Pope Accepts Bishop Finn’s Resignation

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by thierry ehrmann https://www.flickr.com/photos/home_of_chaos/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by thierry ehrmann https://www.flickr.com/photos/home_of_chaos/

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.

 

Advent: Come Lord Jesus

 

The Bible ends with a poignant verse.

Come Lord Jesus, cries in a voice that resounds in the heart of every Christian.

Two thousand years ago, the conquered children of Israel looked forward to Him, even though they didn’t fully understand Who He was, and they certainly misunderstood what He would do.

The prophecies of the Christ begin in Genesis when God tells the serpent He will set enmity between the serpent and the Woman, that she would crush his head, and he would strike at her heel. This was not, note, a prophecy of Eve’s life, but of Mary, the New Eve whose quiet birth, unmarked as it was by the larger world, was the door opening on our salvation.

With Mary’s Immaculate Conception, the primal hope of the garden before the fall reawakened in human existence. It was given back to us as a free and totally unmerited gift by God. It set the stage for the coming of His Son, the long hoped-for Messiah.

Prophecies of Jesus began at the beginning, in the Garden, and are woven throughout the many thousands of years of history that tell the tales of His family in the book we call the Old Testament. It is the story of God, raising up a people by first calling one man to leave his home and go out into the wilderness.

It began, as these things always do, with a family; in Abraham’s case, a troubled and often sinful family that nevertheless trusted God. Not everything Abraham did was right, but he believed the Lord’s promises, and Scripture tells us that God “reckoned that to him as righteousness.”

There is a message in this for all of us. That message is simply that we need to trust God and follow Him without placing the unreachable burden of perfection on ourselves. Righteousness is found in trying to do God’s will and trusting our lives and our salvation to His mercy. Whatever we lack in ourselves and our efforts, He will supply. All we need to do is trust Him and do our best.

But how does God supply the lacks? How does He reach across the unfathomable gulf between our finiteness and His infinite transcendence? He did it by doing the unthinkable, by taking on human flesh, being born of a young woman and living, suffering and dying as one of us. Jesus was foretold over and over again throughout the Old Testament, but, as Steve Jobs famously said, it’s impossible to connect the dots going forward; you can only connect them looking back.

In the case of the many prophecies of Jesus the Christ, the prophecies of His second coming are intertwined with those of His first coming. The triumphant Lord of all history is foretold alongside the Suffering Servant of Calvary. Connecting those dots going forward was as confounding to the people of that day as connecting the dots of the Second Coming are to us. Theories and theology abound, and all of them are, to a great extent, educated guesses.

People of Jesus’ day skipped over the Suffering Servant prophecies and misinterpreted the salvation prophecies to weave together an interpretation of a warrior king who would make the nation of Israel into the dominant world power. They tried to connect the dots going forward and came up with a political interpretation which, while it comforted them in their sufferings as a conquered people who occupied the bottom rung on a significant trade route for the Roman Empire — The trade route mattered to the Romans. The people who lived there, not so much. — was wildly inaccurate.

They took comfort in the promised messiah of their own interpreting who would place his foot on the back of the Roman neck and make the Israelites the rulers of the world. Although this inaccurate interpretation comforted them in their daily problems, it led them into the mistake of missing the real Messiah when He actually came to them.

Nothing in their grandiose imaginings came close to the lowly carpenter’s son, born of a virgin in a stable and then forced to flee into exile soon afterwards. They were unprepared for parables and stories urging them to love and care for one another and talking about a Kingdom that would grow like a tiny mustard seed or the leaven in bread into something they could not fathom.

The idea that the Messiah would be executed like a common criminal and then rise from the dead only to leave the whole enterprise of Kingdom building in the hands of 12 men chosen from ordinary fishermen and tax collectors made no sense according to the false interpretation they had believed for so long.

And so the cornerstone of the new Kingdom became the stumbling block for God’s chosen ones. They, the apple of God’s eye, the ones from whom salvation comes, turned aside from their own salvation while the prostitutes and sinners, the rabble and riff-raff of outsiders, walked right in.

Advent is the season we set aside to consider these things. We know about the first coming of Christ. The dots are in our past, where we can see the pathway they form with clarity. We have the Church to explain these things to us, and we have 2,000 years of Christian teaching to make them clear.

