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February 16, 2005

Comments

Eutychus Fell

It seems to me the Church has been here before, has been in worse shape both morally and physically before (like around the first millenium), and has (with the grace of God) found leaders of skill and class and holiness to lead the way.

Cornelius

Pretty good for "unconnected thoughts."

S.F.

Good post. One thing to consider regarding parishes welcoming back these priests with open arms.

If the rates at which people claim to have been abused as children are true, that means there's a lot of sexual abuse of children going on. And who's abusing them? Well, some of them are the people sitting in the pews.

And we don't even have to go to behavior that rises to the level of illegality. Just look around. Girls are dressing inappropriately at younger and younger ages, all with the consent of their parents and society at large. Two years ago, I literally saw a 12-13 year old girl at a Catholic youth camp wearing a very tight shorts/t-shirt set that had the number "69" on the shorts and the shirt. Some company made that outfit, some company sold that outfit, and some (presumably) Catholic parent bought that outfit.

Bluntly and sadly, our society doesn't seem to care about the sexualization of children. The problem is a lot wider than priests. I think Mark Shea has written a lot of good things on his blog about this problem.

Jason

I thought Rod made a good point in the previous thread:

"I think his indifference is the indifference of the frightened father who really, really doesn't want to believe that his son is molesting his daughter, and so pretends it's not happening."

I don't think the Holy Father (or many of the Bishops) understand what a crisis we are in worldwide. They want to see the best in humanity, and in Christians, lest they bear the odious title "prophet of gloom". He teaches us about what we can be as Catholics, and honestly believes that his witness to truth will attract us away from sin and heresy. It does, to an extent, but at some point, you have to be honest about the chaotic situation at hand, put your hands in the dirt, and start pulling weeds. Maybe this is what we're waiting for, a Saint from God to take charge of the Church and renew her from within. We can do a lot as lay persons, but we can't reform the episcopate. They have to reform themselves, and for that, they need a strict leader among them.

Christine

Sobering thoughts. And I would submit that the downward spiral has infested an even wider sphere of the Church in America. At Lent, of course, we are all familiar with the many missions appeals that come to our mailboxes. One I recent received from a women's religious order caused me to stop and ponder.

Years ago, I read somewhere that it was possible to be a lifetime Catholic and never encounter Jesus Christ. The mission appeal from this order, which works in multicultural settings around the world frequently mentioned the "reign" of God (Kingdom of God has, of course, become politically incorrect in some circles) and made references to our Creator. Yet even though the Chi Rho, that ancient symbol of Christ, was shown on the enclosed prayer card, none of the literature ever --- once -- mentioned the name of Jesus. "God", generically, is so much safer. Heaven help the Church that is now afraid to mention the name of Christ in its mission work.

And I see this kind of thinking permeating much of the American Church. How utterly sad.

I sympathize with the frustration Rod feels. I, too, since being received into the Church, sometimes feel like I am wandering in the wilderness and that the Church I thought I was joining no longer exists, and by that I don't mean liturgy and such, but the ancient Catholic Church in which an Athanasius, Augustine and John Chrysostom were not afraid to boldly proclaim Jesus Christ.

But here I am. And yes, I've stopped supporting some diocesan funding and redirecting the money elsewhere. So many things have piled on top of each other. The abuse scandals are not unrelated to them.

Jason

Clarification above: I don't mean to suggest the Holy Father is hard hearted or "doesn't care" about victims.

Patti

It seems the first thing non-Catholics say when any moral position is promulgated these days (whether it be pro-life or anti gay marriage, cloning, etc.) is "what does a church that allows child molestors" have to say to anyone about morality? Or some variation thereof. Obviously we can see that the two thoughts are unrelated you can hardly blame people for thinking the church's crediblity is shot. It isn't just the failings of the individuals, but the corporate responsibility in allowing it to continue. It says "The Church" is more important than "the souls" it is trying to save. A depressing message.

John Hetman

Who of us old enough to recall the zenith of American Catholicism could ever have imagined a few short decades ago that the Church would be so internally devastated? Persecution always seemed an external thing, and no one expected the rot that has occurred within the Church of Christ. And a rot that involved not simply simony and the sale of indulgences, but the sin that Christ condemned with all of his breath and prescribed a millstone as an alternative to its monstrous action.

I look at Christine's post above and feel a sense of shame for our Church and a outrage at the bishops both as those who participated in some form in this monstrosity and as a group who hide within and behind committees.

But at most masses after I get past the meaningless homelitics, the goofy peace sign, and syrupy music, I stand in the queue waiting to receive the Body and Blood of Our Savior--that little wafer and sip that sent the galaxies spinning out through the dark and empty void...and came to us knowing of his own monstrous fate..so that we, poor souls, might be freed from the grip of sin and Satan.

Christine

And I, too, John remain because even though so much needs fixing I continue to have hope that the Lord will purify his church as he has done over and over since her founding. The strength I find in Word and Sacrament are something that I simply must have in order to live in and with Christ in this world.

Your faithfulness is a sign of that hope for me.

Robert

I've followed these discussions closely (& usually silently) here & at Mark Shea's over the past four years. During that time, I've been persuaded that my position on many things was wrong. That doesn't happen to me very often :-). It happened slowly and only after watching everybody's best arguments come out into the light and be fire-tested by a drawn out adversarial process. So is everybody wasting their time? In the sense that this is an inefficient and tedious way to have a serious discussion, maybe. But some of you have managed to be persuasive.

Liam

To my mine, two others things here in Boston that galled people in the pews were (1) the threat of bankruptcy as a litigation tool (and related hardball tactics that still go on in varied guises), and (2) the mishandling of parish closings clearly related to financial non-transparency of the archdiocese. These things, among others, have eliminated the presumption of bona fides once granted to our erstwhile shepherds. And it ain't coming back for a few generations, absent dramatic change in attitude thus far lacking.

Bulwarks of orthodoxy issue interdicts to protect their authority, but not their flock. Oh, we can all tease out the granular distinctions to be made, but that's how folks in the pews see things. It is a not a testimony the shepherds should be proud of.

Rich Leonardi

(One post - maybe two - and then I'm out.)

There just seems to be a lack of holiness - or even a commitment to aspiring to be holy - in so much of the Church today. (And if I sound like a young fogey, humor me.)

I just finished reading a review of Michael Rose's book "Priest" in which one man is described as rising at 3AM for first the Rosary, then Lauds, then exercise and finally celebrating Mass at 7:30AM.

Yes, there are scores of priests and laymen out there doing this sort of thing, but how abnormal that must seem here.

Is the collared buggar welcomed home with open arms by his brain-dead parishioners after spending a stint in the drunk tank for exposing himself in a public restroom attempting that kind of commitment? Does it even cross his mind?

In his chapter on Original Sin in "The Problem of Pain", Lewis describes sinful man as a "renegade who must lay down his arms". He's describing *all* men this way, not, say, felons.

Original Sin, though, has become Original Innocence now that a trip to the park doesn't even produce shame.

Spak

I very much liked your post today. It seems to me that the "frustration" that you rightly call "painful and palpable" has everything to do with expectations. (I'm assuming here that readers know of abuse but have not experienced it personally or in their families.)

A lot of people expect holiness from their church leaders, especially from the bishops. I feel that this expectation of holiness is especially strong in converts, though I'm not sure why. It might be that converts from Protestantism, who were likely raised on Calvin's saved-or-damned theology, like to see souls as black or white, and get upset when they're black. It might be that converts convert because they think the Church is holy, and then get blindsided when they discover that a lot of Churchmen are anything but. Or it might be that I don't know what I'm talking about.

But I've never been much affected by the Scandal, and I think the reason is that I've never had high expectations for holy priests and bishops. I grew up Catholic, and my parish had three priests. The pastor was both a pastor and in charge of counselling troubled priests, and this meant that his two curates were almost always, well, especially troubled.

A few examples: I served as a 5th grade altar boy under a priest who yelled at me and others in the sacristy, and who ran off with the (married, three kids) art teacher in the parish school. Our parish Boy Scout troop was advised by a different curate, who reeked of bourbon and cigarettes and died mysteriously at age 44. In high school, yet another curate used to be seen a lot at a local health club with different attractive women, and was fond of driving his Jeep at high speeds around town, country music blaring and his ponytail streaming behind him. And my friends who went to a neighboring parish watched a curate there get convicted of molesting teenagers and sentenced to state prison.

When you grow up like that, Christ's likening the Kingdom of God to a field with both wheat and tares makes a lot of sense. I pray for wheat, but I can live with the tares.

Whitcomb

The other day I saw a small item in the paper about Sinead O'Connor--remember her?--getting ready to release a new album. The article mentioned her 1992 appearance on Saturday Night Live when she tore up a photo of John Paul II and said, "Fight the real enemy."

You will recall the outpouring of protest that followed this incident. She was booed off a stage in New York a couple weeks later. And while she apologized, her career has essentially tanked ever since.

What people tend to forget is *why* she did what she did. "It was a symbol of tearing down of the church’s secrets and lies," O'Connor later said. "In Ireland, it was coming out [that] there had been child abuse within the church and it had been shut up. It wasn't an attack on the man (JP2)."

She would have been better served if she had said something like that on SNL.

Even so, knowing what we know now, does what she did in 1992 seem so outrageous now?

Christine

Spak, I grew up in a family of Catholics and Lutherans and Calvin's name was never uttered from our lips.

I agree wholeheartedly with your wheat and tares analogy, it forms part of my own belief. I would never presume to judge any individual's standing before God but when a body of Christians fails so blatantly and corporately before the world, well, as the Good Book says, "the name of God is blasphemed among the gentiles because of you" (St. Paul). How the Church lives out her calling matters -- very much.

All Christians are required to grow in holiness, or, as I prefer, to mature into the likeness of Christ and that includes bishops. They would do well to remember that they will be judged by a much, much higher standard than the "mere" sheep.

Mark Shea

Not to throw cold water on this festival of despair, but reading all this does put me in mind of a note I received from a correspondent yesterday. I sent them this and they replied:

I've seen it and it's true. St. Mary's of Greenville, SC (highlighted in the article). and the folks from dynamic Christ the King Cathedral in Atlanta and are busy making their parish a center of formation. Their prime staff person is (natch) an evangelical convert and Harvard Divinity School grad in the interesting position of being married to an Episcopalian priest who is currently pastoring a small Lutheran church. He's working as a Catholic layman and she's a Episcopalian priest - now there's 21st century ecumenism for you!

Amy had a discussion about the article on her blog last week - and the inevitable happened. Most commenters were skeptical because their parish in Peducah, KY wasn't a paragon of traditional liturgy or they'd met a sister who said something stupid and looked at them cross-eyed. "If it's not happening in my hometown - continuously and perfectly - I don't care if it's happening anywhere else."

