Posted in category "Faith"

Lent 2020 – To Be A Catholic

Posted by Censor Librorum on Feb 26, 2020 | Categories: Accountability, Arts & Letters, Faith, History, Politics

“Catholicism is a religion of the head as well as the heart, and to be a Catholic is to commit to dogmas that distinguish our faith from others. Like most religions, it also requires a lifelong struggle to practice that faith day to day. The practice can be difficult. Today’s America is a consumer-driven society filled with endless distractions and temptations for people struggling to live by spiritual as well as material impulses.” – Mario Cuomo, Commonweal Magazine, 2002

Mario Cuomo (1932-2015) was governor of New York from 1983-1994.

An Examen for Ash Wednesday.  Have a good Lent.

 

 

 

The Conundrum of Father Richard Ginder

Posted by Censor Librorum on Feb 20, 2020 | Categories: Arts & Letters, Faith, History, Lesbians & Gays, Scandals, Sex

So I turned to the Garden of Love.  That so many sweet flowers bore.  And I saw it was filled with graves,  And tombstones where flowers should be;  And priests with black gowns were walking their rounds,  And binding with briars my joys and desires.  William Blake (1737-1827)

“Binding with Briars—Sex and Sin in the Catholic Church,” a book by the Rev. Richard Ginder, was published in the United States by Prentice-Hall, Inc. in 1975.  It was seven years after the first Dignity convention in 1968 and six years after the Stonewall Riots.  In other words, very early in the period of gay and lesbian liberation in church and American society.  He begins his book by identifying himself: “I am a Roman Catholic priest.  My diocese is Pittsburgh. I am in good standing and celebrate the Holy Sacrifice every day.”  This statement, like much about Fr. Ginder, poses a conundrum.  It’s true.  But it’s also true that at that time he was on “sick leave” from pastoral assignments, and mid-point in a 10-year probation negotiated by the Pittsburgh Archdiocese. 

In 1969, after an intensive investigation, police raided his apartment in the Squirrel Hill section of Pittsburgh and found photographs of teenage boys performing sex acts with Fr. Ginder and possibly other priests from the diocese.  The police also found his diaries, where Ginder detailed his and other clerics homosexual activities with young men over the previous three years.  Fifty-two charges were filed against him and he pleaded guilty to several. The Diocese interceded for Ginder and got him out of jail.

Fr. Ginder was among the priests identified in the now famous August 14, 2019 Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report on sexually abusive clergy. While not a pedophile, Ginder certainly approached or had sex with high school and possibly junior high school-aged boys.

“Writing this book has forced me to rethink the whole subject of morality—rather, not to rethink it but for the first time in my life to think it all the way through,” he writes in the Forward. “I have been working on this book for twenty-five years: reading, taking notes analyzing my own inner experience and comparing it to that of others. The seed was planted in 1949 when I first realized my sexual identity.”

Why did Fr. Ginder write this book?  He must have known going public with his opinions was a permanent career-killer.

I think three things happened.  The new Gay Liberation movement inspired him to speak out. He saw people, especially young people, leaving the church in droves because the institution did not address their real-life concerns and questions. That bothered him, because he loved the church and the Catholic faith. Lastly, Ginder was a writer as well as a priest.  He wrote about other controversial subjects but was banned from doing so on homosexuality. The need to express himself blew up the blockade.

The evolution of the book surprised him.  “But once I started writing, I felt the book taking on a life of its own. It began to unfold and grow almost of itself as I thought through this whole matter of sexuality in its relationship to religion. I began the book a conservative and ended a liberal.”

The evolution of this blog post surprised me. I have mixed feelings about Fr. Ginder. I began by despising Ginder as a priestly predator, and ended up admiring him as a complex, prophetic, creative, and flawed man.  He never acknowledged any remorse for the teenage boys he used sexually, or the emotional and psychic damage at least some of them experienced. I wonder if that is who he was as a person, or as a member of a schizophrenic clerical culture where such behavior was widespread and tacitly accepted? There’s no way of knowing.

However, how many heterosexual men ogle, fantasize and bed, if they can, 16 and 17-year-old girls? Growing up female, we learn at an early age how to deflect male sexual interest. It’s just homophobia tinged with misogyny that males become hysterical over sexual interest by other males.

Since Ginder emphasizes his evolution, I thought it would be an interesting exercise to timeline his life, and overlay his writing, arrests, and sexual abuse accusations to see when they occurred and what he was doing at the time.

1914:  Charles Richard Ginder is born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

June 11, 1940:   He was ordained a priest of the Pittsburgh Diocese at the age of 26 by Bishop Hugh Boyle.

8/1940 – 9/1942:   St. Gregory, Zelienople, PA and St. Mathias, Evans City, PA

9/1942 – 2/1946:   Society of the Priests of St. Sulpice (NFI)

Ginder was a Basselin Fellow and held a master’s degree in philosophy and a Licentiate in theology from The Catholic University of America.

2/1946 – 6/1950:  Saint Simon & Jude, Blairstown, PA.

1949 – Ginder discovers his homosexual identity when he was 35-nine years after his ordination. He regretted that over the next 25 years he was never permitted to express himself on the subject of homosexuality in either Our Sunday Visitor or The Priest. 

 In 2007, a 69-year-old male called the Pittsburgh Diocese to report he had been molested by Ginder in the late 1940s. He said that Ginder, who was assigned to a neighboring parish, would wait outside his school to offer him rides. He did not provide specific details.  After a few occasions, he no longer accepted rides from Ginder. He stated that the abuse he had suffered caused his marriage to fail; that he had feelings of guilt, and that he had attempted suicide.

