Posted in category "Politics"

The Book of Matt

Posted by Censor Librorum on Jan 9, 2014 | Categories: Arts & Letters, Celebrities, History, Lesbians & Gays, Politics, Scandals

Veteran journalist Stephen Jimenez unearthed a sleazy story in his book, The Book of Matt: Hidden Truths About the Murder of Matthew Shepard.” An investigative journalist, he spent 11 years researching his story, and had access to formerly sealed court documents.  Book-of-Matt

Matthew Shepard is a gay icon and martyr, allegedly murdered by two men for his sexual orientation. The grisly murder happened in Laramie, Wyoming in October 1998.  Shepard, 21, was a college student, and he was killed by two men he met in a bar. He was pistol-whipped with the barrel of a .357 magnum. Then the two men hung him, barely alive, on a fence, in a pose resembling a crucifixion.

Matthew Shepard died of exposure and his wounds six days later, a victim of homophobia.  Or was he? Here’s an unsettling element: one of the murders, Aaron McKinney, a bisexual hustler, had sex with Shepard weeks before the murder.

Shepard certainly could have been beaten and killed by a man in a homophobic rage…but he may also have been killed in a sex-for-drugs exchange gone badly. His death might not be a hate crime after all, but a drug dealer casualty. In the book Jimenez claims Matthew Shepard was a crystal meth addict, and was killed by McKinney, another dealer and trick strung out on meth and in desperate need of money.

The “gay panic” defense of Aaron McKinney, the killer, was a made-up story in hopes of getting a more lenient sentence.

Jimenez was asked why he dug up the story: “As a gay man,” he said, “I felt it was the right thing to do.” “To understand who Matthew Shepard really was,” said Jimenz, “to alter our perception of him as a martyr and an icon, is not going to be damaging to gay rights.”  stephen-jimenez_200

I agree, and commend Stephen Jimenez coming forward with his story. The real conversation about Matthew Shepard should be about young gay men (and women) who do drugs, and why drug and alcohol use is still so embedded in gay culture. That could save some lives.

 

 

 

 

 

Busy Week at Notre Dame Cathedral

Posted by Censor Librorum on May 26, 2013 | Categories: Dissent, Humor, Lesbians & Gays, Politics

Wednesday morning I was having my morning coffee and thumbing through the New York Post when I spotted this item on the bottom right of page 12: “Paris suicide vs. gay rights.” I took a bite of my English muffin and read on.

The blurb stated that Dominique Venner, 78, placed a pistol in his mouth and committed suicide beside the altar in Notre Dame cathedral in protest of the legalization of gay marriage in France. dv

Mr. Venner, a presenter on a Catholic-traditionalist radio station and controversial historian, posted an essay on his website earlier in the day calling for “new, spectacular and symbolic actions to shake us out of our sleep, to jolt anaesthetized minds and to reawaken memory of our origins.”

The cathedral, which is celebrating its 850th anniversary this year, was evacuated and immediately closed to the public for several hours. A cathedral security guard tried to revive Mr. Venner as he lay beside the altar.

“We did not know him, he was not a regular at the cathedral,” said the rector, Monsigneur Patrick Jacquin.  He added that as far as he knew, this was the first suicide within the cathedral since it was founded. “We will pray for this man as we pray for so many others who are at their wits’ end,” he said.

The next day, a topless activist of the FEMEN movement was arrested inside Notre Dame for staging a fake suicide.  femen

The bare-chested woman was photographed in front of the altar, pointing a fake gun in her mouth. The slogan “May Fascists rot in Hell” was written across her torso.

On its Facebook page, FEMEN France called the topless activist “FEMEN’s angel of Death.” The group called upon “all European Nazism, in the face of all their underhitlers and halfmussolini, to follow the example of the ultra-right man Dominique Venner and immediately commit a suicide of their believes excluding themselves from the political area in Europe.” The statement added, “Hurry up, there is not so much place left on the sacrificial altar of Notre-Dame de Paris.”

In case you are wondering, the Censor Librorum finds both of these events cringe-worthy.

Venner’s use of sacred space as a stage for suicide is the most spectacular form of selfishness I have ever seen. The follow up performance by an exhibitionist mocking his suicide was almost as bad.

And I thought  we had nuts in New York!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tanchelm

Posted by Censor Librorum on Sep 3, 2012 | Categories: Dissent, History, Politics, Saints

I stumbled on the name of Tanchelm thumbing through my copy of Magnificat. He was featured prominently in a story about St. Evermod, a bishop who died in 1178.  Evermod was inspired to devote his life to God after hearing a sermon given by Saint Norbert, the founder of the Premonstratensian order. Evermod became a priest  of Norbert’s order and was chosen to accompany him on a jorney to Antwerp to counter the followers of Tanchelm, an itinerant preacher who had been murdered a decade before by a priest.

“The city was at the time in a state of ferment due to the heretical preaching of Tanchelm,” the Magnificat huffed, “a man of depraved morals who attacked the hierarchy and the church’s teaching on the sacraments, particularly the Holy Eucharist.”

Evermod remained in Antwerp to combat Tanchelm’s “propaganda.” His apostolic zeal earned him an eventual sainthood, as it did St. Norbert, who is often pictured with a foot on Tanchelm holding a monstrance.  Tanchelm’s heresy were his attacks on the doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. 

Who was Tanchelm that he made two bishops saints in their attempts to overcome his preaching?

Tanchelm was born around 1070. He might have been Flemish, but was probably a native of the Netherlands. He traveled to France, Germany and Rome. Most of what we know about him came from those opposed to him, for Tanchelm did not leave behind any writing that has survived. Tanchelm began preaching during a time of agitation and pontifical reform, with furious arguments and political maneuvering over clerical marriages and sexual liaisons, simony, and canonical investiture by feudal authorities. He was active in a wave of church reform that started in the High Middle Ages and culminated in the Reformation 400 years later.

