Thursday, October 03, 2002

Some Clarifications

As regular readers of my blog are aware, I have criticized some of the content of Michael Rose’s book, Goodbye, Good Men, and also questioned the accuracy of some of its contents. In compliance with Mr. Rose's request, via counsel, and in the interest of laying the controversy to rest, I’d like to make the following clarifications.

In June of this year I sent two e-mails to several individuals. The first e-mail was an announcement that Michael Rose was scheduled to appear on Raymond Arroyo’s show, “The World Over”, on EWTN. My source for that information was a friend, another priest. Several days later I sent another e-mail to the same people as the first, in which I informed them that Michael Rose’s appearance on the Raymond Arroyo Show was cancelled “precisely because of the ‘controversy’ regarding Rose’s veracity.” I also stated that Michael Rose was being sued for libel by two priests. Each of these statements require clarification. First, the statement that “two priests mentioned by name in Rose’s book are suing him for libel”, was furnished to me second hand, by the same source mentioned above. I am not personally aware of the existence of any such suits. Second, is the statement regarding Michael Rose’s appearance on the Raymond Arroyo Show. In fact, the only information I received with respect to this issue was an e-mail from the same friend mentioned above forwarding me an e-mail message from Raymond Arroyo that stated: “We are NOT having Rose on at present, based on the controversy.”

My friends, I also want to take this opportunity to tell you that I am taking a blog vacation for a short time to attend to my pastoral responsibilities and to work on a manuscript for a Catholic magazine. I will return when time and energy permit me.

Wednesday, October 02, 2002

Something New

If you'll look over to the right, you'll see I've added a new section: "The Best of My Blog."

These are things I've posted which I think were especially significant or about which I have received more than a few compliments.

I'm trying to make some other changes to my page, but the archive function on Blogger is messed up (again).


Monday, September 16, 2002

God is Good. All the Time!

This past Friday I had the honor of participating in the episcopal ordination of Bishop Earl Boyea. Bishop Boyea will be an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Detroit. He returns to his native diocese after spending 3 years as the Rector of the Pontifical College Josephinum, the only Pontifical seminary in the United States.

When then-Monsignor Boyea's appointment was announced in late July I was very happy, as I was privileged to have Bishop Boyea as my spiritual director at Sacred Heart Seminary, where he served as Professor of Church History and Academic Dean. He was a great source of support and encouragement in persevering in my vocation.

The Archdiocese of Detroit has been given a great gift in it's new Bishop, and it's my prayer that Bishop Boyea's zeal for the Catholic Faith and love for the Church will make a mark in Detroit and beyond.

During my visit to Detroit, I stayed at Sacred Heart, and was able to spend some time visiting with the seminarians from my own diocese of Kalamazoo. I am very impressed by these young men: They are intelligent, they love the Church, and want to be uncompromising witnesses to Christ and His gospel. I was also impressed by the fact that we have 6 new seminarians this year. That may not sound like a lot, but for a diocese as small as Kalamazoo (110,000 catholics), that's doing very well indeed. This new group of men increases our number of seminarians by almost 50% over last year. When I consider that when I joined my diocese in 1998 I was one of three seminarians, and that now we have 13, I'd say that things are looking up indeed!

I have read some speculation that the blot upon the priesthood caused by The Situation would drive aspirants away from the priesthood. I have heard some priests' lament that the scandals would devastate seminary recruitment. Well, I was skeptical about that thinking at the time, and it seems that my skepticism was justified. It is my belief, and my hope, that The Situation will be a time of purification for the Church. I think that God will raise up many zealous and holy priests even in the midst of scandal. Given the evidence within my own little diocese, I think we have good reason to be hopeful.

Wednesday, September 11, 2002

9-11 Remembered

Today, we remembered the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon by offering a "Mass in Time of War or Civil Disturbance" at my parish. We did this at our regularly scheduled 8:00 AM Mass. After the Mass we tolled the church bell for about 15 minutes. But we are not having any additional Masses or special services at my parish today.

My pastor has caught a little bit of heat for this from some parishioners, who felt that we ought to have a "special" Mass or service today. But I think that the way we have handled this day is fitting. I'm not sure I can put my finger on the reasons I think so, but I think that having a "special" Mass for today would not have been appropriate. We certainly recognized the significance of this day in the prayers, and I did in my homily, which emphasized that the only true source of Peace is Christ and his redemptive work. But I think that today should be a "low-key" sort of day, and not the frenzy of emotional hyperbolics we have seen building up to today.

There was also some disappointment expressed about the relative lack of patriotic music at today's Mass. We closed the Mass with "America the Beautiful" but that was the only patriotic song we sung. I think this was also fitting. I have always been uneasy with patriotic music at Mass. And that's not because I'm not a Patriot. I love expressions of patriotism as much as any American. I sing the national anthem enthusiastically at public events. I'm all in favor of things like starting the school day with the pledge of allegiance. But I don't think the Mass is the proper place for unrestrained expressions of patriotism.

Finally, a couple of older people I know have pointed something curious out to me. We see that there are a plethora of different "remembrance services" and the like going on across the country. Now, I don't think there's anything wrong with them, but I am somewhat puzzled at what I see as an over-multiplication of them. In my little town of St. Joseph, Michigan, there are something like 35 different services today, in addition to the big service for the whole town at the firehouse. The announcements of them took up almost a whole page of the local newspaper. But these older people observed that nothing like this happened in World War II, for example, in marking the anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. They told me there was nothing like the kind of almost-frenzied series of different services, rallies, or the like. This stikes me as interesting, and indicative of some sort of change that has overtaken American culture between then and now. What has changed? Is it a change for the better or worse?

Don't Be Alarmed

I know some people were worried yesterday because apparently my blog page came up as blank for couple of hours. They took this as a sign that perhaps my blog had been "silenced." No, nothing like that happpened. It was a purely technical problem.

Also, don't be alarmed if I don't post for a few days again. Nothing sinister going on. But they're switching our servers and software at my church and school over to Novell, and we'll be off-line for a day or two. Not to mention that, even once we're back on-line here, I fully expect that nothing will actually work right. That seems to be the way it is whenever you make changes or attmept to "upgrade."

Friday, September 06, 2002

Rose Matter Under Review

Just so it is clear what is actually happening:

My bishop, James A. Murray of Kalamazoo, has asked me to make no further public statements about Michael Rose, Goodbye! Good Men, or Rose's threatened legal action until he has had the opportunity to review the matter. I am meeting with him next week, when, I imagine, he will render a judgment about how he would like me to proceed.

Please pray for me, Michael Rose, and my bishop, that we will act with prudence, fairness, and wisdom in this matter.

Wednesday, September 04, 2002

Toning Down the Rhetoric

In an effort to try to "tone down" the rhetoric and restore some degree of calm to the dispute between Mr. Rose and myself, I have edited this post. I left the facts about the legal action, as it would seem silly to try to pretend it isn't happening.

I intend to move on with blogging on other matters in the near future.

Michael Rose Threatens Legal Action

Yesterday I received in the mail a Certified Letter from a lawyer representing Michael Rose, the author of Goodbye! Good Men. In May I wrote a critical review of Rose's book in Culture Wars Magazine. Mr. Rose objected to my criticisms, as is his right, and responded to them, as is also his right. Mike Jones, the publisher of Culture Wars, and I, felt it was necessary for me to rebut Mr. Rose in the magazine. So Mr. Rose's response and my rebuttal were published in the July/August issue of Culture Wars. That issue of Culture Wars isn't yet available on line.

This letter from Mr. Rose's attorney demands that I cease my "ongoing pattern of numerous and defamatory statements" against Mr. Rose, and threatens me with a Federal lawsuit if I do not comply. He demands that I retract certain criticisms I have made, that I remove all statements I have made about Mr. Rose and his book from my website and its archives, and that I agree in writing not to write anything further about Mr. Rose or his publications.

Unfortunately, it seems to me, this legal action is forcing the controversy to remain protracted. If Mr. Rose had not chosen this tactic, he probably would have gotten his wish. After announcing the Crisis Magazine article in my blog last week, I really wouldn't have had any more to say about Rose or his book. I've pretty much said my piece on it, and was getting ready to move on.

Prophecy and Fulfillment?

Brian Saint-Paul's article in Crisis Magazine, which I blogged on last Friday, is now up and available on line. Read it!

In related news, a while back, you may recall, Mark Shea generously attributed to me the virtue of sagacity. Now, Stephen Hand over at TCRNews has recognized in me, in my own small way, the gift of prophecy.

In an e-mail to me over the weekend he pointed me in the direction of Diocese Report's newest headline. Last Friday I concluded my blog by commenting on the conspiracy theory being cooked up by Rose and his supporters to explain the criticisms of Goodbye! Good Men coming from orthodox Catholic quarters.

Stephen wrote, quoting from my blog and then from Diocese Report:

> Prophecy: "I suppose they’ll have to add Crisis to the conspiracy now.
> A “grand conspiracy” certainly will make for sensational reading, and it has
> the added benefit of preserving the putative victim(s) of that conspiracy
> from self-examination."

> Fulfillment: "Circling The Wagons: Crisis Joins Witch Hunt of Michael S.
> Rose... Developing.." ----Diocese Report. PM, 8/30/02

It's too bad the Diocese Report's site has been updated since the weekend. The "Witch Hunt" headline was really impressive at the top of the page in 36-point type.

