Tainted Love: The North American Martyrs

Posted by Censor Librorum on Nov 10, 2018 | Categories: Faith, History, Politics, Saints

The 17th century in North America was a time and place in a constant state of flux. Cultural clashes, religious struggles and fights for territory spread from pockets to regions. Conflicts in the Old World–England, France, the Netherlands, Ireland, Scotland–struck sparks in New England, Quebec and Ontario. Native nations in this region–the Haudenosaunee Confederacy (Iroquois); Wendat or Wyandot (Huron), Abenaki, Wampanoag, Pequot, Narragansett, Mohegan and Lenape (Delaware) to name a few, leveraged colonists and Europeans in their animosities with each other and settlers. Alliances and advantages were the tidal kind–they shifted back and forth. Sometimes huge waves formed, engulfing everyone in their path before their energy was spent.  Anxiety reigned–neighboring people, people who you traded with, even friends, could suddenly turn on you without much warning.

Saving Souls in the New World

Into this frontier paddled French Jesuits and their lay helpers. Their first motive was quite simple: save souls. In those days the dogma was quite clear: the unbaptized went straight to Hell. The rest of their motives for coming to New France were complex: an eagerness to serve in a remote, dangerous place; a desire to introduce their religious and secular ideas and ideals to the native population to improve their lives; and for some, a path to martyrdom. A painful, bloody death would bring them closer to Christ’s passion, and earn a glorious place in the pantheon of martyrs.

The North American Martyrs

Eight men make up the North American Martyrs.  They include six Jesuit priests and two lay Jesuit companions. They were martyred between 1642 and 1649 in what is now New York State in the United States and southern Ontario in Canada.  The first group, who were killed in the Mohawk village of Ossernenon, included Fr. Isaac Jogues (October 18, 1646) Rene Goupil (September 29, 1642) and Jean de Lalande (October 19, 1646).  They were all in their 30s when they died.  The remaining six Jesuits were killed by Mohawks in Huronia in 1648-1649. They included Fr. Jean de Brefeuf, Fr. Antoine Daniel, Fr. Gabriel Lalemant, Fr. Charles Garnier, and Fr. Noel Chabanel.  

The same missionary spirit they felt has existed throughout the history of the church up to the present day.  The beating, rape and murder of Sr. Maura Clarke, a Maryknoll sister and her companions Sr. Ita Ford, Sr. Dorothy Kazel and lay missionary Jean Donovan by soldiers in El Salvador’s military forces mirrors the deaths of the North American Martyrs by beatings, torture, and tomahawks.

Suspicions of Sorcery

One of the reasons these two groups of missionaries were killed was the perception they were introducing ideas and beliefs that would undermine or cause conflict with the existing native culture and power structure. The North American Martyrs were also suspected of sorcery and evil magic.

Jesuit missionaries worked among the Wendat, a people who lived in the Georgian Bay area of Central Ontario. The Wendat were farmers, hunters and traders who lived in villages surrounded by defensive wooden palisades for protection. The missionaries were not universally trusted by the people. Many Wendat believed them to be malevolent shamans or sorcerers who brought death and disease wherever they traveled.  In fact, they did: terrible epidemics of smallpox,, flu and other infectious diseases followed in their footsteps and decimated the Wendat and other native peoples. The rivals and enemies of the Wendat, the Haudenosaunee, considered the Jesuits legitimate targets, as the missionaries were generally allied with the Wendat and French. Retaliation for attacks was also a reason for their raids and warfare.

Capture and Death 

In 1642, a tribe of the Haudenosaunee, the Mohawks, captured Rene Goupil and Fr. Isaac Jogues as they were traveling from the Jesuit outpost of Sainte-Marie in Ontario to Quebec.  They were brought to the Mohawk village of Ossernenon near present day Auriesville, New York.  Both men were ritually tortured and mutilated and Goupil was killed. Fr. Jogues was taken in by a Mohawk family. He lived with a kindly “Auntie” and was protected by members of a clan. But his status in the tribe is unclear; he may also have been a slave.