It's the whiny-I'm-a-liturgical-victim mentality that I'm losing patience with. There's no apostolic fortitude, a desire to become the ideal ourselves, much the willingness to pay the price necessary to make it available to others - but a kind of consumerist "I want what I want when I want it", I want to be able to just walk into any parish at any point and find the liturgical/spiritual/theological/communal perfection that I dreamed of and that is my right and heaven protect those who disappoint me. I want the best possible combination of Catholic liturgical beauty and intellectual and cultural richness with the very best of evangelical communal fevor and disciple-making and I want in my parish now! I don't want to have to build it - I want it delivered on a platter, please, because its all about my sense of entitlement.

I don't want to have to be an apostle, I want to be a spiritual consumer.

Heaven knows that I'm not immune to these feelings myself but I've come to the conclusion that most evangelical converts set ourselves up for a major disappointment because we unconsciously projected our past experience of church upon the Catholic community. We imagined being Catholic as pretty much the same thing as we had known (at its very best) only deeper, richer, and better because we would now have the sacraments and the intellectual tradition as well. Liturgical, sacramental and mystical riches heaped upon evangelistic and formative riches and all waiting for us in one spot - our local church. No one promised it to us - we spun this golden vision of the future on our own. But no wonder we act as though we were bitterly deceived and no wonder puzzled overworked pastors and staff, without similar experiences or expectations of the parish, feel defensive around us and avoid us.

Because American Catholics looked like us and often sounded like American evangelicals, we didn't grasp how profoundly different their lived ecclesial experience and, therefore, their ecclesial culture would be. Only now, after 17 years on the other side am I really "getting" it.

****

Hiroshima martyrs were hung upside down and cuts were made on their heads so that they would bleed and the blood pressure would not make them pass out while they were slowly submerged in pits of human excrement. Men and women in the early Church were roasted on griddles.

I'm really, really tired of hearing we lay Americans in the 21st Century speak as though we are martyrs because our music is sucky and liturgy is sometimes dopey and many of our bishops are modest men with much to be modest about. If that's the zenith of suffering I must endure for Christ then I, for one, am relieved to the pitch of tears.

"There's no apostolic fortitude, a desire to become the ideal ourselves". In *every age*, the majority of bishops have been--just ordinary people. Yesterday, in the midst of his hysterics, Leo kept asking what he was to do if the bishops fail us. One option is to have Drama Queen hysterics in a combox. Another option is to "become the ideal ourselves". It's happened before. During the Arian controversy, the Imperial Court and most of the bishops caved into Arianism such that, as Jerome put it, "the world woke and groaned to find itself Arian". This was *after* the Council of Nicaea. Indeed, 40 years after Nicaea was when we got Julian the Apostate, an Emperor who put off the last vestiges of the Imperial fad for Christianity and tried to re-establish paganism.

However, the *laity* held on to the Faith. They didn't spout nonsense about depriving their kids of the sacraments in retribution for bad bishops. They stuck fast to the fact that Christ was Christ, even if his apostles denied him.

Sorry, but I'm getting tired of the endless counsels of gloom and doom. There *is* hope for the Church and good things *are* happening. But if we steadfastly ignore them and focus always on the bad, we will eventually see only that.

Zhou De-Ming

Dear Spak,

Thanks so much for your honesty. I really believe that there are millions of good Catholics just like you, with similar low expectations, all across the world. This was the point I tried to make last week under the "Where's the Rage" topic. There is no rage, or not much, because of the low expectations that most Catholics have of their priests and bishops. Exactly. That is why, in the news article I quoted yesterday, many parishioners are happy as peaches with Father, even though he has a past conviction for child pornography and is currently putting his semi-nude pictures up on the Web.

As long as Father delivers the Eucharist, who cares what else he does? Just focus on the Blessed Sacrament, not the minister thereof. Perhaps this is really the proper "Catholic" expectation, and most people who went through RCIA just never heard it.

If we tolerate and welcome the sinners in the pews, why should we not tolerate and welcome the sinners in the clergy? Who is without sin to cast the first stone? We ask our Father to forgive us as we forgive others.

That is exactly why this problem is not going away, and why it drives some converts crazy. They may be accustomed to higher expectations of clergy.

Personally, I don't think this "problem" will be fixed. It is structural, and has been present as long as the structure has existed.

I still think that small, local communities pursuing a life of holiness are the way forward. Nothing, not even a new Pope, will "fix" the entire Church; it is, and always has been, made of sinful human beings, broken and redeemed and not always making great spiritual progress toward holiness in this life. That's what we've got, it will do. And it is a whole lot better than nothing, or, in my humble opinion, the endless divisions of the Protestant world.

John Hetman

Cheer up, Mark. You may yet, I am almsot certain, have an opportunity of some sort of martyrdom. It's coming sooner than we expect.

On the other hand, you are right. We do get ourselves mired in only the bad news, ignoring the vast amount of holiness that pervades the Church as well as in a substantial portion of Judeo-Christianity.

But, its the nature now of almost instant communication to inundate us with scandal after scandal. I don't think that any of us who have posted here are knee-deep in self-pity, just perhaps needing the camaraderie of reflection before we again take up the way of the Cross.

Sherry Weddell

Spak, et all:

I think that you have raised an important point: Is the Church a "wheat and tares" community or pure wheat - the shining city on a hill?

I've come to the conclusion that most evangelical converts set ourselves up for a major disappointment because we unconsciously projected our past experience and ideals of church upon the Catholic community. We imagined being Catholic as pretty much the same thing as we had known (or heard about at its very best) only deeper, richer, and better because we would now have the sacraments and the intellectual tradition as well. Liturgical, sacramental and mystical riches heaped upon evangelistic and formative riches and all waiting for us in one spot - our local parish.

Cradle Catholics didn't promise it to us - the idea that we had such exalted expectations never entered their heads. We spun this golden vision of the future on our own. But no wonder we act as though we were bitterly deceived and no wonder puzzled overworked cradle Catholic pastors and staff, without similar experiences or expectations of the parish, feel defensive around us and avoid us.

Because American Catholics looked like us and often sounded like us, we didn't grasp how profoundly different their lived ecclesial experience and, therefore, their ecclesial culture would be. Only now, after 17 years as a Catholic, of listening to over 20,000 Catholics, and working in 62 dioceses am I really "getting" it.

And its not all just a matter of corruption and sin. Some of it is what I can only call a "lack of imagination". The experience gap in the area of evangelization and support of the discipleship of the individual between evangelicals and Catholics is a pastoral Grand Canyon.

Many is the time I've just wanted to put my head down and cry in absolute frustration at my inability to communicate to the "best" of Catholics (and I've worked with and known some of the very best) what is taken for granted on the "other side".

Here's the good news: it is beginning to change. Partly because some cradle Catholics (pastors, lay leaders) sense that there *has* to be more on the pastoral front, partly because some evangelical converts are starting to move into decision-making positions of influence and the networking and collaboration has begun. The bar is being raised.


Mark Shea

John:

That's the paradoxical point. I *am* pretty cheery! It's only when I check into discussions in the comboxes of blogs that I get the sense I must be really out of step because I'm *not* panicked about the Church's imminent doom, I *don't* get up each morning filled with rage, I *do* in fact get a lot of nourishment at my parish, and I know *lots* of Catholics who are happy to be Catholics, have active apostolics lives, and generally do not sit through Mass gritting my teeth and praying for the strength to endure one more day in the Church. It's really not my experience. Until I log into the blogosphere.

I can't account for that disconnect, but my own suspicion is that cyberspace is less in contact with reality than, er, reality is.

Jimmy Mac

Zhou makes an excellent point. Don't forget, however, that the various religious movements in the RCC were usually started in reaction to "slackers" within the clergy and laity. The Protestant Reformation ... ditto (in spades.) Yes, we should hold our clergy to high expectations. But they come from "us" and if "we" don't hold ourselves to a higher standard, then how can we possibly expect the "us" who take orders or vows to be better?

Yes, I know that a vocation is supposed to be a response to a call from God, and I don't doubt that, in most cases, it is. However, when the priesthood was always held in high social esteem; when priests were given unquestioning obedience; then the rot that existed in the papacy during its history was basically ignored; when a way out of poverty and lower social class was through the priesthood; when clerical advancement was not predicated on a visible life of holiness, but, rather, on administrative, building and political skills ... isn't it a bit obvious why clerical standards in the RCC have been a bit fungible?

jtbf

Sorry if I sound a bit bluehaired, but isn't all this a lesson in the need to live lives of chastity, whether in marriage or not? To direct our attention constantly to the Kingdom that is not of this world, which, in this day and age, means the one that is not about mere sensual gratification? Isn't this really what the Gospels were all about: the Kingdom that is not of this world? The noise coming from the errant behavior of clergy and laity in this regard is much like the cry of John the Baptist in that it reminds us of where our attention and longing should be placed. I am looking for a revival of faith rather than endless stone throwing as the remedy to this painful episode in the life of Christ's Church.

Mark Windsor

I agree with Sherry that things are beginning to change for the better in a variety of ways, but I come at this idea from a different direction.

Every chance I get I tell cradle Catholics just how lucky they are, even with the scandals. Sometimes the look at me like I'm some goofy uncle that everyone has to put up with. Sometimes they look at me like I've got Medusa's hair.

Ya see, I come from the Episcopal church.

Catholic theology, even when wrongly taught...no, that's not quite right...even when inexpertly taught, is still of such vast depth that it's staggering.

The Tiber may be muddy and have some polution problems, but the water is still a good bit warmer and cleaner than the Thames.

I don't despair at the Scandal - sure, I'd like a new bishop, a little Latin, and a perfect liturgical exerience every Sunday. But I've seen the other side and therein lies despair.

al

Mark:

"And fear ye not them that kill the body, and are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him that can destroy both soul and body in hell."

Dave

"It seems the first thing non-Catholics say when any moral position is promulgated these days (whether it be pro-life or anti gay marriage, cloning, etc.) is "what does a church that allows child molestors" have to say to anyone about morality? Or some variation thereof. "

The only answer that I have to those who challenge me is this. Our church is a Divine institution administered on earth by humans. Humans err constantly, but the church still exists.

Think about it; we've screwed up the environment, countless indigenous tribes, our morals as a society are leaving the proverbial brown streak. If ANYBODY can screw something up, it's humans. Yet, the church has survived 2,000 years. Why? Because we're not in charge of it.

Rather simplistic I admit, but faith is the belief of all things unseen, right?

Gerard E.

1. Tuesday really was a watershed day in the development of The Scandal. The biggest shark in the tank was reeled in, probably for the rest of his life.

2. If it can happen to Shanley- once the darling of the Boston archdiocese for his trendy activities- it can happen to any wavering cleric. Or nun. Or public school teacher- a far worse rate of abuse in their company.

4. Once caught, they will be thrown to the wolves. In the form of local prosecutors, judges, trial lawyers for the victims, and Action Eye News. But hey St. Blog's- give yourselves props too. You've kept this issue on the front burners when it would have been easy to disappear. Are we having the same effect on the Great Teenage Church of America as the secular bloggers, on the careers of Dan Rather, Howell Raines, and Eason Jordan? I certainly won't sell you guys short. Otherwise, we wouldn't know about the most recent Dallas abomination. Or trigger the resulting firestorm that even the intransigent bishop must have felt.