 Late 1940s – Early 1960s:  Fr. Ginder was a widely read priest-columnist. His byline appeared in such prominent Catholic publications as Our Sunday Visitor where he wrote the controversial syndicated column “Right or Wrong.” At that time OSV was the most widely circulated Catholic periodical in the world with close to a million subscribers.  He founded and edited for 11 years My Daily Visitor for shut ins.  He also founded and edited The Priest, a journal for Catholic clergy which he edited for 24 years and The Catholic Choirmaster which he edited for 13 years. Ginder was also an accomplished organist and composer of sacred music. “I have written altogether one hundred twenty-four pamphlets with a total sale of twenty-six million copies. I have spoken and my musical compositions have been performed on all four of the major radio networks and on CBS-TV.” 

6/1950 – 12/1953:  St. George, Pittsburgh, PA (South Side)

12/1953 – 6/1959:  St. Joseph, Pittsburgh, PA (North Side)

12/1954 – 7/1962:  Censor Librorum for the Diocese of Pittsburgh

A male residing in Seattle, WA contacted the Pittsburgh Diocese on a number of occasions. He never provided details of his abuse but threatened to sue the Diocese. The male was advised in 1999 that the records pertaining to Father Charles R. Ginder were destroyed as Ginder had died in 1984. The male subsequently sent a letter wherein he stated that he was taken to New York, NY and Philadelphia, PA by Ginder. He estimated the trips occurred between 1958 and 1961. He said details would be provided in a book he planned to write. The male also advised that he was abused by another priest in Pittsburgh who now lived in Florida. He refused to name the other priest, however, in order to maintain “the element of surprise.”

 Fr. Ginder described himself as an open-minded conservative. His article on “Leftism in the Church” appeared in the March 27, 1960 edition of Our Sunday Visitor: “Right now in America, relativism is what might be called the ‘established’ system of thought. It is supported by the moneyed classes, the secular universities, even—insofar as that is possible—by the Government: which means that it has lavish rewards to confer on its own disciples…Confronted with such a situation, we Catholics can either convert them or join them. But if we join them, we will no longer be Catholic. We have to convert them, for by God’s own definition we are “the salt of the earth.”

6/1959 – 2/1961:  St. Mary, New Castle, PA

In 2013, an adult male reported that he was befriended by Ginder following the death of his brother in 1960. He stated that they often made trips from New Castle to Pittsburgh and had dinner together. The male recalled that on one occasion; he fell asleep in the front seat of the car following dinner with Ginder. He woke to find Ginder putting his hand up his pant leg, touching his thigh. When he asked what he was doing, Ginder explained that he was checking to see if the boy was cold. After this incident, he did not accompany Ginder anywhere else.

 12/1961 – 8/1962:  School Sisters of St. Francis, Bellevue, PA

7/1962 – 7/1963:  Health related leave of absence

8/1963 – 5/1964:  Our Lady of Mercy Academy (NFI)

5/1964 – 6/1964:  St. Januarius, Pittsburgh, PA

5/1964 – 6/1964:  St. John the Baptist, Pittsburgh, PA

6/1964 – 1/1967:  Sick Leave

1/1967 -?         :   St. John the Baptist, Baden, PA

In 2002, a 50-year-old male living in New Jersey reported that he had been abused by Ginder when he was between the ages of 15 and 17. He stated that he and a boy from Denmark would gather at the residence of the Bishop on many occasions. He stated that they would drink alcohol with Ginder and ‘sexual activity would occur there.’ According to the male, the sexual activity occurred with Ginder and the Bishop was aware of it. The male further stated that he lived with Ginder on Murray Avenue for a short time. He stated that the relationship with Ginder and others was ‘out of control.” He described Ginder as a ‘physically abusive monster.’”

 See my recent post on Pittsburgh’s Bishop Wright: “Lip Service: John Cardinal Wright Gives Himself a Celibacy Dispensation.”  Pittsburgh must have been a congenial posting if you were a sexually active homosexual priest in the 1960s.

1969:  Fr. Ginder’s apartment is raided by police.  They discover photos of Ginder and others in homosexual sex acts.  The Diocese negotiates Ginder’s release from jail and he is put on ten years’ probation.

1969:  Bishop John Wright is promoted or “kicked upstairs” to a Vatican appointment.

1970-1984:  Sick Leave.  Ginder lives in church facilities under psychiatric care.  For a time he lived in a Vincentian facility in McCandless, PA.

1975:  Ginder’s semi-autobiographic book, “Binding with Briars—Sex and Sin in the Catholic Church,” is published.

The book argued against Catholic positions on birth control, divorce, premarital sex and homosexuality.  Ginder also clearly came out against abortion, pedophilia, and legalizing homosexual relationships— “…the analogy with matrimony is all wrong. For one thing, it reeks of sacrilege, blasphemy, and bad taste.”

In the book Ginder addressed the nastiness and hostility of some religious people to homosexuals:  “The latent gay is sexually attracted by others of the same sex, but he refuses to admit it to himself and in fighting the tendency he often overreacts by lashing out at overt gays and harassing them as best he can.”  Ginder quoted Winston Leyland, a “priestly dropout” and editor of the Bay area publication, Gay Sunshine, who estimated that 40% of Catholic clergy was gay.

Ginder did touch briefly on Dignity, a newly formed organization for gay and lesbian Catholics.  He was mildly supportive. I think Ginder was less enthusiastic than he might have been, because he believed so strongly that gay people needed to stay in the Church, not go off or segregate themselves in other groups. In Chapter 13, “The Other Love,” he writes: “Now surely this book, especially this present chapter, has given the gay arguments and principles enough to form his conscience on gay sex and still receive the sacraments—so, Mr. and Ms. Gay, spread the word: Gays can be just as good Catholics as the rest and still have their sex. Don’t let them quit the Church, for their own good and ours—because, you see, we need their help in forming a consensus. We need them on the team.”

