Archive for September, 2018

New wine, old skins?

I am not amused.  I have read, in too many places to number, that the bishops are going to investigate themselves.  Ha.  I have more faith in the fox guarding the henhouse.

Apparently, it was debated in some circles that sex between two males was somehow ok, because it wasn’t sex between a male and a female.  Maybe as an exercise in a debate class, but as a path toward becoming a priest?  Say wha?

I guess, looking at the speculative numbers, it is a wonder I was never approached, let alone violated, while growing up.  Yes, I was an altar boy.  Yes, I was extremely active in the CYO in high school.  How did I miss all that sex stuff?  Perhaps, as a teenager, I was too interested in girls?  Dunno; but do know that no man has ever showed an interest in me.  Thank GOD.

I kinda sorta walked away from the Church in my young twenties.  Didn’t run.  Wasn’t drawn away by some irresistible force.  It just kinda happened.  Then, in the Spring of 2005, like a two-by-four between the eyes, I did an about face and ran back.  Fortunately, there was a priest who welcomed me home like the father of the prodigal son (actually, a stunningly accurate analogy).  When I told him I would have come back sooner, except for the priest sex scandal, all he could do was sigh.

Fast forward to this “summer of horrors” (thanks to George Weigel).  It is indeed that.  But, if the captain of the Titanic had asked what was on the menu for dinner with water lapping at his socks, the Church hierarchy can’t possibly be more clueless.  In fact, as little factoids are leaked to the secular press (for no official Church mouthpiece has the moral courage) it is becoming increasingly clear that the bishops are not unaware – they have either been primaries or accomplices.

What to do?  Extol the virtues of the lifeboats, or assure everyone that the Barque of Peter is unsinkable (water well past the ankles at this point)?  I know: business as usual – or, that is how I interpret Pope Francis’ “I will not say a single word.”

None of the above, apparently.  Instead the very group that should have ensured that the priest sex scandal should have been stillborn (pun intended), were in fact, condoning it, encouraging it, perpetuating it.  That very group, the USCCB, is going to “investigate.”  As the warden in Shawshank Redemption says: “It’s a miracle!”

I’d like to say, “I respectfully disagree.”  But wouldn’t I have to respect the bishops, first?  I suppose I could “politely” disagree, but that smacks of a nod and a wink.  Disagree, I certainly do; but only in the most vehement manner I can possibly muster.

I no longer contribute financially to the Church.  If it has millions, if not hundreds of millions, to throw at victims (can any amount of money ever heal those scars?), it doesn’t need my coin.

Is this a case of throwing out the baby with the bathwater?  I think not.  As I heard recently, there is not one single bishop who could be called a hero in all this.  There are some who are guilty – whose souls are as black as their cassocks.  There are some who kept their pants zipped, but also, unfortunately also kept their lips zipped.  There are some who might have been completely ignorant.  But, no bishop, evidently, ever said No!

Rather, moving forward, the Church will get smaller.  Schools, buildings, positions, gone.  If secular authorities move in the direction of RICO, I hate to think what will happen – tho I am not sure it shouldn’t.  The new Church – the new wine – will find itself again.  It has before.  It is divinely ordained for all eternity.  Maybe St Peter’s will become a museum?

Maybe we devout Catholics are in the eye of the storm?  If so, look to Jesus: He commands the wind and the waves.  In any event, the old skins are leaking and need to be thrown into the bonfire of the vanities.

I have twin three-year olds.  I will “move heaven and earth” to have them grow up and love the Church.  Even if that means never going to Mass (too late for that, they’ve been, and been appropriately “appreciated” by the stodgy).  I would love for them to attend a Catholic school – a real one, certainly not associated with the Jesuits.

Some days, my only solace is in: “Your Heavenly Father knows what you need.” (Matthew 6:32).  Ah, but wouldn’t it be grand if He would drop me a clue?

And the hits just keep on coming.

What’s it gonna take?

