1 Thessalonians 5:23

Posted by Censor Librorum on Jun 5, 2018 | Categories: Faith, History, Musings

In May 1986 the Conference for Catholic Lesbians (CCL) held its biennial gathering at Meadow Lake Camp in Auberry, California. About 100 women attended the weekend event. They came from throughout the United States, with many drawn from California, Texas and Arizona. Participants ranged in age from 18 to 64, with most in their 30s and 40s. I was 34, and one of the organizers of the conference.

The great, electric charge of the conferences was the opportunity to be with many other women who identified as both Catholic and lesbian. This kind of connection was usually limited to one or two or a handful of women together–never a large group, and certainly not public.

Everyone there by necessity was closeted or discreet in parts of her life–family, friends, job, parish, school, religious community.  The conference provided a time and space where attendees could be lesbian and Catholic at the same time. It was liberating to some and a great relief to others to be fully present and open to the world in body, soul and spirit.  There was a wonderful peacefulness when the tension between our identities dissolved.

As we gathered for dinner on Friday night, a slim, grey-haired woman sat down at the old camp piano and started to play. You could hear the music in the background over the din of excited voices. She played classical pieces and show tunes, and seamlessly wove in special requests from some of the diners. I went over to introduce myself and thank her for the unexpected music.  I’ll call her “Jean.”

Jean said she was from Tucson, Arizona, and was a retired schoolteacher.  She had just recently come out. Jean said she was thrilled to be at the conference.  Closeted most of her life, she had only been with small groups of lesbians a few times before, and never imagined being with a group as large as this one at Meadow Lake.

Jean was very grateful to be part of the group and to everyone who attended.  She wanted to give us a gift in appreciation, and her gift was to play the piano during dinner.  Her music was by turns happy or intent, but mostly lighthearted and playful.

Jean surprised me. I had never met anyone that old who just came out. (I smile at the memory–I’m older now than Jean was then.) But what I remember is how happy she was. My young eyes looked at Jean playing and thought how sad it was that she had been closeted and alone for most of her life. My older eyes looking back at the memory understand why Jean was happy. She was in a place where she was free. That was a gift.

In the year following the conference, I asked one of my friends about Jean and how she was doing.  I used to travel to Tucson for work and retreats, and I wanted to try to see her while I was there. My friend told me that Jean had died several months after the conference.  I was shocked. No one seemed to know if Jean was aware she was dying, or if her death was unexpected.

This past winter, my wife, Lori, and I took our retirement trip to Tucson. One of the things I wanted to do was find Jean’s grave to say a prayer of thanks for her, and tell her I have never forgotten her gift of music at dinner. She is buried next to her mother and father.  It is a peaceful place. The grass is cropped low. Trees nearby keep her in shade.

Her gravestone is inscribed with her name, dates of birth and death, and a whimsical sketch of a roadrunner. Over her name is “1 Thessalonians 5:23”, the concluding prayer in St. Paul’s “First Letter to the Thessalonians.” The verse reads:

May the God of peace himself make you perfectly holy, and may you entirely, spirit, soul and body, be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

When I looked up the verse to write the post, I wondered why and when she had chosen it for her epitaph.  My guess is that she trusted God to see her for who she was in spirit, soul and body, and to raise her up on the last day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where is Fr. C. John McCloskey?

Posted by Censor Librorum on May 4, 2018 | Categories: Arts & Letters, Celebrities, History, Lesbians & Gays, Musings, Politics, Popes

Where is Fr. C. John McCloskey III? For roughly a decade, 1997-2005, the handsome, dashing, charming Opus Dei priest was storming the Beltway in his black soutane. 

A 1975 graduate of Columbia University, McCloskey was first drawn to Opus Dei when he was a teenager growing up near Washington, D.C.  During and after college he worked on Wall Street, leaving in his mid-20s to become a priest. Many of McCloskey’s bios note he is also an avid squash player.

Fr. McCloskey was high-profile, with TV commentator spots, prominent news media quotes, and a string of conversions of powerful men. He was groomed by Opus Dei to do exactly what he did so successfully–befriend Republican political and cultural elites; and articulate an orthodox Catholic point of view.  Then, pfft–nothing. Out of sight.

In the years since he left D.C., Fr. McCloskey, 64, has kept a much lower profile.  He’s still writing and doing pastoral ministry, but not on a secular stage.  McCloskey lives in Menlo Park, California, home of Facebook, Kleiner Perkins, Caufield & Byers, Sequoia Capital, Silver Lake Partners, and many Fintech companies.  Perhaps Opus Dei and McCloskey have moved on to the new power elite?

However, the original mystery remains–what happened? Why would Opus Dei transfer Fr. McCloskey out of his Washington, D.C. powerhouse–the Catholic Information Center on K Street–and pack him off to obscurity in Chicago?  

Theory 1: Did he draw too much attention to himself by his high profile converts and media appearances?

Every article about Fr. McCloskey notes with pride his converts to Catholicism.  Most are from Jewish and Evangelical Christian backgrounds, with a sprinkling of Episcopalians.  “A lot of these men had been thinking about Catholicism before,” McCloskey explained, “and it wasn’t just me per se, but the fact a lot of very smart people–senators and judges–were looking for truth in their lives.  It helped quite a bit that many of these men were influenced by men at their level who were Catholics.  In a lot of cases, those friends referred them to me. Then the word got out that I was willing to instruct these sorts of people. It’s just like the brokerage business or any other business of sales,” said McCloskey.  “You get a reputation, you deal with one person and they mention you to another person and they mention you to another person…and all of a sudden you have a string of people.”