Friday, August 30, 2002

A Question of Integrity: Crisis Magazine Opens New Round in The War of Rose

The September issue of Crisis Magazine takes on the accuracy and journalistic integrity of Michael Rose and his book, Goodbye! Good Men. This is the latest round of criticism of Rose’s controversial book: The first round was opened by Amy Welborn in a review she wrote for Our Sunday Visitor. Her relatively restrained criticisms were of the overall tone and overreaching claims of the book, and the fact that Rose relied heavily on pseudonymous sources. Next I wrote a review for Culture Wars, in which I took Rose to task for relying, in his book, on a source which he had acknowledged to be "seriously flawed". I recognized that Rose’s overall thesis contained a large amount of truth, but pointed out that the truth of some of Rose’s claims did not give him the right to make poorly substantiated charges which could harm the reputation of innocent people. For daring to criticize him, Rose and his supporters labeled me "schizophrenic", "dishonest", of dubious character, and a protector of priest-abusers and those who enabled them. Later this summer, National Catholic Register and Our Sunday Visitor weighed in with further criticisms which were narrower in scope, but furthered the case that Goodbye! Good Men is marred by errors and inaccuracies.

Now Brian Saint-Paul, the senior editor of Crisis, shows that Rose’s claims regarding the American College of Louvain (the American seminary at the University of Louvain in Belgium) are highly problematic, beset, as they are, with evidence of poor fact-checking. Rose’s account revolves around the claims made by Joseph Kellenyi, an ex-seminarian. This ex-seminarian claims that he was subjected to homosexual advances from another seminarian, and that that same seminarian was later entrusted by the Rector of the seminary with a supervisory role over Kellenyi. Saint-Paul shows that Rose’s claims, far from being "carefully researched", as Rose and his supporters contend, rely solely on Kellenyi’s testimony, and that testimony is dubious indeed.

Kellenyi’s account of the events in question can be found in his official sounding "Final Report to the Committee", available at The probative value of this so-called "Final Report" lessens dramatically, though, once the reader realizes that it is the composition of none other than Kellenyi himself. And this "report" is a towering monument of unsubstantiated assertion and circular reasoning. One piece of "evidence" that Kellenyi adduces on several points is the fact that the then-Rector of the Louvain, Fr. David Windsor, never launched a formal investigation of his claims. That no-one else, including other members of the seminary faculty, found his allegations credible or worthy of investigation never seems to have crossed Kellenyi’s mind. But Kellenyi nevertheless asserts that his "report" is the "final and authoritative word on this matter." The most priceless example of Kellenyi’s circular reasoning comes at the end of his report, when he asserts that his account of things is "a matter of record". And why is it a matter of record? Because Michael Rose documents these allegations in his book. And what is the source of Rose’s documentation? Nothing other than Joseph Kellenyi’s claims.

Kellenyi’s claims, far from being corroborated by other seminarians at Louvain, are strenuously denied. Saint-Paul, in his Crisis article, quotes seminarian after seminarian who say that nothing like the "gay subculture" Kellenyi and Rose portray existed. But Rose seems not to have taken the time to find out about those other opinions: As the Rector of the Louvain, Fr. Kevin Codd, stated on the College’s website earlier this summer:

> Mr. Rose never contacted The American College to authenticate
> his documentation, to seek further documentation, or to give us
> our rightful opportunity to respond to the accusations made in his
> book. Mr. Rose has never visited The American College and does
> not personally know any of our students or faculty members about
> whom he repeats these egregious accusations.

To those who have read my review in Culture Wars, this will sound very familiar. For Mr. Rose, in assembling the information he used in making his attack on Sacred Heart Major Seminary, never interviewed the Rector of the seminary, Bishop Allen Vigneron, nor any current faculty there, nor did he give anyone there an opportunity to provide another perspective on his claims before he went into print. Furthermore, seminarians enrolled at other institutions, such as Mundelein, have reported that their experience is at wide variance to the allegations Rose makes against them. Is this the "careful" research that Rose claims to have performed?

Rose’s case against the Louvain hinges on the testimony of Joseph Kellenyi, and his allegations of being subjected to the unwanted advances of a homosexual seminarian, whom, Kellenyi laments, was later ordained. Kellenyi does not name this person, designating him as "seminarian X". But Brian Saint-Paul discovered the identity of this seminarian: now-Father Pat Van Durme. Fr. Van Durme has come forward and made his outrage at Rose’s allegations known. Fr. Van Durme apparently not only never made advances on Kellenyi, he isn’t even homosexual. Not homosexual? That’s right, as several of his friends, ex-girlfriends, and Van Durme’s ex-fiancee have readily testified. That Rose could rely upon accusations of homosexual misconduct against a man whose heterosexual identity is well known and easily verifiable would be laughable, if the accusations weren't so grave. But, in showing the patent falsity of Kellenyi’s charges, Saint-Paul calls into question the accuracy Rose’s account.

There is much more in Saint-Paul’s article that I could discuss: Kellenyi’s broadening of his accusations against Van Durme to include charges of a homosexual affair between Van Durme and the Rector, and even Bishop Ed Braxton of Lake Charles, Louisiana. But I’ll leave you to read about it in Crisis. The September issue is out and has hit the stands, and the article should be available on-line next week.

When I published my review in May, Michael Rose and some other critics dismissed my review as focusing on "just one" example. Of course, my criticisms were broader than that. In my rebuttal to Rose’s "response", published in the July/August issue of Culture Wars, I gave further evidence of problems in Rose's account. National Catholic Register and Our Sunday Visitor have adduced other examples of Rose’s spotty approach. And now Brian Saint-Paul uncovers yet another example of problems with Goodbye! Good Men. If "just one" example isn’t enough to show that Rose’s claims are flawed, what about 2? Or 3? Aren’t six enough? And these aren’t just "little" errors. They involve grave accusations made against real people. Michael Rose has published claims that are potentially damaging to the character and reputations of real people. That’s not a little thing.

As Brian Saint-Paul points out, the criticisms of Goodbye! Good Men have come from a surprising quarter: journals such as National Catholic Register and Culture Wars, which are known as being orthodox, “conservative” Catholic publications. But rather than encouraging self-examination or moderation of claims, these criticisms have provoked from Rose's supporters increasingly strident attempts at justification and vilification of their opponents. In the on-line tabloid Diocese Report, the writer all-but links OSV, NCR, and Culture Wars in a conspiracy of "individuals who seem bent on destroying the creditability of the book and of Rose." I suppose they’ll have to add Crisis to the conspiracy now. A “grand conspiracy” certainly will make for sensational reading, and it has the added benefit of preserving the putative victim(s) of that conspiracy from self-examination.

Thursday, August 29, 2002

Grip and Grin: Hi, Howya doin'?

Well, I didn't anticipate that my question about shaking hands before Mass would generate as much comment and opinion as it did. I received more than 30 e-mails about this, and there are 89 comments for my blog below. Obviously, I tapped into some strong feelings about this out there.

A number of my fellow bloggers chimed in about this at there own sites as well. In case you haven't seen them, here is a list of the other bloggers who addressed this question on their own blogs:

Amy Welborn: In Between Naps
Dom Bettinelli: Bettnet
Mark Shea: Catholic and Enjoying It!
Pete Vere: Canon Law Blog
Lane Core: The Blog From The Core
Fr. Jim Tucker: Dappled Things
Peter Nixon: Sursum Corda
Greg Popcak, Emily Stimpson, Woodene Bricker-Koenig, et al.: HMS Weblog (this one's turned into a real grudge match!)
Dave Alexander: Man with Black Hat
Chris Lugardo: Rosa Mystica
Fr. Jefffrey Keyes: The New Gasparian

If I missed any of you bloggers out there, I apologize. Send me an e-mail and I'll add you to the list.

Several people have e-mailed me or commented today that they think it is high time I weighed in. Well, your wish is my command: here goes!

The comments, e-mails, and opinions of other bloggers were overwhelmingly negative regarding the pre-Mass "warm-up" handshake. But, as I said, this is not so much a poll as an examination of the reasons for or against this practice.

First, I need to explain a couple of principles that I take as starting points for any discussion about liturgy:

A The liturgy is not our personal property: it does not "belong" to me, or to my particular parish, or even my diocese. It is not ours to manipulate or change as we see fit to suit or own particular preferences or perceived needs. I say "perceived" because what we in any given generation or place think we "need" is very often not at all what we truly, objectively need. C.S. Lewis once wrote that particular peoples or generations often get caught up in thinking that they most need the one thing that is most destructive or counterproductive to them. So a generation that thinks The Most Important Thing, or the Thing they Most Need, is a more "down to earth" and less formal social order, when viewed by more objective later generations, is seen in fact to have been in desperate need of more formality and decorum in its social relations, and vice versa, etc.

The liturgy is not ours to manipulate. It is something that is given. It certainly isn't mine. I treat it as a gift, a treasure, a patrimony. And my job is to hand it on to you, whole, entire, and unadulterated. And you have right to receive it that way. I don't wake up in the morning and wonder how I can add my own "personal touch" to the liturgy. By my ordination, I was configured to Christ the Head and Shepherd. I was made an alter Christus. That means what you must see when I celebrate the liturgy is Christ, not Rob Johansen. My biggest concern must be making sure that I don't let I get in the way of Christ. And more priests need to take that to heart.