Fr. Ginder also offers a solution to gay and lesbian Catholics trying to keep the faith: “Keep trying to develop a personal religion, an immediate relationship with our Lord,” he says.  “Use the Church for the Holy Sacrifice, the sacraments, inspiration, and moral instruction; but keep your life centered on Christ. What matters is His, not the churchmen’s opinion of you.  Keep deepening your fundamental option with an intense and unshakeable loyalty to our Lord.”

As a Catholic lesbian who continues to identity herself as such 40 years after coming out, Fr. Ginder’s advice on how to remain in the church is true:  follow your conscience and keep your eyes on Christ.

 In 1975, Ginder was asked if he was sorry about his homosexual activities.  I don’t approve of it but sometimes you’re weak,” he said.

1976:  One year after the publication of “Binding with Briars,” Bishop Vincent M. Leonard, Wright’s successor, stripped Ginder of his priestly facilities.

1978:  Ginder was arrested in the Southside of Pittsburgh and convicted of sodomizing two 16-year-old boys and sentenced up to four years in prison. There was also a report that he attempted suicide.

1980:  Fr. Ginder lived at the One Hundred Acres Trappist Monastery in New Hampshire, not far from Boston, MA.

In 2011, an adult male reported sexual abuse through the Diocese of Manchester in New Hampshire. He stated that in 1980, when he was approximately 15 or 16 years old, he attended an overnight retreat at Hundred Acres in New Boston. Another man, possibly a priest, attempted to assault him in his room. When he screamed loudly, Ginder came into the room. Ginder then offered to drive him home. During the car ride, Ginder pulled over by a river. He then fondled the young man on top of his clothes. The young man got out of the vehicle before it went any further and took a bus home.

 June 7, 1984:  Killed in a car accident. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published his obituary on Wednesday, June 13, 1984. The headline reads: “Priest touched by scandal is quietly buried in city.” 

“The Rev. Richard Ginder, once one of the most influential priests in the Catholic Church in the United States, was quietly buried here Monday.  Father Ginder, 70, removed from his priestly duties in the Pittsburgh diocese in 1976 following a sex scandal and a controversial book, was killed Thursday in a car accident in New Hampshire. At the time he was driving from his brother’s funeral. His brother, the Rev. Edwin S. Ginder, was a priest in Fort Tobacco, MD. Father Ginder’s funeral, was at St. Anne Church in Castle Shannon, PA.  Its pastor, Monsignor Charles Owen Rice, called Father Ginder – prominent editor, author and columnist – “the Andrew Greeley of his day.”

In the Forward to the book he acknowledges, “My opinions may have to travel underground in the Church until popular sentiment is ready to accept them.” That shift of opinion occurred 40 years after the publishing of the book.  It was made possible by the loss of respect and moral authority of the Church for how it handled clerical sexual abuse. Ginder was a part of that chain of abuse, shuffled around from parish to parish, his behavior tolerated and covered up with “sick leave” stays in various institutions and places.  Once the church ceased to protect him, the civil authorities were able to reach him for punishment.

Fr. Ginder did not acknowledge himself as a gay man in his writing, although he may have done so with other gay clergy.  What he did do in “Binding with Briars” was to assert that gay sex—sodomy– is normal to gay people and stated that the Church was out of touch with the sexual morality and lives of many of the faithful, gay and straight. This stance was leading to the marginalization of the Church and the loss of believers.  This loss was very painful to Ginder, and he wanted to stop the hemorrhaging.

“For several years I was the official censor of books for the Diocese of Pittsburgh,” he wrote. “It is with prayer and no little trepidation that I submit my analysis, hoping that it may bring some degree of comfort, however slight, to the reader.  All my life has been a preparation for the writing of this book.”

I wish I had known of Fr. Ginder’s book many years ago.  It would have been a great help to me in negotiating the agonies of faith and desire.  It would have been a great comfort, and is still a comfort today.  Thank you, Fr. Ginder.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pious Trash: President Trump’s National Prayer Breakfast Appearance

Posted by Censor Librorum on Feb 7, 2020 | Categories: Accountability, Faith, Humor, Pious Trash, Politics, Scandals

The National Prayer Breakfast is a Washington, DC tradition that stretches back to 1953, when president Dwight Eisenhower established it at the suggestion of evangelist Billy Graham.  It is a bi-partisan event with political, business and civic leaders coming together to pray.  Many members of Congress normally attend.

Yesterday’s breakfast had a different vibe.  President Trump used the podium to attack supporters of his impeachment drive.  “As everybody knows, my family, our great country and your president have been put through a terrible ordeal by some very dishonest and corrupt people,” Trump said.  He scolded his opponents by saying impeachment supporters “know what they are doing is wrong, but they put themselves far ahead of our great country.”  He added, “I don’t like people who use their faith as justification for doing what they know is wrong.” He went on, “Nor do I like people who say, ‘ I pray for you’ when you know that is not so.”  The last jab was directed at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has previously said she prays for him. 

Pelosi responded in a news conference after the event.  She told reporters it was “completely inappropriate” for Trump to criticize people for looking to their faith as a basis for their decisions–“especially at a prayer breakfast.”  “I pray hard for him because he’s so off the track of our constitution, our values, our country,” she said. “He really needs our prayers.”

I’m not sure all the prayers in the world will help our dysfunctional Congress, and the nasty, pathological liar we have for a president.  President Trump is Roy Cohn resurrected.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pious Trash: Church Militant Comes Out Fighting

Posted by Censor Librorum on Jan 31, 2020 | Categories: Accountability, Bishops, Celebrities, Faith, Lesbians & Gays, Pious Trash

Bishop Robert Baron, the auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles, and probably the top social media prelate in the world, floated the idea that bishops should consider an official designation for Catholic teachers on social media. He runs the famously successful Word on Fire ministry.

