Thursday, March 26, 2015

Be Careful What You Wish For

If the Vatican's Abuse Commission was established merely for show, the members thereof do not think so.  If Francis really wants the laity involved in cleaning up the Scandal, he's getting what he asked for - and I'd wager he doesn't like it.

Here's an ABC News story on the situation in Chile that quotes a number of lay members of the Abuse Commission who are attempting to hold Pope Francis accountable for serious reform.  It is ironic that the liberalists in the Church, for all their errors, are right about one thing in particular - the laity are members of the Church as much as the clergy are.  Vatican II was adamant about that, and maybe that will begin to sink in.

Several members of Pope Francis' sex abuse advisory board are expressing concern and incredulity over his decision to appoint a Chilean bishop to a diocese despite allegations from victims that he covered up for Chile's most notorious pedophile.
In interviews and emails with The Associated Press, the experts have questioned Francis' pledge to hold bishops accountable, listen to victims and keep children safe, given the record of Bishop Juan Barros in the case of the Rev. Fernando Karadima.

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Catholics: Don't Believe CNA's Spin on Bishop Barros and the Situation in Chile

A scene from the Riot in the Cathedral, where protesters attempted to stop the appointment of Juan Barros as bishop of Osorno.

Conservatives are rightly angry at liberal bias in the media.  There's a lot of it.

But the game works both ways.  There's a huge conservative bias as well, and it follows a pattern.

The pattern is typically this.  Someone in the Church does something horrifically awful and outrageously embarrassing, something that can't possibly be defending or excused.  For several days the truth is out there and none of my DC (Defensive Catholic) friends comment on it either here or on Facebook or elsewhere.  An awkward silence falls and the truth is simply ignored.

Then (typically) the Catholic Defense League or an organization like Catholic News Agency pipes up with a defense of the situation that is a real stretch of the imagination, but that provides a handy template for the reactionaries to use, and suddenly comboxes are filled everywhere with the rank and file DCs who have swallowed the template whole, who run with it and who don't look back.

With Bishop Finn, the lie that was being promulgated was that the priest's crime at the center of the scandal was not child pornography at all, that the priest in question was utterly innocent, and that Finn did all he could in the situation, that he was being persecuted for being a vocally orthodox bishop who was firm on pro life issues, and that this is why folks in Kansas City were out to crucify him, the whole case against Finn being trumped up.

But the truth was just the opposite.  In fact, not only (in that case) were the pictures in question child porn, but the perpetrator priest was sentenced to fifty years in prison for producing the hundreds of images, using his own parishioners as victims, some under the age of three. And for years prior, Finn not only refused to look into or even acknowledge any of the many complaints about this priest's behavior, some of which came directly from the principal of the school that most of the victims attended, he also stonewalled once the child porn came to light, failed to inform or warn any of the families of the victims, gave the priest continued access to children, was complicit in the destruction of evidence, spent $1.4 million of diocesan money defending himself against two misdemeanor charges in court, only alerted the police when forced to, and, in short, put children at risk and failed to get the offending priest any serious help or counseling.

The Defensive Template bore no relation at all to the real situation.

And now we have Catholic News Agency doing the same thing, albeit with more subtlety, but in a way that's just as clumsy and heavy handed.  Several days after the original reports of the Riot in the Cathedral in Osorno, Chile surfaced - several days after right wing Catholics have been studiously ignoring them - a template has been handed down.  And now this is what the DCs (Defensive Catholics) will use to defend the episcopacy and to see-no-evil, hear-no-evil.

So, since that is bound to happen, let me address the CNA "report" and counter its most egregious errors.

I'll quote from CNA's biased spin on the story with my own comments (in red, a la Father Z), which are closer to the truth ...


1.    Who is Fernando Karadima Farina?

Fr. Karadima fostered the vocation of some 40 priests (What CNA leaves out: Fr. Karadima sexually abused altar boys for fifty years - according to court documents.  He led a kind of cult-within-the-church, feeding his own lust while appealing to wealthy right-wing Catholics with his ostensible orthodoxy, after the pattern of Fr. Maciel of the Legion of Christ), including Bishop Juan Barros, who decades ago belonged to Karadima’s closest circle of friends (and was, according to some, Karadima's gay lover - which, I suppose counts as belonging to Karadima's "closest circle of friends".) When reports of sexual abuse and other scandal surrounding Karadima surfaced, Bishop Barros, like a number of other prelates, at first did not believe the accusations. (Not only did they not believe them, they stonewalled and prevented the allegations from being seriously considered.  Against their own diocesan policies regarding the protection of children, allegations against Karadima were never presented to any committee.  Barros himself is said to have angrily torn up a letter to the bishop by one of Karadima's victims.)

The judge in the civil case dismissed the charges because the alleged abuse was too far in the past. (It was not alleged abuse, it was actual abuse, as the judge acknowledged in her ruling, and as the Vatican eventually confirmed.  It was not "too far in the past", it was simply not covered by the statute of limitations.  The phrasing of this sentence alone tells you all you need to know about CNA's agenda in this bit of "reporting".)  Nevertheless, in February 2011, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican completed its own investigation and declared 84-year-old Karadima guilty. He was sent to a life of solitude and prayer (a sentence he is reportedly flouting).

The news of the sentence surprised bishops, priests and lay people who viewed the priest as a role model and considered the initial accusations as an attack on the Church (and therefore refused seriously to consider them - EVEN THOUGH THEY WERE TRUE ALL ALONG).

2.    Juan Carolos Cruz and the accusers

Three of Karadima’s reported victims are accusing Bishop Barros of covering up the priest’s abuses. The accusations do not agree with the investigation carried out by the Vatican.  (Here we have a simple lie at worst, and an utterly strange assertion at best.  All we know of the Vatican's investigation is the upshot, the sentence.  The accusations were part of the evidence the Vatican considered.  If the accusations led to the sentence - which was guilty - how can CNA claim that the accusations "do not agree" with the "investigation carried out by the Vatican"?  This assertion crosses the line from biased reporting with a pro-episcopal slant to simple falsehood).  Juan Carlos Cruz is the most well known of the accusers. He lives in the United States and is often asked by national and international news media for comments on what is happening in the Chilean Church.

After Bishop Juan Barros was appointed as Bishop of Orsono, Cruz told CNN Chile that the Chilean Episcopal Conference and Pope Francis were giving Karadima’s victims “a slap in the face.” This has created international media attention.  (CNA is deliberately leaving out a crucial fact.  Cruz and the other accusers are claiming that Barros both protected Karadima and participated in the abuse by watching it take place as a voyeur.  If that's true, isn't Barros' appointment a "slap in the face"?  And even if it's not true, is not Pope Francis' appointment of a bishop who was part of the inner-inner circle of a cannonically convicted abuser a "slap in the face"?  Is it wrong that this phrase has generated media attention, as CNA implies?)

3.    Bishop Barros’ Defense

Bishop Juan Barros and three other bishops close to Karadima supported the decision of the Holy See in April of 2011 and denied having known about his double life. They declared in a statement that “with great sorrow we have accepted the sentence declaring him guilty of serious offences condemned by the Church. Like so many, we learned about this situation and its diverse and multiple effects with deep astonishment and pain.”

