Saturday, July 31, 2010

Speaking Publicly

A justice on the Illinois State Supreme Court is speaking out about the hierarchy's intransigence. The Honorable Anne M. Burke is a Dame of Malta, was on the USCCB's lay review board back when the sexual abuse crisis was exposed in the US, and seems to be more moderate-minded compared to a lot of the outright liberalism you see from the more radical voices for reform.

Now, I cannot agree with her specific proposal:
Anne Burke, a justice on the Illinois State Supreme Court and former head of the review board of lay people established by the U.S. bishops to oversee their new policies, says Benedict should ditch the shoes, the fur, and all the other trappings of papal regalia and swap his hallmark white cassock for a simple black one for the remainder of his papacy as a powerful sign of penance for the scandal of the sexual abuse of children by clergy.
The fancy aesthetics do not (or, at least, are not supposed to) glorify the man, but rather belong to the tradition and beauty of the whole Church. Besides, we need structural reforms, not just symbolic gestures; did Paul VI putting down the papal tiara actually make the institutional church any less authoritarian or feudal in its bureaucracy?? I think not, it has now become too obvious. It merely made things less whimsical, but ultimately was just a diversionary tactic. The Communist dictators all dressed in didn't solve any problems.

However, I like her gumption: "I do think it has to be something extremely dramatic." Indeed!

Burke has a long history with this issue:
"I was very hopeful when he became pope," Burke told me, recalling her reaction after the surprising April 2005 election of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI. "I thought this was really going to be good. He might not do anything drastic, but at least he understood."

Burke's optimism was based on events from 2004, at the nadir of the American chapter of the clergy abuse crisis, when she and her colleagues on the National Review Board found themselves thwarted by the bishops who set up the panel in 2002 to serve as an independent, lay-run voice to oversee the bishops' behavior.

The board members decided to go over the hierarchy's head and straight to the Vatican. They faxed requests for meetings to all the major Vatican departments and the cardinals who headed them. One of just three to respond was Cardinal Ratzinger. In January 2004, Burke and two colleagues met with Ratzinger in his offices for two-and-a-half hours, a remarkable event. He pledged to take action, which Burke says he then did as a cardinal, and, at least initially, as pope. A month after that 2004 meeting, Ratzinger also sent she and her husband a heartfelt note of condolences when her 30-year-old son was killed in a snowmobiling accident.

Yet the past months of revelations and criticisms about Ratzinger's spotty record on abuse, the blustery counterattacks coming from the Vatican and top papal aides, and more important, Pope Benedict's refusal to publicly address the questions and qualms of the media and the flock, have unsettled Burke.

"He had his choice, of going down the similar bureaucratic path of all popes, or actually bringing the church into the 21st century, and to be known for that. He hasn't done that," she said.
However, her frustration, like many of ours, has only increased:
Back in April, Burke and some of her former review board colleagues were lamenting the sad state of affairs in Rome -- "They seem to be shooting themselves in the foot every time something comes out of that Vatican" -- when she decided she'd try to break through the Vatican cordon by writing directly to the pope.

"I didn't think I could rest until I actually wrote a letter."

Which she did, offering to share the expertise she and the board had gained through their experience to help the pope and the Vatican deal with the crisis. Burke said she really didn't expect a response, but one arrived two weeks ago, in mid-July. It was from Vatican Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone, passed along through the Vatican's ambassador to the U.S., Archbishop Pietro Sambi -- "the usual channels" -- and it thanked Burke and suggested she get in touch with Jeffrey Lena, the California attorney who is defending the Vatican from sex abuse lawsuits.

As a judge, Burke can't participate in any way in the case Lena is defending, and that wasn't in any sense the point of her letter. "It was just one of those things, they really didn't pay attention," she said. Lena has tried to call her at the Vatican's behest, but she said she can't get involved legally, and in any case, the details of the sex abuse crisis are a symptom as much as the illness itself.

"This has gone way beyond the sex abuse crisis. They're using that as a shield for all the other missteps," said Burke, who is a Dame of Malta, the female counterpart of the Knights of Malta, a prominent Catholic charitable organization.

Burke says she'd like to see the Vatican meet with an international group of lay people, a larger version of the National Review Board that the bishops set up, but one that would be able to talk with the pope about a range of issues. "I mean, what's wrong with listening? It doesn't mean they're going to follow through, but it would give people at least some presence at the table."

Burke doesn't necessarily blame Benedict for the Vatican's current problems; she hopes he is still the same man she and her colleagues met in 2004 -- a cardinal willing to listen, dressed in plain black cassock without a hint of red and no outward sign of his ecclesiastical rank.

The problem now, she says, is that "his position is like any other politician -- he's surrounded by those who have been there before" and who want to "keep things as they were before because they have the power."
And I feel this attitude is very promising:
Rather than writing another letter, Burke prefers to speak out publicly in hopes of leapfrogging protocol to get right to the pope.

"That's really the only thing you can do, is publicity of some sort, saying, 'Don't you get it?' "
Maybe we should contact this woman...

Film Festival

From a questionable secularist source, but sounds like a potentially supportable cause:
The National Secular Society is staging a film season in the days before the Pope arrives in Britain. The films will look at aspects of the Catholic Church which both the Government and the Church itself would prefer were not mentioned during the visit of the “Holy Father.”
The selections will apparently include films on the Magdalene Laundries in Ireland, the cover-up of child-rape in the same country, the abuse at the Indian Residential Schools in Canada, and a priest who was silenced by Church authorities for trying end institutional collusion with the mafia in Mexico. (To give some idea of the international scope of this institution's corruption!)

Regarding this last film, it is claimed, "The Church declared that seeing this film is a mortal sin." And several sources I've checked do seem to confirm that the hierarchy in Mexico even tried to have the government ban this film (and this was just in 2002)!!

These corrupt old men are just vile...

Friday, July 30, 2010

Crazy Trads

So, I've threatened (and once before actually done) to hold up crazy comments as examples of What We Don't Stand For. That applies to comments on this blog, however, there were some comments on the Miles Jesu situation today on Rorate Caeli that show just what is wrong with the traditionalist movement, why this blog is necessary, and probably why stuff like that situation happened in the first place

For example:
Hard to know how to respond to this, unless and until Miles Jesu announces what sins Father Durán is supposed to have committed. I presume that if he were just another sodomite, the announcement would have said so?
Now, this is a very odd place for his mind to jump! I mean, perhaps somewhat understandable given the situation the Church is in, but the actual statement gives no indication of the founder committing sins of that nature. It is very clear what "sins" he is supposed to have committed: namely, what sounds like an excessive authoritarianism, expectations of blind loyalty, creepy cult-like tactics, etc.

