Friday, April 30, 2010

Amazing Article

This is so on target, I want to post the whole thing:

The Passive People of God
April 30th, 2010
by Mark Johnson

The Church is under siege, or so it would seem, with the dark mutterings that ‘secularist’ media are intent upon casting mud at us whenever it can; leaked ‘brain storming’ sessions of minor British bureaucrats depicted as revealing the sinister gaze in which the Vatican and the papacy is held by the British government; a world in which razor sharp gossip and bullet-like chatter prompt declarations of allegiance to Pope Benedict xvi from various curial quarters (and others). In response to this encircling finger pointing we Catholics are told that we are all in it together, or that the episcopate is exhorted to ‘reform’, or that celibacy is to blame, or rather a dysfunctional lace sowing hierarchy, or a cabal of Vatican 2 inspired leftist, liberal, Marxist, guitar strumming, liturgically autistic, homosexual, ‘filth’. Letters, apologies, penances, gaffes, admonishments, each and all are flying from one spectrum of the People of God to the other.

But what is it that is at the heart of this entire tornado like rending and gnashing? This question is not to dismiss in the slightest the dark heart of sexual and structural abuse, which has triggered the afore-listed scenarios. There are very real questions to be answered. There is accountability to be held. Rather, the sexual abuse crisis has significance on another front, and this is what lies under the blame and counter blame, the increasing shrillness, and yes, the confusion. That other front is the question of identity. Who are we as ‘Catholics’? Who are we as ‘Church’? Who are we when so much recent effort has been poured into defending, not just the ‘good name’ of the Church, but also specifically the status of the papacy itself, and the character of the one currently holding that office?

I want to suggest that the current siege mentality that has too largely typified reaction to the assorted demands for accountability, whether gleefully malicious or sincere, is the result of a crippling distortion of the very idea of Church, a narrowing of the expansiveness of the People of God to a brittle and self-proclaiming interest group. The cultivation of such a shrunken idea of Church is typified by insecurity, defensiveness, secrecy, and exclusion. So how has this development manifested in concrete? Here I would like to identify two manifestations of the same problem.

Firstly the creation of a monarchical papacy toward which anger has become focused, and behind which the Church has become increasingly lack-lustre and immature in its cultivated dependence.
The papacy has become the Church. Collegial interdependence of regional synods eroded. Special interest groups which pepper our experience of local Church repeatedly ignoring the local Body of Christ and dealing directly with a centralised authority structure. I could go on, but we are all familiar with the pattern. So what does such a re-ordering of Church say about us? How does this define not only our experience of Church, but also our identity as Church? Is this why the media is dominated with those forces arrayed against Pope Benedict in fierce confrontation with those supporting him? Has it all become about Pope Benedict? As Catholics are we mere avatars of a central figure, that figure requiring and summoning our defence? The increasing fervour of the reaction and counter reaction that is resulting from the sexual abuse crisis is symptomatic of the fragility of how one model of identity, a shrunken model, one always too small for its ambitions, is now stretched so tight that the strain is reverberating around the globe.

The second aspect of the problem manifesting in concrete may surprise many, my suggestion of it is not to impugn the integrity with which its advocates laud it. There have been two recent examples of it; one that displayed by Professor Hans Kung, and the other by retired bishop Geoffrey Robinson. Both Hans Kung, in his open letter to bishops dated April 16, 2010, and Geoffrey Robinson in his recent interview concerning the need for bishops to revise the need for celibacy, appeals to the episcopacy to initiate and achieve reform. Of course such an appeal to the collegiality of bishops for reform is in harmony with the vision of Vatican 2, and with apostolic tradition, but what does this say to the wider People of God? What does this say about Church? Is the Catholic identity one of a trickle down effect, or of a widespread passivity whilst waiting for the possibility of initiative from men largely selected for a lack of initiative? Does the sense of structural impotence add to the outrage?

So long as the Church allows itself to continue to be defined by notions foreign to its inherent prophetic and Incarnational character, to be constructed and reconstructed so to serve the interests of the few, and to only speak the monotonic words of passivity and respectability, the shrillness will continue. The Church is more than what it has been made to become, and maybe, just maybe, we will see within the barrage of justified accusation and outrage that is being hurled at what we have become, the pain filled cry of a world that needs us to be that witness so long ago proclaimed by Jesus of Nazareth.
I especially loved this: "Is the Catholic identity one of a trickle down effect, or of a widespread passivity whilst waiting for the possibility of initiative from men largely selected for a lack of initiative? Does the sense of structural impotence add to the outrage?" and the part about how the institution has become "increasingly lack-lustre and immature in its cultivated dependence."

That's exactly it! I've been looking for a way to say this for awhile: this crisis isn't about the abuse or even the cover-up anymore; that's just the flash-point, the excuse or occasion which people are using (on either side) to express deep-seated insecurities and ambivalences because there is no ordinary legitimate outlet for it in the Church.

It's about this sense of, as he says, "structural impotence." About the frustration of powerlessness and disenfranchisement among the laity and even much of the lower clergy, of wanting to see initiative from men who don't have it, who are spineless, only to have those hopes disappointed again and again (whatever those hopes may be).

And it's all centered around the figure of the Pope and the personality cult that has developed around him in the past century and a half.
The conservatives cling to him and defend him somewhat understandably: because he is the only figure left, under the current model, who might be able to initiate something, to whom any sense of agency is still imputed. In a very real sense seemingly the only one who can do anything actively in the Church anymore. It doesn't matter if he's innocent; the problem was never that he might be guilty, really, but rather his non-initiative and the collective action problem which hinges on him.

People have all this energy they are
willing to put into religious projects, that they'd love to try, that they want to dedicate to the Church, but have had to wait for years passively while the hierarchy has stayed the course of the status quo and been a permission-denying No Organization! People's own initiative has been discouraged, crushed really, and their own hopes seemingly banked totally on the whims of just one old man in a white dress thousands of miles away. So, initial enthusiasm has soured into resentment, bitterness, apathy, or even heresy or schism.

Think how many priests had to just wait passively for years for something like Summorum Pontificum to come out, even though they were more than willing (in fact quite enthusiastic about the idea) to say the Old Mass. Think (as I discussed in that Monopoly post) how many people have the entrepreneurial spirit to try to do things better, to put their own ideas (for better or worse) to the test in practice...only to face an organization that is not designed to allow such experimentation or innovation. Think how many men might make better priests but are kept out by the creepy resocializing atmosphere of seminaries and by mandatory celibacy. Think how many mediocre or downright destructive priests stay on staff because of the shortage and the total lack of incentive for bishops to remove them. Think how many bishops are totally lacklustre because they have a cushy position practically guaranteed for life. Think how much obedience is exalted, but then only ever invoked to stop people from rocking the boat, never to actually direct any constructive projects. And think how many Catholics do nothing because they just don't care anymore, because they don't think they can do anything (except complain to each other online).