Here are the converts cited most:

.  Sam Brownback, former U.S. senator and governor of Kansas; and now United States Ambassador-at-Large for the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom,

. Robert Bork, judge and former U.S. Supreme Court nominee,

. Robert Novak, “Crossfire” co-host and columnist,

. Alfred Regnery, conservative book publisher. A revised and updated English edition of The Dictator Popea book highly critical of Pope Francis – was released both in hardcover and e-book formats by Regnery Publishing on April 23, 2018.

. Newt Gingrich, political consultant and former minority whip and speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, and former Republican presidential candidate.  His wife, Callista Gingrich, currently serves as U.S. ambassador to the Holy See,

. Lawrence Kudlow, economist and long-time CNBC commentator, now President Trump’s top economic policy advisor,

. Lewis Lehrman, financier and former New York gubernatorial candidate,

. Jeffrey Bell, political consultant and PR guru,

. Maj. General (Ret.) Josiah Bunting III, author, educator, former superintendent of Virginia Military Institute, and currently head of the Henry Frank Guggenheim Foundation,

. Dr. Bernard Nathanson, abortion doctor and one of the founders off the National Abortion Rights Action League,

. Mark Belnick, former Tyco International general counsel.

Two women are occasionally included in this distinguished group:

. Meghan Cox Gurdon, children’s book critic for the Wall Street Journal and Mayflower descendant,

. Laura Ingraham, conservative TV and radio talk show host, author, and Fox News Channel contributor.

Theory 2: Did his emphasis on male friendship as an evangelization tool fall flat?  

In his 2007 book with Russell Shaw, Good News, Bad News: Evangelization, Conversion and the Crisis of Faith, Fr. McCoskey described his theory about American men–they lost the ability to maintain “virile” male friendships. They were victims of a “Friendship Deficit Syndrome.”  In another article, Friendship: The Key to Evangelization of Men, McCloskey described a group of Italian men at lunch in Rome, drinking “vino russo” and having a good time together. “I got the impression that this was not a singular event but rather one of frequent meetings of long-time close friends. For some reason it seemed strange to me, and at the same time appealing.”

McCloskey elaborated, “…in the U.S., men got together to watch sports on TV or in a bar, drank beer instead of wine, ate stacked sandwiches instead of pasta. “More often than not, they are enjoying not each other but the game.” “As things stand today, for many Catholic men “friendship” can mean a largely artificial tie, based on a common interest in beer, cars, sports, hunting, fishing, or even an unhealthy interest in the pursuit of young women. (In fact, I hesitate to use the word “friendship” to describe this relationship; would “acquaintance” be a better term?) A real male relationship is a deep and lasting bond that goes to the very core of what a man is or can be.”

McCloskey blames several things for the lack of male friendships: the loss of exclusively male clubs and schools, moving due to job changes, working women who want their husband’s help, leaving no time for men to socialize together; and finally, “gay culture.” “To complicate matters still further,” said McCloskey, “in today’s society many male relationships are openly homosexual, based on the use of each other as objects of pleasure. Many forms of public entertainment–films, television and the theater–have accepted homosexuality as normal, and begun to portray heterosexual males as fools who live under the sway of domineering women. One of the many unhappy side-effects of this open public perversion,” he goes on, “is the fact that when any small group of adult males is seen together, at least in some urban centers, they are assumed to be homosexual.”

After reading this article, which made a point to disparage traditional male pastimes of hunting, fishing, watching sports and chasing women–I tried to image my father’s reaction: “What would you expect from a priest?” he would have chuckled, with a twinkle in his ex-Marine, Irish eyes. As for people thinking he was a fairy because he was out with a couple of buddies, well, dad wouldn’t have taken that seriously. I would suggest that only closeted, self-loathing homosexuals would be anxious about being perceived as gay. It wouldn’t occur to my father or most heterosexuals to even think about it.

A goal of evangelical friendship is conversion. The use of friendship in a conversion process walks a very fine line between support and manipulation. Men who feel guilty about past acts; men in a mid-life crisis; the lost and lonely are especially vulnerable. Do most men feel they don’t spend enough time with other men? I don’t know. I value women-only activities, dinner parties and events but don’t associate them with my spiritual needs.  My social needs–yes, but I’m a lesbian.

Theory 3: His article fantasizing a U.S. religious civil war made people uneasy about him.

In 2000, Fr. McCloskey published a long essay in the Catholic World Report entitled “2030: Looking Backward.” It is a fictional piece in which his alter ego, Fr. Charles, a 77-year-old priest writes a January 1, 2030 letter to Fr. Joseph, a 25-year-old priest, reflecting on the recent breakup in the the United States and the emergence of the Regional States of North America.

In his essay, McCloskey foresees a smaller Catholic Church in the future. “…the Catholics we do have are better formed, practice their Faith in the traditional sense at a much higher level than ever, and are increasingly eager to share that Faith with their neighbors. Dissent has disappeared from the theological vocabulary.” In addition, hundreds of thousands of Evangelical Protestants convert to Catholicism.  

It sounds like the wishful thinking of a strident, thwarted, orthodox Catholic.  In 2000, in spite of the 21-year reign of doctrinaire Pope John Paul II, moderate and liberal Catholics kept a tenacious grip to their faith. American Catholicism continues to be messy, contentious and organic as different groups within the Church jockey with one another on what it means to be Catholic, and how best to live their faith between the Gospels, the Magisterium and American democratic ideals and culture.

The most controversial paragraph in the essay was the one where Fr. McCloskey appeared to encourage the breaking  apart of the union, and the development of Christian-governed states. As part of the reconstitution of the U.S., he appears to sanction the deaths of many thousands of people.