This isn't necessarily like the Maciel situation where the authoritarianism was used to cover embezzlement, sexual abuse of seminarians, mistresses, etc. In this case, it seems to be being recognized that the authoritarianism in itself is a problem, even if it was never used to advance other immorality.

But, of course, many fascist trads idealize such dynamics, so they assume that these couldn't possibly be problems in themselves unless they're also used for seedy sexual purposes...[[rolls eyes]]...

The next is even more telling, however, about how some trads apparently think authority is supposed to work in the Church:
Ha? I confess that I don't know much about this Institute, but it almost seems to me like a rebellion, a "democratic" take-over has occurred.
So, when members report the oppressive atmosphere in an institute through the proper channels and participate in revising the constitutions, it's a "rebellion," a "take-over" of some evil "democratic" nature??!

These people are insane.

I may update this post if I find more ridiculous comments related to this situation. I would also invite any readers who find crazy trad statements (concise ones, hopefully, not the long rants) on various internet forums or comment boxes, which encapsulate the sort of attitudes I critique send them to me so I can point them out. Not just about the Miles Jesu situation, but in general.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

International Conspiracy

It's been awhile since I've done an update on the Conspiracy (ie, my Stat Counter and Google Analytics tracking of this blog). I thought this map was pretty neat, though, showing the far-flung scope of readers we've received since we started tracking in mid-January:

You can click on the map to see it bigger.

And if anyone has any friends in Red China (or Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Greenland, or any obscure African nation) please send them a link to the blog! They don't even have to be interested in the topic; they just have to visit once and it will count!!!

Miles Jesu Situation

I wasn't aware of this situation, but I received an email from a reader alerting me. The full statement is available here, but relevant sections [UPDATE: a reader, and former Miles Jesu member, has posted some very disturbing information in the comments section, be sure to check it out]:
In the spring of 2007 the Founder of Miles Jesu, Fr. Alfonso Durán, was removed from the office as Superior General, a position which he filled since the founding of the Ecclesial Family in 1964. Due to serious mental and physical health problems he was judged unable to continue in his position by the ecclesial authorities. Almost at the same time, thirteen members of Miles Jesu presented a request for an investigation into the Institute, indicating in their request alleged irregularities in the practices of Miles Jesu. The Cardinal Vicar of Rome, his Emminence Camillo Ruini, in conjunction with the Congregation of Religious, initiated an Apostolic Visitation under the guidance of Fr. Anthony McSweeney, SSS.

During the Apostolic Visitation a number of irregularities and questionable practices came to light in the sworn testimonies of many members. Also the behavior of Fr. Durán in regards to certain questionable conduct and his exercise of authority came to light. The conclusion of the Apostolic Visitation was that an outside person should be called in to work with the Ecclesial Family in order to correct these situations and to work with the members in the renewal of the Institute.

In a Decree issued on March 25, 2009, Cardinal Agostino Vallini, the Pope’s Vicar for the Diocese of Rome, named me, Fr. Barry Fischer, C.PP.S., as Commissary for Miles Jesu invested with full authority. The mandate is to write a new Constitution which defines the charism, spirituality, and apostolic nature of the Institute; to develop adequate vocational discernment and formation policies (ratio formationis); to review the financial policies, and in general to completely revise all its practices and customs.

During the past seventeen months, I have worked closely with the membership in pursuit of this mandate, as well as with former members who have left during or after the Apostolic Visitation. In time it has become clear and undeniable, that the Founder, Fr. Alfonso Durán, presented erratic behaviors that were totally beyond the scope of the powers given to him. Some members have identified wounds caused by the inappropriate exercise of authority under his leadership. The mistaken sense of allegiance and obedience instilled in the membership facilitated his behavior, which was totally unacceptable and not in accord with the discipline of the Church nor supportable in any way by a healthy sense of consecrated life.

Members who challenged his actions or behavior were often ostracized. The internal discipline and customs of the Institute provided protection for the Founder.
It must be said in justice, that most of the members had no idea of the improper conduct of the Founder. Some of the allegations against Fr. Duran are hearsay and have not been verified. However, many are factual. It is important for all that the truth be disclosed, which is the reason for this public statement.
As Commissary and in the name of the Church, I wish to express my deep concern for all those members, former members and family members who may have been hurt in the past due to the manner in which authority was exercised. I also am personally grateful for those members who had the courage to solicit the intervention of the Congregation of the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, thus bringing to light the situations under question.
So this isn't just a problem with the Legionaries. That was simply the most extreme case of a problem with power and authority that seems to be endemic to much of the institutional church, structurally; a difference in degree only, not nature.

This time, however, it seems the system "worked" in terms of catching and stopping this sort of thing. One wonders, however, how effective we can really expect the policing to be when we know the Vatican itself has abused its own power and still has a romanticized view of absolute obedience and authoritarianism.

Can we really expect an organization which makes diocesan clergy be celibate and requires seminarians live in a compound with a bunch of other celibate men to handle this? Can we really expect an institution which tolerates and even idealizes things like the FSSP's 10:30 "lights out," ban on cellphones or in-room internet, and regulations micromanaging facial hair (for adult men, mind you!) know what a healthy exercise of authority and obedience even begins to look like?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

More Strange Priorities

This makes them look rather silly, even if it is, in itself, a good effort:

Visitors said that at a time when the Catholic Church is battling scandals over paedophile priests and decades of cover-ups, it should have more important things to worry about.

Tourists entering St Peter's Basilica have long been required to dress modestly, but from early this week the Swiss Guards – the Pope's private army – appeared to have extended the rules to the entire Vatican City State.

The guards, who wear striped blue and gold uniforms, carry halberds and trace their service to the papacy back to 1506, drew aside men in shorts and women with uncovered shoulders and short skirts to tell them that they were not dressed properly.

Some of the female visitors bought shawls and scarves from nearby hawkers, while a few men had to wander off to the nearest shops to buy long trousers.

Others were refused entry altogether, and accused the authorities of double standards.

"Given all the scandals the Church has been involved in, what possible right can it have to be preaching about the morality of sleeveless dresses?" said one woman in her seventies, identified only as Maria.

The tough dress code also applied to Romans using the Vatican's pharmacy, supermarket and post office.

The crackdown on inappropriate clothing comes at a time of almost unprecedented crisis for the Vatican, with senior figures, including Pope Benedict XVI, accused of failing to act against priests who sexually abused children.

The scandal first erupted in the United States a decade ago but in the last year has engulfed the Catholic Church in Ireland, Austria, the Netherlands, Scandinavia, Belgium and the Pope's native Germany.