Rescue and Return

Fr. Jogues was eventually rescued by Arendt Van Corlaer, a local Dutch official, and Rev. Johannes Megapolensis, a Dutch Reform minister. He returned to France for several years but then sailed back to Quebec. In 1646 Fr. Jogues and Jean de Lalande, a “donne” or lay Jesuit, were killed during during his second peace mission to Ossernenon. During his first peace mission to Ossernenon, Jogues was given permission by the clan leaders to establish a mission. Before he left for Quebec in June 1646 to gather supplies and helpers to build the mission, Fr. Jogues left a black box with his vestments, books and items. The black box generated suspicion and fear. Illness and crop failure plagued Ossernenon that summer and fall, and an evil spirit in the black box was blamed.

On October 14, 1646 Fr. Jogues, Lalande and a Wendat companion were ambushed a few days walk from Ossernenon.  They arrived in the village on October 17 to await their fate. Members of the Bear Clan wanted to kill Jogues, the Wolf and Turtle Clans were against his death. Jogues was invited to a Bear Clan longhouse, but his Auntie counseled him against going.  He went anyway and was tomahawked shortly after he entered the longhouse. Lalande heard the commotion and knew Jogues had been killed.  Against the advice of the Auntie, he went to recover the body and whatever Jogues had carried with him.  He was also killed.

Shrine of the North American Martyrs

Ossernenon, the site of the three Jesuits’ killings, is now known as the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs. It is also called the National Shrine of the North American Martyrs.  Some archaeologists have recently disputed the location of Ossernenon, placing it nine miles to the west. However, on the shrine site there are signs indicating where the prisoners ran the gauntlet on their arrival from the river below; and the ravine where Rene Goupil’s body was tossed after two warriors killed him.  The site is also the reputed birthplace of St. Kateri Tekakwitha. Born in 1656, she was the daughter of a Wendat captive and a Mohawk chieftain.  She must have heard stories about the Jesuits growing up.

The World in Which They Lived

I traveled to Ossernenon/Auriesville last month to visit the martyrdom shrine and site.  I wanted to sort out my feelings for the missionaries and see where they had lived out their faith and met their death.  I first tried to see them in the context of their time. In the 17th century France, England and the Netherlands were fighting and agitating with one another all over the world to stake out riches, land and trading claims.  The plague was still widespread in Europe, along with syphilis and other diseases picked up and carries by armies and traders.  Thousands of witches were burned at the stake or hanged; the fear of the supernatural fanned by public hysteria over disease, crop failures and anxiety over the future. The reverberations and rivalries between Catholics and Protestants–the Reformation and the Catholic Revival–and subsequent clashes between competing Protestant ideologies were still being felt. Finally, there was a great movement of peoples in response to all these events–either to escape or take financial advantage of them.

The native nations of North America were impacted and changed by their contact with Europeans. They valued the European-made goods, and the increased territorial dominion from trade, firearms and military alliances. They also experienced an inflow of new religious ideas and observances as missionaries made their way to villages following the paths of traders and explorers.

There was an unflinchingly cruel aspect to the age. The native nations ritually tortured and maimed enemy captives; some of them were burned to death taking hours to die. Men, women and children of all ages would be tomahawked and scalped. As policy or retribution, Europeans and colonists annihilated whole villages. Their indiscriminate attacks often fell on villages and native leaders that had pledged peace and good will. Whites also killed for scalp bounties and introduced the first germ warfare by giving smallpox infected blankets to the natives, killing or sickening and scarring everyone. Colonists became accustomed to warriors and their families visiting or living close by to their settlements.  The encounters could be friendly, uneasy or hostile.

Who Were the Martyrs?

Who were the three Ossernenon martyrs? Rene Goupil had aspired to be a Jesuit priest but was not accepted because he was deaf. Instead, he became a donne or lay Jesuit and volunteered to go to Quebec to help the missionaries as a physician. After hearing Fr. Jogues describe the great need for medical care in Huronia, he agreed to accompany him. During the voyage he was captured by the Mohawks and brought to Ossernenon. In what Fr. Jogues described as “an excess of devotion and love of the cross,” Rene Goupil made the sign of the cross over a Mohawk boy. Unaware of the meaning of this gesture the boy’s grandfather thought it was evil magic, and sent two warriors to kill him. Goupil either ignored or was not in the country long enough to understand that his blessing would be interpreted as an attempt by an evil shaman to betwitch a small child. Fr. Jogues describes what happened:

