Posted in category "History"

John Rykener’s Confession

Posted by Censor Librorum on Apr 13, 2019 | Categories: Arts & Letters, History, Humor, Scandals, Sex

Many conservative Catholic pundits–and our former pope, Benedict XVI–are quick to blame Vatican II and secular society for loosened sexual morals, and fluid notions of gender and gender roles. Influenced by this permissive culture, they argue, clergy and religious began to relax their own attitudes on sex and homosexuality. But is this situation as “new” as the pundits and pope suggest?

In London in December 1394, John Rykener was arrested for having sex with another man. He was dressed like a woman when he was caught in the act of “committing that detestable unmentionable and ignominious vice.” In his confession, he said that he had been cross-dressing for months, and worked as a prostitute, servicing both men and women. He called himself “Eleanor.”  In addition to prostitution, he supported himself by working as an embroideress.  The woman who taught him to embroider also introduced him to prostitution. 

John Rykener worked as a prostitute in London, Oxford and Burford. He confessed to having sex with many people, including nuns and married and unmarried women. He said that he did not charge women for sex.  He also had sex with lots of men: students, married men, clerical officials, priests, Franciscans and Carmelites.  Rykener “accommodated priests more readily than other people because they wished to give him more.”  In addition to money, one Franciscan brother gave Rykener a gold ring.  He “also confessed that after (his) last return to London a certain Sir John, once chaplain at the Church of St. Margaret Patterns, and two other chaplains committed with him the aforementioned vice in the lanes behind St. Katherine’s Church by the Tower of London.”

Sound familiar?

There is no record of what became of John Rykener, or if he was prosecuted for sodomy in Church courts.

The the entire confession here.

John Rykener appears in Bruce Holsinger’s 2014 novel, A Burnable Book.

John/Eleanor Rykener’s confession was listed in the Plea and Memoranda Roll for the Corporation of London in 1395. The document was unearthed by Sheila Lindenbaum and edited by David Lorenzo Boyd and Ruth Mazo Karrar in 1995.  It was published in A Journal of Gay and Lesbian Studies, Vol. 1, pp. 459-465.

 

Did Frederic Martel Just Out Cardinal Raymond Burke?

Posted by Censor Librorum on Mar 26, 2019 | Categories: Accountability, Arts & Letters, Celebrities, History, Humor, Lesbians & Gays, Popes, Scandals

I think he did. 

Cardinal Raymond Burke is featured prominently in Martel’s new book, In the Closet of the Vatican – Power, Homosexuality, Hypocrisy. A central thesis of the book is that cardinals and bishops who make the strongest condemnations of homosexuality are more likely to be gay themselves; Martel describes this as part of their attempt to cover up who they really are.

Chapter 2, “Gender Theory” focuses on Cardinal Burke’s flouting of his extravagant liturgical regalia–the 12 metre/39 ft. red moire silk cape, the “cappa magna;” the velvet gloves, lace and vivid colors. His nickname in the Curia is “The Wicked Witch of the Midwest.” The cardinal’s assistant refers to him in the feminine:  “His Eminence has no office,” the young priest tells me. ‘Elle travaille chez elle.’ (She works at home.)  Julian Fricket, a drag artist the author interviewed, commented on Cardinal Burke’s “Liturgy Queen” appearance:  “What strikes me when I look at Cardinal Burke’s cappa magna, robes or hats topped by floral arrangements, is its overstatement. The biggest, the longest, the tallest: it’s all very typical of drag queen codes.” 

On page 28, Martel describes Cardinal Burke holding court: “How often we see him surrounded by young seminarians kissing his hand–also magnificent in that our Hadrian seems to follow the cult of Greek beauty, which, as we know, was always more male than female.  Winning both the admiration and laughter of Rome, Burke always appears surrounded by obsequious chaperones, Antinous-like figures kneeling in front of him or page boys carrying the long red train of his cappa magna, as choirboys might for a bride.”

“Cardinal Burke is the very thing he denounces,” a cleric close to (Pope) Francis states starkly. The same man believes the pope might have had Burke in mind in October 2017 when he denounced “hypocritical” priests with “make-up” souls. “On the outside,” Pope Francis stated, “they present themselves as righteous, as good: they like to be seen when they pray and when they fast and when they give alms. (But) it is all appearance and in their hearts there is nothing…they put make-up on their souls, they live on make-up, holiness is make up for them…Lies do a lot of harm, hypocrisy does a lot of harm: it is a way of life.”

I thought Pope Francis’ use of “make up” was an interesting choice of words.  Is that “make up” the way a woman will put on make up to make herself more attractive; or is it a clown? an actor? transvestite? Halloween costume? drag queen? They all might apply.

Cardinal Burke was described as “unstraight” in the book (page 29).  This definition describes a person who is a non-heterosexual or one who is sexually abstinent.  I don’t think Burke is sexually active, but I find the absence of females in his life, and his fixation with the sexual morality of homosexuality a little fishy.