The Rabbi and the Flood

Some of you have probably heard this one before. It's cast as a joke, but I've always thought it had a really good message:

An orthodox rabbi is studying in his living room, when there is a knock on the door. When he opens the door, it is a policeman, who informs him that the rivers are rising, a flood is expected, and evacuation is recommended.
The rabbi explains, "I am a man of God. I am sure he will protect me from danger." The policeman shrugs his shoulders and leaves.

As the rabbi is watching the rising water getting closer and closer to his house, there is a second knock, this time a State Trooper. The trooper says, "Rabbi, we are evacuating the area as the flood is getting serious and you are in jeopardy." Again the rabbi explains, "I am a man of God. I am sure he will protect me from danger. I am staying."

Well, the water continues to rise, until the rabbi is forced to stay on the second floor. He hears some yelling and looks up to see two firemen in a rowboat right outside his second floor window. "Rabbi!" one of the firemen calls, "Get in the boat, the rains are not letting up! It's getting serious." "I am a man of God. He will protect me from danger. I'll stay." The firemen, fearing for their own safety, row on.

As the flood rises, the rabbi is forced to climb out onto his roof, just as a helicopter is flying over. The helicopter drops a rope ladder and a voice calls down, "We're coming to get you, rabbi!" "No, no.... God will protect me. You go on."

Well, needless to say, the water continues to rise and the rabbi drowns. When he gets to Heaven, he is really upset. "I must see God," says the rabbi. "Please take me to God." He is granted an audience with God. "Lord," says the rabbi, "after a lifetime of devotion to you, why would you forsake me in my moment of need?" God says, "You schmuck, I sent two cops, a rowboat full of firemen, and a helicopter...."

Monday, July 26, 2010

He Resigns!

The saga I have been using to illustrate what accountability in the real world looks coming to an end. Tony Hayward is stepping down at BP over this whole oil-spill fiasco.

Of course, I guess we can't really draw comparisons. This has surely been so much worse than the cover-up of decades of child molestation, right? On the other hand, old Tony himself didn't really cause the oil-spill, so why should he be held accountable? Oh, right, because that's how leadership of an organization works outside of cloud-cuckoo-land. Or, maybe it's all just anti-Tony bigotry! You know that biased media. Oh well.

In other news, Cardinal Brady is still in power.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Hold More Strongly By Its Roots

A reader pointed out to me this quote from Chesterton:
Perhaps we might call the two antagonistic philosophies the philosophy of The Tree and the philosophy of The Cloud. I mean that a tree goes on growing, and therefore goes on changing; but always in the fringes surrounding something unchangeable. The innermost rings of the tree are still the same as when it was a sapling; they have ceased to be seen, but they have not ceased to be central. When the tree grows a branch a top, it does not break away from the roots at the bottom; on the contrary, it needs to hold more strongly by its roots the higher it rises with its branches. That is the true image of the vigorous and healthy progress of man, a city or a whole species.

But when the evolutionists I speak of talk to us about change, they do not mean that. They do not mean something that produces external changes from a permanent and organic centre, like a tree; they mean something that changes completely and entirely in every part, at every minute, like a cloud. There is no core of a cloud; there is no head or tail that cannot turn into something else; it not only changes, but it is itself only a prolonged change. While Hamlet and Polonius stood looking at the cloud, it will be remembered that, in those few minutes, the prince could persuade the courtier that the cloud had a hump like a camel, that it was a weasel, and that it was a whale. That is the cosmos as understood by these cosmic philosophers; the cosmos is a cloud. It changes in every part; nor is one part more permanent or even more essential than the other. For that matter, of course, the cosmic philosophers change as much as their cosmic cloud

Now, if this merely cloudy and boneless development be adopted as a philosophy, then there can be no place for the past and no possibility of a complete culture. Anything may be here today and gone tomorrow; even tomorrow. But I do not accept that everlasting evolution, which merely means everlasting chaos. As I only accept the organic and orderly development of a thing according to its own design and nature, there is for me such a thing as a human culture that is reasonably complete. Only the modern, advanced, progressive, scientific culture is unreasonably incomplete.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Catholics vs Protestants: Captain Planet Edition

What a nice ecumenical message at the end...


I'm sure the reaction of conservative American commentators will just be to blame "those Europeans" or their "heresy" but I, for one, just can't see how the institutional church can continue with such massive collective cognitive dissonance, even within the clergy. Something has got to give, and since it isn't going to be women-priests, I have to think it will be mandatory celibacy:
A vast majority of Austrian Roman Catholic priests want an end to mandatory celibacy, a new survey has shown.

Pollsters GfK Austria said today (Tues) 80 per cent of the 500 interviewed parish priests supported calls for an abandonment of the ruling.


GfK Austria revealed the new study showed that younger priests had more conservative mindsets than their elder colleagues.

A vast majority of 92 per cent complained of inadequate education in becoming a priest, while 48 per cent accused the institution’s leaders of "acting helpless and lacking vision".

The number of Austrian men deciding to become Catholic priests is meanwhile in decline.

Church officials said earlier this month that 24 men will be consecrated priests in 2010 by the end of June. They said 33 consecrations took place in the first six months of last year.

The reputation of the Roman Catholic Church in Austria suffered dramatically as hundreds of people came forward to report violent and sexual abuse at its institutions over the past few months.

The Church reacted by setting up a special commission to deal with the cases and provide victims with financial compensation and therapy.

The question of the amount of compensation is currently an issue of heated public discussion. Viennese Archbishop Cardinal Christoph Schönborn refused to comment on reports claiming that the Church tried to keep the overall sum lower than 100,000 Euros.

More than 30,000 Austrians left the Church in the first three months of this year, up by 42 per cent compared to the same time span of 2009 when more people than ever cancelled their membership.

Fears are increasing that up to 80,000 Austrians will leave throughout this year. Last year’s 53,216 people quitting their membership meant an all-time record high.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


From Pope Benedict's homily for the Immaculate Conception in 2005:
“...we have a lurking suspicion that a person who does not sin must really be basically boring and that something is missing from his life: the dramatic dimension of being autonomous; that the freedom to say no, to descend into the shadows of sin and to want to do things on one's own is part of being truly human; that only then can we make the most of all the vastness and depth of our being men and women, of being truly ourselves; that we should put this freedom to the test, even in opposition to God, in order to become, in reality, fully ourselves.

In a word, we think that evil is basically good, we think that we need it, at least a little, in order to experience the fullness of being. We think that Mephistopheles — the tempter — is right when he says he is the power "that always wants evil and always does good" (J.W. von Goethe, Faust I, 3). We think that a little bargaining with evil, keeping for oneself a little freedom against God, is basically a good thing, perhaps even necessary.

If we look, however, at the world that surrounds us we can see that this is not so; in other words, that evil is always poisonous, does not uplift human beings but degrades and humiliates them. It does not make them any the greater, purer or wealthier, but harms and belittles them.

