Category Archives: Uncategorized

Homeless Teen Cast Out by Catholic Family

While life gets better for millions of gays, the number of homeless LGBT teens – many cast out by their religious families – quietly keeps growing


homelessJackieO
ne late night at the end of her sophomore year of college, Jackie sat in her parked car and made a phone call that would forever change the course of her life. An attractive sorority girl with almond eyes and delicate dimples, she was the product of a charmed Boise, Idaho, upbringing: a father who worked in finance, a private [Catholic] ­school education, a pool in the backyard, all the advantages that an upper-middle-class suburban childhood can provide – along with all the expectations attendant to that privilege.

“There was a standard to meet,” Jackie says. “And I had met that standard my whole life. I was a straight-A student, the president of every club, I was in every sport. I remember my first day of college, my parents came with me to register for classes, and they sat down with my adviser and said, ‘So, what’s the best way to get her into law school?'”

Jackie just followed her parents’ lead understanding implicitly that discipline and structure went hand in hand with her family’s devout Catholic beliefs. She attended Mass three times a week, volunteered as an altar server and was the fourth generation of her family to attend her Catholic school; her grandfather had helped tile the cathedral. “My junior year of high school, my parents thought it was weird that I’d never had a boyfriend,” she says, “so I knew I was supposed to get one. And I did. It was all just a rational thought process. None of it was emotionally involved.”

After graduating, Jackie attended nearby University of Idaho, where she rushed a sorority at her parents’ prompting. She chose a triple major of which they approved. “I remember walking out of the sorority house to go to Walmart or something, and I stopped at the door and thought to myself, ‘Should I tell someone I’m leaving?'” she says. “It was the first time in my life where I could just go somewhere and be my own person.”

In fact, it took the freedom of college for Jackie to even realize who her “own person” was. “Growing up, I knew that I felt different, but when you grow up Catholic, you don’t really know gay is an option,” she says. “I grew up in a household that said ‘fag’ a lot. We called people ‘fags,’ or things were ‘faggy.'” Her only sex-ed class was taught by a priest, and all she remembers him saying is, “‘Don’t masturbate and don’t be gay.’ I didn’t know what those words meant, so I just hoped to God that I wasn’t doing either of them.”

When Jackie got to college, the “typical gay sorority encounters” she found herself having didn’t seem to qualify as anything more than youthful exploration; she thought all girls drunkenly made out with their best friends. By her sophomore year, she was dating a fraternity brother but was also increasingly turned on by a friend she worked with at the campus women’s center. “I was just playing it off as ‘So maybe I’m just gay for you – I mean, I don’t have to tell my boyfriend’ kind of thing,” she says. “I knew what I wanted, but it was never something I ever envisioned that I could have on a public level.” And yet, as her friendship with this woman turned physical and their relationship grew more serious, Jackie saw her future shrinking before her: a heterosexual marriage, children, church and the knowledge that all of it was based on a lie. “I honestly thought my whole life I was just going to be an undercover gay,” she says, shaking her head in disbelief.

For better or worse, that plan was never to be. Toward the end of her sophomore year, Jackie got a text message from one of her sorority sisters who said she’d been seen kissing another girl, after which certain sisters started making it clear that they were not comfortable around Jackie. (“You’re living in the same house together,” she says, “and, of course, to close-minded people, if somebody’s gay, that means you’re automatically interested in all 80 of them.”) Eventually, she went before her chapter’s executive board and became the first sorority girl at her college to ever come out, at which point she realized that if she didn’t tell her parents, someone else would. “I was convinced somebody was going to blast it on Facebook.”

So while Jackie hoped for the best, she knew the call she was making had the potential to not end well. “You can’t hate me after I say this,” she pleaded when, alarmed to be receiving a call in the middle of the night, her mom picked up the phone.

“Oh, my God, you’re pregnant” was her mom’s first response, before running through a litany of parental fears. “Are you in jail? Did you get expelled? Are you in trouble? What happened? What did you do?” Suddenly her mom’s silence matched Jackie’s own. “Oh, my God,” she murmured in disbelief. “Are you gay?”

“Yeah,” Jackie forced herself to say.

After what felt like an eternity, her mom finally responded. “I don’t know what we could have done for God to have given us a fag as a child,” she said before hanging up.

As soon as the line went dead, Jackie began sobbing. Still, she convinced herself that her parents would come around and accept her, despite what they perceived to be her flaw. As planned, she drove to Canada to celebrate her birthday with friends. When her debit card didn’t work on the second day of the trip, she figured it was because she was in another country. Once back in the States, however, she got a call from her older brother. “He said, ‘Mom and Dad don’t want to talk to you, but I’m supposed to tell you what’s going to happen,'” Jackie recalls. “And he’s like, ‘All your cards are going to be shut off, and Mom and Dad want you to take the car and drop it off at this specific location. Your phone’s going to last for this much longer. They don’t want you coming to the house, and you’re not to contact them. You’re not going to get any money from them. Nothing. And if you don’t return the car, they’re going to report it stolen.’ And I’m just bawling. I hung up on him because I couldn’t handle it.” Her brother was so firm, so matter-of-fact, it was as if they already weren’t family.

From that moment, Jackie knew that she was entirely on her own, that she had no home, no money and no family who would help her – and that this was the terrible price she’d pay for being a lesbian.

Jackie’s story may be distinctive in its particulars, but across America, it is hardly unique. Research done by San Francisco State University’s Family Acceptance Project, which studies and works to prevent health and mental­ health risks facing LGBT youth, empirically confirms what common sense would imply to be true: Highly religious parents are significantly more likely than their less-religious counterparts to reject their children for being gay – a finding that social-service workers believe goes a long way toward explaining why LGBT people make up roughly five percent of the youth population overall, but an estimated 40 percent of the homeless-youth population. The Center for American Progress has reported that there are between 320,000 and 400,000 homeless LGBT youths in the United States. Meanwhile, as societal advancements have made being gay less stigmatized and gay people more visible – and as the Internet now allows kids to reach beyond their circumscribed social groups for acceptance and support – the average coming-out age has dropped from post-college age in the 1990s to around 16 today, which means that more and more kids are coming out while they’re still economically reliant on their families. The resulting flood of kids who end up on the street, kicked out by parents whose religious beliefs often make them feel compelled to cast out their own offspring (one study estimates that up to 40 percent of LGBT homeless youth leave home due to family rejection), has been called a “hidden epidemic.” Tragically, every step forward for the gay-rights movement creates a false hope of acceptance for certain youth, and therefore a swelling of the homeless-youth population.

“The summer that marriage equality passed in New York, we saw the number of homeless kids looking for shelter go up 40 percent,” says Carl Siciliano, founder of the Ali Forney Center, the nation’s largest organization dedicated to homeless LGBT youth. A former Benedictine monk-in-training, who once went by the nickname Baby Jesus, Siciliano had spent years living in monasteries and serving in shelters run by the Catholic Worker Movement before his own sexuality inextricably came between him and his institutional faith. “I ended up just feeling like the Catholic Church was wack,” he says. “Cardinal O’Connor [the archbishop of New York at the time who once said if he was forced to hire homosexuals, he would shut down all of the Catholic schools and orphanages in the diocese] was like the arch-homophobe of America.” Siciliano was working at a housing program for the homeless in the Nineties when he noticed that his clientele was getting younger and younger. Until then, he says, “you almost never saw kids. It was Vietnam vets, alcoholics and deinstitutionalized mentally ill people.” But not only were more kids showing up, they were also disappearing. “Every couple of months one of our kids would get killed,” Siciliano says. “And it would always be a gay kid.” In 2002, he founded the Ali Forney Center, naming it after a homeless 22-year-old who’d been shot in the head on the street in Harlem, not far from where the organization’s drop-in center currently resides. Siciliano had been close with Forney and felt that had he had a safe place to go, he might be alive today.

Since founding the center, Siciliano, 49, has become one of the nation’s most outspoken homeless advocates. “I feel like the LGBT movement has been asleep at the wheel when it comes to this,” he says, running his hands through his closely cropped hair and sighing. “We’ve been so focused on laws – changing the laws around marriage equality, changing ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ getting adoption rights – that we haven’t been fighting for economic resources. How many tax dollars do gay people contribute? What percentage of tax dollars comes back to our gay kids? We haven’t matured enough as a movement yet that we’re looking at the economics of things.”

Siciliano also understands that the kids he works with don’t sync up with to the message everyone wants to hear: It gets better. “There is a psychological reality that when you’re an oppressed group whose very existence is under attack, you need to create this narrative about how great it is to be what you are,” he says. “It’s like, ‘Leave the repression and the fear behind and be embraced by this accepting community, and suddenly everyone is beautiful and has good bodies and great sex and beautiful furniture, and rah-rah-rah.’ And, from day one of the Stonewall Riots, homeless kids were not what people wanted to see. No one wanted to see young people coming out and being cast into destitution. It didn’t fit the narrative.”

