Posted in category "Politics"

Pious Trash: Inconsistent Application of Catholic Moral Teaching

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

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

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

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

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

 

Pious Trash: Cardinal Angelo Sodano Finally Gets Dumped

Posted by Censor Librorum on Dec 28, 2019 | Categories: Accountability, History, Pious Trash, Politics, Scandals

On December 21, 2017 Cardinal Angelo Sodano celebrated the funeral Mass for fugitive Cardinal Bernard Law.  Over the protests of many, the Mass was celebrated in St. Peter’s Basilica.  In his homily, Sodano said, “unfortunately, each one of us can sometimes lack in fidelity to our mission. That is why, at the beginning of every Mass, we say the ‘Confiteor.’”  This prayer begins, “I confess to almighty God and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have greatly sinned.” 

On December 21, 2019, the same day it was reported that Cardinal Sodano had shielded sexually abusive clergy in the Legion of Christ, Pope Francis accepted the 92-year-old cardinal’s resignation as dean of the College of Cardinals. Pope Francis used the occasion to express “my gratitude, including in the name of the members of the College of Cardinals, for the precious and punctual service he (Cardinal Sodano) has offered as dean for many years with availability, dedication, efficiency and a great ability to organize and coordinate.”

“For some three decades he was the man in the Vatican no one dared cross,” said Robert Mickens, the editor-in-chief of La Croix International. “Even the popes he served were careful to gain his consent because of the loyalty he commanded from any key people at all levels of the Roman Curia.”

In the December 21, 2019 report the Legion of Christ identified 33 priests and 71 seminarians as sex abusers. The report stated that Cardinal Sodano was the one who led efforts to cover up reports of abuse when he served as the Vatican’s Secretary of State.  Many of the reports of abuse involved the notorious predator priest, Marcial Maciel Degollago, the founder and director general of the Legion of Christ.  Maciel was respected by many within the Vatican, including Pope John Paul II, as a prolific fund raiser and seminarian recruiter. Near the time of his death in 2005 he was publicly revealed to be a thief, drug addict and serial sexual abuser of young men and boys.  Marcial maintained sexual relationships with at least two women and fathered six children.  He sexually abused two of his sons.

For many decades, Cardinal Sodano’s chief priorities have been power and money. Money from the Legion flowed to Sodano in the form of gifts and honoraria. “Cardinal Sodano was a cheerleader for the Legion,” said one of the ex-Legionaries. “He’d come give a talk at Christmas and they’d give him $10,000.”  “It was very clear that Angelo Sodano was going to do everything in his power to protect both Maciel and the Legion of Christ,” said Glenn Favreau, an advocate for ex-Legionaries who was ordained a deacon in the order and worked at its offices in Rome. “Sodano came over with his entire family, 200 of them, for a big meal when he was named cardinal,” recalled Favreau. “And we fed them all. When he became secretary of state there was another celebration.”

His family also benefited from his position and connections.  A nephew, Andrea Sodano, was involved in a real estate business with Raffaello Follieri, who was jailed in New York in 2008 on charges of fraud and money-laundering.  A major part of his business was buying up church and parish properties at fire sale prices to pay for lawsuits by sex abuse victims. The Follieri Group’s business claimed connections to “senior members of the Vatican hierarchy.” Follieri misused investor funds to pay Andrea Sodano for engineering studies and services he never performed.  In exchange, Sodano’s nephew traveled with Follieri to pitch church officials, and gain access to the Vatican grounds, attending a service with the Pope, get his picture taken with the Pope, and arrange for private tours of the Vatican gardens and museum.  Marical also hired Andrea Sodano as a building consultant for projects.  Legionaires overseeing one project complained to Marciel that Sodano’s work was late and poorly done; they were reluctant to pay his invoices. Marciel yelled at them: “Pay him! You pay him!”

How was Pope Francis finally able to get rid of Sodano? In 2005 Pope Benedict tried and gave up, keeping him as Secretary of State. Were the claws of this rapacious bird finally too weak to tear and rend and hang on any longer?  The Legion’s own report finally did the job. 

I can’t shake the image of Cardinal Sodano as a scarlet festooned Don Fanucci, the Black Hand leader in Mario Puzo’s The Godfather and The Godfather Part II movie. Fanucci’s character is based on the personality of Ignazio Lupo, a real-life Black Hand gangster and mafioso specializing in extortion, robbery and murder. “You and your friends should show me some respect,” Fanucci threatened Vito Corleone. “You should let me wet my beak a little…Now don’t refuse me. Understand, paisan? Understand, paisan?…Tell your friends I don’t want a lot. Just enough to wet my beak. Don’t be afraid to tell them!” Fanucci did quite well until the day he threatened somebody tougher.  Surprise! He took a bullet to the head.

 

Pious Trash

Posted by Censor Librorum on Nov 18, 2019 | Categories: Accountability, Arts & Letters, Bishops, Humor, Pious Trash, Politics

“When the Catholic novelist closes his own eyes and tries to see with the eyes of the Church, the result is another addition to that large body of pious trash for which we have so long been famous.” Flannery O’Connor, “Catholic Novelists and Their Readers” 1964.

Catholics are subject to a lot of pious trash these days. Most of it comes from EWTN media outlets and Latin Mass participants with their mawkish nostalgia; and U.S. bishops who attempt to justify their discriminatory or self-serving positions.  Progressive Catholics, particularly religious, are also responsible for a certain amount of pious trash. This usually comes in the form of goopy sentimentality, or a scolding that applies to everyone, guilty or not. Between both groups I have plenty of material!

A weekly “Pious Trash” quote will be published every Friday.

 

New Topic for Catholic Culture Warriors!

Posted by Censor Librorum on Nov 8, 2019 | Categories: Bishops, History, Politics

Here’s a novel thought for Catholic culture warriors: 

Instead of bitching and complaining about Pope Francis and the chance he will ordain married men as priests (and possibly women, gasp!) and admit women to the diaconate, why don’t you actively encourage young men in your diocese or parish to go the Amazon as missionaries and priests. There is a great need for pastoral care and the eucharist. There are no priests for hundreds of square miles. Young men today who yearn for the past glories of the Church have the chance to follow in the footsteps of the pioneers and martyrs of the 16th and 17th centuries in the Americas. 