This is something that we should indeed learn on the day of the Immaculate Conception: the person who abandons himself totally in God's hands does not become God's puppet, a boring "yes man"; he does not lose his freedom. Only the person who entrusts himself totally to God finds true freedom, the great, creative immensity of the freedom of good.

The person who turns to God does not become smaller but greater, for through God and with God he becomes great, he becomes divine, he becomes truly himself. The person who puts himself in God's hands does not distance himself from others, withdrawing into his private salvation; on the contrary, it is only then that his heart truly awakens and he becomes a sensitive, hence, benevolent and open person.”

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


I was just watching this video and three points occurred to me:

1) the commercialization of nostalgia in America, since the 1950's at least;
2) the accusation against some traditionalists of only being nostalgics;
3) the "double" nostalgia here given that "The Wonder Years" itself is now 20 years old, and that the show itself is part of my own nostalgia (I have never really watched it myself, but remember my mom watching it when I was a little kid, as part of her own nostalgia!);
[4) the rather obvious and inelegant splice/transition they make in Joe Cocker's song at around 00:36]

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Now They Are Being Absurd

Okay, now the mainstream media is indeed getting a little absurd, though I think it's more ignorance and spin than "anti-Catholic" bigotry.

There's all this outrage over the Pope making child abuse and women's ordination "equivalent" and nonsense like that.

It's frustrating for those of us who know the truth; all that the Vatican did was say that both crimes were under the competence of the CDF and carried certain penalties.

I mean, is it an outrage that, in some states, under certain circumstances, tax evasion and second degree murder can have a similar sentence in terms of prison type? Is it an outrage that rape is generally "merely" a State law but that something petty like nutrition labeling rules are Federal?

No, this is just a legal question of jurisdiction and defining the competence of a given tribunal in a variety of matters which don't have to be connected in any way.

Maybe it would have been more PR-savvy of the Vatican to release one document just on pedophilia and then, separately, a few months later, quietly release a document dealing with the rest of these procedural issues.

But that's all they are: procedural issues. Anyone who sees some sort of moral equivalency being drawn is just looking for trouble at this point. Though simulation of sacraments may be very morally grave, it's a different species of sin, and so any comparisons are apples to oranges. And this was just about legal procedures for dealing with these things.

And we really could have called the secularist media out this time for it, if whiny Catholics hadn't wasted all our credibility crying wolf (or "anti-Catholic") when the media was actually justly critiquing things that deserved to be critiqued.

The whole world is nuts.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Unjust Steward and Indulgences

The Unjust Steward is one of the most troubling of all Christ's parables, as He seems to praise an unjust action.

However, I've thought about it a little in the past, and this parable might actually be one of the strongest supports for the love of sinners in the communion of saints, and specifically the practice of indulgences and, in general, "offering it up" for others. I remembered a post I did about this on a forum long ago, and have drawn most of my ideas from that.

Of course, the usual interpretation is that "He wasn't praising the injustice, just the shrewdness; if even the wicked can be shrewd, how much more should the good." And yet, who but God is good? Make no mistake, we are all the unjust steward.

The steward is a sinner, like all men, whose time has finally come. We have all squandered what we have been given to steward to some degree, and there will be a time when we will be called to account for it, and our stewardship will be terminated inasmuch as we will no longer be able to merit or do anything of satisfactory value. And yet, the lesson is clear, he increases his merit in the eyes of his master by canceling the debt of others. Some church history that I think is salient here:

During the persecutions, those Christians who had fallen away but desired to be restored to the communion of the Church often obtained from the martyrs a memorial (libellus pacis) to be presented to the bishop, that he, in consideration of the martyrs' sufferings, might admit the penitents to absolution, thereby releasing them from the punishment they had incurred. Tertullian refers to this when he says (Ad martyres, c. i, P.L., I, 621): "Which peace some, not having it in the Church, are accustomed to beg from the martyrs in prison; and therefore you should possess and cherish and preserve it in you that so you perchance may be able to grant it to others."
And this was the early manifestation of indulgences.

The steward is being fired finally by the master for wasting his possessions. And for all of us, even the martyrs, death is in some sense a punishment for sin. Yet the steward is right to forgive the debts of others owed to the master inasmuch as, being steward, he still has the power to do so. Perhaps it is not quite so unjust as we might think; apparently his power is recognized as legally binding. Indeed, none of our merits or the satisfactory value of our actions are truly our own. They belong to God, we have merely been given them as talents to steward and invest (to invoke another parable). They are ultimately gifts only of Christ's merit, and we have many times squandered that grace; He has given us the terrible freedom to do so.

And yet, even as we approach death or even just consider our own mortality and sinful nature, we know that we can offer the satisfactory value of our works, though it is really not ours to offer, for others. And the Church as steward of the treasury of the merits of Christ and His Saints, certainly makes liberal use of this to forgive us our debts, in the practice of indulgences. Even generally despicable sinful priests validly absolve other sinners, and such ministry will certainly not be counted against them, no, quite the opposite.

Hence..."Make unto you friends of the mammon of iniquity; that when you shall fail, they may receive you into everlasting dwellings.
" If our time is up (and it is), if we have squandered the opportunities God has given us (and we have)'s best to give away our own satisfactory works to help others, who might then help us. Make unto yourself friends of the mammon of iniquity, that is to say, friends of sin; sinners. Offer what is His, and what you in your own life have squandered (and are being called soon to account for), for them. God will see it and be happy, and those whom we help may then pray for us even if we still have some debt of our own.

I think there is a very close connection between this parable and that of the Unforgiving Servant who was forgiven his own debts only to refuse that to his own debtors; the Unjust Steward, in many ways, represents the exact reverse situation, and gives the positive example of how we should deal with our debt to God for what we have squandered (lest we be tormented until we pay our full due as happened to the Unforgiving Servant).

A modern analogy might be when Bill Clinton issued all those pardons right before he left office. It would be a more perfect analogy if he were leaving office because of an impeachment of course. But still...I think that's the general concept. Also perhaps the actions of Sydney Carton in "A Tale of Two Cities"...who has squandered his life, but decides (through somewhat dishonest means; druggings even) to spend it saving Darnay. And yet it was a far, far better thing that he did than he had ever done...

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Omni Impotence

I found this definition of "Omni Impotence" on the very useful TV Tropes site, and it reminded me of the Pope:
A character has omnipotence, or near-omnipotence. However, the character ends up doing... well, not much. This could be due to a lack of imagination, lack of understanding, being overwhelmed by the power, or some other reason. They fail to reach some simple and obvious goals.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Two Masters?