In a January 24, 2020 interview with the National Catholic Register Baron said he believes it is within the scope of a diocesan bishop’s authority to apply a vetting and recognition process for online teachers of the faith, similar to the mechanism Pope St. John Paul II developed in the 1990 apostolic constitution Ex Corde Ecclesiae for colleges and universities.

Bishop Baron called the current era “a golden age of evangelization and apologetics” because the internet makes it much easier to access Catholic content. But be also addressed the downside of social media. “There are, to be blunt,” he said, “a disconcerting number of such people on social media who are trading in hateful, divisive speech, often deeply at odds with the theology of the Church and who are, sadly, having a powerful impact on the people of God.”

In order to stop online misinformation from people or groups claiming to represent what the Church teaches, Barron told the Register that perhaps he and his brother bishops could “introduce something like a mandatum for those who claim to teach the Catholic faith online, whereby a bishop affirms that the person is teaching within the full communion of the Church.” 

This suggestion got an immediate reaction from Michael Voris, 58, who runs St. Michael’s Media and its website, Church Militant.  Church Militant is a gossipy, gadfly site with a focus on LGBT issues and personalities, and church officials he doesn’t consider orthodox enough.  These include Pope Francis, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, and Voris’ own bishop, Archbishop Allen Henry Vigneron of Detroit.  Voris’ homosexual past was made public in 2016. He said he is chaste now.

“Now, the latest Barron insanity and legalism comes in the form of his reportedly saying, while on his ad limina visit to Rome, that U.S. bishops need to come up with some kind of list or plan to tackle what he believes is a serious division of faith,” Voris begins.  “That’s rich, coming from a man who shot to instant, celebrity-priest stardom by so nuancing the teaching of the Church on the doctrine of Hell so as to empty it of its content.” 

Voris went on to “out” several bishops that he felt could not be fit as judges of Catholic material.  These included Bishop Arthur Serratelli of Patterson, NJ “involved in more gay crap than a gay bar on a Friday night;” and Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Washington, DC.  “He certainly knows his way around from his days as Bernadin’s gay frontman,” Voris stormed.

But he saved his worst smack for last.

“Or how about Bp. Barron himself, who almost always has in tow a couple of body-builder producers who still to this day have up all over social media some pictures which leave little to the imagination. Hey, the past is the past, but have you ever told them to take them down now, or is that part of the Word on Fire online presence? What would people think if a priest had female workers who had pictures of themselves from a prior life scantily clad? Why does Barron get a free pass on this?”

Stay tuned!

 

 

 

Marguerite Porete and Her Killers

Posted by Censor Librorum on Jan 20, 2020 | Categories: Accountability, Arts & Letters, Bishops, Dissent, Faith, History, Politics, Popes, Scandals

The chronicler William of Nangis describes the trial and execution of Marguerite Porete, 1310: 

“Around the feast of Pentecost is happened at Paris that a certain pseudo-woman from Hainault, named Marguerite and called ‘la Porete,’ produced a certain book in which, according to the judgement of all the theologians who examined it diligently, many errors and heresies were contained; among which errors (were the beliefs), that the soul can be annihilated in the love of the Creator without censure or conscience or remorse and that it ought to yield to whatever by nature it strives for and desires.  This (belief) manifestly rings forth as heresy.  Moreover, she did not want to renounce this little book or the errors contained in it, and indeed she even made light of the sentence of excommunication laid on her by the inquisitor of heretical depravity, (who had laid this sentence) because she, although having been lawfully summoned before the bishop, did not want to appear and held out in her hardened malice for a year and more with an obstinate soul. In the end her ideas were exposed in the common field of La Greve through the deliberation of learned men; this was done before clergy and people who had been gathered specially for this purpose, and she was handed over to the secular court. Firmly receiving her into his power, the provost of Paris had her executed the next day by fire. She displayed many signs of penitence, both noble and pious, in her death. For this reason, the faces of many of those who witnessed it were affectionately moved to compassion for her; indeed, the eyes of many were filled with tears.”

Marguerite

Marguerite Porete was a 14th century French mystic who wrote a book entitled “The Mirror of Simple Annihilated Souls and Those Who Only Remain in Will and Desire of Love.”  Written during the 1290s, the book was condemned by the French Inquisition as heretical.  Marguerite was jailed for a year and a half and asked to recant. When she refused to respond to her inquisitors, she was condemned to death. 

The book provoked controversy, likely because of statements such as “a soul annihilated in the love of the Creator could, and should, grant to nature all that it desires,” which some took to mean that a soul can become one with God and that when in this state it can ignore moral law, it had no need for the Church and its sacraments or code of virtues. This is not what Marguerite taught, since she explained that souls in such a state desired only good and would not be able to sin.

Not much is known about Marguerite’s early life, except that she was born in Hainault in what is now Belgium around 1248 or 1250. She lived during different periods in Valenciennes, Lorraine, Reims and Paris. She seems to have been a stubborn woman, determined to share her ideas despite ecclesiastical censure.  I don’t know why she refused to speak to her inquisitors during her trial and captivity.  It may have been disdain or defiance, or it may have been to induce a similar helplessness and frustration in her persecutors.  She refused to participate in an outcome that they had already decided.

Tina Beattie, professor of Catholic Studies at Roehampton University, London, said: “Little is known about Porete, apart from the record of her trial and what can be gleaned from her writings. It seems likely she was associated with the Beguines, a women’s religious movement which spread across northern Europe during the 13th and 14th centuries. Although the Beguines devoted themselves to charity, chastity and good works, they took no religious vows and their lifestyles varied greatly, from solitary itinerants (of which Porete was likely one) to enclosed communities. The Beguines were part of an era of vigorous spiritual flourishing during the Middle Ages. They were condemned by the Council of Vienne (1311-1312), which also condemned the Free Spirit Movement with which the Beguines were sometimes (and probably erroneously) identified.”

