The Church Without Nuns is Like a Human Heart that’s Cut in Half

Photo Source Flickr Creative Commons by Ben Eekhof

Photo Source Flickr Creative Commons by Ben Eekhof

Legislators can be dismissive of clergy.

In fact, elected officials are, whether they will admit it in public or not, downright cynical about collared folk. Anyone who’s been through a political campaign and had the experience of a member of the clergy lying about them from the pulpit is bound to be changed by the experience.

In my young life, I’ve had clergy of many denominations stand behind the pulpit and call me everything but a nice person. Much of this was back in my anti-religion period when I was pro choice.

They did not confine themselves to the fact that I was pro choice. They claimed variously that I owned whole chains of abortion clinics, was a communist/prostitute/lesbian/whore/slut etc, etc, etc.

Then, when I experienced the love of Christ and converted, when I began to do my best of make up for the harm I’d done by being pro choice, I got attacked by clergy from the other side of the spectrum. They accused me of criminality (which made them lawsuit bait, btw), hating women/hating men/being in favor of rape, and, of course, sexual promiscuity and having had many abortions.

Notice that the lies always included sexual slurs. I think there’s a reason for this, given that I am female and the clergy who attacked me were all male. But I won’t go into it here. Just use your imagination.

Most elected officials end up being attacked by clergy at some point in their careers, and most of the time these attacks are among the most vicious and dishonest they experience. So, when a member of the clergy shows up to lobby for something or other, politicians tend to regard them more as other politicians than men and women of God.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by JohnPickenPhoto

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by JohnPickenPhoto

Not so with nuns. The reaction a group of hardened and cynical legislators has to a nun, particularly a nun wearing a habit, is absolutely startling. The reason why is simple. They believe that the nuns are for real. They don’t see them as another political power player. They see nuns as genuinely holy people.

This leads me to the post that my colleague, Sr Theresa Aletheia Noble, published today. It’s an account of an encounter she had with a young man who had recently been released from prison. She writes,

Filled with the chutzpah that only an Italian background and the Holy Spirit can give you I rap on his window. He turns toward me with an unfriendly glare.

“Hi!” I say brightly, fully employing my “naive nun” routine, “Your mom wanted me to meet you.”

After a few moments, the man hesitantly opens the car door without looking at me.

He stays in his seat.

I wait, knowing I cannot really talk to him if his eyes stay glued to the steering wheel.

I realize that he is just as afraid of me as I am of him.

After an awkward moment he gets out of the car. I notice a tattoo on his neck in bold script: “La vida es sufrir” (life is suffering).

He moves uncomfortably from side to side.

I touch his arm and say, “I’ve been praying for you and I will keep praying for you. Feel free to come by to talk anytime. We have a chapel that you can visit.”

He takes his sunglasses off and squints in the sun, grinning slightly.

I just look at him intently as if to say, “I’m know this invitation seems absurd, but it still holds.”

We look at each other in silence for a few more seconds.

I wave and walk back to the bookstore, his mother close behind me. As I walk, I realize that, despite appearances, there is really not much that separates me from this mother’s son. Whatever he does, whatever he is involved in, it seems like it is only a few steps away. I can almost touch it. In some mysterious way I almost feel that I am him. In that moment something about my vocation clicks.

I am a sister: a sister to Jesus, a sister to gangbangers, a sister to grace, a sister to sin.

Nuns, sisters, especially when they wear clothing that makes it clear who they are, have a vocation that even they may not be aware of. They are a visible sign and a presence of God’s grace in this world.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Official US Navy Page

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Official US Navy Page

Would this young man have opened his car door for a priest? Probably. But the encounter would not have been the same. There is a unique and irreplaceable personal power in the feminine that no priest can possess. There is also the public perception of nuns and sisters as people who are authentic in their commitment to Christ, who are, in fact, holy.

I dealt with people like this young man on a daily basis all the 18 years I was in office. I also dealt with frightened people, people outside the law in many ways, and victims of those outside the law.

I can’t remember one time when a frightened or lawbreaking person turned me away when I approached them. There was never a time when they offered me harm. There were many, many times when they came to me in trust and desperation; unafraid to confide in me, trusting absolutely that I would not betray their confidences, that I would help them in whatever way I could.

That is the power of the feminine, even without a habit. It is the power of mother love, even in a government situation.

Nuns are an irreplaceable component in the Church’s structure. Without them, the ministry of the  Church becomes too male to be truly functional. That is because men are not the human race. They are half of what we are as humans. Women and men together are the human race. Anything less is shorn and weak; a quasi-functional subpart of the damaged whole.

Without nuns, the Church is like a human heart, struggling to beat, even though it’s cut in half.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Stijn De Clercq

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Stijn De Clercq

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Hypocritical Clergy Shut the Door of the Kingdom of Heaven in People’s Faces

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Kristian Bjornard

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Kristian Bjornard

My colleague, Linda LaScola writes a blog over on the Atheist Channel. The focus of her blog is fallen clergy, specifically, Christian clergy who have become atheist.

Quite a number of the posts she writes are about clergy who have become atheist, but continue to keep their jobs as Christian clergy. Ms LaScola and her fellow atheists like this sort of thing, because these guys and gals are worms, eating into the wood of Christianity from the inside.

They are also liars, phonies and charlatans.

This is how Ms LaScola summarized the situation in a promo line she put on one of her recent blog posts:

“…there are clergy who are purposely or inadvertently discouraging their parishioners from holding some of the foundational beliefs of their religion. They no longer believe themselves, so are not very convincing when conveying religious beliefs. In some cases they are not even trying.” 