By extension, then the parish's celebration of the liturgy must be about Christ, not itself. It must try to make sure that its collective ego doesn't get in the way of what is given to us: Christ. The parish is participating in the liturgy which belongs to the whole Church. Sometimes I have gone to a parish and seen it doing something in the liturgy that is at variance with the Church's actual published texts or instructions. And when I ask about that, I am told "that's our custom/tradition here." I must confess that I have always done a slow burn when I hear that. I want to say in response (I have so far managed to keep a civil tongue in my head) "Who the H*ll do you think you are? This isn't a game, this is the re-presentation of the eternal sacrifice of Christ! How dare you muck around with it!" There is no such thing as a custom or tradition that contravenes the Church's actual norms or laws for the liturgy. Liturgical rubrics have the force of Law in the Church. They are not mere guidelines or suggestions.

B The Liturgy can stand on its own. It does not require us to tinker with, alter, or change it in order to make it more "relevant" or "exciting". It is the height of arrogance to think that I or We can "improve" the liturgy. The liturgy is part of our Tradition. It is corollary to, if not actually part of, The Deposit of Faith. Therefore, when we tinker with it, we risk tampering with or damaging its ability to communicate the Faith. By making changes to it, we are saying that we trust more in Us than in the Church that gave us the liturgy. Fr. Jeffrey Keyes said it very well on his blog, The New Gasparian, using the example of priests who substitute "Good Morning" for the greeting of Mass:

> To interject “Good Morning” into the ritual is to say that “The Lord be with
> you” is not effective liturgy or ritual. We have unfortunately raised a
> generation of priests who have no faith in the Liturgy or the Eucharist and so
> must constantly add to or alter the Eucharistic texts to make them more
> “meaningful” or effective.

So, starting from those two principles, and taking into account a couple others, which I will discuss later, I have to say that I think what Mark Shea referred to as the "Grip and Grin" before Mass is a bad idea. It is a bad idea because it introduces an element into the liturgy which is not common to the whole Church and therefore both manifests and encourages the mindset that thinks of the liturgy as "ours" to change in order to serve whatever the Good Purpose of the moment is. And the Purpose of the eucharistic liturgy is not to "foster community". The purpose is to make present in the here and now the eternal Sacrifice of Christ. It is true that this is a communal celebration, but that is not the same thing as a "celebration of community". To say we're going to add "X" to our celebration of the Mass in order to foster community is to confuse purpose and result. A result of celebration of the Mass and participation in that celebration by the people of God is that community will be built, formed and fostered. But that happens as a result of our sharing, our participation, in the Communion which the Sacrifice of the Mass brings about. To introduce "community building" elements or techniques into the celebration of Mass is to ignore or confuse the identity of the community and its proper Source. It doesn't give credit to the Liturgy for what it is, as Fr. Keyes wrote so forcefully on his blog:

> So, Fr. Rob, to force the congregation to greet each other prior to the
> beginning of Mass is to make a statement that you no longer believe the
> celebration of the Eucharist has the power to bind us together into his
> Body.

A number of commentors and e-mailers mentioned that they and many other people, are rather shy and are made very uncomfortable by things like the "grip-and-grin". Others said they don't like it, find it intrusive, but go along anyway, trying to be good sports. But I know that there are many people who really like such things. So it seems to me that considerations of people's comfort level with the practice are almost besides the point. Dave Alexander points this out at his Man With Black Hat blog. He reminds us that, ultimately, this is not a matter of our personal tastes:

> This is not a matter of likes or dislikes. There is a centuries-long tradition
> of silent preparation before Mass, one that is reinforced in the newly-revised
> General Instruction of the Roman Missal. Our "community" is built around the
> Eucharist, not the back-slapping of boneheads who wouldn't cross their freshly-
> manicured lawns to do you a favor.

Now, I'll leave aside the question of whether the people who like the grip-and-grin are "back-slapping boneheads", or whether or not they're the sort of people who "wouldn't cross their freshly-manicured lawns to do you a favor." I think that Dave might be a trifle uncharitable there. But he does bring up an important point.

The Mass is rightly called the "Source and Summit" to which all the activity of the Church is directed, and from which all Her power flows (Sacrosanctum concilium, 10). There is literally nothing more important that we do as human beings than participate at Mass. There is literally no more powerful source of grace than the Mass. We cannot casually approach this mystery in which "Christ is consumed, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us." (II Vespers, Feast of Corpus Christi) It has, therefore, been a long-established tradition that in order to participate most fruitfully, we need to prepare ourselves by recollection, prayer, and self-examination. To do that requires an quiet and reflective atmosphere. The Mass takes place outside of any particular place and time, in the Eternal Now of Heaven. If I am praying before Mass, trying to recollect myself before entering into the mystical eternity of the Sacrifice, then to "introduce" Mass by getting people to engage in chit-chat seems to me to be a jarring interruption. Here I am, my heart, mind and soul lifted up into the eternal and timeless, and you want to jerk me back into the here and now with a banal, very this-worldly, and not-very-meaningful gesture?

Frequent commentor Maureen Mullarkey (you really ought to have your own blog, Maureen) summed up the problem very well, writing:

> It is just one more thing that whittles away at our sense of the sacred:
> socializing the Mass and diverting attention from the Cross to ourselves.
> No amount of Christ talk disguises a mundane, secular gesture for what it is.

Liturgists have a word to describe this sort of thing: De-Ritualization. The grip-and-grin before Mass is a deritualizing gesture which confounds and obscures our entering into the sacred mysteries by injecting a foreign and antithetical activity.

This brings me back to an issue I raised earlier: that each generation is likely to identify as its Greatest Need the very thing it needs less of or is getting in the way of what really is needed. I for one think that the last thing we need in most parishes is more "community", at least in the sense intended by those advocating the grip-and-grin and similar activities. In many parishes the liturgy has been turned into The Self-Actualized Community Celebrating Itself. Now, I would not characterize the liturgies at my parish as anything approaching that nadir, but do we really need to take any steps in that direction? The minute you take your gaze off of Christ and focus on yourself, you are in spiritual danger. This principle applies to communities as well as individuals. In many Catholic parishes the level of chit-chat and conversation before Mass rises to that which can only described as a "din". Recollection and preparation is impossible in such an atmosphere. People are already using the time before Mass as social "hi howya doin" time. Do we really need to encourage that and give it official sanction?

All of that being said, I want to make it clear that I'm not "against community" or indifferent about it. I think that Greg Popcak at Heart, Mind and Strength blog made some excellent points about the importance of parishes having a strong communal identity and the need to be welcoming and inviting. But there are better ways to do that than the grip-and-grin, and ways that don't have the added disadvantage of confusing or confounding the meaning and nature of liturgy. Some commentors had excellent suggestions along these lines: Greeting people as they come into church, inviting parishioners, and especially visitors, to join in coffee and donuts after Mass. Other people accurately pointed out that community is built up when people who worship together put their faith to work together. That means having a vigorous devotional life in the parish (something many modern American parishes are lousy at), numerous organizations and sodalities (what ever happened to the Holy Name Society, which used to be a staple parish activity for men?) such as the Altar Guild, etc. It means turning people loose to organize different service projects and charitable activities. Those are the things that really build community.

Some have pointed out that this issue, in the greater scheme of things, isn't that big of a deal. And they are correct. But the fact that there are more important issues confronting the church and even my parish doesn't mean it's OK to just give this a pass. If I were a new pastor coming into a parish where this was established practice I wouldn't make abolishing it a high priority. But I would look for opportunities to teach the my parishioners the deeper meaning of the Eucharist and the true source and meaning of community. Since this practice is newly introduced in my parish, it is appropriate and even incumbent upon me to make my opposition and reasons for it known. What impact that will have, I don't know. After all, I'm just the associate.

Tuesday, August 27, 2002

Input Needed: What Do You Think?

In my parish, we have introduced, in the past couple of weeks, the practice of inviting the congregation to stand up and greet/introduce themselves to their neighbors in the pews before Mass begins.

The way it works is this: the cantor stands up at the cantor's lectern and says something like: "Welcome to St. Joseph Catholic Church. As we begin our celebration, let us rise and take a moment to greet Christ in one another." After a minute or so of this, the cantor then announces the opening hymn and the processional begins.

I should point out that this practice was not introduced at my behest. I'm just the associate here. The idea behind doing this, as it has been explained to me, is to foster a greater "sense of community".

I would like to get your reactions to this. I'm sure some of you are in parishes where this already happens, or have visited such parishes. Do you like/dislike it? Do you think this is a Good Idea or a Bad Idea? I'm especially interested in knowing why you think so.

I have an opinion on this matter, but I will hold back on voicing it here until I get some feedback.

This isn't a "poll" in the sense that I'll announce "56% of respondents think X", with the implication that if a majority think "X" then that's what we ought to do. But I am interested in knowing what you think and your reasons for your opinion.

I invite all of you to please respond in the comments section below, or by E-mailing me. I'll sum up what I think the best arguments are, and weigh in with my own opinion later...

Saturday, August 24, 2002

And on the Seventh Day, the Blogger Rested

Now that the Johansen-Dreher debate here about his Wall Street Journal article (which will be available online at on Sunday) is over, I'm taking a day or two off from blogging. I hope Rod is taking a day or two off as well.

For those just coming upon the debate for the first time, go down to Wednesday's blog and then scroll up to follow the back-and-forth of the debate between Rod and myself.

And have a good weekend!

Friday, August 23, 2002

Dreher Talks Back!

