Posted in category "Bishops"

Moral Corruption

Posted by Censor Librorum on Jul 5, 2014 | Categories: Accountability, Bishops, Lesbians & Gays, Scandals

Nienstedt_1485fx

In February 2006, John C. Nienstedt, Bishop of New Ulm, Minnesota, dedicated his monthly column to “Moral Corruption.”

Brokeback Mountain

“Two recent events alerted me to the fact that our society is indeed on a slide toward moral corruption,” he began.  The first dealt with assisted suicide, “the second event involves the movie, ‘Brokeback Mountain,’ which I do not recommend for your viewing,” he cautioned.  brokeback-mountain

“Hollywood seeks to make this film into a contemporary version of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ with, of course, the necessary changes in gender. The story is about two lonely cowboys herding sheep up a mountain range. One night after a drinking binge, one man makes a pass at the other and within seconds the latter mounts the former in an act of wanton anal sex.  This sets off a lustful passion in both men that ‘grabs hold of them’ and they find impossible to control.”

“I wonder if the trend makers in Hollywood really think they know where this is leading us as we slide further and further down the slope of immorality. Surely they must be aware that they have turned their backs on God and the standards of God in their quest to make evil look so attractive.”

Arcbhishop Nienstedt Under Investigation

Eight years later, on July 1, 2014, Commonweal Magazine reported that John C. Nienstedt, now 67 and  Archbishop of Minneapolis and St. Paul, is under investigation for inappropriate sexual behavior with men.

Jennifer Hasselberger, former chancellor for canonical affairs for the archdiocese turned whistle blower, said she was interviewed April 16, 2014 by two attorneys from the Minneapolis law firm Greene Espel for the investigation. Among the investigators’ topics was  the nature of Archbishop Nienstedt’s relationship with the Rev. Curtis Wehmeyer, 48. 20140129__CurtisCarlWehmeyer_200

Wehmeyer pleaded guilty in 2012 to sexually abusing two brothers,  ages 12 and 14.  They were sons of a parish employee at Blessed Sacrament Church, where Wehmeyer served as pastor. Nienstedt appointed him to the position despite evidence of sexual misconduct in previous years. On February 1, 2013 Wehmeyer was convicted of 20 counts of child sex abuse and child pornography and sentenced to five years in prison.

Neinstedt was investigated in December 2013 for inappropriately touching a boy during a photo shoot following a confirmation ceremony in May 2009. According to the investigation, following the ceremony, the boy told his mother that Nienstedt touched his buttocks.

In a later interview with police, the accuser said that during the photograph session Nienstedt’s hand had moved down his back to his buttocks, and that he thought it was “creepy,” but did not feel violated.

After locating the photograph of the accuser with Nienstedt, police observed that the group is arranged on the stairs and the archbishop is standing one step higher than the accuser. So, it appeared that Nienstedt would have to bend to reach the boy’s buttocks and any such action would likely be witnessed by others present. Based on the investigation, the attorney’s office decided there was insufficient evidence to prosecute Nienstedt.

Nienstedt Hard on Gay Catholic Families

Archbishop Nienstedt had a  reputation of being very tough on gay people, and has made homosexuality his signature issue.  He famous (or infamous) for spending $650,000 on DVDs and a PR campaign to persuade Minnesota citizens to vote against same-sex marriage. (It passed).  But his curt response to a Catholic mother who wrote to him in April 2010 pleading for acceptance for her gay child stands out for its utter lack of feeling:

“I write to inform you,” the letter begins, “that the teaching of the Catholic Church on homosexuality, as described in paragraphs 2357 and 2358 and 2359 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church is rooted in Scripture and based on Natural Moral Law. It, therefore, shares in God’s revelation to us. Catholics are bound in conscience to believe this teaching. Those who do not cannot consider themselves to be Catholic and ought not to participate in the sacramental life of the Church.”

“Indeed, some might find this a hard saying but many of Jesus’ teachings were likewise received as such. I urge you to reconsider the position you expressed in your letter.  Your eternal salvation may well depend upon a conversation of heart on on this topic.”

I think the Archbishop meant “conversion” vs “conversation” but the end result is the same–if the mother didn’t change her views and withdraw support from her child she was facing eternal damnation.

Rumors

A gay man, Gregg Larson, confronted Archbishop Nienstedt while he was at dinner in a restaurant with another man. Larson broke Nienstedt’s marriage DVD in front of him, along with his letter requiring all Catholics to support the ban. Larson then told Nienstedt that he had heard rumors that the archbishop was a closeted gay man, saying that if the rumors were true, the prelate was a hypocrite.

The archbishop responded, “You shouldn’t believe rumors,” to which Larson allegedly retorted, “Methinks thou dost protest too much.” “And at that point he kind of raised his hand and snarled ‘Get out!’ And I responded that his behavior was unbecoming of an archbishop and that maybe we needed an exorcist here…The other priest said that we were ruining their dinner and my partner said that they were ruining people’s lives.”

Sexual Impropriety

Things began to unravel for Archbishop Nienstedt in April 2013 when Elizabeth Hasselberger resigned her post as chancellor for canonical affairs for the archdiocese.  She left in frustration after Nienstedt failed to report or discipline clergy suspected of sex abuse. Hasselberger began leaking internal documents to the press that appeared to detail efforts to shield abusers.

Late in 2013 the archdiocese began receiving a series of allegations that Nienstedt had a string of improper relationships with men or had made unwanted advances on others.  This was around the same time as the buttocks-touching incident surfaced.

Former chancellor Elizabeth Hasselberger believes the investigators from Greene Espel have received “ten sworn statements alleging sexual impropriety on the part of the archbishop dating from his time as a priest in the Archdiocese of Detroit, as Bishop of New Ulm, and while coadjutor and archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis.” She told a reporter that “he also stands accused of retaliating against those who refused his advances or otherwise questioned his conduct.” 20130920_haselberger_40

In a written statement, Archbishop Nienstedt responded that the allegations or nothing more than a “personal attack against me due to my unwavering stance on issues consistent with church teaching, such as opposition to so-called same-sex marriage.” He also suspects that accusers are coming forward because of “difficult decisions” he has made, but, citing privacy laws, he would not elaborate.

Questions from the Censor Liborum

1.  What will Pope Francis do if Archbishop Nienstedt is found by the investigation to have harassed and threatened priests and seminarians for sex?

2. Why did it take a lay woman – Elizabeth Hasselberger – to expose a culture of moral corruption in the chancery?

3. How many times did Archbishop Nienstedt watch “Brokeback Mountain”?

 

 

 

 

 

Archbishop John Myers: What I Don’t Know Won’t Hurt Me

Posted by Censor Librorum on May 9, 2014 | Categories: Accountability, Bishops, Lesbians & Gays, Scandals

 

John J. MyersIn August 2013 the Diocese of Peoria, Illinois announced that it would pay $1.35 million to settle a lawsuit by a former altar boy who accused the late Msgr. Thomas Maloney of sexually abusing him in 1995 and 1996 when he was eight years old. Archbishop John W. Myers, who was then the bishop, was also named in the suit for failing to take action against the monsignor. Myers served as bishop of Peoria from 1990-2001.

The boy’s mother said the abuse happened on to occasions while her son was helping the priest. “Maloney molested Andrew once in the church sanctuary before school, and once behind the altar after 10:30 Mass on a Sunday.”