“One day, then, we went out of the village to obtain a little solace for our stricken souls and to pray more suitably with less disturbance. Two young men came after us to tell us that we must return to the house. I had some premonition of what was going to happen, and said to him, “My dearest brother, let us commend ourselves to our Lord and our good Mother, Mary.  I think these people have some evil plan.” We had offered ourselves to the Lord shortly before with much love, beseeching him to receive our lives and our blood and unite them with his life and his Blood for the salvation of these poor natives.  Accordingly, we returned to the village reciting our rosary, of which we had already said four decades. We stopped near the gate of the village to see what they might say to us. One of the two young Iroquois then drew out a hatchet  which he had concealed under his blanket and struck Rene, who was in front of him.  He fell motionless, his face to the ground, pronouncing the holy name of Jesus.  At the blow, I turned around and saw the bloody hatchet. I knelt down to receive the blow that would unite me to my dear companion, but, as they hesitated, I rose again and ran to the dying man who was not far from me. They then struck him two blows on the head with the hatchet, which killed him, but not before I had given him absolution.”

What kind of person was Fr. Isaac Jogues?  He was personally brave.  He ran to the aid of his dying companion; and during one attack in Huronia he left a good hiding place to aid and comfort his fellow voyagers. Having faced death and torture on his first trip to North America, he left the safety of France to return to Quebec. He was single-minded in his passion for the salvation of souls. He loved the aloneness in the forest, even though supernatural forces were present: “How often on the stately trees if Ossernenon did I carve the most Sacred name of Jesus so that seeing it the demons might take to flight, and hearing it they might tremble with fear.” “The village was a prison to me.  I avoided being seen.  I loved the quiet, lonely places, in the solitude of which I begged God that he should not disdain to speak with his servant, that he should give me strength in the midst of these fearful trials.”  

Did he have a death wish? As I walked along the Shrine’s paths and in the Ravine I couldn’t decide if he actively sought martyrdom for glory; or he wanted to experience suffering as a means of mystical union with Christ; or both. He might have also desired to validate his missionary work with martyrdom, since the French priests made so few converts and were generally unsuccessful in their missionary efforts.

Of the three Jesuits martyred in New York, I liked Jean de Lalande the best.  His motives were the clearest and least complicated. He wanted to serve, was aware of danger and accepted it. I also imagine he had a keen curiosity and interest to see the wilderness and meet its people. Lalande arrived in Quebec as a lay brother. He accompanied Fr. Jogues to Ossernenon, offering his skills as a woodworker and woodsman during the journey and to help build the new mission. Lalande was killed when he tried to retrieve Jogues’ body. A brave gesture, since he probably knew he would be killed in the attempt.

What Did the Wendats and Mohawks Think?

They did not treat the French Jesuits any differently then they did their own in war and peace.  The priests did not get the deference as clerics they would have expected in France and Quebec. They were expected to do physical labor and contribute to the welfare of the longhouse. I looked out over the ancient village site and marveled again at the hospitality and tolerance the Mohawks granted to the strangers in their midst. They attempted to integrate them into their own culture, fed them, and attempted to protect them at the cost of their own physical safety. The Jesuit missionaries were clumsy and cloddish and did not pick up on social cues or listen to the advice their “Auntie” and other people tried to give them. They were killed because some leaders believed they brought harm or disease to the people by their magic gestures and items used in devotions or Mass.  The Jesuits were in the vanguard of Europeans who infected and wiped out whole villages. There might have been quite a different outcome if the native nations had not been wiped out by diseases to which Europeans were immune, but lethal to the native people.

How the Martyrs’ Story was Revived

As the French and British were beaten back into Canada and Europe the stories of the Jesuits killed in Ossernenon faded away. They weren’t American colonists and they were Catholic, so theirs wasn’t a history that was preserved. That changed when Fr. John J. Wynne, S.J. took an interest in them.  

Widely recognized as an editor, educator and intellectual, Fr. Wynne (1859-1948) founded the Jesuit periodical America (1909) and the Catholic Encyclopedia.  From the 1890s to his death in 1948, Fr. Wynne became a big promoter of these “American” martyrs so that immigrant Catholics might be perceived more readily as “real” Americans by the WASP elite in power.

The canonization of Fr. Isaac Jogues, Rene Goupil and Jean de Lalande in 1930 by Pope Pius XII gave the United States its first saints and martyrs.  That provided some stature to the church in America, which was politically powerless in the Vatican and always suspect in matters of doctrinal purity.   (“Americanism” was one of the Modernisms that infuriated the late 19th and early 20th century papacy.)