When I first invited Rod to respond to my criticisms of his WSJ article, we agreed from the outset that I would comment on his response, and he would have the opportunity to further respond, and there we would close the debate between us on this matter. So here are Rod's "final" words on the subject, repsonding to my blog of this morning:

Fr. Rob:

Thanks again for the opportunity to respond. As we have agreed, this response of mine will be the last exchange between us in this matter. So reader, if Fr. Rob doesn't respond to this post, you mustn't assume it's because he didn't want to!

You wrote:

> But I think it is inaccurate to characterize the Vatican as 'refusing to
> hold bishops accountable.' That diagnosis is accurate only if
> 'accountability' equals removal from office. And I don't think that's
> necessarily so. I think for Rome to tell the Bishops 'you clean up this
> mess you made' is a way of holding them accountable.

I fail to see how that is different from not holding them accountable at all? If it is, then Rome owes us an explanation, instead of leaving you and me and everybody else here to divine their intentions. The record shows that over and over and over again, Church officials, from the chanceries to the Curia, have been told by concerned priests and laymen of terrible abuses, and nothing has been done, or if something was done, it wasn't substantial. And the abuse continued. I am genuinely incapable of understanding how Rome's failure to remove egregiously failed bishops like Law, whose failure has resulted in - and let us be very clear what we are talking about - little boys having their rectums torn by the penises of Christ's priests, among many other abominations, can hardly be read as anything but a failure to respond to the gravity of the crimes. To me, it testifies to a Church hierarchy that is so out of touch with the people it is supposed to serve that it identifies the good of the institution with the preservation of its own class interests. Repairing the situation in Boston is not possible with Bernard Law in the chancery. How is it possible to believe that it is? We need to understand that this thing is not about Bernard Law and his quest for redemption. It is about what the Catholic people in Boston - who are part of the Church too - need and deserve.

> [I]nvoking mystical (or any other kind) of theology is not 'cant'.

The American Heritage Dictionary (4th edition) defines cant as: 1. Monotonous talk filled with platitudes. 2. Hypocritically pious language. 3. The special vocabulary peculiar to the members of an underworld group; argot. ... 6. The special terminology understood among the members of a profession, discipline, or class but obscure to the general population; jargon.

I accused you of cant first with respect to your comments about how removing a bad bishop is an "act of violence" to the local and universal Church. I meant to suggest that your sentiments bear little relation to the actual experience on the ground, in Boston or any other diocese where the violence done by these bishops has been real and severe. I don't believe you were being hypocritical or insincere; I do believe very much that your words come from an ivory tower. I don't mean to denigrate mystical theology, but I think it is most inappropriate to invoke it in this particular situation, because it is being employed to justify what I believe to be passivity in the face of evil. It is an outrage that a bishop can remain in office after having committed what could well be felonies, and which are certainly grave moral crimes, because we have to worry about metaphysical guillotines.

I also called "cant" these lines:

> But that may be reason number 6,485 that I am not the Pope, nor ever will be.
> I hope Mr. Dreher and those who agree with him have the humility to admit
> the same.

I stand by my original assertion. These lines strike me as meaningless. OK, so I'm not the Pope. Big deal.

Finally, I called "cant" your assertion that:

> Our obsession with the 'governance' of the Church is almost certainly a sign
> that we are not yet thinking with the mind of Christ in the heart of the Church.
> We will not govern our way out of The Situation. We will only find the way out
> through Christ and His way of the Cross.

I still believe these are pious platitudes you've stated. Of course we have to find our way out through Christ and His way of the Cross. Who disputes that? I dispute your view that proper governing of the Church - that is, holding those ordained to serve Christ and the faithful to accountability, is somehow apart from the Way of the Cross. It is apparent to very many good Catholics that the Way of the Cross does not mean, or should not mean, a lifetime sinecure for Bernard Law, Rodger Mahony and their ilk.

For the record, I believe that it's imperative that the due-process rights of priests are maintained. So does Fr. Tom Doyle, who is second to none in his courageous advocacy of the rights of abuse victims - and it's why Doyle has criticized the Dallas protocols. I have not called on priests to be dismissed without respect for their due process rights.

You write:

>I think to dismiss the Holy Father's lack of 'action' so far as signs of
> indifference or 'not caring' is premature.

It would be, Fr. Rob, if the first the Vatican heard about the scandal in the American Church was January. But they have known about this thing, and known about it in great detail, for at least 17 years. How patient is one expected to be? Do you not understand that the lives and souls of real, flesh-and-blood people are at stake? Does Rome not see that from its vantage point of 30,000 feet? Rome has been told. And told and told and told - and this has been documented (e.g., check out the reporting of such in "Lead Us Not Into Temptation," by Jason Berry, which came out 10 years ago). If you want to see a monument to patience with Rome on the sex abuse question, read the daily papers.

Thanks again for inviting my comments.


Some Reactions and Observations

OK, it's not exactly "first thing" in the morning, but here it is anyway:


I have a few comments on your response:

Firstly , a few clarifications of my position are in order. I am not one of those people (if indeed any such exist) who believe that we must "never criticize the Pope" in matters that are not of Faith and Morals. Of course, we have a right and perhaps at times, a duty, to voice our concerns about the Pope's decisions in matters of prudential judgment. Furthermore, I am not articulating the position that Catholics must simply "live with" whatever malfeasance a bishop perpetrates. I don't think what I have written can fairly be construed to mean "God has sent us our bishops, and whatever they do, or fail to do, is to be accepted without protest as His will." The fact is, I raised the specter of deposing bishops back in June on my blog. I recognize that it is an appropriate measure in extreme cases. But such means have never been employed in a widespread fashion as an instrument of Church reform.

Rod, you wrote:

> No, the true violence was done first by the priests who sexually abused the
> powerless, then by the bishops who maintained them in ministry, and/or helped
> the escape the police, and finally by a Vatican that for whatever reason refuses
> to hold these bishops accountable for their actions.

I agree that the violence was first done by the abusers, and perpetuated by enabling bishops. But I think it is inaccurate to characterize the Vatican as "refusing to hold bishops accountable." That diagnosis is accurate only if "accountability" equals removal from office. And I don't think that's neccesarily so. I think for Rome to tell the Bishops "you clean up this mess you made" is a way of trying to hold them accountable. If Rome were to swoop down from on high and provide a "fix" for the problem, how would that keep the responsbility where it belonged? I think the bishops have made a very unpromising start, and they may make a hash of it yet, but Rome is trying to force the bishops who collectively created this disaster to live up to their duty of repairing it. One of the fundamental principles of moral theology is restitution: if one does something wrong, one is obliged to try to repair the situation as far as one is able. That is accountability.

You also wrote:

> I'm sorry, but this is cant.

Actually, you raised this objection several times. But invoking mystical (or any other kind) of theology is not "cant." If we are going to find a Catholic solution to the problem, and I hope you agree that we should be seeking a Catholic solution, then we must think with and through the Tradition. And to denounce those of us who are trying to do so as "invoking mystical abstractions" is unfair and unworthy of you. If my theology is wrong, tell me so, and tell me why. If I'm misreading the Tradition, tell me that, too. But don't dismiss these efforts as cant. We will not properly solve the problem if we don't think it through. As Catholics one of our primary tools for thinking anything through is our theological Tradition.

I am frankly shocked that you could dismiss my statement:

> We will not govern our way out of The Situation. We will only find the
> way out through Christ and His way of the Cross.

The Cross is the central mystery of our Faith. We must try to look at everything through the Cross, as there is nothing which is not subject to and redeemed by the Cross. To reform the Church we must think with the mind and in the heart of the Church. And that's not "cant".

You wrote:

> Good Catholic mothers and fathers will not sacrifice their children
> upon the altar of clericalism.

You are correct: they neither will, nor should they. But let us be clear about what clericalism is and is not. As I have written before on this blog, bishops covering up priest-abusers is a symptom of clericalism. But to demand that priest-abusers receive no more and no less than justice is not clericalism. To insist that the right of the accused to due process be respected is not clericalism. And don't reply that "of course, everyone understands that." Judging from some of the comments and e-mail I've seen, some people seem to have little trouble dismissing a priest's right to due process in the name of "protecting the children". And to call upon you and other faithful Catholics to try to think with the Tradition is not clericalism, either.

Rod, I agree with you that some of our bishops deserve to be removed. And it may yet happen that some of them will be. You and I and other "Vatican watchers" think that sometime soon, probably shortly after the Romans return from the August vacanza, the Holy See will send the Dallas norms back to the bishops and tell them to get it right. That will be a pretty swift response: three or four months. I would also see that as Rome beginning to hold the bishops' feet to the fire. I think to dismiss the Holy Father's lack of "action" so far as signs of indifference or "not caring" is premature.

I am surprised that no one has yet mentioned the principle of subsidiarity: that decision-making and authority, and accountability, be devolved to the level closest to the people affected. Rome is trying to respect that principle, and in doing so she is thinking with the tradition. It may yet happen, and frankly, I expect, that the bishops will prove themselves incapable of dealing with The Situation. But it would not be holding them properly accountable for Rome not to force them to apply themselves to the problem.

You are correct in pointing out that this problem has been festering for a number of years. But I think that, far from demanding precipitate action, the long-standing nature of the problem necessitates a thorough, deliberate response. And I hope you will admit that removing some bishops will not constitute such a thorough response. Let's say the Pope does remove some bishops, then what? I think it would be best to have good answers to that question before proceeding with the purge.