Archbishop Myers, in a 2010 deposition in the case, said he had no knowledge of any allegations against Fr. Maloney until long after he left Peoria. Documents produced in the legal case show Myers was copied on certain memos with potentially incriminating information about Maloney, but the bishop said he didn’t see them, likely the result of a “slipshod” filing system in the diocese. “There may have been things that got by me,” Myers said. “I underscore the kind of loose system we had with the two different buildings in Peoria. It could be sometimes two weeks of copies that I would get when they moved them from building to building, and I sometimes didn’t have the time to read them.”

Notes & Letters

Bishop Myers did have the time to write personal notes to Fr. Maloney thanking him for his gifts of coin collectibles and more.  Here is a sampling:

6/21/91: “I always enjoy a good visit with you. Not only is it fun, I usually learn a thing or two. I do not ever expect to “profit” from our friendship. Thank you so much for lunch and your wonderful gift.”

3/13/92: “Just a thank you note for the silver. That one is even too big for a watch fob. It could be tied around one’s neck like the proverbial “millstone.”

1/30/95: “Just a note to thank you for lunch. I do enjoy our chats. I am grateful for your gift. I will try not to lose it all at the “dogs” in Florida. From February 4 through about the 15th Al and I should be at the Gene Lamb condo on Captiva. I will put the address and phone number at the bottom of the letter.”

6/27/00:  “Just a note to thank you for the wonderful dinner at Jim’s. Mark and I enjoyed it immensely. I surely hope you will join us on Crete. The hotel is Porto Elounda Mare, We’ll be arriving on August 24 and departing on August 31.”  crete 2

So were Myers and Maloney friends? “I don’t know if ‘friends’ would–I had many other priests that I was closer to. I can say that,” Myers clarified in the deposition.

Among the documents Myers claimed he didn’t see was an August 1999 letter from Msgr. Steven Rohlfs, his Vicar General, responding to a complaint by parents of a grade school student over Maloney’s conduct during confession. The boy told his parents that during confession Maloney described the sexual acts of a fellow priest in graphic detail. He took a mobile phone call in the middle of the sacrament, and conducted penance as an interrogator–Did you do X, Y Z?

Rohlfs wrote back to the parents apologizing for Maloney’s scandalous  behavior, and assured them they had done the right thing in contacting him. The Vicar General copied Myers on the letter and the diocesan law firm as well.

At least one complaint about Maloney received Myers personal attention–although he could not recall it in the deposition. On September 1, 2000, a married couple from Epiphany parish wrote to Myers to complain about Maloney’s behavior both in and out of church. On Super Bowl Sunday, they explained, Maloney could be heard distributing communion in the following way: “Body of Christ.  Is the beer cold yet?” Maloney’s homilies were often laced with “inappropriate jokes.” The wife explained that as she was confessing to Maloney he informed her “women are just too emotional,” adding, “maybe she should get a life.” Later that night, around 9 PM, she saw him in a Walgreen’s parking lot with a grade school girl, who eventually left the car to buy about $20 in candy. And, finally, she wrote Maloney “typically” took eighth-grade girls out to lunch at a place called the Pub.

Myers responded to the complaint in a letter dated September 14, 2000. “I’m sorry you do not approve of his (Maloney’s) approach to priestly ministry,” it begins. “Your characterization of Father’s liturgies is not generally accurate according to the responses I have received from my inquiries.  The celebration of Holy Mass at Epiphany, while it may not be a formal as some parishes, is respectful and prayerful. I don’t know what to say about the other matters you mention. Basically your experience does not correspond with that of many other people.  I don’t know in what context others would have said, ‘we know that Father has problems….'”

Bishop Myers concluded the letter by saying, “I know that Father loves people, especially young people, and that he cares for them generously. We have never had any allegations of impropriety.”

Off to Newark and Fr. Fugee

On October 15, 2000, upon Bishop Myers nomination, Pope John Paul II elevated Fr. Maloney to Monsignor.  Nine months later the  pope appointed Myers as Archbishop of Newark. He replaced the popular and social-justice minded Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, who became archbishop of Washington, DC.

Fr. Maloney retired from active ministry in 2002 for reasons of health.  He died in 2009, at age 73.

As bishop in Peoria, Illinois, Myers did not come under media scrutiny.  That changed when the Fr. Fugee sexual abuse scandal made the New York metropolitan newspapers.

A few months prior to Myers’ arrival in Newark, Fr. Michael Fugee, assistant pastor of the Church of St. Elizabeth in Wyckoff, was arrested and charged with criminal sexual contact.

He was accused of fondling the genitals of a 14-year-old boy during wrestling matches on two occasions.  Under questioning by police, Fugee confessed to intentionally touching the teenager’s crotch over his clothes. According to the youth, Fugee pinned him down and “slowly” moved his hand over his crotch.

Prosecutors dismissed the case inf 2009 after securing an agreement with Fugee and the archdiocese that Fugee would never again minister to minors or be an unsupervised situation with them.

During the November 2009 deposition, Myers expressed disappointment that Fugee let detectives interview him without counsel.  “Is it your recollection,” the plaintiff’s attorney, Jessica Arbour, asked Myers, “that he (Fugee) admitted that he touched the boy?” “Unfortunately, without his lawyer present, he did,” Myers responded.

Most Catholic parents would feel concerned and uneasy when a bishop sounds more like head defense counsel than a shepherd.

At the time time, The Star Ledger (formerly the Newark Star Ledger) intensified its coverage of Archbishop Myers, reporting on the Fugee scandal and the building of Myers’ weekend/retirement home. The New York Times followed The Star Ledger’s reporting lead and on February 14, 2013 published the devastating article, “A Church So Poor It Has to Close Schools, But So Rich It Can Build a Palace.”

For a bishop comfortable with looking the other way (or not looking at all), the media spotlight on his management and priorities was uncomfortable as it became increasingly critical. Calls by laity and media began to be made for him to step down as archbishop.

The last straw for Myers was The Star Ledger’s August 12, 2013 article, “Church pays $1.3 million in suit alleging that Newark archbishop protected abusers in Illinois.”  He unloaded in a sharply-worded letter to priests in a letter dated August 15, 2013:

“in the deposition given by me and selectively quoted by an interested attorney, some upset parents, and a former Priest of this Archdiocese, I spoke under oath and truthfully about matters relating to a certain Priest.  I never vacationed with him, and I received no gifts other than those often given to a bishop by Pastors or Parishes. Since we were both coin collectors, I recall that he once gave me a coin of minimal value, of which he had several examples.”

(That account of the gifting differs from what Myers said in the 2010 deposition.  In the transcript he said that Fr. Maloney gave him gold coins “two or three” times. Asked if they were valuable, Myers responded, “I don’t have any idea.”)

Myers defended himself against his critics, asserting they are hostile to “our Roman Catholic Faith and its Teachings, the Teachings of which I have always been a staunch and outspoken supporter, despite their ‘unpopularity’ in the secular and ‘politically correct’ society…” “God only knows their personal reasons and agenda,” he asserted, “We are still called to love them. And God will surely address them in due time.”

Five weeks later, on September 24, 2013, Pope Francis appointed Bernard A. Hebda, formerly the bishop of Gaylord, Michigan, as Newark’s coadjutor archbishop. In effect, this means he is co-archbishop, except in ceremonial precedence. A coadjutor bishop is usually appointed when the current bishop needs significant help in his ministry.  Hebda is expected to succeed Myers as archbishop of Newark when Myers retires in two years.