In a letter addressed to the faithful of the Osorno diocese days before his installation, Bishop Barros reiterated that “I never had any knowledge of any accusation concerning Father Karadima when I was the Secretary for Cardinal Juan Francisco Fresno and I never had any knowledge nor did I even imagine such grave abuses as this priest committed against his victims. I neither approved nor participated in those actions.”

“The deep pain that continues to affect the victims for long years profoundly hurts me. And I reiterate along with the whole Church that there is no place in the priesthood for those that commit those abuses,” he added.

Before taking up his responsibility as the Bishop of Osorno on March 21, 2015, the prelate reiterated that he was not linked to the priest’s abuses.

“I am telling you, before God who is listening to us, it did not cross my mind that these things were going on. I would not have accepted it for any reason, and I am not a friend of Fernando Karadima,” he stated.  (As Bill Clinton would say, "That depends on what the definition of 'am' is."  While Barros says "I am not a friend of Fernando Karadima," he certainly was.  Read on.)

He added that before the Vatican convicted him in 2011, “I was already becoming distant from him. Of course I had been close, but I was already becoming distant from him, not because I knew about these questions of the accusations but because he became ill tempered.  I never knew about these very tragic things. The pain of the victims hurts me enormously, I pray for those that carry this pain with them today.”  (So Barros was indeed at one time "close" to Karadima, which is glossed over in his denials and in CNA's reporting.  

Barros may be telling the truth here.  He may be innocent of any cover-up of Karadima's actions, of any collusion with Karadima's bishop who covered for him, of any sexual contact with Karadima and with any vicarious participation in the abuse.

But here's what makes me skeptical.  

1. The three public accusers of Barros are three of the victims of Karadima.  They were not believed for many years.  They were ostracized and criticized and belittled.  But they were telling the truth.  Both a judge in Chile and the Vatican admit that, all along, they were telling the truth about Karadima.  So why are they now, all of a sudden, beginning to lie about one of Karadima's intimates?  Why stop telling the truth about how they were abused - a truth that was never believed - and start lying at this point?

2. If these accusers are lying, if they are trying to destroy Barros, why are they not accusing him of sexual abuse?  Why are they adamant that Barros did not directly abuse them, that he merely "watched" as they were abused, engaged in sexual contact with Karadima, and ran interference for him, preventing their eventual complaints from being heard?  Why are these accusers deliberately limiting their accusations against Barros if they're lying and if their goal is to destroy him?)

Before being the bishop of Osorno, Bishop Barros was the bishop for the Chilean military for almost 11 years, Bishop of Iquique for four years and Auxiliary Bishop of Valparaiso for five years. During all this time, his ministry had not been questioned. (This riot was caused not by Barros' previous episcopal positions, but by his being appointed by Francis as bishop of Osorno, the first appointment of Barros since his mentor Karadima was convicted.  It's obvious why this appointment caused a furor, while Barros's appointment as bishop of the military a decade ago was not on anyone's radar.  To imply that this indicates some sort of shadowy agenda on the part of the rioters is typical of this whole article, which reads more like a pro-Barros press release than a news report.)

4.    The Protests in Osorno

On the day Bishop Barros was installed, dozens of people (no, hundreds of people inside the cathedral and about 4,000 outside the cathedral), including non-Catholics, (what evidence does CNA have that non-Catholics were involved in the protests?  What difference would it make even if they were?  Are non-Catholics not allowed to enter a cathedral?  Are non-Catholics not allowed to protest?) entered the Cathedral of Osorno with banners and black balloons to protest against the prelate. Large groups inside the church held white balloons and banners in support of the bishop.

The media has publicized a letter signed by priests and deacons, as well as a letter from the Congregation of the Sacred Heart signed by their provincial Father Alex Vigueras, demanding the resignation of the prelate.

In response, the Permanent Committee of the Chilean Episcopal Conference issued a March 18 statement expressing their “support, in a spirit of faith and obedience, for Pope Francis who has nominated Bishop Barros as bishop of the Diocese of Osorno.”

5 . Other interests?

The media coverage on Bishop Barros’ appointment as Bishop of Oserno is taking place in the midst of the debate on legalizing abortion as well as bills on euthanasia and homosexual unions in Chile. The Church is one of the few voices that is speaking out against these proposals.

In this context, 51 congressional representatives sent a letter to the Vatican questioning the appointment, some of whom are close to Cruz. This has led to some speculation that those advocating legal and social changes are using the Karadima case and his former friendship with Bishop Barro to discredit the Church in this debate.

(Is it possible that the protests against Barros are politically motivated, and that the pro-abortion / pro-"gay marriage" crowd is trying to capitalize on this situation?  Certainly!  In fact, I can't imagine that those with a liberal political agenda are not trying to capitalize on this.

But that's not the point.  

Fellow Catholics, we are not always persecuted because of our beliefs.  We are not always persecuted because we're trying to do good.  

In fact, when it comes to the Abuse Scandal, we are criticized and persecuted because of the evil the bishops have condoned and facilitated.  

And until we acknowledge that, and as long as we buy the PR-spin that organizations like CNA pass off as "reporting", we'll never make progress on issues like abortion and marriage.  In buying the Great Lie that CNA is selling here, we become anti-evangelists, witnessing against truth and goodness, witnessing against Our Lord Himself.)


ADDENDUM - There are reports that the Chilean Bishops' Conference forced Barros and three other bishops publicly to apologize for supporting Karadima.  Barros is not the "aw, shucks, what did I know?" former pal of Karadima that he claims to be.  He was his protege and one of his most adamant supporters (at the very least).  And remember, Karadima sexually abused altar boys for over fifty years, with bishops stonewalling and covering up for him during that time.

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Shock of the Incarnation

I just wrote to a friend of mine ...

The Incarnation is still shocking.  God-become-Reality.  Still shocking.

Tomorrow, March 25, is the Solemnity of the Annunciation, when we celebrate the moment the Word Became Flesh and Dwelt Among Us.

But if there's one thing most Christians CAN'T STAND it's God-become-Reality.

The Tinkerbell Fallacy - God is Dead Unless You Believe!

I wrote to a friend recently and compared the Evangelical Protestant attitude toward the Faith, which is highly emotional and is largely a question of "ginning it up", with the Catholic attitude toward the Faith, which is something altogether different.  The Protestants have a great many charisms, and they often put Catholics to shame with their passionate intensity and love for Our Lord, but there's a very big difference in how we think of Faith, and here Catholic author Hilaire Belloc sums it up (my emphasis) ...

The Catholic Church is the exponent of Reality.  It is true.  Its doctrines in matters large and small are statements of what is.  This it is which the ultimate act of the intelligence accepts.  This it is which the will deliberately confirms.  And that is why Faith through an act of Will is Moral [i.e., a meritorious act that is more than just feeling].  If the ordnance map tells me that it is 11 miles to Wookey Hole then, in my mood of lassitude as I walk through the rain at night making it feel like 30, I use the Will and say: ‘No.  My intelligence has been convinced and I compel myself to use it against my mood.  It is eleven and though I feel in the depth of my being to have gone 20 miles and more, I know it is not yet 11 I have gone.'