So long as we confine our Advent meditations to mulling over the First Coming of Christ and think about our personal piety and our need for repentance and conversion, we are on fairly solid ground. We know what is expected of us as His followers. We know the story of God made man for our salvation.

But we are not at the end of the story. We still await the fulfillment of the prophecies. We are somewhere along the long row of dots that connect the planting of the mustard seed and the final harvest. We are, all of us, awaiting the day when He comes again.

Perhaps more to the point, we are traveling along our own road of life, journeying from birth to grave. We know — know — that our end of time is always imminent. One day our souls will be required of us, and none of us knows the day or the hour that will happen. That will be our end of time, when we go to Him, even if He has not yet returned to us.

Advent is the prophetic pot, simmering. It is a few weeks set aside for us to contemplate the mystery and the majesty of Christ coming. We have the history of His First Coming and the probably seriously misunderstood promises of His Second Coming, all intertwined with the certainty of our departing and going to Him.

We can’t — any of us — connect the dots looking forward. But we don’t have to. All we have to do is follow in the footsteps of Abraham, or Mary or Stephen or Priscilla or Paul or the woman with the hemorrhage or the blind man who would not deny Him and was put out of the Temple for his fealty. All we have to do is just believe Him and follow Him and trust that, even if the dots don’t connect in meaningful ways for us looking forward, they will be form a pattern of salvation when we look back.

Advent is a good great time to consecrate however much of our lives we have left to His Mercy. Trust and obey the old hymn says. There is no other way to be happy in Jesus. 

Truer words were never spoken.

Spend a few minutes this advent contemplating the dots going forward into your eternity as well as those going back to the Immaculate Conception and to the stable. Are we living in the End Times? Perhaps. But in truth, it doesn’t much matter if we are.

Each and every one of us is living in his or her “end times” every single day. There is absolutely nothing to fear in this if you trust and obey. God’s mercy, which was poured out on all humanity from the wounded side of Jesus, is greater than our weakness, stronger than our failures, more loving than all our fears.

Just put your hand in His and let Him lead you Home. There is no other way.

Pope Deep-Sixes Two Bishops over Child Sex Abuse

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The Vatican laicized Jozef Wesolowski, the former nuncio to the Dominican Republic, for having sex with minors earlier this year. Now, they’ve put him on house arrest.

From Catholic News Agency:

.- The Holy See press officer announced Tuesday that Jozef Wesolowski, the former apostolic nuncio to the Dominican Republic who was laicized earlier this year, has been put under house arrest amid an official investigation into charges of pedophilia.

He is accused of having paid for sex with minors while nuncio to the Dominican Republic.

“The seriousness of the allegations has prompted the official investigation to impose a restrictive measure that … consists of house arrest, with its related limitations, in a location within the Vatican City State,” Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., said Sept. 23.

“The initiative taken by the judicial departments of Vatican City State is a result of the express desire of the Pope, so that a case so serious and delicate would be addressed without delay, with just and necessary rigor, and with full assumption of responsibility on the part of the institutions that are governed by the Holy See.”

Wesolowski, 66, has been placed under house arrest, rather than being jailed in Vatican City’s prison, due to his health condition.

The Pope has also dismissed a Paraquayan bishop accused of protecting a priest suspected of sexually abusing young people.

From Reuters:

(Reuters) – Pope Francis has dismissed a Paraguayan bishop accused of protecting a priest suspected of sexually abusing young people, the Vatican said on Thursday.

A statement said the pope had removed Bishop Rogelio Ricardo Livieres Plano from his post as head of the diocese of Ciudad del Este and named another bishop to run it as an administrator for the time being.

The sacking followed a Vatican investigation of the bishop, the diocese and its seminaries, said the statement, which gave no details.

Vatican sources said the bishop had refused to resign after the investigation and reports of irregularities in his diocese and clashes between the conservative Livieres Plano and other bishops in the country.

The Argentinian-born pontiff has vowed zero tolerance of clerics who abuse minors, after church scandals in several countries over many years. Last May, Francis called such abuse an “ugly crime” and likened it to “a Satanic mass”.

This is how these things should have been handled all along. What a difference it would have made if they had been.

Confession, the Courts and Going to Hell

 

If a priest reveals what he’s heard in confession, will he go to hell?

I’ve read that a priest who violates the seal of confession suffers automatic excommunication which only the Holy See can remove. So, I would guess that a priest who reveals what he hears in confession is, at the least, in danger of hell.

