington Post article said in 1983, “Whatever their background, the new breed of bishops was less concerned with the ring-kissing and watered silk vestments that went with the office, and more with getting to know their people.”
Paul VI saw an evolving role for his nuncios after Vatican II. “Nuncios should travel,” Paul VI said, not so much as the representatives of Rome to secular governments, or even as legates between Rome and the world’s bishops. Instead, they should “show the Pope’s concern for the poor, the forgotten, the ignored.”
Although Archbishop Jadot strongly adhered to most of the church’s teachings, including its opposition to abortion, he was willing to leave some issues, like artificial contraception, to individual consciences. He also helped to lead a largely successful effort to push the American church to welcome minorities, widen the role of women, increase participation by the laity and relax some rules, like the automatic excommunication of divorced people.
In A Watchman for the House of Israel , his November 9, 1976 address to the general meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Jadot called attention to the situation of minorities in the American church: “How are we to give pastoral care to those who do not feel at home with our white, Western European ways of public worship and community living, to those who have not adapted and do not want to adapt to what we call our American way of doing things?”
He added, “I wonder if the majority of our priests and people realize our shortcomings in these areas and even our arrogance toward our brothers and sisters in the faith who are in some ways different from ourselves. I wonder if we can ever fully understand the legitmate frustrations that they feel.”
He could have been speaking about how gay Catholics feel treated by their church.
In his concluding remarks, the apostolic delegate called brief attention to two other areas of concern that the bishops would have to follow up on: “There are other problems either near or far on the horizon. I could mention the question of the role of women in society and in the church or problems that will come from the rejection of the traditional standards of morality in society, political and business life.”
Jadot concluded his address to “my brother bishops” by saying: “Let us be confident, courageous and open to the Spirit. Let us build the church of God by our foresight.”
After this address the apostolic delegate became the target of bitter animosity from conservative bishops and laypeople. He received a steady flow of anonymous hate mail telling him to get out of the United States and go back to Belgium. He was also being denounced at the Vatican. At one point, Jadot offered his resignation to Paul VI, who responded immediately by saying, “No. You are doing just what I want you to do.”
The anti-Jadot campaign was allegedly spearheaded by Cardinals John Carberry of St. Louis, John Krol of Philadelphia and John Cody of Chicago. Polish-American Cardinal Krol had the ear of John Paul II and eventually convinced him Jadot was “destroying the Catholic church in the United States.” Cardinal Cody was opposed to Jadot because he knew personally that Jadot had asked Paul VI to remove him.
When John Paul II became pope, Archbishop Jadot was relieved of his position and given a minor post. The fact he was not honored with the customary red hat was the subject of a September 7, 2002 article in the Tablet by veteran Vatican reporter Robert Blair Kaiser.
“The Jadot I found in Brussels,” Kaiser wrote, “did not strike me as a man who was nursing any grievences. He knew he had done a fine job – for Paul VI and for the Church. He refused to speculate about why he did or did not become a cardinal, and had good words, moreover, for some in the Roman Curia. He said he liked Cardinal Gianbattista Re. “I trust him very much. He’s in the category of honest people.”
“I asked him how many cardinals he in put in that category.”
“Jadot hesitated, then laughed. ‘I don’t know all the cardinals,’ he said.”
But Jadot may have expressed his private feelings to his good friend and biographer, theologian Dr. John (Jack) Dick, the day his successor, Archbishop Pio Laghi, who appointed conservative bishops, was named a cardinal on May 29, 1991. That day, after lunch, Jadot said, “It is a slap in my face.”
Dr. Dick, now retired from the University of Louvain in Belgium, is completing a book about Jadot titled Paul’s Man in Washington. Perhaps the book will reveal things Jadot was too much of a diplomat and a gentleman to ever mention directly.
On the other hand, when it came time to select a new archbishop in Vienna in 1986, John Paul II picked Hans Hermann Groer, a Benedictine abbot, because he had met the man at a Marian conference and was impressed for one reason alone: his obvious devotion to Our Lady. (Cardinal Franz Konig got the news about Groer’s appointment on television.) A few years later, Groer had to retire after allegations that he had been seducing the young men at his monastery.
After opposing a United Nations declaration that called for the decriminalization of homosexuality last month, the Vatican issued its own call to eliminate criminal penalties for homosexuality.
“The Holy See appreciates the attempts made in (the declaration) to condemn all forms of violence against homosexual persons as well as urge states to take necessary measures to put an end to all criminal penalties against them,” the statement said.
“The Holy See continues to advocate that every sign of unjust discrimination towards homosexual persons should be avoided,” said Vatican spokesman Fr. Frederico Lombardi.
An explanatory note published in the official Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano said that if the resolution on sexual orientation aimed simply at ensuring no country treated homosexuality as a crime, “there would have been no reason for (the Vatican) to criticize that document.”
“The Catholic church maintains that free sexual acts between adult persons must not be treated as crimes to be punished by civil authorities,” said the newspaper.
The Vatican specifically objected to the declaration’s use of the terms, “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.” According to L’Osservatore Romano, these terms “imply that sexual identity is defined only by culture,” and their use in the declaration is part of an attempt to “equate same-sex unions with marriage and give homosexual couples the change to adopt or ‘procreate’ children.”
The paper argued that the declaration would endanger “other human rights,” such as “liberty of expression…thought, conscience and religion,” since it might limit religions in their freedom to teach that homosexual behavior is morally wrong.
Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Vatican’s permanent observer to the U.N., warned the European-backed text could “create new and implacable discriminations.” “For example,” he said, “states that do not recognize same-sex unions as ‘matrimony’ will be pilloried and made an object of pressure.”
The Declaration on Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity was presented to the U.N. General Assembly on December 18, 2008. This non-binding declaraton, which was sponsored by France and backed by the 27-member European Union, received 66 votes in the 192-member U.N. General Assembly. Aside from the Holy See, opponents included China, Russia, the United States and the 56-member Organization of the Islamic Conference.
Sponsors of the European text point out that homosexuality is still punishable by law in 93 countries and by death in seven of them, including Iran, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Sudan, and Nigeria.
An opposing Arab-backed statement, read out at the United Nations by Syria, said the European text could lead to “the social normalisation, and possibly the legitimisation, of many deplorable acts including paedophilia.”
Fr. Lombardi told Reuters that the Vatican did not support the Arab-backed statement, either.
The Vatican’s tilt toward leniency didn’t rub off on the Archbishop of Santo Domingo, Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopez Rodriguez.
The cardinal fumed that “killing children (abortion) or promoting marriages between all kinds of people, men with men, women with women,” leads to nowhere. The countries that choose to experiment with these things “will sink morally,” he added.
“I don’t thank the U.N. for anything, nothing, since today it is making such a great effort to spread this immortality throughout the entire world,” Cardinal Lopez Rodriguez continued. Calling on Domincans to “defend our country,” the cardinal exclaimed, “To those who want to come and bring that immorality here, get out! We are not interested.”
Those comments weren’t the cardinal’s first anti-gay press foray.
According to El Nacional, back in November 2007, the Cardinal, arguing that fidelity should be at the core of education efforts to stem pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases “explained that for those reasons the Catholic church was opposed to promiscuity between ‘heterosexuals and maricones’ because sex had to be of the moment and between a man and a woman.”While discussing gays coming to Santa Domingo, RodrÃguez remarked, “They should stay in Europe or the United States, we don’t need that social trash, we don’t need it.”
I wonder if the maricones Cardinal RodrÃguez has met among his clergy and in the Vatican appreciated being called “social trash.” I doubt it.