Veteran journalist Stephen Jimenez unearthed a sleazy story in his book, The Book of Matt: Hidden Truths About the Murder of Matthew Shepard.” An investigative journalist, he spent 11 years researching his story, and had access to formerly sealed court documents.
Matthew Shepard is a gay icon and martyr, allegedly murdered by two men for his sexual orientation. The grisly murder happened in Laramie, Wyoming in October 1998. Shepard, 21, was a college student, and he was killed by two men he met in a bar. He was pistol-whipped with the barrel of a .357 magnum. Then the two men hung him, barely alive, on a fence, in a pose resembling a crucifixion.
Matthew Shepard died of exposure and his wounds six days later, a victim of homophobia. Or was he? Here’s an unsettling element: one of the murders, Aaron McKinney, a bisexual hustler, had sex with Shepard weeks before the murder.
Shepard certainly could have been beaten and killed by a man in a homophobic rage…but he may also have been killed in a sex-for-drugs exchange gone badly. His death might not be a hate crime after all, but a drug dealer casualty. In the book Jimenez claims Matthew Shepard was a crystal meth addict, and was killed by McKinney, another dealer and trick strung out on meth and in desperate need of money.
The “gay panic” defense of Aaron McKinney, the killer, was a made-up story in hopes of getting a more lenient sentence.
Jimenez was asked why he dug up the story: “As a gay man,” he said, “I felt it was the right thing to do.” “To understand who Matthew Shepard really was,” said Jimenz, “to alter our perception of him as a martyr and an icon, is not going to be damaging to gay rights.”
I agree, and commend Stephen Jimenez coming forward with his story. The real conversation about Matthew Shepard should be about young gay men (and women) who do drugs, and why drug and alcohol use is still so embedded in gay culture. That could save some lives.
December 15, 2013: The week Pope Francis delivers a homily focusing on “A Church That Lacks Prophecy Becomes Filled with Clericalism,” is the same week that arch conservative Cardinal Raymond L. Burke was dumped off the Congregation for Bishops. He was replaced by Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, DC, a moderate.
An amazing coinkydink? I don’t think so.
In his homily Pope Francis described the role of the prophet as one who carries within themselves three moments: the promise of the past, contemplation of the present and courage to show the path toward the future. The pope stressed the words of prophets are necessary, although many times they are rejected.
“When there is no prophecy in the people of God,” said Francis, “the void it leaves becomes occupied with clericalism. And it is this clericalism that Jesus asks, ‘With what authority do you do this? With what authority?’ And the memory of the promise and the hope of going forward becomes reduced to only the present: neither the past nor a hopeful future. The present is legal. If it is legal it goes forward,” the pope said.
Concluding his homily, Pope Francis prayed that in these days leading to Christmas, that there may not be a lack of prophets: “Let us not tire of moving forward! Let us not be closed in the legality that closes doors! Lord, free your people from the spirit of clericalism and help them with the spirit of prophecy.”
The Vatican had to withdraw more than 6,000 medallions minted to commemorate the beginning of Pope Francis’ papacy because of a spelling mistake.
Jesus was misspelled as “Lesus.” The Latin inscription should have been “Iesus” since the letter “J” is not used in Latin.
The phrase reads on the Vatican website: “Vidit ergo Jesus publicanum, et quia miserando atque eligendo vidit, ait illi, ‘Sequere me'” or “Jesus therefore sees the tax collector, and since he sees by having mercy and by choosing, he says to him, ‘follow me.'”
The inscription is Francis’ papal motto, taken from a meditation by the 8th century English monk, the Venerable Bede, on a passage of the Gospel in which Jesus calls St. Matthew, a tax collector, to become an apostle.
The Vatican said the Latin phrase profoundly affected the future Pope Francis at age 17 when he heard God calling him to the priesthood. In his native Argentina and in his nascent papacy, Francis has made a point of preaching mercy, and reaching out to people on the margins of society.
The medallions, which went on sale on October 8, 2013 had to be pulled from circulation after the spelling error was belatedly discovered. Four of the coins had been sold. They are now worth a mint.