Tanchelm was supposed to have been a monk, perhaps a notary or officer from the circle of Count Robert II of Flanders (1092-1111), famous from his crusading days as “Robert of Jerusalem.” The exact relationship between the count and Tanchelm is not clear. Both Count Robert II and his overlord, Louis VI of France. were interested in weakening the ecclesiastical power of the Holy Roman Emperor in the low countries.  The power of the emperor rested to a large extent on the support of the bishops, especially Cambrai, Cologne and Utrecht.

In 1111 Count Robert II dispatched Tanchelm and the priest, Everwacher, to Rome to persuade Pope Pascal II to incorporate Zeeland into a French diocese. Frederick I, archbishop of Cologne, caught wind of the plot and intervened.  The pope rejected the petition, and Talchem and Everwacher returned home.

After his return from Rome Tanchelm began his ministry. There is no direct knowledge of his motivations, but some authors have speculated that while he was in Rome he absorbed the principals of the Gregorian Reforms, initiated by Pope Gregory VII, circa 1050-1080, which dealt with the moral integrity and independence of the clergy.

Gregory VII  attacked the practice of simony – the purchase of church offices. This precipitated the investiture controversy; kings were selling clerical and church offices at great personal gain. In 1074 Gregory VII published an encyclical absolving the people from obedience to bishops who allowed married priests. In 1075, he enjoined them to take action against married priests, and deprived these clerics of their revenues.

Dressed in his monk’s habit, Tanchelm began to preach.  Many people came to hear him, and his following grew. People were drawn to him by his compelling personality and oratory. He began preaching in 1112 in the Low Countries (Belgium, the Netherlands, parts of northern France and western Germany).

It was in Antwerp that he made his deepest mark. The spark that set him off was the “concubinage” of a priest named Hilduin with his niece. He stepped into a vacuum of spiritual leadership: people were disgusted with with the morals of their spiritual guides and were drawn to Tanchelm’s criticism of the established church. It was also a time of the first stirrings of social discontent against the feudal privileges of nobles and clergy.

Tanchlem rejected obedience to bishops and priests. He preached against the payment of tithes. Some sources say Tanchelm told people to reject the sacraments, saying they were better named pollutions than sacraments. In another version, he said the virtue of the sacraments depended on the virtue of the minister, and that polluted priests could only administer polluted sacraments.  The chapter of Utrecht also reported with horror that Tanchelm had said that “the churches of God are to be considered whorehouses.” It is more likely what Tanchelm really said is that the priests were so impure they turned churches into brothels.

The prime source of information on Tanchelm is a May 16, 1112 letter from the clergy of Utrecht to Archbishop Frederick of Cologne telling him to take Tanchelm into custody and not release him for any reason.  He was briefly put under arrest in Cologne in 1113/1114, but released in spite of protests by the cathedral clergy of Utrecht.

The hierarchy of Utrecht circulated many tales about Tanchlem to support their denouncements:

-He dressed in golden clothes, with strands of gold curled in his hair

-Claimed to be guided by the Holy Spirit, and conducted a ceremony in which he “married” the Virgin Mary

-His followers venerated him, and drank his bath water as a blessing or sacrament

-His inner group was a guild of 12 men lead by his blacksmith friend, Manasses. Probably chosen as a bodyguard, they were known as “the Apostles.” Added to this number was a woman named “Blessed Virgin” with whom the Apostles had intercourse as kind of a confirmation ceremony. The Apostles carried his regalia and sword in procession.

-Tanchelm deflowered young girls in the presence of their mothers

-Men offered up their wives and children to Tanchelm’s lust.

To what degree the above accusations have some basis in truth-or are total fabrications–is unknown.  It seems clear that Tanchelm was a very charismatic man, and encouraged his personality cult.

In 1115 he was bludgeoned or stabbed to death by a priest during a river trip.  One scholar has implicated the Archbishop of Utrecht in his murder.

Tanchelm doesn’t have an exact contemporary in our age, even if the societal unrest, currents of church reform, the involvement of church hierarchy in politics, the attempts by secular rulers to use bishops in their schemes, all have an echo in our era.

St Norbert arrived at Antwerp eight years after Tanchelm’s death to evangelize the city away from his followers.  Apparently, he did not censure, judge or condemn when he addressed people, which probably contributed to the success of his mission.  “Brothers, do not be surprised and so not be afraid,” he preached. “Unwittingly, you have pursued falsehood thinking it to be the truth. If you had been taught the truth first you would have been found effortlessly tending toward salvation, just as you now effortless lean toward perdition.”

Norbert of Xanten is portrayed as a reformer of the clergy and siding with reformist popes over lay investiture.  But his ministry started on a political track opposite Tanchelm’s.

His father, Heribert, Count of Gennep, was related to the imperial house of Germany. Norbert was a secular canon at St. Victor’s Collegiate Church in Xanten and was ordained subdeacon without making an effort to live the clerical life. Somewhere between 1108 and 1109 he became chaplain at the court of Archbishop Frederick of Cologne and already in 1110 he was a chaplain at the court of Emperor Henry V. He accompanied the emperor to Rome in 1111.

In the spring of 1115, while riding to the village of Freden, he was thrown from his horse during a sudden thunderstorm. This event gave Norbert the impetus to change his way of life. He gave up his chaplaincy at the court and dedicated himself to meditation and living a life of poverty. Feeling he was called to priesthood, he presented himself to the Bishop of Cologne, from whom he received Holy Orders.

Norbert would have to have heard 0f, and perhaps even met, Tanchelm in Rome or while he was being held in custody by his patron, Federick, Archbishop of Cologne.

It is interesting to speculate what the men might have said to each other.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pastoral on Mine Safety

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Cardinal Castrillon’s Letter Comes Back to Haunt Him

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Arch Conservative Bishop Resigns Under a Cloud

Posted by Censor Librorum on Sep 11, 2009 | Categories: Accountability, Bishops, Dissent, Politics

The megalomanic bishop of  Scranton, Pennsylvania, stepped down  on August 31, 2009.   Even the Pope had enough.   martino

Ordinary Catholics had expressed their opinion on his leadership: the Diocese of Scranton’s annual fundraiser fell $274,000 short of its $5.3 million goal–the first time in the two decades since the establishment of the annual drive the diocese did not reach its goal.