Jackie knew well what her parents thought of homosexuality, but she still held out hope that maybe over time her family would come around. With the last of her cash, she bought a bus ticket back to campus, where within a few weeks she defaulted on her rent. She started couch surfing and persuaded the women’s center to let her work through the summer for $6 an hour, 10 hours a week. “I mean, it was crap money, but it was something,” she says. “I didn’t tell anybody the situation I was in. I didn’t tell anybody I was hungry every day. I didn’t tell them I didn’t have a place to stay, because I thought this was my punishment for being gay and I deserved it.” She’d ask friends to crash overnight, lying about being too drunk to go home. If that fell through, she’d spend nights in study rooms on campus. She found herself dating women simply to have a bed, which she admits was neither “healthy nor permanent.”

In the upheaval that had suddenly become her daily existence, Jackie felt that she had to cling to something constant; she chose her education. The day after returning to campus, she went to the financial­aid office to ask for the help she’d never before had to seek, appealing to the university to gain status as an independent student. Though she did eventually receive tuition assistance, Jackie says, “You’re not meant to be homeless and a student. I learned really fast how to pretend to not be poor. I learned that if I had a couple of nice things to wear, nobody would notice that you wear them all the time. Or if you are a sociable person, people don’t notice that you’re never actually buying drinks. You just sort of figure it out.”

She was soon taking any job she could get: on campus, in town, even picking up the odd construction shift. “I would do anything I could for money,” she says. She finally pieced together enough funds to get a room in an apartment, but she couldn’t afford furniture. To hide her penury, she never let anyone in her room. Even being around other gay people was sometimes difficult, a reminder that though “they had committed the same ‘sin,’ their parents loved them,” she says. “They got to go home for the holidays. I had these moments when I would say, ‘I did everything right. I excelled in all the right ways. So why me?’ That hurt really bad. I mean, how do you explain to people that your parents chose not to parent you anymore?”

At times, it felt like more than Jackie could bear, and in these moments of doubt and despair she wrote her mother and father countless letters and e-mails begging them to be her parents again. “I wanted to take it all back so badly,” she says. “I was just like, ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t mean any of it.'” They eventually responded: If she went to a conversion therapist and tried to be straight, they would at least help her financially. At first, she agreed. “But I couldn’t do it,” she says now, four years later, in a city hundreds of miles away from where she imagines her parents still live. “I wanted to be their kid, but I couldn’t change. Everyone I’d ever known my whole life cut ties with me. But this was who I am.”

Pope Francis’ closing of the Synod

Pope Francis’ closing of the Synod

[Vatican Radio’s provisional translation of Pope Francis’ address to the Synod Fathers]

Dear Eminences, Excellencies, Brothers and Sisters,

4FrancisWith a heart full of appreciation and gratitude I want to thank, along with you, the Lord who has accompanied and guided us in the past days, with the light of the Holy Spirit.
From the heart I thank Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, Secretary General of the Synod, Bishop Fabio Fabene, under-secretary, and with them I thank the Relators, Cardinal Peter Erdo, who has worked so much in these days of family mourning, and the Special Secretary Bishop Bruno Forte, the three President delegates, the transcribers, the consultors, the translators and the unknown workers, all those who have worked with true fidelity and total dedication behind the scenes and without rest. Thank you so much from the heart.

I thank all of you as well, dear Synod fathers, Fraternal Delegates, Auditors, and Assessors, for your active and fruitful participation. I will keep you in prayer asking the Lord to reward you with the abundance of His gifts of grace!
I can happily say that – with a spirit of collegiality and of synodality – we have truly lived the experience of “Synod,” a path of solidarity, a “journey together.”

And it has been “a journey” – and like every journey there were moments of running fast, as if wanting to conquer time and reach the goal as soon as possible; other moments of fatigue, as if wanting to say “enough”; other moments of enthusiasm and ardour. There were moments of profound consolation listening to the testimony of true pastors, who wisely carry in their hearts the joys and the tears of their faithful people. Moments of consolation and grace and comfort hearing the testimonies of the families who have participated in the Synod and have shared with us the beauty and the joy of their married life. A journey where the stronger feel compelled to help the less strong, where the more experienced are led to serve others, even through confrontations. And since it is a journey of human beings, with the consolations there were also moments of desolation, of tensions and temptations, of which a few possibilities could be mentioned:

– One, a temptation to hostile inflexibility, that is, wanting to close oneself within the written word, (the letter) and not allowing oneself to be surprised by God, by the God of surprises, (the spirit); within the law, within the certitude of what we know and not of what we still need to learn and to achieve. From the time of Christ, it is the temptation of the zealous, of the scrupulous, of the solicitous and of the so-called – today – “traditionalists” and also of the intellectuals.

The temptation to a destructive tendency to goodness [it. buonismo], that in the name of a deceptive mercy binds the wounds without first curing them and treating them; that treats the symptoms and not the causes and the roots. It is the temptation of the “do-gooders,” of the fearful, and also of the so-called “progressives and liberals.”

The temptation to transform stones into bread to break the long, heavy, and painful fast (cf. Lk 4:1-4); and also to transform the bread into a stone and cast it against the sinners, the weak, and the sick (cf Jn 8:7), that is, to transform it into unbearable burdens (Lk 11:46).

The temptation to come down off the Cross, to please the people, and not stay there, in order to fulfil the will of the Father; to bow down to a worldly spirit instead of purifying it and bending it to the Spirit of God.

The temptation to neglect the “depositum fidei” [the deposit of faith], not thinking of themselves as guardians but as owners or masters [of it]; or, on the other hand, the temptation to neglect reality, making use of meticulous language and a language of smoothing to say so many things and to say nothing! They call them “byzantinisms,” I think, these things…

Dear brothers and sisters, the temptations must not frighten or disconcert us, or even discourage us, because no disciple is greater than his master; so if Jesus Himself was tempted – and even called Beelzebul (cf. Mt 12:24) – His disciples should not expect better treatment.

Personally I would be very worried and saddened if it were not for these temptations and these animated discussions; this movement of the spirits, as St Ignatius called it (Spiritual Exercises, 6), if all were in a state of agreement, or silent in a false and quietist peace. Instead, I have seen and I have heard – with joy and appreciation – speeches and interventions full of faith, of pastoral and doctrinal zeal, of wisdom, of frankness and of courage: and of parresia. And I have felt that what was set before our eyes was the good of the Church, of families, and the “supreme law,” the “good of souls” (cf. Can. 1752). And this always – we have said it here, in the Hall – without ever putting into question the fundamental truths of the Sacrament of marriage: the indissolubility, the unity, the faithfulness, the fruitfulness, that openness to life (cf. Cann. 1055, 1056; and Gaudium et spes, 48).

And this is the Church, the vineyard of the Lord, the fertile Mother and the caring Teacher, who is not afraid to roll up her sleeves to pour oil and wine on people’s wound; who doesn’t see humanity as a house of glass to judge or categorize people. This is the Church, One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic and composed of sinners, needful of God’s mercy. This is the Church, the true bride of Christ, who seeks to be faithful to her spouse and to her doctrine. It is the Church that is not afraid to eat and drink with prostitutes and publicans. The Church that has the doors wide open to receive the needy, the penitent, and not only the just or those who believe they are perfect! The Church that is not ashamed of the fallen brother and pretends not to see him, but on the contrary feels involved and almost obliged to lift him up and to encourage him to take up the journey again and accompany him toward a definitive encounter with her Spouse, in the heavenly Jerusalem.

This is the Church, our Mother! And when the Church, in the variety of her charisms, expresses herself in communion, she cannot err: it is the beauty and the strength of the sensus fidei, of that supernatural sense of the faith which is bestowed by the Holy Spirit so that, together, we can all enter into the heart of the Gospel and learn to follow Jesus in our life. And this should never be seen as a source of confusion and discord.

Many commentators, or people who talk, have imagined that they see a disputatious Church where one part is against the other, doubting even the Holy Spirit, the true promoter and guarantor of the unity and harmony of the Church – the Holy Spirit who throughout history has always guided the barque, through her Ministers, even when the sea was rough and choppy, and the ministers unfaithful and sinners.

And, as I have dared to tell you , [as] I told you from the beginning of the Synod, it was necessary to live through all this with tranquillity, and with interior peace, so that the Synod would take place cum Petro and sub Petro (with Peter and under Peter), and the presence of the Pope is the guarantee of it all.

We will speak a little bit about the Pope, now, in relation to the Bishops [laughing]. So, the duty of the Pope is that of guaranteeing the unity of the Church; it is that of reminding the faithful of their duty to faithfully follow the Gospel of Christ; it is that of reminding the pastors that their first duty is to nourish the flock – to nourish the flock – that the Lord has entrusted to them, and to seek to welcome – with fatherly care and mercy, and without false fears – the lost sheep. I made a mistake here. I said welcome: [rather] to go out and find them.