While there is a terrible shortage of priests in the Amazon, there is an abundance of clerics in Rome, “studying” or in the service of some bureaucracy. Scarfing down pasta and wine, they swish around in cassocks and live it up in fancy apartments. Time to send these guys packing.  What better place than the Amazon?

 

Dreams of Blood – The Mysterious Death of King William Rufus

Posted by Censor Librorum on Oct 29, 2019 | Categories: Arts & Letters, Bishops, History, Lesbians & Gays, Politics, Saints

King William II of England, also called William Rufus, was killed by an arrow while he was hunting in New Forest on August 2, 1100.  It was a fortuitous death for his younger brother, Henry Beauclerc, who became King Henry I three days later.  It was a convenient death for Archbishop Anselm of Canterbury, who battled King William constantly over church revenues and appointments and could now return from exile in France.  It was also providential for King Philip I of France.  King William regularly sent military expeditions to extend his influence and lands in Normandy, Maine and the Vexin.  William Rufus was planning a new campaign in France when he was killed. His successor, King Henry I, immediately cancelled it.

For centuries, the generally accepted explanation for King William’s death was a hunting accident.  That is possible. His older brother, Richard, was killed in a hunting accident in New Forest. But William’s death by an errant arrow was never completely accepted.  Some writers and scholars believe that he was assassinated in order to put his brother on the throne.  Could Henry Beauclerc, some nobles and the French king have colluded to kill him during a hunt?  Could rumors of a possible assassination attempt circulate through monasteries in England and France? Archbishop Anselm and other high-ranking clerics certainly lent support to the killing; they justified it as divine intervention by God to remove an evil and immoral king. 

William’s death is wrapped in several other mysteries. Why the large number of dreams foreshadowing his death? Were they inspired by rumor or gossip? The victim, his friends and enemies all dreamed of his death by an arrow. Why did Walter Tirel  abandon William’s body and leave for France so abruptly?

                Two Homosexuals – William and Anselm

The death of King William II may have had its roots in his struggles with Archbishop Anselm.  The king needed money for his soldiers and military campaigns.  To fund them, he left the sees vacant and pocketed the revenues himself.  Archbishop Anselm was a proponent of the Gregorian Reforms, eliminating secular investiture of bishops and married priests. A clash was inevitable.

It’s easy to speculate that both men were homosexual.  William, even as king, never married, had no offspring, and no reported mistresses or liaisons with women. One clerical chronicler, Orderic Vitalis, described the men at court as having too tight tunics, pointed shoes and hair down their backs like whores. The court was full of “sodomites.”

Anselm’s homoerotic emotions are evident in his passionate letters to fellow monks. They are full of yearning, desire, and anguish. We don’t know if he physically acted on his feelings.  Either way, they are quite a contrast to his admonishment to King William to rid his court and kingdom of homosexuality. Anselm asked the king’s leave to call a national synod of bishops. William responded: “What will you talk about in your council?” “The sin of Sodom,” answered Anselm, “to say nothing of other detestable vices which have become rampant. Only let the king and the primate unite their authority, and this new and monstrous growth of evil may be rooted out.” The king asked, “And what good will come of this matter for you?” “For me, perhaps nothing,” replied Anselm, “but something I hope, for God and for thyself.” “Enough!” rejoined the king, “speak no more on this subject.”

Both men disliked one another. William hated Anselm’s maneuvering. Anselm was extremely frustrated by William’s intransigence and went into exile.

 William’s Death – Accident or Assassination?

All the accounts of William’s death agree that he was killed by an arrow while hunting in New Forest on August 2, 1100.  The most complete account of the day comes from the Anglo-Norman monk, Orderic Vitalis. He wrote that King William dined with the hunting party, which was made up of William’s youngest brother, Henry, Walter Tirel, and Gilbert de Clare and his younger brother, Roger de Clare.  Walter Tirel was married to Richard de Clare’s daughter.  He had recently arrived in England from France. William had been presented with six arrows by his armorer the night before. Taking four for himself, he gave two to Tirel, saying, “Bon archer, bonnes fleches.” (“To the good archer, the good arrows.”) According to Orderic, William said, “It is only right that the sharpest arrows go to the man who knows how to inflict the deadliest shots.” 

William of Malmesbury in his Chronicle of the Kings of the English (1128) described the hunt: “The next day he went into the forest…He was attended by a few persons…Walter Tirel remained with him, while the others were on the chase. The sun was now declining, when the king, drawing his bow and letting fly an arrow, slightly wounded a stag which passed before him…The stag was still running…The king followed it for a long time with his eyes, holding up his hand to keep off the power of the sun’s rays. At this instant, Walter decided to kill another stag. Oh, gracious God! The arrow pieced the king’s breast.  On receiving the wound the king uttered not a word; but breaking off the shaft of the arrow where it projected from his body…This accelerated his death. Walter immediately ran up, but as he found him senseless, he leapt upon his horse, and escaped with the utmost speed.  Indeed, there were none to pursue him: some helped his flight; others felt sorry for him. The king’s body was placed on a cart and conveyed to the cathedral at Winchester…blood dripped from the body all the way.”  What were the sources of William of Malmesbury’s account of King William’s death and Walter Tirel’s flight from the forest?  He doesn’t say.  He implied that Walter Tirel killed William but didn’t state it.

The Peterborough Abbey’s version of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle states that “on the morning after Lammas Day, the king William was shot with an arrow in hunting by a man of his.” Another chronicler, Geoffrey Gaimer stated, “We do not know who shot the king.” Gerald of Wales wrote, “The King was shot by Ranulf of Aquis.” Research into Ranulf of Aquis draws a blank; there is no indication of who he was. Could Gerald of Wales have meant Ralph of Aix, the armorer of King William?