From the Pope's homily from Sunday, September 23rd, 2007, on the Parable of the Unjust Steward:
But what does Jesus wish to tell us with this parable? And with its surprising conclusion? The Evangelist follows the parable of the dishonest steward with a short series of sayings and recommendations on the relationship we must have with money and the goods of this earth. These short sentences are an invitation to a choice that presupposes a radical decision, a constant inner tension. Life is truly always a choice: between honesty and dishonesty, between fidelity and infidelity, between selfishness and altruism, between good and evil. The conclusion of this Gospel passage is incisive and peremptory: "No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other".

If loving Christ and one's brethren is not to be considered as something incidental and superficial but, rather, the true and ultimate purpose of our whole existence, it will be necessary to know how to make basic choices, to be prepared to make radical renouncements, if necessary even to the point of martyrdom. Today, as yesterday, Christian life demands the courage to go against the tide, to love like Jesus, who even went so far as to sacrifice himself on the Cross.

Friday, July 16, 2010


I've probably hinted at these ideas before, but it's worth repeating. I recently commented on a blog about concelebration and thought my musings were worth re-posting here:

If there is a place for concelebration, it must have a "vertical" dimension, not some "horizontal" one.

There is a certain logic to all the monks of a monastery concelebrating the conventual Mass with the Abbot as main celebrant, or all the priests of a diocese (on certain occasions each year) or the cathedral chapter with the Bishop, etc.

But these random concelebrations that just mix and match whatever priests are on hand (from one concelebrant to hundreds) from all different jurisdictions with an arbitrary head bad ecclesiology. And dividing up the eucharistic prayer so that a few (but not necessarily all if the number is too large) of the other priests can have a token spoken bad liturgy.

I have often thought about the following limits on concelebration:

1) concelebration should be done only under the presidership of a direct superior as main celebrant. I would also argue that it should generally be the "lowest common superior." In other words, monks with their abbots, priests with their bishop, bishops with their metropolitan or patriarch, cardinals with the Pope, etc. Given some of the unbalanced proportions that now exist jurisdictionally in the Church (ie, there are now thousands of Latin Rite bishops that have the Pope as their patriarch, dioceses with hundreds and hundreds of priests, etc), even under this limit things might get out of hand. But, at the very least, having simple priests who aren't even of the diocese of Rome randomly concelebrating with the Pope is certainly needless and can never in practice fulfill my condition #2:

2) concelebration should, generally, only be done when a moral totality/quorum of a given college of priests is present (done under the presidership of that college's head). Which is to say a (reasonably) complete logical unit of clergy should be there: all the monks of a monastery, all the priests of a diocese, all the chapter of canons, all the newly ordained, all the bishops of a synod, the whole college of cardinals. Having an arbitrary "sampling" of priests who happen to be present concelebrate is, far from a sign of unity in Christ's body, rather a symbol of fragmentation and confusion. It would be like having some legislators from Utah and some from California and some from the US House all get together under the presidership of the governor of Texas and pass a would make no sense and wouldn't be binding because that isn't a duly constituted houses of legislators, it's just an arbitrary mixing and matching across jurisdictional lines. The fact that there is ultimately a federal government that encompasses all those jurisdictions...doesn't change that. There is a subsidiarity in the Church that needs to be shown, not just its universality;

3) concelebration should most definitely not count for a separate stipend or Mass intention (when I found out that the intentions I was paying for might not even have a separate whole Mass said for them, I was scandalized). Priests should still be expected to say their own private low Mass if they concelebrate. They probably shouldn't hold their own separate hosts either, as their intention is supposed to be to all together consecrate everything that is being consecrated, and having separate hosts gives the impression that they are each only consecrating their own host.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Sad Story

Hopefully there is some other explanation:
Even the pope called him "Father Sam," as he was known to the thousands of alcoholics and drug addicts he helped at a rehab center in Akron, Ohio, over the past 40 years. But federal law enforcement officials say the Rev. Samuel Ciccolini has a secret stash of cash and have charged him with making over $1 million in bank deposits to avoid government reporting requirements and with filing a false tax return.

Ciccolini, 66, stepped down Wednesday as executive director of the Interval Brotherhood Home that he founded in 1970 near the rough South Akron neighborhood where he grew up. He was not available for comment, according to the Akron Beacon Journal.

Federal prosecutors say Ciccolini deposited $1,038,680 from April to June 2003, making 139 separate cash deposits at branch banks in the area. There was no indication where the money came from.

The rehab center received $4.1 million in financing this year, the Beacon Journal reported.

Father Sam has been a much beloved figure in the Akron community. In 2000, he received an audience with Pope John Paul II, who praised his work.

"Father Sam, God bless you," the pope said to the priest, according to Beacon Journal columnist Diane Evans. "You do the work of Christ."
Either way, is there even any question anymore that this institution is a hotbed of sociopaths?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A Wonderful Insanity

Please say a prayer for a special intention, and pass along the request to those you know. Sorry to be cryptic, but suffice it to say I think there could be a weapon for great good or for great evil, and I'd prefer it be for good.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Dreams of Poverty

Sometimes, when I think about my life, I feel very selfish. Even if I am able to exercise temperance and be ascetically abstinent from things, even if I dedicate a lot of time to prayer and gain wisdom and have strong faith and hope, even if I avoid things that are positively unjust or uncharitable or sinful...I still feel guilty about not doing enough actively to help people. I mean materially, the corporal works of mercy.

I think the Church does not emphasize this enough anymore. The greatest sin these days may be Sloth, I'm thinking, yet not because people aren't busy or don't work hard. But we work for our own comfort, and perhaps lack the Fortitude to take the plunge and live as selflessly as Christians really are supposed to do. And while the hierarchy whines on and on about sins against chastity, you don't here much about sins against fortitude or the lack of active charitable giving or volunteering among Catholics (unless, perhaps, they're talking about giving money to them).

I am reasonably confident in my ability to be Just and to act Prudently. When I commit myself to something fully I can be very strong-willed about resisting positive temptations, and so I hope that will allow me to be increasingly Temperate, assuming that I continue my trend of valuing Inner Peace more and more over stoking the fires of wrath and lust (which passions hopefully will also continue just naturally cooling since my stormy teen years, lol). My Faith isn't in question, my Hope springs eternal, and I feel pretty sure, at this point, that God Himself is going to keep wearing away my adamantine Pride drop by tedious drop, in every humiliation he keeps sending my way, and I just have to be passively open to that.