Critics of the bishop’s management of the diocese – including his ongoing efforts to consolidate schools and churches – say at least part of the fundraiser’s shortfall was caused by parishioners who withheld donations out of protest.

Pope Benedict XVI accepted the resignation of Bishop Joseph F. Martino, 63, from the pastoral governance of the Diocese of Scranton for “health reasons.”

Watch a video of the press conference here.

At the press conference, Martino himself alluded to the divisions his style had brought to the diocese, and the toll it had taken on him mentally and physically: “For some time now there has not been a clear consensus among the clergy and people of the diocese of Scranton regarding my pastoral initiatives or my way of governance.   This development has caused me great sorrow, resulting in bouts of insomnia and, at times, a crippling physical fatigue.”

“I seek forgiveness from anyone whm I may not have served adequately as bishop, due to my human limitations,” Martino said, adding later, “As the song says, you have to know when to hold them and when to fold them. And I think it’s time to move on.”

This controversial bishop, who gained national prominence for his strident pro-life advocacy and aggressive criticism of pro-choice Democratic politicians, was still more than a decade away from reaching the Church’s automatic retirement age of 75. Martino’s abrupt resignation, along with the fact he was not reassigned to another post within the Church–but ushered to a rural retreat center–has some church insiders suggesting that the highly unusual move was far from voluntary–and quite possibly the work of a Vatican that has been decidedly less openly critical of the Obama Administration.   Church insiders also say Martino had worn out his welcome with his brother bishops in the U.S., as he began to totter dangerously over the line of separation of Church and State with his demagogue pronouncements on  his Catholic teaching.

Martino’s departure came just weeks after the Archbishop of Santa Fe became the first Church leader to speak out publicly about the increasingly political behavior of a small minority of bishops within the conference. Archbishop Michael Sheehan told the National Catholic Reporter on August 12 that he spoke out during the bishops’ meeting in June, arguing that they risked “isolat(ing) ourselves from the rest of America by our strong views on abortion and the other things. We need to be building bridges, not burning them.”

From the start of his six-year tenure in Scranton, Martino alienated many with his abrasive style. He frequently clashed with the local Catholic universities–including the Jesuit-run University of Scranton–and was dismissive of their ruling bodies, arguing as bishop he would not heed their advice.

Martino seemed to take special pleasure in catigating institutions and individuals that he felt were failing to represent Catholic values.

Last February, Martino blasted another local college, Misericordia University, for inviting Keith Boykin, an openly-gay author, Clinton administration staffer and Harvard Law classmate of President Obama, to speak on campus. The university, run by the Sisters of Mercy, was “seriously failing in maintaining its Catholic identity,” Martino charged.   He also sought to close down the institution’s program on diversity. boykin

Also in February, Martino sent a letter to the leaders of three Irish-American organizations threatening to  close St. Peter’s Cathedral in Scranton during St. Patrick’s Day celebrations if groups “honor pro-abortion officials” by inviting them to speak or otherwise be honored during events in which the church might be involved.   Ultimately, the Mass was held, but not before he again threatened to shut the cathedral if members of the local Catholic teachers’ union were invited to march in the St. Patrick’s Day parade.   Bishop Martino refused to recognize the union.

During the 2008 presidential campaign Bishop Martino focused particular attention on vice presidental nominee Joseph Biden, the Scranton’s native son and Catholic Democrat. The bishop declared that Biden would be denied Communion if he tried to receive it at any church in the diocese, which covers the northeast corner of the state. “I will be truly vigilant on this point,” said Martino.   And he warned his parishioners there would be dire consequences for supporting Biden and the Democratic ticket.   In October, just prior to the election, Martino directed that a letter be read at all Sunday Masses, charging that a vote for a pro-choice politician was the same as supporting “homicide.”

Bishop Martino also called on priests and Eucharistic Ministers to act on their own to deny Communion–the central element of Catholic belief and worship–to any public officials “who persist in support for abortion and other intrinsic evils.”

One of major incidents contributing to Martino’s downfall came when he showed up unannounced as a voter-education forum at a Honesdale parish. Martino took the microphone and proceeded    to criticize the organizers for discussing a comprehensive election guide, “Faithful Citizenship,”  endorsed by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, instead of the letter he had drafted for the diocese on abortion.

When a nun at the forum reminded Martino that Faithful Citizenship had been prepared and endorsed by the entire bishops’ conference Martino responded, “No USCCB document is relevant in this diocese. The USCCB doesn’t speak for me,” he declared. “The only relevant document…is my letter. There is one teacher in this diocese, and these points are not debatable.”

Such comments didn’t endear him to the parishioners who organized the forum, or to his immediate superior, Philadelphia Cardinal Justin Rigali.   As the head of the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities, Rigali is just as opposed to abortion as Martino.   But he is a much more politic figure. holdinghat

Many think Martino finally overstepped this spring when he started training his sights on Bob Casey, Jr., the Democratic senator from Pennsylvania and a staunchly pro-life Catholic. Casey’s late father, the former governor of Pennsylvania, is still revered by Catholics for speaking out against the Democratic Party’s support for abortion rights. Bu that didn’t stop Martino from sending Casey letters–also issued as press releases from the Diocesan office–warning the sentor that his oppostion to abortion was insufficient. In one such letter, Martino wrote that Casey “persist(s) formally in cooperating with the evil brought about by this hideous and unncessary (abortion) policy” and suggested that the senator could be denied Communion in the Scranton diocese.

The situation came to a head this spring, when King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, PA invited Senator Casey to speak at its commencement ceremony. Objecting to Casey’s vote to confirm former Kansas governor Kathleen Sebelius (a Catholic who supports abortion rights) as Secretary for Health and Human Services, Martino said it was “sad and disappointing” that the college chose to honor a Democrat who could not “muster the courage” to oppose “the pro-abortion agenda.”

