Saturday, February 28, 2004

The Report: Some Signs of Honesty?

I have not yet read the Report of the National Review Board in its entirety, but I have read read it in part and intend to finish it this weekend.

Some preliminary reactions:

Firstly, given the problematic identities of some members of the Board (Bob Bennett, Leon Panetta), and its total reliance on the bishops for its existence and sources of information, I was impressed at how honest it is in some places. For example, they pointed out that to knowingly allow evil conduct to continue is to cooperate with evil, and so laid the serious moral charge of cooperation in evil at the bishops' feet.

They also took the bishops to task regarding their wholesale failure to exercise fraternal correction (an issue I have commented on recently) of one another:
"Only one, or very, very few members of [the Conference] are willing to get up, even in the executive session, and say, 'Your Excellency, Your Eminence, this is wrong.'" This absence of fraternal correction compounded the lack of episcopal accountability and further fueled the current crisis.
The bishops are going to have to get serious about laying down the law with their own peers. There is, as yet, little indication that this is happening.

Which brings me to one of the faults of the report: it does not demand the resignation of bishops who shuffled abusers, nor does it even ask the question "Why have so few bishops resigned as a result of their sometimes egregious failure to live up to the responsibilities of their office?" They note that "several hundred priests have been removed from ministry, but few bishops have left the episcopacy." But they fail to draw the conclusion that this glaring lack of accountability entails: the bishops still are not taking responsibility for their actions.

However, there is one piece of almost astonishing candor in the report: The Board actually dares to use the "H" word in assessing the causes of the crisis:
We do not seek to place the blame for the sexual abuse crisis on the presence of homosexual individuals in the priesthood as there are many chaste and holy homosexual priests who are faithful to their vows of celibacy. However, we must call attention to the homosexual behavior that characterized the vast majority of the cases of abuse observed in recent decades. That eighty-one percent of the reported victims of child sexual abuse by Catholic clergy were boys shows that the crisis was characterized by homosexual behavior.
I have doubts about just how "many" homosexual priests live chaste, faithful lives, but that line may just have been honey helping a bitter pill to be swallowed. Given the bishops' resolute refusal to acknowledge the homosexual nature of The Situation, I think this recognition by the board is very significant. The report also dismisses the attempt to obscure the homosexual nature of the problem with the the red-herring "diagnosis" of ephebophilia:
Ephebophilia is thus not a disorder in the technical sense, but rather a newly-coined descriptive term for homosexual attraction to adolescent males.
I almost wanted to jump and shout "hallelujah!" (but this being Lent, I didn't) upon reading these things. At last, signs that someone is "getting it"!

But my elation was short-lived. Because, I realized, now the ball was once again in the bishops' court to actually do something about this. I fear we're going to need about another 100 or so Burkes, Weigands, and Carlsons before this "hapless bench of bishops" has both the courage and the prudence to act.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Veritas? Quid Est Veritas?

Truth? What is Truth?

Those words of Pilate's have been echoing in my mind all last night and this morning, after seeing "The Passion of The Christ" last night. In one scene of the movie, Pilate spoke of "his" truth to his wife. Many in our world today seek to relativize the truth or pretend there's no such thing.

But there is. Ultimately, there is only one Truth.

There is Christ, who IS Truth.

There is Christ, and Him crucified. Everything else, though it may be "true" and important, pales in significance to the Truth of Christ and Him crucified.

That's what the movie left me with. There are many things I could say about the movie, and I'll share some of them here. But no description I could write will do justice to the experience.

You must see this movie. Fr. Robert Sirico, whose Oratory of St. Philip Neri sponsored last night's screening, said in his prefatory remarks that he wasn't sure whether any movie will change people's lives. But, he said, the decision one must make in response to the proposition this movie makes will change people's lives. I think that's an excellent summation of the effect and impact of this movie. It does make a proposition:

He was wounded for our transgressions. By his stripes were we healed.

Some of the the things that hit me the hardest were little things. For example, when Pilate questions Jesus, he begins doing so in Aramaic. But then, without warning, Jesus switches to Latin. The effect was electrifying to me. Perhaps that's because I've studied Latin extensively (M.A. in Classics) and so can follow the Latin dialogue. But just the effect of Jesus doing so (I was so bowled over that I actually missed the first sentence of what he actually said) hit me like a punch in the gut. It struck me, on reflection, as "right". I found myself thinking, "yes, of course he would have."

Another little thing involves a flashback scene with Jesus and His mother, while Jesus was working as a carpenter. I won't say what happened because I don't want to spoil it, but I will say that Mel Gibson managed, in one 3 - 4 minute scene, to capture the real humanity of Jesus and the motherhood of Mary.