Myers is effectively finished as archbishop. The only thing that remains is whether or not he will be eased out before he is 75. My bet is he will be, very quietly.   He was so effective at looking the other way it cannot be definitively proved he protected predator priests.  But on the reverse side of that coin, Archbishop Myers has left himself open to assertions he is an incompetent administrator with poor pastoral priorities.

I was struck by the irony (or prophecy) of Myers’ thank you note for Fr. Maloney’s gift of a silver coin so large it could be “tied around one’s neck like a proverbial millstone.” “But he that shall scandalize one of these little ones that believe in me,” Jesus said, “it would be better for him that a millstone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should be drowned in the depth of the sea.”  israel-millstone_1154672_inl

Off Crete or Captiva Island would be more pleasant than the near Newark.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Archbishop and the Hot Tub

Posted by Censor Librorum on Mar 16, 2014 | Categories: Accountability, Bishops, Humor, Scandals

Y-gotham-1-superJumbo

Newark, New Jersey’s Archbishop, John J. Myer, 72, recently made the decision to expand his weekend home in anticipation of his upcoming retirement at age 75.   bishop myers

It currently has five bedrooms, an elevator, a three-car garage, and a large ameba-shaped swimming pool. It is located on 8.2 acres in one of New Jersey’s more expensive and peaceful corners in Hunterdon County. The house and property was purchased for the Archbishop as a weekend retreat in 2002 for $700,000, and is now valued at $800,000.

The new wing of the house will have an indoor exercise pool, a hot tub, library, three fireplaces, another elevator, and a “gallery” to provide a panoramic view of the grounds below.

The 3,000 square foot addition, costing over $500,000, will bring the total area of the residence to 7,400 square feet, and the total value to at least $1.3 million.  Renovations do not include architect’s fees, furnishings or landscaping.  They are extra.

28% of Newark’s population lives below the poverty level.  The archdiocese has closed over 60 schools since 2002, due to declining enrollment and lack of money to operate them.

“The planned construction is being paid for by donations from individuals specifically given for this purpose,” stated the message on the archdiocese website, “and through the sale of properties that the Archdiocese owns but does not need.”

Obviously, the closed Catholic schools.

Jim Goodness, the spokesman for the Archdiocese, had the thankless job of trying to justify the expenditures to a furious public. He said the home extension was necessary to accommodate the bishop’s post-retirement wok, including expected frequent visits from priests, staff and other guests.

“The press said it’s a hot tub, it’s a whirlpool,” Goodness clarified. “He’s getting older–there are therapeutic issues.”

Parishioner Thomas Fitzgerald observed: “According to LifeSiteNews.com (an ultra conversation Catholic news site) on September 27, 2012, Archbishop Myers explains he is Biblically bound to preach the truth ‘in season and out of season’ and advises all the faithful to do likewise. ‘Woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel,” he cited. Evidently this was overheard from the whir of the hot tub.”

“How did this man become a bishop?” asked Mary Healey.

Good question.

 

Medjugorje: Hard to Believe

Posted by Censor Librorum on Mar 5, 2014 | Categories: Bishops, Faith, History, Humor, Scandals

Our Lady of Medjugorje gives a message to the world on the 25th of every month. gospa-painting-medjugorje

The Virgin Mary’s Message on January 25th 2014 “Dear children! Pray, pray, pray for the radiance of your prayer to have an influence on those whom you meet. Put the Sacred Scripture in a visible place in your families and read it, so that the words of peace may begin to flow through your hearts. I am praying with you and for you, little children, that from day to day you may become still more open to God’s will. Thank you for having responded to my call.”

“Is the Blessed Mother this insipid?” was my first thought after reading the above message.  I combed the message archives to see if I could find another message to resonate.  Nothing – everything was equally banal and sugary.

In 2010 a commission was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI to evaluate the apparitions of the Virgin Mary at Medjugorje. The commission was directed by Cardinal Camillo Ruini and held its final meeting on January 17, 2014. It sent its report to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which will now make a recommendation to Pope Francis. The pope will announce his final verdict on the matter at some time after that. (Although he may have tipped his hand during a homily last fall.)

The apparitions that began in 1981 are said to continue regularly to this day (33 years later), attracting hundreds of thousands of pilgrims annually. Although many conversions have been witnessed in Medjugorje and countless people helped in their faith, the authenticity of the apparitions remains highly contentious.

The bishops of the Mostar-Duvno diocese, Pavo Zanic (1980-1993) and Patko Pevic (1993- ) judged it to be a fraud. “The Madonna, they say,” stated Bishop Zanic, “started to appear on the Podbrdo of Mountain Crnica, but when the militia forbade going there, she came into homes, into forests, fields, vineyards and tobacco fields; she appeared in the church, on the altar, in the sacristy, in the choir loft, on the roof, on the church steeple, on the roads, on the way to Cerno, in a car, on buses, in classrooms…” So far, the Virgin Mary has appeared to the visionaries over 12,000 times.

Medjugorje (med-you-gor-yeh) was an obscure tobacco-farming village in communist Yugoslavia (now Bosnia and Herzegovina) for much of its history, but on a scorching hot June 23, 1981, everything changed. Five teenagers and a child–Vicka Ivankovic, Mirjana Dragicevic, Marija Pavlovic and Ivan Dragicevic, all 16 Ivanka Ivankovic, 15 and ten-year-old Jakov Colo–burst through the doors of the parish church and told the priest they had seen the Virgin Mary.  medjugorje teens They explained they had been playing on a steep hill when they saw a woman wearing a long, flowing dress and a veil, beckoning them to her. Their first reaction was that they were seeing a ghost, but when they asked who see was, the woman described herself as “the Blessed Virgin Mary” and the “Queen of Peace.”

They returned to the hillside every evening where the Virgin Mary appeared at 6:40 PM–the same time they saw the first apparition. The visionaries–Vicka, Mirjana, Mirija, Ivan, Ivanka and Jakov, claim that “Gospa,” the Croatian word for “Our Lady,” has been giving them each ten secrets concerning the future of the world. These secrets are said to include miracles and worldwide events that will be sent by God to convert humanity. The daily apparitions stopped for Mirjana, Ivanka and Jakov after they had received all ten secrets. However, Ivan, Marija and Vicka still see the Virgin Mary every day. visionary 2

“Every apparition starts with three flashes to warn us she is coming,” said the visionary Vicka.  “It’s just the same as talking to a real person, except it feels different because you exclude yourself from everything, as though you are not on Earth any more.” “At Christmas time,” she goes on, “the Virgin Mary holds the newborn baby Jesus in her arms and you can see his little feet and hands moving. She keeps covering him with her veil–but it’s not an image, I can reach out and touch them. I can touch them as though they are real human beings.”

While the bishops of Mostar were not supportive of the Medjugore apparitions, the late Pope John Paul II may have strongly believed in them.  In a private conversation with visionary Mirjana  (Dragicevic) Soldo the Pope said: “If I were not Pope I would already be in Medjugorje confessing.”(1987). According to the testimony of the visionaries, on May 13, 1982, the day of the assassination attempt on the Pope, Our Lady said, “His enemies tried to kill him, but I have protected him.”