As he put it, “We finally received as a gift from God what had been missing from our ecclesial experience in these 250 years in North America–a strong persecution that was a true purification for our “sick society.” The tens of thousands of martyrs and confessors for the Faith in North America were indeed the “seed of the Church” as they were in pre-Edict of Milan Christianity. The final short and relatively bloodless conflict produced our Regional States of North America. The outcome was by no means an ideal solution but it does allow Christians to live in states that recognize natural law and divine Revelation, the right of free practice of religion, and laws on marriage, family, and life that recognize the primacy of our Faith.”

McCloskey acknowledged “A goodly number of faithful Catholic writers also found it dark and threatening, although I had intended it to be positive and optimistic.” Would the politicians, elected officials and other prominent people that McCloskey consorted with feel the same way? Probably not.  In the hands of secular media it could be framed as a fanatic’s call to sedition and violence.

Fr. McCloskey did make some accurate predictions in his essay, including the regional splits of “red states” and “blue states”; and the affinity between Evangelical Christians and ultra conservative Catholics on many political issues. This coalition supported Republican party candidates in exchange for their votes on abortion, homosexual civil rights protections, same-sex marriage, religious liberty/conscience rights and federal funding for their institutions.

He also articulated the struggle between Catholicism and secular society. There is an eerie parallel with McCloskey’s essay and the dystopian novel, Lord of the WorldThis obscure, apocalyptic book was written in 1907 by Monsignor Hugh Benson, an Anglican convert to Catholicism.  

It imagines a socialist, humanistic and technologically advanced world where religion has been rejected or suppressed.  It is a story about the Antichrist and End Times–the product of a struggle between a radically secular society and the one alternative to it–the Catholic Church. Most religious leaders have been co-opted by humanist ideals. Belief in God is replaced by belief in man. Only a small remnant of the Catholic faithful remain.  To a certain point of view, this is a chillingly accurate depiction of our present states.

What would Fr. McCloskey’s alter ego, Fr. Charles, say now if he could look back at what’s happened in the years since 2000?

What would he say about the sexual abuse holocaust that engulfed the global church and continues unabated to this day?  A month doesn’t go by without another cardinal, bishop, church official or priest getting dragged into court, or the court of public opinion. What are his thoughts on Pope Benedict XVI, the former Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, who became the first pope in almost 600 years to step down from the papacy.  What horror did Pope Benedict see that caused him to give up and quit? His resignation ended the reign of four decades of conservative popes, and their “reform of the reform” of Vatican II.  Springtime arrived, but it was for liberal and progressive Catholics… Could Fr. Charles ever have envisioned what would follow after Jorge Cardinal Bergoglio of Argentina was elected Pope Francis in 2013? In his wildest dreams, could he imagine a pope saying, “Who am I to judge?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Gaudete et Exsultate” (“Rejoice and Be Glad”) – An Updated Call to Holiness

Posted by Censor Librorum on Apr 9, 2018 | Categories: Accountability, Arts & Letters, Faith, Politics, Popes, Social Justice

Ultra conservative Catholic Wall Street Journal readers choked on their toast and scrambled eggs this morning when they read the headline of an article by Francis X. Rocca: “Pope Says Fighting Poverty Is as Essential as Opposing Abortion.”

Here is the article in full –  

“Pope Francis criticized Christians who emphasize opposition to abortion above social causes such as poverty and migration, in his latest effort to readjust the priorities of Catholic moral teaching from what he has characterized as an overemphasis on sexual and medical ethics.

“Our defense of the innocent unborn needs to be clear, firm and passionate,” the pope wrote in a document released by the Vatican on Monday. “Equally sacred, however, are the lives of the poor, those already born,” including the neglected elderly and victims of human trafficking.

The pope’s words appeared in “Gaudete et Exsultate” (“Rejoice and Be Glad”), a reflection on “holiness in today’s world” that includes advice on resisting the “verbal violence” of social media and achieving spiritual concentration amid a “culture of zapping.”

 Pope Francis has repeatedly called for reducing the emphasis on certain moral issues and increasing attention to social and economic justice.

That approach stands in contrast with that of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, who specified opposition to abortion, euthanasia and same-sex marriage among a handful of “nonnegotiable” values for the church.

In terms of ethical priorities, Pope Francis wrote in the document released Monday that an exclusive focus on abortion reflects a “harmful ideological error” of those who play down the importance of social action or denigrate it as “superficial, worldly, materialist, communist or populist.”

“We cannot uphold an ideal of holiness that would ignore injustice” in the form of economic equality, the pope added.

The pope also criticized what he characterized as an exaggerated focus on moral relativism, a concept closely associated with the teaching of Pope Benedict, who famously denounced what he called a “dictatorship of relativism” in contemporary culture.

“We often hear it said that, with respect to relativism and the flaws of our present world, the situation of migrants, for example, is a lesser issue. Some Catholics consider it a secondary issue compared to the ‘grave’ bioethical questions. That a politician looking for votes might say such a thing is understandable, but not a Christian,” Pope Francis wrote.

He also warned against the danger of seeking social change while neglecting personal piety through prayer and Bible reading.

“Christianity thus becomes a sort of NGO stripped of the luminous mysticism” exemplified by St. Francis of Assisi and Mother Teresa of Kolkata, the pope wrote.”

Catholics are now called to do more than be against a handful of sexual sins and sinners to declare themselves “Faithful Catholics.”

 

 

 

 

Love the Enemy in Your Pew

Posted by Censor Librorum on Feb 25, 2018 | Categories: Arts & Letters, Dissent, Faith, Musings, Politics

Love the Enemy in Your Pew has been part of my Lenten reflection since I first read it in the February 20, 2012 edition of America magazine. The article also  spurred me to organize a Lenten fish fry for my parish, where people of all opinions, backgrounds and political stripes could sit down together at a community meal.   