Odd as this may sound, my response to Ms LaScola’s comment, as well as her headline “Clergy Fuel Flight From Religion,” is Amen sister. You are telling the truth.

Of course, Ms LaScola supports these phoney baloney lying preachers, as, so far as I can see, do the rest of her fellow Atheist bloggers. A good bit of atheist carrying on is based on flat-out lying. The rash of atheists going in to Catholic Churches and pretending to be worshippers in order to gain access to a consecrated Host that they then filmed themselves desecrating is a case in point.

Clergy who lie to their parishioners and misrepresent themselves in order to gain a trust and followership they do not deserve take this lying to a whole new level. They use their position to lead trusting people away from where the people themselves expect to be led. The only place where these folks and their pathological behavior are heroes is among those who hate Christianity.

However, the fact remains that a good number of our clergy do a number on the faith. They are one of the reasons that so many people are leaving the Church.

First, they don’t preach Christ. They don’t share Christ. They don’t even believe in Christ. The Christ-less-Cross-less Christianity they offer is not Christianity at all.

Second, they actively attack the consistent, and up until about a decade ago, universal teachings of Christianity. They work against the faith and try — with success — to scatter the flock. They align themselves publicly with people who have repeatedly stated in public and in writing that their goal is the destruction of Christianity. They support limitations on the First Amendment as a means of attacking their fellow Christians. They join in with the mockery, ridicule, hazing and bashing of their fellow Christians.

Some of these people are just weak-minded thought-bots who suffer from an overdose of narcissism and hubris. They are often highly educated in that they possess many earned degrees. But they are people who do not have a center. They behave like baby ducks imprinting on whatever is the new intellectual trendy. They are spiteful and sarcastic, but there’s no spine. They are weak all through.

A good number of the others are in fact the venal liars that they appear to be. They “come out” to atheists blog sites such as Ms LaScola’s and receive praise, support and sympathy for their “plight” of being an atheist who is supposedly trapped inside the clergy.

This claim is, of course, another of their lies. They are not “trapped” in the clergy.

Nothing and nobody is making these folks stay in their cushy jobs. They could stop lying, leave the clergy and live lives consistent with their true beliefs any time they wanted. They hang on because they like the unearned respect that people give clergy and, if they are part of one of the major denominations, they also like the easy pay, free housing, health insurance and retirement.

It’s a good life, being a lying, two-faced phoney preacher. You can be treated like a cult hero by Christian bashers; their very own boy. At the same time, you get to be a pretend man or woman of God with all the kudos that go with that.


The Catholic Church is not immune to this problem of phoney clergy. We’ve got quite a few of them. Here are a few cases in point:

Priests are bucking the Catholic Church leadership to support gay marriage in Ireland. 

Archbishop Orders Minnesota Priests to Support or Stay Silent on Anti-Gay Marriage Amendment

Father Bob Pierson, Gay Priest, on Why Catholics Should Support Gay Marriage

Md Catholic Priest Defends Gay Marriage Before Congregation Despite Opposition

Georgetown University Caves to HHS Mandate

I could go on, but it gets repetitive. The point I’m making is the same one I made in an earlier post. There are reasons for the decline of affiliation with Christian denominations and the rise of nones that we’ve seen in recent polls.

Christian bashing is one of those reasons. I’ve written quite a few posts talking about that. Now, I think it’s time we talk about fallen clergy. I absolutely do not mean the stalwart souls who preach the Gospel, care for their parishioners and do all they can to follow Christ. I do not want to pick these good men apart or criticize them. I’m grateful to them.

I have been blessed with true pastors with a genuine heart for God ever since I converted to the Catholic Church. The one phoney pastor I had in my entire life was years ago when I was an Episcopalian. This guy actually bragged about destroying people’s faith.

I also do not want to talk about the honest doubters who are struggling with their faith, or the equally honest men and women who leave the clergy because they no longer believe what the Church teaches.

This discussion is about those who wear the collar under false pretenses and actively work to undermine the body of Christ by leading God’s people away from the Way. I have nothing good to say about these people.

They are today’s version of the people Jesus was talking about when He said,

What sorrow awaits you, teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! You shut the door of the Kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces. You won’t go in yourselves, and you don’t let others enter, either. 


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The Christian Basher in Chief Explains Pope Francis

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons. Official White House Photo.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons. Official White House Photo.

Christian/Catholic bashers come from all sectors of society.

Some of them come from the left. Others come from the right. The thing they have in common is that their agenda is always and forever their agenda and not that of the Gospels.

They attack Christians in general and the Catholic Church in particular, for one reason. They want to either use the prophetic and moral voice of Jesus Christ to advance their nihilist/corporatist agendas, or they want to destroy this voice.

The contrary thing about the Catholic Church is its unbending fealty to the Gospels as a whole. The Catholic Church does not pick out one part of the Gospels to follow and dump the rest of it. The Catholic Church follows the entire teachings of Christ.

This makes the Catholic Church what Simeon told Our Lady that Jesus would be: “A sign of contradiction that will be opposed and spoken against.”

That is what Jesus said would happen to His followers when He told His disciples, If they persecute Me, they will persecute you. A servant is not greater than his master. 

This fealty does not apply to all Catholic laity, nor to all Catholic priests, and not even, sadly, to all Catholic bishops and cardinals. But the Church as a whole does not depart from the historic and eternal Word that leads to life everlasting. For guidance, we do what Christians have always done. We look to Peter.

What this means is that while there are individual Catholics who write books, give interviews and lead lives that witness to the fallenness of this world rather than to life in Christ, the Church itself does not waver in following Him. It also means that for every fallen Catholic yammering away on a talk show or showing up in a divorce court or hanging out on a porn site, there are many others quietly living lives of goodness and value that build up the Body of Christ.