Thank you for your thoughts on this issue. I appreciate your investment of time and your love for our Church. I'll be interested to read what further observations you may have.

Thursday, August 22, 2002

Relax! Breathe!

Say a prayer (or two).

Then go and read Gerard Serafin's blog for some reflections from Newman and De Lubac which, I hope, will temper all of our arguments about our hapless bishops.

Then go and read this essay by Dave Armstrong, "Why Doesn't Pope John Paul II DO Something About the Modernist Dissenters in the Catholic Church?". While it doesn't directly address The Situation and subsequent episcopal bungling, I think you'll see it has relevance for our discussion. I don't agree with every element of the author's argument, but I think he offers some insightful analysis. I'd go so far as to say it's must reading for those interested in this ongoing debate. Thanks to one of Gerard's readers for pointing out this essay.

I've been following the debate, and am preparing some additional comments in response to Rod's remarks, and your comments below. I'll have it up either later tonight or first thing tomorrow morning.

Rod Dreher Responds

I invited Rod Dreher, the author of the WSJ article I blogged on below, to respond to my criticisms, and he graciously agreed to do so.

He apparently burned the midnight oil to do so, as he sent his response to me at about 1:00 AM. Another night owl (like me)!

I apologize for the delay in getting this up, but this is my day off, and I'm not exactly keeping a schedule today...

I will have some comments and observations about Rod's response later today, but for now I'll just let you read what he had to say:

Fr. Rob, I appreciate the opportunity to respond this way.

You wrote:

>Bishops are rarely deposed because to do so is to cut off the head of the local
>Church. To cut off a man's head, no matter how enfeebled or diseased, is to kill
>the man. I realize that the analogy limps here, because deposing a bishop does
>not "kill" the local Church. But it is an act of violence, and it does damage
>not only to the local, but to the universal Church. The only justification for
>doing so is the judgment that the damage done by the removal of the bishop is
>less than that done by keeping him. And that is a prudential judgment.

I'm sorry, but this is cant. How, outside of the rarefied world of mystical theology, does removing a calamitously failed bishop like Bernard Law do violence to the Church, local or universal? I think rather the opposite is happening. Removing a bishop is not to be undertaken lightly, of course, but please understand what the worst bishops in the U.S. Church have done. Time and time again, they recycled priests who rape children and minors through parishes, where they preyed on more children, particularly the children of the poor. Some have lied in public, and even, I firmly believe, have perjured themselves. Some have sought to intimidate victims and their families by siccing private investigators on them. All this and much more. The Catholic people in dioceses across the country, first among the Boston, have had to come to grips with the ugly fact that their Church is headed locally by a self-protective clerical mafia -- and that there is no relief to be expected from Rome, which apparently identifies the interests of the Church locally and universally with the narrow interests of the clerical class. The moral authority of the Church in Boston, and increasingly everywhere in this country, has been evacuated by Rome's failure to remove corrupt bishops. It is becoming perfectly clear to all who have eyes to see that there's a deep sickness in the hierarchy of the Church, and Rome's blindness to this only deepens the crisis.

No, the true violence was done first by the priests who sexually abused the powerless, then by the bishops who maintained them in ministry, and/or helped the escape the police, and finally by a Vatican that for whatever reason refuses to hold these bishops accountable for their actions. The judgments Rome has made to this point in this scandal are horribly wrong.

>It is erroneous to look at the Pope's actions and diagnose them as a "failure"
>to govern. The Pope, in this situation, has made a particular prudential
>judgment. The fact that we do not like that judgment does not mean that the
>Church isn't being governed.

Well, this is a dispute over terminology. The Church is being and has been governed passively by John Paul, which is tantamount to no governance at all.

>But that may be reason number 6,485 that I am not the Pope, nor ever will be. I
>hope Mr. Dreher and those who agree with him have the humility to admit the

More cant. Of course you're not the Pope. Neither am I. What does that have to do with anything? Can only a Pope pass judgment on a Pope's managerial style?

>In his WSJ article, Dreher writes "John Paul must bear partial responsibility
>for the catastrophe that has befallen us." I hope that Mr. Dreher does not think
>that Pope John Paul is not profoundly aware of that fact.

Mr. Dreher doesn't know John Paul's mind, and neither does Fr. Johansen. All we can do is go by what we can observe. I believe evidence shows John Paul to be a man of deep faith and boundless compassion. Sadly and perplexingly, I see no evidence of that in the way he has responded to the cries of the victims in this clergy sex-abuse scandal, which has been with us, at least publicly, for almost 20 years now. I cannot square the John Paul I know and love with the John Paul who permits such evil to take place by not demanding and enforcing accountability on the bishops who have betrayed him and the People of God in such unspeakable ways. It is not enough to say, "Well, he must have his reasons." I'm sure it must break his heart to see what's going on, but as C.S. Lewis observed, "A long face is not a moral disinfectant."

>Our obsession with the "governance" of the Church is almost certainly a sign
>that we are not yet thinking with the mind of Christ in the heart of the Church.
>We will not govern our way out of The Situation. We will only find the way out
>through Christ and His way of the Cross.

Still more cant! What can you possibly mean by this, Fr. Rob? What about the mind of the Christ who prescribed millstones for those who harmed children, and who drove moneychangers out of the Temple they desecrated? I don't know why you draw a distinction between right governing of the Church and devotion to Christ. It is all of a piece, or should be. The solution is not more rules, I agree. The canons were already in place to have prevented this catastrophe; they were widely ignored by bishops, who rightly figured that there would be no consequences from Rome for allowing these things to slide.

I am grateful for the press and the secular authorities for beginning to put a stop to the evil exploitation of children and minors by elements of the Catholic clergy and their bishops. And it's pathetic, a humiliation to all us Catholics, that Church authorities didn't do it first. It seems pretty clear to me that the terrible Cross the Church is suffering now could have been mitigated if bishops, including the Bishop of Rome, had been willing to endure countless tiny crosses, such as removing pederast priests or whitewashing bishops from office when it became apparent what they were. But that didn't happen. And here we are.

A general comment: the overall impression I get -- and please correct me if I've misunderstood you -- from the position that you and Tom Hoopes take is that the laity has no business questioning its ecclesiastical betters. That God has sent us our bishops, and whatever they do, or fail to do, is to be accepted without protest as His will. To stand up and say, "Hey, I'm tired of having a bishop who tolerates pedophile priests, and lies about it in public; we don't deserve this!" -- to say that is to deny Christ at some level. The implication of this is that the victims at some level deserved what they got; after all, it was God's will, because Bishop X. knew what Fr. Y. was doing, and allowed him to continue. You should realize that this is precisely what many abusive priests told their child victims: Don't tell, or you'll make God mad and go to Hell." Is there any wonder that victims feel victimized again?

I tell you, Father, if y'all keep this business up of talking down loyal orthodox Catholics who protest in good faith the way the Pope and the bishops have handled this, by saying that we're "not thinking with Tradition," and so forth, you're going to convince people that you're right. They will think: Does Catholic tradition require my silence and acquiescence in the face of evil like child rape? How could the Church of Jesus Christ make such a wicked demand of me? Maybe the Catholic Church isn't what it claims to be at all. Maybe the Orthodox, or the Protestants, are right. And then we lose them.

I ask you to consider that you cannot have the kind of stories that we've had for the past eight months, and which we are going to be getting for the foreseeable future, without calling up a terrible reaction from good Catholics. Invoking mystical abstractions to counter revelations of priests committing grotesquely cruel forms of sexual abuse will mean less than nothing. Good Catholic mothers and fathers will not sacrifice their children upon the altar of clericalism. I commend to you and St. Blogs the final analysis historian Barbara Tuchman gave, in The March of Folly, summing up why the folly of six Renaissance popes led to the Reformation. I think there are lessons there for us all:

The folly of the popes was not pursuit of counter-productive policy so much as rejection of any steady or coherent policy either political or religious that would have improved their situation or arrested the rising discontent. Disregard of the movements and sentiments developing around them was a primary folly. They were deaf to disaffeciton, blind to the alternative ideas it gave rise to, blandly impervious to challenge, unconcerned by the dismay at their misconduct and the rising wrath at their misgovernment, fixed in refusal to change, almost stupidly stubborn in maintaining a corrupt existing system. They could not change it because they were part of it, grew out of it, depended on it. ...Their [the six popes] three outstanding attitudes -- obliviousness to the growing disaffection of constituents, primacy of self-aggrandizement, illusion of invulnerable status -- are persistent aspects of folly.

Is this the "Tradition" you and Tom, and those who reject my viewpoint as insufficiently Catholic, insist that we all think with? I fear it is.

In any case, my words have been tough, but charitable I hope, and I appreciate you lending me your blog to respond to your tough but charitable attack on my position.


Wednesday, August 21, 2002

Has the Pope "Let Us Down"?

Yesterday's Wall Street Journal ran an op-ed piece by National Review columnist Rod Dreher titled "The Pope Let Us Down". In it Mr. Dreher criticizes Pope John Paul II for his decision (so far) to leave bishops like Cardinal Law, who have made the the Church's repsonse to The Situation such a cock-up, in office. He asserts that nothing less than swift action by the Pope will restore the moral credibility of the Papacy and the Church.

Quite a discussion has erupted about this article on Mark Shea's blog. Mark has posted a letter by Tom Hoopes of the National Catholic Register taking Dreher to task. I'll let you go to commnets section of Mark's post to read the debate, but it seems to me that Hoopes makes a telling point, unanswered by Dreher, which illustrates a fundamental misunderstanding of Catholic ecclesiology.