5. All the hope that I needed for the Church came during Ash Wednesday Mass at our Cathedral. Even the folding chairs set up for late-arriving office workers were filled to capacity for the 12:05 P.M. Mass. With ashes distributed by our three outstanding auxiliary bishops- one of them a high school basketball coach before The Calling To Priesthood. Buck up. kids. The perps are getting what's theirs. The Church's work goes on. On with The Show.

Mark Windsor

Al,

Which "Mark" doest thou aimest thy comment upon?

Rod Dreher

A letter I just opened up here at my desk:

Thumbs up on your article, "Where's the rage, Catholic men?" Like you, I am at a loss that most Catholic men remain passive. My two Catholic-educated sons expressed their rage by leaving the Church. My grandchildren are now being raised in another faith, and that hurts. God bless you.

Over, and over, and over this week, scores of versions of that letter. One correspondent sent me this morning a copy of a lecture delivered in 2003 by the great Jesuit father Paul Mankowski, a real knight of the faith who has been made to suffer for his outspoken orthodoxy. Bear with me, for this is long. Father Mankowski said (the boldface lines below are emphasized by me):

What went wrong, and why? Everyone in the room will rightly understand the question to refer to The Crisis, the daily revelation over the past eighteen months of numberless instances of priestly turpitude, episcopal mendacity, and the resultant bewilderment and fury of the laity. My own take on the problem, which I offer for your consideration, is that the Crisis is chiefly surprising in how unsurprising it is.

No one who has been fighting the culture wars within the Church over the past twenty years can fail to recognize his own struggles with a hostile bureaucracy and conflicted hierarchy in the struggles of those pleading for relief from sexual abuse — notwithstanding the disparity in the attendant journalistic drama. In fact, I’d contend that the single important difference in the Church’s failure regarding abusive clergy and the failures regarding liturgy, catechesis, pro-life politics, doctrinal dissent and biblical translation is this: that in the case of the sex abuse scandal we’ve been allowed a look over the bishops’ shoulders at their own memos.

Deviant sexual assault has accomplished what liturgical abuse never could: it has generated secular media pressure and secular legal constraints so overwhelming that the apparat was forced to make its files public.

What we read in those files was shocking, true, but to most of us it was shocking in its sense of déja vu. In the years following the Second Vatican Council, the housewife who complained that Father skipped the Creed at mass and the housewife who complained that Father groped her son had remarkably similar experiences of being made to feel that they themselves were somehow in the wrong; that they had impugned the honor of virtuous men; that their complaints were an unwelcome interruption of more important business; that the true situation was fully known to the chancery and completely under control; that the wider and more complete knowledge of higher ecclesiastics justified their apparent inaction; that to criticize the curate was to criticize the pastor was to criticize the regional vicar was to criticize the bishop; that to publicize one’s dissatisfaction was to give scandal and would positively harm discreet efforts at remedying the ills; that one’s duty was to maintain silence and trust that those officially charged with the pertinent responsibilities would execute them in their own time; that delayed correction of problems was sometimes necessary for the universal good of the Church.

This picture was meant to describe the faithful’s dealing with the normally operating bureaucracy, in which the higher-ups are largely insulated. Occasionally someone manages to break through the insulation and deal with the responsible churchman himself. In this case another maneuver is typically employed, one I tried to sketch eight years ago in an essay called “Tames in Clerical Life”:


"In one-on-one situations, tames in positions of authority will rarely flatly deny the validity of a complaint of corruption lodged by a subordinate. More often they will admit the reality and seriousness of the problem raised, and then pretend to take the appellant into their confidence, assuring him that those in charge are fully aware of the crisis and that steps are being taken, quietly, behind the scenes, to remedy it. Thus the burden of discretion is shifted onto the subordinate in the name of concern for the good of the institution and personal loyalty to the administrator: he must not go public with his evidence of malfeasance lest he disrupt the process — invariably hidden from view — by which it is being put right. This ruse has been called the Secret Santa maneuver: “There are no presents underneath the tree for you, but that’s because Daddy is down in the basement making you something special. It’s supposed to be a surprise, so don’t breathe a word or you’ll spoil everything.” And, of course, Christmas never comes. Perhaps most of the well-intentioned efforts for reform in the past quarter century have been tabled indefinitely by high-ranking tames using this ploy to buy their way out of tough situations for which they are temperamentally unsuited."

What I’ve put before you are two scenarios in which complaints of abuses are brought to those in authority and in which they seem to vanish — the complaints, I mean, not the abuses. One hoped that something was being done behind the scenes, of course, but whatever happened always remained behind the scenes. As the weeks went by without observable changes in the abuse and without feedback from the bureaucracy, one was torn between two contradictory surmises: that one’s complaint had been passed upstairs to so high a level that even the bishop (or superior) was forbidden to discuss it; alternatively, that once one’s silence had been secured and the problem of unwelcome publicity was past, nothing whatsoever was being done.

Now the remarkable thing about The Crisis is how fully it confirmed the second suspicion. In thousands and thousands of pages of records one scarcely, if ever, is edified by a pleasant surprise, by discovering that a bishop’s or superior’s concern for the victim or for the Faith was greater than that known to the public, that the engines of justice were geared up and running at full throttle, but in a manner invisible to those outside the circle of discretion. Didn’t happen.

I think this goes far to explain the fact that when the scandals broke it was the conservative Catholics who were the first and the most vociferous in calling for episcopal resignations, and only later did the left-liberals manage to find their voices. Part of our outrage concerned the staggering insouciance of bishops toward the abuse itself; but part, I would argue, was the exasperation attendant on the realization that, for the same reasons, all our efforts in the culture wars on behalf of Catholic positions had gone up in the same bureaucratic smoke.

Now, I think we can see from Fr. Mankowski's words -- and this is merely the introduction to a very fine speech -- the gist of the anger so many of us hold, and why venting that anger is not something to be ashamed of.

In short, we were betrayed.

And not only were we betrayed, the kinds of things we are doing in our own lives and families to raise up good Catholic children and bear effective witness to Christ in our lives has been betrayed, lock, stock and barrel, by the bishops and, generally speaking, the clergy.

Why is it necessary to stay mad, and keep rattling cages now? Because so very little has changed. The conditions that allowed for the Crisis -- and I'm not talking about simply the child sex abuse crisis, but the broader crisis of the faith -- are still in place. I think one reason why many Evangelical converts (I'm not one) are so upset is the inability to conceive the Catholic mindset that shrugs off these incredible betrayals of Jesus Christ and His people. I know that for me, as someone who converted out of a weak mainline background, I was so humbled and grateful to have the door to the Catholic Church's spiritual, sacramental and intellectual treasures opened to me. And to see these precious jewels treated like they have been by the institutional church and so many in the laity -- it's mind-boggling.

And as Fr. Mankowski says, one feels that many of one's efforts in the culture war have been sold down the river by the bishops. I read up on the biotech nightmare we're facing in this century. Where is the voice of the Church? Silent. Why? Because our bishops have shot their credibility to hell protecting boy-rapers and empowering their lawyers to smash Catholic families.

I am privileged to be sponsoring the entry into full communion with the Church this Easter a woman to whom I and a priest friend witnessed last summer. She is brave and serious, and knows exactly what she's getting into. I am thrilled that she has the grace to go forward with this despite it all. Jesus Christ and His Mother call to her despite the clerical rot. She is an inspiration to me, for she is coming into the Church not because of the Church's holiness, but in spite of its scandalous lack.

I am sorry I went on so long. But this is a good thread.

Tom

A lot of people expect holiness from their church leaders, especially from the bishops. I feel that this expectation of holiness is especially strong in converts, though I'm not sure why.

My guess on why this might be so is that bishops simply aren't all that important in the eyes of many American cradle Catholics. If you don't really expect anything at all from your bishop -- apart from a swing through the parish for Confirmation and the occasional letter to be read at all Masses -- you certainly won't expect holiness.

Rod Dreher

By the way, if anyone wants to read all of Fr. Mankowski's lecture, click on this link.

Steve Cavanaugh

It seems to me that one of the places that has been a major operating room for the removal of episcopal spines has been the National Conference. This bureaucratic, permanent meeting for bishops is really quite unlike the synods and plenary councils of the past. Most church councils in the past were convoked for specific reasons: to elect a new metropolitan, to discipline the errant, to define doctrine, etc.

The modern conference, however, seems designed to get everyone to know each other. To make pals. And that's where part of the danger lies...it's so easy to excuse the faults of our friends, to not call them on the carpet. Given that social reality, it's not surprising that the bishops have such a tough time calling each other out. They've erected a system that has systematically trained them not to do this. That the results of such a system is unbiblical and debilitating to the Church seems not to have occurred to them. The conference system is really a further concentration of clerical culture, something that once again pulls the bishops into the orbit of other bishops, instead of out among their people where they belong.

When you add to this the many problems caused by a permanent bureaucracy of officials who come to believe that because they are knowlegable in particular areas they are experts in faith and have authority within the Church, you get exactly some of the problems we've had.

It would not cure everything, but abolishing the national conference would be a positive good, freeing the bishops from the clutches of this mutual admiration society.

And because what Mark Shea has so often said has so much truth about it (we get the clergy we deserve) we all need to work on deserving better: both by the penitential character of our lives and by our willingness to prophetically denounce the evil in our midst.

Given that today is the first of the Lenten Ember days, which traditionally dedicated to fasting and praying for the clergy and those about to be ordained, it would be a good day to begin this. Here is one of the prayers for the Ember Days from the Book of Divine Worship:

Almighty God, the giver of all good gifts, who of thy
divine providence hast appointed various orders in thy
Church: Give thy grace, we humbly beseech thee, to all
who are [now] called to any office and ministry for thy
people; and so fill them with the truth of thy doctrine and
clothe them with holiness of life, that they may faithfully
serve before thee, to the glory of thy great Name and for
the benefit of thy holy Church; through Jesus Christ our
Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the
Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Steve Cavanaugh

It seems to me that one of the places that has been a major operating room for the removal of episcopal spines has been the National Conference. This bureaucratic, permanent meeting for bishops is really quite unlike the synods and plenary councils of the past. Most church councils in the past were convoked for specific reasons: to elect a new metropolitan, to discipline the errant, to define doctrine, etc.

The modern conference, however, seems designed to get everyone to know each other. To make pals. And that's where part of the danger lies...it's so easy to excuse the faults of our friends, to not call them on the carpet. Given that social reality, it's not surprising that the bishops have such a tough time calling each other out. They've erected a system that has systematically trained them not to do this. That the results of such a system is unbiblical and debilitating to the Church seems not to have occurred to them. The conference system is really a further concentration of clerical culture, something that once again pulls the bishops into the orbit of other bishops, instead of out among their people where they belong.