The Virgin Mary also mentioned the Pope’s visit to Croatia in her August 25, 1994 message: “Dear Children! Today I am united with you in prayer in a special way, praying for the gift of the presence of my most beloved son in your home country. Pray, little children, for the health of my most beloved son, who suffers, and whom I have chosen for these times.”

After Pope John Paul’s death, the visionary Ivan saw him during an apparition with Our Lady.  He appeared young and joyful.

Out of the tens of thousands of apparitions of the Virgin Mary reported throughout history, only 295 have been formally investigated and just 12 have ever been authenticated, the most recent being the apparitions of Our Lady of Laus in France, approved in 2008.

Although miracles have been recorded at most Marian apparition sites of the past, miracles are a daily occurrence in Medjugorje. A bronze statue representing the Risen Christ began seeping a watery substance.  Pilgrims have reported being able to look at the sun without hurting their eyes and seeing many different things: the Host spinning in the center of the sun, the sun spinning and dancing all around, it moving closer and farther away from them, different figures around the sun, such as hearts and crosses.

One month after the beginning of the apparitions, Bishop Zanic of Mostar went to Medjugorje to question the visionaries. “I asked each of them to take an oath on the cross and demanded that they speak the truth. The first one was Mirjana Dragicevic: ‘We went to look for our sheep when at once..’ ” The associate pastor interrupted and told me that they actually went out to smoke, which they hid from their parents. “Wait a minute, Mirjana, you’re under oath. Did you go out to look for your sheep?” She put here hand over her mouth. “Forgive me, we went out to smoke,” she said. She then showed me the watch on which the “miracle” occurred because the hands of the watch had gone haywire. I took the watch to a watch expert, who said that the watch had certainly fallen and become disordered.”

During taped interviews later on, Mirjana spoke of the miracle of the watch and that initially they had gone out to search for their sheep. Seer Vicka Ivankovic kept a diary of the apparitions, including the story of the bloody handkerchief incident.

“Word spread around that there was a certain taxi driver who came across a man who was bloody all over. This man gave the taxi driver a blo0died handkerchief and he told him to “throw this in the river.” The driver went on and then he came across a woman in black.  She stopped him and asked him to give her a handkerchief. He gave her his own, but she said: “not that one but the bloody handkerchief.” He gave her the handkerchief she wanted and she then said: “If you had thrown it in the river, the end of the world would have occurred now.” Vicka then wrote in her diary that they asked Our Lady if this event was true, and she said that it was, and along with this, “that man covered in blood was my son Jesus, and I (Our Lady) was that woman in black.”

“What kind of theology is this?” said Bishop Zanic. “From this it appears that Jesus wants to destroy the world if a handkerchief is thrown into a river and that it’s Our Lady who will save the world!”

One of the main advisers to the Medjugorje visionaries was the Rev. Tomislav Vlasic OFM.  He presented himself to Pope John Paul II in a May 13, 1984 letter: “I am Rev. Tomislav Vlasic, the one, according to Divine Providence, who guides the seers of Medjugorje.”The Virgin Mary even mentioned him in a message: “Thank Tomislav very much. He is guiding you so well”

On September 3, 2008, Pope Benedict XVI authorized “severe cautionary and disciplinary measures” against Fr. Vlasic. He was laicized in 2009.

The ex-spiritual director of the Medjugorje visionaries has his own interesting story. In 1976 Fr. Vlasic had an affair with a Franciscan nun, Sr. Rufina. When she became pregnant, Vlasic sent her to Germany and urged her to keep his paternity a secret.  She gave birth to their son in 1997.  Her letters to Vlasic fell into the hands of her landlord, who sent them to a friend of his, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Cardinal Ratzinger eventually become Pope Benedict XVI.

In 1981, Fr. Vlasic went to Rome to participate in an international meeting of the Charismatic movement. There he was told by Sr. Briege McKenna, in an alleged prophecy, that he would become the center of a great movement with the help of the Virgin Mary. When reports of the Marian apparitions emerged from the village of Medjugorje, Fr. Vlasic hurried there to be with the visionaries–the moment had arrived.

Fr. Vlasic eventually left Medjugorje to go to Parma in northern Italy with German laywoman Agnes Heupel. In 1987 they founded, with the help of visionary Marija Pavlovic-Lunetti, a mixed-sex community inspired by the apparitions at Medjugorje. Its name was “Queen of Peace, Totally Yours – through Mary to Jesus.”  In 1988 Marija lived at the community for a few months and had her daily apparitions there.  She reported that Our Lady seemingly approved Vlasic’s plans and activities with his community by the words of Our Lady: “This is God’s plan.” The same year the bishop of Parma, Benito Cocchi, obviously unimpressed, ordered the community to close, and Marija Pavlovic-Lunetti retracted her statement and support in a letter.

In 2002, an Italian woman named Stefania Caterina became vice-president of the “Queen of Peace” movement founded by Fr. Vlasic.  She is better known as an author, mystic and seer. She writes about her experiences and messages from extra-terrestrial entities in the book, Bey0nd the Great Barrier, published in 2008. Her first experiences began in 1984, with “Ashtar Sheran from the planet Alpha Centuri” commander of an interplanetary powerful fleet, and then his wife, Kalna; the priest-king Aris, and others.  Ashtar Sheran 14 Stefania Caterina claims that her experiences “occur through inner locutions and visions, during which I was given explanations by the Lord himself, or his instruments, first of all S. Archangel Raphael.” The Father, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, Mary, St. Joseph, the Apostles John and Paul, St. Michael the Archangel, souls in Purgatory and “people of other planets” are also in communication.

In February 2012, Stefania Caterina and Tomislav Vlasic announced on a video conference that they are part of a group called “Central Nucleus” formed by 49 beings chosen by God throughout the universe. The Central Nucleus is composed of seven great Archangels, and 18 sisters and 18 brothers of the universe,.  Not all of these beings are from the Earth, and although some are deceased, they are not “dead.”

The Central Nucleus was actually announced by Saint Michael the Archangel to Stefania Caterina on September 10, 2010.  Not surprisingly, St. Michael referred to the events in Medjugorje: “With the apparitions of Medjugorje, a time started in which God no longer allows for his plan to be slowed down, as unfortunately happened over the centuries. You must know, in fact, that God’s plan to recapitulate all things in Christ was to start already with the apostles, in order to transform all of humanity. This did not happen. Thus, God permitted his people to mature slowly by means of many trials and persecutions.”

“For the time in which you are living now, God has provided a powerful instrument, capable of operating in these times to encourage the renewal of God’s people and facilitate the realization of the plan of salvation.”

We are talking about a nucleus that can be called “Central Nucleus” in the midst of God’s people which is gradually aggregating and will aggregate to itself other nuclei that are being formed everywhere in the universe. In this Central Nucleus the priesthood of the archangels and the universal communion are fully operating.”

There is no word on how the Central Nucleus is progressing in Italy or elsewhere.

Meanwhile, the Medjugorje road show has been stopped cold in the United States.

In November 2013 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith prefect, Archbishop Gerhard Mueller, unsettled devotees of the pilgrimage destination when he sent an instruction to all U.S. bishops warning against allowing “seer” Ivan Dragicevic to go on a speaking tour of the country.

For years, the Medjugorje visionaries have made public appearances at churches, announcing in advance that “apparitions” will take place. Archbishop Muller called for an end to church sponsorship of these events.