That’s a serious question, for the simple reason that, in this anti-Catholic climate, we’re going to see more and more attempts to coerce priests to break the seal of confession. That would be a great triumph for Satan, since it would destroy the confidence of Catholics and break what has always been a powerful bond between them and their Church.

Catholics know that whatever they do, they can be forgiven by God. All Christians know this. But Catholics have the benefit of being able to actually confess their sins out loud and hear the words of absolution, applied directly to them. It does not matter what the sin is, they can do this in the confessional.

They also receive incredibly healing graces in this sacrament.

There is something about the cleansing power of the Sacrament of Confession that can make people who would not otherwise be able to approach communion feel worthy to do so. Confession heals, in and of itself. The sinner does not have to wonder if they’ve had the right attitude or if they’ve really been saved. All they have to do is confess and mean it. They can then draw a line under those bad things and walk out of that confessional, safe and secure in God’s grace.

All this is based on two things: The fact that Christ uses the priest for a conduit of His grace in this sacrament, and the fact that Catholics can trust that whatever they say in that confessional ends there.

I don’t know how priests deal with this burden, but I can say from my years of listening to non-sacramental confessions from thousands of constituents that God probably gives them the grace of forgetfulness. I know that I never remember the things my constituents have told me unless I need to in order to do something for them. I don’t mean I forget, exactly. I just mean that those things are not, ever, in my thoughts.

When I see the person the next time, I don’t think about or even remember what they’ve told me. It doesn’t stay in my thoughts at all. But if I need to remember for a legitimate reason, I do. I believe that is a grace that God bestows on office holders, an anointing, if you will, that allows them to keep the secrets their constituents share with them. From what I’ve seen, elected officials, no matter what rubes they may be in other ways, are very, very good at not talking about their constituents’ private matters.

I am guessing that priests experience something similar. If God gave me this grace, as an elected official, I can’t imagine why He wouldn’t give something like it to His priests who hear confessions.

That’s a good thing, because priests are more and more going to be the objects of assaults of various types in the courts. The underlying reason is that the devil is pretty much running the show in a large segment of Western society, and the devil hates priests.

If Satan can break a priest, if he can use a priest to his ends, the damage he can do to those of us in the pews is enormous. The single best way to wound the Body of Christ is to turn His ministers into weapons against the Church and the people of God.

If Satan can break the seal of the confessional, then he will, in one swoop, destroy the sacrament that bestows God’s cleansing healing on scarred and hurting souls. Of course, he can’t destroy the forgiveness and mercy of Christ. Jesus is perfectly capable of reaching into people directly. I have experienced this myself. But he can destroy the safe, reliable source of healing and forgiveness that is the sacrament of confession.

I think that’s the real reason behind the attacks on the confessional through the courts that crop up from time to time. I would guess that every priest knows that he can be drug through protracted court battles aimed at trying to get him to divulge something someone said to him in confession.

It happened a few years ago in Oregon when a prosecutor secretly taped a jailhouse confession and tried to use it in court. It’s happening in Louisiana right now as part of a civil lawsuit.

Father Jeff Bayhi is stuck between the Louisiana Supreme Court, a girl and her family who are suing for money, and going to hell.

The Supreme Court of Louisiana recently ruled that Father Bayhi must testify in court about the particulars of a confession that he may have heard in 2008. A girl, who was 14 at the time, says she confessed to him that she was being abused by a relative who is now dead. The girl’s parents are now suing Father Bayhi and the Diocese of Baton Rouge for failure to report the abuse.

This particular case has all the lightning rods in place: Priest. Sexual abuse of a minor. Failure to report.

The trouble, of course, is that the failure to report — assuming that the allegations that the girl made this confession are true — is that the lightning rods aren’t aligned the way they usually are. This isn’t about a bishop who failed to report an abusing priest. It is about a priest who — I repeat: if the confession took place as the girl claims — did not break the seal of confession.

The priest sex abuse scandal has given these particular lightning rods such drawing power that just putting the words out there in a row elicits all sorts of rage, disgust and dismissal. Priest. Sexual abuse of a minor. Failure to report. That’s a litany (if you will excuse the word) of betrayal that has been seared into the minds of everyone who hears it.

However, the Confessional is inviolate. Father Bayhi can not testify.

I can tell you that every time God has given me a chance to suffer for Him, I didn’t want it. I am not the stuff martyrs are made of. I’ve been kicked around quite a bit for my faith, and I’ve wailed and moaned and been angry about every single bit of it.