Imagine if bishops were given local control over...everything, except doctrinal questions. Were allowed to try, in their own dioceses, everything from married priests to different models of seminary formation to different types of liturgy to different structures of priesthood or Catholic community organization. This terrifies the Vatican and the constitutionally conservative personalities now in power, and yet I think we'd see a wonderful evolution. Yes, some projects would fail spectacularly or make the rest of us uncomfortable. But they'd die out, and the good things would succeed and blossom. It's like they don't trust God enough to see that this would be true. It's how organic development happens, as I've discussed before; not top-down, but according to adaptive selection. But there can be no selection if you don't let people adapt.

You have to allow the local dioceses to be the laboratories of experimentation, of new ideas. Good ideas will prosper and spread while bad ideas will die. The problem we have to today is that the liberals aren't afraid to try things without permission (giant puppets and such) but the conservatives feel like they have to wait for the hierarchal green light (which may never come) on every idea that might be positive in the other direction (in other words, the "say the black, do the red" mentality is exactly the problem).

But bishops are picked exactly to be against such an idea. And how do you break that self-perpetuating cycle?

As April Comes to a Close

Well, what a month! My blog posts increased from 7 in December, to 30, 40, 51, and now 90! Don't expect that every month; the crisis really helped to generate content.

I suppose it has been awhile since the Conspiracy was last heard from. So just briefly: we have now had over 5500 visits, 1600 unique visitors, and 12000 unique page-views. The number of visits each day is increasing very slowly but now is around 70 on a normal day. New visits still count for about a third of all visits, which I think is a good balance, and since that proportion has stayed pretty constant while the total number of visits has increased I think that means that some of the new visitors must be returning. As people start to become "regulars" direct traffic has increased (meaning people just type in the URL) as opposed to referrals, though there are a good number of sites that have linked to us now. People have visited from 50 different countries on every continent, and we have almost 50 people in the facebook group.

Thanks for your support! Always feel free to comment, or email me with questions, comments, or suggestions for posts!

Thursday, April 29, 2010


I knew this was what they wanted, and now it has happened. And yet they think they can get away with anything...

Contrasts: Part II

True and beautiful inculturation:

(the image is from Cardinal Zen's TLM in Hong Kong...)

Contrasts: Part I

True native local rites and traditions:

I could see the argument from the sheer inertia of tradition if there was a continuous practice of the Old Rite in (in this case) Sri Lanka. But, the fact is, it's been the Novus Ordo for 40 years now. So, at this point, if we're going to have to "restore" something either way...they might as well take that opportunity, that fresh slate as it were, to restore a Syro-Indian rite proper to that geographic patriarchate (which it always should have had), and not some medieval European colonial thing...


To identify a solution, sometimes it is best to imagine an ideal and then see how much of it can be realistically achieved. Let's imagine for a minute a hypothetical where we could design an organization most optimized for influencing the world for the better, for transforming society. What would we want in such an organization?

Well, it would need to be big; let's imagine that this organization that encompasses one-sixth of the world's population, over a billion members. That it has a headquarters and real estate in every city in the West, and even just in many small towns all over the world. That it has an established system of government, a clear chain-of-command already in place. That it has a high profile and almost unlimited contacts and connections in society even among non-members. And, for good measure, let's even say that the incentives it has at its disposal to motivate members are infinite rewards or eternal punishment.

If such an organization existed, it would probably have been able to do something about abortion by now. At the very least, I don't think it would fear repercussions for kicking out members who supported it.

It's a shame the Church can't have all those incredible advantages like our hypothetical ideal organization.

Oh, wait...

Article on the Crisis and Celibacy

From an article I found:
Technicalities aside, however, actually to broach celibacy would raise internal political and authority issues practically on a par with heresy debates like Galileo’s claim that Earth revolves around the sun: If changed, analysts say, it would open up painful questions about why, for hundreds of years, millions of priests were required to forgo families. It would shake up an all-male hierarchy and tradition. It would also challenge an often unspoken sensibility in parts of the church that males willing to forgo sex and family in devotion to church puts them in a higher or more heavenly category than others.

Inside the current crisis, argues Andrew Brown in the Guardian, the culture of celibacy reinforces a lack of transparency: “Many people blame celibacy for Catholic sexual abuse. But it's much more likely to have played a role in the coverup."

A senior church official in Munich who has dealt with abuse in Bavaria, and who did not want to be identified, agrees. He argues that celibacy contributes to a pattern of manipulation among abusers that know who each other are, and who “embed themselves” in the system and play off its weaknesses, especially in cover ups.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Well, Certainly Creative

A bookie is sponsoring a confessional in exchange for advertisement on the confessional door.

Flailing on the Ropes

From here:
In many ways, the scandal rocking Arapiraca feels like a backwater version of the Catholic Church’s larger crisis, its secrets and lies even darker, its coverups even more inept. Priests accusing the alleged victims of blackmail, using Latin psalms to talk around child-abuse charges, and defending the incidents as sex between consenting adults (even though gay sex is forbidden by the Catholic Church.) No wonder this institution is flailing on the ropes.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

"Open To Discussing"

Then by all means, let's sit down and discuss it:

"The Roman Catholic Church is open to discussing whether priests must remain celibate, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican’s second-in-command, told Spain’s channel TV3 in an interview."

Monday, April 26, 2010

Cardinal Brady Should Resign

Now. I'm just promoting this Facebook group with that goal. It shouldn't matter that liberals join it too or that they might post some liberal things. The cause in itself is sound. This is common ground we can have with them, a cause almost everyone on earth can get behind. Join this group and ask your friends to do so also:!/group.php?gid=365011283756


“The gods of Hinduism are not the same as the orishas of Yoruba religion or the immortals of Daoism. To pretend that they are is to refuse to take seriously the beliefs and practices of ordinary religious folk who for centuries have had no problem distinguishing the Nicene Creed of Christianity from the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism from the Shahadah of Islam. It is also to lose sight of the unique beauty of each of the world’s religions. But this lumping of the world’s religions into one megareligion is not just false and condescending, it is also a threat. How can we make sense of the ongoing conflict in Kashmir if we pretend that Hinduism and Islam are one and the same? Or of the impasse in the Middle East, if we pretend that there are no fundamental disagreements between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam?”