It means that, while there are priests and bishops who pander to the culture, there are others, such as Cardinal Cordileone in San Francisco, who accept the brickbats and slanders that come to every true follower of Christ the Lord.

It also means that the most powerful among us are also those who are most jealous of the power this true moral voice gives to the Church. They love to stroke the fallen clergy and fallen Catholics who feed at the trough at public approbation for betraying Christ by following the world’s teachings instead of the Gospels. But those others, those who refuse to bend their knee and kiss Caesar’s ring, stick in their throats like a bone.

A case in point is our President.

No president in American history has launched such a direct and outrageous attack on the First Amendment and the Catholic Church as that engineered by President Obama with his HHS Mandate. That attack on the basic freedoms of every citizen in this country is, sadly, only one part of what he has done.

Under President Obama’s administration, Catholic organizations have had to end apostolates to trafficked women because they wouldn’t refer them for abortions. Catholic adoption agencies have been closed because they wouldn’t place babies with homosexual couples. People of faith, including Catholics such as the Little Sisters of the Poor, have been forced to spend day after day in court, defending basic rights that an Administration that believed in American freedoms would support rather than challenge.

President Obama’s recent comments concerning Christians, particularly Catholics, strain credulity when they are taken in the context of his administration’s constant attacks on the First Amendment. It seems that the president decided to sound off on how Christians and Catholics should interpret the Gospels. Not surprisingly, he called on them to put aside 2,000 years of Christian teaching and join in following after him.

In fairness to President Obama, he was speaking at an anti-poverty summit of Evangelical and Catholic leaders at Georgetown University. That at least makes his comments on topic. The gist of what he said was that Christians have been too focused on abortion and that they need to be more like Pope Francis with his emphasis on the poor.

First of all, if the president had bothered to consider where he was, he might have realized that Catholics, as well as other Christians, have placed a considerable emphasis on the needs of the poor for some 2,000 years now. He was speaking at a Catholic university because of the powerful focus that all Christians place on education.

How many of the finest institutions of higher learning in the Western world were begun by religious people, seeking to spread education to everyone? How many schools are there in Africa, Asia and even the Middle East today that were begun and are run by Christians, seeking educate those who cannot get an education otherwise?

Likewise, how many hospitals, clinics, homes for the destitute and help agencies were begun or are run by Christians? The entire HHS Mandate fight came about because there are so many of us out there working to provide help for people who would not otherwise have it. The ACLU has sued the Catholic bishops to try to force them to stop teaching Catholic teaching in Catholic institutions precisely because, they say, so many of our hospitals and health care agencies are Catholic.

Get that? So many of them are Catholic. That’s because Catholics care and have cared for a very long time about the welfare of human beings, all human beings, everywhere.

That is what following Jesus Christ inspires people to do. Christians are builders, helpers, educators, healers. The light of Christ not only shows us the Way to eternal life. It shows us the Way to abundant life for all people in this life.

President Obama’s comment was a well-done form of Christian bashing. It was somewhat like his earlier remarks about the Crusades in that it was based on a lie and that lie is being used to bash Christians and weaken the Christian witness in our society.

The other half of his comment was equally inaccurate. Christian advocacy in the political realm, especially that by the Catholic Church, is not limited to abortion. I know that. And so does he.

We both know because we’ve been in the political realm for most of our adult lives and we’ve been the recipients of the advocacy from Catholic entities about everything from support for increasing the minimum wage, to the welfare of immigrants.

My strongest help when I passed the bill protecting rape victims from having their personal information released was Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City. Abortion was not mentioned in the bill. Ditto for legislation cleaning up nursing homes, the fight to stop Jim Crow legislation against Hispanics, minimum wage, and a host of other things.

Catholic teaching on justice to the poor and the dignity of workers goes back to Christ. It has been elucidated most powerfully by a long series of Popes, beginning with Pope Leo’s historic encyclical Rerum Novarum and going up through every pope since, including Pope Francis.

Pope Francis is Peter. He is not leading the Church down new pathways. There is nothing new or revolutionary about a Catholic Church that stands for the poor. The only thing that is new is this plastic attempt to “play” Catholics by making them think it is new.

As for the Catholic Church standing for the basic right to life of all human beings, how can anyone with half a brain honestly expect the Church Jesus founded to do anything else?

Does President Obama seriously expect the Catholic Church to come out in favor of the wanton murder of innocents?

President Obama’s many little jibes at Christians in general and Catholics in particular are finely-tuned Christian bashing administered by a self-serving pro in the art of skewering his political opponents. They are also, as these things must be, based on lies.

I’ve already done a whole series on the appalling inaccuracies in the way Christian bashers depict the Crusades. I suppose I can do another one on the even more appalling — since the evidence to the contrary is right in front of them — way that Christian witness is slandered and lied about.

It disgusts me when the President of the United States says things like this. He has no business inciting prejudice against a whole group of Americans. He also has no business telling churches how to interpret theology. As he once said, that is “above his pay grade.”

I am resigned to the fact that our president is a Christian basher. I don’t like it. But I’ve been forced by his own behavior and comments to accept it.

This man needs our prayers friends.

Perhaps more important than that, Christians everywhere need to stop letting Christian bashers define them, their faith and their culture. Christian bashers are bigots. They are liars. They are haters of the first order. Remember that when they try to tell you something about your faith.

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Christianity Declines Sharply in America. Here’s the One, Two Three of It.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Woodlouse

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Woodlouse

Recent polls show a seven percent drop in the past eight years in the number of Americans who identify themselves as Christians.

This is due to a number of influences. Here is a short list of things I think have contributed to this situation.