When you add to this the many problems caused by a permanent bureaucracy of officials who come to believe that because they are knowlegable in particular areas they are experts in faith and have authority within the Church, you get exactly some of the problems we've had.

It would not cure everything, but abolishing the national conference would be a positive good, freeing the bishops from the clutches of this mutual admiration society.

And because what Mark Shea has so often said has so much truth about it (we get the clergy we deserve) we all need to work on deserving better: both by the penitential character of our lives and by our willingness to prophetically denounce the evil in our midst.

Given that today is the first of the Lenten Ember days, which traditionally dedicated to fasting and praying for the clergy and those about to be ordained, it would be a good day to begin this. Here is one of the prayers for the Ember Days from the Book of Divine Worship:

Almighty God, the giver of all good gifts, who of thy
divine providence hast appointed various orders in thy
Church: Give thy grace, we humbly beseech thee, to all
who are [now] called to any office and ministry for thy
people; and so fill them with the truth of thy doctrine and
clothe them with holiness of life, that they may faithfully
serve before thee, to the glory of thy great Name and for
the benefit of thy holy Church; through Jesus Christ our
Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the
Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Zhou De-Ming

Thanks, Rod, for the link to the lecture. I love Fr. Mankowski's conclusion:

Let me sum up. I believe the sexual abuse crisis represents no isolated phenomenon and no new failure, but rather illustrates a state of slowly worsening clerical and episcopal corruption with its roots well back into the 1940s. Its principal tributaries include a critical mass of morally depraved and psychologically defective clergymen who entered the service of Church seeking emoluments and advantages unrelated to her spiritual mission, in addition to leaders constitutionally unsuited to the exercise of the virtues of truthfulness and fortitude. The old-fashioned vices of lust, pride, and sloth have erected an administrative apparatus effective at transmitting the consolations of the Faith but powerless at correction and problem-solving. The result is a situation unamenable to reform, wherein the leaders continue to project an upbeat and positive message of ecclesial well-being to an overwhelmingly good-willed laity, a message which both speaker and hearer find more gratifying than convincing. I believe that the Crisis will deepen, though undramatically, in the foreseeable future; I believe that the policies suggested to remedy the situation will help only tangentially, and that the whole idea of an administrative programmatic approach — a “software solution,” if I may put it that way — is an example of the disease for which it purports to be the cure. I believe that reform will come, though in a future generation, and that the reformers whom God raises up will spill their blood in imitation of Christ. In short, to pilfer a line of Wilfrid Sheed, I find absolutely no grounds for optimism, and I have every reason for hope.

As I said above, I don't think this problem will go away. It is structural. New procedures, even "safe child" procedures, will not solve the problem. Hey, that's Catholic life in the USA today. As on old hymn goes, "My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness...On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand." (Edward Mote, ca. 1834).

Maria Ashwell

Amy and Rod and Mark S,
Well spoken and thank you for taking the sting out of yesterday's thread on Shanley.
Everyday, as I ponder events in the news, I thank God once again that I was raised Catholic. I struggle with the weakness we have seen from our bishops and even within my own diocese. But, as I taught my daughter this week, despite all these "men", Jesus still offers Himself Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity as perpetual perfect offering for my sin every time I go to Mass. My reponse to that is what can make all the difference in my life and the life of our Church.

al

Mark Windsor,
It was to Mark Shea.

Zhou,

"Its principal tributaries include a critical mass of morally depraved and psychologically defective clergymen who entered the service of Church seeking emoluments and advantages unrelated to her spiritual mission,"

As scripture describes in the letters of St. Paul, Jude, and Peter

Rich Leonardi

One thing that hasn't been mentioned is that many of us - most of us - regulars are parents. For me, that changes everything. It means that the "bad liturgy" and loopy priests - not to mention sexual predation - described and somewhat discounted by Mark Shea just might have the corrosive, cynicism-generating effect on our kids that it's had on so many of our friends and family members. Two of my siblings have lapsed. Two of my best friends now are Episcopalians. It would break my heart if my children did the same.

Spak

Rod Dreher tells us that "we were betrayed." I disagree.

My parents raised me and my three siblings in the childhood parish I discussed above -- the one that seemed to get more than its fair share of clerical ne'er-do-wells. Though we were often bemused, I don't think we were ever betrayed. None of the priests ever did anything that bad to us personally, and my parents sort of showed us by example not to take any of their craziness too seriously. Maybe that's why all four of us are still active Catholics today.

I am reminded of the story of Saint Francis one of the sisters taught me in school:

St. Francis was asked what he would do if he knew that the local priest kept a concubine. He answered that he would receive the body of Christ from that priest's anointed hands.

I wonder if Saint Francis felt betrayed.

AnthonyB

Amy,

Thanks again for the wonderful blog.

Like you, I think it's "hard to say what the bishops have been about" over the last 40 years. I think that the scandals of the last three years have been the line in the sand that marks what the laity will not tolerate. Liturgical innovation and crappy E-Z listening adult contemporary listening music? Ok, I suppose that if the bishop is ok with it, it must be ok. A complete breakdown in catechesis for several decades? Well, the Church has survived worse and we're good people at heart. Priests are human and some flawed humans are pedophiles, therefore it's ok to move them on to the next parish? Whoa. Hold on there, Excellency.

I don't think that asking the ordinary men who are ordinaries to protect the weak by taking actions against the wolves in their midst is unreasonable.

I just finished reading a great book about the 19th Century Archbishop of New York, "Dagger John" Hughes. He was an immigrant ditch digger without education who was admitted to seminary based on a recommendation from St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. Before his cohort was ordained, the few priests in America were often wandering priests of questionable character, even criminals. Others, like Hughes, were heroic. The early bishops in America had to struggle agains these vagabond priests and against lay trustees. Hughes set about about building up the Body of Christ in America by vigorous preaching and establishing parishes, including laying the cornerstone for St. Pat's Cathedral in NYC. Hughes was not afraid to discipline his priests when their actions theatened the Body of Christ.

Same with Dennis Cardinal Dougherty of Philadelphia, "God's Bricklayer," in the first half of the 20th Century. Read the account of him in Charles Morris's "American Catholic." He was not afraid to discipline priests.

Or Cardinal Spellman, one of Hugh's successors.

None of these are recognized saints. Yet they were leaders who helped to build up the Body of Christ in America. They were on offense, going up against the Gates of Hell.

Why will the bishops not act? They have in the past. Why not now? Why are they so timid? What are they about?

I understand that the Church is more than the Church in America, Romanitas, the Church thinks in centuries, etc. Yet, why can't the positive aspects of American culture (transparency, accountability, speed, vigor) be inculturated in the Church in America? As Mark points out, there are many great things going on in the Church in America, and we don't face red martyrdom. But when timid leaders don't take action against predators, how much more difficult is it to build up the Body of Christ (not to mention the unfortunate fate of those innocents attaced)?

Why?

RP Burke

Its principal tributaries include a critical mass of morally depraved and psychologically defective clergymen who entered the service of Church seeking emoluments and advantages unrelated to her spiritual mission, in addition to leaders constitutionally unsuited to the exercise of the virtues of truthfulness and fortitude.

A good book to help you see a good starting point in the mess is the definitive biography, written by a professor at Boston College, of America's leading ultramontanist, Cardinal William H. O'Connell:

O'Toole, James M.: Militant and Triumphant: William Henry O'Connell and the Catholic church in Boston, 1859-1944, Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, copr. 1992

Of special interest is the section about his nephew, James O'Connell. In a literal act of nepotism the cardinal appointed the younger man, within months of his ordination, chancellor of the archdiocese. Monsignor O'Connell would soon start to live a double life, as he had secretly married in Crown Point, Indiana, and spent half the week, with his wife in New York under a pseudonym, as a stockbroker, and half the week as a priest in Boston. There were other rumors about sexual licentiousness at the chancery while O'Connell was away on one of his many trips to the islands. (Of O'Connell it was said he could not bear to see his people suffer in the cold, so off he went to the Bahamas; thus the nickname "Gangplank Bill.")

The imperious cardinal, asked at an ad limina visit about the rumors surrounding his nephew, tried to cover it up, only to be presented by the pope with copies of the marriage license and other incriminating documents. He escaped the meeting barely hanging on to his red hat.

Back home, fear of the cardinal's wrath (and continued influence among the city's Catholics) kept this scandal out of the local newspapers -- a lesson the Boston papers keep to heart to this day.

RP Burke

One other note about O'Connell.

Morris, in American Catholic, praised Philadelphia's Cardinal Dougherty but called O'Connell an "impious fraud."

Mark Shea

I've got four kids myself. And I live in the Archdiocese of Seattle, manufacturer and exporter of liturgical loopiness since 1980 at least. My kids are quite serious liturgically. They prefer Latin and "the old music" when they can get it (the rest of the time they like Relient K, the Beatles, and ska). We've always looked at education in the parish as purely supplemental. If it didn't contradict the teaching of the Church and what we gave them, it was gravy. If it did, we didn't panic. We just didn't bother with it. Because *we* were the people who the Church said are the primary educators of our children. It seems to have stuck (at least with the older ones--I'll get back to you in ten years on Sean and Peter). I've made it clear (and explicit) to my kids that if they do not retain their faith, I will consider myself to have failed as a Catholic father. So they know where I stand. But they also know that I don't consider the Faith a bunch of abstract rules that you obey because they are The Rules. I consider it a living gift of the Living God and I deeply believe that the Faith, while mysterious, makes sense. So I try to make sense of it for them lest they get the notion that it's just a bunch of crap that you have to do because you have to do it. And when you do that, kids seem to respond. They don't always like it. But they see the truth of it.

I've been pleasantly surprised to discover that my kids never hit the adolescent "I hate you and wish you were dead" phase which I've been programmed by the culture to expect. Luke's 18 and he still is quite a happy Catholic. Even the chastity stuff sits well with him, since he's smart enough to see the misery around him that sexual derangement engenders. Meanwhile, my Matthew's fondest goal is to go to Thomas Aquinas College because it turns out he really enjoys hashing out all that "What is truth?" stuff that everybody says teenagers don't care about anymore.

In short, it appears the Holy Father is right that if you challenge youth to heroism, they will leap at the chance to be heroic. It's the cry of the youthful heart. That's been one of the major place the American Church has blown it. We spent 40 years making the Faith "relevant" (like a 60 year old English teacher in go go boots) instead of making it what it is: a clarion call to heroic martyrdom.

The Pope started having World Youth Days and bidding the young to martyrdom--and they flocked to it. They still do.

RP Burke

A link to an essay by O'Toole on O'Connell.

http://www.bc.edu/publications/bcm/winter_2003/c21_number.html

Paul Pfaffenberger

Amy says "If I were writing the story of this situation ...."

And I wonder - why not? and who better?

Dave P.

"And what can we do about it? That's been the constant question ..."