But I have always been afraid that I am, at my core, a lazy coward. That it is negative, rather than positive, temptation that is my weakness; which is to say, the temptation not to do good or necessary things, rather than actually doing bad things. That I am utterly avoidant of facing any sort of discomfort,
especially physically (unless it serves bodily vanity, lol), though also emotionally. That I always put forth only the minimum possible effort or exertion required to avoid greater discomfort, and that my fundamental instinct to minimize experiences or risks of physical pain, anxiety, grief, or terror (even at the price of sacrificing my own positive pleasure or happiness) is the greatest barrier to the full blossoming of Charity within my soul. That fear itself is, indeed, what I am most afraid of, and that this fear of having to experience the emotion of terror (which is much worse than physical pain) is what paralyzes me from taking risks, and would stop me from facing a martyrdom that involved any sort of prolonged torture.

To be fair to myself, I am not only afraid at the thought of my own physical discomfort, but also at the thought of the tragic or painful death of those I love. But maybe only because I fear the grief I would feel, the emotional pain I would undergo? I don't think I fear death in itself, on a conscious level; if it were just like falling asleep it could be very pleasant even. But I'm ironically afraid of my own presumed instinctual fear of death. If I were going to be lethally injected, I don't think the death itself would be terrible (I quite enjoyed the tranquility of being put under anesthesia when I got my wisdom teeth out, actually)...and yet, nevertheless, I for some reason imagine the anticipation of it would be unbearable; that I would work myself up into a cycle of fearing my own anticipated fear.

For a long time, my most feared death was drowning, because of the panic I imagine would be associated with trying to hold my breath, only to eventually be forced to involuntarily inhale, even knowing rationally that it won't help, only to take in a mouthful of water, and then go into desperate spasms trying to cough it up, only to find more water...that terrifies me. I found out that, in many cases, you actually go unconscious before you inhale, thanks to mechanisms related to the relative proportion of CO2 and O2 in the bloodstream. But, still, I don't like to think about it.

That may have gotten rather grim, I'm sorry, and off track! The point was simply my feelings of avoiding positive works of mercy if they discomfort or inconvenience me in anyway, if they require any sort of risk of pain. Now, we all are faced with opportunities everyday, I think, for preforming the spiritual works of mercy to some degree (and some would argue those are more important) just among our friends, our family, people we meet in "real life" and online, etc. But, still, I feel an urge to do more for the poor, the exploited, the oppressed, especially given my anti-imperialist social justice rhetoric. I mean, how much time do I spend just online or watching TV or having fun with friends or traveling with family...while there are children dying of malnutrition, victims of horrible disease and natural disaster, and people who live in filthy hovels?

I've often thought about doing something like running off and joining the Peace Corp or something like that. But something tells me I'm not called for that sort of hands-on activism right now, and I often have to wonder whether that's always the most efficient way even. Not to denigrate the good intentions of anyone trying to help people, but sometimes I hear of youth "work trips" or "mission trips" to exotic locations for, like, a week, to do some token labor with the poor and think to myself, "I bet the poor would have been a lot happier if you just gave them the money you spent on all that airfare." I mean, there are other purposes to such trips of course, including consciousness raising and making real human connections with people in other countries, of other classes, etc. But sometimes I wonder how efficient some of this volunteerism really is, and how much is really just to make the volunteers feel good.

That did get me thinking, though. Even if I do end up just working a job for a salary here in the First World somewhere, that doesn't mean my efforts can't be for the poor. I've often thought about just running away to some Third World country to escape "the System" to escape this American Babylon wherein I sometimes feel like nothing I can do is good because everything (even dissent) has been co-opted, that there can be no real resistance because everything is designed to merely re-enforce the system, to play into their hands. But then, I think, what would I do there? I'd be just one more mouth for the poor country to feed, and would probably get in the way more than help. Besides, I'd be giving up all the advantages and talents and opportunities God has given me here, by putting me in this position socio-economically. I mean, unless I imagine going there and being a guerrilla leader organizing some sort of Third World Revolution (not gonna happen), I certainly would lose all hope of fighting for change on the structural level if I did something like that.

But if my "comparative advantage" is the fact that I have the social capital to get a job here that pays more money in a year than some people in the Third World (who live on a dollar a day) could never even imagine in their lifetime...who's to say I can't funnel most of that to them nonetheless? I wouldn't go so far as to be a Robin Hood stealing from the rich to give to the poor, but since I don't feel called to have children to support, and since even if I were sometime a priest I would not want to be a salaried full-time employee...perhaps I could at least work for the rich to give to the poor. I've often thought that priests or religious, seeing as they're giving up their whole life to live in poverty anyway, could at least do something with their time to channel money toward the poor; if you are going to be doing manual labor anyway as an ascetic discipline, you might as well do it for someone for actual pay, or actually produce something useful, so that you can re-direct the value to someone who needs it. In reality, a lot seem to just be lazy and dependent on the institution...

Right now I'm planning to teach. It doesn't make you rich by our standards, of course, but by the standards of the developing world, that income is a lot comparatively. And given that I am in the social position (as an upper-middle-class American citizen) to get such a job, as unequal as the pay may be (and as much as our domestic economy may be based on exploitation of the periphery)...maybe I can feel comfortable taking that dirty blood-stained money if I give most of it to the poor?

Give 10% to the Church as a tithe, of course, in some distribution between the various institutional organs thereof (my local parish, traditionalist societies, the diocese, good religious orders, Peter's Pence, etc). But then limit myself to living off a certain amount of the rest of my income and just giving the rest away, year after year. If I lived in an RV or something, and could find a church that would let me park in their lot over night...that would even exclude the need for rent or payment for housing. Hmm...

Is that a lazy shortcut to charity? Is that, as it were, simply "buying my way out" of the obligation to actually sweat and get sore helping people, like some Civil War draftee hiring a substitute? I worry about that, I worry that's my attitude. That, while probably more efficient in the long run (if I found good organizations to donate to), I also worry that is impersonal, and that part of self-giving is the actual human contact with the people one is trying to help, and actually facing discomfort and pain and suffering. In many ways, deprivation is easy, I've never liked a lot of possessions anyway as I feel they clutter my life. But is working for and then giving away money like that the same as active self-giving?

Of course, as a teacher I would actually be doing a double deed if I approached it the right way. I could both be helping the students and hopefully being a positive influence on them (even if, in public schools, the religious/aspect aspect need be subtle with discretion) while at the same time laboring to obtain money for the poor. And, as a teacher, there is always time over the summers to actually do "hands-on" help; maybe not internationally, necessarily, but there are plenty of people who need help domestically too. Or maybe, instead of just giving the money to charity, I saved it away for a while to found a charity of my own...though, does the world need anymore organizations if the ones it has already are already underfunded and competing for their own slice of the pie?

Well, those are my musings for the day. Please chime in if you have answers to any of my doubts...