A found these gems in a review by Joseph Epstein of Suitable Accommodations: An Autobiographical Story of Family Life: The Letters of J. F. Powers, 1942-1963. The book was edited by his eldest daughter, Katherine Powers. His droll humor is a dead-ringer for my father’s: “Let me be a lesson to you,” Powell admonished author Robert Lowell, from his house full of children, “stay single.”
“Powers tells a straight story, usually in an enclosed space. In some cases his priests never leave the parish, or even the rectory. They do their jobs, dealing as best they can with bishops, curates, housekeepers, pets and parishioners. They are fond of food and sometimes too fond of drink or perhaps both. Crises of conscience occasionally arise, but it is the quotidian detail, the daily rhythm of priestly life, the absorbs and fascinates in Power’s fiction. As Father Joe Hackett tells his young curate: ‘This (the Catholic Church) is a big old ship, Bill. She creaks, she rocks, she rolls, and at times she makes you want to throw up. But she always gets where she’s going. Always has, always will, until the end of time.’
Power’s fiction met with criticism from Catholics who preferred their priests more saintly. But his priests are utterly believable with their flaws and down-to-earth observations. Here is Father Hackett’s summation on priesthood: “It was still a job–a marrying, burying, sacrificing job, plus whatever good could be done on the side. It was not a crusade. Turn it into one, as some guys were trying to do, and you asked too much of it, of yourself, and of ordinary people, invited nervous breakdowns all around.”
This has been a stunner of a week. I’m still reeling.
It started with the closing of World Youth Day 2013 in Rio de Janeiro, Brasil, where Pope Francis’ closing Mass on Copacabana beach drew an estimated three million participants. Many of them were enthusiastic young people. He encouraged them to go home and shake things up, “make a mess.”
He set the first example.
On a plane back to Rome from his triumphant trip to Rio, Pope Francis chatted with journalists for over an hour. There were no handlers or intermediaries, just plain-spoken remarks.
He was asked about gay priests and gay Catholics.
Gay people should be integrated into society instead of ostracized, Pope Francis told journalists. Answering a question about reports of homosexuals in the clergy, the pope answered, “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”
One question centered on recent reports in Italian media that accused the Vatican Bank’s Monsignor Battista Ricca of having an affair with a Swiss Army captain. In response, Francis said he looked into the reports but found nothing to support the allegations.
The pope also used the occasion to expand on his June remarks about a “gay lobby” in the Vatican, clarifying that “he was against all lobbies, not just gay ones,” the Italian news agency reports.
“Being gay is a tendency. The problem is the lobby,” ANSA quotes the pontiff saying. “The lobby is unacceptable, the gay one, the political one, the Masonic one.”
The pope’s view of gays is being seen as diverging from his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI. Benedict signed a document in 2005 that said men with deep-rooted homosexual tendencies should not be priests. Francis was much more conciliatory, saying gay clergymen should be “forgiven and their sins forgotten.”
“The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this very well,” Francis said, according to . “It says they should not be marginalized because of this but that they must be integrated into society.”
During the news conference on the 12-hour flight home, the pope was also asked about women’s role in Catholicism.
Pope Francis reiterated that the Church will not ordain female priests, saying that the stance was “definitive.” But he also said that the question of how to reflect the importance of women had not yet been answered fully.
“It is not enough to have altar girls, women readers or women as the president of Caritas,” he said. “Women in the church are more important than bishops and priests,” he said, in the same way that “Mary is more important than the apostles.”
Conservative and ultra orthodox Catholics, once they regained consciousness, attempted to spin the Pope’s words by asserting what he actually meant was in defense of Catholic teaching on homosexuality and chastity.
Wednesday morning I was having my morning coffee and thumbing through the New York Post when I spotted this item on the bottom right of page 12: “Paris suicide vs. gay rights.” I took a bite of my English muffin and read on.
The blurb stated that Dominique Venner, 78, placed a pistol in his mouth and committed suicide beside the altar in Notre Dame cathedral in protest of the legalization of gay marriage in France.