But modern Catholics seem to have lost the notion that the Faith is about what is true, and that doctrines are "statements of what is".  Perhaps the prevailing subjectivism and the Protestant spirit in the U.S. have convinced us that somehow the Faith is all about us, that God is a benign presence that we create with the earnestness of our wishing, the way Tinkerbell is brought back to life by the applause of the audience.

But God is not Tinkerbell.

And yet the primary soul sickness or pneumopathology that I see in my Devout Catholic friends is this notion that we somehow co-opt the Faith, that we get a handle on it, and (by implication) that we get a handle on God.  This construction of an artificially and seemingly Controlable Substitute for Reality (CSR), substituting an idol for God, is what I call (for want of a better word) Unreality.  We become like women who will only date or marry men they can control, or like desk jockeys who opt for a safe and predictable income doing something they hate rather than taking a risk and pursuing what they love.  The Faith becomes a tool to keep life in check.

Compare this with what Rod Dreher said about Dante, which I quoted in an earlier post ...

There is nothing — nothing — simplistic or moralistic about the Divine Comedy — and this is why it reached me in the depths of my despair like nothing else could have done. 

In the Divine Comedy, the Faith is not a handy key to answer the anxieties we feel.  It is not an ideology; it is not a gimmick with which we work the system; it is not a handy bit of make-believe or a fairy who comes to life if we really really want her to.  It is a trip into the depths of hell, into the suffering of purgatory, into the unexpected bliss of heaven.  It is a full on encounter with Reality - a complete and total challenge to us and to our ability to love.

Every single thing we see, everything we hear, everything we experience is from God and can only be understood and properly responded to through a relationship with God.  This relationship we call Faith.  This is not to say that Faith is an answer-key, but the challenge of Faith is the call to respond to Reality appropriately, and is a reminder that this appropriateness consists of sacrifice, of total love - but a love of mind, heart and strength, a love seasoned and mature, a love prudential but entire.  Reality itself is love, and our response to it must be properly ordered love, love mortified and crucified for His sake, a love lived amidst disappointment, frustration and hope.

That's the Faith.  And that's why I don't get it when "people of Faith" get upset at a little cleavage, or when Christians think propaganda is better than art, or when Catholic friends tell me I'm not holy because of my sense of humor, or when young single chaste Catholics think that sex is either disgusting or obsession-worthy.  These are examples of people whose Faith blocks their path to reality, when Faith should be doing just the opposite.

And this doesn't mean simply that we've got to "believe".   That's barely the start of it.  For this is something much bigger than our belief, much bigger than what we intend it to be.

 If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot disown himself. (2 Tim. 2:13)

God is bigger than Faith, and bigger than us.  That seems self-evident, but I don't really think we get it.

The Cleavage between Reality and Unreality in Life and Art

Left: sinful!  Right: holy!  Salvation by Photoshop.

Many of my readers are unable to make sense of the situation in Chile, a situation where Pope Francis made the inexplicable decision to appoint as bishop a man who was the protege and confidant (and, according to some, the gay lover) of a known and canonically punished priest who spent five decades abusing altar boys.  This appointment by Francis, of Bishop Juan Barros, was greeted with strong opposition by Catholics in Chile, about a thousand of whom rioted at the cathedral in Osorno in an unsuccessful attempt to stop Barros' installation ceremony.  The charge is that Barros would participate in the sexual abuse of altar boys by being physically present and watching it happen.  He denies this charge, and we don't know if it's true, but we do know that the pope has picked a man from inside the inner circle of an appallingly corrupt cult-leader, the right hand man of a priest that the Vatican itself has sanctioned.  Nobody knows quite what to make of this politically insane and insensitive appointment, although a popular Catholic blogger who's very pro-Francis has solved the problem by saying (in effect), "Don't know a thing about this situation, so I simply can't judge!!!  Go Francis!"  A less than honest solution, I'm afraid.

Meanwhile, I offended some Catholic friends of mine by making a joke about a woman who had posted a rather revealing photo of herself on Facebook (not the one above).  I shared the picture privately and made fun of it - but also enjoyed sharing it because the gal is a knockout.  I was told by my offended friends that I was (in effect) a judgmental jerk who was behaving in a less-than-saintly manner by finding humor in an attractive woman showing off her body in a somewhat inappropriate way.  I was being very unholy here.  The Catholic Faith had apparently worked on my friends and failed to work on me, it seems.  As with the picture above, I was in need of a spiritual Photoshop to blur over my sinful tendencies.

And elsewhere (but on this same topic - a topic that includes both riots in the cathedral and cleavage), Rod Dreher quotes a filmmaker on the difference between legitimate Faith Films and Cheesy and Contrived Faith Films (my emphasis) ...

One of the featured events at Sundance this year was a panel on faith-based films. Several attendees I spoke with were disappointed that panelists focused predominately, once again, on the “faith and family” audience—the same underlying market confusion I’d observed all year. One attendee, Ryan Daniel Dobson, is a Christian filmmaker developing a project based on the Biblical story of Hosea, in which the prophet is told by God to marry a prostitute, who repeatedly abandons him. A project like this will likely interest many people of faith, but not those looking for a “family film.” Like a growing number of Christians who work outside both the Hollywood system and the Christian film industry, Dobson sees films like God’s Not Dead as nearly antithetical to his understanding of what film ought to do and what faith ought to look like.
“Several times ‘faith films’ were compared to superhero movies, where a studio can’t stray from what their fanboy audience wants, because it would guarantee a box office fail.” Dobson told me. 

Dreher expounds on this by pointing toward Dante (again, my emphasis) ...

Dante did not become the towering figure we know from literature and history until they made him an outcast, and he had to confront the mess he had made of his life and make sense of it. The Divine Comedy is, of course, the most profound and penetrating Christian story ever written outside the Bible. Yet it is a long poem in which some villains make it to heaven, other friends of the poet’s who weren’t especially bad people in life end up in Hell, and one of the great archfiends of the play is the Pope of the very Catholic faith that the poet passionately believes in. There is nothing — nothing — simplistic or moralistic about the Divine Comedy — and this is why it reached me in the depths of my despair like nothing else could have done

We want the Faith to give us simple answers, but God's reality is much more complex.

If we pull the old Catholic "see no evil, hear no evil" nonsense, by both refusing to acknowledge things like the situation in Chile and what it tells us about Pope Francis - who is a more complex man, and apparently a more confusing mixture of good and bad, than either his supporters or his critics make him out to be - and if we want our relationship with Christ to consist of a simple formula like "once save always saved" or "cleavage is evil, how dare you make fun of it", or "art for propaganda's sake" we forget that our Unreality, much as we like to promote it, pales in comparison with the Reality God continues to reveal to us.

God is bigger than we like to make Him out to be, and so is His reality, a reality that we keep using our Faith to gimmick and put in our back pockets.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Chaos in the Cathedral Reflects Chaos in the Church

Catholic protesters in the cathedral of Osorno, Chile, trying to stop their new bishop from being ordained.