In the Closet of the Vatican is the latest in a series of books, articles and published letters to attempt to name without naming closeted prelates in the Vatican and U.S. hierarchy. The authors flesh out their tales with stories of intrigue, corruption and hypocrisy among the cardinals, bishops and Vatican officials.  Some of the most notable include:

2019: In the Closet of the Vatican – Power, Homosexuality, HypocrisyFrench writer Frederic Martel tries to explain why the Catholic Church is filled with closeted, and mostly self-hating, gay men. If I were a gay Catholic man I would be very depressed reading this book.  A few dead prelates are identified, but most in the “Ring of Lust” around Pope John Paul II remain unnamed since they are still alive and politically lethal. The book is rich in rumor, gossip and innuendo. The publication date coincided with the Vatican’s sex abuse summit, officially the “Meeting on the Protection of Minors in the Church”, that was convened by Pope Francis and ran from February 21-24, 2019. You can bet this book was one of the main sideline conversations. 

2018: “Testimony” – A series of poison pen letters by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, former Apostolic Nuncio to the United States (2011-2016). These letters were released via several U.S.-based and conservatively  biased news outlets on August 22, September 29 and October 19, 2019.  Vigano focused on liberal or moderate prelates insinuating they were gay or soft on homosexual priests.  Vigano blamed the sex abuse crisis on gay priests and bishops.  He accused Pope Francis of protecting homosexual predators–particularly the former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and called on the pope to resign. Archbishop Vigano’s first letter was released during the Vatican’s World Meeting of Families in Ireland; and the 3rd on the observance of the North American Martyrs. The last date struck me as very dramatic and is probably key to Archbishop Vigano’s character.

2013: “The Vatican’s Secret Life, was published in December 2013 in Vanity Fair magazine by Michael Joseph Gross. The opening scene is in a sauna.

2012: His Holiness: The Secret Papers of Benedict XVI by Gianluigi Nuzzi was published in May 2012.  The title of the English ebook is Ratzinger Was Afraid: The Secret Documents, the Money, and the Scandals that Overwhelmed the Pope.  The book is based on confidential memos between Pope Benedict XVI and his personal secretary, Archbishop Georg Ganswein. The leaked documents ignited the “VatiLeaks” scandal.  The book is full of fractional infighting, jealousies, and bribes and donations made to procure a papal audience. VatiLeaks was also the source for homosexual scandals, including a claim that Gian Maria Vian, editor of L’Osservatore Romano, manufactured evidence that Dino Boffo, editor of L’Avvenire, had an affair with a married man and harassed his wife.  Boffo resigned, but later claimed his ouster was part of a power struggle in the hierarchy.  The fact-finding mission Pope Benedict XVI organized to investigate VatiLeaks produced a 300-page dossier describing a powerful network of homosexual prelates, some of whom were being blackmailed.  The report ultimately led to Pope Benedict’s resignation on December 17, 2012.  He was the first pope in 600 years to resign.

2006: The Rite of Sodomy: Homosexuality and the Roman Catholic Church was written and published by conservative writer Randy Engels.  This 1,282 page tone focuses primarily on dead homosexual bishops and cardinals in the American hierarchy before 2000.  There is a lot of material on John Cardinal Wright and Francis Cardinal Spellman.

2004: Vatican II, Homosexuality and Pedophilia by Atila Sinke Guimaraes.  Guimaraes is a traditionalist Catholic and manages the website Traditional in Action.  The book blames Vatican II and homosexuality for the downfall of Catholicism. He makes some points about the cover-up culture in the Vatican, and the alleged homosexuality of Pope Paul VI.

2003 – BishopAccountability.org – This site is dedicated to the victims and loved ones of clergy sex abuse. Constantly updated with new information, it is a good source of identifying homosexual cardinals, bishops, priests and other religious who were credibly accused of sex abuse or protecting abusers.

2002:  The Silence of Sodom: Homosexuality in Modern Catholicism was written by theologian Mark D. Jordan.  This book was published at the time the sex abuse crisis began to break in the U.S. It was also the period when Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger (the future Pope Benedict XVI) issued hostile and degrading statements about homosexuals, and their visibility in the church and society. In response, Mark Jordan set out to discover why a church filled with gay men was so homophobic and duplicitous. Jordan coined the term, “Liturgy Queen.”

1999: Gone with the Wind in the Vatican was originally published under the pseudonym “Millenari.” Monsignor Luigi Marinelli eventually admitted his involvement and said he had nine or ten other co-authors. The book was published in 200o in English with the title Shroud of Secrecy: The Story of Corruption Within the Vatican. The book offers an insider’s account of sex, corruption and intrigue. This steamy 288-page book describes all kinds of sexual scandals, and a Vatican culture dominated by favor swapping, careerism and back-stabbing. The main characters in the book were given pseudonyms from Margaret Mitchell’s novel, Gone with the Wind (1936).

The granddaddy and most outrageous of all expose writers, French author Roger Peyrefitte, wrote and spoke extensively about homosexuals in the Vatican.  He famously outed Pope Pius XII in his 1955 book, Les Clefs de Saint Pierre (The Keys of St. Peter).  In a 1976 interview with the Italian magazine, Tempo, he commented on a January 1976 homily by Pope Paul VI. Peyrefitte said the pope’s words were hypocritical and made this statement: “The second sin from which I feel I have been freed, after this grotesque papal speech is my homosexuality.  In my last book, Hunting Scenes, and in another, About the French People, I stated with all the respect due a Pope (especially when he is still alive) that he is homosexual. It is amazing that the papal speech (against homosexuality) was published at the same time as my book. Was Paul VI moved by a guilt complex? Buy why should he feel guilty? It is known that a boyfriend of Paul VI was a certain movie star*, whose name I will not give, although I remember him very well. He was an unknown actor when our friend Paul was Cardinal Montini, Archbishop of Milan. (*alleged to be Paolo Carlini)

Lots to ponder.  Especially the stomach-turning notion that most of Catholicism’s anti-gay rhetoric is produced by gay men themselves; with the permission of gay popes, or straight popes that are happy to take the money and men their gay minions raise for their causes. 