Mr. Venner, a presenter on a Catholic-traditionalist radio station and controversial historian, posted an essay on his website earlier in the day calling for “new, spectacular and symbolic actions to shake us out of our sleep, to jolt anaesthetized minds and to reawaken memory of our origins.”
The cathedral, which is celebrating its 850th anniversary this year, was evacuated and immediately closed to the public for several hours. A cathedral security guard tried to revive Mr. Venner as he lay beside the altar.
“We did not know him, he was not a regular at the cathedral,” said the rector, Monsigneur Patrick Jacquin. He added that as far as he knew, this was the first suicide within the cathedral since it was founded. “We will pray for this man as we pray for so many others who are at their wits’ end,” he said.
The next day, a topless activist of the FEMEN movement was arrested inside Notre Dame for staging a fake suicide.
The bare-chested woman was photographed in front of the altar, pointing a fake gun in her mouth. The slogan “May Fascists rot in Hell” was written across her torso.
On its Facebook page, FEMEN France called the topless activist “FEMEN’s angel of Death.” The group called upon “all European Nazism, in the face of all their underhitlers and halfmussolini, to follow the example of the ultra-right man Dominique Venner and immediately commit a suicide of their believes excluding themselves from the political area in Europe.” The statement added, “Hurry up, there is not so much place left on the sacrificial altar of Notre-Dame de Paris.”
In case you are wondering, the Censor Librorum finds both of these events cringe-worthy.
Venner’s use of sacred space as a stage for suicide is the most spectacular form of selfishness I have ever seen. The follow up performance by an exhibitionist mocking his suicide was almost as bad.
And I thought we had nuts in New York!
The Orwellian obsession of some right-wing Catholics with same-sex marriage, abortion, and glorification of the hierarchy is about to take a punch to the gut.
The papal election of Francis, not John Paul III or Benedict XVII, has brought an immediate cultural change. The pomp and pageantry–the red shoes, the billowing magenta capes–are being replaced by a renewed emphasis on social justice for the poor, mercy and humility. Taking a cue from their new boss, some cardinals have already started to dress down.
If he hasn’t already, the new pope will soon have a crack at the secret 300-page dossier delivered to Pope Benedict on December 17, 2013. Benedict had appointed three cardinals–Julian Herranz, Joseph Tomko and Salvatore De Georgi to investigate the leak of confidential Vatican documents in the scandal known as “Vatileaks Affair.”
Some claim this report pushed Pope Benedict into resigning. It may have been the last straw, if he admitted to himself he was too old, too frail and too entrenched to deal with the mess and scandal it described. The report was sealed, and put in a safe for his successor.
A story in the Italian newspaper, La Repubblica, claimed according to the report one fraction within the Vatican bureaucracy was “united by sexual orientation.” These powerful men formed a network of alliances, controlled careers, and were subject to blackmail over their sexual activities by the Mafia and other organized crime groups.
The threat of exposure has to be one key reason why the Vatican Bank never cleaned up. There are too many compromised individuals in the Vatican bureaucracy and elsewhere who would be ruined if their secret homosexuality or financial dealings came to light. Other corrupt members of the Curia, not homosexual, may have been happy to trade favors for friends, family and potential political allies.
What will happen if the pope decides to put the Vatican’s money in a commercial bank, and close down the Institute for Works of Religion?
I bet a few surprise names will join Cardinal Keith O’Brien in the news.
Cardinal O’Brien, who had a reputation for being anti-gay, was outed by his boyfriend and some seminarians he had sexually pressured just prior to the papal conclave. In the past, Cardinal O’Brien has referred to homosexuality as a “moral degradation.” He also labeled gay marriage as a “grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right” and that same-sex partnerships were “harmful to the physical, mental and spiritual well-being of those involved.”
What was Cardinal O’Brien thinking when he was coming on to or in bed with another man?… That whatever strictures are out there didn’t apply to him.
On September 6, 2012, Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri Diocese was found guilty of failing to report evidence of sexual abuse by a priest in his diocese.