So, my heart goes out to Father Bayhi. He’s been given the awful gift of suffering for Christ. I can only imagine how terrifying and miserable all this is for him.

My grandmother used to talk about being “stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea.” Father Bayhi is literally stuck between the devil and Jesus. The two things he’s got going for him are that he knows absolutely what he must do, and he’s not alone. Every faithful Catholic, everywhere, will stand behind him.

Will Father Bayhi have to go to jail? I doubt it. At some point, saner courts will probably prevail. But that’s not a sure thing. Not in today’s world.

When the New York Times can keep running ads openly attacking the Church in a manner that I can only describe as religious bigotry, and when large portions of the media are willing to publish vitriolic and categorically bigoted attacks on prominent Catholics for being Catholics, then anything is possible.

Father Bayhi and all our priests need our prayers. We need to stick together and stand up for one another.

Pope Francis: Sex Abuse is a Sacrilegious Cult

 

Our Papa brings it with this extraordinary reflection on sex abuse.

Have I mentioned that I love this man?

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Vatican: Archbishop Kicked Out for Sex with Minors

 

It’s about time.

The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of he Faith has ordered Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski to be stripped of the priesthood. This order came after a canonical trial.

According to an article from Reuters, the Holy See has indicated that “criminal proceedings by Vatican judicial authorities would begin once the sentence was confirmed. If found guilty in a criminal trial, Mr Wesolowski could risk extradition to the Dominican Republic.”

Mr Wesolowski is the former Vatican nuncio to the Dominican Republic. He is accused of child sexual abuse. This alleged abuse includes buying sex from minors while he was in the Dominican Republic and an unspecified connection with a Polish priest accused of sexually assaulting at least 14 underage boys.

He has two months to appeal this decision. Authorities in the Dominican Republic are investigating Mr Wesolowski, but have not filed charges against him.

According to Polskie Radio, “accusations against Mr Wesolowski went public when television footage appeared in which the nuncio was seen visiting areas in the capital known for child prostitution.”

It is interesting that child prostitution is so widespread and acknowledged in the Dominican Republic that local television knows where to go to photograph it in action. But it’s not a surprise. I would imagine that they could do the same thing here in Oklahoma City.

The Dominican Republic is well known as a sex tourism destination, as is New York. This is not something that is hidden. It is big, highly-publicized business. Dominican authorities only recently started to crack down on the practice. Gay sex tourism, including tourism aimed at sex with children, is rife throughout the area, including further south in Brazil.

I have personal knowledge of a woman who was kidnapped from her apartment in the Dominican Republic, brought to the United States and sold by sex traffickers. Her pimps used the threat that they would go back and kidnap, rape and sell her young daughter if she did not cooperate with them. This brave lady testified in court against her pimps, who are now in prison.

The thought that a Vatican Nuncio is participating in this human rights violation is, sad to say, not surprising. I’ve thought for a long time that the scandal the Church has endured because of the behavior of her prelates as regards child sex abuse was necessary. This behavior had to stop. It was as if the Holy Spirit said Enough!

The Church must be cleansed of this evil. It. Has. To. Stop.

I, for one, am glad that the Vatican has finally taken this action against a pedophile prelate.

I do not want to see innocent men persecuted because of false charges. That is why due process is so necessary. But when the charges are proven true, these men must be laicized and turned over to the authorities.

I want a priesthood of genuine Christians who wear that collar because they have given their lives to Christ. I want a priesthood I can be proud of.

That cannot happen in an institution that tolerates sexual depravity among its members.

Pope Francis Excommunicates the Mafia

 

Pope Francis excommunicated all members of the Mafia today.

It is rare indeed for a Pope to say that every single person who is member of a group is excommunicated by reason of that membership. But, in my opinion, this particular excommunication is long overdue.

Pope Francis went to Calabria, a region of Italy that is reputed to be heavily corrupted by the Mafia, to issue this excommunication.

He called the Mafia an “adoration of evil and contempt for the common good.”

“Those who in their lives have taken this evil road, this road of evil, such as the mobsters, they are not in communion with God, they are excommunicated,” he said.

The fact that the Holy Father chose the weekend of the Feast of Corpus Christi to issue this excommunication is deeply symbolic. The Body of Christ, which is present in the Eucharist on all the altars of the Catholic Church in the world, must not be profaned by allowing those who live by murder and corruption, destroyers of life, to partake of it.