I can think of one thing everyone here can do that will make a real difference.

Witness Christ.

By your witness the world will change and, with it, the Church.

How to "witness" Christ? So simply it sounds like a laugh. Before this day is out, tell someone what Jesus has done, or is now doing, in your life. How does his presence in your life make your life better -- not necessarily more enjoyable or comfortable, but more right and meaningful -- than it would otherwise be? Tell a relative. Tell a co-worker. Tell your priest.

And, by all means, tell your bishop. He may need your witness more than anyone else in your world. If you can't get to him face to face, write him a note. Send it in a card telling him he's in your prayers. Your personal testimony may be the one that finally spurs the man to respond to his own call to holiness in a new and more serious way.

Always, when you take account of and tell others what Jesus is doing in your life, remember these words of Cardinal Francis Arinze:

"The dimension of religious experience should not be forgotten in our presentation of Christianity. It is not enough to supply people with intellectual information. Christianity is neither a set of doctrines nor an ethical system. It is life in Christ, which can be lived at ever deeper levels."

In such simplicity and trust is the Kingdom of God being built even as we speak.

Donald R. McClarey

The whole crux of this situation is Catholics not following the teachings of Christ. The Laity must demand that the Clergy teach catholic doctrine and live it. Now we get to the hard part. We Laity must also demand that we live catholic doctrine. What better time than Lent to begin to do this?

SiliconValleySteve

I've been reading here and thinking alot and wondering why Rod's editorial effected me so much and here is where I am today. (this is in process-- it could be different tomorrow)

As this torrent of scandal broke out, it seems everyone (I know there are exceptions) picked sides based on where they had been. We need Church democracy or not, we need accountablility, we need more Orthodoxy etc, etc.

I was on the bandwagon myself. Until now.

It just cut through my armour because I took to heart what was going on. Who of us, liberal or conservative, orthodox or heterodox, approves of this behavior in any way. We have our differences to be sure but this is horrible abuse to little children. The worst or crimes committed under guise of the Holy Church.

And what have many of us been doing (please include me). Climbing up on soapboxes to promote how if our view prevails, this will go away. But wait a minute, this isn't pathetic music or heterodox homilies. This is the abuse of children and where are we as adults and in my case as a man standing up and telling these Bishops and clergy that all of these legal moves and changes in procedure aren't cutting it.

Where is the hurt, shame, and outrage among the clergy? This is our Church and we have let the most vulnerable down. How can we move forward until we have grasped the enormity of this and set it straight. I have little children and if they were victims of one of these monsters, my life would be in ruins. Are the families in the middle of this any different than me?

Rich Leonardi

Thanks, Mark. I didn't mean to get 'all personal on you. My approach to parenting is similar to yours and my wife and I never doubt that we lead the "domestic church" that is our home and that we too are the primary catechists to our children. And like you, unless our parish school contradicts what we teach them at home, we don't raise too much of a fuss.

Our four are still in the single digits. They love the Faith and my seven-year-old son told me he might want to be a priest. It's encouraging to know from your descriptions of your sons that there's no reason to settle for the excremental expectations of rest of the culture once they hit their teens.

I suppose my post above was intended to explain the experience behind the rage and fear that sometimes emanates from this cradle Catholic.

Christine

In some ways it's been harder on converts who came out of the liturgical Protestant traditions. We had already experienced in some form or other the sacramental life of the Church catholic and rejoiced in embracing the fullness of life in the Communion of Saints as Catholics.

Luther stood in firm continuity with the Church of the ages and its sacramental life and would have never hesitated to receive Holy Communion from the most corrupt cleric because of the integrity and efficacy of the Sacrament.

But he would also not have hesitated in our day to call the most mighty bishop to account by the power of the Word that he taught was always joined to the sacraments and required a response in living faith.

As baptized Christians the laity have the right and obligation to call our shepherds to account when necessary.

Mark Shea

Rod:

Re: betrayal.

I think the level of "betrayal" one perceives has a great deal to do with one's initial expectation. I came into the Church in the Archdiocese of Seattle in 1987. The Church here was a shambles and the ecclesial leadership consisted of Hunthausen and (in my experience) a lot of nutty priests and deacons. My first three goes at RCIA were a disaster, filled with instruction about how Exodus was a Paul Bunyan story, about how my, er, Augustinian college life wasn't really sinful ("just the 'storms of youth'" I was reassured) and so forth. The place was a zoo--and I found that consoling, because it was clear to me from the very beginning that the Church was the Church, not because Catholics had some special corner on holiness, but simply by the grace of Christ.

Y'see, there's a peculiar Darwinian "survival of the fittest" mentality that can take hold in the sectarian Christianity from which I hail (very like the obsession with measuring the doctrinal and moral purity of one's neighbor in Reactionary Dissenting Catholicism). When you come from that, you find the Church's attitude of "We'll take 'em all" is a huge relief (and far more biblical, per the Parable of the Net and the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares).

And having read Newman's Essay in the Development of Christian Doctrine, I found that Seattle was part of a fairly constant pattern in the Church. For Newman basically argues (among other things) that the Church has *always* been a freakin' mess, led by men who were, in the main, ciphers, dunces, scoundrels, weaklings, company men, unimaginative, and phoneys. It's one of the ways you can tell it's the same Church. And since I, being what I am, can still consider myself in some sense Catholic, I had little trouble considering Hunthausen one too.

Consequently, I've felt appalled, outraged, angry, and so forth over the Scandal. But I've never felt shocked. Never felt "betrayed". For I've never considered my fellow Catholics (including the bishops) to be much different from me. Put me in the right circumstances and I think I'd be quite capable of doing the cowardly, stupid, and corrupt things they've done. And since I can imagine that, just as I can imagine myself saying, "Though everyone else deny you, I will *never* deny you" and crying bitter tears about such braggadocio a couple of hours later, I've never felt "betrayed". Maybe that means my hopes for human goodness are too low, but I don't think so. I think it's generally a wise idea to ask and urge men to be heroes, but never to *expect* them to be.

Liam

Among the "emoluments and advantages unrelated to her spiritual mission" that a number of candidates for orders apparently sought was cheap grace: a magical conception of grace -- quite common among poorly formed Christians of all flavors thoroughout history -- led these candidates to think that the grace conferred in Orders would erode obstacles towards proper formation. This is quite evident in the documentation encountered of many (not all, of course) abusers. I would contrast Geoghan -- who seems a perfect example of this problem -- with Shanley, who by all accounts was more overtly vulpine in his vocational sensibilities. Actually, Shanley is the anti-type to the more typical Geoghan, at least in the Boston miasma.

Spak

I thought Mark Shea's last entry was very evocative, and I thought it was exactly right. My parents weren't writers, and they weren't big on witnessing. We spent a lot of time making fun of each other, and very little talking about Jesus or faith.

But my dad beat his breast each week when the priest raised the host and the chalice, however minutely, at our Glory-and-Praise-singing, felt-applique-banner-raising, anything-but-transcendental parish church. And when we kids would try to make fun of the priest or our neighbors or each other in the car on the way home, my mom would get irritated and say "You just came back from communion!"

That's all it took. I hope I can do the same for my daughter and any siblings she may have.

Sherry Weddell

Rich, Spak and the gang:

In all my travels, I've only met two cradle Catholics, *all* of whose siblings are still practicing the faith as adults.

(And I've approximately a bazillion conversations on this subject since so many Catholics entertain the touching conviction that a convert will naturally be an expert on geting their errant family members and friends back).

One is now a Dominican priest (and my current partner in crime) and the other is a woman theologian on the west coast.

If all your siblings are still practicing - yours is family in a thousand. Congratulations.

But for the rest of us: If we don't evangelize - challenge people to become disciples of Jesus Christ, most of them won't stay, no matter how many of years of Catholic school they have under their belt. Period.

Cultural Catholicism is nearly essentially dead in this country except for some of the newer immigrant groups and even there its only one generation deep. We either evangelize our own or we lose them. And we can only evangelize if we ourselves are actually living as disciples.

PS. I've been a long-time, up-close-and personal witness of Mark Shea's family life and it's true. His boys are the liveliest, most creative, imaginative, funniest gang you'll ever meet (Peter was doing stand-up comedy before he could talk) *and* the faith is living and real for them. The two teen-agers *like* to hang around and talk to their parents and their parent's friends and they like to bring their friends home.
Good job, Mark and Jan!

Liam

RP Burke

And the chancery culture O'Connell bequeathed to the Boston Archdiocese has had extraordinarily long legs, and lives still (not just in Boston, but in many of the bishops Boston sponsored elsewhere), and has been very much part of the problem in the "management" of the Scandal.

Rod Dreher

Anthony: Or Cardinal Spellman, one of Hugh's successors.

None of these are recognized saints. Yet they were leaders who helped to build up the Body of Christ in America. They were on offense, going up against the Gates of Hell.

You don't want to cite Spellman in this list.

Eileen R

Really interesting thread here. Mark Shea's posts here really hit a chord with me, as I've become more and more mystified at feelings of betrayal and disillusionment among faithful Catholics. It may be partly my cradle-Catholic upbringing in sometimes not so sublime parishes, but I also think it's due to the fact that I'm a geek about medieval and ancient history. Once you get really into church history, you don't stand a chance of having illusions about the Church. The Current Crisis isn't something new and unsurvivable in light of what we've been through.

Mark Shea

Sherry:

Gawrsh! Thanks! We're proud of the galoots and still-growing galootites.

Jason

Mark (Shea),

Do you think your outlook on the Church would be different if one of your kids had killed himself like Patrick McSorley b/c of clergy sexual abuse, another was a functioning pagan, and your young ones were subjected to heresy week after week at their home parish?

It's easy for us to put a positive spin on things when our experience of the Church is pretty good. I am fortunate in this regard as well. But the people we hear horror stories from thoughout the country may not have the luxury of putting a positive spin on everything. They've experienced the rot first hand.

Liam

Eileen

While I share that lack of surprise with you and Mark, I have found that the utter lack of grounding in nasty, gritty aspects of church history leave most people in the pews very unprepared.

Aside from the titillating lusty bits people are most likely to know, imagine how many folks know how many thousands of Christians were slaughtered by one another during the depth of the Christological controveries in the fifth and sixth centuries. Hippodromes in cities of the eastern Mediterranean littoral come readily to mind for only a few of us. Whose fighting for the Blues? For the Greens?

If I were teaching CCD, I might scandalize the older kids by sharing illustrative parts of that nasty, gritty history. Sparing people in formation from that history is false charity. But that has been the usual course.

Mark Windsor

Ok, so maybe it would be worthwhile to turn this discussion around a bit. Let's say, hypothetically, that you had the key; you could bring down a bishop, or an entire group of bishops. You couldn't, of course, pick the replacements. It would be difficult, costly, harsh, unfun, but at the end of the day you had something that would send Grahmann, Mahoney or McCarrick to the ecclesial gulag.

Should you do it?