In her 2008 book, King Rufus, The Life and Mysterious Death of King William II of England, Dr. Emma Mason argues that King William was assassinated by a French agent, Raoul d’Equesnes, who was in the household of Walter Tirel.  No one knows exactly who the killer was, but most people and historians assume it was Walter Tirel.  Could he have killed the king and fled England safely without a plan and accomplices? 

Walter Tirel was never charged for the crime and never returned to England. His son was allowed to keep his estates.  Abbot Sugar of St. Denis, historian, statesman and confidant of French kings, maintained Walter Tirel was innocent. “It was laid to the charge of a certain noble, Walter Thurold,” Sugar writes, “that he had shot the king with an arrow: but I have often heard him, when he had nothing to fear nor to hope, solemnly swear that on the day in question he was not in the part of the forest where the king was hunting, nor ever saw him in the forest at all.”

Who Benefited from King William’s Death?

      1. His brother, Henry, who became King of England three days later.

2. Archbishop Anselm, who returned to Canterbury from exile in France.

3. King Philip I of France – King Henry immediately cancelled King William’s plans for an invasion of France

  1. The de Clare family – close to King Henry, attained great wealth and prominence.

Missing Clues

  1. Where were the different members of the hunting party when the king was shot?

2. Who alerted Henry that William had been killed?

3. Why didn’t other members of the hunting party try to help the wounded king?

4. Why wasn’t the fletching of the arrow that killed King William identified?

5. Who assisted Walter Tirel in his escape from New Forest?

6. Why is there no mention of any attempt by Henry to find his brother’s killer?

Dreams of Blood and Death

Medieval people were interested in dreams and attempted to interpret them. Often a dream would be seen as a sign of future events, or a divine warning that someone needed to change their ways.  There are many accounts of dreams predicting the death of King William by an arrow. They all occurred just before or the day of the hunt. Was Archbishop Anselm privy to a plot to assassinate King William? Were senior clerics complicit in a plot to replace the king?  They could argue that their dreams justified his death as a just punishment from God.

King William II: There are two dreams attributed to the king.  In one version, the king dreamed that he was being bled by a surgeon who opened a vein in his arm.  A stream of blood spurt into the sky blocking out the sun.  The king awoke in terror and called for his servants to stay with him until dawn. In another story from clerical chronicler, William of Malmesbury, William “dreamt that he went to hell and the Devil said to him ‘I can’t wait for tomorrow because we can finally meet in person!’ He commanded a light to be brought and forbade his attendants to leave him.”  The king decided to forgo the hunt but changed his mind in the early afternoon when his good spirits returned.

Robert FitzHamon:  Anglo-Norman baron and magnate, related to William I and friend to William II – had many ominous dreams in the days leading up to the king’s killing. FitzHamon also reported the dream of a “foreign monk” to the king on the morning of the hunt: The monk has seen the king enter a church, “looking scornfully around the congregation with his usual haughty and insolent air.” He seized the rood (a crucifix) tearing apart its arms and legs. The figure of Christ lost patience and gave King William a kick in the mouth. He fell, and flames and smoke issued from his mouth, putting out the light of the stars.  William laughed at FitzHamon’s story, “He is a monk, and dreams for money like a monk: give him this,” handing FitzHamon a hundred shillings.

William Mortain, Earl of Cornwall:  Son of William I’s half-brother, Robert of Mortain. While out walking in the woods, the earl encountered a large black hairy goat carrying the figure of the king. The goat spoke to him, saying he was taking the king to his judgement.

Peter de Melvis:  He dreamt that he met a rough peasant man in Devonshire bearing a bloody arrow, who said to him, “With this dart your king was killed today.”

Fulchered, Abbot of Shrewsbury:  French-born Fulchered delivered a prophetic sermon at Gloucester Abbey (Serlo’s abbey) on August 1, 1100 – the day before William II was killed. “England is allowed to become a heritage trodden under foot by the profane, because the land is full of iniquity. Its whole body is spotted by the leprosy of a universal iniquity, and infected by the disease of sin from the crown of the head to the sole of the feet. Unbridled pride stalks abroad, swelling, if I may say it, above the stars of heaven. Dissolute lust pollutes not only vessels of clay, but those of gold, and insatiable avarice devours all it can lay its hands on. But lo! A sudden change of affairs is threatened. The libertines shall not always bear rule, the Lord God will come to judgement of the open enemies of his spouse, and strike Moab and Edom with the sword of his signal vengeance…The bow of divine vengeance is bent on the reprobate, and the swift arrow taken from the quiver is ready to wound. The blow will soon be struck, but the man who is wise enough to correct his sins will avoid the infliction.”

Serlo, Abbot of Gloucester:  Serlo was a Benedictine monk who was Norman by birth and a former chaplain to William I.  He had the respect of William II, who described him as “a good abbot and sensible old man.”  William was about to set out on the hunt when he received a message from Serlo, informing him of a recent vision one of his monks had experienced.  “I saw the Lord Jesus seated on a lofty throne, and the glorious host of heaven, with the company of the saints, standing round. But while, in my ecstasy, I was lost in wonder, and my attention fixed deeply on such an extraordinary spectacle, I beheld a virgin resplendent with light cast herself at the feet of the Lord Jesus, and humbly address to him this petition – ‘O Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior of mankind, for whom Thou didst shed Thy precious blood when hanging on the cross, look now in compassion on Thy people which now groans under the yoke of William. Thou avenger of wickedness, and most just of all men, take vengeance, I beseech Thee, on my behalf, of this William, and deliver me out of his hands; for, as far as lies in his power, he has polluted me, and grievously afflicted me.’ The Lord replied, ‘Be patient and wait awhile, and soon you will be amply revenged of him.’” The King finished reading the message and laughed. “Does Serlo,” he asked, “think that I believe in the visions of every snoring monk? Does it take me for an Englishman, who puts his faith in the dreams of every old woman?”

Prior (Bernard?) of Dunstable: The prior had a dream in which he saw William’s armorer, Ralph of Aix, present a sheaf containing five arrows to the king.  The prior felt this boded misfortune but did not tell anyone.

Unknown Monk: While chanting on the morning of William’s death, he saw through his closed eyes a person holding out a paper which was written, “King William is dead.” When he opened his eyes, the person was gone.