If you hoped (as I did) that things would have improved since the Boston Globe ran its expose on the priest sex scandal back in 2002, you missed the recent 884 page grand jury report by the Pennsylvania Attorney General.  For convenience (and brevity), I’ll ignore the Chilean debacle, also Zavala, Bransfield, McCarrick, Wuerl, others?

Clearly, it has been business as usual, and Pope Francis continues to fiddle while Rome burns.  The official list of participants of October’s Synod of Bishops has been published, and three cardinals who should be fired have been named: Marx (Munich), Cupich (Chicago) and Tobin (Newark).

I guess Francis will drive the Popemobile off the cliff, not even slowing down, to say nothing of stopping or reversing.  The only question is: “Who will follow him?”

Way back when, Francis gave us his signature quote: “Who am I to judge?”  When we desperately need “Love the sinner, hate the sin,” we got a dismissive non-answer.  Since then, the priest sex scandal has done the impossible: cover-ups by bishops and cardinals have been exposed.  Some have claimed that Francis is not uninformed.  He certainly chooses to do nothing.  Perhaps “Not one single word” has become his legacy?

The Urban Dictionary has defined “cupich” in a manner that I hope its namesake finds unflattering: “A remark unparalleled in its combined stupidity, arrogance and insensitivity.”  An example: “Did you really just say climate change was a bigger issue than sex abuse in the Church?”  I am tempted to get their mug with this definition on it – soon to be a collector’s piece?

I don’t know how Church hierarchy can be clueless, so the only other explanation is that it is culpable.

In 1969, if you had hoped (as I did) that Cardinal Ratzinger’s statement, “The Church will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning,” was just too pessimistic to ever come true, I’m afraid it might.  He probably hopes he will not see that day; but I would hasten to add that GOD has a sense of humor (judging from my own experience).

he original transgressions (sexually active priests) are bad enough.  Abusing minors is worse – far worse.  Facilitating all this, by moving priests to other locations (sometimes), is worse still.  And, the hits just keep on coming.  But, I believe this “summer of horrors” will be the tipping point.  I believe that the Church has proven – beyond reasonable doubt – that it will do nothing to either correct or prevent these abuses.

So, it becomes the duty of the secular press and secular law enforcement to do the “pruning.”  And, I believe they will get out the scythes – bad enough that the Church won’t do that.  And the absolute glee with which Caesar will attack the Church will be discouraging (try to find some Good News in the press these days).

I don’t know how often the ancient Hebrews were referred to as GOD’s chosen people; but I do know that their magnificent temple was utterly destroyed.

His winnowing fork is in His hand….(Matthew 3:12 and Luke 3:17)

 

References:

Faith and Future, Joseph Ratzinger, Ignatius Press, 2009

“Church allowed abuse by priest for years,” Boston Globe Spotlight Team (Carroll, Pfeiffer, Rezendes), Boston Globe, 2002 January 6, https://www.bostonglobe.com/news/special-reports/2002/01/06/church-allowed-abuse-priest-for-years/cSHfGkTIrAT25qKGvBuDNM/story.html

 “More than 300 accused priests listed in Pennsylvania report on Catholic Church sex abuse,” Michelle Boorstein, Gary Gately, Washington Post, 2018 August 14, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2018/08/14/pennsylvania-grand-jury-report-on-sex-abuse-in-catholic-church-will-list-hundreds-of-accused-predator-priests/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.8144c4cca83b

“Pope Francis taps loyalists for key roles in Synod of Bishops,” Elise Harris, Senior Correspondent, Crux, https://cruxnow.com/vatican/2018/09/15/francis-synod-appointees-reflect-papal-priorities/

Cupich Mug: https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=cupich

 

Summer of horrors, or opportunity?

Some dream of high office, few ever attain it.  I can only imagine that one of the first things that anyone would do is sit in that chair behind the Resolute desk in the Oval Office and just…smile.  If ever there was a time to say, “I’ve arrived,” I think that would be it.  Similarly, whatever desk and whatever office the pope occupies, I would think the man would smile like a Cheshire Cat.