Two days before Casey’s address at King’s College, Cardinal Rigali issued a statement “applauding” the senator for introducing legislation to promote policies that encourage women facing unplanned pregnancies to carry their babies to term. In the highly ritualized world of Church communication, the Cardinal’s announcement was akin to a public smackdown of Martino.   One month later, Martino was summoned to Rome, and submitted his resignation.   It was formally accepted in July, and he was out by the end of August.

During his farewell press conference, Martino was unapologetic. “I did what my mother told me to do,” Martino said. “She would also say, ‘Well, you do the right thing.’ And my conscience is clear.” He said he wasn’t trying to become a rallying point for the most vociferous foes of abortion, but he defended them saying they are often too readily dismissed by the media and even within the church because of their “passion.”

He praised vocal pro-lifers as “very dear to the Lord” because of their outspokenness, and said “bishops should encourage” them as they try to “overturn a profound cancer in our society, this sin, frankly, of murdering 50 million people (referring to the number of abortions since Roe v. Wade in 1973).   I think we have become quite blase about that, and that scares me very much.”

“By the world’s standards perhaps I have not been successful here,” Martino concluded. “But I did what I thought was right.”

Clearly, not everyone agreed with that self-assessment.

The bishop’s high-profile controversy, and reports of low morale among the diocese’s parishioners and priests, did not go unnoticed around the country and in Rome, church observers say.

“It’s not the people who left the church that bothers Rome,” said Joseph K. Grieboski, a Scranton native and founder and president of the Washington, D.C.-based Institute on Religion and Public Policy. “It’s the people who stayed and are disaffected.

“People who are going to leave are going to leave no matter what, and the bishop became an excuse. It’s the people who stayed and said, ‘I stayed despite him,’ that’s what bothered Rome and that’s what bothered his fellow bishops.”

 

Spicy Stories, Snits, Snubs and No Perdonanza

Posted by Censor Librorum on Sep 5, 2009 | Categories: Accountability, Bishops, Celebrities, Dissent, Humor, Lesbians & Gays, Politics, Popes, Scandals

A few days ago, Pope Benedict XVI asked the Italian Bishops’ Conference for an “assessment” after the editor of its newspaper, Avvenire, was accused by another publication of homosexual behavior and harassment.

“His Holiness has asked for information and an assessment of the current situation,” said a statement posted last week on the website of the bishops’ group, which publishes the daily Avvenire.

Yesterday, Dino Boffo, director of the Italian Catholic newspaper Avvenire, resigned–ostensibly in the wake of a tumultuous feud with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. dino-boffo

The row erupted after Boffo ran a series of stories in Avvenire that criticized the immigration policies and personal life of the prime minister.

Letters from readers complained that a Roman Catholic newspaper had a moral duty to denounce divorce, consorting with teenage girls, naked poolside parties and the prime minister being caught on tape telling a prostitute to wait for him in “Putin’s bed” while he showered.

Boffo, the editor, began to weigh in. “People have understood the unease, the mortification, the suffering this arrogant neglect   of sobriety has caused the Catholic Church,” Boffo wrote last month.

Under cover of a paper owned by his brother, Paolo Berusconi, the prime minister retaliated.

Under a front page banner headline, Il Giornale, ran an article accusing Avvenire, the official newspaper of the Italian Bishops Conference, of running a “moralistic campaign” against Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, 72. The article went on to scrutinize Dino Boffo, 57, Avvenire‘s top editor, claiming he had a homosexual affair and had accepted a plea bargain in 2004 for harassing the wife of his lover.

The Il Giornale article openly admitted that the article was in response to Boffo’s criticisms of Berlusconi’s private life, and called Boffo a hypocrite.

In a statement, Mr. Boffo described the report as an “absurd” attempt to smear his reputation. Mr. Boffo described himself as “the first victim” in the 2001 harassment case. He didn’t elaborate on the matter.

After the story appeared, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State and deputy to Pope Benedict XVI, telephoned Mr. Boffo to offer his “solidarity.”

He was joined by Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, the Archbishop of Milan, who said he had offered Mr. Boffo his “esteem and gratitude.”

Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, the head of the bishops conference, described the attack on Mr. Boffo as “disgusting.”

Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, former secretary to the late Pope John Paul II and now Archbishop of Krakow in Poland, said it was “the first time a Catholic paper has been attacked with such violence.” He added that he was “very worried by the moral decadence into which Italy is sliding because of the behavior of certain important political leaders.”

Il Giornale ‘s attack escalated when another editorial aimed at the Catholic Church itself, mocking not just the “hypocrisy” of sexually active priests with “weak flesh,” but even the “Mitteleuropean” accent of Pope Benedict XVI, a German.

Earlier in the week Il Giornale reported how Dino Boffo had been successfully sued by a woman who claimed that he had tried to steal her husband from her in 2001. The matter, which involved a couple from Terni, near Perugia, was settled out of court in 2004 with Boffo agreeing to pay a small fine.   The article claimed Boffo had been listed by police in  document as a gay man “noted for this kind of activity.” (It’s not clear–harassment or chasing married men??)

The story dragged in the Italian goverment with Robert Maroni, the Interior Minister, was forced to telephone Mr. Boffo to assure him no such police document existed.

Officials said the alleged police document appeared in reality to be an “anonymous letter” sent to Italian bishops earlier this year.

Prime Minister Berlusconi and his allies had hoped to patch up his relationship with the Catholic Church after months of articles linking Berlusconi with teenage models and “spicy” parties. He denied he paid for sex after an Italian prostitute went public with claims that she slept with Mr. Berlusconi at his residence in Rome.

“Gossip isn’t enough to crucify someone,” Vittorio Feltri, the editor of Il Giornale wrote.

In April, the premier’s wife announced plans for a divorce, accusing him of “consorting with minors.”

“I’ve never had ‘relations’ with minors and have never organized ‘spicy parties,’ retorted Berlusconi. “I’ve simply taken part in engaging dinners which were absolutely in line with morality and elegance. And I’ve never knowingly invited anyone to my house who was not a serious person,” the premier told Il Giornale.