I just posted about what T. S. Eliot might have called Riot in the Cathedral, the situation in Osorno, Chile, where a mob of almost 1,000 protesters tried to stop their new bishop from being ordained.

In that post I mentioned the man who started this trouble, Fr. Karadima.

I just now discovered that Rod Dreher mentioned Karadima in an update to one of his posts in April of last year.  It's worth quoting this update in full, as well as the observations made by Adam DeVille that Rod includes on what it would take to reform this problem, and (by implication) why we've gotten to where we are.


Here are comments from links posted in the comments section. First, someone put up this essay by Lee Podles, the orthodox Catholic writer who has done deep investigation on the scandal. Excerpt:
Francis is a fixer. Whenever a parish or diocese experience a disaster, a fixer is sent in, as O’Malley was to Boston. Francis is the papal fixer. He is changing the subject from sexual abuse by his charm, hominess, and willingness to let people indulge their minor vices without a censoring voice from the clergy.
A fixer differs from a reformer in that a fixer does not address the roots; he is not radical. He merely papers over the problem, merely puts a poultice on the cancer.
Karadima is a terribly abusive priest in Chile. The archbishop of Santiago told him to stop saying mass in Public. Karadima ignored the order, and photos of him saying mass were tweeted to tens of thousands of people.
A prominent Chilean priest who was ordered by the Vatican to never again celebrate a public Mass as punishment for sexually abusing altar boys has been photographed apparently defying the order.
Chile’s top church leaders confirmed the Rev. Fernando Karadima’s act of insubordination Friday and sent the case to the Vatican for investigation. The photos were taken Dec. 4, but they were only released this week by Juan Carlos Cruz, a journalist and one of Karadima’s victims.
“It’s a very painful situation that shows that this priest continues to do as he pleases,” Cruz told The Associated Press. “It’s a slap in the face for the victims of his abuse. He should be in jail but instead he’s still being protected by the church.”
The Roman Catholic Church retains a firm grip on Chilean society, although in recent years its influence has waned after scandals in which priests have been accused of molesting children. Victims say Karadima began abusing them at his residence at the Sacred Heart of Jesus church in Santiago about 20 years ago, when they were between 14 and 17 years old.
The Vatican sanctioned Karadima by ordering him to a life of “penitence and prayer” in 2011. He was also barred from celebrating Mass in public, from hearing confessions or offering spiritual direction and from having contact with his ex-parishioners. A Chilean judge later dismissed a criminal case because the statute of limitations had expired, but she determined the abuse allegations were truthful.
The timing of the photos’ release appeared aimed at embarrassing both the current and former archbishops of Santiago, who were in Rome for Saturday’s ceremony to name current Archbishop Ricardo Ezzati Andrello a cardinal.
The victims in Chile say the retired archbishop, Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz, failed to act on accusations that they were abused by Karadima, who was long one of the country’s most popular priests. They say the cardinal declined to even meet them.
[Back to Podles:] Pope Francis’s response: he made Archbishop Ricardo Ezzati Andrello a cardinal. This sends a clear message. The Vatican does not care how a bishop handles sexual abuse cases.
Francis has not appointed the sexual abuse commission he promised. I will be flabbergasted if he appoints anyone like Tom Doyle or Richard Sipe, someone who knows the problem from the inside.
This one is from an essay by the Byzantine Catholic writer and academic theologian Adam DeVille. Prof. DeVille says that the early canons of the Church are ruthless in their treatment of priests who engage in sexual sin — even consensual sexual sin with adults. They are removed from the clerical state. Boom, done. DeVille:
If the pope’s new commission wants or needs some advice, then I think the early canons provide it: any sexual sin is grounds for immediate and permanent dismissal from any and all offices in the Church, up to and including the episcopate. But more than this needs to happen, and here we do not need another commission: we need ruthless papal action, and friendly Francis may be precisely the person to deliver it with a fist of iron underneath his ermine glove.
For too many Catholics, the most infuriating aspect of the abuse scandal over the last 12 years and more has been the way in which bishops have escaped accountability, particularly bishops who shuffled priests around or did not act swiftly and decisively to root out the problem. Whose blood has not boiled at seeing Bernard Cardinal Law swan about his cushy sinecure at St. Mary Major in Rome? He should have been locked away in a rough cell in a monastery on an island in the White Sea, allowed out twice a day for Mass and scrubbing toilets. And a similar fate should today befall any bishop who covered up abuse or failed to remove abusive priests from the priesthood immediately and permanently. If Pope Francis’ new commission is to be effective and the Church is to put this scandal behind her once and for all, then let the sackings begin. Nothing short of this will be sufficient to regain the bishops’, and thus the Church’s, shattered credibility.

ADDENDUM: CNA is "reporting" (actually mis-reporting) on the situation in Chile, and I counter their spin in my latest post. 

Chileans Won't Chill

Protesters attempting to stop Juan Barros from being officially installed as their bishop.

Click here to see a BBC video of the near riot that erupted at the cathedral at Osorno, Chile where protesters tried to stop the ordination of their new bishop, Juan Barros.

Barros is implicated in a cover up of sexual abuse.

The background is this.  In a situation that's very similar to that of Fr. Maciel of the Legion of Christ, a Chilean priest, Fernando Karadima, played up to the wealthy conservative elements in Chilean Catholic society and established a kind of parallel Church, cultivating a group of followers, some of whom became priests - and one of whom is now the bishop of Osorno.  And all the while this Fr. Karadima was sexually abusing boys and young men.

He had trained five bishops and dozens of priests, acting as a spiritual leader and father figure for young men who later accused him of molesting them. (The New York Times, Feb. 18, 2011)

Complaints and red flags popped up for many years, but Karadima's bishop ignored them, covered for Karadima, and in effect facilitated his crimes.  The Vatican eventually sentenced Karadima to a "life or prayer and penance".

Karadima was not only the "mentor" of the new Bishop Barros, but Barros himself has been implicated in Karadima's crimes ...

While Barros himself is not accused of molestation, at least three credible victims say he was present when they were sexually molested by powerful Fr. Fernando Karadima in the 1980s and 90s.


I am becoming increasingly convinced that "a little leaven leavens the whole loaf", and that a "leaven of malice" and perversion, a self-serving evil that holds God and neighbor in contempt, has infected the Church.  Think about this.  How can stricter procedures on the administrative level reform the Church?  What sort of bureaucratic alterations will change the heart of a bishop who facilitates sex abuse, making this bishop suddenly realize that's the kind of thing a Christian should not be doing?

If you knew that someone under your authority and control was sexually abusing minors, would you aid and abet him, only changing your ways if new procedures forced you to?  And if you (sinful reader) would not do such a thing, why do your bishops?

The noisy chaos in the cathedral of Osorno was simply a glimpse into the silent chaos that's taken hold of our Church.

The Beatles, Benton and Boccie Ball

George Harrison with his sister Louise and brother Peter in downtown Benton, Illinois, 1963.