Since it is de rigeur in discussing this movie to answer the question, I will: No, this movie is NOT anti-semitic. If one has a problem with this movie, the problem isn't with the movie, it's with the Gospels.

Is this movie accurate? Not in some literalistic, tot-up-the-scripture-references way. Gibson makes use of his artistic imagination to paint a portrait. But this movie is Faithful. Faithful to the Gospels. Faithful to the Tradition. Faithful to who Christ is and what He did.

And it is Faithful to the most profound mysteries of our Faith. I was struck by how Eucharistic the movie is. Not just in the flashback scenes of the Last Supper, but as a whole. I don't think I'm giving anything away here because others have written about this, but there is a scene after Jesus' scourging where Mary wipes up His blood. I was moved to think about the Mass, and every time I look into the Chalice when I say "this is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant...". That blood, and the blood at the foot of the Pillar, are the same.

I will never celebrate Mass the same way again.

This movie is Art. Art in the best and highest sense. One of the panelists last night said we tend, in our day, to think of art as a private expression of what is internal to the artist. But of course, that's not what Art is really all about.

The real purpose of Art, he said, is to show us the Truth about things. Art, because it reveals beauty, points the way to Truth. Art at its best shows us the Truth.

That is what this movie does. It shows us the Truth.

Monday, February 23, 2004

I'm Going to See "The Passion" Tonight!

I can hardly wait! I'm going to be one of the lucky 300 or so people who get to see a special preview of Mel Gibson's "The Passion of The Christ" at an event organized by the Oratory of St. Philip Neri in Kalamazoo.

I will give my reactions and impressions tomorrow.

I'm Not Surpised

And you shouldn't be, either.

In a recent AP story, it has come out that the number of priest-abuse cases is higher than the bishops or Rome expected or predicted.

Last year, Cardinal Ratzinger asserted that "less than 1 percent of priests are guilty of acts of this type."

Not to fault the Cardinal, who, after all, didn't have statistics or studies at hand, but it looks like the percentage is going to be significantly higher than that:
A draft of the survey viewed by CNN said 4,450 of the 110,000 U.S. clergy who served since 1950 were accused of molesting minors. That would mean roughly 4 percent had been accused of abuse, although not all the claims are likely to be deemed credible in the final report, due out next Friday.

Why am I not surprised?

Well, let's see... What happened in the 60's, 70's, and even into the '80's in seminaries in the U.S.?

Oh yeah, that's right... bishops and seminary rectors began allowing homosexuals into the seminary in unprecedented numbers. It got so bad that places like St. Mary's in Baltimore and St. Meinrad's in Indiana acquired reputations as "Pink Palaces".

It took pressure from the Holy See to get the bishops to start cleaning up the mess in the late 80's and early '90's.

So, when the bishops allow homosexuals into the seminaries in numbers greater than the percentage in society as a whole, it doesn't surprise me that it turns out the percentage of homosexual abusers is higher than society as a whole. Not only is it not surprising, I would expect it.

And the fact is, the problem is primarily not pedophilia. The problem is homosexual recruitment and seduction of teenage boys. And that's the elephant in the living room that the bishops still refuse to face.

Many of those homosexuals ordained in the 70's and 80's are active, and are still out there, serving in parishes. They're time bombs, waiting to go off. And in many dioceses, it's not a secret who they are, and what they're up to. But many bishops refuse (or are afraid) to act.

What they do is deflect: they have abuse prevention programs (which may be good in and of themselves) but somehow avoid using the word "homosexual" in the context of preventing abuse. They promised at Dallas in 2002 that they were going to investigate and "clean up" the seminaries (what ever happened to that visitation, anyway?), knowing full well that the seminaries, by and large, aren't the locus of the problem anymore. They're like a landlord who promises to come and paint your apartment, when the problem is that the toilet is backed up.

The problem is active homosexuals in the priesthood. And that's the problem the bishops have to face up to and deal with.

An Answer to The DaVinci Code Twaddle

Amy Welborn has done the Church, and the Truth, a great service, by writing a book debunking the historical errors, flights of fancy, outright lies, and nonsensical claptrap of Dan Brown's The DaVinci Code.

De-Coding DaVinci will be available from Our Sunday Visitor Press after April 1. A pamphlet is also being published.

Pre-order your copy today! Order it from places like Barnes & Noble and Borders, so they'll stock it. Get copies for your friends who've been hoodwinked by Brown's engaging fraud!

In the meantime, read Amy's critique at Our Sunday Visitor or Carl Olson & Sandra Miesel's at Envoy Magazine.