Bishop Finn is one of four Opus Dei Bishops in the United States and a hardline conservative. At a Mass for Catholic school teachers and principals for the school year beginning August 2008, Finn–still coadjutor then–admonished the teachers to help their students resist the “culture of death” and the “age of relativism.” He said: “There are objective truths. There is right and wrong. Holy Mother Church is our mother who loves us and she knows best. Catholic schools must be places where these moral truths are taught without variation and without ambiguity for the sake of souls and salvation.”
After a brief bench trial, Judge John Torrence pronounced the bishop guilty on the charge of failing to report suspected child abuse, a misdemeanor in the state of Missouri, making him the first American bishop convicted of a criminal offense for mishandling sex abuse complaints. Judge Torrence sentenced Bishop Finn to two years probation. The maximum sentence he could have received was a year in jail.
Before sentencing, Bishop Finn, 59, offered a simple apology for his role in the case. “I truly regret and am sorry for the hurt these events caused,” he said.
The bishop knew the priest, Fr. Shawn Ratigan, pastor of St. Patrick’s Church in Kansas City, was in possession of graphic images of children’s genitalia, according to court testimony. However, he did not report the priest to the police.
Bishop Finn also said he did not report concerns about Fr. Ratigan to his diocesan review board, an advisory group the U.S. bishops’ charter mandates should be present in each diocese and should be used to evaluate allegations of abuse by priests.
After Father Ratigan was arrested, Bishop Finn met with his priests. Asked why Father Ratigan was not removed earlier, the bishop replied, according to the testimony, that he had wanted “to save Father Ratigan’s priesthood” and that he had understood that Father Ratigan’s problem was “only pornography.”
Fr. Ratigan pleaded guilty in August 2012 to federal changes of producing and attempting to produce sexually graphic material of minor girls. These included hundreds of photos focused on the girls’ crotch areas. Most photos appeared to be of girls six to ten years old, One set of “staged” photos showed a little girl, two to three years old, lying down in bed. The girl was wearing only a diaper, but with each photo, the diaper was gradually removed to expose her genitals and buttocks. Another staged photo sequence showed a sleeping seven or eight year old girl with her legs repositioned. Investigators felt the photos were disturbing and sexual in nature.
The series of missteps that ended with Bishop Finn’s conviction and Fr. Ratigan’s arrest began with a May 2010 letter from Julie Hess, the principal of St. Patrick’s School, who expressed concern about the priest’s “perceived inappropriate behavior with children,” and reported that some in the parish feared he might be a “child molester.”
The principal noted in her letter that the school community’s response to the priest’s behavior reflected the extensive training that teachers, parents, volunteers and students had received in the wake of the clergy abuse crisis. Her letter included no specific allegations of sexual abuse, Rather, as she noted, the community’s concerns were prompted by the priest’s nonsexual boundary violations in his interactions with children. Fr. Ratigan encouraged children to sit on his lap and dig in his pockets for candy. He photographed them constantly, even when they weren’t doing anything particularly photogenic. The letter also noted his refusal to abide by the personal boundaries taught to and expected by all parish employees.
Msgr. Robert Murphy, Bishop Finn’s second-in-command, summarized the contents of the principal’s letter for Bishop Finn, who did not ask to see the letter, or speak with the principal. Msgr. Murphy was a key official in deciding how the diocese responds to allegations of priestly sexual abuse.
The diocese made no effort to notify the parents and families of St. Patrick’s parish or other parishes where Fr. Ratigan had been assigned. Bishop Finn advised that he felt that notifying parents at St. Patrick’s of the photos found on the laptop “would be like yelling fire in a crowded theater.”
He said and did nothing, and Fr. Ratigan continued to have contact with parish children and families.
This is the same man who upon becoming bishop, ordered the editor of the diocesan newspaper to immediately cease publicizing columns by Notre Dame theologian, Fr. Richard McBrien. Bishop Finn commented: “Everybody seems to make a big deal out of cancelling Fr. McBrien’s column. Quite honestly, it was fairly a no-brainer for me. Fr. McBrien likes to stir the pot. He approaches things with a certain skepticism and cynicism. You can get them in a lot of places, so go get it somewhere else. We need clear expressions of the meaning of faith, why we believe and how we can inspire each other.” Catholic publications, he said, must be “dependable in their fidelity.”