Hugh, Abbot of Cluny:  St. Hugh, or Hugh the Great, was a powerful and influential leader. He had a personal reputation as a wise and savvy diplomat.  Hugh advised Pope Gregory VII in his investiture controversy with Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV. The abbot told Archbishop Anselm he dreamed about King William’s death. In his dream William had been summoned before God and condemned.  The king was killed the next day. 

Archbishop Anselm of Canterbury:  Anselm was in Lyons, France when he received news that King William was dead. In the middle of the night, an “angelic youth” appeared to Brother Adams, Anselm’s guard, and said to him, “Know for certain the controversy between Archbishop Anselm and King William is decided.” 

The episode was described in Flores Historiarum (Flowers of History) a chronicle compiled by various hands, but linked to two monks, Roger Wendover and Matthew Paris.  The Flowers of History also detailed Anselm’s dream about William’s death and his return to England.  “By the impiety and injustice of William Rufus, Anselm, the Archbishop of Canterbury, was driven into exile, and remained there til he saw in a vision of the night that all the saints of England were complaining to the Most High of the tyranny of King William, who was destroying his churches. And God said, “Let Alban, the proto-martyr of the English come hither,” and he gave him an arrow which was on fire, saying, “Behold the death of the man of whom you complain before me.” And the blessed Alban, receiving the arrow, said, “And I will give it to a wicked spirit, an avenger of sins,” and saying this he threw it down to earth, and it flew through the air like a comet. And immediately Archbishop Anselm perceived in the spirit that the king, having been shot by an arrow, died that night. And accordingly, at the first light of the morning, having celebrated mass, he ordered his vestments, and his books, and other movables, to be got in readiness, and immediately set out on his journey to his church. And when he came near it, he heard that King William had been shot by an arrow that very night, and was dead.”

Anselm reputedly wept or sobbed when he received news of King William’s death.  The people around him were astonished by his reaction.

 

Was there a Plot to Kill the King?

Yes, based on the number of dreams and premonitions. I believe Abbot Serlo caught wind of a plot and tried to warn William.  Archbishop Anselm may have heard rumors of a plot and started on his way back to England to reclaim his see at Canterbury. I think that Anselm wasn’t directly involved in the assassination, but he didn’t do anything to stop it. The abbots, bishops and other members of the hierarchy may not have known who killed William, but since they believed they would fare better under his younger brother, Henry, justified his death as a divine punishment. 

Who Killed the King?

Based on circumstantial evidence and intuition, I believe that it was one of the de Clares with the full knowledge and support of Henry. Walter Tirel was with the king when he was killed, or found the body, and the others told him to flee since he would be blamed. Tirel was never charged since King Henry and the others knew he was innocent.

Further Reading:

My Dear Boy: Gay Love Letters through the Centuries by Rictor Norton (1998) – Best Beloved Brother – The Gay Love Letters of Saint Anselm

King Rufus: The Life and Mysterious Death of William II of England by Dr. Emma Mason (2008)

The Strange Death of William Rufus by C. Warren Hollister (1973)

The Death of the Red King by Paul Doherty (2006)

 

 

Amazonia: New Paths for the Church and for an Integral Ecology

Posted by Censor Librorum on Jun 21, 2019 | Categories: Accountability, Bishops, Faith, History, Politics, Popes

On October 15, 2017 Pope Francis announced a special synod on the Pan-Amazonian Region to take place in Rome.  It is scheduled for October 6-27, 2019. 

The synod arose out of Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical Laudato Si, “Caring for Our Common Home,” which called for action on global warming, environmental pollution and pinpointed the Amazon region as a chief area of concern.

The Pan-Amazon region spans over two million square miles within nine countries, including Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Columbia, Venezuela, Suriname, Guyana and French Guyana. It is home to 33 million people, among them 3 million indigenous people representing 400 different tribes.  It is the source of one-fifth of the world’s fresh water, one-fourth of all oxygen and more than one-third of global forest reserves.

Taking part in the synod will be bishops from the nine countries encompassing Amazonia, presidents of the seven bishops’ conferences, and representatives of non-governmental organizations that work in the region.  Chief among them will be REPAM, or Red Eclesial PanAmazonica, an ecclesial network of bishops created in 2014 to promote the rights and dignity of people living in the Amazon. It is backed by CELAM, the Latin American Bishops’ Conference. Caritas Internationalis is a founding member. REPAM embodies the promise Pope Francis made in the Amazon town of Maldonado, Peru to affirm “a whole-hearted option for the defense of life, the defense of the earth and the defense of cultures.”

The 16-page preparatory document for the synod was published on June 8, 2018. It is titled “Amazonia: New Paths for the Church and for an Integral Ecology.”The document was written by the Vatican’s office for the synod with the help of an 18-member council appointed by Pope Francis to oversee the 2019 meeting.  The synod council included three cardinals, 13 bishops, one nun and a layman.  Most members are from countries in the Amazon region.  The document is organized as a Preamble, Section I – Seeing, Section II – Discernment, Section III – Action, and Questionnaires that were widely circulated to provide material for each of the three sections.

The synod’s preparatory document makes clear that central issues will focus on environmental protection, the rights of indigenous people, and evangelization. But what is articulated within these issues will ignite change not only in the Amazon, but throughout the Catholic Church.

It is obvious that most pundits from Europe and North America who follow church happenings did not read this document carefully. If they did, they would be shocked. This synod is not about a group of natives in the Amazon rainforest with a few mentions of climate change thrown in. Pope Francis and the Synod Council are attempting to shift Catholic culture and religious practice from the Eurocentric and clerical sub-culture model to one drawn from values and cultures based in the Southern Hemisphere, with ripples extending to Africa and Asia. Europe’s domination of 1,000 years is ending. 

The clash of values that dominates so much of the Eurocentric Church today will be subsumed into other cultural debates. There, they may find a new voice, fade away or be viewed as irrelevant. How important are religious liberty, same-sex marriage, denying communion to pro-abortion politicians, sex abuse and cover up, women priests, married priesthood, conscience rights, “authentic” Catholic definitions, and “reform of the reform” of Vatican II in Amazonia?  Newer issues like racism, rights of indigenous people, migrants and immigration, gender theory, LGBT civil rights, lay involvement, habitat protection, and economic equity should get more traction, but the results will be a mixed bag of blessings for both progressives and conservatives.