Her Killers – Bishops, Inquisitor, King

Gui de Colle Medio (or de Colmier) was bishop of Cambrai from 1296-1306.  He condemned The Mirror and ordered it publicly burned in Marguerite’s presence in Valenciennes. She was ordered not to circulate her ideas or the book again.

The next bishop of Cambrai, Philippe de Marigny, made her life worse.  His persecutions combined politics and religion.  Philippe Le Portier de Marigny was appointed bishop of Cambrai in 1301 and archbishop of Sens in 1309.  His half-brother, Enguerrand de Marigny, Baron Le Portier, was the chamberlain and chief minister to Philip IV, the king of France.  Enguerrand was influential in obtaining these appointments for his brother. Philippe de Marigny became an important figure in the trials of the Knights Templar, and in the execution of Templar’s grand master, Jacques de Molay. De Molay was burned alive with three other Templar leaders on a scaffold in front of Notre Dame Cathedral on March 18, 1314. He uttered his famous curse, and both King Philip IV and Pope Clement V followed him to death (and judgement) within a year. The new king of France, Louis X, had Enguerrand de Marigny hanged for sorcery in April 1315. 

Marguerite Porete’s main persecutor and tormenter was the Inquisitor William of Paris, also known as William of Humbert. This Dominican priest and theologian was the confessor to King Philip IV.  Appointed Inquisitor in 1303, William also played an important role in the trials and persecution of the Knights Templar. Interestingly, William died in 1314, the same year as Jacques de Molay, King Philip IV and Pope Clement V. Perhaps Molay included him in his curse.

The piety and politics of King Philip IV helped shape the deaths of Marguerite and the Knights Templar.  Many of the enemies of the crown were cast as heretics; a convenient label for a self-appointed defender of the Faith.  William of Paris supported the political machinations of the French king by suppressing the Knights Templar. The King aided the Dominican’s interests in ridding him of Marguerite—an independent and potentially dangerous religious voice.

Arrest and Trial

In 1308 William had Marguerite Porete arrested along with a Beghard, Guiard de Cressonessart, who was also put on trial for heresy.  Their trial began early in 1310 after they were held in prison in Paris for a year and a half.  Under tremendous pressure, de Cressonessart eventually confessed and was found guilty.  Marguerite refused to recant, withdraw her book or cooperative with the authorities, refusing to take the oath required by the Inquisitor to proceed with the trial.  William was not going to have any easy time proving her a heretic. Marguerite had consulted three church authorities about her writing and gained their approval, including the highly respected Master of Theology Godfrey of Fontaines at the University of Paris.  Godfrey’s involvement was an important factor in William’s handling of the trial, requiring him to build his case as carefully as possible.  He consulted over 20 theologians—an excessive number–on the question of The Mirror’s orthodoxy. 

Death

On May 31, 1310 William of Paris read out a sentence that declared Marguerite “called Porete,” a beguine from Hainault, to be a relapsed heretic and released her to secular authority for punishment. He ordered all copies of a book she had written to be confiscated.  William called her a “pseudo-mulier” (fake woman) and described The Mirror as “filled with errors and heresies.” William next consigned Guiard de Cressonessart, a would-be defender of Marguerite to life imprisonment.  Marguerite condemned to be burnt at the stake as a relapsed heretic.  On June 1, 1310 Marguerite was burned alive along with a relapsed Jew at the Place de Greve – today the Place de l’Hotel de Ville – in Paris.

Why Was Marguerite a Target?

 There are several possible reasons why so much effort was made to put Marguerite on trial and kill her.

  • A growing hostility to the Beguine movement by Franciscans and Dominicans. Beguines were lay religious women who were not under male authority and direction and were outside civic and ecclesiastical structures.  In 1311—the year after Marguerite’s death—ecclesiastical officials made several specific connections between Marguerite’s ideas and deeds and the Beguine status in general at the Council of Vienne.
  • The popularity of The Mirror of Simple Souls gave Marguerite a prominent profile other lay writers didn’t possess. She also wrote in French, not Latin.
  • Marguerite’s perceived association with the Free Spirit Movement or Brethren of the Free Spirit. Free Spirits were not a single movement or school of thought, but they caused great unease among churchman.  They were considered heretical because of their antinomian views.  One of beliefs some Free Spirits held is that they could not sin by having sexual relations with any person.  Extracts of The Mirror of Simple Souls were cited in the bull Ad Nostrum issued by the Council of Vienne to condemn the Free Spirit movement as heretical.

Was there a whiff of homophobia in William of Paris’ denunciation of Marguerite as a “pseudo-woman”?

Marguerite Porete’s era is a mirror to our own.  40 years ago conservative political and religious leaders like President Ronald Regan and Pope John Paul II colluded on major political actions and social change. Lay Catholics began to search for new ways to experience a direct relationship to God.  Many of these explorations were condemned since they were outside of traditional structures.  The prevailing norms of sexual and gender expression were openly questioned by ordinary people.  Sex and sexuality are fraught and fearful topics for the Catholic hierarchy, and many bishops tried their best to suppress them.  Their best allies were presidents focused on wealth and expansion.  Today, President Trump sounds and acts a lot like King Philip IV.

We can point to one improvement in the last 700 years.  We can no longer be burned at the stake. 