Hoopes writes:

The Church has never functioned in the way he wishes JPII would run it. Not in the times of the Cristological heresies, when the Church lived in another practical schism. Not before the Reformation. Not after Trent. Not at Vatican I, either, Lord knows (dissenting bishops stayed in place even as they renounced Papal infallibility). Lord knows it wasn't that way in the 1950s. It's incredibly naive to expect JPII to be able to do the impossible. The Pope isn't the police chief, he's the Vicar of Christ.

Hoopes is right when he points out that there is no precedent or tradition in the church for governance along the lines that Dreher seems to prefer: Tradition-minded Catholics have wondered and lamented for years now "why does the Pope leave [insert name(s) of bad bishop(s) here] in office? Why doesn't he remove him [them]? The short answer is that such an approach is not Catholic. The longer answer is that the episcopacy is not a job, it is a vocation and charism, and it is a cross. I fear that Mr. Dreher, and those who agree with him, are falling under the spell of the Church-as-Corporation model. The bishops are not mid-level executives carrying out the directives of headquarters (Rome). They are not replaceable in the sense that a CEO would replace one of his managers who was performing poorly. The Church is a communion, and just as we are in communion with the bishops, so they are in communion with us. The bishop is configured to Christ as the Head of the Church, and we must be vivdly aware that we are not speaking metaphorically here. We really are Christ's Body, and our bishops really stand in persona Christi as our head. Bishops are rarely deposed because to do so is to cut off the head of the local Church. To cut off a man's head, no matter how enfeebled or diseased, is to kill the man. I realize that the analogy limps here, because deposing a bishop does not "kill" the local Church. But it is an act of violence, and it does damage not only to the local, but to the universal Church. The only justification for doing so is the judgment that the damage done by the removal of the bishop is less than that done by keeping him. And that is a prudential jugdment.

Mr. Dreher said, in his remarks in Mark Shea's comments section, that his complaint is with the way our church is being governed. I hope not, because if that is the case he has aligned himself with VOTF, We Are Church, and the rest of the AmChurch agitators who wish to make the Catholic Church into something it is not. I imagine, and I hope, that what Mr. Dreher means is that he disagrees with some of the decisions made by JPII in responding to The Situation. It is erroneous to look at the Pope's actions and diagnose them as a "failure" to govern. The Pope, in this situation, has made a particular prudential judgment. The fact that we do not like that judgment does not mean that the Church isn't being governed. The Pope has apparently decided (up till now) to leave bishops like Cardinal Law in place to clean up the messes they have made. Dreher is right in saying that he has a right, and even a duty, to voice his misgivings about that (or any other) judgment. But before he does so, he has a duty to try to examine the situation in the light of the Tradition. And it seems to me that he still has to do some homework there.

I have often been one of those people who wondered "why does the Pope leave so-and-so in office? Why doesn't he remove him?" The answer, often, was " I don't know." But my understanding of the mystical nature of the Church, and the subjection of all things to the Cross of Christ, makes me leery of bloodlettings and purges as solutions to problems. Christ always invites people into communion: he never compels or drives away. It seems to me likely, as Mark Shea suggested in a blog of a couple months ago, that the Pope is looking at this from the spiritual perspective of the Cross, and not from the perspective of "what will people think?"

It may be the case that, if Mr. Dreher were Pope, he would can Law, Mahony, et al. It is certainly the case that if I were Pope, I would have dealt with things differently. I probably would have gratefully accepted Cardinal Law's resignation and demanded those of others. But that may be reason number 6,485 that I am not the Pope, nor ever will be. I hope Mr. Dreher and those who agree with him have the humility to admit the same.

The Situation has brought up from every quarter calls to reform the Church's governance. Those on the "progressive" side demand we scrap Catholic ecclesiology in favor of something more Anglican or Presbyterian. The "conservatives" demand a sort of purge of less-than-faithful elements, with the proverbial cry "let heads roll". Both extremes are wrong: neither is Catholic. I confess that I find it difficult to listen to cries for "reform" coming from complacent upper-middle-class suburbanites who have embraced the World and found it good. I also confess that I find it difficult to listen to demands for purity and holiness coming from other comfortable middle-class Catholics without any concomitant call for personal penance and reparation. I have been quite critical of bishops in my blog and in homilies, etc. That has caused me to have to examine the complacency and accomodation to sin in my own life, and recommit myself to penance and reparation. I had to recognize that if I was going to point the finger of blame, I'd better go to a mirror and do it to myself before I did to the bishops. And I dare say that principle applies to the vast majority of Catholics in the US. As I have said before, we have the bishops and priests we do because that's what most of us wanted. If you are engaging in personal acts of renunciation and penance in reparation for the sins of priest-abusers and knucklehead bishops, then you probably have something to say by way of criticism and suggestion. But if you're not, then go off and say a few rosaries, make a couple of novenas, and fast for couple of days over the next couple of weeks. Then come back and tell us what you think.

In his WSJ article, Dreher writes "John Paul must bear partial responsibility for the catastrophe that has befallen us." I hope that Mr. Dreher does not think that Pope John Paul is not profoundly aware of that fact. The Holy Father is a mystic in the spirit of John of the Cross, and anyone who has read his spiritual writings or has even witnessed him in prayer will recognize that he has shouldered the burden of the Cross, in some sense, for the whole Church. Indeed, his whole pontificate has been an exemplification of the Way of the Cross.

Our obsession with the "governance" of the Church is almost certainly a sign that we are not yet thinking with the mind of Christ in the heart of the Church. We will not govern our way out of The Situation. We will only find the way out through Christ and His way of the Cross.

Monday, August 19, 2002

The Legacy of Martin and Malcom?

Saturday afternooon, in our nation's capital, a rabble of leftist True Believers gathered for a rally (LRR) in support of Slavery Reparations. The rally was not well-reported, perhaps because, in the greater scheme of things, it was not well-attended. Only about 2,000-3,000 demonstrators showed up, which, in Washington demonstration terms, is insignificant. But the insignificance of the reparations movement has not prevented it from gaining a certain degree of acquiescence, if not support, from the establishment left.

Such "luminaries" of the self-appointed black leadership as Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton have expressed their support for slavery reparations. Advocates of reparations have thrown out figures of 50 to 100 billion dollars, as well as grants of large tracts of land, as starting points for negotiations. And who would supervise how these monies and lands are distributed? Well, ahem, people like Jesse and Al, of course!

Advocates of reparations cloak their arguments in rhetoric about the "stigma" of slavery and the "systemic effects of racism", etc., ad nauseam, but their cause has all the subtelty of a mugging, and about as much moral legitimacy. But the demonstrators tipped their hand about their true motivations when one of the leaders, New York City council member Charles Barron, said, "I want to go up to the closest white person and say, `You can't understand this, it's a black thing,' and then slap him, just for my mental health." So, Mr. Barron's "mental health" requires that he abuse white people. Who, then, I ask, is the racist?

The problem with "reparations" for slavery, as people like economist Walter Williams have pointed out, is that none of the proposed recipients of reparations is, or ever was, a slave, and none of the people from whom the reparations would come is, or ever was, a slave owner. Every former slave or slave owner has been dead for at least 60 years. By the reparations logic, Americans whose ancestors died in World War One should be able to extract settlements from the descendants of Austro-Hungarian Imperial soldiers. The argument is absurd. My family never owned a slave: my forbears all came here long after slavery was abolished. By what logic do I owe reparations? What about recent emigres from Poland or Russia? What "obligation" do they have to pay reparations? All of these questions and problems are ignored by the Reparations muggers because they expect to extract their demands from the government.

And in that we see the true origins of the Reparations movement. Reparations are really a new cover for the old redistributionist-socialist agenda. The failure of socialism and the obviously corrosive effect of redistributionist schemes has not deterred those who are desirous of lining their nests with feathers plucked from others. The champions of reparations are the same old leftists who championed the wonders of the Sandanista regime in Nicaragua and the glories of Castro's Cuba. They have merely covered their marxist fantasy in dashikis and dreadlocks. And does anyone seriously believe that, if they got what they wanted, we would hear no more from them? Rest assured, they would come back for more.

The problem with investing one's identity in victimhood is that victimhood is a fundamentally weakening and disabling phenomenon. One can, in a sense, never find the limits to one's own victimhood, and therefore, find limits to the demands one's victimhood imposes on others. You can never have enough of being a victim. To be a victim is to cede your power and moral authority to others, and the Jesse Jacksons and Al Sharptons will always be waiting to take that power and use it for their own ends. The advocates of reparations are either cynical opportunists or dupes. The dupes are victims, but of their own supposed leaders.

Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, I'm confident, would have been sickened by what took place in Washington on Saturday.

Hooray For Me!

Sometime last night my counter (you can see it if you scroll to the bottom of the page) rolled over to 10,000 hits! Yeeaahhh!

That's just about 5,000 hits per month, or 1,125 hits per week. I'm grateful to all of you who read my periodic ramblings.

Keep coming back for more!

Friday, August 16, 2002

I Predict...

Well, two days have come and gone since Catholic World News broke the story that the Vatican will almost certainly send the Bishops' Dallas Zero Tolerance norms back with the charge: "do it again, and please get it right this time." In particular, Vatican sources told CW News that the policy would be rejected because of deficiencies such as:

-The absence of safeguards to protect the reputation of priests who might be unjustly
-The failure to guarantee that bishops would apply the norms fairly, or that bishops
themselves would be subject to the proposed discipline.