It was written by Dr. Gerald Schlabach, a professor of theology at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  He is a Benedictine oblate, and deeply involved in the Bridgefolk movement for grassroots dialog between Mennonites and Catholics.

*****

“We Christians have struggled for centuries to understand how Jesus really expects us to love our enemies. (Bracket those vicious enemies who may actually be out to violently destroy us and ours.) To be ready for that kind of discipleship we must first learn to love our sisters and brothers in the Christian community itself. They are the ones close enough to stick in our craw.”

“So this Lent, listen to uncomfortable voices in your community. Listen without arguing back, for as long as it takes to really hear. Listen deliberately. Listen for the back story behind positions you may never agree with. Debate later.”

“Listening is the virtue this proposed Lenten discipline would inculcate if practiced throughout the year; it could become a lifelong habit. Especially in our era of culture wars, in which the blogosphere allows us to flame “enemies” we never meet face-to-face, nothing may affect us short of sitting down over coffee or on a park bench to listen face-to-face. ”

“Listen particularly to someone who represents all you think might be wrong with the church. A Catholic neighbor, for example, who is so impassioned with some ways of defending life that he or she seems to ignore other ways. Or an openly gay Catholic who continues to receive the Eucharist or an activist campaigning to make same-sex marriage unconstitutional. Listen to the fan of that dangerous neoconservative George Weigel, or the fan of that idealistic peacenik Jesuit John Dear; the parish liturgist who still includes those awful guitar-Mass ditties in the new Roman Mass or the patriarch in the next pew who glares when someone changes “his” to “God’s” for “the good of God’s holy Church.”

“Alas, Catholic culture makes it easy to leave Sunday Mass, week after week, without talking at all, much less inviting real conversations elsewhere in the week. But resolve to try conversation at least once, for Lent. Whoever your conversation partner is, ask to hear his or her back story. Resolve that while you may ask for clarification, you may not argue. Trust might begin to develop, though probably not in a first meeting.  If the other person reciprocates and asks for your back story, wonderful  Share your own story, but do not argue your position even then.”

“What if this encounter starts to soften your position? Yes, there is that risk. But this is Lent. Our Lord risked all, abandoning any self-defense other than the vindication of his Father. The cycle of the church year intends to teach us this: Resurrection is coming, but not without our dying to even the most righteous of causes, as we identify with the One who did so before us.”

 

 

Sodalitium Christianae Vitae – A Curious Silence

Posted by Censor Librorum on Feb 17, 2018 | Categories: Accountability, Bishops, Popes, Scandals, Weirdos

Conservative Catholic publications and bloggers love gay marriage and romance stories.  They are  fascinated and obsessed by them. They are reported with relish, in gleeful, triumphant detail, especially when a Catholic school teacher or long-time parish volunteer loses his or her position after marrying their partner.

Conservative Catholic morality watchdogs have been all over Fr. James Martin’s book, Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter Into a Relationship of  Respect, Compassion and Sensitivity.”  The often anonymous complainers about the book and Fr. Martin’s speaking appearances protest his lack of condemnation for homosexual relationships, and that he does not use the term “intrinsically morally evil” to describe them.

It’s curious, given their obsession with gay and lesbian sex, that no conservative Catholic publications have covered the story on Sodalitium Christianae Vitae beyond one or two mentions.  There has been no accompanying editorial on “homosexual agendas,” or “homosexual networks” out to undermine traditional Catholic moral teaching. An extensive web search could not produce one conservative Catholic blogger who posted about it.  There is a curious silence from the ranks of the ultra conservatives and self-described “orthodox” defenders of faith and “truth.”  Why is that?

Here’s a simple answer: conservative Catholics don’t condemn one of their own.  Luis Fernando Figari was exposed as a closeted homosexual who is also a liar, hypocrite, molester and rapist.  But he didn’t try to change church teaching; he just went around it. He’s a sinner, not a subversive.  

The Sodalitium Christianae Vitae, or Sodalitium of Christian Life as it’s known in the U.S., was established in Lima, Peru in 1971 by Luis Fernando Figari, a law student.  Sodalitium was set up to inculcate teenage and young men from the Peruvian elite with a conservative strain of Catholicism, shaping them to champion these values as adults.  In 1997 Pope John Paul II approved it as a lay society of Apostolic Life of Pontifical Right, under the supervision of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

By 2010 abuse allegations began to seep out.  In May 2011 a man filed a complaint with Peru’s ecclesiastical court that was forwarded to the Vatican.  More complaints were filed in 2013 and 2014.  But it wasn’t until 2015 that the lid blew off Sodalitium’s secrets with the publication of a book, Half Monks, Half Soldiersby Pao Ugaz and Pedro Salinas.  The journalists chronicled years of sexual, physical and psychological abuse by Figari and other leaders in the community, including Figari’s #2, German Doig Klinge, the former Sodalitium vicar general who died in 2001.  Presumably German Doig’s cause for canonization–promoted by Figari and Sodalitium–will now die a quiet death.

When Peruvian prosecutors began investigating the abuse allegations in 2015, Figari left for the Vatican.

Both the Vatican and Sodalitium have commissioned their own investigations.  The 2016 Sodalitium report says Figari and other members sexually abused at least 19 minors and 17 adults starting in 1975. A former member said when he was 15 Figari had anal sex with him several times.  The report also said he instructed a man to kiss his penis, and touched and hugged members while naked. Figari also knew of three adult members who sexually abused minors.  