Finally: the opportunity to actually make a difference, to change the world.  Surely, that aspiration would go hand in glove with the pinnacle of power.

So, while the Summer of ’08 would seem to be the summer of horrors for the White House, it is no less than the summer of horrors for the papal palace.  While one occupant is probably sincere, and the other one anything but, both are blowing their opportunity.

It has been debated whether or not we have “free will” – the ability to make truly independent choices.  I won’t discuss that here.  But whether we have unlimited choices, or very limited choices, we still have choices.  Someone in the White House obviously has choices that a coal miner doesn’t.  The Bishop of Rome has choices no one else has.  Windows of opportunity come in sizes.

Next, there would be the ability to act upon the choices we make.  If we can’t act, then they really aren’t choices – at least viable ones.  Without ability, all we have are fantasies.  Again, a topic for another day.  Yes, some do win the lottery, tho for the overwhelming majority of us, the answer to the question of “what would I do if I won the lottery?” is just a fantasy.

You need both: opportunity and ability.

I just don’t understand why it is that two people in the news every day these days are squandering their opportunity.  It is said in jest that promotion requires a lobotomy; that, somehow, while we all start off the same, elevation in power is predicated on becoming more and more forgetful of our roots.  That people at the pinnacle truly forget how they got where they are, and therefore do not truly know where they are.

It is fitting that history judges most harshly those that have forgotten it.

I just finished watching an episode of NCIS where Gibbs switches some evidence.  Gibbs is usually unfailingly honest.  Integrity his highest code.  But in this episode he demonstrates that honor is more important than integrity.  There are other opportunities in the series for him to put integrity first, and he chooses another path (almost always honor).  But he “never” loses sight of the “big picture.”  He knows what he does and why he does it.

Neither Trump nor Francis seem to have a clue why they are doing what they’re doing.  I keep coming back to a book that I read years ago: The March of Folly, by Barbara Tuchman.  In it, she picks a few examples of leaders that, had they chosen to do absolutely nothing at all, events would have turned out far different, and probably in their favor.  By being out to lunch, history would have been far kinder, maybe even salutatory.  But, no, they chose to be active in the situation, and all hell broke loose.  Three examples come to mind (it has been years since I read the book): Renaissance Popes, King George and the American Revolution, Vietnam (pick either the French or the Americans, it really doesn’t matter).

Fast forward to the Summer of 2018.  Trump did whatever he could to be elected; it worked.  Since gaining the Oval Office, he has been on a death spiral.  The only question now is whether his four years will end before he’s impeached.  After he’s out, America will breathe a sigh of relief and wonder if we have survived.  Bergoglio got elected pope and has been bouncing around like a pinball.  I don’t believe there is any mechanism to remove him from office, so we are stuck with him for awhile (as long as his health holds out, I suppose; Benedict’s resignation still doesn’t feel right, Francis’ resignation doesn’t seem possible).

Is this the era of the truly stupid leader?  Are these the times for head scratching decision making.  As in, leaders make decisions that the rest of us just wonder at.

My fantasy is that Trump will hit his head on something, rearrange all those megalomaniac brain cells, and move this country forward.  While I agree with Meghan McCain (this country has always been great), we definitely need some direction from that chair in the Oval Office.  My fantasy is that Francis will take responsibility for the predatory priests, instead of facilitating their fantasies.  I don’t know that Trump “must” resign; but I am convinced Bergoglio must.

The rest of us hoi polloi  must do more than tilt at windmills.  In politics, we must become more active and participate.  In the Church, well, we have no idea who the next pope will be, but at the local level, we owe it to the bishops to keep them on track (we don’t vote for them either; but we can close our checkbooks).

Truly, the Summer of ’08 is a summer of horrors.  But, what are we going to do with the opportunity to make this a better world for our children?  As painful as these times are now, to do nothing would be worse, for eternity is a long time.

(Thanks to Georg Weigel and his essay in First Things for “summer of horrors”)