His duty is to remind everyone that authority in the Church is a service, as Pope Benedict XVI clearly explained, with words I cite verbatim: “The Church is called and commits herself to exercise this kind of authority which is service and exercises it not in her own name, but in the name of Jesus Christ… through the Pastors of the Church, in fact: it is he who guides, protects and corrects them, because he loves them deeply. But the Lord Jesus, the supreme Shepherd of our souls, has willed that the Apostolic College, today the Bishops, in communion with the Successor of Peter… to participate in his mission of taking care of God’s People, of educating them in the faith and of guiding, inspiring and sustaining the Christian community, or, as the Council puts it, ‘to see to it… that each member of the faithful shall be led in the Holy Spirit to the full development of his own vocation in accordance with Gospel preaching, and to sincere and active charity’ and to exercise that liberty with which Christ has set us free (cf. Presbyterorum Ordinis, 6)… and it is through us,” Pope Benedict continues, “that the Lord reaches souls, instructs, guards and guides them. St Augustine, in his Commentary on the Gospel of St John, says: ‘let it therefore be a commitment of love to feed the flock of the Lord’ (cf. 123, 5); this is the supreme rule of conduct for the ministers of God, an unconditional love, like that of the Good Shepherd, full of joy, given to all, attentive to those close to us and solicitous for those who are distant (cf. St Augustine, Discourse 340, 1; Discourse 46, 15), gentle towards the weakest, the little ones, the simple, the sinners, to manifest the infinite mercy of God with the reassuring words of hope (cf. ibid., Epistle, 95, 1).”

So, the Church is Christ’s – she is His bride – and all the bishops, in communion with the Successor of Peter, have the task and the duty of guarding her and serving her, not as masters but as servants. The Pope, in this context, is not the supreme lord but rather the supreme servant – the “servant of the servants of God”; the guarantor of the obedience and the conformity of the Church to the will of God, to the Gospel of Christ, and to the Tradition of the Church, putting aside every personal whim, despite being – by the will of Christ Himself – the “supreme Pastor and Teacher of all the faithful” (Can. 749) and despite enjoying “supreme, full, immediate, and universal ordinary power in the Church” (cf. Cann. 331-334).

Dear brothers and sisters, now we still have one year to mature, with true spiritual discernment, the proposed ideas and to find concrete solutions to so many difficulties and innumerable challenges that families must confront; to give answers to the many discouragements that surround and suffocate families.

One year to work on the “Synodal Relatio” which is the faithful and clear summary of everything that has been said and discussed in this hall and in the small groups. It is presented to the Episcopal Conferences as “lineamenta” [guidelines].

May the Lord accompany us, and guide us in this journey for the glory of His Name, with the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of Saint Joseph. And please, do not forget to pray for me! Thank you!

The synod opens with Pope Francis saying “Let’s talk!”

Synod2014The Extraordinary Synod on the Family opens with Pope Francis saying “Let’s talk!” and an Australian couple takes him up on it saying gay partners should be welcomed in families and parishes.  Vatican Radio live streamed the opening session of the Synod of Bishops on the Family this morning and the big message from Francis was,”let’s talk.”

In his opening statement he said, “Speak out. Let no one say: ‘This can not be said’…After the last consistory (February 2014)…a Cardinal wrote to me saying: pity that some Cardinals have not had the courage to say some things out of respect for the Pope, believing perhaps that the Pope thought something different. This is not good, this is not collegiality, because you have to say everything that you feel you have to say…without timidity. And, at the same time, you should listen with humility and accept with an open heart what your brother says.”

He ended exhorting all, “…please..speak with frankness and listen with humility.”

FutureChurch at the press briefing

At the 1pm press conference Hungarian Cardinal Peter Erdo, French Cardinal André Vingt-Troi, Italian Archbishop Bruno Forte and Mexican Archbishop Carlos Aguiar Retes reported on the guidelines set out for the synod process.  All four reinforced the message of Pope Francis saying the Church needs leaders who will listen openly and speak honestly and respectfully as they interact, but Archbishop Forte voiced it most compellingly.

Wanting a more robust synodal process in line with Francis’ call for a climate of freedom and authentic dialogue, Archbishop Forte pointed out that although Paul VI had instituted synods so that all bishops could participate in decision making, “after decades we are still learning something about them.”  When asked by reporters what would be different at this synod, he commented that past synods were too inflexible and that this synod would offer more opportunities for intercessions – the most important element for change.

Several spoke about new processes related to the Synod. Cardinal Vingt-Troi said he has been asked by Catholics to create synod teams at each parish where they would take up the topics being discussed at the synod and offer him their insights. Vingt-Troi said he would in turn share their wisdom and experience with the Cardinal who promises to take this back to the Ordinary Synod in 2015.   He said he would then come back next year “with food for thought.”


While Vingt-Troi said he wasn’t sure he agreed with Cardinal Walter Kasper’s proposition for divorced and remarried Catholics returning to the sacraments, he said his position should be respected and considered suggesting to the journalists, “probably some colleagues of yours will talk about the conflict at the synod.”

Mexican Archbishop Carlos Aguiar Retes was the only speaker to talk about violence against women as a root cause of marital and family destruction. Problems such as immigration, abduction and poor education certainly contributed to breakdowns in families, but he emphasized that violence against women, rape and violence in the family are some of the most destructive aspects of family life and topics that need to be addressed at the synod. 

Australian couple ask that gays be accepted in parishes as in families 

Ron and Mavis Pirola told Pope Francis and the synod participants that gay couples should be as accepted in parishes as they are in families. Telling the story of friends who showed their love for their son by accepting him and his partner during a visit to their home, the Pirola’s suggested that parishes would do well to demonstrate the same welcoming spirit.  (Francis X. Rocca, ncronline.org)
FutureChurch will be reporting on the daily work of the synod .  Follow us on our Blog,  Facebook and Twitter.

 

 

Why men need women in ministry

Why men need women in ministry

From your studies, it would appear to me that the future of Catholic ministry would embrace married couples, ordained together, and doing ministry together.  This is what I have known in my marriage as a mutual priesthood for each other and for the world. . . .   What would you make of this?

 

workinprogress5

 

By chance, I just picked up the book of Cardinal Suenens, THE HIDDEN HAND OF GOD: THE LIFE OF VERONICA O’BRIEN AND OUR COMMON APOSTOLATE.   In this book, Suenens details the life of “Sister Veronica” who left her religious order in order to pursue a “full-time apostolate” in the Church.  At first she worked with Frank Duff in creating and expanding the Legion of Mary.  Then, during and after Vatican II, she worked with orders of nuns who were wrestling with the issues surrounding the renewal of their orders.  Finally, she worked alongside Cardinal Suenens in fashioning the design and approval for the Catholic Charismatic Renewal (1972+).   Suenens, in the preface, speaks of “our joint apostolic initiatives for evangelical renewal” over a period of fifty years.  More importantly, however, Suenens says, without his usual reserve, “Our collaboration . . . has been the great spiritual grace of my life.”

 

In the Middle Ages, we have the well-documented cases of Francis and Clair and Abelard and Heloise.  In such cases, however, a man was energized by the love and devotion and intelligence of a woman; yet, the woman, in these instances, was confined to a cloister and had no active engagement with the world for the greater part of her life.

 

Then I discovered this book which describes how men become enchanted with women saints:

 

Women, Men, and Spiritual Power: Female Saints and Their Male Collaborators

John W. Coakley

January, 2006

In Women, Men, and Spiritual Power, John Coakley explores male-authored narratives of the lives of Catherine of Siena, Hildegard of Bingen, Angela of Foligno, and six other female prophets or mystics of the late Middle Ages. His readings reveal the complex personal and literary relationships between these women and the clerics who wrote about them. Coakley’s work also undermines simplistic characterizations of male control over women, offering an important contribution to medieval religious history.

Coakley shows that these male-female relationships were marked by a fundamental tension between power and fascination: the priests and monks were supposed to hold authority over the women entrusted to their care, but they often switched roles, as the men became captivated with the women’s spiritual gifts. In narratives of such women, the male authors reflect directly on the relationship between the women’s powers and their own. Coakley argues that they viewed these relationships as gendered partnerships that brought together female mystical power and male ecclesiastical authority without placing one above the other.

Women, Men, and Spiritual Power chronicles a wide-ranging experiment in the balance of formal and informal powers, in which it was assumed to be thoroughly imaginable for both sorts of authority, in their distinctly gendered terms, to coexist and build on each other. The men’s writings reflect an extended moment in western Christianity when clerics had enough confidence in their authority to actually question its limits. After about 1400, however, clerics underwent a crisis of confidence, and such a questioning of institutional power was no longer considered safe. Instead of seeing women as partners, their revelatory powers began to be viewed as evidence of witchcraft.

