Posted in category "Popes"

Marguerite Porete and Her Killers

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

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

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

Marguerite

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

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

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

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

Her Killers – Bishops, Inquisitor, King

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

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

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

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

Arrest and Trial

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

Death

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

Why Was Marguerite a Target?

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

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

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

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

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

Further Reading:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marguerite Porete: The Mirror of Simple Souls by Ellen Babinsky

 

 

Pious Trash: From the Depths of Our Hearts

Posted by Censor Librorum on Jan 18, 2020 | Categories: Arts & Letters, Bishops, History, Humor, Pious Trash, Popes, Scandals

Pope Benedict XVI has contributed content to a new book, From the Depths of Our Hearts, which appears along with an essay by Cardinal Robert Sarah, the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship.  The book, which was released this week, is an emotional defense of priestly celibacy. 

In an amazing coincidence, the book comes while Pope Francis is considering the possibility of allowing older, married men to be ordained as priests in the Amazon region.

What wasn’t mentioned in the book is an action Pope Francis’ predecessor, Benedict XVI, took almost 9 years ago to the day the book was published:  he welcomed married Anglican priests who planned to convert to Catholicism. In other words, the same Benedict that is writing from the depths of his heart on the need for priestly celibacy was the first pope to allow married Anglican priests who converted to Catholicism to serve as Catholic priests.  A small but revealing point:  these same men left the Church of England because they wholeheartedly disagreed with the ordination of women and openly gay priests.

If this isn’t bad/funny enough, Cardinal Sarah and Archbishop Georg Ganswein, Pope Benedict’s good-looking and long-time private secretary, are engaged in a slap-fest over Benedict’s participation in the book.  Did Cardinal Sarah use the 92-year-old, frail and mentally diminishing Pope Benedict in a fight against Pope Francis and/or to prop up book sales?

Archbishop Ganswein openly contradicted Cardinal Sarah’s official account of the genesis of the book, issuing a “clarification” on January 14, 2020 saying that while Pope Emeritus Benedict was certainly aware of Cardinal Sarah’s plan to produce a book on celibacy, Benedict “did not approve a project for a co-authored book and he had not seen or authorized the cover.” Archbishop Ganswein disclosed that he had, at the former pope’s request, asked Ignatius Press to remove the name of Benedict XVI as co-author of the book. Cardinal Sarah took a step back when he announced the same day on Twitter: “Considering the controversies that the publication of the book From the Depths of Our Hearts has provoked, it is decided that the author of the book for future publications will be: Cdl. Sarah, with the contribution of Benedict XVI.”  So far, the publishers are standing firm with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI as co-author.

Cardinal Sarah’s pal, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, has denounced Archbishop Ganswein for what he calls his “abusive and systematic control” of the pope emeritus.  Of course, Vigano may still be smarting from the time Archbishop Ganswein told news media that contrary to Vigano’s claim, Pope Benedict did not confirm Vigano’s “testimony” on Pope Francis and the Cardinal McCarrick scandal. Ganswein said the whole thing was “fake news.”

Isn’t it fun to watch conservative prelates go picnicking on one another!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pope Francis’ Little Book of Insults

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

The Truth hurts!

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

Enjoy the Little Book of Insults here.

 

Pope JPII Institute’s Family Values Shift – From Martinet to Listener

Posted by Censor Librorum on Sep 1, 2019 | Categories: Arts & Letters, Popes

Pope Francis continues to move Catholicism from irrelevant to part of ordinary life. A large part of this change is his focus on family, emphasizing warm pastoral care over purity and sexual sins. The switch will help to stem the flow of people, especially young people, out of the Church. 

The latest change began with his September 8, 2017 Apostolic Letter, Summa Familiae Cura, where he modified the name of Pope John Paul II’s Institute on Marriage and Family and started the process of changing its statutes. The new name is the Pontifical John Paul II Theological Institute for Matrimonial and Family Sciences. 