After photos of scantily clad guests and a naked man partying at his Sardinian home were published, Berlusconi then found himself embroiled in an escort scandal when Patizia D’Addario claimed she and other women were paid by Bari businessman Gianpaolo Tarantini to attend parties at the premier’s residences. 19patrizia9

Berlusconi admitted that he was “no saint” after the left-leaning daily La Repubblica and sister weekly Espresso posted audio takes and transcripts that it alleges are of conversations between the premier and a call girl on their websites.

Friends of the prime minister warned him he is wadding into dangerous waters with the church that could harm him politically. Many Italians care about what candidates have its normally implicit support. The church generally supports candidates on the right, like Mr. Berlusconi, making the current confrontation that much more unusual and significant.

But Berlusconi’s popularity has started to drop in the polls, and he appears deeply worried about further damage, especially from moderate Catholic voters.   This week he announced he was bringing defamation lawsuits against several publications that have been critical of him, part of what his critics and allies alike   worry is a dangerous trend toward treating any criticism as disloyal and possibily illegal.   (Hmmmm…does this sound familiar in some Church circles??!!)

As part of an effort to mend relations with the Vatican, Mr. Berlusconi had planned to attend a high profile religious service and dine with the Vatican’s No. 2 official when the Holy See issued a statement withdrawing the dinner invitation. The statement also said that Mr. Berlusconi wouldn’t attend the service, known as the “Perdonanza,” or the annual day of pardon for sins. perdonanza-celestana-aquila

Mr. Berlusconi’s plans to attend the Perdonanza was seen by the Italian public as a gesture in the direction of atonement.

The service was established in the 13th century by Pope Celestine V, who decreed that anyone who entered the basilica on August 28 and 29 could receive a plenary indulgence–if they have already confessed to their sins in private and taken Communion.

In its statement, the Vatican said Mr. Berlusconi’s dinner plans with Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who officiated Friday’s service, was called off partly out of concern that the meeting woul be “exploited.” The Vatican official said the Holy See didn’t want to be viewed as giving a “benediction” to Mr. Berlusconi’s political positions and his personal life.

The situation become more complicated and shaded when Gian Maria Vian, editor of the Vatican’s semi-official daily, L’Osservatore Romano, didn’t speak out on behalf of Boffo in an interview with the Italian newspaper Il Courier della Sera. giovanni-maria-vian-vatic-001

Vian restated the decision of the Holy See’s newspaper not to write about Berlusconi’s private life because the paper is international and is not designed to cover controversies in Italian politics.

Vian further expressed his opinion that some recent editorials in Avenire were exaggerated when, for example, one article compared the government’s position on immigration to that of the Italian administratin prior to the Holocaust.

The comments of Vian were interpreted   as constituting a point of contention between the Vatican newspaper and the Italian Bishops’ Conference. Benedict XVI sought to dispel any ideas of a rift by personally calling Cardinal Bagnasco, president of the conference, and affirming his esteem for the episcopal body.

Both in articles published in Avvenire,as well as in the letter to Cardinal Bagnasco tendering his resignation, Boffo, who is married, insists on his innocence and states that Il Giornale‘s accusations are not true.

He thanked the Church for its support, but aded that it “has better things to do than strenuously defend one person, even if unfairly targeted.”

Boffo said he believes the attacks against him are due to the fact that Avvenire is a voice that is independent of “secular power.” He asks, “What future of liberty and responsibility will there be for our information?”

Cardinal Bagnasco expressed in a communique gratitude to Boffo “for the commitment shown over many years with competence, rigor and passion, in fulfilling such a precious assignment for the life of the Church and of Italian society.”

The cardinal also expressed his “closeness and support” to the former director. ppbagnasco230608

Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco was in the news a few years ago when he claimed that permitting gay marriages was merely the beginning of slippery slope.   “Why then say ‘no’ to incest? Why say ‘no’ to the pedophile party in Holland?” he asked.

Draw your own conclusions.


 

“Caritas in Veritate” Stuns Catholic Conservatives

Posted by Censor Librorum on Jul 14, 2009 | Categories: Arts & Letters, Politics, Popes

There were no chorus of  “Huzzahs!” from American  Catholic conservatives for Pope Benedict XVI’s latest encyclical, Caritas in Veritate (“Charity in Truth”).   The Vatican released the document on July 7, 2009 – just a day before the opening of the Group of Eight meeting in Italy and the week of  president Obama’s visit with the pope.

In fact, there was very little coverage of it at all in conservative Catholic blogs and websites, except for a few who thought Pope Benedict had been hijacked by the Peace and Justice crowd, and that the liberal media gave short shrift on the pope’s passage on family protection and bioethics.  In fact, in this document the pope linked economics to modern cultural issues. And  ethics.

The pope used Caritas in Veritate primarily  to criticize the current economic system, “where the pernicious effects of sin are evident” he growled. The pope urged financiers in particular to “rediscover the genuinely ethical foundation of their activity” and also called for “greater social responsibility” on the part of business. “Once profit becomes the exclusive goal, if it is produced by improper means and without the common good as its ultimate end, it risks destroying wealth and creating poverty.” pope-signing

“Today’s international economic scene, marked by grave deviations and failures, requires a profoundly new way of understanding business enterprise,” Benedict stated. “In the search for solutions to the current crisis, development aid for poor countries must be considered a valid means of creating wealth for all.”

John Sniegocki, a professor of Christian ethics at Xavier University in Cincinnati, said one of the most controversial elements of the encyclical, at least for some Americans, would be the call for international institutions to play a role in regulating the economy.

“One of the things he’s saying is that the global economy is escaping the power of individual states to regulate it,” Mr. Sniegocki said. He also said the encyclical also contained elements “very critical” of how the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank “have required cuts in social spending in the third world.”

Caritas in Veritate has infuriated George Weigel, a conservative Catholic intellectual close to Pope John Paul II. Weigel ventured that this social encyclical is a hybrid, “blending the pope’s own insightful thinking on the social order with elements of the Justice and Peace approach to Catholic social doctrine…There is also rather more in the encyclical about the redistribution of wealth than about wealth-creation–a sure sign of Justice and Peace default positions at work.”