Here is what I see emerging from the Amazonia Synod:

  1. A new emphasis on “Integral Ecology” – everything is connected and environmental abuse as sin
  2. Evangelization to where people are physically and spiritually–however remote
  3. Older married men ordained as priests to administer the sacraments
  4. Increased role in ministry and governance for women
  5. A cultural and spiritual sift away from a Eurocentric Catholicism

Each of the sections of the preliminary document has markers and flash points intimating where Pope Francis and the Church are heading with this Synod.

  1. Identity and Cries of the Pan-Amazonia

“Nonetheless, the wealth of the Amazonian rainforest and rivers is being threatened by expansive economic interests, which assert themselves in various parts of the territory. Such interests lead, among other things, to the intensification of indiscriminate logging in the rainforest, as well as the contamination of rivers, lakes and tributaries (due to the indiscriminate use of agro-toxins, oil spills, legal and illegal mining, and byproducts from the production of narcotics.) Added to this is drug trafficking, which together with the above puts at risk the survival of those peoples who depend on the region’s animal and plant resources.” 

“For the indigenous peoples of the Amazon basin, the good life comes from living in communion with other people, with the world, and with the creatures of their environment, and with the Creator.  Their diverse spiritualities and beliefs motivate them to live in communion with the soil, water, trees, animals, and with day and night. Wise elders – called interchangeably “payes, mestres, wayanga or chamanes”, among others – promote the harmony of people among themselves and with the cosmos. Indigenous peoples are a living memory of the mission that God has entrusted to us all: the protection of our common home.”

2. Toward a Pastoral and Ecological Conversion

 “This social – and even cosmic – dimension of the mission of evangelization is particularly relevant in the Amazon region, where the interconnectivity between human life, ecosystems, and spiritual life was, and continues to be, apparent to the vast majority of its inhabitants.”

“Integral ecology, then, invites us to an integral conversion. This entails the recognition of our errors, sins, faults, failures and omissions by which we have harmed God’s creation and leads to heartfelt repentance.  Only when we are aware of how our lifestyles – and the ways we produce, trade, consume, and discard – affect the life of our environment and our societies can we initiate a comprehensive change of direction.”

3. New Paths for a Church with an Amazonian Face

 “The Church is called to deepen her identity in accordance with the realities of each territory and to grow her spirituality by listening to the wisdom of her peoples. Therefore, the Special Assembly for the Pan-Amazonian Region is invited to find new ways of developing the Amazonian face of the Church and to respond to situations of injustice in the region, such as the neocolonialism of the extractive industries, infrastructure projects that damage its biodiversity, and the imposition of cultural and economic models which are alien to the lives of its people.”

“In this sense, Vatican II reminds us that all the People of God share in the priesthood of Christ, although it distinguishes between common priesthood and the ministerial priesthood.  This gives way to an urgent need to evaluate and rethink the ministries that today are required to respond to the objectives of “a Church with a native face.”

“It is necessary to identify the type of official ministry that can be conferred on women, taking into account the central role which women play today in the Amazonian Church. It is also necessary to foster indigenous and local-born clergy, affirming their own cultural identity and values.  Finally, new ways should be considered for the People of God to have better and more frequent access to the Eucharist, the center of Christian life.”

The Synod’s preparatory document cites a wide swath of church documents, three provide the biggest stamp:

1. Laudato Si – (“Praise Be to You”) The 2nd encyclical of Pope Francis has the subtitle, “On Care for Our Common Home.” In it, Pope Francis critiques consumerism and irresponsible development, and laments environmental degradation and global warning. It calls on the peoples of the world to act. The encyclical was published on June 18, 2015.

2. The Aparecida Document – This document summarized the 2007 meeting of CELAM—the regional Episcopal Conference of Latin America and the Caribbean. The meeting was held in Aparecida, Brazil, and was chaired by Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, the future Pope Francis.  In the document, the Latin American bishops expressed what they believed to be keys in keeping Catholicism alive and relevant in Latin American.  Those “keys” included a preferential option for the poor and marginalized, and a serious concern for the environment.

3. Pope Francis’ January 19, 2018 Address to the Indigenous People of Amazonia at Maldonado, Peru – During his trip to Chile and Peru, Pope Francis met and addressed thousands of native Amazonians in an indoor stadium at Puerto Maldonado, a city on Peru’s Amazon frontier. It is the capital of Madre de Dios, a region plagued by illegal mining and human trafficking. In his remarks, the pope noted that the “native Amazonian peoples have probably never been so threatened on their own lands as they are at present.”  He spoke about threats from extractive exploitation, environmental contamination and illegal mining. He also addressed the oppression of native people by certain policies and movements under the guise of preserving nature that deprive them of their land, natural resources and livelihoods.  Pope Francis promised participants to affirm a “whole-hearted option for the defense of life, the defense of the earth and the defense of cultures.”

There are several key players in the development of the Synod Council and preparatory document. Since I don’t read Spanish, and there is very little coverage of South America by U.S. journalists, I may have missed a few names but I believe I netted the biggest fish.

Pope Francis

Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina on December 17, 1936, Jorge Mario Bergoglio became Pope Francis on March 13, 2013, when he was named 266th pope of the Roman Catholic Church. Bergoglio, the first pope from South America, took his papal title after St. Francis of Assisi of Italy.  The first Jesuit pope, Bergoglio was ordained in 1969, and from 1973-1979 was the provincial superior for Argentina.  Prior to his election as pope, Bergoglio served as archbishop of Buenos Aires from 1998-2013.  He was named a cardinal by Pope John Paul II in 2001.  In his six years as pope, Francis has championed the world’s poor and marginalized people, emphasized mercy over rules, and been actively involved in environmental advocacy and political diplomacy.

“We are not faced with two separate crisis, one environmental and the other social, but rather one complex crisis which is both social and environmental.”

 Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri

Cardinal Baldisseri has served as general secretary of the Synod of Bishops since September 21, 2013.  He introduced and explained in depth the Amazonia synod’s preparatory document during the Vatican press conference on June 8, 2018.  Hand-picked by Francis to reorganize the Synod of Bishops, Cardinal Baldisseri is a veteran of the Vatican diplomatic corps.  He has served as apostolic nuncio to Paraguay, India, Nepal and Brazil (2002-2012). In Brazil, he negotiated an agreement regulating the juridical status of the church.

“Although the theme refers to a specific territory, such as the Pan-Amazon region – and this is why we speak about the “Pan-Amazon Synod” – the reflections that concern it go beyond the regional context, because they regard the whole Church and also the future of the planet. These reflections are intended to bridge to other similar geographical realities such as, for example, the Congo basin, the Central American biological corridor, the tropical forests of Asia in the Pacific, and the Guarani aquifer system. This great ecclesial, civic and ecological project allows us to extend our gaze beyond their respective borders and to redefine pastoral lines, making them suitable for today’s times. For these reasons too the Synod will be held in Rome.”

 Cardinal Claudio Hummes

Pope Frances chose Brazil’s Cardinal Claudio Hummes to serve as regulator general of the October synod on Amazonia.  The nomination of the 84-year-old retired archbishop of Sao Paulo was announced at the Vatican on May 4, 2019. The regular is responsible for providing a comprehensive outline of the synod’s theme at the beginning of the meeting and for summarizing the speeches of synod members before work begins on concrete proposals for the pope.  Cardinal Hummes was a former perfect of the Congregation for Clergy and has been a close friend of the pope since Jorge Mario Bergoglio was archbishop of Buenos Aires. Cardinal Hummes currently serves as president of REPAM, or the Red Eclesial Pan-Amazonica (or Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network.)  Founded in 2014, REPAM is a network backed by the Latin American Bishops Conference to promote the rights and dignity of people living in the Amazon.  Caritas Internationalis is a founding member.

“Back in 2015 the pope started to tell me, “I’m thinking of convening a meeting of all the bishops of Amazonia. As of yet, I don’t know what type of meeting or assembly, but I think that it could even be a synod.” He said to me, Let us pray about it together, and he began to speak to the bishops, to the episcopal conferences of the Amazonian region, about how to have an assembly, and so in his heart there grew the idea of a synod, and eventually in 2017 he convoked it.  We have worked hard for the synod, and we will continue to do so in this very important service for the future.  The synod serves to find and trace new paths for the Church.”

“We know now there is another step to take: we have to promote an indigenous Church for the indigenous peoples, to help give birth to and nurture the growth of an indigenous Church. The aboriginal communities that hear the Gospel proclamation in one way or another, and that embrace it, which is to say, they welcome Jesus Christ, have to be able to ensure that, through an opportune process, their faith can become incarnate and inculturated in their traditional reality.  Then, in the context of their culture, identity, history and spirituality, an indigenous Church can arise with its own pastors and ordained ministers, always united within itself, and in total communion with the universal Catholic Church, but inculturated in indigenous cultures.”

Cardinal Ricardo Barreto Jimeno

 A Jesuit, and archbishop of Huancayo, Peru since 2004, Cardinal Barreto is vice president of the Peruvian bishops’ conference.  He is also vice president of REPAM (Red Eclesial Pan-Amazonica).  According to Cardinal Barreto, “new paths” will be defined during the synod, directed toward care for creation and evangelization.

Cardinal Barreto has long been a proponent of environmental protection.  Back in 2005 he told his brother bishops during a synod that bread and wine offered at the altar were no good if the land they came from was not properly cared for. “I said that if we offer bread from land that’s contaminated, we are offering God a contaminated fruit. And the same for wine…I remember that the bishops looked at me as if they were saying, ‘What does the Eucharist have to do with ecology?’”

“Too many people think the indigenous in the Amazon are savages with nothing to teach us. ..as one Amazonian indigenous person told me, the savages are the ones who wear suits and ties and have money because they not only exploit natural resources irrationally but also expel (the indigenous people) from their territories and allow those from the outside to attack their culture simply to profit.”

 General Augusto Heleno Ribeiro Pereira

 Augusto Heleno, 72, is a Brazilian politician and retired general. He was military commander of the Amazon and chief of the Department of Science and Technology of the Army.  He was chosen by Brazil’s newly elected president, Jair Bolsonaro, to head the Institutional Security Cabinet, an executive level office of the federal government responsible for assistance to the president on matters of national security and defense policy.

Bolsonaro campaigned on promises to end protections of the Amazon rainforest and limit Brazil’s indigenous peoples’ rights to designate land in the river’s sprawling basin as preserves.  In one of his first acts as president, he gave responsibility for indigenous preserves to the Agriculture Ministry, which is seen as heavily influenced by agribusiness interests.

A major Brazilian newspaper, O Estado de S. Paulo, reported on February 10, 2019 that the synod has become a national concern for the Brazilian government. General Augusto Heleno was quoted in the story as saying, in reference to the synod, “We are worried about it and want to neutralize it.” The government’s strategy for neutralizing the Amazonia synod reportedly includes planting intelligence agents to monitor preparatory meetings and putting diplomatic pressure on the Italian government to intercede with the Vatican to avoid, or at least tone down, criticism of Brazil’s Amazon policies.

“There are foreign (non-governmental organizations) and international authorities who want to intervene in our treatment of the Brazilian Amazon…I’m worried that this Synod is going to interfere in our sovereignty.  We know what we have to do.  We know how to do sustainable development, to stop deforestation.”

 Mauricio Lopez

Mauricio Lopez is the executive secretary of REPAM.  He was the one lay person appointed to the Synod Council by Pope Francis. Lopez grew up in Mexico and was educated in Jesuit schools.  He and his wife, who is Ecuadorian, moved to Ecuador over a decade ago.  In 2009, he took a trip to the part of the Amazon basin that sits on Ecuador’s eastern borders.  “I came by bus from the highest mountains with snow,” he described, and suddenly I entered this beautiful place, where I saw the biggest river, the entrance into the Amazon, and how the flora and fauna were always changing as we went down, down, down. The temperature changed radically, and I felt, too, a change within me,” he said.