Summa Familiae Cura has the flavor of Pope Francis’s two previous Apostolic Exhortations:  Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), published in 2013 and especially Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love), published in April 2016.  It is obvious that Pope Francis intended the newly renamed institute to heavily incorporate Amoris Laetitia into its curriculum and culture. The Institute will also broaden its educational focus from theology to include “family sciences.”  This passage on the first page of Summa Familiae Cura must have given conservatives a chill:

“Anthropological-cultural change, that today influences all aspects of life and requires an analytic and diversified approach, does not permit us to limit ourselves to practices in pastoral ministry and mission that reflect forms and models of the past. We must be informed and impassioned interpreters of the wisdom of the faith in a context which individuals are less well supported than in the past by social structures, and in their emotional and family life. With the clear purpose of remaining faithful to the teaching of Christ, we must therefore look, with the intellect of love and with wise realism, at the reality of the family today in all its complexity, with its lights and shadows.”

Several phrases leap out:  The Church would no longer “limit ourselves to practices in pastoral ministry and mission that reflect forms and models of the past.”  That statement opened the door to new ways of accompanying people through challenges in their lives. “With the clear purpose of remaining faithful to the teaching of Christ…”  That sentence signals a dramatic philosophical shift in attitude from the usual clerical admonishment to adhere to the teaching of the Magisterium. 

The pope announced that he would broaden the Institute’s studies and coursework. While the graduate school’s curriculum had previously centered on the theology of marriage and the family, it will be changed to incorporate social sciences and other approaches to studying the family.  The licentiate and doctoral programs have been retained, but there is no explicit reference in the new statutes to John Paul II, his Theology of the Body, or Humanae Vitae. New faculty will be added. Pope Francis appointed Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia as Grand Chancellor of the refounded JPII Institute.  Archbishop Paglia is now firmly in charge of curriculum and hiring.  The revamped Institute will promote the thought of Pope Francis, and open windows and doors to the lived experience of Catholic families–not an idealized one promoted by celibate clerics. 

The appointment of Archbishop Paglia must stick in the craw of a lot of conservative Catholics.  Archbishop Paglia was the President of the Pontifical Council for the Family from 2012 to 2016 and Bishop of Teri-Narni-Amelia, Italy, from 2000 to 2012. He was the postulator for the cause of canonization of St. Oscar Romero (1917 – 1980), the assassinated Archbishop of San Salvador in El Salvador.  Archbishop Paglia has raised conservative hackles before, especially with his massive mural of sinners on the façade of his cathedral church. It depicts Jesus carrying nets of sinners to heaven, including Bishop Paglia himself.  Life Site News described the group in the nets as “homosexuals, transsexuals, prostitutes and drug dealers.” Jesus’ penis can be seen through his translucent garb.  This is slightly scandalous, but no more so than the usual image of a crucified Jesus whose skimpy loincloth barely covers his thighs. That suggestive image has been a fixture in many Catholic churches for years. 

The release of Summa Familiae Cura came two days after the death of Cardinal Carlo Caffarra. Cardinal Caffarra was appointed president by Pope John Paul II when the Institute was founded in 1981. He was an influential mentor to the long-serving president and professor of moral theology, Monsignor Livio Melina.  Msgr. Melina had taught at the Institute since 1986 and served as its president from 2006-2016.

Cardinal Caffarra was one of the four cardinals who signed the Dubia, a series of theological questions on Amoris Laetitia presented to Pope Francis in 2016. The document sought to force the pope to clarify any ambiguity regarding communion for divorced and remarried Catholics, among other issues. 

The Vatican’s PR machine cranked into action this summer as the Institute’s reorganization was completed and the fall semester drew close.  In a press release issued on July 29, 2019 the Institute defended its changes in statues and faculty: “The academic project of the new Institute, approved by the Congregation for Catholic Education, is designed as a widening of reflection on the family, and not as a replacement of themes and topics. Such expansion, showing even more the centrality of the family in the church and in society, confirms and relaunches with new vigor the original and still fruitful intuition of St. John Paul II.”

The Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano ran an article explaining why the Institute needed to better understand families.  Avvenire, Italy’s national Catholic newspaper, published an article on July 30, 2019 describing how people at the Institute had criticized the work of the two synods on the family and the post-synodal document, Amoris Laeititia.  Without naming specific faculty, Luciano Moia, the author, said the attacks were especially inappropriate because they came from “the heart of an institute that should have represented the field of high-level, specialized formation, one of the drivers of renewal, not the organizer of an insurgent fraction.”

Two of the authors of that discontent were dumped from JPII’s faculty and administration:  Monsignor Livio Melina, who held the Chair of Fundamental Moral Theology and Fr. Jose Noriego, who held the Chair of Specialized Moral Theology.  Both were notified that their positions had been eliminated.  Little wonder—Msgr. Melina insisted on interpreting the ideas contained in Amoris Laeititia in the light of Pope John Paul II’s encyclicals on family, Familiaris Consortio, and the Church’s moral teaching, Veritatis Splendor. As the gospel says, new wine in old wineskins doesn’t work.

 Fr. Jose Granados, an official of the Institute, doggedly defended the old professor. “The way that you understand (the 1993 encyclical) Veritatis splendor will shape the way you view particular moral issues, such as the morality of contraception or sexual acts outside of marriage….Is it not that Melina…has remained faithful to Humanae vitae and Veritats splendor..?”

 Hint: If you try to undermine the Pope it’s not healthy for your career in Catholic academia.  What happened to Msgr. Melina sounds like what happened to Fr. Charles Curran and many other theologians, educators and religious during the Pope John Paul II/Pope Benedict era.  There was no welcome mat for dissidents.

What horrified Fr. Granados the most was the prospect of welcoming Fr. Maurizio Chiodi to the faculty of the Institute.  “Rumors now circulate that Professor Maurizio Chiodi will come to teach, who opens himself up to the lawfulness of contraception and accepts homosexual acts as ‘possible’ in some situations.”  Fr. Chiodi is a professor of moral theology at the Northern University of Milan and a new member of the Pontifical Academy for Life.  He has been described as a “disciple” of Cardinal Caffarra’s old adversary, German priest Bernard Haring. Fr. Haring was a Roman Catholic scholar who influenced the sweeping modernization of Vatican II by emphasizing a moral theology of Christian love rather than the cataloging of sins.  He also advocated the virtue of listening. ”All of us dislike a fellow who always speaks to us and never listens,” Haring told Catholic University (DC) students in 1964. ”If the church doesn’t listen to the world, then the world will never listen to the church.”

 

The Church’s Own Gender Bending: The Castrati

Posted by Censor Librorum on Jul 25, 2019 | Categories: Arts & Letters, Celebrities, History, Popes, Scandals

Many church officials are going nuts over transgender people calling them unnatural, delusional, or a fad.  Male and Female He Created Them: Towards a Path of Dialogue on the Question of Gender Theory in Education, was issued by the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education on June 10, 2019.  The document brands changing understanding toward gender identity and sexuality as a cultural and historical trend in “gender theory” that is contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church.

How does the Vatican explain its own “gender theory” creation–the Castrati?  As with most sexual and religious issues in Catholicism, misogyny is at the bottom of it. 

In 1588, Pope Sixtus V banned women from singing on stage in any public theater or opera house.  They were already banned from singing in church by the Pauline dictum “mulieres in ecclesiis tacesant” (“let women keep silent in churches” 1 Corinthians, ch.14, v. 34).  In 1589, in response to a demand for feminine voices to hit the high notes, Pope Sixtus V published the bull Cum Pro Nostro Pastorali Munere, reorganizing the choir at St. Peter’s Basilica specifically to include castrati. The pope was aware the public craved the “voices of angels.”