Further Reading:

The Beguine, the Angel, and the Inquisitor: The Trials of Marguerite Porete and Guiard of Cressonessart by Sean L. Field

Allegories of Love in Marguerite Porete’s ‘Mirror of Simple Souls’ by Suzanne Kocher

A Companion to Marguerite Porete and the Mirror of Simple Souls by Robert Stauffer and Wendy R. Terry

The World on the End of a Reed by Francesca Caroline Bussey

The Heresy of the Free Spirit in the Later Middle Ages by Robert E. Lerner

Courting Sanctity: Holy Women and the Capetians by Sean L. Field

Transmitting the Memory of a Medieval Heretic: Early Modern French Historians on Marguerite Porete by Danielle C. Dubois

Marguerite Porete: The Mirror of Simple Souls by Ellen Babinsky

 

 

Pious Trash: Inconsistent Application of Catholic Moral Teaching

Posted by Censor Librorum on Jan 3, 2020 | Categories: Accountability, Faith, Lesbians & Gays, Pious Trash, Politics

Dr. Jeff Mirus is the chief commentator for Catholic Culture.org, an online publication that addresses current Catholic issues.  While I don’t often agree with his positions, I enjoy his writing and think about what he has to say.  I have changed my position on abortion based on reading his articles and those of other Catholic writers over the years. 

Unfortunately, like Catholic writers on the “Left”, conservative Catholics never vary their sermons. They focus almost exclusively on homosexuality, divorce, abortion and liturgies.  They rarely bother to address or finger-point on other important Catholic moral issues, like accumulation of wealth and possessions, responsibilities for immigrants and refugees, environmental pollution and the hungry and homeless we encounter every day in our neighborhoods and cities.  Jesus did address marriage, but he had a lot more to say about how we need to treat each other, friends and strangers in our midst.  According to Jesus, the salvation of our souls depends on two commandments:  honoring God and loving our neighbor as ourselves.

In a July 8, 2019 article, Dr. Mirus discusses “Truth and the limits of inclusivity.” “Tolerance and inclusivity are now often used to justify the acceptance of immorality,” he says, “such that the only intolerable groups are those which engage in the precise moral reasoning needed to determine what ought to be “included” (and what is “excluded”), based on a proper understanding of human nature and the common good.”  Of course, any reader knows that these are code words and phrases for homosexuality, communion for divorced Catholics and other conservative Catholic bugaboos.

What I miss is the “moral reasoning” by many conservative Catholics when it comes to Catholic/Christian business leaders who pollute or degrade our natural resources and aren’t called to account; partisan Catholic/Christian politicians who don’t act in good faith to help the working poor and destitute; or members of the clergy–bishops, cardinals, and others–who are not exposed as frauds and hypocrites when they preach one morality and live another.

 

Pope Francis’ Little Book of Insults

Posted by Censor Librorum on Dec 29, 2019 | Categories: Arts & Letters, Dissent, Faith, Humor, Popes

The Truth hurts!

The author missed my favorite:  “The Church is not a museum.”  (Pope Francis’ opening sentence at the Synod on the Family.)

Enjoy the Little Book of Insults here.

 

Pious Trash: The Fake Pachamama Scandal

Posted by Censor Librorum on Dec 13, 2019 | Categories: Accountability, Faith, Pious Trash, Scandals

There is a wealth of Pious Trash in Msgr. Charles Pope’s column, “Church’s Silence Deafens World” published in the National Catholic Register this month.  It was a long discourse on the negative effects of tolerating bad behavior in society and in the church as defined by Catholic conservatives, and a major whine on why isn’t the Pope doing something about it!

The faithful are not discouraged, they are confused and scandalized. Many have been led to think that sins like divorce and remarriage, homosexual acts and idolatry are compatible with the Catholic faith.  They are not! Yet some of the most awful things have been done and said by Church leaders (purportedly or definitively) without any clear explanation, let alone attempts at refutation.  The silence has been deafening. The enemies of the faith are encouraged while the faithful are disheartened.”

I hope Msgr. Pope is not defining “enemies of the faith” as liberal Catholics, feminist Catholics, lesbian and gay Catholics and our defenders, Catholics who have divorced and remarried, and Catholics who are weary and fed up with legalistic and narrow definitions of “faithful Catholics.” 

By idolatry I assume Msgr. Pope is referring to the wooden carvings of Pachamama, a representation of a naked pregnant Amazonian woman that were displayed and part of  some ceremonies during the Amazonian Synod in October.  The Pachamama is a female fertility figure venerated as “Mother Earth” by some native peoples in the Amazon region. The woman who presented it to Pope Francis called it “Our Lady of the Amazon.” It is a symbol of Life. Why is this idolatry compared to our church statuary? Most churches and cathedrals in the U.S. have a statue of the Blessed Mother standing on a snake. She is crowned by real or plastic flowers every May. I remember singing when I was a teenager: Bring flow’rs of the fairest, Bring flow’rs of the rarest, From garden and woodland, and hillside and vale; Our full hearts are swelling, Our Glad voices telling, The praise of the loveliest Rose of the Vale. O Mary! We crown thee with blossoms today, Queen of the Angels, Queen of the May, O Mary! we crown thee with blossoms today, Queen of the Angels, Queen of the May. 

The lyrics certainly represent spring and fertility. The ritual of flowers and the observation has its roots in Pagan Europe.  In addition, every parish church has a statue of their patron saint.  St. Bartholomew holds his skin and a flaying knife; Saint Denis holds his talking head, and St. Lucy holds a plate with her eyeballs. Everyday Catholics are familiar with gruesome martyrdom stories, but I can imagine the wide-eyed reaction from first-time visitors who think displaying such figures is  weird, icky or sick.  To us it’s not idolatry. It’s an artistic representation that’s part of our heritage.

The ongoing sex abuse crisis has ALL Catholics scandalized. This includes not only the priests and religious that used the young and vulnerable for sexual pleasure and release but the bishops and others in the hierarchy who protected and covered up for them, and in some cases, were abusers themselves. On top of the sex abuse lies and hypocrisy, a second scandal involves the millions and millions in contributions and gifts that were used to fund decadent  lifestyles, hush money and settlements that were out of public view.  They were protected by opaque accounting practices and careerist clerics who kept their mouths shut.