Sunday, April 25, 2010

An Interesting Speech

This goes back to some things I've said about Catholic-Orthodox reunion and how I've come to understand that I could accept the Orthodox wholesale today, without any changes on their part, if only they could likewise accept us without any changes on our part either:

"The Ratzinger Proposal refers to a speech made by then-Father Joseph Ratzinger in 1976 which was included in his book “Principles of Catholic Theology” published by Ignatius Press in 1987. In the speech, he proposed the following, which is very similar to Archbishop’s Zoghby’s profession (emphasis added):

Certainly, no one who claims allegiance to Catholic theology can simply declare the doctrine of primacy null and void, especially not if he seeks to understand the objections and evaluates with an open mind the relative weight of what can be determined historically. Nor is it possible, on the other hand, for him to regard as the only possible form and, consequently, as binding on all Christians the form this primacy has taken in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries…Although it is not given us to halt the flight of history, to change the course of centuries, we may say, nevertheless, that what was possible for a thousand years is not impossible for Christians today. After all, Cardinal Humbert of Silva Candida, in the same bull in which he excommunicated the Patriarch Michael Cerularius and thus inaugurated the schism between East and West, designated the Emperor and people of Constantinople as “very Christian and orthodox”, although their concept of the Roman primacy was certainly far less different from that of Cerularius than from that, let us say, of the First Vatican Council. In other words, Rome must not require more from the East with respect to the doctrine of primacy than had been formulated and was lived in the first millennium. When the Patriarch Athenagoras, on July 25, 1967, on the occasion of the Pope’s visit to Phanar, designated him as the successor of St. Peter, as the most esteemed among us, as one also presides in charity, this great Church leader was expressing the essential content of the doctrine of primacy as it was known in the first millennium. Rome need not ask for more. Reunion could take place in this context if, on the one hand, the East would cease to oppose as heretical the developments that took place in the West in the second millennium and would accept the Catholic Church as legitimate and orthodox in the form she had acquired in the course of that development, while, on the other hand, the West would recognize the Church of the East as orthodox and legitimate in the form she has always had."

The Dangers of Monopoly

I'm no big capitalist, but it is clear that competition forces organizations to be more efficient, to provide better services, to be responsive to the consumers, and to adapt fast when things aren't working.

Perhaps one of the things that is so frustrating about the current situation in the Church is the feeling that I (and many people I know, and many people I merely know of) could do such a better job running a parish or a diocese if there wasn't, you know, an institutional monopoly on licit ordination and sacraments, with all these strange filters on and bizarre barriers to entry (which sometimes seem to just drive the cream of the crop away while attracting all the wrong sorts).

If this were a crisis in my Protestant denomination, I could easily set up shop somewhere, in a storefront or my house even, and grow from there, establishing new branches in new towns as the ideas became popular, etc. But in the Catholic Church you'll just hear "We aren't Protestant," or "the Church isn't a business" as if proven methods of institutional success (which have been applied to public schools even, to great success) for some reason should never be considered in place of the Church's centralized bureaucratic structure.

In the Catholic Church, however, there is no such potential for competition under the current model. Sure, other denominations and religions "compete" with the Church in some sense (Latin America is hemorrhaging to the Evangelicals) and there are all sorts of schismatic groups both trad and liberal, Old Catholic, Polish National Catholic, sedevacantists, etc. But, ultimately, the Catholic Church has an exclusive truth claim, and so people convinced of that are not going to go anywhere outside the bounds of the one official institution.

There may be some competition among parishes in an area, but generally things are designed to avoid that. At this point Catholics are so apathetic that most don't care to "parish shop" even though it is now allowed, they just go to whatever the nearest parish is, and explicit "poaching" is certainly strongly frowned upon. The idea that a new order could set up shop in a town and "compete" with the local geographical parish in an adversarial fashion would be considered anathema. Usually new groups are just assigned to take over old parishes, not to compete with them.

Part of the reason why there was such a strong reaction against the Mendicant Orders initially was the very real way in which they competed with the diocesan clergy and old monasteries and provided a viable alternative for people to turn to within the bounds of the Church. In the end though, they did in some ways force the rest of the clergy to shape up in order to compete successfully, though much of this effect was sadly blunted by coercive regulations (like requiring people to attend their geographical parish, limiting faculties for the mendicants, etc).

It's just so frustrating. In any other "industry" I could look at the situation, see that there is a major (read: almost total) lack of quality, see that there is widespread dissatisfaction among the consumers, bet that my own ideas and God-given skills and talents could be competitive in such an environment, and become an entrepreneur. Just in this case success wouldn't be measured in financial profits (though solvency at least would be nice). But in this situation, all I can do is watch in horror as they don't listen, stay the course of incompetent apathetic mediocrity, and keep driving this amazing institution, with all its immense potential and infrastructure already in place, into the ground, onto the rocks, squandering all their capital.

If priests were more like licensed contractors, they could start their own ministries (which would be allowed to naturally succeed or fail; you'll know them by their fruits), make a presentation to convince the bishop to let them take over failing parish, etc. They're shooting themselves in the foot by remaining a No Organization.

Wouldn't it be nice if a bishop pulled some strings and was able to say to a group of us, "You've got seven years. I've arranged for you to go through all the ordinations in the Old Rite. You'll have faculties to do whatever you want anywhere in the diocese, including to have Mass anywhere on a portable altar if need be. You'll have to provide for yourself financially, but I've instructed all churches in the dioceses that they must let you say Mass and hold services and set up ministries in their buildings during otherwise free times. At anytime I can suspend everything and return you to just the status of lay people, and at the end of seven years, we'll see if this is a success." Do a criminal background check and a psych evaluation no less strict than public schools give their teachers, establish orthodoxy...and then let us loose. They risk nothing but our success (I'm sure Satanists who want to have a valid Black Mass already have no problem approaching illicit lines of ordination). And yet it's exactly our success that I get the sense they would be afraid of.

Sigh. A guy can dream. But at that point I might as well dream that, rather than a bishop making us priests with 7 years to prove ourselves, the Vatican
would do the same thing except with some of us as bishops with free reign to try new models (including married priests) in whole dioceses for a set term. The former is really no less unrealistic unfortunately...

Double Standard Much?

So, the British civil servant who released the joke-memo about the Pope is going to keep his job it was reported today.

But not everyone was happy about this:

"The individual responsible has been transferred to other duties. He has accepted that this was a serious error of judgment.

"But we will not be naming him. It was a genuine mistake and he is contrite about it."

Vatican sources hinted that moving this official "sideways" was not enough.

One said: "What if this memo had been written about another head of state or the Chief Rabbi or a senior Muslim cleric?

"The punishment would certainly have been harsher - but as it's the Pope he is being treated as a figure of fun."

So the Vatican expects a civil official who simply makes some intra-office jokes about the Pope to be fired immediately...but then won't remove any bishops for covering-up child abuse, waited years to laicize child abusers themselves, and balk at the idea that they should be blamed for not acting decisively enough in this recent crisis. Riiiiiiggghhtt...that makes a lot of sense. That's very consistent.

Who the hell do these creepy old men in Rome think they are? They seem to understand that, in politics, even innocent gaffes (who among us hasn't made a joke about the Pope before?) result in major consequences if they go public, that people often take the fall in the face of public outrage even if it was just a mistake or is over-reaction.