Salvation is available to anyone who repents. I hope that this excommunication results in two things: A cleansing of the Church, and a changed life for at least some of these people who have chosen the Mafia as their little g god.

In the meantime, we need to pray for the safety of our brave and honest Holy Father, Pope Francis.

From Vatican Radio:

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis concluded his one-day trip to the southern Italian region of Calabria with strong words against the Calabrian mafia, calling it “adoration of evil and contempt for the common good.”

“Those who in their lives have taken this evil road, this road of evil, such as the mobsters, they are not in communion with God, they are excommunicated,” he said to applause.

The Pope made these statements on Saturday during the feast-day Mass he presided for Corpus Domini on the plains of the small town of Sibari, a once-important city in the Hellenistic period of Calabrian history.

Organizers planned for 200,000 faithful to attend. They gathered under the hot sun, with temperatures flirting around the 30-degree mark. Sitting in the first rows of the assembly were those with illness and disability, rather than local dignitaries—a decision the local bishop chose to underline ahead of the Pope’s trip.

The Pope’s visit to the region, marked by violence and corruption and renowned for mafia activity, was highly anticipated by the locals, who in recent months were rocked by the murder of Fr. Lazzaro Longobardi, as well as the death of a three-year-old boy, the innocent victim of a mafia homicide.

In his homily, the Pope spoke about the evils that can occur when adoration of God is replaced by adoration of money.

Archbishop Carlson’s Deposition Reveals a Painful Truth: He’s Just Like Us

 

It’s a bitter pill for Catholics, watching the videos of Archbishop Carlson’s testimony.

I understand and share the emotions it raises.

But we do not serve ourselves or our Church by pretending that it ain’t so. We’ve got to face this because it is reality. It doesn’t change in any way the simple fact that Jesus said “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

What it changes is the blind notion that many Catholics have — that we all want to have — that our religious leaders are sinless Christ figures themselves.

They’re just people, just like us. They are conduits of the graces of the sacraments. God can and does reach through them and into us when we go to them for support and help in our troubles.

But the miracle in that is all on God, not on them. They don’t create the miracle, they don’t control the grace. I know from personal experience that God can reach out and touch anyone, anytime. I believe that all that’s needed on our parts is a willing heart. All we have to do to receive God’s healing grace is say yes to it.

Why, then, a priesthood? If God can reach directly into us Himself then why do we need priests who are conduits of grace?

Because the priesthood is God’s instrument for bestowing this grace in an understandable, predictable and accessible way. I think that the emotionalism that is sometimes exhibited in some churches is an attempt to re-create that first transforming moment of grace when they originally said yes. It is an attempt to touch God and feel it again by using our own emotions to elevate ourselves to that level.

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The Eucharist gives us that healing moment of grace, that experience of touching God, of feeling Christ, without any effort on our part. All we have to do is say yes and partake. It is the same with confession. Confession bestows healing grace. So much so that there have been times, including long periods when I was feeling especially challenged, that I went to confession every week, even though my sins were not so grave, because I needed that encounter with Christ, that healing grace that confession gives.

Sacramental confession strengthens us in an almost unfelt way. The more often we go to confession, the stronger we are in resisting evil. In fact, my experience has been that if I confess something on a regular basis, I stop wanting to do it. It takes a bit of time, but that’s what happens.

These graces, as well as the graces of the other sacraments, flow through the priest in a way that is simple for those of us who receive it. We don’t have to understand theology. We don’t have to work ourselves into an emotional high. All we have to do is say yes and accept the grace that is freely given to us.

The crowning moment of grace is always the Eucharist, which is direct contact with Christ. So far as I’m concerned — and I’m not a theologian, so this applies only to me and my understanding — the Church is the Eucharist. And we are the eucharist. Because the Eucharist is Christ. The priesthood exists to bestow grace. Priests are conduits of grace, and it does not matter what kind of hooligan they are personally, the graces of the sacraments flow through them to us, regardless.

Which brings me back to Archbishop Carlson. I wouldn’t call him a hooligan. In fact, I’m not sure how to label him. I don’t want to label him and his faults. It is enough for me that this is the situation in which we find ourselves, him and us. Because at this point, that’s what it’s about: Him and us.