The Riverfront Times has a really fab piece on the Beatles this week - specifically George Harrison's sister and George's trip to America in 1963, six months before the Beatles appeared on Ed Sullivan ...

And so it was that George Harrison, along with brother Peter, stepped off a plane at Lambert Field in St. Louis and became the first Beatle to set foot on American soil.
And no one cared.

For me this article hits close to home, as it details the time Harrison spent in a part of the world where I've been performing for years.  In fact, Beatle George and I both performed at the same unusual venue, the Benton Boneyard Bocce Ball Club.  Not many people can say that they performed at a boccie ball club, especially the boccie club in Benton, Illinois.  My memory of our murder mystery we performed there, back in 2003 or so, was that I've never been in a place that was filled with more cigarette smoke.

Things were probably not much different forty years prior to that, the night George Harrison took the stage with the Four Vests, who were then the hottest band in Southern Illinois ...

A few nights later, Harrison — clad in a dark suit, white shirt and no tie — took the stage yet again with the [Four] Vests, this time for a birthday party at the Bocce Ball Club in Benton. There he played "most of that job 'cause Kenny [Welch, the Vests' lead guitarist] just let him play, an hour, hour and a half. It went down pretty good, we had a good time that night. People wanted to know who he was, I told 'em he was from England, told 'em the story."
Interestingly, Harrison — a decade younger than the Vests — had enough material in common with the band to fill 90 minutes onstage. And nary a Beatles tune was played.

This is a good reminder of how the Beatles were troopers, performing night after night in the Cavern and other clubs, covering a ton of rock and roll standards.

The story of George's sister covers a lot of ground, from Benton, Illinois to Branson, Missouri, and beyond.  The story has its bittersweet moments - one of which (for me) is that Ringo was invited to St. Louis and to Illinois with George but decided not to come!  At any rate, the story is filled with some fascinating tidbits, and is worth a read.

The Four Vests, for whom George played lead guitar at the Benton Boneyard Boccie Ball Club.

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Two Leavens

Not only is the Kingdom of God within you, but so is the leaven of hell.

For, behold, the kingdom of God is within you. (Luke 17:21)

What do these words of Jesus mean?  For one thing, it means that grace is eternal life already begun.  It is the mustard seed within us.  The fullness of the Kingdom is to come, but the Kingdom is already here, and is coming all the time.  The most peaceful Christian I know, a man who is a kind of saint, is always content with every event that comes his way.  Why?  I think it's because he knows that it's all part of the Kingdom, all part of our eternal blessedness, even if we can't see it, and even if what comes hurts us or inconveniences us.  This man not only trusts entirely on Divine Providence (in the sense that he believes that God will take care of everything), he also perceives God's providence lived out in little things and big things.  If he blows a transmission on the interstate and waits for a surly tow truck driver from AAA, he rejoices in meeting him because that's what God wanted him to do.  God found that encounter more important than his big business meeting that he ends up missing.

It's the kind of thing that would make me rant and rave, but that a saint can take in gratitude and stride.

And so we

Rejoice in hope (Rom. 12:12)

as St. Paul says.  This has always flummoxed me a bit, for hope is one of those odd and slippery virtues like humility.  It's hard to put your finger on.  On the one hand, we are to trust that God is bringing us to eternal fulfillment.  On the other hand, we are not to count on that or to presume upon his mercy.  And the fact is that hope is not hope unless things are hopeless.  We only hope for a thing that we do not already have, at least completely.  And how easy it is in this modern cynical age to despise hope!  For hope can easily be bruised.  When we consent to hope, we consent to be vulnerable, and possibly to be burned.  Hope is a reaching out with longing and with a kind of innocence from murkiness into light.  It requires a sanctified and eager simplicity of desire - and that's not cool these days.

For who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.  (Rom. 8:24)

And yet hope is not hope unless it's sweetened by a foretaste.  Hope sits right beside faith, which believes, but believes because there is already a tangible bit of evidence that has already been experienced and that we always carry with us.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Heb. 11:1)

This puzzling definition, if it means anything, means that both faith and hope are not entirely blind virtues.  They are not whistling in the dark.  They are an inner fidelity to that which we already possess in substance, a yearning for the perfection of that which exists as a germ or a seed (or a mustard seed) inside us.  The Kingdom of God is within you, among you, in your midst.  We carry around the evidence of things not (fully) seen.

And yet we can begin to see the Kingdom even now.  And when we do, we can be grateful.  And when we are grateful we can be joyous even when we suffer.

And in being joyous, we can leave that foul mood behind, that nasty Gollum-ized selfish and narrow spirit that is always seeking for its own and is never happy, whether it's sitting stalled on the interstate or whether it's at the meeting and closing the sale.

For there is a fine line between the sanctity begun within us in the Kingdom, and the toxic taste that our inner petty tyrant produces in our own mouths.

A little leaven leavens the whole lump.  (Gal. 5:9)

Which means that the mustard seed, like a pinch of leaven, can cause the Kingdom to rise within us.  Or, by the same token, the "leaven of malice" can poison the whole batch.

This is why our bishops have been foolish to allow men with sexual perversions into the priesthood.  Unless that leaven is mortified and kept out, the whole batch goes bad.  Even a man with a normal sexual desire destroys his relations with those he is supposed to be helping if he allows that desire to be the leaven that infects the whole lump.  If a priest acts on his desire for women, he does just as much damage to his ministry as he would if he were cruising the gay parks and picking up men.  Celibacy is crucial in that regard, for it keeps a priest unbiased, it forces him to help even those he is attracted to, not for his gain, but for theirs.

Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (1 Cor. 5:8) 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Fin de Finn?

MO--First Catholic official calls for Bishop Finn’s removal

For immediate release: Thursday, March 19
Statement by David Clohessy of St. Louis, Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, 314 566 9790,
A member of Pope Francis’ new child sex abuse panel is calling for the removal of Kansas City Bishop Robert Finn. It’s the first time a Catholic official is publicly and explicitly pushing for Finn’s ouster.
Peter Saunders of London was tapped by Pope Francis to be on the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors . He founded and heads a charity for abuse victims called NAPAC (The National Association for People Abused in Childhood).
“If we don’t see real change, if we don’t see the likes of Bishop Finn removed immediately . . .then the committee will be a pointless exercise,” Saunders told The Guardian.
Many pundits, journalists, abuse victims and concerned Catholics have advocated for Finn’s removal. But this is the first time a church official has explicitly done so. It’s especially significant that Saunders has met with Pope Francis and was appointed to the Vatican abuse panel by Francis.

For those of you out there who have swallowed the spin that Bishop Finn has been railroaded and unjustly targeted because of his orthodoxy, feel free to read my series of posts on Bishop Finn and Father Ratigan.

Or better yet, read the following as a handy summary, first published on Sept. 6, 2012.  ...


There's something about Christ and how we fail Him that we can learn from Kansas City / St. Joseph Bishop Finn.

Here's what Bishop Finn did  -

  • He was informed by letter by a Catholic School Principal at St. Patrick's Parish in Kansas City that parents and teachers were concerned about the behavior of their pastor, Fr. Ratigan, who was trying to spend time alone with students, who insisted on giving a little girl a massage at a church event, who was taking a lot of pictures of  little girls, and in whose garden a pair of little girl's underwear was discovered.  Bishop Finn ignored the letter.