But devotion to the North American Martyrs never caught on in the United States. Immigrant Catholics didn’t warm to them since their rural Auriesville, NY shrine was hundreds of miles away from the struggles of urban Catholic ghettos. Most of the inhabitants were other tribes: Irish, German, Italian, Polish. Catholic colonists didn’t venerate them either because Jesuits like Fr. Sebastien Rale incited and led the Abenaki and others to attack settlers in New England. As the descendant of Maine settlers who were victimized by the French and their tribal allies, I was glad to read he was eventually killed and scalped by colonial troops.

Personal Reflections

I visited the Auriesville shrine last month shortly before it closed for the winter.  I expected to scoff and came away a fan. I liked its rustic simplicity.  I liked how the builders how incorporated the wooden palisades of the native people and French into the altar design. I especially liked the wooden chapel dedicated to St. Kateri Tekakwitha, where only screens separated worshipers from nature.  

It is a shame that more people don’t visit the shrine. There is a lot to learn, and feel, and be inspired by the faith of the Jesuit martyrs and St. Kateri Tekakwitha. They sought God among the people they encountered, the rivers and lakes, forests and fields, and that sustained them. That makes them true North Americans. 

We can be equally inspired by the Mohawk and the Wendats’ courage and loyalty, their patience and hospitality, allowing strangers and migrants into their homelands to preach, trade and settle. Their generosity cost many of them their lives, their lands, their way of life, in fact, everything. Some of them died for their new Christian faith. They should also be honored as saints and martyrs. I thought of them all with respect and gratitude, as I said a quiet prayer toward the end of a warm afternoon.

Additional Reading

The Jesuit Martyrs of North America: Isaac Jogues, John De Brebeuf, Gabriel Lalemant, Noel Chabanel, Anthony Daniel, Charles Garnier, Rene Goupil, John Lalande by John J. Wynne, S.J

The Death and Afterlife of the North American Martyrs by Emma Anderson

The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents (accounts of missionary activities from 1610-1701)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Curious Letter of Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano

Posted by Censor Librorum on Aug 28, 2018 | Categories: Accountability, Bishops, History, Lesbians & Gays, Politics, Popes, Scandals

Amid the summer’s disgusting and disheartening clergy sexual abuse revelations comes a new twist–an 11-page “testimony” by former Papal Nuncio Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, 76. This August 25, 2018 letter, predictably, was published on LifeSiteNews.com. This faithful Catholic media site is a twin of the National Enquirer, a supermarket tabloid known for  its titillating sex items and outrageous claims.

Archbishop Vigano’s letter is full of gossip and veiled sex stories. It names names, but curiously many of the ones he targeted are not conservative bishops or cardinals–just liberal and moderate ones, and Archbishop Vigano’s rivals and political enemies in the Vatican bureaucracy and diplomatic service.

Vigano’s testimony has three problem areas; four if you count all the stilettos out for him now.

  1. Most of the actions he described happened during the papacies of St. John Paul II the Great and Pope Benedict XVI. They will both be slimed in any investigation.  If this story snowballs, Pope Benedict will be pressed to discuss Archbishop McCarrick and other sex offenders during his reign and that of his predecessor. That will be a stinker exclamation mark to his papacy.
  2. The basis for Archbishop Vigano’s call for Pope Francis to resign is his claim Pope Benedict “secretly sanctioned” Cardinal McCarrick for his immoral behavior and Pope Francis looked the other way.  He let McCarrick travel, be admired, and have all kinds of influence in appointing U.S. bishops, much to Vigano’s fury. Vigano said that Pope Benedict disciplined Cardinal McCarrick in 2009 or 2010–he wasn’t sure which year since no Vatican official responded to his memos.  There are a lot of gaps in his story, including why Pope Benedict said nothing in the remaining four years of his papacy while Cardinal McCarrick continued his public ministry and high profile.
  3. Archbishop Vigano claims that his motive in all of this is to “stop the suffering of the victims, to prevent new victims and to protect the Church: only the truth can make her free.”

Is that true?  Really?