Given the past that's mentioned above, the scoundrels and idiots that have made up the sad bench of bishops since time immemorial, would it really make a difference? If the suffering we experience as a church is necessary on some level, then maybe it wouldn't be right to take action. Things aren't really going to change in our lifetime anyway.

On the other side of the coin, we are the Church, and upon us rests the responsibility of the future. And those that harm children cause harm at the deepest level of the future of the Church. Would that not require you to act?

I think the answer is obvious, but I'm curious how these questions play into the comments above (if at all).

Spak

Jason -

I can't speak for Mark, but I don't think his experience of the Church has always been "pretty good." Mine sure hasn't. But what seems like "rot" and a cause for "horror stories" to some people is just a field full of wheat and tares to others.

I don't think "positive spin" causes this difference of perspective. For me at least, acknowledging the tares but trying to look past them to the wheat is a crucial part of faith, and always has been.

Kathleen

Awesome and thought provoking thread.

For me the betrayal feeling is provoked by the fact that bishops like Mahoney are still bishops. If Mark is right about the reason for the Pope's reaction to the scandal, to let the American episcopate stew in it's own rot and let the justice system work out the problem on it's level, then I think we have an obligation to keep talking, to remain aware of the continuing problem, in addition to each of us witnessing in our lives. I say that because as much as the scandal has lost the Church it's moral authority, what I do as a Catholic and how other people (Catholic or not) perceive that has just as much impact going forward.

If we were to sit back in denial and not express anger at what has and is taking place it makes the entirety of the Church look bad to whomever is looking. If we express just anger and continue to be good Catholics and witness through various apostolates then those who are looking still see some life left in the Church.

Have I been guilty of near despair over it? At times yes but even when I look in at the Church it is these blogs and apostolates with which I associate that give me hope; along with the sacraments and the promises of Jesus.

I also believe that we keep talking about it and expressing frustration because there is the worry that things haven't changed much at all. I know the Church has survived much worse and will survive this but you wonder in what condition will it survive and where will it survive?

Laura

S.F.,

Why didn't the camp counselors tell her to change, or did they? Just because the kid wanted it and the parents bought it doesn't mean the camp had to let her parade around it.

AnthonyB

Rod,

I've read rumors about Spellman.

I assume and hope that they are not true. Given that the guy is dead and unable to defend himself and that we (or at least I) don't have a basis to evaluate those rumors, I discard them.

But I don't mind omitting Spellman from list of examples of strong and virtuous episcopal leadership. My point remains (and I don't think you're disagreeing with me): We have had strong and virtuous episcopal leadership in America in the past. Why won't the current bishops lead?

Bishops are given croziers. While those croziers can be used to gently nudge a lost lamb from a thornbush, they are also intended to smash the heads of predators. Haven't seen much of that lately, despite seeing many predators.

Fr. Matthew K

Business was mostly back to usual almost ten years ago. The firestorm of 2002 was about ten to twenty year old cases, and was politically motivated. There is no easy connection between heterodox or weak bishops and abuse cases, since almost every diocese has seen some. And if kiddie porn was found on some priest's computer last month, it was not nearly the same kind of issue. More than one man has been aquitted on that by claiming viruses did the dirty work. Journalists who want to keep yelling about the sky falling are either venting their own personal demons, or else trying to make a name for themself by pandering to anti-clerical management. Rod Dreher probably fits the second description. I wouldn't hazard a guess about Amy.

RP Burke

A reply to Liam.

Oh yes indeed.

Rod Dreher

It's useful to know Church history so we can spare ourselves the trauma of being too easily scandalized. What I object to, though, is how some folks use that as a sort of Gallic shrug, a justification for a kind of fatalism that we cannot afford right now.

I don't understand why people aren't more outraged, because outrage is absolutely warranted in this scandal. The thing is, we have a lot more power in this time and place to force repentance on the institutional Church than believers in previous generations. We have a free and independent press (esp on these blogs). We live in a culture in which we are free to speak up, and to speak out. So why don't we?

Moreover, we don't have what many other generations in the past did: the assurance that the Church here will weather whatever storm blows its way. There is, to use a crude market metaphor, lots of competition, not just in the US but in Latin America. People don't have to sit back and accept whatever crap the hierarchy and the clergy dump on them; if they don't want to fight for the faith, or don't feel that it's a fight they can win, they can always go to the Protestants down the street. Because we have been so ill-catechized, these folks may feel that there's not much difference anyway: stay in a scandal-plagued church where the sermons are all Nicey-Nice week in and week out, and the Church's teachings are rarely proclaimed -- or go to the vibrant Protestant church down the street (and we've got a slew of them here in Dallas), and get spiritually fed in a more palpable way. I know, I know, the Sacraments aren't there, but if you've never been catechized to understand the importance of them -- anybody remember that Gallup Poll from a few years back that found only 30 percent of Catholics surveyed believed in the Real Presence? -- what difference does this make to you?

So the survival of Catholicism in any meaningful sense really is at issue. Yes, we know the gates of Hell will not prevail, but Christ did not promise that the American front wouldn't collapse. Complacency in the present crisis could cost us nearly everything.

stuart chessman

Mark,

Regarding the "flourishing" parish with an ex-evangelical lay leader married to an episcopal "priest" presiding over a Lutheran church; count me out!

The current crisis is a crisis of faith at all levels of the Church. If you do not believe you pursue the goods and god of this world.Some posters talk like the curial apologists under Alexander VI. As a distinguished historian remarked:"the (medieval)Church did not become decadent because there were abuses. Rather, it became decadent when the Church acccepted the abuses as inevitable." Or something like that.

Ultimately, because we are part of an organism - the Church - a disease afflicting one part will inevitably compromise the rest. This is particularly true of the highest levels of authority. Thus an individualistic solution is untenable in the long run. But while we wait for reform, what we can do as individuals is to return to tradition: of the Traditional Roman Rite or of one of the Eastern rites. With this one step we put half the problems behind us - whatever could be easier? This leads to an increase of piety and a clarification of vision fundamentally different from the despair so often voiced here

Mark Shea

Jason:

Certainly. Similarly, I would have even stronger views about the injustice of the war in Iraq if my Luke and Matthew lay dead on the field from a roadside bomb due to Bush's and Rumsfeld's neglect to provide decent armor for their transportation. But they aren't. And so, while I still think the war was unjust, I am not consumed with passion about it, because I only have so much energy to go around.

Similarly, the fact is, for me and the huge and overwhelming majority of Catholics, pervert priests and criminal bishops are not something with which we are daily confronted. Instead we are confronted with (at least in my case) some pretty good priests, a few dull ones, and one or two utterly outstanding ones. I'm *never* confronted with my bishop, a man who seems to be trying to clean up the archdiocese from the ruins of the Hunthausen years, and who has my sympathy, but who never affects my life in any meaningful way.

My point is simply this: my life as a Catholic, like most people's lives, is not a constant struggle with despair and rage. And so, the idea that life must stop because some bishops are wicked and most of them are... plain vanilla seems to me to be just plain unreal. For 99.9% of the American Church, life's biggest challenge is not "my priest is a rapist" but "How the hell do we make the car payment this month? How do I live a holy life with that jerk at work who I dislike so much? What do we do about Mom now that she's getting on in years? What do I do about the family friend who is getting a divorce? When can I make time to go on that bike ride with the boys I promised?"

C.S. Lewis points out that there are some things worth dying for that are not worth living for. A man who lives near water and teaches himself to swim is heroic if he rescues a drowning man. But he becomes a crashing bore if the *only* thing he ever talks about is water safety. Our clergy has plenty o'work yet to do to make the Church safe for kids. Even more, so do we laypeople (since we are the parents, cops, prosecutors and judges who have the power to put criminals behind bars.) But there is more to the life of the Church than endless obsession over this question, particularly since most of us are in no position to do much besides write strongly worded notes to comboxes. If I was a cop, lawyer, prosecutor, witness, juror or judge, I'd be able to do something about a pervert priest. I'm not. So I devote my energies elsewhere, including to shooting down Leo's contemptible idea of using diffuse floating rage as an excuse to leave the Church or reject its teachings when they inconvenience us.

As I've said in the past, like it or not, Holy Orders is a sacrament. We, who would be appalled at the idea of taking a whiz in the baptismal font or spitting out the Eucharist, have given ourselves permission to speak with routine contempt of every single recipient of the sacrament of Holy Orders except for the few to which we give our stamp of approval. The bishops have done a great deal to earn their present situation and they shall answer for it, either here or hereafter. But that does not excuse us laypeople from our responsibility. The notion Leo gave voice to yesterday--that no member of the clergy deserves charity--is something that many in the blogosphere give voice to regularly. The presumption that a member of the clergy--and supremely of the hierarchy--is deserving of only contempt and distrust until he exonerates himself from our judgment is one for which *we*, not they, shall have to give account. For make no mistake, we still owe charity, even to our enemies. That doesn't mean "Trust everything a bishop or priest says." As I've beaten into the ground, a criminal's proper place is behind bars. Laypeople who think they have good cause to call the cops should do so. But that does not translate into a general license to declare that the entire body of men who have received the sacrament of Holy Orders is worthless (pending our approval), to declare that we the laity are "on our own", and to essentially posit that, with the exception of rare cases of Clergy Personally Approved By Me all priests and bishops are to be regarded as traitors to the Faith. It's not realistic. It doesn't take seriously the fact of the sacramental character of the office. And it doesn't help anything.

Rod Dreher

Fr. Matthew K: Journalists who want to keep yelling about the sky falling are either venting their own personal demons, or else trying to make a name for themself by pandering to anti-clerical management. Rod Dreher probably fits the second description.

I'll accept your ignorant insult, but I want you to know, Father, that you are apparently part of the problem. My "personal demons" are named Matthew and Lucas. They are my sons. I don't want them assaulted by priests that bishops like Grahmann have allowed to remain in the pulpit. That is unlikely to happen. The far greater threat is that they will be so disgusted by the corruption in the institutional Church that they lose their faith. Their mother and I are working hard to keep that from happening, and by God's grace we'll succeed. If they keep their faith, it will not likely be because of the visible Church, but in spite of it.

If you choose to characterize those of us who keep on pointing out the crisis as psychologically disturbed or self-promoting careerists, then you are doing yourself and the Church you serve a great wrong.

al

Plus this kind of "divine chaos" theory of the Church is bogus.

The Church is not the sum total of the "messiness" which in the end somehow makes sense. That's heretical.

The Church is spotless, and the "messiness" is not the Holy Spirit or anything like it, but something accidental to the Church.

The Church attains its unity by being faithful to Her Bridegroom.

As Fr. Mankowski indicates above, many of the Church's stewards, who should be concentrating on keeping the Church faithful to Her Spouse, have devised another companion for Her, their vainglory.

RP Burke

Two other thoughts.

1. Forgiving and forgetting are two separate things. I can forgive someone for burglarizing my garage, for example, but I won't forget that it happened and may change the locks or do something else to keep it from happening again.