  • A year later, a computer technician finds hundreds of photos on Fr. Ratigan's computer - photos of little girl students at the parish school, and one of a sleeping two year old, with her diaper moved to the side to reveal her genitalia - all taken by Fr. Ratigan.  In fact, the photos of the students were taken surreptitiously on the playground, at the cafeteria and elsewhere, and included close-ups of girls' crotches, and some where their underwear or genitals were showing.  Also on the computer were links to sites that sell spy cameras.  The computer is taken to Msgr. Murphy, the vicar general, who before seeing the photos, (that's right, before seeing the photos) calls an off-duty police officer and asks him if a few photos of a mostly-clothed children could be pornographic.  The off-duty police officer says, "Maybe."  This is the only contact the diocese makes with the police, until they are forced to contact them again six months later.  Some of the photos are downloaded from the computer by the chancery, but Bishop Finn gives the computer to a relative of Fr. Ratigan's, who then promptly destroys it.

  • Fr. Ratigan attempts suicide but survives.  He is sent to a counselor in Pennsylvania for a very brief evaluation.  The counselor says, "This man is fine.  He just needs the principal of the school to stop picking on him."  Bishop Finn does not allow the parishioners to know what has happened; they are only told of the suicide attempt.  No effort is made to determine who the victims were.  No effort is made to contact their families, to see if the children were physically assaulted as well as photographed.  No counseling or outreach or intervention of any kind is offered.  The victims and their families are kept entirely in the dark.

  • Bishop Finn assigns Fr. Ratigan to a retreat center in Kansas City where Catholic School students are regularly sent on retreat.  Bishop Finn tells no one at the retreat house that Ratigan is dangerous.  He is given full access to students and even says Mass for school groups.  Fr. Ratigan is discovered taking inappropriate pictures of a little girl at this retreat center on Easter Sunday, 2011.

  • Meanwhile, Fr. Ratigan makes contact with some of his former parishioners and complains that he has been railroaded and treated unfairly by being removed as pastor after his suicide attempt -which, he says, was caused by the principal, who is out to get him (though he had left a letter confessing all his crimes the day he tried to kill himself - a letter the contents of which were not revealed to the families involved).  The parishioners take pity on him and invite him to their homes, including to birthday parties for their young girls.  Parishioners are doing this because Bishop Finn has refused to let them know that they've already been victimized and that this man is dangerous.

  • When the off-duty cop finds out that the computer (criminal evidence now destroyed due to Bishop Finn's actions) contained not a few but hundreds of pictures, some of them clearly pornographic, he tells Msgr. Murphy that if Murphy won't make a report, he himself will.  At this point, six months after the photos were discovered, the police are contacted and Fr. Ratigan is arrested.

  • Bishop Finn holds "listening sessions" at the parish, where the victims' families are asked to "share" how they "feel" about something the diocese hid from them and only revealed to them when they were forced to.

  • Bishop Finn is charged for failure to report suspected child abuse by two Missouri counties.  He cops a plea with Clay County, in which he lets the secular government have an active hand in how the Church is run.

Got all that?  There's a lot more, but that gives a brief overview of what Bishop Finn did.

Here's what Bishop Finn should have done -

  • Put the needs of the children and families of his diocese above those of covering his backside.

  • Once charged, admit he failed to do his duty, repent in sackcloth and ashes, plea bargain with both counties, resign, and save the diocese $1.4 million dollars, money which could fund either Catholic education or counseling for the victims.

Now I'm not saying I'm perfect.  I'm not saying I'm better than Bishop Finn.  I'm not saying we should judge the state of his soul.  In fact, I just wrote an earnest post on how we're all sinners, including me.

But I am saying this -

What we are seeing in Bishop Finn is what we see all around us.  Instead of successors to the Apostles (bishops) behaving like successors to the Apostles - willing to risk everything and follow Christ - we get middle-management bureaucrats.  A priest has abused children?  Don't tell the families!  We'll get sued!  Cover everything up.  "What would Jesus do? "  Hell, no!    Forget Christian charity, forget even human compassion, this is a corporation whose assets we've got to protect - though over a million of those assets will be used to keep my own sorry asset out of jail (even though jail time is inconceivable in a plea bargain over misdemeanors and I've really got nothing to fear).  And if I get a light sentence after all is said and done?  Well, my buddy Bishop Joe over in KC, Kansas will write another article claiming that's it's all the fault of the pro-abortion anti-Catholic media!  He'll back me up!  So will that Donohue guy who spun the whole thing last year so that everybody was at fault but me!  I'll come off smelling like a rose while Fr. Shawn Ratigan beats off to pictures of your eight-year-old daughter's crotch and panties that I refuse to tell you he took, just in case you might want to invite him over with his spy cam for her next birthday party.  And if the cops force us to tell you about it (they'll never get all the evidence, I saw to that), well, I'll hold a listening session and have you fill out a card telling me how the visual violation of your daughter and our enabling of it makes you feel.  Yeah, that's the ticket!

The lesson? 

The time has come.  The Kingdom of God is at hand.

REPENT and believe.


ADDENDUM: Here's a helpful timeline the Kansas City Star has put together on this case.


ADDENDUM 2: As I wrote this week, this circling the wagons trick to defend our own, whether right or wrong, is precisely why we aren't effective evangelists.

The Contrast between What We are Seduced to Do and What We are Called to Do

When Christ is tempted in the wilderness, Satan says, "If you worship me, it will all be yours." (Luke 4:7)

Let us be honest for a moment, fellow sinner, and admit how enticing that temptation is.  But Jesus rejects it out of hand (the only way to deal with any temptation is just so, to nip it in the bud, for entertaining the inner desire even for a moment is the worst thing you can do).

The irony is that "all this" is already His.  Our Lord made it and Our Lord reigns over it - beyond the passing reign of the Prince of this Realm.  Can we remember, when tempted, that the same applies to us?  My greatest temptations are to reach for and to possess in a greedy, clutching and secretive way things I already have, things that I hold in trust, things that I have no outright and absolute claim to, but that I am stewarding until the return of the King, their rightful owner.  Worship the devil and it will all be yours?  No, worship God for it is already yours - in trust for the moment, and in earnest as a token for a future possession, a future Kingdom, that will be a far greater thing for you to hold.

Later, when Jesus comes down the mountain after His transfiguration, He is told that His disciples had been unable to exorcise a demon during His absence and heal the harm it was causing its victim.  He responds ...

You unbelieving and perverted generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him here to Me. (Mat. 17:17)

Why the sternness of the rebuke, which appears addressed not only to those who are begging for a cure, but also to the disciples who failed to effect one?  What had His disciples done wrong?  Wasn't this situation simply outside of their own power and authority?

Well, no.  Not if they had passed beyond their dunder-headedness, their tendency to slug around and scratch themselves and remain comfortable in their dead and dying sinful selves while Jesus did all the work.  And, like them, we are "unbelieving" and "perverse" to the extent that we do not believe that we are called to perform (by means of His grace) the same miracles of healing (which are now typically miracles of spiritual healing) that He did, and that He continues to do.