Not, Jesus and us, or even the Church and us. But poor, messed up Archbishop Carlson and us. We don’t have to decide what to do about Archbishop Carlson. What we are tasked with is determining how we are going to relate to our dear Church in the light of the obvious fact that our leaders are ordinary people.

They can be cowards. Just like us.

They can be craven. Just like us.

They can lie, cheat, steal and run away when they get in trouble. Just like us.

They can gossip and betray confidences, hold grudges and be spiteful. Just like us.

They are not Christ.

What they are is men who have consented to be the conduits of grace to Christ’s Church, which is us. There is a moment when heaven comes to earth and the Eucharist becomes His Body, His blood, in which the divine flows through them.

The fact that a few of them become callous about this and begin to devalue it and even start thinking that it is all about them and not Jesus, does not change the impact it has on us. The Eucharist is still real, even if the priest is a messed-up welter of confusion and sin.

Archbishop Carlson reveals himself to be a lawyered-up citizen who ducks and covers under oath in an act of self defense. I have no idea why he didn’t do the obvious thing and exercise his right to take the Fifth Amendment. It would have been far less damaging to his credibility than this performance.

You can find the full text of his deposition here. Many of the salient comments are highlighted to make them easy to find.

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There really isn’t any point in trying to find an “out” for Archbishop Carlson in this. The deposition speaks for itself. Besides, it’s not our job to judge Archbishop Carlson. Our job is the much tougher one of working out how to be a faithful Catholic in a world of fallen leaders, including our leaders in the Church.

How do we follow these men when they are so nothing special as this deposition reveals them to be? Not, mind you, worse than us. Most of us would duck and cover in a deposition like this one, just like the Archbishop. Any of us who have brains would get the best legal counsel we could and do exactly what that attorney told us to do.

Archbishop Carlson doesn’t reveal himself to be a fiend in this deposition. He reveals himself to be no better than the rest of us.

Which brings us back to the task that faces us. We are fallen people, served by a priesthood that is composed entirely of fallen people, living in a fallen world.

Yet we serve a risen Savior, Who is God Incarnate. We are called to be “perfect as your Father in Heaven is perfect.”

But we can’t do it. We. Can. Not. Do. It. We don’t get through a single day without at least one and usually many sins of one sort or another.

We want heroes who will give us the illusion of the possibility of human perfection. But human perfection is always just that; an illusion.

To put it bluntly, we are all — priest and parishioner alike — down here in the pits together. As Jesus said, “There is none good except God.”

So how do we solve this conundrum of answering a call to be “perfect” while we are certain that there is “none good” among humankind?

We solve it by getting up every morning and giving our day to Jesus and His Mother. We solve it by availing ourselves of the certain graces of the sacraments. We solve it by forgiving each other and sustaining one another in our weakness.

How does this apply to the Archbishop Carlsons in our clerical leadership? More to the point, how does it apply to us and our response to the Archbishop Carlsons in our leadership?

My answer — and this is just me, talking about me — is that we need to cherish these men and help them as we can. At the same time, we need to stop pretending that they are anything other than fallen human beings. When they stand behind that altar and lift up the host, they are conduits of God’s grace. When they come down from behind the altar and scald us with a fit of rage or lie in a deposition, they are just people, wallowing around in the pit of failed good intentions along with the rest of us.

This is difficult for Catholics. It’s difficult for me. I am still working out how to deal with wounds inflicted by clergy. Some days I don’t do so well with it. Protestants can just dismiss their clergy as fallen people and be done with it. But Catholics are part of a hierarchical Church whose entire governance is built on the administration of these fallen men.

How do we, as Catholics, remain faithful when we see by their actions that we must be judicious about how and when we follow our clergy?

This is a tough one. It’s not always or even mostly about big public dilemmas like Archbishop Carlson’s dipping and dodging deposition. It is usually more personal, and because of that, far more damaging to us as Christians and Catholics.

How do we, say, disregard things a priest or spiritual director says to us in a fit of rage? How do we decide what to believe and what not to believe about the things they say to us? How do we overcome the sense of betrayal when a priest gossips about our deepest hurts? These are more the kinds of things that most Catholics must overcome in their walk of faith. The big public falls from grace seem easy to me compared to those much deeper personal dilemmas. How do we live together as Catholics in this fallen world?

These are hard questions with no easy answers. I’m going to leave it open for discussion and see what the rest of you think. In the meantime, take a look at Archbishop Carlson’s deposition. It’s clearly not a case of dementia or anything like it. He’s dipping and dodging and doing it quite well. Just like us.