First, and absolutely foremost, the incessant Christian bashing and hazing of Christians has to be at the top of the list. Christianity is attacked from every quarter, every single day. Christians have become the new hate group and Christianity is the new hate faith. This is done by lies, slander, half-truths, mockery and flat-out hate. Being a Christian who stands for Christ means that you will be ridiculed, reviled and attacked.

Second, the political heresy by much of the clergy. These men — and it’s nearly all men — have abandoned Jesus Christ to go off after a political, little g god who — Surprise! — thinks like them. They have drop-kicked the Beatitudes and much of what Christ and the prophets taught to preach and teach the gospel of Ayn Rand and Arthur Laffer. They seriously claim that there is no moral requirement to policies and behavior where economics and moneymaking are concerned.

They have deified corporatism and war and claim a moral imperative for policies that impoverish the people of this country. They have become so identified with the Republican Party that they might as well take the cross down off the altars in their churches and put the elephant up there, instead.

Third, the other side of the political heresy by much of the clergy. These men and women — a good number of these are women — have drop-kicked the calls to justice and personal morality. There is no moral innovation or personal death-dealing philosophy that they do not support. Many of them have gone so far as to align themselves with militant atheists who openly state that they intend to destroy Christianity.

They have attempted to create a moral imperative for murder of the unborn, the elderly, the sick and the helpless. They support the limitation of religious freedom and join in with critics of the Gospels. They are so identified with the Democratic Party that, like their fellow wing-nut brethren on the right, they might as well remove the cross off their altars and replace it with the Democratic donkey.

Fourth, we have far too many preachers who eschew any controversy, including the controversy of the Cross. They are so namby-pamby and feel-good that you can’t tell by listening to them if they really believe in anything or not. This kind of preacher does well in wealthy parishes. All they have to do is mumble a few platitudes over the vicissitudes of life that their parishioners encounter and preach well-written sermons that are like soft pillows of reassurance to people whose problems are always wrapped in the comfort middle-class ease.

These pastors don’t convert anybody. In fact, they’re proud of not proselytizing, as if trying to save people from eternal hell was too gauche for them. You won’t find any mention of the R and D in their churches. And, except for the annual Christmas Eve candlelight service and the gauzy Easter service, you won’t find much mention of Jesus, either. They, and their churches are what Jesus called “neither hot nor cold.”

Item four is a good bit of why item one has been allowed to flourish. Their indifference to Christ makes defending Christ an impolitic overreaction for them.

Items two and three are what created the monster in the first place. It does not matter if they are aligned to the left or the right, clergy who practice the political heresy do not preach Christ. It is easy to caricatureize Christianity when you focus on fallen and false shepherds such as these. The Holy Spirit will not honor the preaching of heretics who preach a false gospel of political redemption and who lead people to political alliances rather than to the cross.

Yes, we need to take a stand against the Christian bashing that is going on in this country. We need to do it, not just as Christians, but as Americans. This vitriolic bigotry is a lethal poison in the body politic. No group of people in America should be subjected to the vicious and destructive hazing that has become normal for Christians.

Yes, those of us who are called to the political world need to stand up for the civil and Constitutional rights of Christians. We certainly should vote for an end to abortion and to save the family. No Christian can vote for murder, which means you cannot vote for abortion, euthanasia, or embryonic stem cell research. You may not kill people.

But by the same token, no Christian should vote for corporatism and corporate welfare that impoverishes the people of this country. Economically, this country has been at war since 1941. That, and not social security, is why we have a deficit. History is replete with the economic meltdowns that occur when wars go on too long.

Too many of our wars are fought for corporate greed rather than to protect the people of this country. Too much of our money is going to build a defense that is not even useful to the defense of this country.

Do you realize what I have just done to you? I have basically told you that you can not support either one of our political parties. That isn’t an accident.

We need to take the elephant and the donkey off the altars of our churches and put the cross back up there.

People need to hear the true Gospel of Christ in all its fullness. This generation needs the saving power of Calvary as much as the pagan world of the first century.

Our priests and preachers need to stop preaching politics and start preaching Christ. They need to preach Christ and Him crucified without shame or dissembling, with the full power of belief. We need to convert this culture, one person at a time.

We will not do that with politics. We will do it by the power of the Holy Spirit. We will change the world when we start trying to change the world for Christ and Him alone.

Our clergy need to preach Christ. You and I need to preach Christ as well; with our lives, with our words, with our daily witness. But none of us — not clergy, not laity — can do this without the power of the Holy Spirit. That begins on our knees.

Pray. Pray every day. Pray for real. Then be a living witness to your salvation.

As for our clergy, stop thinking it’s about you. It’s not. You weren’t called to do well. You were called to do good. Your vocation is meant to make a gift of you to God’s people. All vocations do that. They make us a gift to others.

We need shepherds.

Far too often, we’ve had wolves.

From the USA Today:

WASHINGTON — The United States is a significantly less Christian country than it was seven years ago.

That’s the top finding — one that will ricochet through American faith, culture and politics — in the Pew Research Center’s newest report, “America’s Changing Religious Landscape,” released Tuesday.

This trend “is big, it’s broad and it’s everywhere,” said Alan Cooperman, Pew’s director of religion research.

Christianity still dominates American religious identity (70%), but the survey shows dramatic shifts as more people move out the doors of denominations, shedding spiritual connections along the way.

Atheists and agnostics have nearly doubled their share of the religious marketplace, and overall indifference to religion of any sort is rising as well. Only the historically black Protestant churches have held a steady grip through the years of change.



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Pope Accepts Bishop Finn’s Resignation

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by thierry ehrmann

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by thierry ehrmann

The Roman Catholic Church in America is under attack from many directions.