 

 

Becket 2020

Posted by Censor Librorum on Jan 8, 2019 | Categories: Accountability, Arts & Letters, Bishops, History, Politics, Popes, Saints, Scandals

The headline read: “Thomas Becket’s bloody tunic returns to Canterbury 850 years after he died. Vatican to send back historic relic worn by archbishop as he was brutally murdered.” In 2020, Canterbury Cathedral will mark the 850th anniversary of Becket’s assassination, and the 800th anniversary of the creation of his shrine.

Celebrating Becket

Canterbury Cathedral, where Becket was killed on December 29, 1170 following a series of bitter disputes with King Henry II, became a shrine after Pope Alexander III made Becket a saint three years following the murder. It drew thousands of pilgrims (think of Canterbury Tales by Chaucer) until the shrine was destroyed by King Henry VIII in 1538.   

Spotting a way to make money and draw visitors, Canterbury Cathedral is set to host a series of celebrations in 2020 to mark the anniversaries, including a joint church service by Catholics and Anglicans.

I wonder how they are going to navigate a potential P.R. nightmare: Archbishop Becket was killed because he refused to permit priests and others claiming clerical status to be tried in the King’s courts for rape, murder, theft and other serious crimes. This sounds a lot like the sex abuse scandals today–cardinals, bishops, church officials and popes refusing to turn criminal clerics over to secular authorities. Their top priority was to shield themselves and their priests from public exposure and civil justice. In the end their stance was about power, privilege and revenues. 

The 1964 film, Becket, starring Richard Burton as Becket, and Peter O’Toole as Henry II gave a sympathetic portrayal of Becket as a principled man standing up to civil authority.  Three decades of sex abuse scandals in the Catholic Church has ended portrayals of bishops as principled men.  Most people today would clap and cheer to see a bishop knocked down. They prefer to rely on civil authorities for justice, not shifty archbishops or opaque canonical courts.

The King’s Friend

Thomas Becket, also known as St. Thomas of Canterbury, was born in London in 1119 or 1120. His parents were both of Norman descent. Becket was a self-made man.  Recommended by Theobald of Bec, Archbishop of Canterbury, he was appointed Lord Chancellor in 1153 by King Henry II. They became very close friends. Henry even sent his son and heir, young Henry. to be educated in Becket’s household.  

Some clues can be surmised about Becket’s character from stories about him:  he was proud, vain, sensitive about his prerogatives and authority, but also warm and protective. He faced his death with courage and resolve. He sought to protect his monks from the knights who came to kill him.  Henry’s son said he received more fatherly love from Becket in one day than he did from his father, the king, in a lifetime.  Becket was described as dressing lavishly and extravagantly. While riding together through London on a cold winter’s day, King Henry saw a pauper shivering in his rags. He asked Becket if ht would not be charitable to give the man a cloak.  Becket agreed that it would. The King grabbed Becket’s expensive fur cloak and a tussle ensued.  The King finally succeeded in ripping it away and threw it to the beggar.  Becket was very unhappy and offended.

Archbishop of Canterbury

Everything changed in 1162, when Archbishop Theobald of Canterbury died and his seat became vacant. King Henry immediately saw an opportunity to increase his influence over the church by naming his loyal adviser and friend, Thomas Becket, to the highest ecclesiastical post in the land. The pope agreed on his selection. In preparation for his appointment, Becket was ordained a priest on June 1, 1162.  The next day he was ordained a bishop, and later that afternoon made Archbishop of Canterbury.  

Becket changed on becoming Archbishop of Canterbury. He defended the rights of the church. He exhibited concern for the poor. He became an ascetic. He wore a filthy hair shirt under his vestments.  This change is a great mystery, for which none of the chroniclers agree on an answer. Why did Becket evolve from a greedy and luxury-loving man, a loyal chancellor and friend, to a obstinate and contentious churchman?  Did he take his appointment seriously?  Was it an opportunity to be independently powerful from his friend, King Henry? Or did he really have a spiritual awakening and conversion?  I have no answer, but lean toward the idea he found his vocation.

The Benefit of Clergy

The big fissure between King Henry and Archbishop Becket came over “the benefit of clergy” (Privilegium Clericale). When accused of a crime members of the clergy could claim they were outside the jurisdiction of secular courts and be tried in an ecclesiastical court under canon law instead. This usually resulted in a much lighter sentence or punishment. King Henry was determined to increase his control over the church by eliminating this custom. He wanted clerics convicted of serious crimes to be handed over to civil authorities for punishment. The church hierarchy disagreed, arguing that this would undermine the principle of clerical immunity.  