The British Foreign Office released it's apology so quickly. Just over some silly little jokes! And yet the Vatican doesn't seem to think it's enough, even while apparently thinking that their own organization is totally exempt from that same principle. Even when the crime in question is almost infinitely more grave, they drag their feet and don't act or even say much substantial for ages.


Saturday, April 24, 2010

Throwing Your Vote Away?

Catholics often feel pressured to vote Republican in elections, instead of for Third Parties, because the Third Party "has no chance" of winning. And so a vote for them is said to be "throwing your vote away," equivalent to giving a one vote advantage to the pro-abortion candidate that otherwise could have been "canceled out" by a vote for the Republicans.

And, I admit, I've followed this logic in the past, in all the elections I've voted in so far. And when there is a close race where a pro-life Republican has a real chance of beating the pro-abortion Democrat, I'd have to say it is sound logic.

But then there are cases like the 2008 presidential election. It became quite apparent days or even weeks in advance...that John McCain had no chance of winning. And at that point...why is voting for him any less "throwing your vote away" than for a Third Party candidate?

A viable Third Party is never going to get off the ground if no one ever votes for them out of fear of "throwing their vote away" or of implicitly giving pro-abortion candidates the advantage.

As I said, in close races where the pro-life candidate really does have a chance, I think you're bound to vote for him. But I see two ways that Third Parties could get a leg-up.

The first is to vote for them in races which aren't close. As a vote of no-confidence in the Republicans. If it is clear that the Republicans won't win anyway (as it was in this past presidential election) then feel free to vote for a Third Party candidate.

The second is that the bishops should probably stop being so cowardly and apolitical and throw their support behind an official "Catholic Party" or something like (maybe we'd need a name a bit more appealing to the Protestant Right as well) that and "encourage" Catholics to vote for it, at least in elections where "vote splitting" won't be a problem; and it wouldn't necessarily be. As it is not only former Republican voters I could imagine joining such a platform, but also former Democratic voters, the blue-collar crowd who like their economic policies but are uncomfortable with their liberal social stances. There is a large group in the middle there that really have much more in common with each other than with the political orthodoxy of either of their own parties.

"Nothing to Hide"?

Okay, but do they understand what achieving this requires? It can't just be empty promises or simply decreed-from-on-high attitude changes. The reasons these things existed in the first place are structural:
The Roman Catholic Church, embroiled in scandal over waves of paedophile priest scandals, must show it has "nothing to hide," the Vatican spokesman said Saturday.

"This is the time for truth, transparency and credibility," Federico Lombardi said at a conference on digital communication.

"Secrecy and discretion are not values that serve the majority," he said, Italian news agencies reported. "We need to be in a position to say we have nothing to hide."

As long as there is a facade of "mandatory" celibacy, however, the hierarchy will have something to hide.

As I've said before, the cover-ups were specifically cover-ups about sex. The types of things covered-up indicate that they weren't just trying to save the Church's public image in general (there are lots of bad Catholics and everyone knows it)...but specifically the illusion of the clergy as chaste.

And you're not going to have transparency as long as seminarians are formed in such an environment that their primary socialization is with other seminarians. That is bound by nature to create a relatively closed society among the clergy and distance them from the laity.

If you have nothing to hide, then why keep such a tight leash on seminarians? Why not let priests have families? To be honest, all these controls on priests' interpersonal relationships make it seem like you're trying to hide something...

Friday, April 23, 2010


I'm known to have a distaste for humanities academia and the alleged "research" that goes on involving no new discovery of new sources, or any scientific statistical word analysis even, just selectively quoting already picked-over texts to prove subtle points that aren't important anyway and which can never be known with any sort of certainty.

I was reading the wikipedia article on Harold Bloom and found something I like:
His position is that politics have no place in literary criticism: a feminist or Marxist reading of Hamlet would tell us something about feminism and Marxism but probably nothing about Hamlet itself.
Frankly, I think that's true of most "academic" "critical readings" of texts. They'll tell you a lot about the "researcher" himself and the academic fads in place at the time, but little about the text itself beyond mentally masturbatory conjecture, and usually in a register that is both incredibly snooty and boring.

A Great Resource

Bishop's Accountability has a database of priests accused of sexual abuse in the United States:

They Need the Courage to Change
Just under a quarter (24 percent) of people thought child abuse was more common in the Church than it was elsewhere in the community, compared with 14 percent who felt it was less common and 52 percent who believed it was the same.

Exactly half believed there was a link between celibacy and child abuse, while 44 percent said there was no link.

Yet a massive 81 percent believed celibacy for priests should be abolished, compared with just 12 percent who believed it should be kept.

It Is Really Hard Sometimes...

To stay balanced on the question of Palestine/Israel when both sides keep acting like children.

If I had to choose, my own sympathies lie with the Palestinians whose land was taken from them and who have been perpetually oppressed by what is essentially an outpost of Western imperialism...but my real sympathies lie with PEACE.

I'm no fan of Zionism in principle, but I think a two-state solution would be great in practice if there could be peace and justice for all involved. Yes, people's land was taken and horrible things have occurred, but is either land or revenge (for either side) worth ruined lives and broken families and all this toxic hatred?

I might even like to see a "three state" solution with the Christian holy sites given some sort of sovereign extraterritoriality or something like that...

But the way they both keep acting, sometimes it just makes you want to say To Hell With Them Both:

The gingham dog and the calico cat
Side by side on the table sat;
T'was half past twelve, and (what do you think!)
Nor one nor t'other had slept a wink!
The old Dutch clock and the Chinese plate
Appeared to know as sure as fate
There was going to be a terrible spat
(I wasn't there; I simply state
What was told to me by the Chinese plate!)

The gingham dog went "Bow-wow-wow!"

And the calico cat replied "Mee-ow!"

The air was littered, an hour or so,

With bits of gingham and calico,

While the old Dutch clock in the chimney-place

Up with its hands before its face,

For it always dreaded a family row!

(Now mind: I'm only telling you

What the old Dutch clock declares is true!)

The Chinese plate looked very blue,

And wailed, "Oh, dear! what shall we do!"

But the gingham dog and the calico cat

Wallowed this way and tumbled that,

Employing every tooth and claw

In the awfulest way you ever saw--

And oh! How the gingham and calico flew!

(Don't fancy I exaggerate--I got my news from the Chinese plate!)

Next morning, where the two had sat

They found no trace of dog or cat;
And some folks think unto this day
That burglars stole that pair away!
But the truth about that cat and pup
Is this: they ate each other up!
Now what do you really think of that!
(The old Dutch clock it told me so,
And that is how I came to know.)

The Tower of Babel

Lesslie Newbigin called it: "The first great imperial project for human unity, which ends, as all imperialisms, in confusion and alienation."

