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...