Two violent crimes brought the problem to a head. A cleric in the diocese of Worcester was accused of mudering a man in order to rape his young daughter. King Henry ordered the man to be tried in a civil court. Becket intervened, commanding the Bishop of Worcester to put the man in an episcopal prison and not allow royal officials to touch him. In another notorious case, Philip of Bois, a canon of Bedford, was acquitted in the court of the Bishop of Lincoln on the charge of murdering a knight. Pushed by the family of the knight seeking justice, the Sheriff of Bedford attempted to re-open the case in a royal court.  He was resisted, and furiously abused by Philip, the Bedford canon.  Henry angrily demanded justice on the charge of homicide and on an additional charge of contempt. Becket attempted to solve the problem by banishing Philip for a few years, but the whole affair merely showed the inadequacy of canon law in punishing murderers, rapists and thieves.  

The rift between the two men grew. King Henry felt betrayed.  Archbishop Becket distrusted the motives of the king. The conflict became bitterly personal.  Becket went into exile in France. Henry finally got to Becket through the archbishop’s pride. On May 24, 1170, the king had his son, Henry the Younger, crowned at Canterbury by the Archbishop of York. Becket could not stand the snub to the prestige of his office, and two months later the king and archbishop agreed to a compromise which allowed Becket to return and re-crown Henry’s son in a second ceremony.

While in France, Becket excommunicated the Bishops of Salisbury and Lincoln for their support of the king. He excommunicated the Archbishop of York for leading the first coronation. He refused to absolve them. More conflicts arose, and Henry, exasperated and enraged, uttered the final, fateful words: “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest? What miserable drones and wretches have I nourished and brought up in my household, who let their lord be treated with such shameful contempt by a low-born cleric!”

Murder in the Cathedral

There are several contemporary accounts of what happened on Tuesday, December 29, 1170.  Edward Grim, a clerk from Cambridge who was visiting Canterbury Cathedral gave an eyewitness description. Grim tried to protect Archbishop Becket, and nearly had his arm cut off by one of the knight’s swords.  He published his account as Vita S. Thomae (Life of St. Thomas) in 1180.

Four knights first entered the cathedral near dusk without weapons. They left them outside by a tree. The knights were escorted in by one of Becket’s monks, Hugh de Horsea, later renamed “Hugh the Evil Clerk.” Becket was informed that four men had arrived to wished to speak with him. He consented to see them. The knights sat for a long time in silence. They confronted Becket and demanded he return with them to Winchester to give an accounting of his actions.  He refused. After that the knights retrieved their weapons, and with drawn swords rushed back inside the cathedral for the killing.

“The bell for vespers began to sound, and the archbishop, with his cross borne in front of him, made his way as usual into the cathedral. Hardly had he reached the ascent to the choir than the noise of armed men and the shout of the knights announced that the pursuers were at hand. “Where is the archbishop, where is the traitor!” resounded through the hollow aisles, mingling strangely with the recitation of the psalms in the choir.  Becket, hearing this, turned back a few steps, and calmly awaited their approach in the corner of the northern transept before a little altar of St. Benedict. “Here,” he cried, “is the archbishop, no traitor, but a priest of God.” All the clergy present abandoned Becket and fled the cathedral. Only the young clerk from Cambridge, Edward Grim, stayed with him.

The knights surrounded him. “Absolve,” they shouted, “and restore to communion those you have excommunicated and restore their powers to those whom you have suspended.” He answered, “I will not absolve them.”

“With rapid motion they laid sacrilegious hands on him, handling and dragging roughly outside the walls of the church so that there they would slay him or carry him from there as a prisoner, as they later confessed.” Becket struck the incendiary spark. He pushed against the most aggressive of the knights, Sir Reginald FitzUrse, calling him a pimp or panderer, and chiding him saying, “Don’t touch me Rainaldus, you who owe me faith and obedience, you who foolishly follow your accomplices.” The rebuff was too much for an enraged FitzUrse. He swung his sword at Becket, but only knocked off his skullcap.  Sir William de Tracy struck next, cutting off the top of Becket’s head, and with the same blow cutting deeply into the arm of young Edward Grim, who was holding Becket protectively. Becket received a second blow on the head from FitzUrse and fell to the stone floor. Then the third knight, Sit Richard de Brito (or Sir Richard de Breton) “inflicted a grave wound on the fallen one, with this blow he shattered the sword on the stone and his crown, which was large, separated from his head so that the blood turned white from the brain yet no less did the brain turned red from the blood; it purpled the appearance of the church with the colours of the lily and the rose, the colours of the Virgin and the Mother and the life and death of the confessor and martyr…” Sir Richard de Brito cried, “Take that, for the love of my lord William, the King’s brother!” when he delivered the fatal blow. William FitzEmpress, the count of Anjou, was Henry’s youngest brother. It was believed by William’s friends that he died of a broken heart after Thomas Becket refused to allow his marriage to Isabel de Warenne, Countess of Survey.  

The fourth knight, Sir Hugh de Morville, drove away onlookers who were gathering so the other knights could finish off Becket. The fifth man, Hugh de Horesa, a Canterbury monk, “placed his foot on the neck of the holy priest and precious martyr and, horrible to say, scattered his brains and blood over the floor, exclaiming to the rest, “Let us away, knights; he will rise no more.”

Becket’s body lay on the floor for several hours. Sometime before midnight, Gilbert, the chamberlain, entered the church and tore off a strip of his surplice to cover Becket’s mutilated head.  The monks collected the scattered brains and placed the body on a bier in front of the high altar. They also cordoned off the area to block a growing crowd of onlookers, who were tearing off pieces of their garments and dipping them in Becket’s blood.