About the Author

John W. Coakley is the L. Russell Feakes Professor of Church History, New Brunswick Theological Seminary. He is the coeditor (with Andrea Sterk) of Readings in World Christian History.

 

Peace,

Aaron

 

Priests talking about celibacy

Thomas Doyle interviewed by Frontline (05 Sept 2013)

Q: You’ve talked about the illusion of celibacy. What do you mean exactly by that?

Thomas_P_Doyle2A: Many, many priests are involved in long-term relationships; many are involved in a series of short-term relationships; many have had occasional sexual relationships with men or women. If you’re in the world, as I was for many, many years, I saw it. I saw it around me. So I think it is illusory, and I think what’s mainly illusory about it is that it somehow is necessary to have mandatory celibacy to have an effective priesthood, and I think that’s where the illusion becomes total, because the priesthood, as a form of ministry and sharing the life of Christ, would probably be immensely more effective if married men were allowed and if priests were not mandated to be celibate.   (source)

More  Resources:

Celibacy as the MAIN REASON for the lack of vocations
Priests talking about celibacy
The Tradition of Abusive Dishonesty
The Trouble with Celibacy in Africa
When a Priest Falls in Love

Voices Lost in Survey Summaries

Underreported survey responses for synod on the family a valuable tool for Vatican

 |  Jun. 19, 2014

Last week, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, reported on survey responses from U.S. dioceses in preparation for October’s first session of the Synod of Bishops on the family. Kurtz’s report was underwhelming at best. His take is that responses pointed to a need for a “more remote and proximate formation” of Catholics: “We know there is a need for greater, effective teaching on key tenets of the faith, such as the indissolubility of marriage, the importance of sexual difference for marriage, the natural law, and the married couple’s call to be open to life.”

Unfortunately, Kurtz is echoing a talking point used by many prelates who spin survey feedback as if it is just another consumer poll designed to rate how well they are doing their job. There is no real dialogue here, no real listening, only the assumption that Catholics will change their minds if bishops talk louder and longer.

Worse, the report watered down what many laity really said. For example, St. Petersburg, Fla., Bishop Robert Lynch, reporting on a diocesan survey that attracted 6,800 respondents, wrote: “On the matter of artificial contraception the responses might be characterized by the saying, ‘that train left the station long ago’. Catholics have made up their minds and the sensus fidelium [the sense of the faithful] suggests the rejection of Church teaching on this subject.”

Surveys from other dioceses indicate similar disconnects between official teaching and acceptance of that teaching by ordinary Catholics.

One large national survey that went mostly unnoticed by the media is worth discussing here because it provided an opportunity for Catholics from anywhere in the U.S. to give feedback, not only those in the 72 U.S. dioceses out of 195 that offered online surveys. Conducted in November and December by 15 progressive Catholic organizations, the survey reports on 16,582 respondents from across the United States. Quantitative and qualitative responses were analyzed by Dr. Peter J. Fagan from the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. (Disclosure: I served as a consultant to this project in its early stages.) Demographically, 83 percent of the respondents were laypeople, 27 percent were parents and 11 percent were professed religious, priests, deacons and seminarians.

screen-shot_FB-video-promo-9-12.jpgOur Sept. 12-25 edition is in the mail, on its way to subscribers. Take a look inside.

Not a subscriber? Become one today!

Even though progressive Catholic organizations conducted the survey, just 13 percent of respondents described themselves as a “member of a church reform organization.” Fifty-three percent are weekly Massgoers. This finding undercuts any potential stereotypes that respondents are outsiders throwing stones. Au contraire — they are among the most faithful of Catholics, given that the U.S. Catholic average of weekly Mass attendance is 24 percent, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University.

“This was a tedious survey for respondents to complete — probably taking 45 to 60 minutes,” Fagan said. “The fact that 16,582 faithful submitted responses is testimony to the depth of care and concern they had for the future of the church and the transmission of the Gospel. Their voices deserve to be listened to.”

The survey consisted of 49 items based on the Vatican’s original survey and, as did many diocesan surveys, the designers made alterations in the language to make it more accessible to a lay population. Three items — about marriage equality, the needs of children of parents in marriages not recognized by the church, and the importance of community availability of contraception — were also added.

While results of the survey’s quantitative questions were in the main consistent with similar studies by the Pew Forum, CARA and international bishops’ conference reports, some of the key findings are worth emphasizing.

Divorce and remarriage

  • 75 percent felt divorced and remarried couples believed their relationship to be worthy of the sacraments, regardless of church recognition of their union.
  • 82 percent agreed that simplification of annulment rules would be beneficial.
  • Ninety-two percent viewed parents in marriages not recognized by the church as approaching the church for sacraments, while 51 percent viewed them as approaching the church for catechesis and 52 percent, general teaching.
  • Most did not know of ministerial outreach at the diocesan (51 percent) or national (67 percent) level.

Marriage equality and ministerial outreach to LGBT Catholics

  • 73 percent said marriage equality is either extremely important (47 percent) or very important (26 percent).
  • 64 percent felt there are Catholics in same-sex unions who do not believe their situation warrants denial of sacraments and still approach the church for them.
  • 57 percent said there is a law recognizing marriage equality in their states.

This survey asked more in-depth questions about LGBT issues than other surveys. The findings are worth reporting since they suggest there is more acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender couples at the parish and small faith community levels than at the diocesan level.

  • Over a third of respondents saw dioceses as hostile and condemning of marriage equality (37 percent) and same-sex couples (35 percent).
  • A significantly smaller number viewed their parishes as hostile and condemning of marriage equality (11 percent) and same-sex couples (13 percent).
  • Even fewer saw their small faith community as hostile and condemning of marriage equality (3 percent) and same-sex couples (4 percent).

Responsible parenthood and family planning

  • 1 percent said the teachings of Humanae Vitae were completely accepted. Fifty-six percent said they were not accepted, and 43 percent said they were accepted in part.
  • 76 percent support alternatives to Humanae Vitae, including contraception.
  • 80 percent judged availability of contraception to be either extremely important (56 percent) or very important (24 percent).
  • Three-quarters indicated that the following of conscience about family planning, even when it is not consistent with church teaching, does not appear to restrict approaching the sacraments of reconciliation and the Eucharist.

A 15-page report of both qualitative and quantitative findings and an 81-page report of randomly selected written responses in English and Spanish are downloadable at mycatholicfamily.org.

In January and February, survey organizers Deborah Rose-Milavec of FutureChurch, Kate Conmy of Women’s Ordination Conference, and Linda Pinto of Catholic Organizations for Renewal sent complete survey reports to the Vatican synod office as well as to the USCCB. They received a warmly written form letter from Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri at the Vatican, as presumably did all others who wrote to him. Pinto received a generic postcard from the USCCB acknowledging they received the report.

It is encouraging that Vatican synod offices are sorting through responses from Catholics all over the world. But I am concerned that according to early reports, only heads of bishops’ conferences and Vatican offices will be present next October. Both sessions of the synod would benefit greatly from inviting lay Catholics of every stripe to inform proceedings. In particular, married theologians — men and women who are experts in contemporary moral theology — should serve as theological consultants to the bishops’ focus sessions.

While it’s true that church teaching doesn’t come from opinion polls, neither does it emerge without regard for the lived experiences of those taught. The Holy Spirit lives, moves and guides the lives of ordinary people seeking to love and follow Christ within their own particular, unique circumstances. Could such Spirit-filled lives also have something to teach our bishops?

Our church must listen. Otherwise, synod outcomes are doomed to fall on deaf ears. If this happens, it will only be because our bishops have failed to open their own.

P.S. You can work to include all kinds of Catholic families, including married theologians, at the Synod of Bishops on the family at mycatholicfamily.org.

[A Sister of St. Joseph, Sr. Christine Schenk served urban families for 18 years as a nurse midwife before co-founding FutureChurch, where she served for 23 years.]

Will Pope Francis hold bishops accountable?

Will the Vatican step up and hold bishops accountable?
by Jason Berry  |  Jun. 2, 2014

JasonBerryOn the flight back to Rome May 26 after his visit to Israel, Pope Francis gave another impromptu press conference. Responding to a question on the clergy abuse crisis, he said, “At the moment there are three bishops under investigation: one has already been found guilty and we are now considering the penalty to be imposed. There are no privileges.”

The pope offered no names, but according to the transcript, added a sonic boom analogy: “A priest who does this betrays the body of the Lord. This is very serious. It is like a satanic Mass.”

Francis’s escalating rhetoric came three weeks after a United Nations Committee on Torture report, citing extensive international legal findings, was critical of the Holy See for bishops’ negligence in sheltering sexual predators. “States bear international responsibility for the acts and omissions of their officials and others acting in an official capacity or acting on behalf of the state,” said the U.N. report issued May 23.