The process of castrating promising young boys to compensate for the loss of female sopranos became prevalent.  This surgical manipulation of nature preserved boys’ high youthful voices although they had the vocal power of men.  The promise of lucrative careers persuaded many poor Italian parents to castrate their sons if they possessed musical talent. It is believed that many operations to remove testicles were carried out by slitting the groin and severing the spermatic cord.  Some boys could still achieve an erection depending on the age they were castrated.

Castrati were sexually attractive to members of both sexes.  Because male castrati could not procreate, women found them particularly attractive as casual sex partners. Castrati developed the reputation of having enhanced sexual prowess due to their lack of sensation.

According to a story by author Tony Perrottet, even the famous Casanova was tempted. “Rome forces every man to become a pederast,” he sighed in his memoirs. His most confusing moment came when he met a particularly lovely teenage castrato named Bellino in an inn. Casanova was bewitched, going so far as to offer a gold doubloon to see the boy’s genitals. In an improbable twist, when Casanova grabbed Bellino in a fit of passion, he discovered a false penis: it turned out that the castrato was a girl, who historians have identified as Teresa Lanti. She had taken up the disguise to circumvent the ban on female singers in Italy. She later “came out” to perform in other European countries which did not have restrictions on female singers.

In the 17th century thousands of boys between the ages of 8 and 12 were castrated annually. While there is no exact figure, 80% are estimated to have survived the surgery. A lucky few became celebrities. The rest festered in small church choirs or became prostitutes or beggars.  The castrati often grew up with feminine features and smooth, hairless bodies.  Some of them were tall and gangly, others grew breasts and heavy buttocks.  Castration for the sake of art was finally banned in the early 19th century.  However, Italian doctors continued to create castrati until 1870.  The Vatican employed them as singers in the Sistine Chapel until 1903.  In truth, the church condoned—or looked the other way—when adolescent boys were castrated in order to produce males with soprano voices. 

In the 1993 book, Engel wider Willen: Die Welt der Kastraten (Angels Against their Will) German historian Hubert Ortkemper said the castrato Alessandro Moreschi (1858-1922) performed in the Sistine Chapel until 1913. Moreschi lived long enough to make recordings in 1902 and 1904.  You can listen to him sing, “Ave Maria” here.

The most famous castrato, Carlo Broschi, was born in a small city in Southern Italy in 1705.  Better known by his stage name Farinelli; he became the greatest opera singer of the 18th century, performing all over Europe.  His stage career lasted from 1720 to 1737.  He outlived most of his contemporaries and died in Bologna in 1782.  In 2006, Farinelli’s remains were exhumed to be moved to another cemetery.  Scientists and antiquarians took the opportunity to study the effects of castration on body development.  They discovered osteoporosis and a condition called hyperostosis frontalis interna in Farinelli’s bones.  These conditions are common in older, post-menopausal women. 

In his mind-blowing article “Some Men Are Born Eunuchs” former Providence College professor, Anthony Esolen, compared the castrati operations to the process of transitioning from male to female (transwomen). His verdict: “However sick it was to do that then; it is far sicker to do what we do now.” According to his reasoning, a castrated boy at least produced a beneficial outcome; a beautiful voice for art or liturgy, financial security, or social status. “He” would still be a “he.” In contrast, the “mutilation” a transwoman endures to achieve feminine characteristics does not produce a beneficial outcome, only a freak who was “troweled out for a mock vagina.” “He” wants to become a “she.” Esolen’s article is obviously meant to defend the Church’s position on gender changes and transsexuals. His loathing of feminists, homosexuals, and transsexuals is evident.  But in his haste to condemn adult males who chemically and surgically transition to female, he ignores the physical changes of the castrati.  They became feminine, too, with high voices, breasts, big asses and soft skin. What is also evident is his delusion that a small boy, 8, 9, or 10 years old could make the choice to be castrated.  It wasn’t a noble gesture. They were pushed into the barbershop by their parents or a priest.

