USCCB TARGETS GIRL SCOUTS!


Maybe the old boys club would just like to have a church full of old boys. According to David Crary, writing for the Associated Press, Girl Scouts USA is now suspected of deviant thinking and wayward behavior by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. At issue are USCCB concerns about program materials that some […]

Our # 1 Problem: Fundamentalism in the Catholic Church


 

Nostalgia for a pre-Vatican II Golden Age

In relating to fundamentalist Catholics we need to avoid hostile or heated arguments.

 

(Particular thanks for these reflections to Father Gerald Arbuckle SM author of Culture, Inculturation, and Theologians: A Postmodern Critique)

Nostalgia for a pre-Vatican II Golden Age, when it is assumed that the Church never changed, is the foundation for Catholic fundamentalism which is becoming quite a problem in contemporary church leadership.

The fact is: the Church and its teachings have often changed. Over the years some church statements have been shown to be wrong and were either repealed or allowed to lapse.

Here are some characteristics of contemporary Roman Catholic fundamentalism:

  • A highly selective approach to what Catholic fundamentalists think pertains to the Church’s teaching: Statements  on incidental issues are obsessively affirmed, but papal or episcopal pronouncements on social justice are ignored or considered matters for debate only.
  • Concern for accidentals, not for the substance of issues, e.g., the  stress on Latin for the liturgy, failing to see that this does not pertain to authentic tradition.
  • The vehemence and intolerance with which they attack co-religionists who are striving to relate the Gospel to the world around them according to Vatican II.
  • Attempts to infiltrate governmental structures of the Church in order to obtain legitimacy for their views and to impose them on the whole Church.
  • An elitist assumption that fundamentalists have a kind of supernatural authority and right to pursue and condemn those who disagree with them, including bishops and theologians.
  • A spirituality in which Jesus Christ is portrayed as an unforgiving and punishing God; the overwhelming compassion and mercy of Christ is overlooked.

WHAT TO DO:

In relating to fundamentalist thoughtful and concerned Catholics need to avoid hostile or heated arguments. Membership in fundamentalist groups is not a question of logic, but generally of a sincere, but misguided, search for meaning and belonging. Expressions of anger and vigorous disagreement will only affirm people in the rightness of their belief. 

Our best witness to the truths of our Catholic beliefs will be our inner peace built on faith, charity and concern for justice, especially among the most marginalized.

Peace to All!

John Greenleaf 

Sexual Abuse and the Rotten Apple Theory


The press has been positive about Pope Benedict’s state visit to Britain this month. I found it revelatory in many ways.

The Bishop of Rome continues to re-make John Henry Newman in the image and likeness of Joseph Alois Ratzinger; and I think he is less interested in ecumenical dialogue with Canterbury than he is in converting conservative-minded-anti-woman-priest Anglicans and bringing them over to Rome.

What bothered me most about this papal visit, however, were Pope Benedict’s expressions of “great sadness” about revelations of widespread abuse of children by Roman Catholic priests and religious. He stressed that  ”authorities in the church have not been vigilant enough” in combating the problem.

What Pope Benedict meant of course is that the rotten apples were not dumped early enough.

The rotten apple theme song has become an all-time favorite among various national and international church leaders.

Yes it is the rotten apple theory of sexual abuse in the church: dump those rotten apples and we will be back to normal.

The rotten apple theory was originally generated to explain cases of police brutality: any police officer found to be corrupt must promptly be denounced as a rotten apple in an otherwise clean barrel. It must never be admitted that his or her  individual corruption could be symptomatic of an underlying institutional disease that condones, promotes, and trains law enforcement people to rely on brutal force, even when unjust, inhumane and illegal.

Many years ago an old friend, Father Tom Doyle, alerted me to the folly of the rotten apple theory about sexual abuse in the church. And Tom continues to speak out, inform and alert. On my desk I have a well underlined copy of some of his recent “reflections” about clergy sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. Some observations that cry out from his text:

(1)   The institutional Catholic Church is truly a stratified society with the bishops as a powerful aristocracy at the top and the laity beneath them. This description is not merely metaphorical but accurately describes the Church’s socio-political structure. In spite of the profound inequity in their respective standing the laity provides one hundred percent of the material/financial support for the clerical sub-culture and the hierarchical government yet lay persons have no effective voice in Church government.

(2)   The laity has the potential to influence the course of the clergy sex abuse saga but thus far they have scarcely realized it. A small but very significant group of laity have been moved to the point of radical action in response to the continuous waves of abuse revelations.

(3)   The majority however are either removed and indifferent or angrily reactive to the revelations of internal Church corruption and the consequent demands for accountability. The complacency or negative reaction of the laity is perplexing in light of the harsh reality of what the clergy abuse “crisis” is all about.