I'm starting to think Fr. Pfleger was right about one thing, at least: America is the Greatest Sin Against God. The Great Satan, the wounded snake. Like Britain before her, like pagan Rome before that.

"I heard another voice from heaven, saying: Go out from her, my people; that you be not partakers of her sins, and that you receive not of her plagues. For her sins have reached unto heaven, and the Lord hath remembered her iniquities."

And the smoke of her burning shall rise up forever...

It Never Ends

Is anyone even shocked anymore? I can't say I am:

Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, the former prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, has escalated his defense of a policy that protected priests from prosecution for sexual abuse. Meanwhile the National Catholic Reporter has unearthed evidence that Cardinal Castrillon pressured an American bishop to halt disciplinary proceedings against a notorious abuser.

In an April 22 radio interview, Cardinal Castrillon said that he did not regret writing in 2001 to congratulate a French bishop for not informing police about an abusive priest. He said that for a bishop to inform on a priest would be like a father testifying in court against a child. "Why would they ask that of the Church?" he said. [ protect real children].

The Colombian cardinal, who has in the past charged that sex-abuse allegations have been exaggerated by the media, now implied that the victims' pursuit of financial damages had influenced the justice system. He said that bishops who defended accused priests were ensuring that "they were not, due to economic reasons, treated like criminal pedophiles without due process."

Cardinal Castrillon again invoked the authority of the late Pope John Paul II in defense of his attitude, saying "John Paul II, that holy Pope, was not wrong" to defend accused priests. He also said that then-Cardinal Ratzinger was present at a meeting at which the 2001 case in France was discussed, although he did not reveal what position Cardinal Ratzinger took at that meeting. Shortly after Cardinal Castrillon wrote his letter, Cardinal Ratzinger persuaded Pope John Paul II to assign supervision of all abuse cases to his Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

In a related story, the National Catholic Reporter found that Cardinal Castrillon, during his tenure as prefect of the Congregation for Clergy, had urged Bishop Manuel Moreno of Tucson, Arizona, to back away from his plan to suspend a notorious abuser, Father Robert Trupia. Trupia, a trained canon lawyer, had threatened an action for damages against Bishop Moreno if he was stripped of his priestly faculties. Throwing his support behind the accused abuser, Cardinal Castrillon directed Bishop Moreno to reach a mutually amicable settlement with Trupia.

During a long correspondence with Bishop Moreno about his status, Trupia had engaged in implicit blackmail, threatening to disclose his homosexual relationship with a deceased bishop.

He isn't playing the "seal of confession" card anymore, because it has become quite clear that the bishop had other channels of information (including the child's mother). But he still thinks he can use people's (waning) love of John Paul to cloak this all, as if "John Paul said it, and you're not going to question him, are you?" Pathetic.

And this Trupia case sounds really messed up. Blackmail, homosexual relations, child abuse, Vatican pressure to cover up, etc. A prototypical case.

I think I've spoken before about bishops keeping abusive priests because of mutual blackmail. Here is just one concrete example. I am certain many more cases worked like this.

It's looking more and more like this salaried celibate clerical bureaucracy was just the front for a centuries-long secret orgy party, funded by a guilt-tripped and naive laity who kept their "eyes wide shut".

We need volunteer married priests (and the feminine oversight of their wives) now.

Lazarus and Dives

From the final Martin Luther King speech he never got to deliver due to his assassination:
You know, Jesus reminded us in a magnificent parable one day that a man went to Hell because he didn’t see the poor. And his name was Dives. There was a man by the name of Lazarus who came daily to his gate in need of the basic necessities of life. Dives didn’t do anything about it. He ended up going to Hell.

But there is nothing in that parable that says that Dives went to Hell because he was rich. Jesus never made a universal indictment against all wealth. It is true that one day a rich young ruler came before him talking about eternal life. And he advised him to sell all. But in that instance Jesus was prescribing individual surgery, and not setting forth a universal diagnosis.

If you will go on and read that parable in all of its dimensions, and all of its symbolism, you will remember that a conversation took place between Heaven and Hell. And on the other end of that long distance call between heaven and Hell was Abraham in Heaven talking to Dives in Hell. It wasn’t a millionaire in Hell talking with a multimillionaire in heaven. Dives didn’t go to Hell because he was rich. His wealth was an opportunity to bridge the gulf that separated him from his brother Lazarus.

Dives went to Hell because he passed by Lazarus every day, but he never really saw him. Dives went to Hell because he allowed Lazarus to become invisible. Dives went to Hell because he allowed the means by which he lived to outdistance the ends for which he lived. Dives went to Hell because he maximized the minimum, and minimized the maximum. Dives finally went to Hell because he wanted to be a conscientious objector in the war against poverty.

And I come by here to say that America too is going to Hell, if we don’t use her wealth. If America does not use her vast resources of wealth to end poverty, to make it possible for all of God’s children to have the basic necessities of life, she too will go to Hell. I will hear America through her historians years and years to come saying, “We built gigantic buildings to kiss the sky. We build gargantuan bridges to span the seas. Through our spaceships we were able to carve highways through the stratosphere. Through our airplanes we were able to dwarf distance and place time in chains. Through our submarines we were able to penetrate oceanic depths.”

But it seems that I can hear the God of the universe saying, “even though you’ve done all of that, I was hungry and you fed me not. I was naked and ye clothed me not. The children of my sons and daughters were in need of economic security, and you didn’t provide for them. So you cannot enter the kingdom of greatness.” This may well be the indictment on America that says in Memphis to the mayor, to the power structure, “If you do it unto the least of these my brethren, you do it unto me”…
Woe to thee, O Babylon, for in just one hour is thy judgment come.

Resignation is One Thing...

But will he be defrocked? Will he undergo Degradation from Episcopal Orders?

They should be doing that even just for the bishops who covered up child molestation. And certainly for the ones like this who actually abused children themselves (of which there have now been several cases).

If they don't do it for that, then what will they do it for?

Oh, right, for illicit episcopal ordinations of married men (ala Milingo). Because, you know, that's so much worse than sexually abusing a child...

This also shows how "well" the process of vetting and picking bishops works.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


Evelyn Waugh used this GK Chesterton's Fr. Brown quote as an analogy for God's grace:

"I caught him, with an unseen hook and an invisible line which is long enough to let him wander to the ends of the world, and still to bring him back with a twitch upon the thread."

I was reminded of this by a new comment on this early post.

We Shall Overcome

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

His Holiness's Loyal Opposition

One of the things that occurs to me after reading that article on Newman again is that one of the huge problems in the Church since Vatican II (and probably since the time of the Syllabi, the Anti-Modernist Oath, and the solemn definition of Papal Infallibility) is the lack of what might be termed a loyal opposition.

I read a comment somewhere recently that basically said that, for some time now, someone has either been a "loyal" Catholic totally obsequious to the hierarchy even on issues that are not dogmatic or binding under pain of sin, or else a dissenter and heretic.