The strong whiff of misogyny in the Esolen article is reminiscent of Pope Sixtus V’s decree to ban women’s voices in church and the stage and substitute them with castrati. It appears that it’s better to have males with no balls in the choir than women. 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s Essay on the Sex Abuse

Posted by Censor Librorum on May 7, 2019 | Categories: Accountability, Arts & Letters, History, Popes, Scandals

On April 10, 2019 Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI released an essay, The Church and the Scandal of Sex AbuseIt was published in an obscure Bavarian priests’ newsletter.  Almost immediately ultra-conservative North American Catholic news outlets published an English translation.  Benedict said he began drafting the essay shortly after Pope Francis announced that the world’s bishops’ conferences would meet in Rome in February 2019 to discuss the sex abuse crisis, and how to protect minors and vulnerable adults.

“Since I myself had served in a position of responsibility as shepherd of the Church at the time of the public outbreak of the crisis, and during the run-up to it,” Benedict writes, “I had to ask myself – even though as emeritus, I am no longer directly responsible – what could I contribute to a new beginning.”

Benedict’s 6,000-word essay did not address many key questions:  How much did he know and refuse to say about how these issues were handled in his pontificate and that of Pope John Paul II? Why didn’t he do more about clerical sex abuse and its cover up in his three decades as a high official in the Vatican? Why was all his anti-gay rhetoric never applied to Vatican prelates and bishops, only to homosexual men and women in secular society?

A woman who is internationally known for her support of LGBT Catholics, and one who was persecuted for her views by the future Pope Benedict XVI, spotted him on a commercial flight to Rome.  Cardinal Ratzinger had refused every one of her requests to meet.  Seeing an opportunity, she waited until a seat opened up next to him and went over and sat down. He was stuck. She tried every which way to get him to talk to her about the love and faith of gay and lesbian Catholics. She said he was a gentle man, polite and soft-spoken, but not for one minute would he entertain any view other than his own. The supremacy of the Church and its teachings did not leave room for discussion or doubt.

“Among the freedoms that the Revolution of 1968 sought to fight for was this all-out sexual freedom, one which no longer conceded any norms.”

Pope Emeritus Benedict blames the cultural upheavals and sexual revolution of the 1960s for most of the problems in the Catholic Church.  In his view, the roots of the sexual abuse crisis lie in a steep decline in public “respectability,’ and theologians who challenged the Church’s opposition to birth control.  Together they opened the floodgates to other sexual sins, dissent and the abandonment of God. But, there are some gigantic holes in Benedict’s reasoning. How is secular society to blame for the cover up of clerical sex abuse by bishops, Vatican officials and popes? How did the Legionaries of Christ founder, the Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado, a serial rapist and molester, operate freely and without fear at he highest levels of the Vatican?  He was protected and his victims were ignored and harassed.

Was the Church swept away with all the sexual taboos? No, it was The Pill.  A bitter pill for many Catholics who turned away from the Church after Humane Vitae.  I was a teenager in the 1960s, and I recall talking to my parents at the dinner table about the Pope Paul’s decision.  My parents felt the church had made a terrible mistake.  Humanae Vitae, while a beautiful document, wasn’t based on common sense.  The church lost a lot of credibility with ordinary Catholics and their children.

“The mental collapse was also linked to a propensity for violence. That is why sex films were no longer allowed on airplanes because violence would break out among the small community of passengers.”

What! I never knew they showed dirty movies on airlines! When was that?! Passengers would see the dirty movies and start a riot on the plane! Wow!

“Faith is a journey and a way of life.”

That is a very Vatican II statement on the progress of faith.  I was surprised.

“In various seminaries homosexual cliques were established, which acted more or less openly and significantly changed the climate in seminaries. In one seminary in Southern Germany, candidates for priesthood and candidates for the lay ministry of pastoral specialist lived together.  At the common meals, seminarians and pastoral specialists ate together, the married among the laymen sometimes accompanied by their wives and children, and on occasion by their girlfriends. The climate in this seminary could not provide support for preparation to the priestly vocation. The Holy See knew of such problems, without being informed precisely.”