2. There is just one thing that will make the hierarchs pay attention to us poor sheep: shutting off the money spigot.

Mark Windsor

Fr. Matthew,

I can't swear to it, but I don't think you can say he's trying to advance his career on the backs of the bishops since his career seemed assured long before the Scandal broke.

Christine

Mark -- I don't think anyone wants to send bishops to the Gulag. I think all that some are asking for is that they require the same standards of each other that they do the layfolk.

Perhaps that might have kept my "cradle Catholic" husband from walking away in contempt from a church that in the past was so good at laying down rules and regulations for the people in the pew while leaving the "Princes" of the Church untouched.

Sherry Weddell

Jason:

The point that our (Mark's and mine - we were buds and entered together) first years as Catholics was spent in pretty awful surroundings - not good. Our RCIA experiences were so awful that they became kinda funny (Mark didn't tell you about the "teddy bear" RCIA or the "frightened rabbit" RCIA. It was an act of mercy when an local orthodox priest took pity on us and let enter just before Christmas on 10 days notice.)

Mark spent the first five years or so in a memorably mediocre parish near his house. (Have him tell you the rubber chicken story sometime - you'll be torn between laughing and weeping).

What did we do - back in the days when we felt trapped by our grim surroundings? We created local alternatives.

When our RCIA's were a shamble, we started the Catholic Study Group for a number of Protestants all considering the Church as a supplement to RCIA. For two years, we met every two weeks, read books together, brought in speakers, hashed out our issues. In the end, 5 of us were received.

A couple years after we entered, we started the famously Nameless Lay Group to provide support to frustrated Catholics on the verge of leaving and to Protestants on the way in who needed more than RCIA could provide. We didn't call ourselves Catholic and we didn't wait for the permission of our pastor. We just saw the pastoral need and did it.

We met monthly, had prayer in eucharistic chapel (not in a parish), brought in speakers, had discussions, threw Christmas parties, had a newsletter,etc. People came from a number of parishes. We helped Catholics through "I'm leaving" crisises, helped a family of evangelicals in New Zealand enter the Church long-distance, gave a Baptist guy his first taste of Catholicism (by the time he moved, he was attending Mass on a weekly basis and on the verge of entering)etc.

The funny thing is that ole Nameless Lay Group is one of the main catalysts of the Catherine of Siena Institute. Fr. Michael Sweeney, who had just arrived in town to become pastor of Blessed Sacrament, had been studying Church teaching on the laity for years. But when he saw our humble efforts, he was struck by the fact that he was seeing the theology lived. We had seen the need, accepted our apostolic responsibility to do what we could, and were doing it.

Every generation has faced this challenge -the challenge faced by Frederic Ozanam, when he heard the mocking words of the French anti-clericalist Saint Simon: "The Church once was great but now it's dead. You say the Church is still alive and vibrant. Show us your works!"

So Frederic and 7 of his friends did just that, personally and without formal Church support. They went to the poor themselves and the torrent that their direct action unleashed (St. Vincent de Paul society) has changed millions of lives and changed the Church. There are 900,000 co-laborers with Frederic Ozanam in the world today.

Catherine of Genoa started small prayer and discipleship circles in the late 15th century that Benedict Groeschel says was the practical beginnings of the Church's reform in the 16th century.

It's time to take our place as lay apostles, as evangeligists and co-shapers of the Church's future - to start what doesn't yet exist and to lay the foundation for the next generation. Together, we are called to be the catalysts of the next "Second Spring".

stuart chessman

Mark,

It's amazing how contrary your experiences of the institutional church are to mine, made in several different states and foreign countries. Could it be we have ideological blinkers on? You do seem to indicate that the most we should expect from the clergy is a kind of good-natured mediocrity.

I think St Paul spelled out somewhat higher standards. And later, the Cure of Ars, St Charles Borromeo, St. Vincent de Paul etc.

Mark Shea

Aggh! The Upside Down Rubber Chicken of the Holy Spirit Story! I'd almost successfully blocked it and now all the repressed memories are rushing back!

Call an analyst! Boil some water! Tear up some rags!

Zhou De-Ming

Oh Mark, please tell us "The Upside Down Rubber Chicken of the Holy Spirit"! Pleeeease!

Mark Windsor

Yeah, I think we have to insist on the rubber chicken story. C'mon...give...

Mark Shea

Stuart:

See Sherry Weddell's note above yours. I think we should expect a lot of ourselves first. Not waste a huge amount of time bitching because overworked clergy aren't undertaking the apostolic works that *we* should be doing. I'm quite aware of the problems in the Church. However, I don't believe that's an excuse for lay paralysis.

Kathleen

Fr. Matthew:

I was reading Rod's work long before the scandal broke, as were many others. His life, it seems to me, has been more complicated by reporting on the scandals, and his faith tested by bishops who question why he is a Catholic, than his career made by reporting of the scandal.

That's my .02.

Keep reporting Rod. It's necessary in my opinion.

Mark Shea

Mark, Zhou:

I've said too much already. :)

Sherry Weddell

Stuart:

"Regarding the "flourishing" parish with an ex-evangelical lay leader married to an episcopal "priest" presiding over a Lutheran church; count me out!"

Get a grip.

The parish in question is pastored by a chasable-wearing former Anglican become Catholic priest who has a deep passion for traditional liturgy and is a brilliant and orthodox preacher and teacher. The parish is rapidly becoming, as the article indicated, a positive hub of lively orthodoxy in South Carolina.

His lay associate was already married to a woman who had already been ordained in the Episcopal Church (who plays no role in the Catholic parish) when he became a Catholic himself. What was he supposed to do, divorce her in the name of orthodoxy? These are the kind of dilemas converts face in the 21st century.

He is very solid theologically, and a gifted evangelist who supplements the gifts of his pastor in wonderful ways. The Catholics of Greenville are mighty lucky to have them both.

Mark Shea

Fr. Matthew:

I too would disagree with your take on Rod. I think he feels passionately about this because he feels passionately about it, not because he's sucking up to Management. Indeed, I know for a fact that he has collided with Management on this issue on more than one occasion.

Jason

>>>"It's time to take our place as lay apostles, as evangeligists and co-shapers of the Church's future - to start what doesn't yet exist and to lay the foundation for the next generation. Together, we are called to be the catalysts of the next 'Second Spring'."

True enough. Seems like common sense, though it seems so radical at the same time.

al

So for the silver lining-ers, here's a question.

About every two weeks or so, someone in the vatican releases another statement about how the parish should be the focus of one's "apostolate" and engagement with the Church, and thus the spring from which one's apostolic works come.

So how much do you do with your parish? Is it the focus of anything beyond Mass, Confession and the occasional baptism?

If you had to go to half the stuff they do there, would you?

Would you make your kids?

If not, then aren't you basically saying the supposed focal point for one's engagement with the Church is a big waste of time?

And if so, how can you say that's a functional or tenable arrangement?

If your substituting "St. Blogs" for St. Vincents or some other real parish, and your voice for listening to the voices of the devotional and fraternal voices of Parish life, then how can you suggest to others that they've got things pretty good, and we can't really expect much more than that?

Mark Shea

Go Sherry!

I wonder what guys like Stuart would have done when the Church at Antioch started sending Paul to go preach to Gentiles.

It's new. I don't know anything about it. Count me out.

I too wonder what he expects the guy to do: divorce his wife? He's a serious convert, full of fire and the Holy Spirit. What's wrong with that?

Oh. His wife if ritually impure. So ignore the whole thing.

Like I say, it's only in cyberspace that I run into this sort of barren hopelessness about the Church. In real life, there's lots of good stuff going on.

Steve Skojec

This remains a fascinating (if perhaps rehashed with nauseating frequency) topic.

It seems to boil down to these positions:

1.) The Church is in great peril, her epsicopacy in a shameful state, her pope frail and ineffectual and her laity impotently taking it on the chin out of laziness or confusion or complacency or even misguided charity. There is hope for improvement, but it will require drastic action (and likely divine intervention as well).

2.) The Church is in some kind of peril, but has weathered much worse; There is cause for optimism because people are still going to Church and kids are getting involved in the Mass; everybody knows a good priest or seminarian; the Pope is some kind of pre-canonized saint; there are areas of growth in the belief in the Church and the sacraments, etc, so everyone should just cheer the hell up.

There is truth in both positions, but of course I agree more with the former than the latter.

Why?

Well, I too am a cradle Catholic. I never left the Church, though I was tempted as a teenager through the sheer banality of my Catholic experience. I found my faith through my first exposure to orthodoxy in the sacramental life, brought about by a religious order which would later betray my trust, again endangering my faith by burning the spiritual bridges I had learned to build.

I made my way to Franciscan University, continuing the elusive pursuit of this orthodoxy I had found. As a Communications major, I added Theology because that's where I was taking all of my electives. I began to see the struggle, even in an institution known for it's "dynamic orthodoxy". The theology department was riddled with disagreement. The faculty in general were at odds with each other and the administration over what orthodoxy was, particularly in Catholic education. I had a professor ask students to close the door to the classroom before he embarked upon a particular subject, for fear that he would be discovered in his attempt to instill something other than the the mediocre, pop-culture Catholicism - albeit one that had a sincere sacramental love -that was par for the course at the school.

And that's really what it comes down to for those of us who espouse position number one. Even if, as the adherents of position two would say, there's so much to be happy about, it's happy in a watered-down, better-than-nothing but not-exactly-great kind of way.

Mediocrity is just so...mediocre. Why must we put our faith in a mediocre Catholicism? What is so confidence-inspiring about that?

One of my professors referred to modern Catholicism as "bourgeois Catholicism: a bubble-gum chewing religion of suburban good cheer."

I'm not excited about that. I'm not excited about the article Mark Shea linked to which talks about the growth of Catholicism in the South, when that growth is punctuated by "standing-room-only services like St. Mark's teen Mass, complete with a pop-music ensemble that could be mistaken for one of the area's rollicking Christian rock bands."

This is not Catholicism. It's pandering. It's superficial. It's more candy when we need meat and potatoes. And in my opinion, it will ultimately fail to bring people deeper in to the faith.

The article mentions that "The current generation of U.S. Catholic seminarians, weaned on the strict dogma of Pope John Paul II, is more conservative than its predecessors who came of age in the 1960s and '70s in the wake of Vatican II." What strict dogma? John Paul II was more conservative than Paul VI or John XXIII? How? We are as yet in the wake of Vatican II. And the young seminarians and priests I know are jettisoning the post Vatican II ideas - even from John Paul II - and looking to the popes from the first half of the twentieth century for guidance.

I'm not trying to create a rallying-point for despair. I'm simply saying, "what's so great about the Church of February, 2005?" We have mostly aimless, corrupt bishops. We have a pope who, by his own admission, has not governed with the discipline he should have.