Monday, July 12, 2010


It's summer now. Some people have more time on their hands to think about their lives and the sad state of the Church. In some ways I worry I've sort of given up, and am just trying to live my life now in spite of it all. But I still hear from so many young people who are jaded, disillusioned, and feel helpless in this situation. I think we all need to hang on. Surely, some opportunity will present itself. Just keep praying.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Cuddling Up With Wisdom

I found this interesting, from Matins today (in the pre-1960 Office, which I use, which still has all the patristic homilies and such).

The first section (out of three) of the Scripture reading at the First Nocturn was this, a Bible story I wasn't terribly familiar with from the first chapter of the Third Book of Kings (in protestant[ized] Bibles known as the First Book of Kings, as the First and Second Books of Kings are then called "1 and 2 Samuel"):
1 Now king David was old, and advanced in years: and when he was covered with clothes, he was not warm. 2 His servants therefore said to him: Let us seek for our lord the king, a young virgin, and let her stand before the king, and cherish him, and sleep in his bosom, and warm our lord the king. 3 So they sought a beautiful young woman in all the coasts of Israel, and they found Abisag a Sunamitess, and brought her to the king. 4 And the damsel was exceeding beautiful, and she slept with the king: and served him, but the king did not know her.
Consulting other translations, this "did not know her" indeed means he abstained from sexual relations with her. It's a rather strange thing to mention right at the beginning of the book, I think, though it does set up a later event in Solomon's reign. The letter by St. Jerome at the Second Nocturn, however, sheds some light on it through the allegorical interpretation of Abisag as Wisdom:
Then David, who had once been a man of war, was seventy years old, the chill of old age came upon him, and he could get no heat. So they sought out for him throughout all the coasts of Israel Abishag the Shunamite, to sleep with the king and to warm his aged body. Who is this Shunamite, wife and yet virgin, so hot, that she could heat the chilly, so holy, that her warmth provoked him not to lust. Let Solomon the Wise explain his father's enjoyment, and the "Peaceful One" tell of the warrior's embraces. "Get wisdom, get understanding forget it not, neither decline from the words of my mouth forsake her not, and she shall preserve thee love her, and she shall keep thee. Wisdom is the principal thing therefore get wisdom and with all thy getting, get understanding. Exalt her, and she shall promote thee. Honour her, and she shall embrace thee, and shall give to thine head an ornament of grace. She shall compass thee like a crown of delights." In old men almost all the powers of the body become weakened, and while wisdom only is increasing, all things else beside wisdom fail. Then faileth strength for fasting, for watching, for "chameuniae," (that is, sleeping on the floor,) for wandering hither and thither, for receiving strangers, for defending the poor, for instance and constancy in prayer, for visiting the sick, for that work with the hands whence alms are given. I need not treat of this with long talk, but, in short, when the body is broken down, all the works of the body wax enfeebled. Don't either do I say, on the other hand, that wisdom, which in many old men drivelleth into second childhood, is weak, or wanting in such of the young and stout, as win knowledge by work and earnest study, by holiness of life and instancy of prayer to the Lord Jesus, but this I do say, that the more spiritual faculties have in youth many wrestlings with the body to go through, and that, what with violent provocations to vice, and what with the sensual ticklings of the flesh, they are apt to be smothered like fire among green wood, and not able to blaze forth in all their brightness. But when old age cometh upon them, who have spent their youth in acquiring sound knowledge, and have meditated in the law of the Lord day and night, it hath this effect on them, to make them more learned by their increased years, more experienced by constant use, more wise, through the advance of time and, in short, doth offer them the rich harvest of their past diligence.
This somewhat relates to the Gospel Homily by St. Hilary (on Matthew 7:15-21) at the Third Nocturn warning that it is deeds, not words, which will save a man:
The Lord here warneth us that we must rate the worth of soft words and seeming meekness, by the fruits which they that manifest such things bring forth in their works, and that we should look, in order to see what a man is, not at his professions, but at his deeds. For there are many in whom sheep's clothing is but a mask to hide wolfish ravening. But "Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit, but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit." Thus, the Lord teacheth us, is it with men also evil men bring not forth good fruits, and hereby are we to know them. Lip-service alone winneth not the kingdom of heaven, nor is every one that saith unto Christ, "Lord, Lord," an heir thereof. What use is there in calling the Lord, Lord? Would He not be Lord all the same, whether or not we called Him so? What holiness is there in this ascription of a name, when the true way to enter into the kingdom of heaven is to do the will of our Father, Who is in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day: Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy Name? Already here doth the Lord rebuke the deceit of the false prophets, and the feigning of the hypocrites, who take glory to themselves because of the power of their words, their prophesying in teaching, their casting out of devils, and such-like mighty works. Because of all these things they promised unto themselves that they shall enter into the kingdom of heaven as though in their words and works any good thing were their own, and not all the mighty working of that God upon Whom they call, since reading bringeth knowledge of doctrine, and the Name of Christ driveth out devils. That which is needed on our part to win that blessed eternity, that of our own which we must give, is to will to do right, to turn away from all evil, to obey with our whole heart the commandments laid on us from heaven, and so to become the friends of God. It should be ours rather to do God's will, than to boast of God's power. And we must put off from us and thrust away such as are by their wicked works already estranged from His friendship.
Important lessons for this Seventh Sunday after Pentecost. May all who are cold (in body, heart, or soul) find a holy bedfellow to warm them with the embrace of wisdom, and may all who profess Christ as Lord truly do His will.

Free Requiem Altar Cards

I've previously told you about, and made available, the Novus Ordo Altar Cards I had made up earlier this year for the new Mass in Latin. Now a friend has made some snappy Traditional Requiem Altar Cards that he wants to make available free to people.

Just print them up, get them framed in black, and voila! A less expensive option for increasing the somber aesthetic of Requiems in the Old Rite, certainly, than having to buy them from "professional" church-supply profiteers, and they're very nice looking too:

Link to downloads

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Publicity Stunts...

Are they worth it for a cause?

Friday, July 9, 2010

What We Don't Stand For...

I have long threatened, in the comments section, to hold up any offensive comments as "an example of What We Don't Stand For." Until today, I never really had any good examples, as readership was pretty limited. We're getting some traffic now from some outside sites and blogs now, and I found (and deleted) this, on the post about the priest who celebrates both Gospel and Traditional liturgy. It is an example of What We Don't Stand For:
How horrid. This is exactly the danger that I see facing Traditionalism through increased attention from diocesan clergy.... the priest who, with his split, schizophrenic modern mind, can, with a straight face, claim that a horrid, blasphemous, Protestant-inspired "Gospel Mass" is in any way comparable to the Mass of the Ages. In the good old days, if a priest had said this, he would be hauled before the Inquisition and publicly punished for his crime. Now, he is lauded for 'building bridges!' Disgusting...
These poor right-wingers; you have to wonder what happened to them as children. Luckily, the traditional liturgy is no longer just the province of these types any more...but you can tell that prospect is really making them uncomfortable (in fact, he explicitly admits that from the get go!) The crazies are feeling the heat, let's keep working to smoke them out entirely.