You Made Your Choice Mr Archbishop. It’s a Done Deal.

Deacon Greg, as usual, has the story.

So, there’s this Archbishop in St Louis who is accused of the same old enabling of child sex abuse by a priest stuff we’ve gotten to know too well. Mr Archbishop gave a deposition about these accusations.

In that deposition, he did the lawyered-up, don’t-give-them-anything di-doh. It was a masterful performance of I don’t know nothin, sung to the tune of I Can’t Remember.

The all-time show-stopper was when the attorney asked Mr Archbishop if he knew that the act of an adult having sex with a child was a crime back when all this was going on. “I’m not sure if I knew it was a crime or not. I understand today it was a crime,” Mr Archbishop answered. The look on his face while he said it was classic the-dog-ate-my-homework.

The attorney pursued it, and the Archbishop kept right on lying.

If you’ve got the stomach for it, have a look.

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I didn’t write about this when I first saw it because, to be honest, it made me sick. I felt so sad. Bereft, almost. I had nothing to say. I just wanted to go away from this and not deal with it.

Then, just to make sure that nobody ever believes him again, the Archbishop started the second quadrille to his little dance. Deacon Greg covered it. Mr Archbishop had the St Louis Archdiocese release another the-dog-ate-my-homework statement.

This time, it was a totally idiotic accusation that inaccurate and misleading reporting “has impugned Archbishop Carlson’s good name and reputation.” This was so daft it made me question if they knew that there was a video of the deposition out there on YouTube.

The letter goes on. But it doesn’t matter. We have the video.

Now Mr Archbishop has released a letter over his own signature. He also put up a video of himself, reading the letter. I see no point in going over what he said, since he essentially didn’t say anything. It was just typical I-wuz-robbed boilerplate.

The reason I’m finally writing about this today is simple. I want to tell the Archbishop something that he doesn’t seem to get: You made your choice.

I understand that the wise person takes their attorney’s advice when they testify. I also understand that we have a thing called the Fifth Amendment to protect people in situations like this. I further understand that an attorney who deliberately counseled a client to lie under oath would be guilty of subornation of perjury.

So, I rather doubt that your attorney, Mr Archbishop, told you to do this. Not in so many words. They may have said something like, don’t conjecture unless you remember precisely. It’s best to say, “I don’t know” unless you are absolutely certain. But I doubt very much that your attorney counseled you to go out there and lie under oath.

Testifying under oath is a scary deal for most of us and testifying on something like this, where you flat out know your are wrong, must be a real horror.

Fair enough.

But you jumped the shark on this one. And there’s no turning back. It’s a done deal. And you — and every other Catholic in the world — is going to have to live with it.

It all began with enabling priests to sexually abuse children, you know. That is so egregious that nobody, and I mean nobody except maybe your mother, is going to buy the idea that it was anything but an absolute violation of your priesthood.

That’s what got this started. And it wasn’t just you, Mr Archbishop. It was a lot of your colleagues. It was rife. It was what might be called a practice.

Fortunately, I personally know a bishop who called the authorities at the first step. I am grateful to him beyond words for having done that. It gives me hope about our leadership.

But it appears that you, Mr Archbishop, did not make that stand-up choice. Which leads to the point.

It was, is and always has been, on you.

You made your choice then. You made your choice at that deposition.

When, if ever, are you going to stop trying to deny it?

You. Did. Wrong.

As a wrong-doer myself, I can forgive that. I also understand that no matter what any of us has done, we still don’t want to pay the price. There is nothing so terrifying as getting caught in your own dirt. We all want to run. I know. I’ve done my share of running away in my life.

Forgiveness comes easy from someone like me. I’ve done so much, had so much done to me, and been forgiven so much, how could it be otherwise?

I think I can forgive just about anything. All you’ve gotta do is tell me you’re sorry. But you, Mr Archbishop, are not asking for forgiveness. If you’re sorry, it looks like what you’re sorry about is getting caught.

As a Catholic who is trying to follow her Church, who actually wants to believe you, I am beaten.

I can’t believe you. I don’t. I can’t follow you. I won’t.

You made your choice, Mr Archbishop. It’s a done deal.

 

For another take on this, check out Frank Weathers.