Cures and Pilgrims

Miracles attributed to Becket’s blood began almost immediately. On the night of the murder, one man took home a piece of bloody cloth to his sick wife who was instantly cured. Reports of similar cures followed in the next few days, mostly involving poor and sick local women.

In the following months, as people came to the cathedral to offer thanks, two monks wrote down the reports of cures. They were Benedict of Peterborough and William of Canterbury. Each man took a different approach. Benedict recorded many cases of poor women, widows and the sick, most of whom lived in the area. William began writing in 1172, when the shrine was becoming fashionable, and focused on wealthy and powerful men. He grouped miracles into types (healing, driving out demons, finding lost items) and the stories became increasingly fantastic. He claimed a Breton woman taught a starling to invoke St. Thomas, and when a kite seized the bird it repeated this phrase and the kite dropped dead, releasing the starling.

The Fate of the Knights

King Henry II did not punish the knights for the murder. He advised them to flee to Scotland.  After a short stay, they went to Sir Hugh de Morville’s castle of Knaresborough in Yorkshire. All four were excommunicated by Pope Alexander III on Holy Thursday, March 25, 1171–three months after Becket’s murder.

The knights traveled to Rome and sought an audience with Pope Alexander, who despite their penitence, declared they should be exiled and fight in Jerusalem “in knightly arms in The Temple for 14 years.” After their service was completed, the pope instructed them to visit the holy places barefoot and in hair shirts and live alone for the rest of their lives on the Black Mountain near Antioch, spending their time in vigil, prayer and lamentation.  The pope meted out a pretty harsh punishment to the four knights, considering they all had expressed contrition and made amends through various donations and endowments in Becket’s name.  No one seems to know exactly what happened to the knights. According to one account, they went to Jerusalem and never returned.  They were buried under the portico in the front of the Knights Templar Round Church built on the Temple of Solomon.

In other accounts, Sir Reginald FitzUrse fled to Ireland, where he fathered the McMahon clan. Sir William de Tracy died of leprosy in Italy on the way to the Holy Land. Sir Richard de Brito may have gone to the island of Jersey. Horsea the Evil Clerk disappears from history. Sir Hugh de Morville’s story has two possible endings.  He went on pilgrimage to Jerusalem and died in 1173. In 1174 his lands passed to his sister, Maud.  He was owner of Pendragon Castle, which according to legend, was built by Uther Pendragon, father of King Arthur. A Hugh de Morville also appears in the service of King Richard I, or Richard the Lionheart as a crusader. De Morville was named the king’s hostage in 1194 when King Richard had been captured by Leopold V, Duke of Austria. This Hugh de Morville provided an Anglo-Norman poem to lay priest and author Ulrich von Zatzikhoven for his romance, Lazelet. Nothing more is heard of de Morville.  His sword was said to have passed to Carlisle Cathedral and was displayed for hundreds of years as The Becket Sword.  The sword disappeared during the Reformation.  Ironically, it was the only sword not used on Becket.

Becket 2020

Canterbury Cathedral will be celebrating the 850 years of Becket’s martyrdom in 2020. They have a special section o on their website – Becket 2020 – detailing events, resources, partner institutions and branding requirements.  Becket’s bloody vestments will undoubtedly be the most popular attraction.  

2019 and 2020 will see continuing stories in Great Britain and elsewhere on cardinals and bishops who protected sexually abusive priests and “criminous clerks” (to use King Henry’s phrase); or indulged in sinful and criminal behavior themselves with few or no consequences.  800 years ago, King Henry attempted to try clerics charged with serious crimes in civil courts but failed.  The cultural and political power of the Catholic Church was too strong.

The ethic of clerical immunity has remained in the institutional Church to this day; but their most potent weapons of excommunication and ban of the sacraments have no impact on today’s public prosecutors, appointed or elected officials.  The Catholic Church is not the church of Christendom anymore and has lost much of its moral authority in Europe, as well as the Americas–home to most of the world’s Catholics.  The Benefit of Clergy culture has brought the global church to such a crisis ta the pope has had to intervene to save it.

On February 21-24, 2019 Pope Francis will be convening a meeting at the Vatican of the heads of all the bishops’ conferences around the world to discuss the clerical sex abuse scandals and the importance of child protection.  One of the action plans will be on the process of turning over bishops and clergy to secular authorities when they have been credibly abuse of abuse, or hindering investigations of abuse.  Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago, one of the meeting’s organizers observed:  “Pope Francis is calling for radical reform in the life of the Church, for he understands that this crisis is about the abuse of power and a culture of protection and privilege, which has created a climate of secrecy without accountability for misdeeds,” he said, adding that “all of that has to end.”

I wonder what the martyred Archbishop Becket would have to say about that?  

 

 

Too Late for a Christmas Card

Posted by Censor Librorum on Dec 24, 2018 | Categories: Faith, History, Lesbians & Gays

Every year for 20 years or so we received a Christmas card from our friend, Peggy C. By the time we received the last one we hadn’t seen one another in years, but Peggy was faithful and we always heard from her during the holidays. When I didn’t hear from her after a year or two I pulled out my address book and sent her a card. No response. In 2014 my card came back–no one at that address. I wanted to try again this year and googled her name and last address. In the results I saw Peggy’s executrix sold her apartment in 2014. That was it. Too late for a Christmas card.