“Indeed,” he goes on, “those with advanced degrees in Vaticanology could easily go through the text of Caritas in Veritate, highlighting those passages that are obviously Benedictine with a gold marker and those that reflect current Justice and Peace default positions with a red marker.” (Get it…red marker…commie, pinko, socialist, bleeding heart liberal…sigh.)

Trying to come to terms with this awful document, Weigel opines: “Benedict XVI, a truly gentle soul, may have thought it necessary to include these multiple off-notes, in order to maintain peace within his curial household.”

However, that pat on the head for Pope Benedict doesn’t change anything.   In fact, a clue to how he really feels about our unbridled, Bush-era  American capitalistic system–and how that opinion is reflect in Caritas in Veritate, came several months before the release of the encyclical during a question-and-answer session with 400 priests ministering in Rome.   This session was reported by Zenit, the official Vatican new agency.

A pastor from a poor neighborhood asked how church members could do more to push for a real reform of the global economic system. Pope Benedict said he did not want to give a simplistic answer to a complicated question about the reality of global finance and said that, in fact, the complexity of the current situation is what delayed the publication of his social encyclical, tentatively titled Caritas in Veritate.

On the level of global economic systems, the pope said almost every person in every country is feeling the consequences of “these fundamental errors that have been revealed in the failure of the large American banks; the error at the basis of it is human greed.”

“We must denounce this (system) with courage, but also with concreteness because moralizing will not help if it is not supported by an understanding of reality, which also will help us understand what can be done concretely to change the situation,” he said.

While the global financial system must be reformed, the pope said, individuals also must accept the fact that they will have to make some sacrifices in order to help the poor and move the world toward justice. “Justice cannot be created only with economic reforms, which are necessary, but it also requires the presence of just people,” Benedict said.

Zenit reported that Lesley-Anne Knight, the secretary-general of Caritas Internationalis, a Catholic agency  “committed to combating dehumanizing poverty that robs people of their dignity and to promoting the rights of the poor,” said in a press release that the encyclical, which reflects on Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Populorum Progressio (“The Development of Peoples”) “highlights how a blind pursuit of profits over ethics had become detrimental to people and the planet.”

Knight continued: “The crisis exposed systemic failures generated by careless speculation for the benefit of a handful of people and at the expense of millions of poor families. But the crisis offers a unique chance to refashion globalization to work for the majority.”

Read Caritas in Veritate here.

 

Outrage, The Movie

Posted by Censor Librorum on May 28, 2009 | Categories: Arts & Letters, History, Lesbians & Gays, Politics, Scandals

outrageDoes anyone, infamous or not, deserve to be outed?   Do they have the right to privacy, but not a right to hypocrisy,” as openly gay Rep. Barney Frank believes?

“Outrage,” a new documentary from filmmaker Kirby Dick, takes issue with the secret lives of closeted gay politicians–especially conservative Republicans   who outwardly oppose gay rights.   See the “Outrage” trailer here.  

It’s long been considered socially unacceptable to “out” closeted gay politicians.   “Outrage” makes the argument that when they take positions harmful to millions of gay people, it’s unacceptable to let them stay in the closet. “Traitors to their people” is how one person in “Outrage” describes politicians who live gay lives in secret while campaigning and voting against gay rights in public.

The film features interviews with former New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey; Washington Blade editor Kevin Naff (who tells the story of how he met FOX News anchor Shepard Smith in a gay bar); David Phillips, the DC IT technologist who tells his story about sleeping with Sen. Larry Craig in graphic detail); muckraking  BlogActive blogger Mike Rogers, journalist and author, Michelangelo Signorile, and many more.

The public has developed an increasing appetite for private details in public lives, and the press are no longer sticklers for convention. Bad news for closeted conservatives.

If a closeted politician or religious leader is too outrageous in his condemnation of homosexuality, he may well find himself   in the daily paper or headlining  the six o’clock news.   This is what happened to the  Rev.  Ted Haggard, a fundamentalist minister who was head of the largest evangelical church in America, and a powerful  voice for  evangelicals nationally.  

Mike Jones, the male prostitute Haggard paid for sex and drugs, said he made his  outing allegations against Haggard in response to Haggard’s political support for a Colorado Amendment 43 on the November 7, 2006 ballot that would ban same-sex marriage in that state. Jones told ABC News “I had to expose the hypocrisy. He is in the position of influence of millions of followers, and he’s preaching against gay marriage. But behind everybody’s back [he’s] doing what he’s preached against.”

Catholic leaders–including bishops and cardinals–were also exempt from public scrutiny until the advent of the clergy sex abuse scandal broke everything open.   Since then, such powerful figures as Legionaires of Christ head Fr. Marcial Maciel, Cardinal Hans Hermann Groer of the Archdiocese of Vienna, Austria and Archbishop Juliusz Paetz of the Archdiocese of Poznan, Poland have all been dragged into newspapers with accusations they abused young priests, seminarians, monks and youths.

Michelangelo Signorile is a gay American writer and national talk show host. His article, “Cardinal Spellman’s Dark Legacy”  was published by New York Press on April 23, 2002.   Read the whole article here.  It details the hypocrisy of New York Archbishop Francis  Cardinal Spellman’s known, but closely guarded, gay life. cardinal-spellman

“Two Sundays ago,” the article begins, “the rector at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Monsignor Eugene Clark, gave a homily that inspired the kind of PRIEST BLAST GAYS headlines that New York’s tabloids thrive on. Standing in for the embattled Cardinal Egan, Clark blamed the sex abuse scandals on gays, railed against homosexuality as a “disorder” and said it was a “grave mistake” to allow gays in the priesthood.”

“Yet, among the several skeletons in gay-basher Clark’s closet is that he in fact dutifully worked as secretary for one of the most notorious, powerful and sexually voracious homosexuals in the American Catholic Church’s history: the politically connected Francis Cardinal Spellman, known as “Franny” to assorted chorus boys and others; who was New York’s cardinal from 1939 until his death in 1967.”