The Truth has come to be so narrowly and positivistically identified with the party-line of the current administration (and, more particularly, the person of the current Pope) that any critique or even what we might call merely political opposition has been taken as a sign of "disloyalty" or "dissent" by a certain crowd of self-appointed inquisitors (the Neocons).

And since they have been totally disowned and condemned for taking the other position rather than submitting like a fascist to the Vatican, is it any wonder the Liberals don't care what it says anymore (even about doctrinal matters)?

This is one facet of Traditionalism which has great appeal. In some sense, traditionalists in the Church have more or less tried to maintain (sometimes more effectively than others) a position something vaguely like a loyal opposition. Doctrinally orthodox, certainly not indifferent to the institutional church or its authority, but nevertheless willing to critique it, harshly when necessary (though often while romanticizing some given period in the past as perfect).

Of course, many have gone off the deep-end into all sorts of schismatic or sedevacantist groups with radical ideas. The more moderate traditionalists (in other words, the ones in full and regular communion with Rome still) are better, but even many of them would probably object to seeing themselves as the "loyal opposition" in some sort of dialectic process of debate and dialogue. They seem to rather prefer an antagonistic narrative where they are "the true remnant" trying to fight usurpers or some such thing.

And yet vigorous yet civil internal debate, tolerance on non-essentials, and self-critique are exactly what the Church needs right now.

I've mentioned strange bedfellows before, and I can't believe I'm saying this, but maybe it's time to reach out to the old guard Liberals of yesteryear. Go to someone like Hans Kung and say, "Listen. Your project has largely failed. No one under 50 is really interested in your vision of Liberal Catholicism anymore. People in our generation who don't accept definitive Church teaching simply leave or don't care. The only young people still invested in the Faith are going to be doctrinally orthodox. Nevertheless, we are disturbed by the trend towards this almost fundamentalist, papolotrous attitude among Catholics, and definitely recognize the need for a loyal opposition on such issues as mandatory celibacy, church policy, liturgy, etc. With your resources and connections from a long career, can you help us?" Otherwise, to whom else are they going to pass that torch?

You might simply think it's a torch that deserves to simply be extinguished entirely, and I sympathize. But, at the same time, there is this whole liberal Catholic infrastructure already in place socially, with no young "takers" for the cause. Might it not be time to attempt co-opting that apparatus and bringing it back towards Tradition as a loyal opposition?


Signs of hope perhaps?
Pope Benedict XVI has accepted the resignation of an Irish bishop over his role in covering up child abuse by Dublin priests, Irish Catholic officials said Wednesday.

Bishop James Moriarty in December offered his resignation after admitting he did not challenge the Dublin Archdiocese's past practice of concealing child-abuse complaints from police. He served as an auxiliary Dublin bishop from 1991 to 2002, then was promoted to his current position as bishop of the neighboring diocese of Kildare

Two church officials spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the Vatican is expected to make the formal announcement Thursday

The Vatican also is expected to accept the December resignation offers of two auxiliary Dublin bishops, Eamonn Walsh and Ray Field, in coming weeks.

All three bishops were identified in an Irish government-ordered investigation published last year into decades of cover-ups of child-abusing clergy in the Dublin Archdiocese. The report found that all bishops until 1996 colluded to protect scores of pedophile priests from criminal prosecution.

The November report did not accuse Moriarty of any specific cover-ups. But the bishop offered his resignation after accepting he should have taken personal responsibility for challenging the bishops' practice of keeping abuse complaints within the church.

When Irish bishops were summoned to the Vatican in February for an extraordinary summit focused on the abuse scandals, Moriarty said he told the pope he hadn't initially planned to quit because he "was not directly criticized."

"However, renewal must begin with accepting responsibility for the past. Ultimately, I came to the conclusion that we needed a new beginning and that I could play my part in opening the way," Moriarty told the pope, according to a transcript released by the bishop's office.

Another bishop who served in Dublin from 1997 to 2005, Martin Drennan, has rejected calls to resign from his current position as bishop in the western Irish city of Galway, arguing that the investigation did not find him guilty of any wrongdoing.
I will say, waiting so many months to accept the resignations is ridiculous. That's the very thing they're being accused of when it comes to the laicization of abuser priests. They have to learn to respond to requests like this quicker!

And meanwhile, Brady is still stubbornly clinging to power, though rumors say he may resign after Pentecost (if the Pope wanted to appease public anger, he should remove him right away).

Still, a guy resigning merely because he "did not challenge" the current policies, even though he himself was not directly implicated in them, in order that the Church can have a "fresh start" is the correct attitude. The bishops need to learn that as leaders, people will hold them accountable for what they didn't do as much as for what they directly did. The other bishop refusing to step down is wrong.

Ireland's hierarchy has seen a spectacular purging in the wake of this. When else have so many bishops in a country stepped down? Not since the French Revolution, I think. The question is, will this be made to every other country in the World. It needs to. But something makes me think not.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Capital Punishment and Genocide

I've been thinking about the death penalty lately.

In this case, I generally take the mainline conservative Catholic position. Namely, the State retains the right to execute criminals for the good of society, but that in the modern day the greater good is rarely if ever served by executing criminals as opposed to just locking them up for life.

So, on the one hand, I would vigorously argue against those who try to make the death penalty an absolute evil. Against those who have this progressivist notion that we "know better now," as if the social mechanisms of today for handling such things are somehow moral absolutes by which we can pass judgment the past, regardless of the past's different social context. (You will note this is true for slavery as a social arrangement as much as the death penalty.)

In reality, the change has not come from any sort of progressive human enlightenment or greater empathy, merely different socio-economic conditions (which have their own systematic exploitation, worse for their greater subtlety). So I explain that in the past the State was well within its rights to use the death penalty, and that the Church was definitely not at fault for not speaking out against it, nor even for explicitly supporting it at times. That the JPII attitude toward the death penalty (though I largely share it) is not dogma or an absolute principle or anything like that.

But, at the same time, I'd try to convince people that it was no longer necessary or good today and that I support its removal from our justice system, because it isn't ideal, has always been prone to grave abuse, and there are better ways of dealing with the same issues in the modern world.

However, I've been thinking more and more about capital punishment and, though I would still say all of the above in terms of it being objectively neutral on the part of the state (but subjectively bad for our world today), my feeling that it is subjectively bad has greatly increased, exactly because of the possibility of abuse.

Because I started thinking...the Holocaust was carried out under the auspices of the State too. Now, admittedly, there were some big differences. Namely, there were no trials, the reason for the killing was merely "being" something, not committing a crime, the conditions were cruel and unusual, and children were killed who could not be guilty of anything, etc...