I wasn’t as faithful as Peggy about sending Christmas cards. For many years Christmas was little but a mountain of stress: the year-end rush of work, shopping, dinner, managing emotional expectations, a constant blare of noise and rushing around and piped in holiday music. I got to hate Christmas and could hardly wait for it to be over. Christmas cards were at the bottom of the list. Too often I ran out of energy or enthusiasm to do them.

But I always liked to get them, and really appreciated the little notes sharing a happy memory or the latest news. I also appreciated Peggy’s constancy. I heard from her every year.

I started to think about Peggy as I made up my Christmas greeting list this month. I haven’t seen or spoken to her in almost 25 years, but she is so present for me every Christmas. I remember Peggy as a tall, very nice, refined and poised woman. She had dark blond year. One year she legally changed her name from her father’s to her mother’s–some unhappy story there. Peggy was quiet and had a very calm personality. She lived in the Murray Hill section of Manhattan for decades. When I asked a friend about her memories of Peggy, she said Peggy taught deaf students in the public school system. After she retired, she studied at the Interfaith Center on Riverside Drive. She was also a heavy smoker. Perhaps this had something to do with her death.

I met Peggy at a meeting of Catholic lesbians at the Lesbian & Gay Community Center on West 13th Street. The CCL-Center Group met monthly from 1985 to 1995. Peggy took over the mailing list from me when I had to choose between lesbian activist and hockey mom. Peggy was there at every meeting whether two or twenty women showed up.

What I learned from Peggy is the value of faithfulness. There was a card from her every year whether I reciprocated or not. She is my inspiration when I pick up my pen to write a note in each Christmas card, letting someone know I am thinking of them with love and affection, and they are remembered in this happy and holy time of year.

 

 

Lip Service: John Cardinal Wright Gives Himself a Celibacy Dispensation

Posted by Censor Librorum on Nov 21, 2018 | Categories: Accountability, Bishops, History, Lesbians & Gays, Scandals

“Relations between (Cardinal) Cushing and (Bishop) Wright were not always smooth. When Cushing was told Wright had his eye on the episcopal throne Cushing growled, “He may have his eye on it, but I’ve got my ass on it..” And Wright suffered from another major liability; among insiders he was believed to be a homosexual, a trait tolerated in cosmopolitan Rome, but a severe handicap in puritanical Boston.” Anthony Lukas, Common Ground.

“Here it is worth revisiting the career of Cardinal John J. Wright (1909-1979) who, like (Cardinal Theodore) McCarrick, was the subject of numerous stories about his own sexuality.  Again, these came mostly from former seminarians and priests of the Pittsburgh (PA) diocese, which had a reputation during Wright’s decade there as a haven for actively gay clerics. That was especially true of the Pittsburgh Oratory, which Wright founded in 1961 as a religious center ministering to Catholic students attending the city’s secular universities.” Kenneth L. Woodward, “Double Lives-The Peril of Clerical Hypocrisy” Commonweal

The life and career of John Cardinal Wright is a perfect example of how a sexually active homosexual priest or bishop can rise to the top and stay there:  an entrenched protective brotherhood (much like police departments) and a tacit understanding that whistle-blowing is a career killer.

This protective ethic applies to heterosexual bishops/cardinals, too:  the Chicago Sun-Times detailed financial and other scandals associated with John Patrick Cardinal Cody of Chicago (1965-1982).  A contemporary of Cardinal Wright, Cody was alleged to have a mistress, a step-cousin he grew up with, Mrs. Helen Dolan Wilson. Over a million dollars went missing from the Chicago Archdiocese from accounts Cardinal Cody controlled; and four million in a single year when he was  treasurer of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.  A chunk of money is believed to have been diverted to Helen Dolan Wilson for furs, a house in Boca Raton, Florida, a luxury car, expensive clothes, holiday cash presents and loans to her children.  When Cody died the investigations were dropped.

John Cardinal Wright was a controversial figure because of his strong espousal of social justice causes such as the civil rights movement and opposition to the Vietnam war; and his steely resistance to other causes, including married priests, the ordination of women, and birth control.  He felt being a “social liberal” was entirely compatible with being a “theological conservative.”  

As a child, he became a Francophile after hearing World War I soldiers talk about France, and he began a collection of books about Joan of Arc that eventually ran to 6,000 volumes.  He memorized French folk songs and poetry and became enamored of Debussy’s music.  Because of his intellectual background, Cardinal Wright always felt himself to be apart from the American tradition.  “I joined the body of bishops but went my own way,” he once said.  “For instance, I never went to funerals or played golf.  I’m still a little bit of a maverick.”

In 1950, at the age of 43, Wright became the first bishop of a new diocese in Worcester, Massachusetts.  Prior to his appointment he had been an Auxiliary Bishop of Boston.  His clerical career climb had started, and so did the sillage from his episcopal sex life.

On March 30, 2005, a lawsuit was filed against the Dioceses of Springfield and Worcester, MA by William E. Burnett, 64, accusing five priests and two bishops, all deceased, of sexual abuse.  The abuse took place from 1950-1959.  According to Burnett, his abuse by Bishop Wright occurred mainly between 1952-1955, when he was 11 or 12 to his early teens.  The sexual encounters took place at a private lakeside retreat owned by Burnett’s uncle, Monsignor Raymond Page, who served as a priest under Bishop Wright in Worcester.  In her 1,318-page tome, The Rite of Sodomy – Homosexuality and the Roman Catholic Church, Randy Engels details the sexual threesomes in the chapter, “The Secret Life of Bishop John Wright.”