“A zero tolerance approach must be adopted,” Francis said on the airplane. He announced he would meet with a group of abuse victims.

Nevertheless, in a sign of internal divisions over transparency, the Vatican, as of June 2, had yet to identify the three bishops.

And in the sign of an intransigent mindset within Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (whose founder, attorney Barbara Blaine provided voluminous legal research to the U.N.) Southern California SNAP leader Joelle Casteix dismissed the pope’s words as “more of what we’ve seen for decades — more gestures, promises, symbolism and public relations.”

“I would challenge anyone to point to a single tangible sign of progress that has emerged from any of these meetings,” David Clohessy, SNAP executive director in St. Louis, said in response to the pope’s words.

In fact, Francis is a work-in-progress on the crisis that gathered over three decades in Western countries and has spread to Latin America. The pope is also in a supremely ironic position. In response to the U.N. committee, the Holy See said that it does not control far-flung bishops, only its diplomats and officials in the 108-acre Vatican city-state, an assertion baldly contradicted by church history. Cardinals in various countries have Vatican passports. Bishops report to the pope and Vatican offices.

The papacy is a religious monarchy with an antiquated justice system, riddled with de facto immunity for bishops and cardinals.

Five months after the conclave, Francis issued a motu proprio, a decree “of his own hand” to stiffen Vatican laws in several areas with sentences aligned with Italian law for crimes against children.

The Case of Gabino Miranda Melgarejo

The law was announced July 11, the same month Francis defrocked a Peruvian bishop, Gabino Miranda Melgarejo, 53.  Miranda’s laicization barely made news outside Peru. Dennis Coday reported in NCR on Sept. 21, 2013 that Miranda was “quietly removed from office because of allegations of sexual abuse of minors.”

Five days later, Reuters in Lima reported that the church “kicked Miranda out of the clergy for suspected pedophilia,” with no specifics on Vatican procedure, instead focusing on a prosecutor’s complaint that the archdiocese had not provided requested information.  The pope reduced Miranda to the lay state barely two months after his May 24, 2013 resignation as Bishop of Usula.

“(Layman) Gabino Miranda Melgarejo” is his status on the website Catholic-Hierarchy.org, which lists the chronology of appointments and standing for all bishops and cardinals.  Miranda’s final line, July 2013 [no day given], says: “Laicized.”

The prospects of a state investigation in Peru may have pushed Francis to oust Miranda. According to Caretas, a news magazine, Archbishop Salvador Pineiro of Ayachucho, president of the bishops’ conference, responded to a complaint from a 14-year old altar boy that Miranda accosted him in confession and “immediately opened a case against Miranda in strictest confidence and sent the file to the Vatican.”

Miranda himself sent a letter to Fr.  Luis Ladaria, secretary at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), requesting a leave of absence to reflect on “imprudence.” Panorama, a Peruvian TV program, obtained Miranda’s letter (which suggests leaks from the Peruvian church) and quoted it: “I do not know the crimes I am accused of. I do not know where those who accuse me come from, the jurisdiction and when the crimes were supposedly committed.”

The state prosecutor had a second complaint by a 15-year old boy, according to LeRepublica of Lima. No arrest has been reported.

In October, Pineiro said that the ousted bishop “did many good things, but if the Holy Father has taken this decision, it must be very serious business.”

Another bishop told reporters that the action against Miranda reflected Francis’s resolve on the church abuse crisis. That, in turn, bestirred Lima Archbishop Luis Cipriani, of Opus Dei, to fume in a weekly radio address: “Let’s not make firewood out of a fallen tree.”

Miranda was the first member of the hierarchy subjected to criminal procedure under the new Vatican law. The three unnamed bishops Francis mentioned on the airplane appear to be next in line.

Francis’s decision about Miranda was more punitive than the only known case in which Pope Benedict XVI defrocked a bishop, now listed as “(Layman) Raymond John Lahey” on Catholic-Hierarchy.org.

The Case of Raymond John Lahey

Lahey resigned his post as prelate of Antigonish, Nova Scotia, in 2009 after authorities arrested him with child pornography as he returned to Canada from foreign travel. Lahey pleaded guilty to one count in May 2011, then voluntarily withdrew his bail which put him immediately behind bars. He spent six months in jail. At a hearing on Jan. 7, 2012, the court sentenced him to 15 months, but allowed probation based on time served.

Two months later, Benedict defrocked him. The date given is March 16, 2012, according to Catholic-Hierarchy.org.  Benedict laicized Lahey after his release from prison. Francis laicized Miranda after a church investigation, but no indictment.

“Laicization of bishops is extremely rare,” said Fr. Tom Doyle, who worked in the Vatican embassy in Washington, D.C. in the early 1980s. Frustrated by the bishops’ concealment of predators, Doyle became an expert witness for victims suing the church.

“This would be done directly by the pope after an investigation,” Doyle told NCR. “I remember discussing this issue with other canonists several years ago. Laicizing a bishop would not follow the ordinary process [for priests] that goes through Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith” — though Miranda sent his resignation to the CDF.

Under Pope John Paul II, bishops accused of child abuse “stepped down,” melting out of public view with their ecclesial rank. That tolerance tracks the theology of apostolic succession, which sees bishops in a spiritual lineage from Jesus’s apostles — bishops forever. By whitewashing the memory of Judas, apostolic succession provided a huge shield for negligent bishops, and cardinals like Bernard Law, who left Boston in a financial shambles when he resigned in 2002. In 2004, as his successor now-Cardinal Sean O’Malley began widespread church closures, Law went to Rome to become pastor of a great basilica.

The Case of Hubert O’Connor

In one of the most extreme cases, Canadian Bishop Hubert O’Connor of Prince George, British Columbia, resigned his position in 1991, after five years as prelate, facing charges of raping two young women in First Nations, or Indian communities. One victim, a seamstress, testified that when she became pregnant, the bishop placed her in a home for unwed mothers and forced her to give their child for adoption. The bishop changed his first name on the birth certificate.

O’Connor stood trial with a top-drawer defense attorney. The judge found inconsistencies in the woman’s account, but convicted him based on a second woman’s testimony. O’Connor spent six months in prison; a parole board ordered his release. The conviction was overturned on appeal. A chief of the First Nations assembly wrote John Paul II, demanding church sanctions against O’Connor. The Vatican was silent.

But Rome considered O’Connor damaged goods and he had no other appointment as bishop. He died in 2007. Nevertheless, Catholic-Hierarchy.org lists him as deceased and his status as emeritus bishop.  Emeritus, according to the American Heritage Dictionary, means “retired but retaining an honorary title corresponding to that held immediately before retirement.”

Who should be laicized?

The CDF has laicized 848 priests between 2004 and 2013, according to testimony by Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the papal diplomat at the U.N. panel examining the Vatican handling of abuse cases last month in Geneva.

Lahey and Miranda appear to be the only two bishops to be expelled from the clerical state because of crimes against children, according to an NCR examination of documents, news reports and interviews with researchers.

“The church is finally changing on this issue because of pressure to change,” BishopAccountability.org co-director Terry McKiernan told NCR.

“I think we’re seeing the beginnings of a recognition at the Vatican that they’re not going to emerge from this mess until they act on the enabling of abuse by bishops, and transferring of the criminals. These two U.N. committees [on Torture, and Rights of the Child] are raising the consciousness of the Vatican, making this a major political problem,” McKiernan said.

“The Holy See argues that the U.N. conventions only obligate them on priests or bishops in the Vatican City State, but it’s hard for them to claim they don’t have effective control over priests in many countries, as demonstrated by the CDF handling these cases,” McKiernan continued. “It’s to SNAP’s credit that they got the U.N. to review the research they’ve done. Even though the case against the Vatican has gone nowhere in the International Criminal Court, other countries are thinking of clerical abuse of children in the context of international law — and that is important.”

SNAP’s view of Vatican intransigence is partly a reaction to brass-knuckle legal tactics used by certain American bishops. In legal moves that smack of harassment, SNAP has been hit with church lawyers’ defense subpoenas in several Midwestern cases, seeking email and correspondence with pedophilia victims, a core of SNAP’s mission.

 “They want to stop victims, whistleblowers, police and even journalists from contacting us,” Clohessy told NCR. One of the dioceses, Kansas City, Mo., is under Bishop Robert Finn, who was convicted of a criminal misdemeanor for failing to report a priest with child pornography, who subsequently went to prison. Finn received a suspended sentence.

The Milwaukee archdiocese, facing 500 victim claims, is in grinding bankruptcy litigation, trying to settle for dimes on a dollar. The pivotal issue is on appeal: $57 million that the former archbishop, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, shifted from general funds into a cemetery trust, with approval from Cardinal Claudio Hummes, prefect of Congregation for the Clergy under Benedict.