First, it is the target of everyone who opposes traditional Christian teaching and morality.

Second, it is the target of those who want to destroy Christianity’s influence in Western culture because they hate religion.

Third, it is the target of both extreme left Christians and extreme right Christians who have joined forces with those who want to destroy Christianity’s influence in Western culture. I am speaking specifically of those liberal Christians who have aligned themselves with atheists against other Christians and those conservative Christians who have gone the way of deifying militarism and corporatism.

Fourth, it is under both direct attack and attempts to co-opt it by corporatist influences who want to silence any voice that might criticize their actions on moral grounds.

If you will notice, all of these attackers combine on one point: They want to destroy the prophetic and moral voice of the Catholic Church in American society, and indeed in all of Western society. They do this because the Catholic Church’s teachings call them and all of society to something better than the exploited and degraded version of humanity that they want.

Sadly, there is a fifth and a sixth line of attack against the moral and prophetic voice of the Church. That line of attack comes from within the Church itself.

Fifth, the Church is under attack from within by Catholics who have aligned themselves with political and social forces outside the Church. They attack the Church in the areas where its teachings disagree with the teachings of those social and political forces. These people are aligned  on both the secular political left and the secular political right.

Sixth, the Church is under attack from those of her own clergy who, for their own reasons, are ripping off their priesthood.

As always in any competitive circumstance, these attackers from within are far more damaging that all the attacks from without combined. However, the single most damaging attack against the Church’s prophetic and moral voice has come, not from without, not from the pews, not even from the priests behind the altar.

It has come from the Church’s own bishops. This damage has accrued because of the wide scale, deliberate, long-term and totally indefensible practice of allowing priests to molest children in the parishes entrusted to them and doing nothing to stop them.

The Vatican has not been as remiss in dealing with this as the press would have us believe. Pope Benedict XVI removed over 400 priests during one 2-year time span for sexually abusing children. He also removed a Cardinal for personal sexual misconduct. I think the reason this is largely ignored by his critics is that they didn’t like him for other reasons and were not fair enough to tell the truth.

Pope Francis has moved this up a notch. He has removed a Bishop in Paraguay,  another bishop in Argentina, the Papal Envoy to the Dominican Republic, bishops in Ireland for either committing child sex abuse of sheltering abusing priests. He has also removed Bishop Peter Tebartz-van Elst for high living.

Now he has accepted Bishop Robert Finn’s resignation resignation Bishop Finn was convicted of failing to report a priest who had taken pornographic photos of little girls in his parish.

These are important steps for the Vatican. These bishops have done great damage to the moral and prophetic voice of the Catholic Church at a perilous time for Christianity. The laity is justified in demanding a change in this dynamic. In fact, the laity’s refusal to accept this behavior is a critical incentive for change.

At the same time, it is just as important for the laity to stand behind the bishops when they are trying to lead in the right way. We need the Vatican to pull those who go astray. We also need to support those who stay the course and follow Christ in the face of public criticism.

We live in times when the Church is under attack. Whenever one of our religious leaders takes a firm stand on Church teaching, he is immediately smeared and slandered. It is up to us, the people in the pews, to stand with him and support him.

It’s easy to get caught up in anger because of the betrayals of some bishops and forget how hard the others work and what good men they truly are. If you have a bishop who follows the faith and teaches the truth, take a moment to let him know that you appreciate him.

We are in a time when Christians who follow the Gospels are attacked constantly. Don’t peck your bishop apart over trivialities. Support him as best you can and follow his leadership.


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Cardinal George, Dead of Cancer at 78

Photo Source: Wikimedia by Photobra Adam Bielawski

Photo Source: Wikimedia by Photobra Adam Bielawski

Cardinal Francis George, archbishop emeritus of Chicago died at 10:45 this morning of cancer. He was 78.

From National Catholic Register:

CHICAGO — Cardinal Francis George, the archbishop emeritus of Chicago and among the most influential Church leaders of his generation, died today at age 78, after a long battle with cancer.

“A man of peace, tenacity and courage has been called home to the Lord. Our beloved Cardinal George passed away today at 10:45am at the [cardinal’s] residence,” announced Archbishop Blase Cupich of Chicago, in a statement marking his predecessor’s death, at a press conference.

“He was a man of great courage who overcame many obstacles to become a priest,” said Archbishop Cupich, who noted his critical role as the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) during the 2002 clergy sexual-abuse crisis and the counsel he provided to the Vatican during three pontificates.

Archbishop Cupich touched on Cardinal George’s devotion to the faithful in his native city.

“Here in Chicago, the cardinal visited every corner of the archdiocese, talking with the faithful” and pursuing “an overfull schedule — always choosing the Church over his own comfort and the people over his own needs.”

“Most recently, we saw his bravery firsthand as he faced the increasing challenges brought about by cancer,” said the archbishop.

“Let us heed his example and be a little more brave, a little more steadfast and a lot more loving.

“This is the surest way to honor his life and celebrate his return to the presence of God.”

The archdiocese has stated that there will be public visitations at Holy Name Cathedral on Tuesday and Wednesday ahead of the funeral Mass on Thursday.

Read more:


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I Apologize. I was Wrong. I. Had. No. Idea.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Steve Moskowitz

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Steve Moskowitz

I apologize to everyone I ever dissed for being too concerned about the state of the liturgy.

Evidently I have lived a blessed Catholic life. I’ve attended mass all over the world, on … lessee … three continents, an island nation and another island out by itself in the Pacific that was not a nation. I’ve participated in truly holy liturgies in private homes, on mountaintops, in one-room churches and grand cathedrals. In all that time, I have not seen anything like this.