How could this go on for so long?  No one in the organization reported the abuse, or apparently, tried to stop it. The shepherds looked the other way and ignored complaints.  They include the last two popes, St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI, Vatican bureaucrats, and bishops who agree with the mission of conservative groups like the Legionnaires of Christ and Sodalitium uber alles.  It might also include some members of the closeted “Lavender Mafia” in the Vatican who protect their own.  

Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani Thorne, the ultra conservative archbishop of Lima and a member of Opus Dei, had an ambiguous response to the scandal. He ignored it until commenting became unavoidable.  But he also gave a warning in a homily that he would not accept criticism from “false moralists who want to mistreat the Church.”

Cardinal Cipriani wasn’t so discreet in 2013, when he outed a Peruvian legislator, Carlos Bruce, on a radio program. The reason for his fury: Bruce had sponsored a bill to allow same-sex couples to enter into civil unions. ‘If a person has made some alternate choices, that’s their problem and he can do whatever he wants on his own. But I don’t think that we’ve elected congresspeople just so they can justify their own life choices. I don’t think that’s right.”  Bruce, who is divorced with two sons, later told news media that he would not dignify such comments with a response. The cardinal’s comments resulted in Peruvian tabloid La Razon to run the headline “Cipriani pulls Bruce out of the closet” on its front page.

As far as I can tell, Cardinal Cipriani never went on TV, radio or print media, or used one of his homilies to denounce Luis Fernando Figari and the “saintly” German Doig for using their leadership positions to procure and sexually assault teenage boys and young men.

Although the Sodalitium sex abuse scandal did not come up in any of the Pope’s public speeches or audiences during his January 15-21 2018 trip to Peru and Chile, it shadowed his entire stay.  On January 10, 2018, shortly before traveling, Pope Francis essentially took over Sodalitium by appointing Columbia Bishop Noel Antonio Londono Buitrago as papal commissioner.  In addition to sex abuse, Vatican investigators also uncovered financial irregularities.

On the January 21, 2018  return flight to Rome from Lima, Pope Francis said that Figari’s case is currently before the court of appeals in the Apostolic Signatura, and “will be released in less than a month.”  “I am not very informed, but the thing is not very favorable for the founder,” he added. “If the Apostolic Signatura decides in favor of the appeal, it will not make sense,” he said, “because many, many serious cases are accumulating.”

What will happen to Figari? Will the Vatican allow him to be extradited to Peru to be arrested and face trial; or will it permit him to retire to a “life of prayer and penance” like the disgraced Legionnaires of Christ founder and leader, Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado?

I’m sure Cardinal Cipriani would not want the publicity and investigative reporting that would accompany Figari’s return to Lima.  He will fight tooth and nail to keep him in Rome.  

U.S. Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadephia, who invited Sodalitium representatives to staff campus and parish ministries, would find it awkward to defend their leadership while castigating moderate and liberal Catholic politicians for defending gay and lesbian civil rights. 

The less said, the better.  

Pope Francis, who inherited this mess, and whose foot-dragging has caused complaint, does get a partial defense from Pao Ugaz, the investigative journalist and co-author of Half Monks, Half Soldiers. 

“The Vatican is set up so that the pope reigns but doesn’t govern,” she said. “Francisco is much more political (than previous pontiffs) and he has more leverage but there is still a lot of resistance and it remains to be seen who will prevail.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pope vs. Pope on the “Our Father”

Posted by Censor Librorum on Jan 26, 2018 | Categories: Arts & Letters, Dissent, History, Humor, Popes, Sacred Scripture

Late last year the Italian bishops’ television channel, TV2000, broadcasted a series of conversations between the pope and a Catholic prison chaplain looking at the Lord’s Prayer line by line.  The episode broadcast on December 6, 2017 focused on the line, “Lead us not into temptation.”

Pope Francis suggested the Church should amend the translation of the “Our Father” to clear up the confusion around the phrase, “Lead us not into temptation.” “That is not a good translation,” the pope said in the December 6th interview with Italian television.   

“I’m the one who falls,” Pope Francis explained. “But it’s not God who pushes me into temptation to see how I fall.  No, a father does not do this.  A father helps us up immediately.” “The one who leads us into temptation is Satan,” the pope said. “That’s Satan’s job.”‘

A possible alternative to “Lead us not into temptation” is “Do not let us fall into temptation.”  In his interview, Pope Francis suggested that the phrase be adopted more widely.  I was surprised to learn Catholics in several countries have used a new translation for some time.  “Do not let us fall into temptation” is currently used by the Church in France, Spain, Belgium and Benin.  In Italy, “Do not abandon us in temptation” has been used since 2008.

There are no Bible stories or saints’ tales I can recall where God leads a person towards temptation. The one prominent story of Jesus being tempted in the desert was through his encounter with Satan. God didn’t lead Eve to eat and offer the forbidden fruit. There are hundreds of anecdotes of tempted saints, but they feature demons, devils or sexy women.

The National Catholic Register, a conservative bi-weekly, devoted major space in its December 24, 2017  edition to the Our Father line translation, with a front-page story and editorial rebutting the pope’s suggested change. The reasoning to oppose a change was either theological, political or emotional.  

The author of the article was Msgr. Charles Pope, pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian parish in Washington, DC. He is a contributor to Community in Mission, a blog of the the Archdiocese of Washington, DC. In his article, Msgr. Pope elaborated on three key points:

  • “While the intention may be to assist the reader to understand that God does not tempt us or directly cause us to fall, the effect is to imply that the inspired Greek text is inadequate.”
  • “Second, in the English-speaking world, the Lord’s Prayer is one of the few prayers we have in common with non-Catholics. Even many of the unchurched have committed it to memory.”
  • “Lastly, by changing the line we will miss a “teachable moment” in which an important truth about God can be explained.”