In an October letter to the U.S. bishops, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the apostolic nuncio in Washington, conveyed a message from Archbishop Muller: “clerics and the faithful are not permitted to participate in meetings,conferences or public celebrations during which the credibility of such ‘apparitions’ would be taken for granted.”

In his message Archbishop Vigano reminded the bishops that the CDF is currently investigating the reported apparitions at Medjugorje. Until the pope renders a final judgement, the CDF has accepted for acceptance of a statement issued in 1991 by the bishops of what was once Yugoslavia, who said: “On the basis of research that has been done, it is not possible to state that there were apparitions or supernatural revelations.”

Although Archbishop Vigano’s letter to the U.S. bishops was not made public, the message spread quickly, including a copy of the letter which wound up on Google.  It also had an immediate impact: Ivan Dragicevic, one of the “seers” was scheduled to appear at two New England parishes in late October; both events were cancelled.

The decision on Medjugorje now rests with Pope Francis.  He may have given us an inkling of his opinion in the “fervorino” (informal homily) at his daily Mass on November 14, 2013. According to Vatican Radio, Pope Francis was cautioning people against excessive curiosity about the future and contrasting it with the wisdom that comes from the Holy Spirit. Curiosity, the Pope continued, impels us to want to feel that the Lord is here or rather there, or leads us to say: “But I know a visionary, who receives letters from Our Lady, messages from Our Lady.” And the Pope commented, “But, look, Our Lady is the Mother of everyone! And she loves all of us. She is not a postmaster, sending messages every day.”

Such responses to these situations, he affirmed, “distance us from the Gospel, from the Holy Spirit, from peace and wisdom, from the glory of God, from the beauty of God. Jesus says that the Kingdom of God does not come in a way that attracts attention; it comes by wisdom.”

The Censor Librorum has two questions on the Medjugorje phenomena:

1) Whose purpose did Medjgorje serve?

2) Would Pope Francis and the late Pope John Paul II have made the same decision about Medjugorje? (I think not.)

My personal opinion – while I believe that Medjugorje has helped many pilgrims to feel they are loved and cared for by Our Lady (and that is a good thing); nevertheless, people seem to have forgotten that most mystical experiences should be suspect as a ruse from Satan for the vain. Simple prayer is always to be preferred, even if ecstasy is more fun (and proftable). Visions of Mary; The search for Miriam of Nazareth

 

An Amazing Coinkydink?

Posted by Censor Librorum on Dec 28, 2013 | Categories: Bishops, Humor, Popes

Burke-Galero in real cardinal hatICKSP-Deacons-Burke

December 15, 2013:  The week Pope Francis delivers a homily focusing on “A Church That Lacks Prophecy Becomes Filled with Clericalism,” is the same week that arch conservative Cardinal Raymond L. Burke was dumped off the Congregation for Bishops.  He was replaced by Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, DC, a moderate.

An amazing coinkydink?  I don’t think so.

In his homily Pope Francis described the role of the prophet as one who carries within themselves three moments: the promise of the past, contemplation of the present and courage to show the path toward the future. The pope stressed the words of prophets are necessary, although many times they are rejected.

“When there is no prophecy in the people of God,” said Francis, “the void it leaves becomes occupied with clericalism. And it is this clericalism that Jesus asks, ‘With what authority do you do this? With what authority?’ And the memory of the promise and the hope of going forward becomes reduced to only the present: neither the past nor a hopeful future. The present is legal. If it is legal it goes forward,” the pope said.

Concluding his homily, Pope Francis prayed that in these days leading to Christmas, that there may not be a lack of prophets: “Let us not tire of moving forward! Let us not be closed in the legality that closes doors! Lord, free your people from the spirit of clericalism and help them with the spirit of prophecy.”

Amen!

 

 

Purgatory Begins for Bishop Finn

Posted by Censor Librorum on Oct 10, 2012 | Categories: Accountability, Bishops, Scandals

On September 6, 2012, Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri Diocese was found guilty of failing to report evidence of sexual abuse by a priest in his diocese. 

Bishop Finn is one of four Opus Dei Bishops in the United States and a hardline conservative.  At a Mass for Catholic school teachers and principals for the school year beginning August 2008, Finn–still coadjutor then–admonished the teachers to help their students resist the “culture of death” and the “age of relativism.”  He said: “There are objective truths. There is right and wrong. Holy Mother Church is our mother who loves us and she knows best. Catholic schools must be places where these moral truths are taught without variation and without ambiguity for the sake of souls and salvation.”

After a brief bench trial, Judge John Torrence pronounced the bishop guilty on the charge of failing to report suspected child abuse, a misdemeanor in the state of Missouri, making him the first American bishop convicted of a criminal offense for mishandling sex abuse complaints. Judge Torrence sentenced Bishop Finn to two years probation. The maximum sentence he could have received was a year in jail.

Before sentencing, Bishop Finn, 59, offered a simple apology for his role in the case. “I truly regret and am sorry for the hurt these events caused,” he said.

The bishop knew the priest, Fr. Shawn Ratigan, pastor of St. Patrick’s Church in Kansas City, was in possession of graphic images of children’s genitalia, according to court testimony.  However, he did not report the priest to the police.

Bishop Finn also said he did not report concerns about Fr. Ratigan to his diocesan review board, an advisory group the U.S. bishops’ charter mandates should be present in each diocese and should be used to evaluate allegations of abuse by priests.

After Father Ratigan was arrested, Bishop Finn met with his priests. Asked why Father Ratigan was not removed earlier, the bishop replied, according to the testimony, that he had wanted “to save Father Ratigan’s priesthood” and that he had understood that Father Ratigan’s problem was “only pornography.” 

Fr. Ratigan pleaded guilty in August 2012 to federal changes of producing and attempting to produce sexually graphic material of minor girls.   These included hundreds of photos focused on the girls’ crotch areas. Most photos appeared to be of girls six to ten years old,  One set of “staged” photos showed a little girl, two to three years old, lying down in bed. The girl was wearing only a diaper, but with each photo, the diaper was gradually removed to expose her genitals and buttocks.  Another staged photo sequence showed a sleeping seven or eight year old girl with her legs repositioned. Investigators felt the photos were disturbing and sexual in nature.

The series of missteps that ended with Bishop Finn’s conviction and Fr. Ratigan’s arrest began with a May 2010 letter from Julie Hess, the principal of St. Patrick’s School, who expressed concern about the priest’s “perceived inappropriate behavior with children,” and reported that some in the parish feared he might be a “child molester.”

The principal noted in her letter that the school community’s response to the priest’s behavior reflected the extensive training that teachers, parents, volunteers and students had received in the wake of the clergy abuse crisis. Her letter included no specific allegations of sexual abuse, Rather, as she noted, the community’s concerns were prompted by the priest’s nonsexual boundary violations in his interactions with children. Fr. Ratigan encouraged children to sit on his lap and dig in his pockets for candy. He photographed them constantly, even when they weren’t doing anything particularly photogenic. The letter also noted his refusal to abide by the personal boundaries taught to and expected by all parish employees.

Msgr. Robert Murphy, Bishop Finn’s second-in-command, summarized the contents of the principal’s letter for Bishop Finn, who did not ask to see the letter,  or speak with the principal. Msgr. Murphy was a key official in deciding how the diocese responds to allegations of priestly sexual abuse.