In mid-December 2010, Fr. Ratigan’s laptop was turned into diocesan officials after a computer technician found disturbing photos of children on the hard drive. After reviewing the photos, Ms. Julie Creech, the head of the diocesan’s technology department, told Msgr. Robert Murphy, vicar general for the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese, to call the police.
Msgr. Murphy did not contact the authorities, but instead called a police captain who is a member of the diocese’s independent review board and described a single photo of a nude child that was no sexual in nature. Without reviewing the photo, the captain said he was advised that although such a picture might meet the definition of child pornography, it probably wouldn’t be investigated or prosecuted.
About a year and a half later, in May 2012, Msgr. Murphy told police Fr. Ratigan’s laptop had contained hundreds of photos. The stipulated facts also state that in testimony, Murphy reported the incident to police because he thought the diocese’s response to Fr. Ratigan was “moving along with no direction, and I thought, ‘I have to do something.'”
According to the facts, Msgr. Murphy also testified Bishop Finn was “upset” upon hearing Msgr. Murphy had reported Fr. Ratigan. At the time, Msgr. told his sister, “I think I made a decision that will not make the bishop happy.”
When the news broke, local Catholics were outraged. The diocese organized “listening sessions” to manage the public reaction, and had participants engage in an exercise where they were instructed to write down a “hurt” and then write down a “hope.” Among the “hurts” written down by angry parents: “The images of my daughter’s private areas that the FBI showed me, they are forever burned into my brain…Shawn Ratigan was in my house, around my children in February, and I thought my children were completely SAFE!!”
Local Catholics took to the airwaves and web, too, setting up a Facebook page “Bishop Finn Must Go”, and commenting on blogs and newspapers. One woman named Ginger wrote: “I’ve followed this story since the beginning, and as a pro-lifer and a Catholic, I am mightily offended when people suggest poor Archbishop Finn is persecuted by the press because they are pro-aborts and he piously fought against stem cell initiatives. With friends such as Archbishop Finn, the pro-life movement needs no enemies. Men such as he who proclaim to be so pro-life out of one end of their mouths and then turn a blind eye to the sexual exploitation of children cause the bile to rise to my throat. No wonder the “liberal press” goes after these hypocrites with a vengeance. For pre-born life to matter so much when post-born children matter so little is sad indictment of the hierarchy. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that such despicable behavior on the part of ardent pro-life supporters casts shame upon us all.”
After his conviction, there were numerous calls for Bishop Finn to resign or be removed. Many people strongly argued that if Pope Benedict removed a bishop for supporting the ordination of women, he surely must do the same for a bishop convicted of protecting a sexual predator of little girls and toddlers.
I am of two minds on whether or not on whether Bishop Finn should be removed. On one hand, if we do believe terrible experiences can change people for the better, then Bishop Finn may end us as one of the vigilant bishops in protecting children and teens from clerical sexual abuse. He will certainly not want to go through this scrutiny, shame and public pillorying again. He will be forced to revisit, over and over again, why he made the choices he did and the hurt, pain and suffering they have caused, and diminished trust and faith in the institution and its leaders.
On the other hand, Bishop Finn is now totally neutralized as a conservative spokesman for the church. He will be reminded of Fr. Shawn Ratigan every time he opens his mouth. He will be reminded of how he chose protecting himself and a fellow conservative priest over safeguarding children and parish families. He will be reminded of who and what he put first. His crediblity as a spiritual shepherd is virtually nil. Very few will pay attention of who he insinuates they should vote for.
But maybe now that Bishop Finn is lying down in the “foul rag and bone shop of the heart” as the Irish poet, Yeats, described it, he will climb up a purified and changed man.
The words from his “Warriors for the Victory of Life” keynote address on April 18, 2009 can give Bishop Finn a simple caution and way to follow:
“Every day the choice is before us: right or wrong; good or bad; the blessing or the curse; life or death. Our whole life must be oriented toward choosing right, the good, the blessing, choosing life. If you and I fail to realize the meaning and finality behind our choices, and the intensity of the constant warfare that confronts us, it is likely that we will drop our guard, be easily and repeatedly deceived, and even lose the life of our eternal soul.”