Are any priests or bishops willing to forfeit their ecclesiastical careers and name names?  Release hidden records to newspapers and the local District Attorney?  Drag the scum out into the light of day?  The silence is deafening from the men who know.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pious Trash: Fr. LaCuesta’s Awful Funeral Homily

Posted by Censor Librorum on Dec 6, 2019 | Categories: Accountability, Bishops, Faith, Pious Trash, Scandals

“If we Christians are right in believing that salvation belongs to Jesus Christ, that it does not come from us–and that our hand cannot stop what God allows for us, then yes, there is hope in eternity even for those who take their own lives. Having said that, I think that we must not call what is bad good, what is wrong right. Because we are Christians, we must say what we know is the truth – that taking your own life is against God who made us and against everyone who loves us. Our lives are not our own. They are not ours to do with as we please. God gave us life, and we are to be good stewards of that gift for as long as God permits. The finality of suicide makes this all the worse. You cannot make things right again.” 

Read the whole homily here.

Those comforting, inspiring and hopeful words were spoken by a priest, Fr. Don LaCuesta, at the funeral Mass of a high school student who had committed suicide.  Fr. LaCuesta is the pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church in Temperance, Michigan. In discussing the service with the priest, the parents had asked that he focus on their son’s life. They also discussed some other arrangements for the service, including having his siblings cover his coffin with the pall.

None of that happened.  Instead, the family got blindsided with a lecture about the sinfulness of suicide and its awful consequences.  The family, relatives and classmates of the deceased were visibly distraught.  Many of them did not know the young man had committed suicide.  The father twice approached the pulpit asking the priest to stop the homily, but the priest refused and continued to the end of his sermon.

Since then, the story has received national attentionArchbishop Allen H. Vigneron, publicly reprimanded and sanctioned him.  The youth’s mother recently filed a lawsuit against Fr. LaCuesta and the Archdiocese which details their grievances. 

I’m not sure why Catholic conservatives always feel compelled to defend their brethren, even in nonsensical situations.  The Catholic World Report recently reprinted a column by Dr. Edward N. Peters about the incident entitled “God Bless Fr. LaCuesta.”  Dr. Peter’s comments certainly earned him Honorable Mention in this week’s Pious Trash award.

 

 

 

 

The Lady in Blue

Posted by Censor Librorum on Dec 1, 2019 | Categories: Faith, History

The Venerable Maria of Jesus of Agreda (1602-1665) was an abbess and mystic.  Her bilocation between her convent in Spain and native peoples in New Mexico, Texas and Arizona is legendary. 

Maria of Jesus spent her entire life within the confines of her family compound in Agreda, Spain. She never left her cloister. When Maria was twelve, her mother converted the home into a convent for herself and her daughters. When she was 25, Maria became abbess of this Franciscan Convent of the Immaculate Conception.

Sr. Maria is mainly known for three parts of her life: an 11-year period of bilocation to New Mexico and Texas; her correspondence of 22 years with King Philip IV and a four-volume work on the life of the Virgin Mary, titled the Mystical City of God.  She said the Virgin Mary herself dictated most of the material.  She was investigated by the Inquisition several times but exonerated. Her friendship with the king may have been an important factor in ensuring that outcome.

Maria said she first visited New Mexico in 1620. It was the first of more than 500 journeys or flights, sometimes as many as four in one day. They continued until 1631.  She did not know whether she traveled in the body or out of body.  They started when she expressed a desire to see and evangelize the native peoples.  They stopped, she said, when they had access to baptism and the Eucharist.

She spoke to people in Spanish but was understood.  She understood the languages native peoples spoke to her.  Because they did not know her name, they called her “The Lady in Blue” because of the blue cape or mantle she wore over her habit.

Sr. Maria was able to describe the plants and animals there, as well as the way people dressed and painted themselves. She described one landscape she visited as a place where two rivers meet.  In San Angelo, Texas, the Middle Concho River is joined by the South Concho River.  The current bishop of San Angelo, Bishop James Sis, said many of the native people in the area who are Catholic have a strong devotion to the Lady in Blue. 

In 1690, Franciscan priest Fr. Damian Massanet helped to create San Francisco de los Tejas, the first mission in east Texas.  In a report to the Viceroy, he relates an incident that took place during the expedition. While they were distributing cloth as gifts to the local people, their chief or “governor” as Fr. Massanet called him, asked for a piece of blue baize.  He wanted to use it as a shroud to buy his mother when she died.  Massanet writes, “I told him that cloth would be better, and he said that he did not want any other color than blue. I asked then what mystery was attached to the color blue, and the governor said that they were very fond of blue, particularly for burial clothes, because in times past a very beautiful woman visited them there, who descended from the heights, and that this woman was dressed in blue and that they wished to be like her.”

Two reports of a nun teaching the native people about Christ and Christianity reached the Archbishop of Mexico, Francisco Manzo y Zuniga about the same time. One report was from Maria’s confessor, Friar Sebastian Marilla, who contacted the Archbishop to learn if Maria’s report to him that she had mystically traveled to the southwest was true.  The other report came from missionaries in the territory who related how the natives sought them out under the direction of a Lady in Blue.  To determine the truth of the reports, the Archbishop assigned Friar Alonso de Benavides to investigate. Friar Benavides had arrived in New Mexico in 1626. He was a Franciscan priest of Portuguese descent. Charged by his order as Custodian (head) of the missions, Benavides toured New Mexico extensively, overseeing the establishment and strengthening of missions. 

In 1629 Benavides was sitting outside the Isleta Mission (south of Albuquerque, New Mexico) when a group of 50 natives from an unknown tribe approached him and asked that he send missionaries to their territory.  The travelers were Jumanos, and they had traveled a great distance from a place called Titlas, or Texas. The Jumanos said a woman dressed in blue had appeared in their midst and had taught them about the Jesus Christ and the Christian faith. She told them to ask for further instruction and baptism from the Franciscan missionaries. They knew where to find the Franciscan friars from the directions given to them by this Lady in Blue. Two missionaries were sent back with the Jumanos.  The friars found the people well instructed in the faith and baptized the entire tribe. 