O, unbelieving and perverse fellow sinners!  Let us renounce the possessiveness that tempts us and boldly begin to do what Our Lord is calling us to do.  Those around us are themselves "possessed" - by greed and hunger and lust and confusion, by loneliness and abuse and want - and they are looking for Him to liberate them, which He deigns to do through us.

"Bring him here to Me".

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

A Loaf of Bread, a Jug of Wine, a Murder

Here's a fun article about one of our upcoming show and about the crazy business I'm in.

The Mysterious Virtue of Detachment

Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. (Mat. 10:37)
These words of Jesus are about what the Church calls Detachment.

... which is not this
Detachment is a cold word, and implies that we can go through life with a Mr. Spock attitude toward people and things.  But that's not what Detachment means as a spiritual virtue.  Christians must always care, and care deeply, even to the point of self-sacrifice (as Jesus did), so Detachment is not a kind of clinical emotional distancing.

This is why I prefer the word Disinterest to Detachment.  But this word has problems, too, because most people think that to be "disinterested" is to be "uninterested", or bored.  As I wrote a while back ...

To be Disinterested is not to be uninterested.  To be disinterested means to have no claim on personal profit from a given situation.  We cannot love without being interested, but we must love for reasons other than our own selfish interest, otherwise it's not love.  

But what does this mean exactly?  Does this mean that we should put up with abusive relationships, remaining with people who take advantage of us or who treat us poorly?  Does this mean that employees should never negotiate with employers for better wages or for a share of the profits that they help generate?  Are we simply to give and give and give and ask nothing in return?

No, it does not mean that.  Detachment does not mean being a push-over or a floor mat.  In fact, even apostles spreading the gospel are to be Detached, and this Detachment means quite specifically not getting taken advantage of, not getting too wrapped up in anything, even in the success of your ministry.

And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them. (Mark 6:11)

This is Detachment.  This is Disinterest, not taking a personal share of the interest or gain that is, after all, God's business.  Indeed, it is usually egotistical Attachment on our part that allows people to take advantage of us.  This is especially true for actors, who are always seeking to please others and to become stars who are worshiped and adored, leading us to bend over backwards, to work for little or no pay, to put up with horrific treatment and abuse by directors and producers and grad school programs, to keep giving and giving because we're never Detached, always looking to take a share of that Interest that is not rightly ours.

To be Disinterested means that we realize what Paul says ...

I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. (1 Cor. 3:6

The "increase" is not ours.  While the "laborer is worth his wages" (1 Tim. 5:18), and while human dignity and the dignity of work make a claim on just compensation (in business relationships), and while friendships must be based on a mutual giving (in personal relationships), the "increase" is nonetheless never our own.  We can't make anything happen.  This is at the heart of Faith vs. Works - all we have are gifts, even though we are required to work in order to develop those gifts and allow God to make them "grow" - for, no matter how hard we work, we, ourselves, can make nothing grow.  We can merely plant and water, but God gives the increase.

Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin.  (Mat. 6:28)

Jesus here uses the same Greek word translated "grow" that Paul uses above, there translated as "increase".

But what does this have to do with ordinary life?

Well, a lot if you're an actor.  Because we actors tend to think that the magic that sometimes happens on stage or in film is of our own making, forgetting that our very talents are gifts and assuming that the good that these talents produce - the increase or growth - is ours and that this somehow means that we-are-god.

And so if you love show business (or another person, or anything else), you fail to practice Detachment or Disinterest when you (usually slyly and in hidden ways) start doing things to stroke your ego, feed your Hungry I, or establish yourself as the miraculous cause of growth and increase, seeking to become an idol to the thing you love.  We all tend to do this, even though, after all, we are mere instruments and can never be more than secondary causes, vehicles for God's grace.

Here's an example of Lack of Detachment in an actor.


He toured with Theater of the Word.  He was a good guy, but had little professional experience.  After almost every show he would moan, "I was horrible tonight!  I gave a terrible performance!"

"No," I would tell him, "You were about the same tonight as you were last night.   Your performance was adequate.  It was fine.  We got the check and nobody tried to kill us.  Stop worrying about it."

By contrast, those of us who perform (as I do) about 150 shows a year, and over a dozen different scripts don't get as emotionally involved in each performance.  We certainly want each performance to be our best, and we desperately love what we do and work very hard at it, but we don't see our time on stage as the crucial thing that makes us or breaks us as human beings.  We don't get our value defined by any particular thing we do onstage.  Like a baseball player who may lose today's game, there's always tomorrow.

We develop a kind of professional Detachment.  In fact, I'd venture to say that with expertise and practice a certain measure of Detachment always develops in every profession: surgeons, psychiatrists, roofers - every skill that you become adept at or that becomes your trade becomes somewhat automatic for you, as it should, for Detachment - Disinterest - is one of the things that sets a veteran apart from a rookie.

But when ego's involved, Detachment is tough.  And, to be honest, I'm just as guilty of Attachment as my rookie actor.  But when I am, it makes me miserable.  And when I'm guilty of Attachment in personal relationships, of clutching and grasping, of not wanting to let go of the Ring, or of whatever person or thing I feel "validates" me, I'm even more miserable, sometimes becoming obsessed or sulky, crabby or sleepless.

And yet we know, as actors, and as human beings - we always know at some level - that it's not about us.  Some of us plant, some of us water, but God gives the increase.  We may toil and spin, but the lilies we cultivate grow miraculously, of their own accord, by God's mysterious design.

And any time we forget that, and secretly and shamefully invest our talents so as to have the interest accrue directly to us, and not to God, to whom the interest is due, we are far from Disinterested, far from Detached.

So, misunderstood as the virtue is, let us pray this Lent for Detachment.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Sex, Symbols, Sacraments and So Forth

Here's a repeat of a post from December of 2013 ...


C. G. Jung
One of the games Carl Jung and his followers used to play was this.  They would claim that they were not obsessed with sex the way the Freudians were, that they (the Jungians) wouldn't say that

Paschal Candle = Penis  (Freud would say this, and Christopher West does say this)

but instead they would claim

Paschal Candle = Penis = Creative Power of God = the Self = Individuation

("Individuation", by the way, is a three-dollar word for, "Do whatever you want to do").

"The Paschal Candle does not simply symbolize the penis!" they would exclaim (though they'd say phallus instead).  "Because the phallus itself symbolizes creative energy, which symbolizes God, and God is the archetype for the Self - that thing beneath the ego that we must cultivate through the process of Individuation."

But here's the problem - where do you choose the symbol to stop?  Even if Candle = phallus = God = Self = Individuation ... well, what does individuation symbolize?  Could we not go further?  Could we not say ...

Individuation = Rebirth = Baptism = Death to Self and Life in Christ?

This is how bad symbolism, bad mythological analysis, and bad literary criticism works.  It becomes utterly arbitrary.


But more than that.  It begs a very big philosophical question.