In Oklahoma — otherwise known as God’s Country — the mass is the mass is the mass. Some of our priests can sing; others are tone deaf. That’s about it for problem liturgy around these parts.

I honestly thought the people who came on this blog and ripped and snorted about bad liturgy were hypering themselves into a frenzy over nothing much at all. But now I know.

There really are nutty masses and performer priests who knock Jesus right out of center place and take a big swooping bow for themselves.

I offer exhibit A from Seattle, the land of high school students who determine Church teaching and bishops who let them do it; the same bishop who was supposed to discipline the sisters and bring them back in line. Instead of mass, what we get here is a high school production of Fiddler on the Roof or some such.

Again, I apologize to every person I ever dissed for their talk of clown masses.

I. Had. No. Idea.

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NOTE: The video above was uploaded to YouTube in 2010. However, this photo was taken of a parish during mass in the same archdiocese this year. See also the video of the full mass in this same church.


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Purple Prose Aside, Oklahoma Did Not Limit Marriage to People of Faith

Rep Todd Russ, Oklahoma House File Photo

Rep Todd Russ, Oklahoma House File Photo

My former colleague, Representative Todd Russ, recently passed a piece of legislation, HB 1125 that would move issuance of Oklahoma marriage licenses from court clerks to clergy or judges.

Under Oklahoma law as it presently stands, court clerks, who are elected officials, issue marriage licenses.

I think that the bill is a response to lawsuits against court clerks around the country who have not issued marriage licenses for gay marriage due to their religious belief. It appears to be an attempt to remove that pressure from court clerks. According to both the author and representatives who opposed the bill, court clerks have not objected to the legislation.

During floor debate, Democratic Leader Scott Inman raised the question of whether or not the bill would, as an unintended consequence, open the door for “marriage” of any type, including group marriage, polygamy, marriage between humans and animals, etc. Rep Russ answered that HB 1125 does not change regulations as to what constitutes legal marriage.

I think that Representative Russ made an attempt to deal with a problem. I don’t think that this piece of legislation does what he hopes. It has huge holes in it. It also transfers the potential for court challenges and judicial pressure from court clerks to the clergy.

There is no definition of clergy in the bill. This piece of legislation, by creating a whole new legal responsibility for clergy, needs a definition for what constitutes clergy that is specific to the legislation.

As it stands now, the only requirement in the law is that the clergy be “ordained.” That leaves the definition of what constitutes clergy for the purposes of performing this government function entirely in the hands of the religious body of which they are a part.

Since “ordained” is not defined in the bill either, any person could, for the purposes of this law, “ordain” themselves. I am aware that there are definitions in other places in the statutes. But since this creates a new kind of clergy that is part government functionary and part religious leader, a new definition is called for.

Another serious problem with the legislation is that it does not define what relationship the clergy would hold vis a vis the government. Are they now government officials, rather than clergy? That is a legitimate question, since they are now charged with enforcing state law concerning marriage so far as it pertains to the issuance of marriage licenses.

America has kept the issuance of marriage licenses and the definition of marriage as a legal construct entirely under the auspices of the government for over 200 years. The idea of transferring this to clergy is a radical change with many unintended consequences.

One unintended consequence would be the massive impact that this change would have on arguments concerning religious freedom. I believe strongly that clergy should not be government officials by virtue of their ordination. If we make them that, we also make them subject to the same oversight and control as any other government functionary.

Statutes that make all ordained clergy function as government opens clergy and faith to government regulation. It transfer the court challenges and pressure being brought against court clerks to clergy. It pierces the protected legal status that clergy holds now.

This legislation, which I think is a good-faith attempt to deal with a serious problem, will, in a few years, create other problems concerning attempts to limit religious freedom that will be exceedingly grave. It has the potential to create a religious freedom train wreck.

HB 1125 has been the object of quite a bit of purple prose, both in the mainstream press and in the blogosphere. This includes claims that Oklahoma has done away with marriage licenses, or that the bill would limit marriage to people of faith. 

These claims are not accurate. The bill changes how marriage licenses are issued. It does not do away with them. Any one who wants to get legally married in Oklahoma today would be able to get legally married under this bill if it becomes law.

I’m not sure how to handle the problems we are now facing as a result of the nihilism that is being applied to family law in this country. If I was still a legislator, I would have voted against this particular bill for the reasons I give above.

My greatest concern about the bill is that it would change the legal status of clergy and that would create the means for successfully attacking religious freedom in the future. It does not matter if the bill labels clergy government functionaries or not. If this bill becomes law, that is the function they will be performing.

I have no doubt that future civil challenges would use this law to seek to define clergy as government functionaries through the courts. This law creates a means by which clergy can be subjected to government regulation as civil authorities.

In today’s political climate, that would be a disaster for religious freedom in this country. Groups have been attempting to control what clergy preaches for decades. This law hands them the means to do that. It would also open the doorway for legitimate court challenges requiring clergy to perform gay marriages (and other inventive forms of “marriage”) even if it violates the teachings of their faith.

You can read the version of the bill that passed the House here.


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After 9 Years Ripping Off the Priesthood, Gay Priest Leaves, Blames Church for His Life of Lies

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by

Priests are human.

I think I established my belief in the humanness and fallibility of priests a couple of weeks ago. I managed to outrage a lot of people by not being all that surprised or all that outraged by the fall from grace of one of our local priests. To be honest, I was a lot more surprised by the anger people felt toward him than by his action.

Based on the reaction to that post, I’m buckling my seatbelt in preparation for this one. Before I begin, I want to caution you. This post is about the self-serving ramblings of a gay man named Ben Brenkert who left the Jesuits after 9 years in formation, but before his ordination. He has published essays blaming the Catholic Church for what he views as the moral failing of being Catholic. He plans to go to the Episcopalians, and his essays basically condemn the Catholic Church for not becoming Episcopalian too.