Friar Benavides included this story in his famous 1630 Memorial, or report, which he personally presented to King Philip IV of Spain. This history of Spanish activity in the southwest included descriptions of the geography, culture of the native peoples, evangelization efforts, and the impact of contact with Spanish clergy, settlers and soldiers.  Benavides praised the abundant wildlife, arable land and potential mineral wealth of New Mexico.  It was a successful fund-raising document. King Philip IV continued to fully fund Franciscan missionary efforts in the region.

Benavides visited the abbess in Agreda in April 1631 and interviewed her over a period of three weeks. He wrote “she convinced me absolutely by describing to me all the things in New Mexico as I have seen them myself…She told me so many tales of this country, that I did not even remember them myself, and she brought them back to my mind.”  He even obtained the habit she wore when she went there.  “The veil radiates such a fragrance that it is a comfort to the spirit,” he wrote. 

Friar Benavides is primarily remembered for his 1630 Memorial which included the first mention of the Lady in Blue; and for bringing the religious statue of La Conquistadora to New Mexico.  On February 12, 1634, he presented Pope Urban VIII with a revised copy of his Memorial. In that edition Benavides urged that New Mexico be given its own bishop and a cathedral built in Santa Fe.  He actively lobbied for that appointment.  Instead, for some unknown reason, he was appointed as the new auxiliary bishop for the Portuguese colony of Goa. Benavides was last seen in Lisbon, taking ship for India.  After that, he disappears from history. He may have died crossing the Arabian Sea.

Another written testimony to the presence of Sr. Maria among the natives in Arizona comes from Captain Juan Mateo Mange, who traveled with Jesuit priests Eusebio Francisco Kino and Adamo Gil on the expedition to the Colorado and Gila rivers in 1699. The explorers questioned some elderly natives and asked whether they had heard stories about Don Juan de Onate, who passed through their region with soldiers and horses around 1606.  The people told the Spanish that they could remember hearing of such a group from the old people who were now dead. They added—without any prompting—that when they were children a beautiful white woman, dressed in white, brown and blue, with a cloth covering her head, had come to their land. She had spoken, shouted and harangued them…and showed them a cross.  Warriors had shot her with arrows, leaving her for dead.  She revived and disappeared into the air. They did not know where she came from or lived. After a few days, she returned again and then many times after to speak to them. 

Sr. Maria only mentions her bilocation in two documents written almost twenty years apart.  The first was a 1631 letter to Franciscan missionaries working in New Mexico to encourage them in their efforts to convert local people. She described her visits to native communities and the resistance to conversion by some members of these communities which feared Christianity as a source of evil. On several occasions the natives turned on her, and shot arrows at her, leaving her for dead. She said she felt the pain of the attacks, but when she would come to herself later in the Agreda convent there was no sign of wounds.

In 1650, Sr. Maria described her mystic journeys in a letter to Bishop Pedro Manero of the Inquisition.  In her letter she attempted to clarify some of the information included in Friar Benavides Memorial (or report) published in 1631. She argued that some of the descriptions he included were not false but had been exaggerated. She always maintained that she was unsure as to whether she had traveled in corporeal form or only in spirit, or whether it may have been an angel disguised as her.

Is there any truth to Sr. Maria of Agreda’s claims?

The native peoples of the southwest U.S. and Mexico had extensive trade and travel networks.  They also had contact with Spanish explorers, soldiers and religious since the 1530s—almost 100 years before Maria’s spiritual journeys.  It is probable they heard stories about Catholic beliefs, practices and veneration of the Virgin Mary. The Blessed Mother is often portrayed wearing a blue cloak in statues and art.  Cabeza de Vaca and his fellow shipwreck survivors, Esteban, Alonso Castillo and Andres Dorantes, sojourned with the Jumanos and other Pueblo peoples in their trek from Texas to Mexico.  They undoubtedly used Catholic prayers and blessings as part of their healing ceremonies as shaman-doctors.

Could the natives have witnessed a Marian apparition, like Our Lady of Guadalupe, or heard stories about Our Lady of Guadalupe?  She was also a beautiful woman dressed in a blue cloak.  She appeared to Juan Diego several times in 1531.  Stories of this apparition could have made their way north to other peoples. 

Another Spanish nun, Mother Luisa de Carrion (1565-1636) also claimed to have undertaken many visits to the native people of New Mexico.  Could it have been her?  In 1629 her cross was carried by Franciscan priest Francisco de Porras to a mission he established at Awatovi among the Hopi.  Mother Carrion fared less well with the Inquisition than Sr. Maria with her bilocation journeys.  She was forced to have her tongue measured “to determine if it was short, like a witch’s.” The political tensions and social fissions Fr. Porras caused by his proselytizing were resented by many tribal elders. Poison was suspected when he died in 1633.

Sr. Maria may have heard stories about New Mexico, the native peoples and Franciscan missionaries from travelers, pilgrims and others who visited Agreda.  I’m sure she yearned to go herself, but she was confined to a convent. In liminal space during prayer, Sr. Maria either took flight in her imagination, or really made the trip herself, bilocating to Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. I believe Sr. Maria bilocated at least once, traveling to the Jumanos people of Texas to direct them to the Franciscan missionaries to be baptized.

Who is the Lady in Blue?  Was it Sr. Maria of Agreda; an apparition of the Virgin Mary, or a composite legend with its root in an ancient mystical event?  Whatever the truth may be, she is an incongruous figure: a venerated woman in indigenous folklore, and a useful evangelist who helped promote Spain’s colonial ambitions in the 17th century southwest.