“The Amazon reality requires us to be a braver and more prophetic church.”

The Amazonia initiative brings back an echo of my own past. 

Back in the mid-1970s, as a young woman in Alaska, I fought for large tracts of Alaskan lands to be preserved as wilderness areas–national parks, refuges and monuments. I wanted government agencies to insist on environmental protections for areas that were mined, logged or slated for oil and natural gas extraction. The native peoples of Alaska—Tlingit, Haida, Tsimshian, Athabascan, Aleut, Inupiat and Yupik were different, but each group was deeply connected to the land by a deep love for it, cultural heritage and identity.  One connection was through the subsistence lifestyle—fishing, trapping, hunting and harvesting on their ancestral lands.

During that time, I never heard a religious person—priest, religious sister, bishop, pastoral associate, anyone—speak up for Alaska natives or for wise natural resources management.  At that time, the Catholic church made no connection between Nature and Faith.  I missed having my faith strengthen my environmental activism and support for native land rights; and my love for the land and forest strengthen my spirituality and religious conviction.

It now seems like a dream come true; one I have waited almost 40 years to see. Thank you, Pope Francis, and everyone who is making the Amazonia Synod happen.  I’ll be praying for you and us.

 

 

 

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?  

 

 

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…….

 

 

Where is Fr. C. John McCloskey?

Posted by Censor Librorum on May 4, 2018 | Categories: Arts & Letters, Celebrities, History, Lesbians & Gays, Politics, Popes

Where is Fr. C. John McCloskey III? For roughly a decade, 1997-2005, the handsome, dashing, charming Opus Dei priest was storming the Beltway in his black soutane. 

A 1975 graduate of Columbia University, McCloskey was first drawn to Opus Dei when he was a teenager growing up near Washington, D.C.  During and after college he worked on Wall Street, leaving in his mid-20s to become a priest. Many of McCloskey’s bios note he is also an avid squash player.

Fr. McCloskey was high-profile, with TV commentator spots, prominent news media quotes, and a string of conversions of powerful men. He was groomed by Opus Dei to do exactly what he did so successfully–befriend Republican political and cultural elites; and articulate an orthodox Catholic point of view.  Then, pfft–nothing. Out of sight.

In the years since he left D.C., Fr. McCloskey, 64, has kept a much lower profile.  He’s still writing and doing pastoral ministry, but not on a secular stage.  McCloskey lives in Menlo Park, California, home of Facebook, Kleiner Perkins, Caufield & Byers, Sequoia Capital, Silver Lake Partners, and many Fintech companies.  Perhaps Opus Dei and McCloskey have moved on to the new power elite?

However, the original mystery remains–what happened? Why would Opus Dei transfer Fr. McCloskey out of his Washington, D.C. powerhouse–the Catholic Information Center on K Street–and pack him off to obscurity in Chicago?  

Theory 1: Did he draw too much attention to himself by his high profile converts and media appearances?

Every article about Fr. McCloskey notes with pride his converts to Catholicism.  Most are from Jewish and Evangelical Christian backgrounds, with a sprinkling of Episcopalians.  “A lot of these men had been thinking about Catholicism before,” McCloskey explained, “and it wasn’t just me per se, but the fact a lot of very smart people–senators and judges–were looking for truth in their lives.  It helped quite a bit that many of these men were influenced by men at their level who were Catholics.  In a lot of cases, those friends referred them to me. Then the word got out that I was willing to instruct these sorts of people. It’s just like the brokerage business or any other business of sales,” said McCloskey.  “You get a reputation, you deal with one person and they mention you to another person and they mention you to another person…and all of a sudden you have a string of people.”

Here are the converts cited most:

.  Sam Brownback, former U.S. senator and governor of Kansas; and now United States Ambassador-at-Large for the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom,

. Robert Bork, judge and former U.S. Supreme Court nominee,

. Robert Novak, “Crossfire” co-host and columnist,

. Alfred Regnery, conservative book publisher. A revised and updated English edition of The Dictator Popea book highly critical of Pope Francis – was released both in hardcover and e-book formats by Regnery Publishing on April 23, 2018.

. Newt Gingrich, political consultant and former minority whip and speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, and former Republican presidential candidate.  His wife, Callista Gingrich, currently serves as U.S. ambassador to the Holy See,

. Lawrence Kudlow, economist and long-time CNBC commentator, now President Trump’s top economic policy advisor,

. Lewis Lehrman, financier and former New York gubernatorial candidate,

. Jeffrey Bell, political consultant and PR guru,

. Maj. General (Ret.) Josiah Bunting III, author, educator, former superintendent of Virginia Military Institute, and currently head of the Henry Frank Guggenheim Foundation,

. Dr. Bernard Nathanson, abortion doctor and one of the founders off the National Abortion Rights Action League,

. Mark Belnick, former Tyco International general counsel.

Two women are occasionally included in this distinguished group:

. Meghan Cox Gurdon, children’s book critic for the Wall Street Journal and Mayflower descendant,

. Laura Ingraham, conservative TV and radio talk show host, author, and Fox News Channel contributor.

Theory 2: Did his emphasis on male friendship as an evangelization tool fall flat?  

In his 2007 book with Russell Shaw, Good News, Bad News: Evangelization, Conversion and the Crisis of Faith, Fr. McCoskey described his theory about American men–they lost the ability to maintain “virile” male friendships. They were victims of a “Friendship Deficit Syndrome.”  In another article, Friendship: The Key to Evangelization of Men, McCloskey described a group of Italian men at lunch in Rome, drinking “vino russo” and having a good time together. “I got the impression that this was not a singular event but rather one of frequent meetings of long-time close friends. For some reason it seemed strange to me, and at the same time appealing.”