In 2014, Vigano, as papal nuncio to the United States, ordered officials of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis to end an investigation into sexual misconduct on the part of Archbishop John Nienstedt even after two auxiliary bishops explained that the investigation was far from complete.  He also ordered those bishops to destroy a letter they sent to him on the investigation. The bishops objected and told him “this would rightfully be seen as a cover-up.” The document Vigano asked them to destroy explored allegations that Archbishop Nienstedt engaged in sexual misconduct with adult males, including seminarians.

Why would Archbishop Vigano be incensed about Archbishop McCarrick but not about Archbishop Nienstedt?

In contrast to McCarrick, Archbishop Nienstedt is a very conservative bishop who actively opposed gay marriage in his state and admitting gay men to the priesthood. Nienstedt protected a predator priest, Fr. Curtis Wehmeyer, whose 2010 sexual abuse of three minors sparked criminal charges and civil petitions against the archdiocese. Fr. Wehmeyer was a regular at gay cruising areas in local parks. He also enjoyed a social relationship with Archbishop Nienstedt.

In an August 27, 2018 interview with Slate.com, an online magazine that covers current affairs, politics and culture, Dr. Massimo Faggioli, a professor of theology and religious studies at Villanova University and a contributor to Commonweal magazine offered this assessment:

“Vigano is just using the Western church, and American Catholicism, and the shock caused by the revelations against Cardinal McCarrick, to make his own personal case against the Vatican, which expelled him and didn’t make him a cardinal. That is a very cynical operation, because Vigano has no interest in the American church. The American church is in big trouble, because we don’t know how it will survive when many of the bishops are hated by many Catholics. We don’t know what kind of church this will be.”

“But remember, in 2011 (Vatican Leaks Scandal), Vigano tried to smear people in the church with accusations that were unfounded. He was working in the institution that oversaw the governance of the Vatican city-state, and when he was told he was not going to become president of the institution, and therefore not a cardinal, and be sent away from the Vatican, he became disgruntled and angry at the second in command, Cardinal Bertone, the right hand of Pope Benedict, and made other accusations against people working in the office he was in, and said they were guilty of conflicts of interests and so on.  There was an investigation, and they found nothing that was credible. But that never stopped them from sending him to Washington, DC.  So what he published 24 hours ago is not the first time he has done this kind of thing. This time he went for a big target, Pope Francis, even though his real enemies are Pope Benedict’s people.”

“I think Vigano represents the part of the right wing of the church that sees the LGBT issue as the defining issue of this millennium, or this century, and this pontificate. They think that anything can and should be done to stop Pope Francis from ushering in a more welcoming church for LGBT people. So in this there is a convergence between Vigano, who has always been obsessed with the gay lobby and gay conspiracy, and the American Catholic right.”

Hell hath no fury…….

 

 

Sr. Gorgeous

Posted by Censor Librorum on Aug 14, 2018 | Categories: Accountability, History, Lesbians & Gays, Scandals

There was a professor at my college everyone called Sr. Gorgeous. Unlike many of the other resident sisters, she was young (in her 30s), vibrant and good looking. A few gray streaks at her temples gave her an air of distinction. She made the transition from habit to lay clothes stylishly. She was approachable, engaging and well-liked. Her classes were always full. Like most of the students, I adored her.

When I was a junior I took one of her wood sculpture classes. I wasn’t a natural talent, but I loved sculpture and looked forward to class and studio time. Sr. Gorgeous would spend some class time walking around the studio, encouraging students and watching them work. A couple of times I thought she pressed too closely against me looking over my shoulder. Uncomfortable, I broke it off by turning around to talk to her.

But one time, when I was intent on my work, she came up behind me and put her hand between my legs. I froze. I didn’t look up. I was in shock. She moved off, but everything had changed. I avoided being alone in the studio. I always turned around to face her if she came around to observe.

I suspected one of the other art teachers knew about Sr. Gorgeous, but she didn’t say anything to me. I got an “A” in her painting class, which I felt I didn’t deserve.  Perhaps it was to balance the “C+” I received in sculpture. “Not enough studio time” was the comment. It had a grain of truth–I didn’t spend much time in the studio because I didn’t want to be alone there. I swallowed my disappointment and anger and accepted the C+ without any protest. I never took another sculpture course, but I couldn’t give away my tools. I told myself I would go back to sculpture someday. They have sat in a wooden box for over 40 years.