This is a very strange passage. The sentence about “homosexual cliques” is Benedict’s one reference to homosexuality in his essay. If he feels that homosexuality is a major reason behind the sex abuse crisis, why does he only allude to it in one sentence about a few seminaries? If the Vatican felt that “homosexual cliques”–especially ones who were open and active–were changing the character of the seminaries, why didn’t they do anything about it? What is also odd, given Benedict’s fixation on homosexuality as a root cause of everything bad, is why he objected to the presence of women and children having dinner with seminarians? Why was this “climate” (mixed company–married men, women, children, lay ministers) inappropriate for priestly candidates?  As priests, wouldn’t they work and socialize with a variety of people? Or, is it the notion that seminarians should be separated from lay people, to give them the feeling they are special, set apart, above the law and other norms? 

“There were–not only in the United States of America–individual bishops who rejected the Catholic tradition as a whole and sought to bring about a kind of new, modern “Catholicity” in their dioceses.  Perhaps it is worth mentioning that in not a few seminaries, students caught reading my books were considered unsuitable for the priesthood. My books were hidden away, like bad literature, and only read under the desk.”

What a whiny, self-pitying remark from a man that spent his career rooting out and punishing free-thinkers and Church critics. Hans Kung, Leonardo Boff, liberation theology, feminist theologians, Elizabeth Johnson, U.S. women’s religious communities, Jeannine Gramick, Bob Nugent, and many others all felt his disapproval and heavy, censoring hand.  They handled themselves with more dignity.

“The question of pedophilia, as I recall, did not become acute until the second half of the 1980s. In the meantime, it had already become a public issue in the U.S., such that the bishops in Rome sought help, since canon law, as it is written in the new (1983) Code, did not seem sufficient for taking the necessary measures.”

Is pedophilia in the Church only an issue when it’s acute? “Acute” in this instance means the number of cases and accusations coming to the attention of the public. Why did the Vatican delay in addressing the inadequacy of canon law to investigate, judge and impose significant ecclesiastical sanctions on credibly accused clergy and religious? Benedict knew about thousands of sexual abuse cases and accusations, but his highest priority was to protect the Church from scandal, not children or teenagers.

One of the most stomach-turning incidents in his tenure is the case of the Wisconsin priest, Rev. Lawrence C. Murphy, who worked at a renowned school for deaf children from 1950 to 1974. (See my comments on the case in this post.) Murphy molested around 200 boys during his time at the school.  Nowhere in his essay does Benedict express any shame or regret for his role in the Murphy case, or apologize for official delays or inaction in other cases. His silence is instructive to his frame of mind, priorities and values.

“A balanced canon law that corresponds to the whole of Jesus’ message must therefore not only provide a guarantee for the accused, the respect for whom is a legal good. It must also protect the Faith, which is also an important legal asset.”

This “double guarantee” is missing a provision.  It protects the rights of the accused. Fine. It protects “the Faith” as a “legal asset.” Good. But he never mentions justice or mercy for the victims and bereaved–certainly an integral part of Jesus’ message.  It appears this part is missing in the canon law Benedict cites.  In John’s Gospel Jesus protected a woman accused of adultery by suggesting a man without sin cast the first stone.  But in the Gospels of Luke and Matthew, Jesus is very clear that if anyone harmed children their punishment would be dire–“It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea, than that he would cause one of these little ones to stumble.”

“Why did pedophilia reach such proportions? Ultimately the reason is the absence of God.”

The absence of God in men with personality disorders and mental health issues which incites them to sexually molest children; or just the absence of God?  Does Benedict believe pedophilia is ultimately a spiritual evil that we can pray to God to purify away?

“A young woman who was a (former) altar server told me that the chaplain, her superior as an altar server, always introduced the sexual abuse he was committing against her with the words: “This is my body which will be given up for you.” It is obvious that this woman can no longer hear the very words of consecration without experiencing again all the horrific distress of her abuse.  Yes, we must urgently implore the Lord for forgiveness, and first and foremost we must swear by Him and ask Him to teach us all anew to understand the greatness of his suffering, His sacrifice. And we must do all we can to protect the gift of the Holy Eucharist from abuse.”