And yet it seems like a difference in degree, not nature. Because under Catholic teaching, the State was never limited to using the death penalty only for Murder. Up until the 19th century, someone could be hanged for crimes as minor as theft. In some Asian countries still, execution is prescribed for crimes that are not murder, even just for drug offenses or adultery. The Old Law itself prescribed this, so it is clearly not absolutely wrong.

Theoretically, Catholics are free to have different prudential opinions not only about whether the death penalty should be used, but about for which crimes it is used for. And there is no limit to how petty this could be if someone thought it was for the common good.
There are several schools of thought today, of course, and most do limit the category of crime, thank goodness. One is absolutely against the death penalty. Another believes that a life should only be taken in retribution for taking a life. Others, however, would support it for non-lethal grave crimes like child rape and treason. Most Americans would not go any further than this, and yet China does go further, and it is not outside the "theoretical" bounds allowed by Catholic teaching just because it is outside the bounds of decency arbitrarily set by American public opinion.

Yet it seems to me this is a slippery slope. Execution was once used for crimes as petty as theft even in Europe and America. And this is "theoretically" within the power of the State over human life for the greater good, is theoretically a prudential question. A Catholic is theoretically free to support the death penalty even for minor crimes if they truly think that is proportional to the good caused for society. And in medieval society, it may have been. Who knows.

And yet this seems dangerous. Because what if the Nazi's had done things a little different? What if they had simply outlawed smoking, made the punishment for smoking execution, and then selectively enforced the law only against Jews and other undesirables? Or jaywalking, or chewing gum, or being out after curfew, etc. Theoretically the State retains the power to execute for any of these things, and yet you could eventually indict the whole population on one of these offenses at some point or another because nobody is perfect ("let he who is without sin cast the first stone"...)

You might argue that the selective enforcement would be itself unjust, and it would, but don't think it doesn't happen in our own country; a black man is much more likely to get sent to jail for a crime that a white gets merely a fine or community service for, when such discretion is left to judges. Of course it would be tortuous to argue that execution was proportionate or necessary for gum chewing or jaywalking, this is hyperbole...and yet the point is that such a call is technically by nature in the realm of prudential judgment rather than objective absolutes (albeit seemingly very obvious prudential judgments; but the problem is people could be disingenuous in order to achieve their ends).

When you start admitting to the State the power over human life and make the limits on that merely a matter of "prudential judgment" and subjective judgments of proportionality and such, and tell people that there is room for disagreement about it...well, at the very least I'll say: you have to be very prudent indeed, or soon we'll be hanging shop-lifters. You must be very careful, or things could easily get out of hand.

I guess my point is just that even within the limits of what is "theoretically" valid, even within the limits of "theoretically" acceptable positions, under such a theory we essentially forfeit our lives to the whims of the State and its fallible human judgments about what is a crime and what is an acceptable punishment thereof. So we'd better hope those whims remain very moderate and limited when it comes to the application of capital punishment, because none of us are perfect, so the State "retains the right" (and certainly the practical power) to kill us all if it so chose. It's why I am very suspicious of the State.


Often when one hears the word "eugenics" we immediately think of Nazis and forced sterilization and abortion and all sorts of awful things.

But I would simply like to point out that a State could certainly try, and I would argue should try, to encourage "good breeding" without any such coercive or intrinsically evil methods, for example via incentive systems. And the fact is, "eugenic" principles are already implicit in prisons and mental hospitals where whole segments of the population are removed (for the most part) from breeding.

In reality, isn't this what some countries in Europe are essentially doing by providing benefits to mothers who have children?

They're doing it to preserve an ethnicity or nationality, but why not for other traits? Given that it now seems that IQ has a significant genetic component, is it not a problem if the lower 50% of intelligences are having 55% of the children? Over time, will this not lead to a downward drift in the gene pool? Is there anything wrong with providing financial incentives for smart people to have more children? Or institutionalizing the mentally handicapped in a sex-segregated way (in humane conditions, of course; that would seem better than letting them wander around homeless)? Or applying some sort of social pressure on the slow or physically defective to go off to monasteries as lay brothers (that certainly happened in the past)?

I wouldn't think so, and Catholic Encyclopedia doesn't seem to think so either, going so far as to support "compulsory segregation" of the feeble by sex (though I personally would not feel comfortable limiting their freedom forcibly like that if they were competent enough to live independently). It even points out that traditional consanguinity regulations in Canon Law (going beyond what is forbidden by merely Natural Law) are a form of eugenics.

As long as no forced sterilization or abortion is involved, the main thing to worry about would be it becoming a slippery slope towards more coercive methods and eventually euthanasia, which would be terrible. The real scary problem comes with the question of who is to judge what is desirable and what is defective. Yet some conditions are obviously diseases and objectively disordered, mentally and physically.

So I can't see anything intrinsically wrong with the State (or even private foundations) incentivizing good breeding as long as there was no coercion or intrinsically evil methods involved, though because of the possible slippery slope, we'd have to think long and hard before agreeing to implement any such incentives-based program and be very careful about the details, lest it becomes racist or anything like that.


I should start off this post by stating my position on the whole "gay marriage" issue, which is that, at this point, I think the State should probably get out of marriage completely. On the other hand, anyone should be able to set up civil arrangements or partnerships with whomever (and with however many people) they want.

Some on the religious Right say "Oh, that's just equivalent to marriage!" but I don't think so. I'm talking about anyone. A brother and sister. An aging mother and her live-in-daughter. Two spinster sisters who live together. A group of friends. I should be able to legally arrange for my property and legal affairs to be dealt with however I want.

If I want to share property in common with anyone or any number of people, why not? Religious do it. If I want to give my brother or best friend the right to visit me in the hospital, or my father power of attorney, etc, why not? These things are not the essence of marriage. These are legal arrangements, largely related to material property, that came to be attached to marriage civilly, and I see no reason why the State should arbitrarily limit such civil arrangements only to couples involved romantically or sexually. That discriminates simply against singles as much as it does homosexuals.

True marriage, then, would then be left to Nature (for non-Catholics) and to Canon Law. Gay "marriage" would obviously be no such thing, naturally speaking, but if someone wants to call it that, who cares as long as there is no official recognition?

At the same time, though I don't consider it ideal, I'm not sure even legal State recognition of gay marriage is as "non-negotiable" as certain Catholic Voters Guides portray it. Surely, I don't particularly like the idea of my tax money going to fund the licensing of something I consider immoral and unnatural. But at the same time, in the Middle Ages the Church advocated for the tolerance of legal prostitution, which was licensed and regulated by the civil municipalities. That might even be a good idea today (rather than the dangers, disease, and adjunct crime of street-walking prostitution). And we don't complain too much that the FDA gives its approvals to contraceptives or that the Army funds chaplaincies for false religions to provide false worship.

If prostitution could be licensed by the State, and the Church supported that, I don't see why licensing gay faux-marriage is so different. Not ideal to be sure, but "non-negotiable" in an absolute sense like abortion?