These are issues which I and others have blogged before.

Most interesting is the Vatican's concern with the Dallas policy's "failure to address root causes of sexual abuse." Does anyone else read that as a veiled reference to the problem of homosexuals in the priesthood? It sure seems that way to me. What other "root cause" is there for pederasty? Could it be that the largely inarticulate recent rumblings of Rome on this subject will be followed up by a demand that our bishops get their house in order and act with regard to disobedient homosexual priests like the St. Sebastian's Angels? Dare I hope for so much?

Now, aside from a story in today's Boston Herald and a couple of blurbs about this by Rod Dreher at The Corner, no one in the secular media has picked up on this. I know, because I've been watching, expecting at any moment an eruption of indignation at the Bad Old Vatican from the media establishment. But in the New York Times, nothing. The Chicago Tribune, nothing. From the TV networks, nothing. From "designated catholics" in the media such as Sean Hannity, nothing.

I confess to being puzzled at this. You'd think they'd be all over the story, if for no other reason than to re-open the wound of The Situation and pour a little salt in it. So what is the reason for the media's silence?

I can think of one explanation: A confluence of the slothfulness and bias of most of the people in the "mainstream" media. Bias, because the source of the story is Catholic World News, a "conservative" Catholic publication known for loyalty to the Magisterium. For this reason it is beneath the notice of most of the media. Slothfulness, because, for all the splash that media outlets make about "investigative" journalism, there's actually precious little of that being done. Most reporters rely on being spoon-fed information from their sources, who, for the most part, share their outlook and prejudices.

So, my prediction: When the official Vatican announcement is made that the Dallas policy is fatally flawed and needs to be redone, the media outlets will trumpet the story as shocking, surprising news that no-one (meaning none of their coterie) anticipated. That informed Catholics have suspected this outcome and predicted it all along will go unreported. Also largely unreported will be the substance of the Vatican's concerns. It will be played as another "power struggle" between Rome and the US bishops, who tried so hard, after all, to do the right thing with those nasty pedophiles in Dallas.

Tuesday, August 13, 2002

Peevish Thoughts

I readily confess that I am writing this in a spirit of peevishness. That peevishness is not directed at any particular individual: it is a sort of "free floating" peevishness, which has been brought up by the latest round of discussion, below and on Amy Welborn's blog, about Zero Tolerance and removal of priests guilty of abuse.

I suppose one source of the peevishness is the imprecision and offhandedness with which terms have been used. Phrases or words like "zero tolerance", and "accountability", and "clericalism" are being thrown around in equivocal ways, and I get the impression that many of us are talking at cross-purposes. Some may accuse me of being nit-picky, but these are issues of grave importance, and using language in a sloppy way will only lead to greater murkiness, confusion, and hurt feelings.

So to help get past the imprecision, let me propose a couple of explanations:

Firstly, it seems that many people are using the term "Zero Tolerance" itself to mean many things. Some people, in using that term, seem to mean only the policy that priest-abusers be removed from ministry after a single proved or admitted incident of abuse. When I and people like Mark Shea use the term Zero Tolerance, we are referring more specifically to the Norms enacted in Dallas and the procedures accompanying them. Thus, when I say that I am opposed to Zero Tolerance, I am not saying I am opposed to removing priest-abusers from ministry (as my blog below should make clear). I am saying that I oppose the current mechanism that is in place for achieving the end of removing priest-abusers from ministry. I think it would be very helpful, and avoid needless rancor, if we adopted this narrower understanding of the term "Zero Tolerance", on the grounds that, in general, terms should be defined as precisely as possible.

For the record, I am opposed to the Zero Tolerance policy because it ignores existing Church law, and it ignores the rights of the accused to due process. Furthermore, it is fraught with potential for abuse by bishops, disgruntled parishioners (Got a priest you don't like? Just denounce him to the abuse board and he's gone within 2 hours), or opportunistic attorneys. I think it matters a great deal what sort of process we adopt to remove priests guilty of abuse (whether in one instance or a dozen). If we're going to remove priest-abusers, let's do it the right way. As I have written before, seeing to it that the accused are treated with justice does not in some way deprive victims of the justice due them. Justice is unitary, because it is an attribute of God.

Several people have expressed their demand for "accountability" from bishops and priests on this mattter. Accountability is a good and necessary thing, but I fear it is being used as a buzzword, rather than with much actual content. The Dallas norms, as ill-conceived as they are, are an attempt to introduce accountability into the process of handling accusations of abuse. Removal of priests from ministry is another attempt at holding priest-abusers accountable. What does the accountability that is being demanded look like?

The other source of my peevishness is the charge of clericalism raised against those who are urging moderation and deliberation in dealing with priest-abusers and those accused of abuse. I fear that some people are confusing clericalism with something else. Clericalism is the attitude that priests should be accorded special benefits and privileges not due to them. Clericalism is odious and destructive. But asserting the rights that do belong to a priest is not clericalism. For example, if I demand that I be permitted to celebrate Mass in accordance with the norms and rubrics of the Church, I am asserting a right that is properly mine. That's not clericalism. Now, if a bishop protects priest-abusers from prosecution by "hushing-up" their misconduct, that is clericalism.

Insisting that priests guilty of abuse receive no less and NO MORE than justice is not clericalism. Justice is not a privilege, it is a right. And both the victim and the perpetrator have a right to justice. Furthermore, we (the church) have duty to show mercy to all wrongdoers. To call upon us to show mercy to priest abusers is not clericalism, because mercy is a duty we owe to all. If some priests or bishops have been selective about who they seek mercy for, that is contemptible, but it in no way reduces our duty to show mercy.

Finally, to demand that priests accused of abuse be treated with justice, to demand that their rights to due process be respected, is not about "protecting clerical culture" (as one commentor on Amy's blog wrote). Under the Dallas policy, all it takes is an accusation against a priest, and he has 2 hours to vacate the rectory. He is completely on his own in terms of mounting a defense. Furthermore, we know that in the current climate any accused priest will be considered guilty until proven innocent. How many of you would welcome back, with open arms, a priest who had been removed under "Zero Tolerance" and then returned some months later after being cleared by an investigation? Especially, as would be likely, with the accuser still publicly asserting the guilt of the accused priest! How many of you would let your kids hang out with him? The mere fact of a public accusation against a priest could severely damage, or even destroy, his priestly ministry. And that doesn't just hurt the priest, it hurts the whole Church.

The more grave the accusation, the more concerned we must be with rendering justice with scrupulous fairness.

Monday, August 12, 2002

Back again!

Well, I'm back from my blogging hiatus. The trip to Detroit was enjoyable, and the interview with Al Kresta was a lot of fun. Al is a very even-handed interviewer, and an all around good-guy. I'll blog more about the interview and its "fallout" later...

More Thoughts on Zero Tolerance and Fr. DeVita

I had a very interesting conversation with some of my brother priests last weekend about the Zero Tolerance policy and its effect on priests like Fr. Tom DeVita, about whom I blogged here and here last week. What I found interesting in the conversation with my brother priests (all of whom I would classify as in the orthodox/conservative camp), was that they all took a harder line than I with regard to priests like Fr. DeVita, who committed an act of abuse in the distant past and since then have mended their ways and served well.

All of us expressed disapointment in what we perceive as the bishops playing PR games at the expense of their priests in their adoption of the Dallas norms. All thought that Zero Tolerance, if allowed to stand, would become a weapon by which bishops could abuse priests whom they found troublesome. All thought that the priests removed by the Zero Tolerance "process" would probably be returned to active ministry, as their canonical right to due process was ignored.

But the thing that surprised me was that, to a man, they all thought that priests like Fr. DeVita should be out, period. There was no question about repentance or forgiveness: all agreed that a priest-abuser who repented and amended his life was forgiven. But they thought it was too damaging to trust within the Church, and too damaging to the priesthood, to allow these priests to continue in any form of active ministry.

One of my friends also made an argument that I hadn't considered before, and found powerful: He pointed out that Fr. DeVita had never been prosecuted and convicted for his crime, much less served any sort of sentence. He has never been sued or made to pay any sort of civil damages. He has been allowed to continue in active ministry all along. Now it is too late for any criminal or civil remedies. The bishops have made it clear in the Dallas norms that removal of priest-abusers is not to be considered a punitive act against the abuser, but is aimed solely at protecting children (this claim struck my brother priests as more than a little disingenuous). Fr. DeVita and others like him retain their faculties to celebrate Mass privately. So, my priest-friend claimed, Fr. DeVita has never actually been punished. But Justice demands punishment for such serious crimes as sexual abuse. I have thought about this quite a bit, and I find this argument unassailable. To cry "mercy" here is not on-point. For mercy tempers justice; mercy mitigates punishment. Mercy does not obviate the punishment that belongs to justice.

So, my friend concluded, priests who committed sexual abuse decades ago and were never subject to punishment still have punishment due them. That the demands of justice be satisfied is necessary both for the victims and the offenders. Since these men are beyond the reach of civil law, perhaps we as a Church need in some way to step in and supply the punishment that was avoided, and supply the justice that is still lacking. In this light, he said, removing such priests from ministry, and in fact involuntarily laicizing them, is only just, and compared to civil penalties, quite merciful.