What exactly is Benedict saying?  Is he implying a connection between the abuse of the liturgy and sexual abuse? If people would only approach communion in a reverent way most of the problems in Catholicism will clear up? Why do “we” need to implore the Lord for forgiveness, when “we” have not committed this terrible sin and violation?  The priest in question, and his superior if he protected him, are the people who need to beg for forgiveness.  Not only to our Lord, but first to the girl, her family, and all the people whose faith he has ruined by his terrible actions.  Of all the sections in the essay, this passage is the most emotionally remote and bleak. It horrified me to see such a distance between our highest spiritual leader and the people he was supposed to serve.

“Indeed, the Church today is widely regarded as just some kind of political apparatus. One speaks of it almost exclusively in political categories, and this applies even to bishops, who formulate their conception of the church of tomorrow in almost exclusively in political terms.”

Did Benedict have the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in mind?  We have a hard core of loud conservative bishops and some liberal bishops.  With the election of Pope Francis, the demographics have sifted slightly, as more moderate, pastoral bishops have been added. Early in his pontificate, Francis scolded the USCCB for their preoccupation with gay marriage and abortion.  For the last two decades, a conservative subset of U.S. bishops has focused on abortion and religious liberty (freedom to discriminate against gay and lesbian couples, women who use birth control) to the marginalization of many other social and economic issues. They were comfortable in the Republican party tent. The smaller minority of liberal bishops promoted government support for the poor, immigrants and health care. They tended to line up with the Democratic party. Some conservative bishops urged people not to vote for pro-choice politicians, or politicians that supported gay marriage–no matter what their views and voting record on other issues.  They also obliged the Republican party by torpedoing any moderate or liberal Catholic presidential and congressional candidates. If Francis continues to appoint bishops with a more pastoral vs. conservative political focus, the USCCB’s activity in the public square will be less politically polarizing.

“The idea of a better Church, created by ourselves, is in fact a proposal of the devil, with which he wants to lead us away from the living God, through a deceitful logic by which we are too easily duped.”

Should Catholicism be a smaller and more tradition-minded community or a larger and more inclusive church of imperfect believers at various stages in their spiritual journey?  Who does a smaller, purer church exclude?  People who reject libertarian economics and individualism in favor of the poor and marginalized; or people who are concerned primarily with sexual morality?  I am not immune to this feeling.  How many times have I longed for a church of like-minded believers.  But I also recognize that making the church an ideologically purer place will inevitably extinguish it.  We can help shape it, but we cannot remake it. It is not ours to remake.

In 2016, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput said in a speech delivered at the University of Notre Dame that the Church should “do everything we can to bring tepid Catholics back to active life in the church.”  But, he continued, “we should never be afraid of a smaller, lighter church if her members are also more faithful, more zealous, more missionary and more committed to holiness.”

Cardinal Joseph Tobin, in  a 2018 talk at Villanova University, urged Catholics to resist allowing “the individualism that permeates our culture” to infect the church. “Even from ancient times, there have been individuals and movements who have tried to define and delimit what it means to be a Catholic Christian,” the Newark, NJ archbishop said. “Nevertheless, the universal church has always repudiated such attempts. It is only the Lord who ultimately judges who belongs and who does not belong.”

Domine, quo vadis? 

In the meantime, Pope Emeritus Benedict needs to put down his pen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Did Frederic Martel Just Out Cardinal Raymond Burke?

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

I think he did. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Becket 2020

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

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

Celebrating Becket

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

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

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

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

The King’s Friend

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

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

Archbishop of Canterbury

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

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

The Benefit of Clergy

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

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

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

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

Murder in the Cathedral

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cures and Pilgrims

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

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

The Fate of the Knights

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

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

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

Becket 2020

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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…….