Paul Stilwell has a long and complex post on the relation between analogy and reality.

I'm not sure I completely understand what Paul is saying, but I think it comes down to this.  If everything is analogous, then we must eventually ask analogous to what?  There must be some ultimate reality that the thing is analogous to.  Indeed, there must be two things in this equation - the thing that serves as a symbol must be real and the reality it indicates must be real.  But which is more important?

Stilwell points out that marriage, for example, is a real thing with a concrete embodiment - love, sex, babies, diapers, mortgage payments, arguments, forgiveness, and the thousand daily things that make it up.  It is also analogous to the Second Coming of Christ, the great Nuptial Feast in which Christ, the Bridegroom, unites with His bride, the Church.  The latter, in Stilwell's terminology, is the "analogous sense" and the former is the "vital sense".  Stilwell writes ...

He [West] will then take marriage in its "vital" sense and cut it down at the ankles as limited and analogous, while forcing the analogical and subjective into the "vital" plane that is reserved for poopy screaming children and spaghetti on the stove (or in other words, reserved for our becoming sacraments), replacing it as the paramount significance of marriage - that is to say, making the analogical and limited to take that place of marriage which is not limited and analogical. Forcing an analogical sense down thus, we can "rocket-pack" towards our target - to the stars. To the unending celestial orgasm.

 The man who does this, who sees everything as pointing towards something else, suddenly becomes free to see a bogeyman in every bush, or more likely he will

see vaginas around every corner he turns, awaiting the decoding of this saint-in-the-making who is learning to read the sign language of God the alien who left us ineffectual esoteric signs and not Sacraments.

A Sacrament differs from a sign as much as a flower differs from a "reproductive organ".   It is real both as a symbol that points to something else and as a thing we experience and participate in that actually conveys grace.  In other words, it has both an analogous sense and a vital sense - and that vital sense actually communicates what God intends it to (given proper matter and proper disposition on our part).

In other words, is it more appropriate to say that a flower symbolizes female genitalia or that female genitalia symbolizes a flower?  There is an analogous connection - and it is certainly real - but it is not "vital", as Stilwell would say.  Both things are beautiful and proper in their own way - each has its analogical sense and also its full and thoroughly valid "vital sense" - so much so that it is not appropriate to say that one stands for the other, without ignoring the question which stands for which?  To ignore the quiddity or the "vitality" of any thing in and of itself is, ultimately, to deny the Incarnation, and simply to play games.  For what this all comes to psychologically is using one reality as a mere vehicle to get to another reality that interests you more.

And what interests us more?  Well, there is a certain kind of mind that is thrilled by sexual imagery: I would characterize it as a middle school mentality.  There is also a certain kind of mind that is thrilled by esoteric nonsense.  Indeed, we see this even in literary circles with Shakespeare scholars who read the plays as if they were merely coded means of conveying messages that a secret spy ring in a Cracker Jack box could decipher.  In doing so they (as Paul Stilwell would say) cut the plays off "at the ankles".

But the Theology of the Body rises above the ankles.  And, though you wouldn't hear tell of it in pop-Catholic circles, it actually rises above the belt.

For our lives are not mere pointers.  The Sacraments are not mere symbols.  Marriage is not merely a sign of the Eschaton.  And the Paschal Candle is not merely a phallus.  (In fact, it's not a phallus at all).


However, what I mean to say here goes beyond any goofy games with symbols.  What I mean to say is this.

God operates in our lives in ways that are more real and more "vital" than we care to notice.  He is not content to be the distant God that things point to; He is a God who shares our joys and sufferings, our very suchness, our very vitality, and the things that exist are not a mere prelude to the Kingdom: they have a dignity - an ontological dignity - all on their own, though it is a fallen and broken one, needing badly to be redeemed.

And anyone who participates in the Sacrament of Matrimony - that is to say anyone who is married - knows the funny mixture of "poopy screaming children, spaghetti on the stove" and a profound and sacrificial love that hints at the Coming of Christ Himself.  It is very tempting for us married men to turn from this, to seek cheap thrills elsewhere - either through adultery in deed or adultery in our hearts - or even to waste our Eros on a kind of dreamy dead end mulling over "what if" - to think that the grass is greener in the other lawn, or that our happiness is not really to be found in bed beside us, overweight, snoring, and mad at us for something we did that day.

But this is life.  This is vital.  And this great mess, frustrating as all get out, is - like the manger (with "poopy lowing animals and nothing on the stove") - the silent herald of a great and rich and wonderful joy to come.


Sin and the Passive Voice - A Modern Cerbonius is Thrown to the Bears

St. Cerbonius and the Bears.

If this news report is true, then here's what happened in the Sacramento diocese (which is named "Sacramento" after the Blessed Sacrament - Jesus Christ present among us).

Christopher Cerbone ("Christopher" means "Christ bearer"; "Cerbone" is a name related to that of St. Cerbonius, who was thrown to the bears) was a soccer coach at St. Patrick / St. Vincent High School in Vallejo, California.  One day, he learned that there was a kind of "hazing" going on among his students that was tantamount to sexual abuse.  As soon as he learned of this behavior, he reported it to school officials.

The school responded by expelling five of the guilty students - and firing Christopher Cerbone!  They justified this by issuing a press release saying that, as coach, Cerbone was, himself, responsible for the hazing, even though he immediately reported it as soon as he found out about it.

This is an open and shut case.  If the news report is accurate, it is clearly unjust termination and defamation, and it will cost the diocese of Sacramento nearly $1 million in actual damages and perhaps as much as $4.5 million in punitive damages.

In trying to argue against a high punitive award, the lawyer for the diocese told the jury that the diocese didn't mean any real harm, and that (gosh dang it) the matter was handled "very poorly" - so, no biggie, you see.  "Mistakes were made" as it were.  Nobody's fault.

Oh, and, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, don't come down hard on the diocese of the city of the Blessed Sacrament, because, after all, the diocese that brutalized Christopher Cerbone "does good works every day".  And, you know, throwing St. Cerbonius to the bears was just the kind of thing that slipped through the cracks.  Was it a way of sending, as the plaintiff's attorney claimed, "a message to the 1,000 other employees of the diocese, 'Don’t stand up. Don’t say anything about us, because this can happen to you.'"  Or, golly, was it just a situation that was handled "very poorly"?  Darn it!

Well, here's a novel idea.  How about we Catholics own up to our sins, admit them without excuse, and, when the sins are public, do public penance of some sort as a way of expressing our contrition and as a way of witnessing for Christ?

After all, even in the privacy of the confessional, do we say, "Father, mistakes were made?  Father, the matter was handled very poorly?"  And does the priest then say, "Mistakes are forgiven.  The handling has been overlooked"?  No, we say, "I have sinned," and he says (if we mean it), "I absolve you".

Who knows what the heck the school was thinking in this case.  But they didn't "handle it poorly", they deliberately harmed a man and then deliberately defamed him.  Speaking in the passive voice is a way of ignoring this.

All sins are personal.  All sins harm either our own selves personally or other people personally.

But an institution that would throw a man to the bears is an institution that would probably not feel sorry for having done so.