The UN and the Vatican: Politicizing Torture to Defend Abortion

 

The Vatican went before the UN Convention on Torture to answer questions about the clergy child abuse scandal and Church teachings on abortion and homosexuality, not as a church, but as a government.

In addition to raising the preposterous idea that Church teaching on abortion is torture of women, the Convention also raised the issue of the practice of transferring child abusing priests from one parish to another.

I am guessing that the Convention’s position on the Vatican and child sexual abuse is based on the contention that sexual child abuse, when it is allowed by a governmental body, is a form of government-sanctioned torture. I may be giving them more credit than they deserve, but that’s the only hook I can see on which they could hang these charges.

I don’t know how they get to their other positions that the Church should change its teachings abortion and homosexuality because they are torture. There is no basis for such claims. I think that these idiotic charges reveal the real motivations behind this line of attack against the Catholic Church.

The Vatican’s position regarding the charges concerning the child sexual abuse scandal is that it did not, as a city state, have governing control of the child-abusing priests around the world who perpetrated these crimes. The Vatican says that the abusers were under the laws and governance of the countries in which they resided.

This is true in a legal sense; in a moral sense, not so much.

The Vatican itself is a city state, and as such can be called to account as a government. However, the Catholic Church, whose head resides in the Vatican, is a church and not a government. That’s a complicated situation which can — and obviously does — lead to all sorts of political gamesmanship.

As a Catholic, I do not think of myself as a citizen of the Vatican. I am a member of the Roman Catholic Church, with the emphasis on Church. 

The Roman Catholic Church is called to a much higher purpose, and is required to behave in an entirely different manner, than any government. It makes claims for itself that go far beyond governance. The leaders of our Church ask for a level of compliance and respect from the laity that good governmental leaders do not ask and bad governmental leaders cannot get.

To be blunt about it, if you are going to go around saying that you speak for Christ, you have a responsibility to not behave like the sons of Satan.

I think that trying to claim that the Church committed torture in the sexual abuse scandal as defined by the Convention on Torture is a callous political ruse. The fact that the Convention added the additional charge that the Church’s teachings on abortion and homosexuality are a form of torture makes that clear.

I think this ruse is designed to lessen the Church’s moral teaching authority on issues such as the sanctity of human life and marriage.

As a tactical action in the culture wars, it is a strong move. The Church’s power, such as it is, comes directly from its moral and prophetic voice.

The clergy sexual abuse of children scandal degrades that moral and prophetic voice in a way that the Church’s enemies, with all their attacks and criticisms, never could. It is a forceful weapon in the hands of those who want to destroy the persuasive power of the Catholic Church’s moral voice. That is why people who hate the Church’s teachings in certain areas seem to delight in talking about the scandal.

They constantly seek new ways to raise that clear failure of Christian discipleship on the part of so many Church leaders and keep it before the public eye because it damages the Church’s claim to holiness.

The sexual abuse of children by predatory adults is widespread in this world. There appears to be certain industries and organizations which routinely cover up for abusers. For instance, the entertainment industry deserves a good looking over in this regard.

Focusing on the Catholic Church to the exclusion of other offenders is not only dishonest, it enables these other predators to continue harming children.

Limiting public outrage about the sexual abuse of children to anger at the Catholic Church does not serve children well. It allows abusers in every other walk of life to keep on abusing. But, even though it does not serve children well, it does serve a political purpose. The purpose is to provide a platform for taking aim at the Church’s teachings that the attackers disagree with.

By using a Convention against torture that the Vatican signed to attack the Church, the enemies of the Church’s teachings in areas such as abortion, gay marriage, embryonic stem cell research and questions of economic exploitation weaken the Church’s voice against those things.

I think that is what this whole line of attack is about. In truth, torture is a narrow word that does not lend itself to this kind of politicized use. That is why the word has such historic power. The Convention is broadening the definition of torture beyond its original meaning to raise these charges.

By doing that, it cheapens the moral prohibitions against torture. By callously using torture as a misplaced and politicized gotcha attack instrument, the Convention weakens the very thing it is designed to strengthen, which is the international effort to end the use of torture.

I have strong feelings about the use of torture, based on actual knowledge of torture and contact with victims of torture. I have equally strong feelings about diluting the meaning of the word torture so that it becomes useless. I think this kind of political gamesmanship — which is really about abortion, gay marriage, economic exploitation, embryonic stem cell research, euthanasia, etc — enables torturers and lets them continue.

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