“Surely God does not tempt us in any direct sense,” Msgr Pope reasoned. “He does not will to entrap us or to confound us so as to make us fall.  However, because he is the first cause of all existing things, he is also the first cause of things that tempt us. So, in asking God to “lead us not into temptation,” we ask him, who, providentially holds us and all things in existence, to lead us forward with the graces we need to resist it.  This will allow us to enjoy the good things he gives without giving way to the temptations of inordinate desires.”

Msgr. Pope’s analysis is good, and it is worth pondering as a spiritual reflection.  But his explanation on the meaning of one line involves a long and very intellectual argument–counter intuitive to a simple petition.  Msgr. Pope concludes that we should “remain rooted in the translation of the Lord’s Prayer that has sustained and united the English-speaking world for hundreds upon hundreds of years.”

This statement by Msgr. Pope is not entirely accurate. Since the Reformation, Christians have disagreed on the wording and translation of another line in the Lord’s Prayer: “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”  Catholics, Orthodox, Lutherans, Methodists and most Anglican/Episcopalians use this version.  Presbyterians and other Christians use, “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive debtors.”  Some Christians replaced “trespasses” and “debts” with “sins.”  The different words have different meanings in the ‘English language.  “Trespasses” means having crossed a line that may or may not have been clearly marked. “Debtors” implies someone owes you and hasn’t settled the debt. What we hear from the prayer depends on the words we use.

I have started to say: “Do not let us fall into temptation” when I say the Our Father in prayer or at Mass. I was glad to let go of “Lead us not into temptation,” which I have always felt was antithetical to trusting God.  

 

 

 

Cardinal Law’s Fall from Grace

Posted by Censor Librorum on Dec 31, 2017 | Categories: Accountability, Arts & Letters, Bishops, History, Musings, Politics, Scandals

On December 20, 2017,  Bernard Cardinal Law passed away at the age of 86.  For the last 13 years he lived in Rome, a voluntary exile from the United States.  He will be buried in Rome as well.

Law was appointed Archbishop of Boston in 1984, and he stepped down on December 13, 2002 after being engulfed and overwhelmed by the sex abuse scandal he helped to create.

Although Thomas O’Connor, Boston College historian, remarked “There’s going to be a lot of good interred with his bones,” the more likely epitaph will be that penned by Kevin Cullen of The Boston Globe: “Bernie Law … one of the greatest enablers of sexual abuse in the history of the world.”

Bishop Christopher Coyne of Burlington, VT, who served as Law’s spokesman during the period before the cardinal’s resignation, said in a statement on his death that like each one of us, Law’s days had their fair share of “light and shadows.” “While I knew him to be a man of faith, a kind man and good friend, I respect that some will feel otherwise, and so I especially ask them to join me in prayer and work for the healing and renewal of our Church,” he said.

Sean Cardinal O’Malley, archbishop of Boston and Law’s immediate successor, also published a statement on December 20th, offering his sincere apologies to anyone who experienced the trauma of sexual abuse by clergy.  “As Archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Law served at a time when the Church failed seriously in its responsibilities to provide pastoral care for her people, and with tragic outcomes failed to care for the children of our parish communities. I deeply regret that reality and its consequences.”

But O’Malley also noted that Cardinal Law’s “pastoral legacy has many other dimensions,” including his early commitment to the civil rights struggle in Mississippi, and his work with the ecumenical and interfaith movement following Vatican II.  He was well known for his ministry to the sick, dying and bereaved.

Journalist Mike Barnicle wrote about Cardinal Law in a NY Daily News column published on Sunday, December 15, 2002 — two days after his resignation.  The headline was “The tragedy of Law’s fall from grace.” I clipped out the article from the paper to keep; to remind me of the good and evil one person can do, our complexities of character and motivation, and the nightmare forms our justifications can sometimes become.

The article began – “There was a night in December almost exactly four years ago when the door to the hospital room opened and Bernard Cardinal Law walked in to visit a sick man lying in the bed. The priest barely knew the guy, just dropped by to talk for a few minutes, offer a simple blessing and then he was gone, like a doctor on his rounds.

The guy was surprised. He hadn’t really known the cardinal and thought of him as a rather aloof, somewhat cold figure. But Law was accompanied that evening by some warmth, a sense of humor and a capacity for conversation.

“He comes here a lot,” one of the nurses said. “Just shows up. Him and his driver. A lot of the time, late at night. He’s great with the homeless, the drunks, street people who hang around the emergency room to get out of the cold.”

How does a man who was arguably the single most important  member of the Catholic hierarchy in America, a guy who made his bones working for civil rights in the South during the violent ’60s, a priest who began his career speaking for the poor, slowly but surely tumble into such scandal that his life is now littered with subpoenas rather than psalms?  Is it arrogance? Isolation? The sin of pride? Blind ambition? 

Last week, days before Law sat down with the Pope and resigned as leader of the Boston Archdiocese, whatever future he may have had within the church was mortally wounded by the artillery of conscience.  The volleys came in the form of 58 of his own priests who signed a letter urging him to step down and get out of town.  It was more powerful than any editorial clamoring for his resignation.  Now, control and contain–the creed of corporate Catholicism in America–is reeling.  The faithful are taking back the store.

Still, it is astounding to consider what has happened and what might happen yet.