The diocese made no effort to notify the parents and families of St. Patrick’s parish or other parishes where Fr. Ratigan had been assigned. Bishop Finn advised that he felt that notifying parents at St. Patrick’s of the photos found on the laptop “would be like yelling fire in a crowded theater.”

He said and did nothing, and Fr. Ratigan continued to have contact with parish children and families.

This is the same man who upon becoming bishop, ordered the editor of the diocesan newspaper to immediately cease publicizing columns by Notre Dame theologian, Fr. Richard McBrien. Bishop Finn commented: “Everybody seems to make a big deal out of cancelling Fr. McBrien’s column. Quite honestly, it was fairly a no-brainer for me. Fr. McBrien likes to stir the pot. He approaches things with a certain skepticism and cynicism. You can get them in a lot of places, so go get it somewhere else. We need clear expressions of the meaning of faith, why we believe and how we can inspire each other.” Catholic publications, he said, must be “dependable in their fidelity.”

In mid-December 2010, Fr. Ratigan’s laptop was turned into diocesan officials after a computer technician found disturbing photos of children on the hard drive.  After reviewing the photos, Ms. Julie Creech, the head of the diocesan’s technology department, told Msgr. Robert Murphy, vicar general for the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese, to call the police.

Msgr. Murphy did not contact the authorities, but instead called a police captain who is a member of the diocese’s independent review board and described a single photo of a nude child that was no sexual in nature. Without reviewing the photo, the captain said he was advised that although such a picture might meet the definition of child pornography, it probably wouldn’t be investigated or prosecuted.

About a year and a half later, in May 2012,  Msgr. Murphy told police Fr. Ratigan’s laptop had contained hundreds of photos. The stipulated facts also state that in testimony, Murphy reported the incident to police because he thought the diocese’s response to Fr. Ratigan  was “moving along  with no direction, and I thought, ‘I have to do something.'” 

According to the facts, Msgr. Murphy also testified Bishop Finn was “upset” upon hearing Msgr. Murphy had reported Fr. Ratigan.  At the time, Msgr. told his sister, “I think I made a decision that will not make the bishop happy.”

When the news broke, local Catholics were outraged. The diocese organized “listening sessions” to manage the public reaction, and had participants engage in an exercise where they were instructed to write down a “hurt” and then write down a “hope.” Among the “hurts” written down by angry parents: “The images of my daughter’s private areas that the FBI showed me, they are forever burned into my brain…Shawn Ratigan was in my house, around my children in February, and I thought my children were completely SAFE!!”

Local Catholics took to the airwaves and web, too, setting up a Facebook page “Bishop Finn Must Go”, and commenting on blogs and newspapers. One woman named Ginger wrote: “I’ve followed this story since the beginning, and as a pro-lifer and a Catholic, I am mightily offended when people suggest poor Archbishop Finn is persecuted by the press because they are pro-aborts and he piously fought against stem cell initiatives. With friends such as Archbishop Finn, the pro-life movement needs no enemies. Men such as he who proclaim to be so pro-life out of one end of their mouths and then turn a blind eye to the sexual exploitation of children cause the bile to rise to my throat. No wonder the “liberal press” goes after these hypocrites with a vengeance. For pre-born life to matter so much when post-born children matter so little is sad indictment of the hierarchy. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that such despicable behavior on the part of ardent pro-life supporters casts shame upon us all.”

After his conviction, there were numerous calls for Bishop Finn to resign or be removed.  Many people strongly argued that if Pope Benedict removed a bishop for supporting the ordination of women, he surely must do the same for a bishop convicted of protecting a sexual predator of little girls and toddlers.

I am of two minds on whether or not on whether Bishop Finn should be removed.  On one hand, if we do believe terrible experiences can change people for the better, then Bishop Finn may end us as one of the vigilant bishops in protecting children and teens from clerical sexual abuse. He will certainly not want to go through this scrutiny, shame and public pillorying again.  He will be forced to revisit, over and over again, why he made the choices he did and the hurt, pain and suffering they have caused, and diminished trust and faith in the institution and its leaders.

On the other hand, Bishop Finn is now totally neutralized as a conservative spokesman for the church. He will be reminded of Fr. Shawn Ratigan every time he opens his mouth. He will be reminded of how he chose protecting himself and a fellow conservative priest over safeguarding children and parish families. He will be reminded of who and what he put first. His crediblity as a spiritual shepherd is virtually nil. Very few will pay attention of who he insinuates they should vote for.

But maybe now that Bishop Finn is lying down in the “foul rag and bone shop of the heart” as the Irish poet, Yeats, described it, he will climb up a purified and changed man.

The words from his “Warriors for the Victory of Life” keynote address on April 18, 2009 can give Bishop Finn a simple caution and way to follow:

“Every day the choice is before us: right or wrong; good or bad; the blessing or the curse; life or death.  Our whole life must be oriented toward choosing right, the good, the blessing, choosing life. If you and I fail to realize the meaning and finality behind our choices, and the intensity of the constant warfare that confronts us, it is likely that we will drop our guard, be easily and repeatedly deceived, and even lose the life of our eternal soul.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pastoral on Mine Safety

Posted by Censor Librorum on Jun 13, 2010 | Categories: Accountability, Bishops, Politics

This spring has seen a rash of coal mining accidents and disasters.   Companies are in a hurry to get coal out the ground to feed the manufacturing demand for energy.

An accident at the Wangjialing Mine in northern China killed 38 men; an explosion in the Raspadskaya mine in western Siberia killed 66, with 100 injured and 44 still missing.

On April 5, 2010 29 miners were killed at the Upper Big Branch Mine in Montcoal, West Virginia.   The mine is owned and operated by Massey Energy Co., headquartered in Richmond, VA. big branch 1

In the wake of an April 5th explosion, Bishop Michael J. Bransfield of Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia, issued a pastoral letter on May 1 on mine safety in West Virginia.

In his letter, On My Holy Mountain, the bishop noted mine disasters in West Virginia:   the April 5, 2010 Upper Big Branch Mine explosion, the Monongah Mine disaster of 1907 that killed 362 people and the Sago Mine disaster of 2006 that killed 13 miners.

A common thread: lax or disregarded safety regulations in order to speed production.

“The disaster at the Upper Big Branch Mine,” the bishop stated, “raises concerns about the conditions within the coal mines across our state and the atmosphere existing in the coal industry’s corporate culture.”

“The church has an obligation to continue to remain vigilant in these areas to ensure that justice is served and human dignity protected. This is an essential part of proclaiming the Gospel of life.”

“Indeed, by virtue of human dignity, all persons have the right to a safe work environment and one in which unsafe conditions can e reported without fear of blacklisting or losing one’s   job. Workers have the right to a living wage and to reasonable work hours. The church has long recognized and supported workers’ rights to organize. In the coalfields such organization has had measurable benefits in terms of safety, and we applaud all that the United Mine Workers of America have achieved.”

“We must discover why union mines have a lower fatality rate in West Virginia and appear to have a much better safety record.”

A long-time coal miner who spent the last 15 years at the Massey Energy Co. mine where 29 workers were killed in April said it was a “ticking time bomb” due to high levels of methane gas.

Stanley “Goose” Stewart, who was 300 feet into the mine when he felt a “hurricane strength” wind from the blast, was the first worker at the Upper Big Branch mine to testify publicly about conditions there.