“The archconservative Spellman was the epitome of the self-loathing, closeted, evil queen, working with his good friend, the closeted gay McCarthy henchman Roy Cohn, to undermine liberalism in America during the 1950s’ communist and homosexual witch hunts.”

“During Spellman’s reign and long afterward, all of New York’s newspapers in fact cowered before the Catholic Church. On Spellman’s ordered New York departmen stores–owned largely by Catholics–pulled ads from the then-liberal New York Post in the 1950s after publisher Dorothy Schiff wrote commentary critical of his right wing positions; Schiff was forced to back down on her positions.”

“In the original bound galleys of former Wall Street Journal reporter John Cooney’s Spellman biography, The American Pope–published in 1984 by Times Books, which was then owned by the New York Times Co.–Spellman’s gay life was recounted in four pages that included interviews with several notable individuals who knew Spellman was a closeted homosexual.”

“Among Cooney’s interview subjects was C.A. Tripp, the noted researcher affiliated with Dr. Alfred C. Kinsey of the Institute for Sex Research, who shared information that he had on Spellman regarding the prelate’s homosexuality. In a telephone interview with Tripp last week, he told me that his information had come from a Broadway dancer in the show One Touch of Venus who had a relationship with Spellman back in the 1940s; the prelate would have his limousine pick up the dancer several nights a week and bring him back to his place. When the dancer once asked Spellman how he could get away with this, Tripp says Spellman answered, “Who would believe that?”

“U.S. ambassor to Ireland and friend of the Church, William V. Shannon, reviewed The American Pope for Book Review. Shannon’s review was scathing, attacking Cooney for even bringing up the subject at all: ‘Prurient interest in the sex lives of public figures serves no useful purpose.'”

“A Jesuit priest wrote a letter to the Book Review, published a few weeks later: “Cardinal Spellman’s sex life does not matter, but (his) homosexuality does…It matters to thousands of people whose jobs, relationships and whose very lives are threatened because of their sexuality, all the while being forced to view and eat the hypocrisy of their church. And it enrages people that church men and women can retain their jobs, hiding behind their clerical and religious statutes while their own people suffer persecution, disease and discrimination.'”

“Sadly, the Jesuit’s words still ring true today, almost 20 years later. While Spellman has long been dead, his legacy of hypocrisy lives on: there are closeted homosexuals –often condemning ‘sexual immorality’ publicly while having gay sex privately–throughout the uppermost echelons of the church today.”

My personal opinion: the Censor Libororum feels closeted lesbians and gays are entitled to their privacy whatever their personal opinions…. the threat of “outing” a relationship or sexual situation has been used by unscrupulous or jealous people for revenge, profit or politics.   It happened to me.  (See my LCSW post on June 10, 2006 – “Edward Murphy of The Stonewall Inn” for another example.)

However, if elected leaders  and members of the hierarchy are sexually active gays and lesbians, and homophobic in public statements, I firmly believe they should get the hook out of the closet, and join the people they are condemning at the pillory.

 

The Investigation of the LCWR

Posted by Censor Librorum on May 15, 2009 | Categories: Accountability, Bishops, Dissent, Faith, Politics

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), an association that icludes the leadership of most U.S. women’s congregations, is under investigation by the Vatican.

Cardinal Levada said the assessment of the LCWR will be conducted by the Bishop of Toledo, Ohio, Leonard P. Blair. Bishop Blair is a member of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Doctrine. levada

The Vatican assessment became necessary, according to Levada, because at the 2001 meeting between LCWR and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which took place in Rome, the women were invited “to report on the initiatives taken or planned” to promote the reception of three areas of Vatican doctrinal concern: the 1994 apostolic letter Ordinatio sacerdotalis, the 2000 declaration Dominus Jesus from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and “the problem of homosexuality.”

Cardinal Levada informed conference leaders:   “Given both the tenor and the doctrinal content of various addresses given at the annual assemblies of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious in the intervening years, this Dicastery can only conclude that the problems which had motivated its request in 2001 continue to be present.”

The National Catholic Reporter, an independent newspaper, said the Vatican ordered the probe because the sisters had not addressed issues raised by the Vatican in 2001 about their promotion of church teaching on homosexuality, salvation and the priesthood, which the Vatican said is reserved for men.

The ripples from  a keynote by Sinsinawa Dominican Sister Laurie Brink at the 2007 LCWR assembly  roused the Vatican machinery into action. lauriebrink

In that keynote address, titled A Marginal Life: Pursuing Holiness in the 21st Century,” Sr. Laurie Brink urged leaders of Catholic religious orders to make clear, if painful choices about the future of religious life.   She began with this assumption: “Old concepts of how to live the life are no longer valid.”   The rest of the speech outlined four possible options or outcomes as a starting point for discussion.

–  “Death with dignity and grace” as opposed to becoming a “zombie congregation” that staggers on with no purpose. This option must be taken seriously, since the average age of the 67,000 sisters and nuns in the United States is 69. Many retreat ministries are closing, and large “mother houses” are struggling with finances, while some congregations no longer invite or accept new candidates.

– Brink noted that some orders have chosen to turn back the   clock – thus winning the favor of Rome. “They are putting on the habit, or continuing to wear the habit with zest…Some would critique that they are the nostalgic portrait of a time now passed. But they are flourishing.   Young adults are finding in these communities a living image of their romantic vision of religious life.”

– During this era of crisis and decline, some Catholic religious orders have chosen to enter a time of “sojourning” that involves “moving beyond the church, even beyond Jesus.” “Religious titles, institutional limitations, ecclesiastical authorities no longer fit this congregation, which in most respects is post-Christian,” added Brink, a former journalist who is a biblical studies professor at Chicago’s Catholic Theological Union.

For these women, the “Jesus narrative is not the only or the most important narrative…They still hold up and reverence the values of the Gospel, but they also recognize that these same values are not solely the property of Christianity. Buddhism, Native American spirituality, Judaism, Islam and others hold similar tenets for right behavior within the community, right relationship with the Earth and right relationship with the divine.”