By insisting that it only has control over the Vatican City State, the Holy See added a protective barrier for the pope from legal actions. Attorney Jeff Anderson sued the Vatican as a defendant in an Oregon case of a victim abused by a priest who moved across international borders but the court dismissed the Holy See as a defendant.

Francis’s reference to three bishops under investigation fed speculation in the media on who the prelates might be.

The Religion News Service suggested Cardinal Keith O’Brien of Scotland, who resigned prior to the 2013 conclave and has been under Vatican scrutiny for unspecified sexual misconduct; Polish Archbishop Josef Wesolowski, who was recalled as papal nuncio to the Dominican Republic after allegations of child abuse in Santo Domingo, the capital; and Bishop Cristián Contreras Molina of San Felipe, Chile, who said in a press release that he had invited a Vatican investigation of abuse allegations against him.

The pope as a sovereign monarch under canon law has the power of a one-man supreme court to nullify, modify or abort a given proceeding. Few popes involve themselves with details of the various cases at different Vatican tribunals or canonical courts. But Francis’s agenda of mercy and solidarity with the poor has led him to react quickly on certain cases.

“Francis had no problem dismissing the German bishop,” Nicholas Cafardi, a canon lawyer and Dean Emeritus of Duquesne University law School, told NCR, in reference to the resignation of Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, who reportedly spent 31 million euro ($43 million) on a new residential complex in the Limburg diocese. Tebartz-van Elst is listed as Bishop Emeritus on Catholic-Hierarchy.org.

“We can’t have a standard in which the pope removes a bishop for financial malfeasance but not for ignoring sexual abuse,” Cafardi said. “Between the two evils of the church, one is loss of money and image, the other is a killer of the soul. And Bishop Finn is still in Kansas City despite his conviction.”

Milwaukee canonist Fr. Jim Connell, who works with abuse survivors, has filed a canonical appeal in Rome seeking Finn’s removal.

Francis has moved in spontaneous if incremental steps — rhetoric presaging action. It has not always produced the desired results.

In a March 5 interview with Corriera della Serra in Rome, his response to a question about the abuse crisis was unrealistic, if not surreal: “The Church has done so much on this path, perhaps more than anyone … perhaps the only public institution to have acted with transparency and responsibility. No other has done more. And the Church is the only one to be attacked.”

Francis’s comments drew scorn from abuse survivors and in some corners of the media. Two months later, on the flight from Israel to Rome, he sounded like a different pope. “In Argentina we call those who receive preferential treatment ‘spoilt children,’ he said. “There will be no ‘spoilt children’ in this case. It is a very serious problem. When a priest commits abuse, he betrays the Lord’s body.”

Will the Vatican face the crisis?

John Paul avoided dealing with the clergy abuse crisis until events exploded in America in 2002, after which he responded with little effect, continuing his praise of Fr. Marcial Maciel, despite extensive allegations filed against the Legion of Christ founder in 1998 in the CDF.

Benedict, who removed Maciel from ministry in 2006, institutionalized the procedures at CDF to punish pedophiles. He met with victims as a pastoral approach, but — save for his defrocking of the Canadian Lahey — ignored the issue of complicity and negligence within the hierarchy.    [Benedict also fast-tracked the canonization of John Paul II and withheld information regarding the role of John Paul in shielding Marciel. ]

The crisis bequeathed to Francis is a minefield of complexities that stretch across different legal systems of the globe, huge financial losses in countries with Western common law; a culture of angry, movement-hardened survivors connecting via the internet with groups in other countries; a critical mass of information readily available to the media; and a generation of bishops who entered the hierarchy with assumptions of public respect, trusting the pope for guidance.

The bishops’ world has changed in ways they never imagined. In America, they found themselves battered in the media, turning to high-dollar defense lawyers as victims filed suit, and a vacuum of papal leadership from John Paul.

Francis is relying on Boston Cardinal O’Malley on the issue. O’Malley, who wears the sandals and robes of a Capuchin, has spent his career in the hierarchy cleaning up dioceses caught in these scandals — from Fall River, Mass., the diocese plundered by the notorious Fr. James Porter to Palm Beach, Fla., where O’Malley succeeded Bishop Keith Symons and Bishop Anthony O’Connell, (both resigned and were cited for clergy abuse)  then to Boston, which Law left in a state of financial hemorrhaging. O’Malley closed parishes and sold property to staunch deficits, spurring a sit-in vigil movement of parishioners fighting back.

O’Malley’s fluency in Spanish and past visits to Argentina established a rapport with Francis, who made him point man on the abuse issue. O’Malley guided the establishment of the eight-member advisory commission, which recently had its first meeting.

“I have problems with O’Malley,” said McKiernan, of the Boston-based BishopAccountability.org. “O’Malley released a list of perpetrators in 2011, and the same day admitted he left off 91 names. So there are transparency issues. We see the same thing in the pope’s statement in the book he did with Rabbi [Abraham] Skorka of Argentina [On Heaven and Earth] where he says he never encountered an abuse case. That’s not true, the media has reported on cases from Buenos Aires. But O’Malley is coming from a place where the church was pushed to the brink and I think he’s talking sense to the pope. They both know it’s a global problem.”

The evolution of a policy turns on the quality of information available to a given leader and his comfort with the use of power. Francis has moved adroitly in dealing with the Vatican Bank and disarray in the Roman Curia. The abuse crisis poses a greater challenge by virtue of geographical reach, legal, financial and moral issues.

The root problem is the power structure, a hierarchy long accustomed to immunity from punishment. Popes, in turn, assume lockstep loyalty from bishops and cardinals. Francis’s move toward a penal policy for hierarchs has cut distance from the passivity of John Paul and the halting approach by Benedict, who refused to accept the resignation letters of two Irish auxiliary bishops criticized for negligence in the government investigation of the church in Dublin.

What Francis decides about the three bishops under investigation, as yet unnamed, will be another signal on the depth, or not, of a criminal justice system so desperately needed by the Roman Catholic church.

[Jason Berry, a co-producer of the Frontline documentary “Secrets of the Vatican,” is a longtime NCR contributor, and author of Render unto Rome: The Secret Life of Money in the Catholic Church.]

 

Several bishops should be investigated

At least seven bishops, besides the three cited in the Religion News Service report, appear to qualify as “spoilt children” in Pope Francis’s metaphorical sweep.

The Vatican has not released information on whether they are subject to a proceeding on laicizations. But a review of documents from various legal cases, news reports, and church files compiled by BishopAccountability.org and Fr. Thomas Doyle, suggests that the following bishops would qualify.

  • Bishop Roger Vangheluwe of Belgium resigned in 2010 after admitting he sexually abused a boy who was later identified as his nephew. Vangheluwe was the senior Belgian bishop, appointed by John Paul in 1984. In 2011, a year later after he stepped down, Vangheluwe gave a nationally-televised interview from a secret location and admitted to sexual relations with two nephews. He also complained that that the church was being unfairly targeted. Carina Van Cauter, a member of the Belgian parliamentary committee investigating sexual abuse, said that Vangheluwe “tries to turn his victims into culprits. He throws salt in their wounds.” Reuters reported that on TV the bishop “sat relaxed, sometimes had a smile dancing on his lips, a twinkle in his eye and shook his shoulders while trying to minimise his abuse. He said that despite acknowledging the abuse, he would never willingly forsake his priesthood. He said he had made his vows and he would ‘not break them.’ ” Belgian society was jolted by the spectacle of a bishop recalling how his intimacy with two young nephews began at family reunions in tight sleeping arrangements. It strains credulity to think that, had Vangheluwe shown such bombast as a priest, Rome would allow him serenity at twilight. Age 77, he is listed as Bishop Emeritus of Bruges.
  • Another Emeritus Bishop, Thomas Dupre, resigned his post in the Springfield, Mass., diocese and immediately checked into St. Luke Institute, a Maryland church hospital specializing in treatment of clergy pedophiles. In 2008 the diocese paid undisclosed sums to two men Dupre had abused as youths, as part of a $4.5 million settlement with 59 victims of other priests. “Dupre contributed some of his own money for the payments,” the Springfield Republican reported, “but officials would not say how much. The Springfield diocese “has no information on Dupre, who has not been bishop here in years,” spokesman Mark Dupont told NCR. A priest of the diocese with detailed knowledge of Dupre and his victims told NCR on background that Dupre is still at St. Luke hospital, going on 10 years.
  • Bishop Keith Symons resigned his position in Palm Beach, Fla. in 1998, admitting to sexual relations with altar boys in his past. A year later he was leading spiritual retreats in the Lansing, Mich. diocese. The Sun-Sentinel newspaper, citing an interview with a spokeswoman for the national bishops’ conference, reported that “bishops do have to make formal requests to the Vatican Congregation for Bishops to re-enter ministry. A bishop would have to ‘explain he was seeking an assignment, why he feels he’d be ready for it, what kind of treatment he’d undergone, those kinds of things.’ ” Symons is listed as an Emeritus Bishop by the hierarchy website, with no indication of where he is. (Symons’ successor, Bishop Anthony O’Connell, resigned three and a half years later during the media firestorm of 2002 over clergy abuse, admitting to a sexual relationship with a seminarian years earlier. His victim received a settlement. O’Connell retired to a South Carolina monastery; he died in 2012, Bishop Emeritus.)
  • Emeritus Bishop Daniel Ryan, 84, stepped down as leader of Springfield, Ill., diocese in 1999 as lawyers announced the filing of lawsuits on behalf of young men Ryan sexually victimized as youths. He moved into a house purchased by the diocese, which paid settlements with its insurance carriers to several men who sued him. “Ryan’s misconduct was reported to the Vatican,” Attorney Stephen J. Rubino, who worked on the cases, told NCR. “Ryan is like Frank Rodimer — Rome just let him go into the weeds.”
  • Emeritus Bishop Frank Rodimer of Paterson, N.J., was not accused of abuse; but his negligence was arguably the most glaring of any bishop to be reported. Rodimer owned a beach house on the New Jersey shore with a Camden priest, Peter Osinski. Starting in 1984, Osinski brought a guest, a boy whose family he had befriended. For 12 summers, Osinski and the boy slept in a room down the hall from Rodimer. The boy grew up and filed charges. Osinski went to prison. Rubino sued Rodimer on behalf of the victim for failure to stop Osinski. The bishop paid a settlement of $250,000 with Paterson diocesan funds. Rodimer retired to a home provided by the church.
  • Two bishops from Chile, besides Contreras, are under a cloud. The Vatican conducted an investigation of Bishop Marcos Ordenes of Iquique, Chile, for allegedly abusing teenage boys, according to press reports. Ordenes resigned in 2012; his whereabouts are unknown.
  • Archbishop Gonzalo Duarte of Valparaiso, and several priests from the seminary, have been accused in a civil lawsuit of having sex with adolescent seminarians.   (source)