As I said before, I find this argument compelling, and it is causing me to rethink my position on removal of priests who have abused in the past but are repentant. Mark, Greg, Amy, care to chime in?

Thursday, August 08, 2002

Motor City, Here I Come

I'm in Detroit today, visiting my alma mater, Sacred Heart Major Seminary.

Later today, at 4:00 PM EDT, I'll be on the Al Kresta Live show to talk about my review of Goodbye! Good Men.

Tune in if you can!

Wednesday, August 07, 2002

From the Shameless Self-Promotion Department

Tomorrow, that is Thursday, August 8, I will be interviewed on the Al Kresta Live radio show. The interview is scheduled for 4:00 PM EDT.

The subject of the interview will be my recent review of Goodbye! Good Men, the book by Michael Rose which is being touted as an expose' of the problems in American seminaries. The review was published in the May issue of Culture Wars. I have been quite critical, in my review and here on my blog, of Mr. Rose's book, and of some of his actions subsequent to the publication of my review.

Al Kresta Live is a daily national Catholic radio talk show, which addresses a wide variety of topics and contemporary issues from an orthodox Catholic perspective. The show is syndicated nationally by the Ave Maria Radio network. If you have a Catholic radio station in your area, chances are they carry Al Kresta already, so tune in! If they don't, then ask them to start carrying Al's show.

Pro-Abort "Catholic" Granholm wins Primary

Gubernatorial candidate Jennifer Granholm won Michigan's Democratic primary yesterday by a large plurality.

Ms. Granholm calls herself a "Catholic", even though she is a staunch advocate of a woman's so-called "right" to kill her unborn children. Her public and visible support for abortion, and denial of the fundamental Catholic teaching on the sanctity of human life, has excited no comment, much less criticism, from the hierarchy in Michigan.

Granholm's victory was no doubt helped along by people like Fr. Doc Ortman, a priest at her home parish of Our Lady of Good Counsel parish in Plymouth, Michigan. His strangely-reasoned and mawkish tribute to Ms. Granholm can be read at Mark Shea's or Amy Welborn's blogs. Although she is a source of open scandal in that parish and in the Archdiocese of Detroit, the good fathers at OLGC think so highly of Ms. Granholm that her public position on abortion hasn't prevented them from allowing Ms. Granholm to serve as an Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist. There's nothing like putting one's sacrilege into action!

Now that we have yet another pro-abort Catholic running for office, I'm sure we'll be treated to another round of blatherings from newspaper columnists, Richard McBrien and the NCR crowd, America and Commonweal. They'll try to tell us how one can reconcile Catholic teaching on abortion with a "pro-choice" position, how abortion is just one part of a "larger teaching" about life, and how the Big Bad Church will try to stomp on the freedom of thought of such "dynamic" and "farsighted" politicians like Ms. Granholm.

What I'd like to know is if the bishops will continue their tradition of impotent silence or pusillanimous mumblings about politicians like Ms. Granholm, who proclaim their "Catholic" identity to the world while ignoring or thumbing their nose at Church teaching.

Anyone willing to lay odds?

Tuesday, August 06, 2002

Quisling Alert

Reader, get thee to Mark Shea's blog, and read the fawning encomium to Michigan's pro-abort Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Jennifer Granholm, written by a priest at her parish. Then take his advice and write or call Cardinal Maida's office at the Archdiocese of Detroit and complain about this disgusting betrayal of Catholic teaching on the sanctity of life.

I blogged a couple of weeks ago about priests and bishops who were more concerned with being good Democrats than being good Catholics, but this latest example stands Catholic teaching on its head in a despicably dishonest way.

When you're done with Mark and the Cardinal, then come back here and finish reading me...

Stability, the Shibboleth of American Foreign Policy

I haven't commented previously on matters of politics or American foreign policy, not because I have no opinions on such matters, but because I have been preoccupied with other things, and felt that others were saying the things I believed better than I could have.

But I urge all of you to read a brilliant article by Ralph Peters titled Stability, America's Enemy, which appeared in the Winter 2001-02 issue of Parameters, the US Army War College Quarterly. I am grateful to Lane Core at The View from the Core for bringing this article to light on his blog.

In this article Peters deftly exposes the self-destructive fallacy that has been pursued by our government for the last century, the fallacy of supporting so-called "stability" in our international relations rather than remaining true to our own professed values and priorities. This pursuit of a false stability, he writes, is what led to our dismal record in South America and Africa, and has gotten us into trouble in the Mideast as well.

Peters also exposes the self-delusion that the goal of our foreign policy is somehow to spread "Democracy" to those poor benighted nations which don't yet have it. This sort of thinking was most succinctly articulated by Woodrow Wilson's slogan "Make the world safe for Democracy" (in my opinion Woodrow Wilson should go down as one of the most deluded and destructive men in history). This way of thinking is nothing less than the idolatry of Democracy, which Dr. Russell Kirk called "Democratism." Peters points out that "Democracy is a highly evolved mechanism for maintaining the society we have achieved, but it is not a tool for creating a society worth maintaining." Democracy is a result, it is not a means or method to obtain a result. Peters adds, " Democracy must be earned and learned. It cannot be decreed from without." We must face up to the fact, PC mantras and populist flag-waving aside, that some nations and peoples are not yet ready for democracy, and would be far better off having the experience of a couple of centuries of feudal monarchy or hereditary oligarchy under their belts before attempting the formation of a democratic republic. If we had learned that lesson, perhaps South and Central America wouldn't be in the mess it's in, and Russia wouldn't be in a state of near-anarchy, with its de facto rulership by warring criminal mobs.

Thanks to Ralph Peters for an outstanding political-historical study, and again to Lane Core for bringing the article to my attention.

Monday, August 05, 2002

Today is the Feast of the Dedication of St. Mary Major Basilica

This is the oldest church dedicated to Our Lady in Rome, having been built by Pope Liberius in about 352 AD. Our Lady appeared to a Christian Roman nobleman on the night of August 4, and she asked that a church be built in her honor on the Esquiline hill. She told him there would be a sign to accompany this dream: that the exact location of the Church would be marked out in snow. Pope Liberius was granted a similar vision that same night, so that he would know of Our Lady's request.

Upon awakening, John and Pope Liberius rushed to the Esquiline and saw the miraculous snowfall which had traced the form of the basilica on the hill. Many other people were there to see the snow which had miraculously fallen in the August heat (anyone who has ever experienced the sauna that is Rome in August will know just how miraculous such a thing would be).

The basilica was completed on that spot within two years and consecrated by Pope Liberius. When the Council of Ephesus defined Mary as Theotokos, the God-bearer, in 431 A.D., Pope Sixtus III (432-440) rebuilt and embellished the basilica. From the seventh century onward, it was referred to as St. Mary the Great or Major. Because of the miraculous snowfall, it is also sometimes referred to as Our Lady of the Snows.

Today's Feast is marked at the basilica by a special procession in which white flower petals are droppd from the ceiling of the church to commemorate the miraculous snowfall. On this day, traditionally, the Pope is presented at the basilica with his flock of Papal sheep, which he gives a special blessing. These are the sheep from whose wool the pallia (singular= pallium) are made. The pallium is the white woolen cloth, decorated with black crosses, worn by Metropolitan Archbishops around their neck over their vestments when they celebrate Mass. The pallium is a sign of the Archbishop's communion with the See of Peter and is presented to new Archbishops on the Feast of SS. Peter and Paul, June 29. Bet you didn't know the Pope had his own special flock of sheep! The sheep are raised at Castel Gondolfo, the Pope's summer residence.

On a note of pure diversion, at Castel Gondolfo is also the Papal herd of cows. I have seen the Papal cows myself and taken part in the unusual tradition of serenading the Pope's cows. The song which one sings to the Pope's cows is, of course, in Latin, though the text is not ready to hand. I took part in this curious custom when I was studying Latin in Rome in 1997 with Fr. Reginald Foster, OCD, who is known as "the Pope's Latinist". Reggie regularly takes his students out to Castel Gondolfo to take part in this pilgrimage of Papal animal-lore.

Getting back to Saint Mary Major, also there is the Praesepium, the relic of the manger in which Christ rested:

The chapel of the Praesepium is granted a singular privilege: In that chapel any priest may, on any day of the year save Good Friday and Easter Sunday, celebrate any of the Masses of Christmas. It's Christmas everyday there! I intend on my next visit to Rome, which will be the first since my ordination, to visit that Chapel and celebrate Midnight Mass there. Being Catholic is great, isn't it?

As one might gather from my enthusiasm, this feast is special to me. It was in this Basilica, as a seminarian, that I put away some doubts and difficulties I was having in persevering, and rededicated myself to seeing through my vocation to the priesthood. Also, by God's providence, this day is the day I was privileged to be able to offer my First Mass at the Cathedral of St. Augustine in Kalamazoo. That day, the oldest known prayer to Our Lady became a special and personal prayer for me. The music director at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, Mr. Calvert Shenk, has written a sublimely beautiful motet on this text, which I hope he has published:

Sub tuum praesidium confugimus,xxxxxxxxxxWe fly to thy patronage,
sancta Dei Genitrix: nostras deprecationesxxxxO holy Mother of God. Depise not
ne despicias in neccestitatibus:xxxxxxxxxxxxxour petitions in our neccessities,
sed a periculis cunctis libera nos semper,xxxxbut deliver us always from all dangers,
Virgo gloriosa et benedicta.xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxO glorious and blessed Virgin.