He reveals all sorts of scandal-causing things about his former brother seminarians and priests that he knew. He also reveals himself to have lived a reprobate life. By his own admission, this man didn’t believe what the Church taught. He  lived a libertine life while in the collar. His every interaction with the laity had to have been based on a web of lies.

It’s important as we read his essays and think through their implications to remember that this is the diatribe of an angry, self-serving and very dishonest young man. However, I think what he has to say is based on an actual situation. Most of our priests aren’t like this. But some of them are. It’s time we dealt with the truth of that.

It seems that Mr Brenkert decided nine years into his “formation” as a Jesuit priest, that he just couldn’t take it anymore and had to go be an Episcopalian. The reasons he gives are a bit, shall we say, self-serving.

It seems that he wants us to believe that he was working to reform the Church from the inside on issues such as gay rights. According to him, he “struggled” throughout his time in the “upper middle class lifestyle that religious life gave me” to allow distribution of condoms to prevent AIDS in Africa, end mandatory celibacy, bring about the right of women to ordination, and communion for divorced and remarried couples.

Of course, in the meantime, while he was “working” for his good causes, he was also living the gay high-life-inside-the-collar. By his own admission, he had affairs, including affairs with his superiors, whom he said “groomed” him for sex, and participated in the “fraternity of men” whose priestly life was compromised by gay bars and visits to “the 4th house” where … all sorts of things happened. He tells us he saw straight Jesuits fathering babies and gay Jesuits fondling each other in vans and on the way to retreats. His stories make his years in the Jesuits sound like time spent in a bordello.

While in St. Louis I met a fraternity of men just out of similar novitiates, whose newfound freedom led them to gay or straight bars, but also to “the 4th house” where we would all gather for libations and pizzas. I was shocked by how much drinking went on that first year. I was more shocked by the stories I’d hear of younger Jesuits fathering babies, and gay Jesuits fondling each other in vans on the way to retreats.

These men were gay Jesuits whom the Church and the Society of Jesus embraced, gay men who according to the church’s teaching were still objectively disordered, intrinsically deviant from the natural world and social order.

Was the Society of Jesus doing us, or the LGBTQ community, any favors by keeping us?

…  There were the gay Jesuits who were so closeted that they hid behind conservatism, leaving the Jesuits for formation programs in dioceses across the United States. There were gay Jesuits who were put in clerical prison for embracing undergrads too long, and others who attended Sexaholics Anonymous, or whose personal collection of pornography was mistakenly played during high school lectures.

I myself was groomed for sex by several older Jesuits. I saw the vehement internalized homophobia of some Jesuits, and knew of certain gay pastors removed from jobs so that less out and more passable gay Jesuits replace them at gay-friendly parishes.

There were gay Jesuits who traveled the world to scuba dive or taste French wine. One gay Jesuit offered to marry me as I departed the Society of Jesus. I lament that these gay Jesuits remain silent while their gay or lesbian lay colleagues are fired from jobs and brought closer to poverty.

FWIW, I’m glad this young man has decided to leave the Jesuits. He shouldn’t have been there in the first place. He was ripping it off.

However, his posts raise a couple of questions that I think Catholics need to think about. The first question revolves around the fact that this guy does everything except directly “out” people. He coyly gives the initials of men with whom he had affairs. How tough is it going to be for those who want to do so to figure out who these guys are? He gives enough details about at least one superior that it would be pretty easy to track him down, too.

Once when I told my acting superior Fr. S. about M.B.’s advances he shrugged his shoulders and said, “Why resist? To him you’re so exotic.” I surmised that I was exotic because of my good looks and charm, but was that an excuse to break my vows and give in to M.B.’s aggressive advances?

Even more to the point is his expressed desire that gay priests “come out.”

I spent many years praying and reflecting about the growing orthodoxy in the younger generation of Jesuits. I came away intolerant of religious hypocrites, especially closeted, celibate gay men, gay men who should be the first homosexuals to come out of the closet, yet remain the last.

The threat of being outed hangs over gay priests like the sword of Damocles, and Mr Brenkert is pulling on the cord that keeps it from falling. Notice, he specifically threatens celibate gay priests, not the boys who break their vows.

That leaves us, the pew sitters, with a big, fat question: What are we going to do if somebody outs Father Kind-Heart, our parish priest?

I know I’m going to get a verbal clubbing for saying this, but I won’t do much of anything, except call Father Kind-Heart and tell him that I appreciate all he’s done for me, and that I will stand by him in this trial.

I’ve done the same thing many times when one of my political colleagues got their head caught in a vise of some sort. I’ve gone to courthouses and sat with them while they were on trial; I’ve stood by them when everyone else was throwing mud; I’ve told people to stop gossiping to me about them.

If I’m going to jump on somebody, it will be when they’re standing upright and can swing back. I just don’t care for the old lynch mob mentality of kick him when he’s down.

That doesn’t mean that I think priests should be free to rip off the priesthood and turn the Church into a gay bar. I also don’t think that straight priests should have women on the side. It simply means that I’m not going to let someone with a political agenda use me for a club to beat a man who has never been anything but kind of me in all the time I’ve known him.

I’m talking about me and what I will or will not do. Because I am not God. I am limited to me and what I am going to do. That’s all I really control. And I will stand by the Fathers Kind-Heart when they are maliciously attacked in this way.

Make no mistake about it, if your parish priest gets outed in this fashion, malice is the motive: Malice toward the Church, and malice toward the priest.