 

Catholic Family Planning and Exponential Population Growth

Catholic Family Planning and Exponential Population Growth

aaronemma200xAaron Milavec  (blog)

Given the exponential growth in the world population, the question naturally emerged in 1968 as to whether unchecked human growth is sustainable during the next hundred or two hundred years.

WorldPopulationGrowth2050

Many dismissed this on the grounds that there was ample space for housing developments nearly everywhere (even in Hong Kong); hence, the earth could easily sustain two to three times our present population. Pope Pius VI in Humanae Vitae agreed with this optimistic view of the future.

But now we know what we could not know in 1968. Four points and a conclusion:

ee2#1 According to the United Nations, one in every five humans depends on fish as the primary source of protein. (United Nations, 2004) On the other hand, marine ecologists fear that the biggest single threat to marine ecosystems today is overfishing. Our appetite for fish is exceeding the oceans’ ecological limits with devastating impacts on marine ecosystems. The cod fisheries off Newfoundland, Canada, collapsed in 1992, leading to the loss of some 40,000 jobs in the industry. The cod stocks in the North Sea and Baltic Sea are now heading the same way and are close to complete collapse. As population grows, the pressure for more and more effective fishing increases, and no government can, in conscience, limit the growth of industrial fishing so that sustainability can again be achieved. For this crime, we and our children’s children will suffer. . . .

oilpricegraph#2 The story for oil shows exactly the same phenomena. Recently developing countries like India and China are legitimately moving toward increased industrialization to feed, clothe, and house their teeming populations. Meanwhile, the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) 2010 World Energy Outlook estimated that conventional crude oil production has peaked and is depleting at 6.8% per year. US Joint Forces Command’s Joint Operating Environment 2010 issued this warning to all US military commands: “By 2012, surplus oil production capacity could entirely disappear, and as early as 2015, the shortfall in output could reach nearly 10 million barrels per day.” (www) So no government is currently rationing oil products; rather, every nation is trying to out-produce everyone else so that their people can enjoy the luxurious lifestyle that manufactured goods promise. But who is speaking for those who will be living when the industrialized landscape has to begin shutting down due to oil depletion? For this crime, our children’s children will suffer. . . .

#3 Governments have admitted that acid rain is a serious international environmental problem and many countries have taken steps to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions into the atmosphere. But air pollution does not stop at national boundaries. As the industrialization of India and China moves into high gear, this pollution produces smog in their cities. This is the immediate effect. Meanwhile, these invisible poison gases enter the atmosphere and, much later, forests and fish living thousands of miles away are put at risk due to the falling of acid rain. Some of the most dramatic effects on forests have been observed in Europe. In 1983, a survey in West Germany showed that 34% of the country’s total forest is damaged by air pollution. This included about one half of the famous Black Forest. Switzerland, despite its careful management of its forest reserves, has recorded damage to 14% of her forest trees due to the pollution that originates outside its borders. For this crime, we and our children’s children will suffer. . . .

graphC02#4 Finally, scientists can measure climate change by studying the levels of CO2 in our atmosphere. As the atmospheric CO2 goes above 350 parts per million by volume, scientists have recorded the melting of ice sheets, rising sea level, abrupt shifts in forest and agricultural land, and increasing intensity and frequency of extreme events like floods, wildfires, and heat waves. But who is speaking up for the planet earth and the limitations on the CO2 levels that it can safely absorb? For this crime, we and our children’s children will suffer. . . .

Conclusion:

So now, in view of what we now know, what should be our reaction to the “family planning” proposed by Pope Francis in the leading question that he offers us for our consideration:

Question 7 f. How can a more open attitude towards having children be fostered? How can an increase in births be promoted?

This question make my blood boil! The world population at the time when Humanae Vitae was published was 3.5 billion. Today’s world population is 7.2 billion. This is more than double. Let’s face it. Our Mother Earth CANNOT SUSTAIN another fifty years of reckless population growth.

Here is the question that a prophetic Francis  should be asking:

Question 7 f. How can a more open attitude towards childless couples be fostered? How can an decrease in births be promoted?

Not to make this change NOW is to blindly continue to disrupt the ecosystems of our dear home and planet. It is to put our entire future at risk. For this crime, we and our children’s children will suffer beyond all measure. . . .

Einstein.worlddestroyed“Our ethical traditions know how to deal with suicide, homicide and even genocide, but these traditions collapse entirely when confronted with biocide, the killing of the life systems of the earth, and geocide, the devastation of the earth itself.”  ~~Thomas Berry

CELIBACY as the MAIN REASON for the LACK OF VOCATIONS

IS CELIBACY A MAIN REASON FOR THE LACK OF VOCATIONS?

Michael H. Crosby, OFMCap.

Human Development 32.2 (Summer, 2011), 30-33

MichaelCrosbyI believe one simple reason explains why fewer candidates now are joining the mainline non-clerical groups of men’s and women’s congregations in countries like ours. My conviction has little or nothing to do with the assumptions that seem to underlie the kind of questions being asked by the Vatican investigators of women religious in the United States and Ireland. On the contrary. When one looks at demographics from places like the U.S. and Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and the U.K., Ireland and Western Europe, the lack of vocations to such groups ultimately involves one thing and one thing only: celibacy. Simply stated: the average person desiring to prayerfully serve God in some kind of permanent ministry can do so without being celibate.

This represents a relatively new phenomenon in the Roman Catholic Church; as a result its influence on young peoples’ conscious and unconscious decision-making involving celibacy is not being considered to the degree it should.

My experience of +50 years as a Capuchin Franciscan reveals that celibacy was the stated reason why we lost such large numbers in the wake of the Second Vatican Council. Furthermore, at least in economically developed countries like the U.S.A., I believe it will remain the main reason why the congregations of women and men founded since the French Revolution will continue aging with lesser and lesser vocations. As I noted in my opening paragraph, those who would have been likely candidates in the past now are finding groups with whom they can pray and minister without having to be expected to remain celibate for the rest of their lives. As the saying goes vis-à-vis ministry in the church and celibacy, they now can have their cake and eat it too.

In the past I have written on mandated celibacy, especially among men. In this article I want to discuss the celibacy-based reasons why non-clerical groups of wo/men in the economically developed nations will not witness any upswing in vocations for the foreseeable future, if ever. I base my conclusions on various factors: scriptural, theological, cultural and practical

1. There is no clear scriptural foundation for any “call” to celibacy.

No less a scriptural authority than Paul himself declared that, when it came to any follower of Christ remaining a virgin, he had “no command of the Lord” (1 Cor 7:25). Furthermore, in giving his “opinion” on the matter, his conclusion was based on a faulty assumption: that the parousia was inevitable. For this reason, he argued, people should be intent on preparing for Christ’s imminent return rather than being preoccupied with relational dynamics around marriage.