Law, Rockville Centre, L. I., Bishop William Murphy, Brooklyn Bishop Thomas Daily and many other men who spent most of their lives spreading a gospel of truth and morality actively engaged in a decades-long coverup of priests who preyed on the helpless and the young and then paid out millions in hush money. They have made it possible for every Catholic bashing bigot in the country to find both a voice and an audience. They have made it nearly impossible for parents to lecture their children on the need to attend Mass, go to confession, pay attention to a homily.

In Boston, the cardinal was like a fugitive, running from the secular law, barely able to appear at a cathedral without attracting angry protesters, fleeing his home for Rome to meet with other old men who seem to want to blame this scandal on American culture.

In New York, Edward Cardinal Egan is practically invisible and mute, his voice silenced by the burden of his own bureaucratic mistakes. What went wrong with these guys? Did they ever listen to the late Joseph Cardinal Bernardin of Chicago, who spoke out about the problem of child-molesting priests nearly 20 years ago?

Law did an awful lot of good in his life. His tragedy, though, is that when it mattered most, he lied. He lied to his strongest supporters, lay people, who urged him to come clean with every problem priest still on the books. He lied to the people in his diocese when he repeatedly across the years told them that his priest had been removed or that priest would not be allowed to work around children. He lied to other pastors around the country when he would write letters that read like great college recommendations on behalf of men he knew to be sodomists of the young and vulnerable.  Maybe he was lying to himself, too.

Now, in the wake of his departure, he leaves the Catholic Church in this country looking like a religious version of the San Andreas fault.  The fissure between the faithful and the hierarchy–the Pope in Rome and a whole lot of bishops here–is obvious. The shadowy outline of a separate and distinct American Catholic Church is no longer impossible to see. There will be people in parish after parish seeking equal time after each sermon they hear that they feel is foolish and delivered by some remote priest, automatically obedient to an authority that has been compromised and shamed by scandal that could have been avoided if just one man in a red hat had realized there is a huge difference between human weakness–a mistake–and a felony.

Law is history now, in more ways than one. He has been weakened, battered, defeated and made old by his own blindness and inaction.

He looks and behaves a lot differently today than he did that long ago night in December 1998 when he was full of humor, even humility, and took the time to bless a sick man in a hospital bed. I remember him well from that evening because I was the guy he took the time to bless.”

 

Another View on the “War on Religion”

Posted by Censor Librorum on Nov 20, 2017 | Categories: Accountability, Dissent, Faith, Humor, Politics, Social Justice

 

The Notorious Bishop Robert Morlino

Posted by Censor Librorum on Nov 6, 2017 | Categories: Accountability, Bishops, Lesbians & Gays, Popes, Scandals

Bishop Robert Morlino was appointed by Pope John Paul II as the 4th bishop of Madison, Wisconsin on May 23, 2003.  The “good news” for Madison Catholics is that he turns 75 on December 31, 2021.  They just need to hang on and run out the clock.

On October 21, 2017, his vicar general, Rev. Msgr. James Bartylla, emailed diocesan priests on “Consideration of Funeral Rites for a Person in a Homosexual Civil or Notorious Union.”  Though it was sent from the vicar general, the communication had the approval of Bishop Morlino. 

Priests should not mention the name of the surviving partner, nor make any reference to the “unnatural union” if funeral rites are provided for someone in a same-sex relationship. In addition, priests should keep in mind the “attitude” of the family toward the church, whether the deceased or surviving partner was a “promoter of the gay lifestyle,” and whether the deceased person had shown “signs of repentance before death.”

Predictably, this has caused a stink. Even a few bishops weighed in on the opposite direction–something that rarely occurs in their “collegiality” culture.

Bishop Morlino and Msgr. Bartylla have not extended the funeral ban to any other sexual activity the church finds sinful or shameful–rape, incest, adultery, pornography, prostitution, molestation–by clergy or laity to children, young people or adults.  The only ban is to lesbians and gays in a civil marriage.

In this 13 years as bishop of Madison, Morlino has regularly detonated controversy bombs. 

In 2004, six months after arriving in Madison, he came out swinging in the Catholic Herald newspaper.  Morlino stated that Madison existed below a “moral minimum” and that they city had “virtually no public morality.” He specifically cited the city’s StageQ community theater–a lesbian and gay troupe–as evidence of this view.

But the worst episode was his reaction to a March 2010 New York Times expose of the Vatican handling of the Rev. Lawrence C. Murphy.  Father Murphy is believed to have molested hundreds of boys between 1950 and 1974 while assigned to a Milwaukee area school for the deaf.  In the late ’90s, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a Vatican office headed by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger–the future Pope Benedict XVI–stopped attempts by Milwaukee Archbishop Rembert Weakland and Cardinal Bertone of the CDF to defrock the priest.

Bishop Morlino, who ripped Madison’s lack of “public morality” rushed to the defense of Pope Benedict XVI’s management of the Fr. Murphy sex abuse complaint–

“As the Church in Europe now uncovers some of the sins committed by its clergy members, the mass media was trying, with every fiber of their being to make Pope Benedict XVI look guilty. Their big line is, ‘what did the Pope know and when did he know it?’ That is, ‘he’s to be treated like any other politician; he’s probably corrupt, and it’s our role to uncover his corruption.'”

And he goes on…

“Of course, many see their role as to destroy the Church of Christ, the Catholic Church. They want us out of the way. So, a very good way to attack the Church is to attack the Holy Father himself. These same people who demand to know what the Pope knew and when he knew it want to place the responsibility for the acts of others (undertaken far away and in different time periods), at the feet of the Pope and make him responsible.”