There is certainly hope for the Church, but we have been so saturated in mediocrity, in lowered expectations, in unanswered abuses - liturgical, sacramental and theological, as well as sexual - that we accept whatever pittance is thrown our way. The Church, it is true, has weathered other storms. But it survived them because of those who had the will to fight.

Comment boxes are the pulpits of the laity. We may not be changing the world, but this intellectual battle that goes on, right here, contributes to the fabric of discussion that shapes the greater Catholic laity as a whole. We are journalists, authors, priests, husbands, wives, parents - the Catholics who have the most impact on the future. This is where our positions are refined, through discourse and debate. If it ends here, it serves little purpose. But if we take it with us, maybe we can shape something. Maybe we can contribute to change.

Our society, our culture, our Church, are all in need of saints. Saints posess that remarkable quality of hope and virtue whilst standing up for what is right and speaking frankly of what is evil and wrong. Saints posess joy, but many were not known for being cheerful. When confronting evil, it seems that sober, forthright speech is more appropriate.

Zhou De-Ming

Dear Sherry and Mark,

I think we have some basic level of agreement about the futility of expecting too much from overworked, well-intentioned and just possibly a bit odd clergy, meaning priests and deacons. (Bishops are not among the things I interact with on a regular basis.)

So, for good, solid teaching, real down-to-earth community, encourgement in the faith, etc., its just us chickens.

So what if I, living in that theologcial wonderland of the San Francisco area, wanted to start a Wu-Ming Association?
(Wu-Ming in Mandarin for Nameless, also the name of the hero of "Hero".)

Do I just call up Leo and Silicon Valley Steve and say, "Let's hang out?"

al

I should add that one of the big distinctions of Parish life, is that you don't chose it, it chooses you.

If you choose it, then when you discover something that you don't like, you just pick up and go, whether or not that something that you don't like discloses something wrong with the parish, or something wrong with you.

If it chooses you, you figure out whether your antipathy for whatever it is--from a liturgical abuse to simply it being time to listen, rather than speak--is really your problem, or if you have to do something about it.

If you've construed as a sign of spring not having to deal with that situation, then how can you say you are acting within the primary means the Church has established for your interaction with Her--the Parish? The Geographical Parish, where you live?

Cornelius AMDG

Rod: "Their mother and I are working hard to keep that from happening, and by God's grace we'll succeed. If they keep their faith, it will not likely be because of the visible Church, but in spite of it."

To quote Father Neuhaus regarding Rod, "It is the exaggeration that offends, and the self-pity that galls."

When Rod's back is up against the wall, he always comes back to the "it's for my children" rhetoric. Well, guess what Rod, you're not the only parent here. I have 3 children, and I frankly am not worried about them in a Catholic church or school any more than I am about them in a public club or school. Will I watch out for suspicious priests and make sure that the kids aren't unsupervised with any particular priest for long periods of time? Absolutely. But it will be the same precautions that I would take with any other adult.

As I've said before, the situation in Dallas sounds awful, and I hope Cardinal George shows some more backbone in Chicago. But to extrapolate from that to say that nothing has changed since 2002 and that the entire American Church (all 170+ dioceses) is corrupt to the core is just lunacy.

Mark Shea

Al:

For starters, you might want to read The Parish: Mission or Maintenance? by Sherry Weddell and Fr. Michael Sweeney.

S.F.

Laura,

I believe she was forced to change.

Father Ethan

I found a book in my late grandfather's library called "The Homosexual Network" by Rev. Enrique T. Rueda, Copywrite 1982 by the Free Congress Research and Education Foundation, Inc., and published by the Devin Adair Company. The book makes several references to Paul Shanley and NAMBLA. Nothing new. Why did we wait until two years ago to fight this problem? PUBLISHED IN 1982?

Sherry Weddell

Al:

These are artificial "either-or" scenarios.

Our alternatives are not your parish *or* St. Blog's, your parish *or* a Nameless Lay Group. It's not the parish Bible study vs. reading Newman on your own. It's your parish and *as much of the above as you can get your hands on*!

Each of us has first and primary responsibility for our own formation and growth in the faith. So we go to our parish, participate in the sacraments regularly,and anything else that's helpful, and we serve as we can and we are free as a bird to supplement the nourishment we receive there in as many ways as we can.

If something is missing locally, we do what we can to make it available. The balance of local parish vs. outside sources will vary over time - depending upon God's call, our responsibilities and our opportunities.

This isn't rocket science. It's straight-forward apostolic self-care.

not usually anonymous

I'm posting anonymously out of respect for my father's privacy.
My father was sexually abused by a priest when he was young (way back in the good-old days of the 30's). I'm the only person he's ever told. My father went off to the war, got married, had kids, returned to the parish of his childhood, and confronted the priest - telling him that he knew what had been done to him was wrong, but that he forgave him for what he did. However, if he ever even suspected that something like that was still going on, he would not be responsible for his own actions. Monsignor collapsed into his chair and cried, begging for forgiveness. My father responded that he HAD forgiven him, but he could never again trust him.
My father told me this a couple years back - years after monsignor died. This priest was dead by the time I was born, but my older brothers were altar boys and regularly served Mass for him. As far as I know, he never did anything to any of them.
My father never touched any of us inappropriately. He loved us, showed his affection for us, and raised us all to be good Catholics (Sherry - does 5 out of 6 practicing Catholics count? :)
Perhaps he could have handled the situation better - he could have gone to the police (though, considering that he confronted him back in the late 50's, what good would it have done?). Who knows how many (if any?) other boys he molested - the fact that my brothers weren't isn't proof that no one else was. Still, this demonstrates a couple of things to me - relevant to this discussion.
We (lay people) are not powerless - I'm not arguing for taking the law into our own hands, but, as Rod suggested in his article - a group of Knights of Columbus confronting Father or the bishop at the office can be a pretty formidable thing.
Secondly, there are heros in our midst - sometimes very well hidden. I cannot possibly overstate how proud and in awe I am of my father. He taught us very well to love the Church, to love Christ above all, and to have respect for the priesthood but to recognize that even they, and bishops and nuns and the pope, are also simply human - sometimes very flawed specimens.

Amy, your blog is a source of great grace and inspiration to me as well. Keeping this discussion going is, imho, a very good and necessary thing - for the consolation it provides, as well as the challenges. We all only see each other here as we complain or praise, but all (or at least most) of us have lives outside of cyberspace, where, as Mark Shea points out, good things ARE happening: Sherry's teaching people about their gifts; Rod's raising Cain, stirring up the dirt; Mark and Amy are writing books that will change people's lives for the better; the good priests who visit here are blessing, teaching, sanctifying; so many are raising up the next generation of faithful and stable Catholics; and all of us, through our celebration of the sacraments are daily inching nearer and nearer to the heart of Christ. Thanks for being here Amy.

stuart chessman

Bureaucratic mediocrity and complacency- not wild debauchery - are the death of the Church.

I fully recognize we have to do something ourselves and not wait for the institution to act. Return to Tradition and to the mystic roots of the Faith is a great place to start. Although we ultimately require and must agitate for a reform of the Church "from the head to the limbs" or whatever the expression was ca. 1535

laura

I think these Scandals resonated so much because the bishops seemed to have regarded such evil exclusively as an administrative problem. Since it (harming children) is one of the few sins which Christ Himself spoke of in such unambiguously harsh terms, it is unnerving to discover that our leaders reacted either callously, nervously, foolishly or worse.

As for Rod's question about WHY there isn't more outrage. Speaking for myself, I feel protective of the Church. All around me in this culture there is so much hostility to the Church and its messages. How do I express outrage/demand change w/out giving aid and comfort to people and agendas that are so hostile to the Church? That is my dilemna. Criticism of the Church because of this issue gets sidetracked into issues about women's ordination, celibacy, abortion, divorce, etc.

Peggy

I cannot help but to agree fully w/Mark and Sherry on this thread. There seems little more to add. We don't need priests' permission to have Bible or Catechism studies in our homes or at a local coffee shop, etc, or to consult w/our fellow Catholics on articles of faith or the state of the Situation. I do not feel any personal offense or betrayal b/c this did not happen to me or any one I know. I might feel otherwise, however, if I had more personal involvement in the Situation. As it stands it's peripheral to my daily life.

Is it b/c I am a cradle Catholic? I don't know. I am the only seriously practicing Catholic of 6 children and my parents. 2 sisters send their children to diocesan schools, but do not participate in parish life or attend mass on Sundays. 1 sister is godless altogether, regrettably. Another sister and my one brother are evangelical/protestant and have bought into the fundie complaints against Catholicism. Was the failure of the Church or of my parents/family? Without sounding like I'm beating up on Mom and Dad, as I am now a Mom, I have to accept responsibility for my children learning and retaining the faith. I have to say my parents had the same responsibility--and fell short, regrettably. But, I as an adult took responsibility and, by the grace of God, was returned to the Church.

I can only hope to be as diligent about teaching the faith as my little boys grow up as some of the parents here describe. I wonder at the feasibility of teaching such things when we're simply trying to teach our 2 boys (oldest=3) not to throw food! Then, last night my 3 rd old noticed the crucifix in his bedroom and said it was Jesus! Something is being learned! Halleluia!

I am not quite as distraught as Rod is about my boys potentially being molested by a pervert priest. When the time comes, I will operate with the utmost caution and care, but it is not for today. I do not lose sleep over it.

Sherry Weddell

Zhou:

Wu-Ming Association!

I love it! (If only I'd known Chinese!)

I wouldn't limit it to Bloggers. Lots of people came through personal invitations although we also had posters about. You could see if you could post at the DSPT and for those who attend liturgies at St. Albert's as well as local parishes. If the group was really solid, you might even get some OP students - they are a very orthodox and devout lot.

You want to be careful not to make it an extension of comment boxes - a gathering focused not on prayer and faithfully wrestling with the demands of discipleship but to communal kvetching about how awful everything is. That would kill it quicker than anything!

Also, remember you'll get people from a variety of backgrounds - Catholic, Protestant, liberal and conservative (you'd be surprised at the seeking liberals who might be interested but their "knee-jerk" responses will be very different)

We had a leadership team that met separately and worked out the vision and basic schedule of the time together before we started. Pray alot, start small, think it through carefully, and just do it.

By the way, Michael Sweeney used to come and give great talks at our Nameless Lay Group gatherings
.
I bet that he'd be delighted to do so at the Wu-Ming Association.

al

"It's straight-forward apostolic self-care"

This is my point.

The Church is not about "self care." Its about being conformed to Christ, through being fitted into his Church.

If you decide you aren't getting what you need, here, that runs the risk of being private judgement of a new sort.

Thus something is fundamentally missing from such a relationship--the involuntary element which consists in you being "formed".

Ultimately, we don't form ourselves, because if we did, like the sick man who devises his own treatment, we would shy away from anything painful, something that would reflect badly on us.

So if that entire involutariness of parish life is chucked in virtue of the fact that much of what goes on in parishes in many places is nonsense or positively pernicious, then this is not an auspicious development.

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