A year later, when I was a senior, an underclassman I knew found me alone in Social Hall and sat down to talk. I liked her. She was a pretty, confident girl with a ready smile. She confided that she was having a relationship with Sr. Gorgeous and was very happy, but had no one to talk to about it. She thought I would understand. They met secretly. They used her office as a rendezvous point. I listened, nodded, and said nothing. I pretended to be dumb about Sr. Gorgeous’ lesbian interest in students.  

I felt a little shocked that Sr. Gorgeous would go so far, a little fearful that someone would walk into Social Hall and hear us.  I told the girl I was happy for her, but to be careful–for herself, and to not get caught. I know when she stood up to go she said she hoped we could talk again, but I made sure that it didn’t happen. I would wave at a distance and avoid going into the same room. I did not want to be involved. I was homophobic and fearful because I had my own big secret to keep: I was madly in love with one of my classmates.

About a decade later, I met another alumna at a lesbian party in New York. She brought up Sr. Gorgeous. I asked her if she was still with —. The woman said no, they had broken up long ago.  But Sr. Gorgeous had been caught with another girl, or had been reported, and the school quietly dismissed her as a professor. She had left DC, and was living someplace else–Philadelphia, upstate New York, she wasn’t quite sure.

I used to wonder what I would do if I ever ran into Sr. Gorgeous at a party.  Say hello and move on? Avoid her? Deck her with one punch?

As a Catholic lesbian activist, I have met hundreds of lesbian nuns and ex-nuns over the years. Crushes were common, especially when they were younger. Many had at least one sexual experience. Some were or had been partnered. Some ex-nuns left their communities because they were in love with a woman, usually another sister.  Many older sisters, who entered their communities pre-1960s, had their sexuality so buried and suppressed they didn’t know if they were straight or gay.

What all lesbian nuns said–to a woman–was that they regretted that they did not have someone they could talk to openly, honestly, about their feelings for women. Instead, they had to carry the feelings alone, in silence, with no way to discuss them without fear of reprisal, or drawing unwanted attention to themselves.

Religious communities have always been aware of homosexuality in the ranks–think about the admonition to avoid “particular friendships;” but none have ever been good about addressing the sexuality of their members in a healthy and understanding way. Good counseling could have helped and supported many of these women in their vocations.

An ex-nun friend of mine told me that she had tried to talk to her superior about her feelings and was continually brushed off. The build-up of feelings finally broke out and she ended up in an inappropriate relationship. She felt very guilty about it, which only compounded her emotional anguish.

Is being a lesbian nun any more challenging than being a heterosexual nun?  Perhaps, given the bonding in single-sex communities, and the proximity to women not drawn to heterosexual marriage and children. But over the course of their vocations both groups will face challenges in managing sexual desire, and needs for intimacy and comfort. Lesbian desire carries a stigma that makes it harder to discuss and encourages silence.

I think this is what happened to Sr. Gorgeous.  How could she not be affected by the presence and attentions of so many vital young women? When she found herself sexually attracted or aroused, who could she go talk to about her feelings? No one…and that was the problem.

She did sexually harass me, and whatever her situation with her community and herself that was wrong. Like most other people who have been groped by a priest or nun, I chose to be quiet about it. Part of my decision was knowing what a mess it would create with school, classmates and family; and part of it was fear of exposure of my own lesbian desire. I wanted that hidden away from others and myself, too. I wonder how often abusers can sense that their prey shares the same inclinations? I thought this was the case for Sr. Gorgeous. I believed she could sense my feelings for my friend. The fear of that discovery would make me a perfect target–one who would keep her mouth shut.

Two parts of myself look back on Sr. Gorgeous.  The older me has experienced her own times of temptation, weakness, moral failure and isolation. Her own experiences, plus hearing 1,000 similar stories, have given her understanding, if not a glimmer of compassion. The younger self is sad and bitter. She lost an art she loved, and a person she admired.

 

Vatican Shocks Consecrated Virgins With New Ruling On Virginity

Posted by Censor Librorum on Jul 22, 2018 | Categories: Accountability, History, Humor

The U.S. Association of Consecrated Virgins (USACV) said it is “deeply disappointed” at new rules issued by the Vatican that appear to say consecrated virgins don’t need to be virgins.