“Burnett stated that the abuse ritual began with drinks, a coke for him and coke and alcohol for Page and Wright. Wright would then undress him, fall on his knees before the standing boy and cover him with kisses–feet, penis, nipples and lips.  He and Page would then undress and while the later stimulated Wright from behind, Bill would fellate the bishop.  When Wright neared ejaculation, he would turn Bill around and sodomize him.  Then Page took his turn raping his nephew.  On another occasion, Burnett said, Bishop Wright and Page engaged in simultaneous oral copulation.  While Bill looked on, he was told to begin masturbating.  Then Wright turned to Bill and said he wanted to “drink me in.” Wright then fellated him to orgasm.  Bill said he never forgot those words.  Burnett said Bishop Wright encouraged him to study for the priesthood for the Diocese of Worcester when he graduated from high school.”

Bill Burnett was described as a “schoolteacher turned bank robber” in a July 16, 1991 article in the Houston Chronicle. He was sentenced to life in prison for murdering Kenneth Gardner, a retired businessman, in a Houston motel on September 23, 1989. Burnett was 48 at the time of the murder and living in Texas.  He had already served time in federal prisons for seven bank robberies.  During some of those robberies he pistol-whipped or sexually molested women tellers.

Burnett passed two polygraph tests on his allegations.  The Diocese of Worcester said it had been made aware of Burnett’s claims “several years ago and had investigated the claims with members of his family and by a thorough investigation of diocesan records.”  Family members cast doubt on Burnett’s story, and the Diocese could not find anything to deem it credible.  The Springfield Diocese said nothing in its records corroborated the allegations.

Bishop Wright arrived as the new bishop of Pittsburgh in 1959.  He was closely involved with cutting-edge social and religious issues of the day.  He encouraged his priests to be active in promoting civil rights for African-Americans.  He advised President John F. Kennedy on ecumenical issues and relationships.  During the Second Vatican Council Bishop Wright strongly supported the statement on religious liberty, Dignitatis Humanae, which was seen by many as a departure from Church tradition.  He also urged the Church to take a clear stand against racism and for ecumenical dialogue.  

In 1962 Bishop Wright released a joint statement with Episcopalian Bishop Austin Pardue condemning the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Engel v. Vitale to eliminate prayer in public schools.  “A powerful, aggressive spirit of secularism is abroad in our land,” they wrote.  “It filters through all levels of society for the purpose of eliminating God from our national life.”  The specter of secularism would be raised again decades later by conservative bishops in Catholic culture wars in the United States and Europe.

Many observers of the U.S. episcopal scene expected Bishop Wright to succeed Richard Cardinal Cushing as Archbishop of Boston, who was due to retire on his 75th birthday.  Instead, in May 1969, Pope Paul VI appointed Wright as prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy and named him a cardinal.  Kenneth L. Woodward, the former religious editor for Newsweek (1964-2002), reflected on the appointment in his October 26, 2018 article in Commonweal, “Double Lives – The Peril of Clerical Hypocrisy.”

“In 1969, at the age of 60, Pope Paul VI chose Wright to head the Congregation for Clergy in Rome and elevated him to cardinal. It was there, in the frenzied initial years of the post-council era, that I first heard stories of his leading a double life rather openly with a younger lover.  What interests me now is not the private details of this double life, but whether it influenced how he ran the congregation overseeing the selection, training, and formation of the clergy.”  

Wright enjoyed the trappings of his post in the Vatican.  He shared his fifth-floor apartment with his secretary, the Rev. Donald Wuerl, who he brought with him from Pittsburgh.  The apartment was said to be crammed with stereo equipment and many books.  Cardinal Wright enjoyed long conversations over a large dinner of pasta and said he “confessed to Romanitis.”

One of the first things he did at the Vatican was to suggest that all priests renew their vows of celibacy and ecclesiastical obedience each year.  On February 9, 1970, the Congregation for the Clergy issued a circular letter on priestly renewal that said: “It is desirable that every priest should make an act of renewal on Holy Thursday morning.” This act of renewal, it stated, “should be a reaffirmation of the act by which he consecrated himself to Christ and has undertaken to fulfill the obligations of his priesthood, particularly celibacy and of obedience to his Bishop or religious superior.”  Few priests or bishops responded to his request.  The Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York was attended by only 35 of about 1,200 priests who had been invited.  The meager response was regarded as an embarrassment to the Vatican.  Numerous other dioceses in the U.S. and Europe ignored the request, not wanting to stir up controversy in the face of mounting criticism of mandatory celibacy. The Rev. Charles Curran, a theologian at Catholic University in Washington, D.C., was quoted as saying, “Why is it that when they want to test us, it’s always about celibacy and obedience – never on anything basic like faith, hope and charity.”

The Fr. Ginder sex scandal broke at the end of Bishop Wright’s watch in Pittsburgh.  A native of Pittsburgh, Fr. Charles R. Ginder had been a priest of the diocese since his ordination in 1940. According to his semi-autobiographical novel, Binding with Briars – Sex and Sin in the Catholic Churchhis homosexual activities began in 1949.  From the late 1940s to the mid-1960s, Fr. Ginder was a popular syndicated columnist and writer.  He contributed a weekly column, “Right or Wrong” to Our Sunday Visitor, a weekly Catholic publication with over a million subscribers. He also served for several years as the dioceses’s Censor Librorum.  