And I began: "O Poet, willingly
Speak would I to those two, who go together,
And seem upon the wind to be so light."
And, he to me: "Thou'lt mark, when they shall be
Nearer to us; and then do thou implore them
By love which leadeth them, and they will come."
Soon as the wind in our direction sways them,
My voice uplift I: "O ye weary souls!
Come speak to us, if no one interdicts it."
As turtle-doves, called onward by desire,
With open and steady wings to the sweet nest
Fly through the air by their volition borne,
So came they from the band where Dido is,
Approaching us athwart the air malign,
So strong was the affectionate appeal.
"O living creature gracious and benignant,
Who visiting goest through the purple air
Us, who have stained the world incarnadine,
If were the King of the Universe our friend,
We would pray unto him to give thee peace,
Since thou hast pity on our woe perverse.
Of what it pleases thee to hear and speak,
That will we hear, and we will speak to you,
While silent is the wind, as it is now.
Sitteth the city, wherein I was born,
Upon the sea-shore where the Po descends
To rest in peace with all his retinue.
Love, that on gentle heart doth swiftly seize,
Seized this man for the person beautiful
That was ta'en from me, and still the mode offends me.
Love, that exempts no one beloved from loving,
Seized me with pleasure of this man so strongly,
That, as thou seest, it doth not yet desert me;
Love has conducted us unto one death;
Caina waiteth him who quenched our life!"
These words were borne along from them to us.
As soon as I had heard those souls tormented,
I bowed my face, and so long held it down
Until the Poet said to me: "What thinkest?"
When I made answer, I began: "Alas!
How many pleasant thoughts, how much desire,
Conducted these unto the dolorous pass!"
Then unto them I turned me, and I spake,
And I began: "Thine agonies, Francesca,
Sad and compassionate to weeping make me.
But tell me, at the time of those sweet sighs,
By what and in what manner Love conceded,
That you should know your dubious desires?"
And she to me: "There is no greater sorrow
Than to be mindful of the happy time
In misery, and that thy Teacher knows.
But, if to recognise the earliest root
Of love in us thou hast so great desire,
I will do even as he who weeps and speaks.
One day we reading were for our delight
Of Lancelot, how Love did him enthral.
Alone we were and without any fear.
Full many a time our eyes together drew
That reading, and drove the colour from our faces;
But one point only was it that o'ercame us.
When as we read of the much-longed-for smile
Being by such a noble lover kissed,
This one, who ne'er from me shall be divided,
Kissed me upon the mouth all palpitating.
Galeotto was the book and he who wrote it.
That day no farther did we read therein."
And all the while one spirit uttered this,
The other one did weep so, that, for pity,
I swooned away as if I had been dying,
And fell, even as a dead body falls.

Canto V

Damaged From Within

This article is worth a read! Though apparently some major conservative Catholics on Twitter seem to think it is some sort of disloyal heretical "nonsense" written by "the opposition," I see no reason why critiquing the culture of clericalism and the hierarchy's corruption is in any way un-Catholic:
It would be a mistake, however, to think that what is imploding is the church. The church is, in many ways, just fine. What is imploding, rather, is a culture of clericalism, especially the hierarchical layer of that culture, which has become so disconnected in many of its expressions from the core mandates of Christian scripture that it seems to barely function at all.

The authority that has been slowly leaking from the structure for decades is now gushing out as bishops contort themselves in attempts to convince the world of their good intentions and transparency while simultaneously railing against those within the church and without who are working to reveal the truth.

The shocking raid of a bishops’ meeting in Belgium is but the latest indication of the degree to which the old protections and privileges enjoyed by the clerical culture are disintegrating. It stands as a clear symbol that an age is ending. The disintegration could be seen occurring during the past quarter century in the United States under the grinding weight of revelations that the Catholic hierarchy had repeatedly protected those who had sexually molested children and had hidden the crimes from the church and the wider community.

It continued in Catholic Ireland, where the deep betrayal of the community caused a serious exodus from the church amid lingering anger. In one of the greater absurdities of this period of crisis, church leaders in Rome have decided to send bishops from the United States to determine what happened in the Irish church.


Meanwhile, the world outside this favored culture is beginning to realize that one of the most powerful men within it during Pope John Paul II’s papacy, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, once secretary of state and now dean of the College of Cardinals, took money from the likes of the late Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the Legion of Christ. Maciel was a favorite of the former pope, and a man who abused his young seminarians and is accused of fathering children, including a son, whom he also allegedly repeatedly abused.

Sodano was one of Maciel’s most ardent backers.

That Sodano should be nowhere near any level of control at the Vatican is apparent to most everyone who has given this scandal the slightest thought. But there he is, still posturing, offering paeans to a beleaguered pope during liturgies, and dismissing the growing chorus of charges against fellow bishops as petty gossip.

And when one of those fellow bishops, Cardinal Cristoph Schönborn of Austria, dares to call him out, as someone should, in one of the more rational comments that anyone inside the culture has yet made, Sodano is able to manipulate a meeting with Schönborn and the pope. The world is subsequently informed that such criticism is not to occur cardinal to cardinal. Such power is reserved for the pope alone. The pope remains silent and Sodano remains influential.

The protection from scrutiny previously enjoyed by the culture, a reflection more than anything of royal prerogatives and palace behavior, has disintegrated to the point where the U.S. Supreme Court gave approval for a suit that seeks to hold the Vatican responsible for the transfer of pedophile priests from place to place, transfers that occurred without warning to law enforcement bodies or to the communities involved.

The sex abuse crisis, as we’ve said in this space before, is a crisis of the clerical culture, a crisis of authority and ecclesiology. The sex abuse crisis is the awful symptom of much deeper problems.

Projection is occurring on a global scale as the bishops grasp for ways to explain how so much has gone so wrong so quickly. Relativism! Secularism! Cultural influences! All those bad things out there, they reason, are influencing the people to revolt, to backslide, to not believe as they should, to disregard the hierarchy’s rulings and pronouncements. It is the bishops who fail to recognize that they, themselves, are the best living examples of the relativism and secularism they decry.


What seems clear at this moment is that the hierarchy as it has evolved in the past half millennium is deeply damaged from within. And there is little evidence of the imagination, the creativity, the spirit, necessary to repair or rethink the structure.

The second half of 2010, it seems, may be just as disheartening to the Holy Father, just as bumpy, as the first.

These ridiculous old men have made their coffin and now they can lie in it, for all I care. It's probably the best thing for them really, to end their miserable, petty lives, their lonely, loveless, sexless existence.