McCloskey elaborated, “…in the U.S., men got together to watch sports on TV or in a bar, drank beer instead of wine, ate stacked sandwiches instead of pasta. “More often than not, they are enjoying not each other but the game.” “As things stand today, for many Catholic men “friendship” can mean a largely artificial tie, based on a common interest in beer, cars, sports, hunting, fishing, or even an unhealthy interest in the pursuit of young women. (In fact, I hesitate to use the word “friendship” to describe this relationship; would “acquaintance” be a better term?) A real male relationship is a deep and lasting bond that goes to the very core of what a man is or can be.”

McCloskey blames several things for the lack of male friendships: the loss of exclusively male clubs and schools, moving due to job changes, working women who want their husband’s help, leaving no time for men to socialize together; and finally, “gay culture.” “To complicate matters still further,” said McCloskey, “in today’s society many male relationships are openly homosexual, based on the use of each other as objects of pleasure. Many forms of public entertainment–films, television and the theater–have accepted homosexuality as normal, and begun to portray heterosexual males as fools who live under the sway of domineering women. One of the many unhappy side-effects of this open public perversion,” he goes on, “is the fact that when any small group of adult males is seen together, at least in some urban centers, they are assumed to be homosexual.”

After reading this article, which made a point to disparage traditional male pastimes of hunting, fishing, watching sports and chasing women–I tried to image my father’s reaction: “What would you expect from a priest?” he would have chuckled, with a twinkle in his ex-Marine, Irish eyes. As for people thinking he was a fairy because he was out with a couple of buddies, well, dad wouldn’t have taken that seriously. I would suggest that only closeted, self-loathing homosexuals would be anxious about being perceived as gay. It wouldn’t occur to my father or most heterosexuals to even think about it.

A goal of evangelical friendship is conversion. The use of friendship in a conversion process walks a very fine line between support and manipulation. Men who feel guilty about past acts; men in a mid-life crisis; the lost and lonely are especially vulnerable. Do most men feel they don’t spend enough time with other men? I don’t know. I value women-only activities, dinner parties and events but don’t associate them with my spiritual needs.  My social needs–yes, but I’m a lesbian.

Theory 3: His article fantasizing a U.S. religious civil war made people uneasy about him.

In 2000, Fr. McCloskey published a long essay in the Catholic World Report entitled “2030: Looking Backward.” It is a fictional piece in which his alter ego, Fr. Charles, a 77-year-old priest writes a January 1, 2030 letter to Fr. Joseph, a 25-year-old priest, reflecting on the recent breakup in the the United States and the emergence of the Regional States of North America.

In his essay, McCloskey foresees a smaller Catholic Church in the future. “…the Catholics we do have are better formed, practice their Faith in the traditional sense at a much higher level than ever, and are increasingly eager to share that Faith with their neighbors. Dissent has disappeared from the theological vocabulary.” In addition, hundreds of thousands of Evangelical Protestants convert to Catholicism.  

It sounds like the wishful thinking of a strident, thwarted, orthodox Catholic.  In 2000, in spite of the 21-year reign of doctrinaire Pope John Paul II, moderate and liberal Catholics kept a tenacious grip to their faith. American Catholicism continues to be messy, contentious and organic as different groups within the Church jockey with one another on what it means to be Catholic, and how best to live their faith between the Gospels, the Magisterium and American democratic ideals and culture.

The most controversial paragraph in the essay was the one where Fr. McCloskey appeared to encourage the breaking  apart of the union, and the development of Christian-governed states. As part of the reconstitution of the U.S., he appears to sanction the deaths of many thousands of people.

As he put it, “We finally received as a gift from God what had been missing from our ecclesial experience in these 250 years in North America–a strong persecution that was a true purification for our “sick society.” The tens of thousands of martyrs and confessors for the Faith in North America were indeed the “seed of the Church” as they were in pre-Edict of Milan Christianity. The final short and relatively bloodless conflict produced our Regional States of North America. The outcome was by no means an ideal solution but it does allow Christians to live in states that recognize natural law and divine Revelation, the right of free practice of religion, and laws on marriage, family, and life that recognize the primacy of our Faith.”

McCloskey acknowledged “A goodly number of faithful Catholic writers also found it dark and threatening, although I had intended it to be positive and optimistic.” Would the politicians, elected officials and other prominent people that McCloskey consorted with feel the same way? Probably not.  In the hands of secular media it could be framed as a fanatic’s call to sedition and violence.

Fr. McCloskey did make some accurate predictions in his essay, including the regional splits of “red states” and “blue states”; and the affinity between Evangelical Christians and ultra conservative Catholics on many political issues. This coalition supported Republican party candidates in exchange for their votes on abortion, homosexual civil rights protections, same-sex marriage, religious liberty/conscience rights and federal funding for their institutions.

He also articulated the struggle between Catholicism and secular society. There is an eerie parallel with McCloskey’s essay and the dystopian novel, Lord of the WorldThis obscure, apocalyptic book was written in 1907 by Monsignor Hugh Benson, an Anglican convert to Catholicism.  

It imagines a socialist, humanistic and technologically advanced world where religion has been rejected or suppressed.  It is a story about the Antichrist and End Times–the product of a struggle between a radically secular society and the one alternative to it–the Catholic Church. Most religious leaders have been co-opted by humanist ideals. Belief in God is replaced by belief in man. Only a small remnant of the Catholic faithful remain.  To a certain point of view, this is a chillingly accurate depiction of our present states.

What would Fr. McCloskey’s alter ego, Fr. Charles, say now if he could look back at what’s happened in the years since 2000?

What would he say about the sexual abuse holocaust that engulfed the global church and continues unabated to this day?  A month doesn’t go by without another cardinal, bishop, church official or priest getting dragged into court, or the court of public opinion. What are his thoughts on Pope Benedict XVI, the former Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, who became the first pope in almost 600 years to step down from the papacy.  What horror did Pope Benedict see that caused him to give up and quit? His resignation ended the reign of four decades of conservative popes, and their “reform of the reform” of Vatican II.  Springtime arrived, but it was for liberal and progressive Catholics… Could Fr. Charles ever have envisioned what would follow after Jorge Cardinal Bergoglio of Argentina was elected Pope Francis in 2013? In his wildest dreams, could he imagine a pope saying, “Who am I to judge?”