In 1969 police officers raided Fr. Ginder’s apartment in the Squirrel Hill district of Pittsburgh, and found photographs of teenage boys performing sex acts with each other, Fr. Ginder, and other men, possibly other priests from the diocese. They also took Fr. Ginder’s diaries, which chronicled his sexual encounters.  Diocesan attorneys interceded for Fr. Ginder and he was released from jail and put on ten-years probation.

Fr. Ginder’s name pops up on BishopAccountability.org, a website that logs clerical sex abuse charges and convictions; and in the August 14, 2018 Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report on clerical sexual abuse and cover up in all the state’s dioceses.  Of the 301 credibly accused priests in the report, the highest number, 99, were from the Diocese of Pittsburgh.  The resulting public firestorm was to bring down Cardinal Donald Wuerl–Cardinal Wright’s secretary, protege and a former bishop of Pittsburgh–two months after the report’s release.

After a long illness, John Cardinal Wright died on August 10, 1979.  He was 70 years old.  At the time of his death, he was the highest ranking American prelate in the Vatican.  His funeral Mass, at Holy Name Church in the West Roxbury section of Boston, was attended by 11 cardinals, countless bishops, priests, dignitaries, government leaders and friends. Archbishop Jean Jadot, Apostolic Delegate to the United States, was one of several concelebrants.  The principal celebrant was Humberto Cardinal Medeiros, the Archbishop of Boston, who returned from a trip to Ireland for the funeral.  John A. Volpe, former Governor of Massachusetts and Ambassador to Italy, read one of the epistles at the service.

Bishop Vincent M. Leonard of Pittsburgh, eulogist at the funeral, emphasized Cardinal Wright’s scholarship and love of teaching.  “Every opportunity to teach he accepted,” Bishop Leonard said. “And when his legs could no longer carry him to the podium, pulpit or altar, we has satisfied to use a pen and rely on the mails and printed word.” He went on to describe Cardinal Wright as a “great priest in the biblical sense of the word, a devoted shepherd of the flock committed to him in Worcester and Pittsburgh and a loyal and obedient son of Holy Mother Church.  His death is a great loss to church and community.”  Pope John Paul II sent a message praising Wright for “loyal service to the church and fidelity to the See of Peter.”  The pope said, “He will long be remembered with admiration and gratitude.”

Cardinal Wright has been buried almost 40 years, but his lifestyle as a closeted, sexually active prelate still exists and causes problems today.  Here’s why:

Blackmail – Pederast priests, or priests who seduce, pressure or have sex with teenagers, students, young adults and others take their cue from the example set at the top.  If a priest had sex with the bishop, or knows about priests, seminarians, youngsters or rent boys the bishop has used for sex, he can be confident the bishop won’t crack down on him when gossip about his sex life makes the rounds.  In addition, illicit sex opens the cleric up to blackmail by criminals, tricks, past lovers and others.

Hypocrisy – How can a cardinal or bishop preach celibacy and chastity but also engage in sexual activity? Obviously, they have worked it out in their own minds that it’s OK for them to have sex.  However, the laity–especially gay and lesbian Catholics– must stay within the boundaries of Catholic conventional morality.  This hypocrisy destroys their credibility, the credibility of their teaching and office, and negatively impacts the authority and perception of bishops as a group.

Stupidity – Rather than complain about the large numbers of homosexuals in the priesthood, why not change it and permit women deacons and ordain married men? In his position in the Congregation for the Clergy, Cardinal Wright knew how many priests left to marry–hundreds of thousands of them.  Enforced celibacy is the reason many men do not pursue a vocation.  Continuing with a limited pool of candidates for the priesthood will draw what they fear most: immature, fearful homosexuals who secretly pursue their desires.

Delusional – In this age of cellphone cameras and text message trails, digital news and opinion, aggressive public prosecutors, angry and skeptical coreligionists, and editors and publishers who won’t be cowed—nobody is getting away with anything.  To think a secret life is safe is delusional.

Modern day Cardinal Wrights should not be giving themselves special dispensations to indulge in homosexual sex that they heartily condemn in others.  Liberal or conservative, we need to drag them out in the open.  The trouble is..will there be enough left to run things?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tainted Love: The North American Martyrs

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

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

Saving Souls in the New World

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

The North American Martyrs

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

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

Suspicions of Sorcery

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

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

Capture and Death 

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

Rescue and Return

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

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

Shrine of the North American Martyrs

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

The World in Which They Lived

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

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

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

Who Were the Martyrs?

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

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

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

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

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

What Did the Wendats and Mohawks Think?

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

How the Martyrs’ Story was Revived

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

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

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

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

Personal Reflections

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

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

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

Additional Reading

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Curious Letter of Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano

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

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

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

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

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

Is that true?  Really?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hell hath no fury…….

 

 

Sr. Gorgeous

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Vatican Shocks Consecrated Virgins With New Ruling On Virginity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All this brings us to several questions:

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

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

Is anything hidden from Christ, including our secrets?

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

1 Thessalonians 5:23

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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