I stumbled on the name of Tanchelm thumbing through my copy of Magnificat. He was featured prominently in a story about St. Evermod, a bishop who died in 1178. Evermod was inspired to devote his life to God after hearing a sermon given by Saint Norbert, the founder of the Premonstratensian order. Evermod became a priest of Norbert’s order and was chosen to accompany him on a jorney to Antwerp to counter the followers of Tanchelm, an itinerant preacher who had been murdered a decade before by a priest.
“The city was at the time in a state of ferment due to the heretical preaching of Tanchelm,” the Magnificat huffed, “a man of depraved morals who attacked the hierarchy and the church’s teaching on the sacraments, particularly the Holy Eucharist.”
Evermod remained in Antwerp to combat Tanchelm’s “propaganda.” His apostolic zeal earned him an eventual sainthood, as it did St. Norbert, who is often pictured with a foot on Tanchelm holding a monstrance. Tanchelm’s heresy were his attacks on the doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
Who was Tanchelm that he made two bishops saints in their attempts to overcome his preaching?
Tanchelm was born around 1070. He might have been Flemish, but was probably a native of the Netherlands. He traveled to France, Germany and Rome. Most of what we know about him came from those opposed to him, for Tanchelm did not leave behind any writing that has survived. Tanchelm began preaching during a time of agitation and pontifical reform, with furious arguments and political maneuvering over clerical marriages and sexual liaisons, simony, and canonical investiture by feudal authorities. He was active in a wave of church reform that started in the High Middle Ages and culminated in the Reformation 400 years later.
Tanchelm was supposed to have been a monk, perhaps a notary or officer from the circle of Count Robert II of Flanders (1092-1111), famous from his crusading days as “Robert of Jerusalem.” The exact relationship between the count and Tanchelm is not clear. Both Count Robert II and his overlord, Louis VI of France. were interested in weakening the ecclesiastical power of the Holy Roman Emperor in the low countries. The power of the emperor rested to a large extent on the support of the bishops, especially Cambrai, Cologne and Utrecht.
In 1111 Count Robert II dispatched Tanchelm and the priest, Everwacher, to Rome to persuade Pope Pascal II to incorporate Zeeland into a French diocese. Frederick I, archbishop of Cologne, caught wind of the plot and intervened. The pope rejected the petition, and Talchem and Everwacher returned home.
After his return from Rome Tanchelm began his ministry. There is no direct knowledge of his motivations, but some authors have speculated that while he was in Rome he absorbed the principals of the Gregorian Reforms, initiated by Pope Gregory VII, circa 1050-1080, which dealt with the moral integrity and independence of the clergy.
Gregory VII attacked the practice of simony – the purchase of church offices. This precipitated the investiture controversy; kings were selling clerical and church offices at great personal gain. In 1074 Gregory VII published an encyclical absolving the people from obedience to bishops who allowed married priests. In 1075, he enjoined them to take action against married priests, and deprived these clerics of their revenues.
Dressed in his monk’s habit, Tanchelm began to preach. Many people came to hear him, and his following grew. People were drawn to him by his compelling personality and oratory. He began preaching in 1112 in the Low Countries (Belgium, the Netherlands, parts of northern France and western Germany).
It was in Antwerp that he made his deepest mark. The spark that set him off was the “concubinage” of a priest named Hilduin with his niece. He stepped into a vacuum of spiritual leadership: people were disgusted with with the morals of their spiritual guides and were drawn to Tanchelm’s criticism of the established church. It was also a time of the first stirrings of social discontent against the feudal privileges of nobles and clergy.
Tanchlem rejected obedience to bishops and priests. He preached against the payment of tithes. Some sources say Tanchelm told people to reject the sacraments, saying they were better named pollutions than sacraments. In another version, he said the virtue of the sacraments depended on the virtue of the minister, and that polluted priests could only administer polluted sacraments. The chapter of Utrecht also reported with horror that Tanchelm had said that “the churches of God are to be considered whorehouses.” It is more likely what Tanchelm really said is that the priests were so impure they turned churches into brothels.