He chides the “disobedient people” demanding accountability…

“In order to be responsible for something, one has to have the authority to do something about it. And the very people who want to make the Holy Father responsible for everything heinous in the sexual misconduct scandal are the least likely to accept the Pope’s authority in any matter.  They are the most disobedient people, in general. Yet they want to lay all the responsibility at the Pope’s feet. That simply makes no sense and we should not be fooled.”

Bishop Morlino contended it was church officials in Milwaukee, not the Vatican, who controlled what happened with Fr. Murphy. “It is clear the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, of which Cardinal Ratzinger was then at the head, had nothing to do with the criminal case of the sickening abuse by Fr. Lawrence Murphy of several young deaf men.”

According to the New York Times, in 1993, with complaints about Fr. Murphy stacking up, Archbishop Weakland hired a social worker specializing in treating sexual offenders to evaluate him.  After four days of interviews, the social worker said that Fr. Murphy had admitted his acts, had probably molested about 200 boys and felt no remorse.

In 1996 Archbishop Weakland sent two letters to Cardinal Ratzinger, and one to the Apostolic Signatura, the church’s highest court, asking for guidance on whether to conduct a canonical trial of Father Murphy.  Archbishop Weakland wanted Murphy defrocked.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had oversight of the case because Father Murphy was suspected of using the confessional to commit his crimes — a crime that is considered particularly serious under the church’s canon law because confession is a sacrament.
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In 1998, Fr. Murphy, who was dying, wrote to Cardinal Ratzinger asking for clemency.  “I simply want to live out the time that I have left in the dignity of my priesthood.  I ask your kind assistance in this matter.”  Cardinal Ratzinger’s office moved to halt the defrocking process.  Fr. Murphy died later in that year. An auxiliary bishop of Milwaukee celebrated his funeral Mass, and he was buried in his priestly vestments.

What moral lesson should we take from all of this?

 

 

 

 

Catholic Values in Higher Education

Posted by Censor Librorum on Oct 24, 2017 | Categories: Accountability, Musings, Popes, Social Justice

In an October 17, 2017 audience with students from the “Institution des Chartreux” in Lyon, France Pope Francis reminds them of their need to keep their moral formation at the heart of their drive to professional success and fulfillment.

“You are engaged in a course of study that prepares you to enter the great schools of commerce that, when the moment comes, will enable you to exercise a profession in the world of international finance. I am glad to know that your academic formation includes a strong human, philosophical and spiritual dimension, and for this I thank God. Indeed, it is essential that, from now and in your future professional life, you learn to remain free from the allure of money, from the slavery in which money traps those who worship it. And it is also important that you are able to acquire today the strength and the courage not to obey blindly the invisible hand of the market. Therefore, I encourage you to draw benefits from your time studying to train yourselves to be promoters and defenders of a growth in equality, artisans of a just and fitting administration of our common home, namely the world (cf. Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium, 204; 206).”

“Here in Rome you experience a form of immersion in the history that has so strongly marked the rise of the European nations. Admiring what the genius of men and the hopes they have cultivated have been capable of realising, you too must take care to leave your imprint on history. Indeed, you have the capacity of deciding your future! I wish to repeat it: you have the capacity of deciding your future. Therefore I urge you to become responsible for this world and the life of every man. Never forget that “every injustice against a poor person is an open wound, and diminishes your very dignity” (Catechesis, 20 September 2017). And, even though this world expects you to head towards success, give yourselves the means and the time to journey the paths of fraternity, to build bridges between men rather than walls, to add your stone to the edification of a more just and humane society.”

Every pope in the last century has touched on this ethic, including Pope Benedict XVI and St. John Paul II.  However, I don’t think has been stated as often, and as strongly, as Pope Francis.  Pope Leo XIII laid the foundation of modern Catholic social teaching with Rerum Novarum – an encyclical on capital and labor.  It was published on May 15, 1891.

Earlier this week, I had an exchange with a good friend about the values in my college formation:

“Mary, When I attended Trinity, the values were academic rigor, service to society and others, and our Catholic faith as the foundation for professional and community life. We were encouraged to make an impact, to contribute. I have lived Trinity’s values all my life. Are those the same values now at Trinity?” (Note – I entered Trinity College in Washington, DC in September 1970 and graduated in May 1974.) 

Trinity was founded in 1897, so I’m sure the teaching of Rerum Novarum had an impact on the new college’s moral and ethical mission.

Especially as a graduate of a Catholic college, I was dismayed to see niche morality on display in the National Catholic Register’s (a national newspaper) 2017 Catholic Identity College Guide.  The paper sent ten questions to the 197 U.S. Catholic colleges and universities to ostensibly verify Catholic identity.  Of that number, 34 returned the questionnaires with the correct answers.  You can get the flavor of the survey in a few of the questions:

  • “Did the president make the public “Profession of Faith” and take the “Oath of Fidelity”?
  • “Did all Catholic theology professors take the “Oath of Fidelity”
  • “Do you exclude advocates of abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem-cell research, cloning or advocates of the redefinition of marriage as commencement speakers and/or recipients of honorary degrees?”
  • “Do you exclude sponsoring campus groups and clubs that are not in line with Catholic teaching (examples: abortion and LGBT-related clubs)? If allowed, please explain.”
  • “Do you prohibit coed dorms?”

No mention of advocates of the death penalty? No mention of barring executives from companies who have endorsed or looked the other way on shoddy or criminal financial practices? Notorious polluters?  Why, I wonder?  Aren’t these “Life” issues?

I think it is good and needed to encourage Catholic identify in education and especially young people.  Young people want to talk about what’s important or troubling them, and they want other people to hear what they have to say.  We need to listen, and to encourage the exercise of their conscience, which will be their moral compass for the rest of their life–especially if they go into business.