The 39-page document, Ecclesiae Sponsae Imago, published on July 4, 2018 by the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and the Societies of Apostolic Life, serves as a new instructional on consecrated virginity.

The group has taken umbrage with Section 88 of the document which states: “The call to give witness to the church’s virginal, spousal and fruitful love for Christ is not reducible to the symbol of physical integrity,” it says. “Thus to have kept her body in perfect continence or to have practiced the virtue of chastity in an exemplary way, while of great importance with regard to discernment, are not essential prerequisites in the absence of which admittance to consecration is not possible.”

The USACV responded it was “shocking to hear from Mother Church that physical virginity no longer will be considered an essential prerequisite for consecration to a life of virginity.” “When a virgin offers her virginity to Christ, she offers her integral virginity–physical and spiritual. A woman who does not have the gift of virginity to offer may offer a complete gift of self to Christ, but she is not offering a gift of virginity,” the USACV stated. “A gift of one’s integral virginity to Christ is a gift of both body and spirit, and one cannot offer to Christ what one does not have to offer.”

They said that the new rules do not change the prerequisites for consecration as stated in the Rite of Consecration to a Life of Virginity, which says: “In the case of virgins leading lives in the world it is required that they have never celebrated marriage and that they have not publicly or manifestly lived in a state contrary to chastity.”

The group noted that “some egregious violations of chastity” while they do not violate virginity, do disqualify women from receiving consecration.

A consecrated virgin is a woman who pledges perpetual virginity and dedicates her life to God. Unlike a nun, she does not live in a community and leads a secular life, providing for her own needs. There are around 5,000 consecrated virgins in 42 countries, including 250 in the United States.  Orders of virgins were present in the early Church, but they petered out by the medieval era. The vocation was revived in 1970 under Pope Paul VI.

“Without virginity, there’s no vocation to the Order of Consecrated Virgins anymore,” said Therese Ivers, an American canon lawyer as well as a consecrated virgin.  “For Catholics, virginity is not defined as the ‘physical integrity’ (of the hymen),” she said. “Virginity is lost only when there is willed genital activity. Whether this willed genital activity is done alone or with another, then virginity is irreparably lost.”

A source within the Order of Consecrated Virgins who spoke under the condition of anonymity told Life Site News that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith might not uphold the Instruction.

“I know hundreds of consecrated virgins who weren’t consulted, but I also know the two who work in the Vatican who were presumably consulted and don’t believe virginity is possible,” the source said. “One wrote in Sequela Christi (a Vatican publication) that a one-night stand is acceptable (in the past of a candidate) as long as it’s not publicly known.”

The source described the new guidelines as an attack on her order, on marriage, and on the Church itself. She was particularly anguished by a passage stating that a consecrated virgin can be dispensed from her obligations, which means that human marriage and sex is still an option.

“Consecrated virgins are living embodiment of the Church,” she said. “To be a consecrated virgin means to be a bride of Christ. This is the only vocation that claims to have an indissoluble nuptial bond with Christ. Now we are saying that Christ can have a divorce.”

All this brings us to several questions:

  • What is a virgin?  Is it a woman who has never had any kind of “willed” sexual activity with anyone, including herself? Is she a woman with an intact hymen? Or, can a virgin be a woman who has experienced sexual release–even intercourse–so long as it is not publicly known, i.e., “they have not publicly or manifestly lived in a state contrary to chastity.”
  • What “egregious violations of chastity” would disqualify a woman with an intact hymen from becoming a consecrated virgin?
  • Why isn’t  the Order of Consecrated Virgins open to men?  Couldn’t a man pledge his virginity or chastity to Christ?

What troubles me beyond the legalistic nit-picking, is the notion that if a candidate has experienced sex with a man, and she’s kept it secret or others haven’t found out or known about it, her membership in the order is OK.

Is anything hidden from Christ, including our secrets?

This double standard of sex–whether it’s known or hidden–has gotten the Catholic Church in a lot of trouble in recent decades.  Bishops and cardinals pressuring seminarians and priests for sex; gay priests with active sex lives who pretend they’re straight; well-liked, long-time lesbian or gay employees that get married and are subsequently fired. Everyone knows what’s going on, but so long as it isn’t “known” everything is fine.

A woman’s gift of her virginity is a beautiful gift.  The church or its leadership shouldn’t sully it with nuanced valuations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.