Mr. Stewart, who has been a coal miner for more than 30 years, started keeping a notebook to document his working conditions when the ventilation system was changed last July. “With so much methane being liberated, and no air moving, it gave me the feeling of a ticking time bomb.” In July 2009 he wrote: “finding explosive levels of methane gas regularly.”

Gary Quarles, whose only son, Cary Wayne Quarles, was killed in the accident, said miners weren’t allowed to hang ventilation curtains or conduct any other safety operations if there would interfere with or delay the production of coal.”

Joe Main, the head of the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration told a Senate committee investigating the explosion that Massey thwarted   stiffer enforcement action, such as closing down mines with a history of safety violations, by filing a series of appeals. He called on Congress to free up funds to help clear up a backlog of challenges filed by companies.

Mr. Main said Massey escaped tougher enforcement by contesting 78% of the $13.5 million in fines by MSHA in 2009. There are more than 16,000 cases pending review involving 89,000 violations.

Massey Energy CEO, Don Blankenship, denied his company tried to “game the system.” “Rather,” he said, “we are exercising our rights to due process under the system Congress has put in place.”

The issue of mine safety hits close to home with Amber Helms-Chambers and her brother, Nick Helms. Their father, Terry Helms, died in the 2006 Sago Mine explosion.

Chambers is an employee of the Wheeling-Charleston Diocese.   She helped design the graphics and layout for the pastoral letter, On My Holy Mountain.

“Our uncles that are in the coal mines and our friends are still in the coal mines and I have a cousin going in the coal mines so it is really important to us to work for something that I know my dad was so passionate about as well and working on it just makes me feel that I’m doing my part as a designer doing what I can to help get thoughts out there and help out,” said Chambers.

“Coal-mining laws are written in blood”…”I never understood that saying until after Sago,” Nick Helms said. “Dad would say nothing would ever change until after something bad would happen.   It’s a never-ending struggle, but it needs to be a never-ending topic in our government.” Mine Explosion

“People were saying, ‘It’s cheaper to pay the fines than to do the safety.’ I know you need to make money, but not at the expense of people’s lives.”

The bishops of Appalachia in their 1975 pastoral letter, This Land is Home to Me recognized that “the coal-based industry created many jobs and brought great progress to our country,” said Bishop Bransfield.

“They also frankly acknowledged that ‘oppression for the mountains’ and suffering for many resulted from tragedies like the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster. And they warned that the temptation toward ‘maximization of profit’ can lead to a disregard for human beings and their needs and lead to ‘a new kind of powerlessness.'”

 

Cardinal Castrillon’s Letter Comes Back to Haunt Him

Posted by Censor Librorum on May 9, 2010 | Categories: Accountability, Bishops, Politics, Popes, Scandals

On September 8, 2001 Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, prefect of the Congregation of the Clergy, wrote a letter to Bishop Pierre Pican of Bayeux-Lisieux, warmly applauding him for refusing to report a priest accused of sexual abuse to the civil authorities. The priest, Abbot Rene Bissey, was sentenced in 1998   to 18 years in jail for the repeated rape of a boy and sexual assaults on ten other boys. Bishop Pican received a three month suspended sentence for withholding information.

“I congratulate you for not denouncing a priest to the civil administration,” Cardinal Castrillon wrote. “You have acted well and I am pleased to have a colleague in the episcopate who, in the eyes of history and of all the other bishops in the world, preferred prison to denouncing his son and priest.”

In it, the cardinal said relations between bishops and priests were not simply professional but had “very special links of spiritual paternity.” Bishops therefore had no obligation to testify against “a direct relative,” he stated. The letter cited Vatican documents and an epistle of Saint Paul to bolster its argument about special bishop-priest links.

“To encourage brothers in this episcopate in this delicate domain this Congregation will send copies  of this letter to all bishops’ conferences,” Castrillon Hoyos wrote.

Spanish newspapers reported that Cardinal Castrillon told an audience at a Catholic university in Murcia, Spain on April 16, 2010 that he had consulted with Pope John Paul II and showed him the letter. He said the pope had authorized him to send the letter to bishops worldwide.

This letter languished in relative obscurity since 2001.   It was posted on the web by Golias, a French Roman   Catholic lay organization based in Lyon, France.   It can be seen here.

The letter caught fire when SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) caught wind of it and a planned visit to the United States by Cardinal Castrillon.   He was invited to preside at a traditional Latin Mass at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC on April 24th, honoring the fifth anniversary of the inauguration of the Holy Father. It was to be the first time in almost 50 years that the Tridentine Mass would said from the Shrine’s high altar.

The Paulus Institute had been planning the Mass for three years to honor Pope Benedict XVI, who allowed the Traditional Latin Mass to be more widely celebrated  early on in his papacy. The group said it had originally asked Cardinal Castrillon to celebrate the Mass because he was a prominent voice in the movement to restore the traditional liturgy.

Paul King, president of the Paulus Institute, told reporters that the decision to choose another celebrant for the Mass had a lot to do with potential picketers and the costs associated with heavier security. SNAP said they would picket the Mass if Cardinal Castrillon was the celebrant. cardinal dario

When asked if he thought Cardinal Castrillon was disappointed, King responded, “I think so. He’s an interesting person and a devout person.”

On April 22, 2010 radio interview Cardinal Castrillon continued to defend his letter: “The law in nations with a well-developed judiciary does not force anyone to testify against a child, a father against other people close to the suspect. Why would they ask that of the church? That’s the injustice.”

” John Paul II, that holy pope, was not wrong when he defended his priests so that they were not, due to economic reasons, treated like criminal pedophiles without due process.”

The 2001 letter congratulating a bishop for hiding a pedophile priest was not Cardinal Castrillon’s first impolitic decision.

From 2000 to 2009 he also a ran the Pontifical Commission, Ecclesia Dei, dealing with traditionalist rebels who broke from Rome in 1988 and were excommunicated.

He conducted the talks that led to the January 2009 decision to readmit the four banned bishops of the Society of Pius X to the Church, which caused an uproar when it emerged that one of them, Richard Williamson, had denied the Holocaust. The controversy was highly embarrassing to Pope Benedict, who said he did not know about Williamson’s views, even though they could easily be found on the internet.

A staunch conservative from Columbia, the steely-eyed Castrillon, 80, drew the wrath of victims of American-priest sex abuse for denying that the Catholic Church had any particular problem with pedophiles in its ranks.   Castrillon headed the Congregation for the Clergy from 1996 to 2006.

The cardinal accused unnamed insiders and enemies elsewhere of feeding the sex abuse scandals hurting the Catholic Church.

“Unfortunately there are…useful idiots inside (the church) who lend themsevles to this type of persecution,” Castrillon said. “But I’m not afraid to say that in some cases it’s within the Masons, together with other enemies of the church.”

He would not give details, however, saying that “since I’m not stupid, I don’t tell everything I know. Only drunks, children and idiots tell, and I’m not a child, nor a drunk, nor stupid.”

 

What Little We Have

Posted by Censor Librorum on Feb 12, 2010 | Categories: Bishops, Dissent, Faith, Lesbians & Gays

On February 5, 2010  USCCB president Francis Cardinal  George issued a statement  publicly  disparaging New Ways Ministry. Upon reading it, my first thought was:  what little we have is even too much.    