She described the Benedictine Women of Madison as having a commitment to “ecumenism” which led them “beyond the exclusivity of the Catholic Church into a new inclusivity, where all manner of God is welcomed. They are certainly religious women, but they are no longer women religious as it is defined by the Roman Catholic Church. They choose as a congregation to step outside the Church in order to step into a greater sense of holiness.”

– Finally, some women are fighting on, hoping to achieve reconciliation someday with a changed, egalitarian church hierarchy. “Theologians are denied academic freedom. Religious and laywomen feel scrutinized simply because of their biology. Gays and lesbians desire to participate as fully human, fully sexual Catholics within their parishes,” Brink said. Many Catholics also oppose the “ecclesial deafness that refuses to hear the call of the Spirit summoning not only celibate males, but married men and women to serve” as priests.

Read Brink’s 2007  address and the keynotes from the LCWR 2008, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003 and 2003 assemblies here.

The blog, Journey to a New Pentecost, provided a very crisp and thorough assessment of the LCWR investigation.   You can read it here.

Brink’s comment about being “post-Christian,” and the sentence: “They are certainly religious women, but they are no longer women religious as it is defined by the Roman Catholic Church,” may have been the spark that ignited the gas can.

Amy Welborn, a Catholic blogger who writes on Beliefnet said: “If you are going to be post-Christian, then be post-Christian. I don’t say that with snark. It’s just reality. If you’ve moved on – move on.   Step out from the protective mantle of identity that gives you cachet, that of ‘Catholic nun.'”

Here was a comment on America Magazine’s blog that summed things up for this conservative reader: “The Vatican investigation is long overdue. If you want to be a social worker then be a social worker–not a nun. A nun’s first allegiance is to the Church.   I am quite tired of running into nuns who: look like aged hippies, push for women’s ordination, push for abortion, push homosexuality as an ok lifestyle and do this, supposedly, in the name of Christ.”

Sr. Jeannine Gramick, former co-director of New  Ways Ministry,  commented on the probable political reasons for the investigation: “It is difficult for me to believe that the CDF (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) has not already made a predetermined conclusion. This seems to be the Vatican’s modus operandi. An “investigation” process puts a veneer of fairness to the result. Consider the investigations of theologians like Charles Curran, Leonardo Boff, Roger Haight, etc. etc. No matter what the investigating party does to please them (or not please them) the outcome will be the same. For example, in the Vatican investigation of Fr. Robert Nugent and me, Bob agreed to make some “profession of faith” about the church’s teaching on homosexuality while I refused. The sanction for each of us was identical.”

“In this case, I expect the predetermined outcome to be a change in the canonical relationship of LCWR to the Vatican. The Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR), the traditional group of nuns formed in 1192 by Cardinal Hickey, was not to be the official group representing women religious to the Vatican. By 1195, they not only had canonical status but also were favored over LCWR (e.g., CMSWR had more delegates than LCWR at the synod on Religious Life.) The Vatican would like CMSWR to be the official representative of the leaders of US women’s communities. I think the Vatican is using this investigation to usurp LCWR’s role and replace them with CMSWR.”

I agree with Amy Welborn. I also tend to agree with Jeannine on the politics of the situation.   LCWR gave the Vatican the opening it needed by Sr. Laurie Brinks candid–but public–remarks about the choices facing the communities of the LCWR and the options a few members have chosen to pursue. They were imprudent, considering how many enemies LCWR has in the Church.

However, in addition to ideological purity, there is also the issue of property and endowments.   These aging communities are sitting on a lot of very valuable real estate.   I think the church definitely has an interest in what happens to it when communities begin to fold and the property is sold off.   What happens to the money?   That may be easier to influence or manage if a more traditionalist group of sisters is involved.

There is another investigation underway running parallel to the investigation of the LCWR.

On March 10, 2009, the Vatican ordered an apostolic visitation of the institutions of the Legionaries of Christ following disclosures of sexual impropriety by the order’s late founder, Father Marcial Maciel Degollado.   The letter was signed by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Sectetary of State. It was addressed to Father Alvaro Corcuera, director general of the Legionaries and its lay association, Regnum Christi.

In 2006 Pope Benedict XVI disciplined Fr. Maciel.   He was banned from exercising his ministry in public and told to retire to a life of prayer and penitence, following allegations that he sexually abused about 30 boys and young men over a period of 30 years.   The Vatican initially stonewalled the sexual abuse investigation for well over a decade.

The Legionaires of Christ were much admired by the late Pope John Paul II for its conservative views, strict loyalty to Vatican teaching, fund raising ability and success in attracting seminarians.

But it was not until Fr. Maciel’s death in 2008 that his secret life was revealed. In February 2009 the Legionaries admitted he kept a mistress and fathered a daughter who is now in her 20s.

The leadership of the order recently admitted that Maciel, a cult figure among Legionaires, led a “double life” after the discovery of his liaison with the mother of his daughter.

Several prominent Catholic commentators said publicly–and some Vatican officials said privately–that the situation called for an outside investigation into the Legionaries of Christ, in order to ascertain the truth, determine whether officials of the order covered up Father Maciel’s misconduct and judge whether Father Maciel’s teachings could still inspire the order.

Also at stake in the investigation is the significant estate Maciel left behind–which his daughter could have a claim to…

The probe could also uncover more cases of sexual abuse similar to those committed by Fr. Maciel.

“We have testimonies that there have been other Legionaires who followed Maciel’s example,” said Jose Barba, the legal representative of eight former Legionaries who started court proceedings against Marciel in 1998. “The ramifications of the problem exist throughout the Legionaires of Christ,” he added.

It will be interesting to compare the end result of each investigation.   It will also be interesting to see if Fr. Maciel’s daughter pursues gaining an inheritence or is offered a settlement by the order.   Children of priests and bishops laying claim to church property is one of the reasons priestly celibacy became a requirement years ago.