Let's put it this way: the minute the Abortion issue is solved and off the table, I'm voting Democrat whether they've changed their position on gay "marriage" or not.

Yes, that issue is a moral absolute, whereas things like war, the death penalty, and dealing with poverty have "room for prudential disagreement" about their application. But that doesn't mean these latter are relatively less evil. Prudentially speaking, I'd rather vote against the greater subjective evil than a lesser (albeit objective) evil. And if abortion were off the table, then I think that gay marriage would in general do less damage than the other Right-wing policies that seem to go along with opposing it (unjust war, exploitative economics, anti-immigration, etc).

The fact that there is no "perfect" choice or Party is frustrating indeed, but frankly, if abortion were gone, I'd care more about welfare and peace than stopping gay marriage, even if it is a moral absolute. Subjective evils can still be greater than objective, and I think we should make our prudential judgments based on the
gravity of the evil, not the question of its objectivity.

If State-licensed prostitution was tolerated in the Middle Ages for the greater good and defended by theologians like Aquinas and Augustine, State-licensed sodomy hardly seems all that different in our culture. I could even see some people arguing (though I personally wouldn't go this far yet) that it is better to "domesticate" gays by licensing and regulating their relations rather than (as the Medieval argument for legal licensed prostitution said) letting lust engulf the whole world. I see little to indicate that this line of argument is objectively wrong (though we may disagree prudentially).

Why Inaction?

I think this article presents a fair and balanced analysis of why the Pope refuses to act more decisively, why there have been few dramatic gestures or bold reforming moves, why he's been seemingly so passive and dithering instead of invoking his authority and, unfortunately, why he is unlikely to change:

Monday, April 19, 2010

"Predominant Cultural Image"

A little out of context, to be sure, but some really hilarious stuff here:

Priests have gone from being portrayed as “incompetent idiots” like Father Ted to being “sexually frustrated clergy where child abuse was just par for the course”, a senior member of the hierarchy has said.

Bishop Donal McKeown said the predominant cultural image of his fellow bishops was that they were “twisted, incompetent old men, well aware of evil actions among some of their colleagues, but saying nothing in order to protect their power”.

Using that logic, the corrupt church was not just the home of abuse but the cause of it, and such a rotten body should be destroyed in the eyes of its detractors, the bishop told the St Joseph’s Young Priest Society in a sermon delivered on Sunday but released to the press yesterday.

He told the congregation it was a “daunting task” encouraging vocations to the priesthood when “because of celibacy, clergy and religious are all potential child abusers, some just about keeping their instincts under control”.

Fathers Indeed

When Pat Bond told her lover Henry Willenborg, a Franciscan priest, that she was pregnant, he urged her to have an abortion.

Bond, who was 28, had a miscarriage and then became pregnant again. This time Willenborg’s superiors urged her to give up the child for adoption.

Bond, from Missouri, kept the child but agreed to a vow of silence. In a signed contract with the Catholic Church, she undertook to keep the priest’s identity secret in exchange for financial support for her son, Nathan.

In America, Britain, Ireland, Germany, France, Italy and Austria, women made pregnant by priests have signed such pledges in exchange for hush money from the church.

Pope Benedict XVI refused to comment on the scandals on his flight to Malta for a weekend visit yesterday, saying only that the church had been “wounded by our sins”. But he faces a new battle over the children of priests. Many former lovers and their offspring are preparing to mount lawsuits.

Bond was 25 when she started a five-year relationship with Willenborg in 1983, after going to him for marriage counselling. He kissed her passionately as she left his parlour, then she left her husband.

After Bond became pregnant by him for the second time in 1986, Willenborg’s order, the Order of Friars Minor, offered her $50,000 and a confidentiality contract. “They said: ‘Here, take this money, sign this contract and you’ll have support for your child’. I was very naive and I signed,” said Bond.

She broke her promise of silence last year after the Franciscans refused to meet part of the cost of treatment for her son Nathan, then 22, who died in November from a brain tumour.

When Willenborg’s liaisons with Bond, now 53, and another woman became public, the priest was suspended from his parish in Ashland, Wisconsin. He was treated for sex addiction, then returned to his pastoral duties. Catherine Schroeder, a St Louis lawyer for the Order of Friars Minor, declined to comment. Willenborg and the order failed to return calls and emails.

Other cases are reaching the US courts. In Maryland, two children of the late Father Francis Ryan are suing their local archdiocese and a religious order for $10m after discovering through DNA tests that he was their father.

Carla Latty, 58, and Adrian Senna, 65, say Ryan never admitted he was their father or made any payments to their late mother. Senna was sent to an orphanage, while Latty was put up for adoption.

Cait Finnegan, of the Good Tidings association, an American charity for priests and their lovers, has been contacted by nearly 2,000 women who had relationships with priests. She said one pregnant friend had been told by a bishop to “get rid of the child” — a comment she took to mean she should have an abortion. The woman kept the baby.

Thousands of priests in German-speaking countries are believed to have fathered children. Paul Zuhlener, an Austrian theologian, has estimated that up to 22% of Austrian priests have sexual relationships.

Sabine Bauer of the Austrian branch of We Are Church, a reform group, predicted a spate of lawsuits. “The children of priests, and their mothers, are the next ones who will take legal action against the church. Their numbers are large and they have been denied basic rights,” she said.

In Britain, Adrianna Alsworth, who has two children by a priest and runs the Sonflowers helpline for those who have had relationships with priests, said she knew of several women who had been offered confidentiality contracts in return for child support.

“The children aren’t given an opportunity to have a normal family life, and they suffer,” she said.

In Ireland, the former Down bishop Pat Buckley, who runs Bethany, a support group for women in relationships with priests, said he had dealt with two whose abortions had been paid for by priest lovers. In one case, the priest had accompanied the woman to England for the abortion.

In central Italy, Luisa, a psychologist who has an 18-month-old son by a priest, was told by her bishop: “If you give up the baby for adoption, you can stay with the priest and I’ll pretend there’s nothing wrong.” She refused but the couple have since broken up and the priest refuses to recognise the child.

Lorenzo Maestri, a former priest and member of Vocatio, an association for married priests in Italy, accused the Pope of leading a cover-up. “Benedict is responsible for the secrecy, because in 2001, as head of the Vatican office which dealt with all sexual problems involving priests, he ordered the bishops to send these cases to him in Rome,” Maestri said.

Benedict, whose fifth anniversary of his election is tomorrow, may acknowledge the child-abuse cases by agreeing to meet seven victims on his Malta visit. There is no such prospect for the children of priests. When asked what she would like the pontiff to do, Bond quoted her late son: “Nathan told me, ‘I want the Pope to tell me he’s sorry. The church abandons us, it calls us legal obligations. It doesn’t even call us by our names’.”