Sr. Jeannine Gramick and Fr. Bob Nugent, co-founders of New Ways, were like a lighted, open doorway in  a dark alley.  Many gay and lesbian people, myself among them, came home through them and their ministry. God knows what would have become of us without them. They were a beacon of welcome, friendship  and compassion in a very hostile world. dark-alley1

For 33 years New Ways Ministry has been a source of  comfort, support, affirmation and encouragement for lesbian and gay Catholics to come back and  remain within the institutional church.   It is the one place where we can be affirmed in who we are without any sense of shame, regret or self-loathing.  

“Anyone who has taken the time to listen to the stories about the lives of lesbian/gay people will come to realize that guidance about sexual activity is not where they need help most,” said Frances DeBernardo, Executive Director. “It is in the areas of  living truthfully, openly, honestly, and courageously–the areas that consume most of  their time and energy–where they seek the support of the church.”

These are areas where the Church offers no support.

The starting point for New Ways Ministry has always been less of the teaching of the  Magisterium and more towards the Beatitudes – the values expressed by Jesus. True, the organization has not admonished gay Catholics they must live chastely or to “strive” to live chastely, the way the officially-sanctioned Courage Apostolate does.

Cardinal George    stated that since the founding of New Ways Ministry in 1977, “serious questions have been raised about the group’s adherence to church teaching on homosexuality.” “No one should be mislead   by the claim that New Ways Ministry provides an authentic interpretation of Catholic teaching and an authentic Catholic pastoral practice,” George said. “Genuine pastoral concern is based on respect for every person, no matter their sexual orientation, and acceptance of the truths of the Catholic faith,” he added. “These are the terms in which the church welcomes everybody and offers them a true home in Christ’s love and mercy.” cardinal-george

Why did  Cardinal George pick this time to start a kerfuffle with New Ways:  Could it have anything to do with the fact the Courage  is having their 2010 annual conference this July  at the University of St. Mary of the Lake Seminary in Mundelein, Illinois? Or, that New Ways Ministry is planning a  workshop in March 2010 in the Chicago area?

This program – “Next Steps – Developing Catholic Lesbian/Gay Ministry,” is billed as a “weekend of prayer, presentations, dialogue, and planning designed to assist those seeking ways to include lesbian/gay people and issues in their home parishes, schools, or other ministerial settings.”

Is the notion of openly gay Catholics (chaste and not) in Catholic settings threatening? The possibility that people in the pews might experience doubt about the “intrinsic evil” of lesbian and gay relationships once they know us–their fellow parishioners–as caring  people, as loving  parents,  as devoted and committed  couples?

The condemnation of New Ways Ministry by Cardinal George has sparked a healthy debate   among faithful Catholics online. I found the following  exchange over at America magazine’ s website    informative and heartening.

One writer, Jeffrey L. Miller posits:   “They (New Ways Ministry) are a openly dissident group that has never believed what the Church believes on same-sex attraction and have damaged countless individuals by encouraging a disorder instead of helping them to live what the Church believes and to live a chaste life. Organizations like New Ways Ministry cooperate with evil by not teaching that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered and thus encourage sin. It is a spiritual work of mercy to help your brother repent, it is an evil act to tell them they don’t need to repent.”

“Jeffrey: I hereby encourage you to repent:” countered Jim McCrea.” ‘The Pharisees’ sin has come to be called ‘scotosis,’ a deliberate and willful darkening of the mind that results from the refusal to acknowledge God’s presence and power at work in human stories. If the neglect of Scripture is a form of sin, a blind adherence to Scripture when God is trying to show us the truth in human bodies is also a form of sin, and a far more grievous one… If it is risky to trust ourselves to the evidence of God’s work in transformed lives even it when challenges the clear statements of scripture, it is a far greater risk to allow the words of Scripture to blind us to the presence and power of the living God.’

“And it is even worse,” McCrea added, “to allow the words of a very fallible, defectible and historically indefensible human church to do the same.”

Steve Schewe drolly observed:  “Mr. DeBernardo’s statement that ‘we have always been found to be firmly in line with authentic Catholic teaching’ seems disingenuous; I wish he would have acknowledged his organization’s long history of differences with the Catholic hierarchy, including the disciplining of Sr. Gramick and Fr. Nugent. This is all old news.” debernardo

“So why did Cardinal George let loose with his condemnation this week? Could it have anything to do with the testimony by U.S. military leaders in the Senate advocating a process to end DADT, and the relatively calm response to their testimony? A rising tide of tolerance towards gays and lesbians continues; it will be interesting to see how the attempt to overturn Proposition 8 in California turns out, particularly since one of the lead attorneys for the plaintiff, Ted Olson, is a leading conservative with impeccable credentials.”

“Given the growing national acceptance of gays and lesbians in secular society and among people of faith, Cardinal George’s attack brings to mind the late Jaroslav Pelikan’s quip that “heresy may be the result of poor timing.”

“Heresy may be the result of poor timing”–I’ll be sure to share that one with Sr. Jeannine Gramick the next time I see her. She’ll appreciate it.

 

Rhyme, But No Reason, To Bishop’s Donation

Posted by Censor Librorum on Nov 24, 2009 | Categories: Bishops, Humor, Lesbians & Gays

The little ditty below by E.J. Montini appeared in The Arizona Republic in response to a $50,000 donation by the Most Reverend Thomas J. Olmsted, Bishop of Phoenix, Arizona, to the anti-gay marriage campaign in Maine. Grinch

A reader had a sad refrain

But did not wish to write it plain.

And so with Seuss-like zeal did deign

To craft a query in quatrain.

He (or she) wrote:

“Mr. Montini, could you explain,

“Is the Phoenix Catholic Diocese insane?

“While poor folks here are full of pain

“Our church sends 50 grand to Maine?”

My response:

Yes, Bishop Olmstead did ordain

That he would help his friends in Maine

Who needed money to maintain

Their anti-married gays campaign.

In Maine a state law did proclaim

That any Dwight could marry Dwayne.

The church held this view in disdain

And sought the old laws to retain.

To win that vote they had to gain

Some riders on their money train.

Our bishop from his vast domain

With cash did shower them like rain.

Fifty thousand dollars came

From Phoenix all the way to Maine.

And helped the churches in their aim

To bring the old rules back again.

Meantime, OUR state is full of pain.

The governor has made it plain.

State services we can’t maintain.

The budget crisis is to blame.

While politicians play their game

The poor are going down the drain.

They need assistance that’s humane

Their meager lifestyle to sustain.

By sending money off to Maine

The bishop seems to make the claim

That poor folks here eat quiche Lorraine

And wash it down with fine champagne.

What does Phoenix have to gain

From shipping 50 grand to Maine?

Can one stake a moral claim

When politics is made to reign?

Politicians are the bane

Of everything that’s good and sane.

Do not Christians in the main

Avoid the secular and vain?

It seems a little inhumane,

Less like Abel, more like Cain,

To send money with the aim

Of changing policy in Maine.

But bishops like old monarchs reign,

Each one a little Charlemagne.

Parishioners cannot constrain

Their spending habits or terrain.

A reader can to me complain

With four lines meant to entertain.

And I can rack my little brain

To rhyme her back in the same vein.

But rhyming doesn’t change the game.

And rhymers cannot be profane.

The bishop here sent cash to Maine.

All we can say is, that’s a shame.

– Thanks to Voice of the Faithful for this little gem.