The prime source of information on Tanchelm is a May 16, 1112 letter from the clergy of Utrecht to Archbishop Frederick of Cologne telling him to take Tanchelm into custody and not release him for any reason. He was briefly put under arrest in Cologne in 1113/1114, but released in spite of protests by the cathedral clergy of Utrecht.
The hierarchy of Utrecht circulated many tales about Tanchlem to support their denouncements:
-He dressed in golden clothes, with strands of gold curled in his hair
-Claimed to be guided by the Holy Spirit, and conducted a ceremony in which he “married” the Virgin Mary
-His followers venerated him, and drank his bath water as a blessing or sacrament
-His inner group was a guild of 12 men lead by his blacksmith friend, Manasses. Probably chosen as a bodyguard, they were known as “the Apostles.” Added to this number was a woman named “Blessed Virgin” with whom the Apostles had intercourse as kind of a confirmation ceremony. The Apostles carried his regalia and sword in procession.
-Tanchelm deflowered young girls in the presence of their mothers
-Men offered up their wives and children to Tanchelm’s lust.
To what degree the above accusations have some basis in truth-or are total fabrications–is unknown. It seems clear that Tanchelm was a very charismatic man, and encouraged his personality cult.
In 1115 he was bludgeoned or stabbed to death by a priest during a river trip. One scholar has implicated the Archbishop of Utrecht in his murder.
Tanchelm doesn’t have an exact contemporary in our age, even if the societal unrest, currents of church reform, the involvement of church hierarchy in politics, the attempts by secular rulers to use bishops in their schemes, all have an echo in our era.
St Norbert arrived at Antwerp eight years after Tanchelm’s death to evangelize the city away from his followers. Apparently, he did not censure, judge or condemn when he addressed people, which probably contributed to the success of his mission. “Brothers, do not be surprised and so not be afraid,” he preached. “Unwittingly, you have pursued falsehood thinking it to be the truth. If you had been taught the truth first you would have been found effortlessly tending toward salvation, just as you now effortless lean toward perdition.”
Norbert of Xanten is portrayed as a reformer of the clergy and siding with reformist popes over lay investiture. But his ministry started on a political track opposite Tanchelm’s.
His father, Heribert, Count of Gennep, was related to the imperial house of Germany. Norbert was a secular canon at St. Victor’s Collegiate Church in Xanten and was ordained subdeacon without making an effort to live the clerical life. Somewhere between 1108 and 1109 he became chaplain at the court of Archbishop Frederick of Cologne and already in 1110 he was a chaplain at the court of Emperor Henry V. He accompanied the emperor to Rome in 1111.
In the spring of 1115, while riding to the village of Freden, he was thrown from his horse during a sudden thunderstorm. This event gave Norbert the impetus to change his way of life. He gave up his chaplaincy at the court and dedicated himself to meditation and living a life of poverty. Feeling he was called to priesthood, he presented himself to the Bishop of Cologne, from whom he received Holy Orders.
Norbert would have to have heard 0f, and perhaps even met, Tanchelm in Rome or while he was being held in custody by his patron, Federick, Archbishop of Cologne.
It is interesting to speculate what the men might have said to each other.
I found this prayer and commentary on the blog “Enlightended Catholicism.” I have a copy of it pinned near by my desk. Whenever my soul needs a lift I read it and smile.
Prayer For Catholic Enlightenment by Cardinal Newman
Prayer for the Light of Truth
O my God, I confess that You can enlighten my darkness. I confess that You alone can. I wish my darkness to be enlightened.
I do not know whether You will: but that You can and that I wish, are sufficient reasons for me to ask, what You at least have not forbidden my asking.
I hereby promise that by Your grace which I am asking, I will embrace whatever at length feel certain is the truth, if ever I come to be certain.
And by Your grace I will guard against all self-deceit which may lead me to take what nature would have, rather than what reason approves.
Addition by blog author: Dear God, please help me understand the above prayer. I know you can, if you so will it and haven’t forbidden it. I sort of think so anyway. Seriously.