The other question I want to raise is, how does this situation affect the Church’s ability to take stands in favor of the Gospel in today’s post-Christian America?

In my opinion, the effect is devastating. As Mr Brenkert tells us in his blabby coming-out posts:

Some of these very gay men are presidents, principals and campus ministers at any one of the Jesuit colleges, universities or parishes throughout the world.

A number of our most revered Catholic institutions of higher learning have become a scandal to many pew-sitting Catholics. Priests on the beat, which are parish priests, often avoid controversial issues such as gay marriage that might get them attacked by the gay community. Even bishops run and hide from high school students over gay marriage.

How much of this stems from the fact that these priests, like Ben Brenkert, don’t believe what the Church teaches? How much of it is due to the fact that they are, like him, enjoying the cushy ‘upper-middle-class life,’ and their access to what Pope Francis has called “a gay lobby” inside the Church? On the other hand, how much of it is simply that they are afraid of being outed if they take stands that run contrary to the gay rights movement’s “teachings?”

This is a serious issue. In this day and age of Christian bashing and Christian persecution, we need shepherds who will inspire and lead us.

I don’t much care if a priest is gay or straight. But I do care if he believes in Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I care very much if he is a genuine and sincere son of the Church and if he has the courage and guts for the job he’s undertaken.

I am glad that Ben Brenkert decided to give up his life of lies and leave the Jesuits. He should never have been admitted to the seminary in the first place, and he should have been asked to leave as soon as his problems asserted themselves. The Episcopalians pay their priests well, so he should be able to continue living a good life there.

As for my Church, he’s done us a favor by leaving. We need priests, but we need holy priests. Men who are ripping it off should make honest guys of themselves and take up another line of work.

I know that the priesthood is cushy. It provides a very good life and all kinds of respect and adoration from the people of God. It’s easy to live a double life and keep the good folks in the pews in the dark. However, in the final analysis, these men are not getting away with anything with their phony lives. God is not mocked, Scripture tells us. It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Priests who deliberately live a life of ripping off the priesthood are in fact, ripping off themselves. They spend their lives consecrating the Host and lifting the Body of Christ into the air with hands that are fouled with grave sin. That they become hardened into this and it doesn’t bother them does not mean that they are out of peril. It means that God has let them go. He has given them over to their sin.

I wrote a post that inflamed sensitivities a few weeks ago because a priest here in Oklahoma City had gotten married in a civil ceremony a few months back and then got caught. He’s now going through the process of dealing with all that. To me, the situation was simple. He did it. He got caught. He’s now facing the consequences and will hopefully begin to live an authentic life as a husband and, in the future, a father. Sometimes, the best thing that can happen to you is to get caught in your sins.

Which brings me back to gay priests and other gay men who may decide to out them to those of us in the pews. My feeling about this is the same as it was about the priest who got married. If he was a good priest to me, then that’s all I am going to concern myself with. I will support and stand by this poor pilgrim while things move forward. Hopefully, this will never happen, but if it does — and I really think it may be coming — we need to let the Church handle whatever discipline needs to be done and remember that these men are human beings. Don’t kick them when they’re down.

If you want to argue with or even yell at a priest, go do it when he’s full of himself and getting adored by his parish. Don’t join the mob that wants to hit people when they’re hurt.

We Catholics need to stop pretending that we don’t know that a large number of our priests are gay. We need the same standard for all our priests, gay or straight. That standard is authentic Catholic witness in their lives and authentic Catholic teaching in their leadership. We need holy priests. We need Shepherds.




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Patriarch Urges Prayer for 90 Syrian Christians Kidnapped by ISIS

Patriarch Ignace Joseph Younan, Syria. Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Custody of the Holy Land

Patriarch Ignace Joseph Younan, Syria. Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Custody of the Holy Land

ISIS murderers have captured at least 90 Christians from villages in Syria. It is unknown whether they plan to slaughter these people, sell them as slaves or use them for barter in prisoner exchanges.

Patriarch Ignace Joseph Younan, Syriac Patriarch of Antioch, asks for prayer for the captives, saying that ISIS terrorists are “full of hatred and venomous feelings” toward Syrian Christians and that they are “ready to do … horrible acts without any human feelings,” adding that it is “so easy” for the ISIS terroriests “to kill and to cut the throat” of non-Muslims.

From Catholic Daily News:

.- With reports circulating saying that ISIS forces have kidnapped at least 90 Christians from villages in northeast Syria, Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III Younan said prayer is the only possible response.

“Let’s pray for those innocent people,” Patriarch Younan told CNA over the phone from Beirut Feb. 24.

“It’s a very, let’s say, very ordinary thing to have those people with such hatred toward non-Muslims that they don’t respect any human life,” he said, noting that the only reaction to Tuesday’s kidnappings is “to pray.”

Patriarch Younan, Syriac Patriarch of Antioch, made his comments after the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Tuesday that at least 90 Assyrian Christians were kidnapped by ISIS militants after they seized two villages near Tal-Tamr, located in the Al-Hasakah region of Syria.

The two villages attacked are inhabited primarily by the country’s ancient Christian minority.

Also known as “Hassake,” the Al-Hasakah region is located along the country’s border with Iraq, and is not far from Mount Sinjar, where many Yazidis were trapped and faced starvation after fleeing Mosul and surrounding villages when ISIS began its assault last June.

Although he said exact numbers of those kidnapped and killed are still not confirmed, the patriarch revealed that he maintains close contact with the area’s bishop, who says that the situation there has been “very, very tense.”

Patriarch Younan said that he has tried to get in touch with Al-Hasakah’s archbishop, Jacques Behnan Hindo, regarding the situation, but has not yet been able to reach him.

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