The other key scriptural passage traditionally used as a rationale for celibacy in the church comes from Matthew 19. The context is Jesus’ stance on the only option available to the aggrieved party in a divorce. Assuming the marriage was valid, we have come to interpret that “difficult” passage to say that such people cannot remarry. Indeed this passage remains the key scriptural argument as to why the Roman Church insists that only if a marriage is determined to be invalid can either party be free to remarry.

Without a clear evangelical “call” to religious life in its present celibate expression, some have stressed the notion of celibacy as a “charism” in the church. But, again, there is no such place in the scriptures where charisms are discussed (such as the key texts in Romans 12 or 1 Corinthians 12) that we find any mention of celibacy.

In a wider or extended sense of such scripture passages one can (and should, I believe) apply to celibacy both the rationale for 1 Cor 7 (i.e., “waiting on the coming of the Lord”) and Matt 19 (“making oneself an eunuch for the kingdom”). However, this must be done aware of the fact that any study of the purpose of celibacy at the time of Jesus makes it clear that it had no value in itself except when practiced temporarily. And then it was discussed as something done by men. Thus soldiers and priests were to refrain from sexual activity before battle and before offering the sacrifice.

Other efforts to point to the scriptures in support of permanent celibacy cannot be sustained by deeper unbiased arguments, including the argument from silence that Jesus was a celibate, although I believe this to be the case. What he may have accepted or even embraced for himself was not something he considered important enough to be promoted in any way. Furthermore, the “leaving” father and mother and livelihood passages that are applied to discipleship refer to discipleship, not sexual/genital relationships. In this case Peter himself, who “left all” to follow Jesus, never left his wife.

Simply put, celibacy in the permanent form it has taken in religious congregations has no clear scriptural basis. Indeed to be celibate was not normal; thus it never was normative, much less made a norm.

As it was “in the beginning,” so now, the basic reason as to why celibacy is not “normal” comes from a definite scriptural assumption: “it is not good . . . to be alone” in such a way. It is not without reason that, given this tradition stressing marriage for all women, that Jephthah’s daughter, knowing her impending death, went into the desert to “bewail” her virginity (Judges 11:37).

2. Given the weak scriptural foundation for celibacy, its theological basis is equally weak.

From the earliest days of the church evidence reveals individual women who were called “virgins” and “widows.” The data whether or why they may (not) have remained so permanently does not seem to be that undisputed. In addition, only with the rise of the third-century coenobitical groups do we find a communal dimension highlighted and, when it appears, most often, this communal expression involves men, although we do find some ammas along with the abbas.

As religious life evolved, especially in the non-cloistered, apostolic form that arose during the last 500 years, two main theological assumptions buttressed its appeal to potential candidates, especially women. Besides being free of the direct day-to-day demands of a man, such women could serve God apostolically, convinced that such apostolic service made them unique among other women. This assumption—again being resurrected by more traditionalist groups and ideologies–has little current theological currency.

Any theological basis distinguishing between the communally-celibate expression of baptism and that of any other baptized Catholic was dissipated by two key teachings of the Second Vatican Council. First, the previous assumption about “states of perfection” that represented a kind of hierarchy of holiness was undermined by Lumen Gentium’s “universal call to holiness.” (Given this, it is interested to listen to recent discussions in more conservative circles about various “states in life;” such talk seems to represent a hankering for the earlier ideology and practices connected to the “states of perfection”).        The second factor arising from Vatican II involved the theological understanding that, rather than having a “call” to some certain apostolate in the church, baptism itself became recognized as the one call to witness to the Gospel with many apostolic expressions (male and female, single and married, celibate and non-celibate). Now every baptized person is called to witness to the gospel in whatever they do.

3. The wider cultural underpinnings for celibacy are weakening, if not already gone.

In many countries, including the United States and Canada, until the “sexual revolution” of the mid-to-late 1960s, sex was seldom discussed opening; it was protected. Something only intimated. However, often with appeals to the First Amendment, “freedom of expression” became increasingly linked with freedom of sexual expression, without boundaries. In generations since the ‘60s, what once was not culturally tolerated except for late night television seems de rigueur even on “family hour” television. Now any sexual and genital innuendo has become quite explicit to the point of a kind of non-critical form of promiscuity whether it is in the soft-porn advertising for Abercrombie and Fitch or the easy availability of hard-core pornography itself. Just ask any priest hearing confessions as to the increase in those confessing addictive-type behaviors related to watching pornography. Or ask the real reason why many formators of postulants, novices and those in temporary vows (at least in men’s congregations) have found it necessary to put blockers on house computers.

Most religious women (or men) over 60 will tell you that they never really considered celibacy as a critical component when they made their decision to enter religious life or make perpetual commitment in it. It simply came with the package and the package, for them, was mainly about doing something apostolic. Their goal was to “do something” apostolic; only later did they realize celibacy was about “being something” quite different. And, oftentimes, through many mistakes and sins, they were able to begin to “make themselves so” for the sake of the kingdom noted in Matthew 19.

Proponents of a more culturally conservative form of Catholicism will point to the the relatively large numbers in some of the very traditional forms of religious life that are identified with specific apostolic activities (often episcopally sanctioned and supported), unquestioning acceptance of Vatican decrees, with members who live communally strict hour plans, including daily Mass and prayer. They do not recognized that now, as in the past, celibacy is still too often “part of the package” that can be handled because one’s identity disassociates (at least for a while) one’s sexual drives from other drives such as power and prestige for being part of such groups—at least among those who identify with a patriarchal, clerical form of Catholicism. Furthermore, some of these groups, notably in my case as a Capuchin, the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, have had great success in appealing to the youth-market with their various rallies and seminars and have very savvy expertise in the internet and other forms of mass media communication not enjoyed by many other groups.

However, those touting the “success” of such groups that fit into a more conservative form of patriarchal and clerical Catholicism do not note that these tend to be, with some notable exceptions like the Nashville Dominicans, newer expressions of the older forms of apostolic religious life. If this were not so, then one must ask why some of the equally traditional groups, like the Little Sisters of the Poor or Hawthorne Dominicans, are diminishing as rapidly as are their mainline equivalents. This data raises the question about the “pool” of potential candidates for religious life and my final point.

4. The practical reasons for celibacy are less and less convincing.

Recently I had conversations with several people working with young Catholic adults aware of “trends” among them. Consistently they pointed to polls showing that  Indeed only 15% of this cohort are attracted to such forms. If this be so, it follows that the existing groups that are more traditional (such as those noted above) will continue to attract such people, but they will not be the norm; they will appeal merely to the 15% of Catholics who are seeking such a patriarchal, clerical form of religious life—including women willing to submit to it for all sorts of reasons too complex to address here.

So, then, what is the “norm” for the wider cohort of younger Catholics who previously might have felt “called” to those forms of religious life that were reinforced by once never-challenged assumptions that made candidates then think that they were scripturally, theologically and culturally unique?

Simple stated, these young people are finding prayer groups and other such faith-based supports to help them sustain their various ministries. For many, seeking temporary expressions, they find such in Teach for America, JVC and my own Province’s CapCorps, and other volunteer programs like the Catholic Workers. And for those of them that want to spend their foreseeable futures in full-time apostolic activity, they have found outlets that allow them to fulfill their dreams without having to commit to life-long celibacy. Some of these are found among movemental groups like the Focolari and Communion and Liberation (to say nothing of the more patriarchally conservative groups like Opus Dei).

A good example of this shift comes from the demographics revealing the largest source of lay ministers in the United States: the religious studies programs in college after college. The Institute of Pastoral Studies at Loyola University in Chicago is one such example. Founded almost 50 years ago, it once served mainly women religious. Now its student base is mainly lay, with the number of young adults increasing each year. Just this summer, teaching there, among my class of 20, I had at least 5 young IPS students. These were the “candidates” of yesterday who would have been open to consider progressive forms of religious life today but now they know they pray and minister with others without needing to remain celibate.

Given the above, I think it is safe to conclude that the days of huge numbers of people in non-clerical forms of religious life have ended. I don’t think that this change has occurred because religious congregations are too liberal or too questioning of the Vatican. They have done nothing wrong (as many believe to be the case in the Vatican Inquiry); they are simply the faithful remnant of an era that honored celibacy in a way that will not likely come again. While I believe some life-long communal forms of celibacy will remain, I think that among men, most candidates will go to the clerical groups and not the communities of brothers. For the women, especially the mainline groups, candidates will be fewer and far between.

 

Michael Crosby, OFMCap. is celebrating his Golden Jubilee as a Capuchin Franciscan this year. He has authored many books, including Rethinking Celibacy: Reclaiming the Church. His website is www.michaelcrosby.net.

More  Resources:

Priests talking about celibacy
The Tradition of Abusive Dishonesty
The Trouble with Celibacy in Africa
When a Priest Falls in Love