(4)   There is an ideology that provides the basis for the way the papacy and hierarchy have reacted to clergy sexual abuse. This ideology is a combination of theological definitions about the nature of the Church, Canon Law and the theology of human sexuality. And this is where the rotten apple theory falls apart…. You can dump all the rotten apples but the ideology remains imbedded in the institution.

(5)   The completely inappropriate responses of the bishops and clergy to the horrific accounts of all manner of dysfunctional sexual exploitation and their excuses that they did not realize the serious effects of molestation and abuse can be partially explained by the traditional teaching on human sexuality and the impact of mandatory celibacy on the emotional and psycho-sexual formation of clerics. In other words this teaching so distorted the nature of human sexuality that clerics failed to comprehend the destructive nature of sexual exploitation.


John Greenleaf is back…


Four main reflections at the end of the summer:

 

(1) The old-time Inquistition is alive and well in our contemporary US Catholic Church

 

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis announced that a group of Catholics planning a “synod” for church “reform” is not associated with the Catholic Church, cautioning the faithful that the group is trying to change magisterial teachings of the Church that all Catholics must believe. 

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops released a statement from its Committee on Doctrine, headed by Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington, regarding the book, “The Sexual Person: Toward a Renewed Catholic Anthropology.” The statement noted that the book “does not offer minor revisions to a few points of Catholic sexual ethics,” but rather, “the authors insist that the moral theology of the Catholic tradition dealing with sexual matters is now as a whole obsolete and inadequate and that it must be re-founded on a different basis.” Consequently, it continued, the authors, Creighton University professors Todd Salzman and Michael Lawler, “argue that the teaching of the magisterium is based on this flawed ‘traditional theology’ and must likewise be substantially changed.”

(2) John Henry Newman has been beatified and his feast day is the date he left Canturbury for Rome. Great ecumenical sign for sure. What is also very clear is that John Henry Newman is now being re-made in the image and likeness of Joseph Alois Ratzinger.

(3) During summer travels in Eastern Europe, I discoverd that the Catholic Church in Croatia is strong, and wealthy, powerful and arrogant — and well ensconced in a nineteenth century Catholic ethos. When people complained that one local bishop was out of touch with the contemporary world, he shouted out in his cathedral: “If they don’t like what I am doing, they can leave right now!”

(4) And then in little Belgium. Another pedophilia explosion. The PR people for the new archbishop are saying the scandal is really the fault of a few rotten-apple priests and religious and has been greatly exaggerated by an anti-Catholic media campaign. To date three bishops in Flemish Belgium have said it is time to drop celibacy as a requirement for ordination. The new archbishop has replied that he does not think this is an oppportune moment for such a discussion.

 

The kids are back in school. The nuts are falling from their trees. The pope is back in Rome. And it is indeed time for ANOTHER VOICE once again!

 

 

Reactions to Levada Letter


Reactions about my letter to Cardinal Levada have been strong and generally positive.

 

No reaction yet from the addressee….

 

I did get one very angry letter from a fellow who sent an email with very large letters: “JUST WHAT DO YOU WANT THE CHURCH TO DO?!!!”

My answer is two things:

(1)    I want Church leadership to clean up its act in the way it handles sex abuse in the Church, and

(2)    I want Church leadership to begin to listen to and address the faith concerns of contemporary people. And I have two examples of what I mean:

First example:

This week the New York Times reported about groups of young people in Moscow called “roofers.” I would like the Church to pay attention to people, young and old, like the roofers. The Moscow roofers are young people, more than a couple thousand now, who climb to the tops of high buildings in search of privacy and solitude away from the crowds. Oleg Muravlyov, 17 years old, explained what roofers are all about: “It is too bad that people are mixing us up with vandals. We aren’t doing any harm to buildings. Our goal is not destruction. We are driven by a wish to think about what’s really important in our lives, outside the hustle of business. It’s a delusion that today’s youth are cynical. We have the same spiritual values as previous generations.”

Second example:

Crispian Wilson, a young man from England, wrote this week in a letter to The Tablet: “Conventional wisdom has it that young people are leaving the Church because they are more interested in consumerism than faith. While that may be true for some, as a young Catholic, I do not recognize that in my peers, Catholic or otherwise. Many care passionately about such issues of global justice as human rights, climate change and poverty reduction. However, they do not believe that the Church cares about these issues; indeed they often feel that it is an illiberal force working against them. In particular, they see hypocrisy in a Church that calls you to ‘love your neighbor’ while ignoring women, victimizing and stigmatizing homosexuals and hushing-up serious sexual-abuse scandals….If the Church wants to re-evangelize, then it will need to appeal to these people: intelligent, active people who want to do good in the world and be part of something that matters….True re-evangelization requires us to listen to the immensely complex world and re-examine our own judgments on the true meaning of the Gospels.”

“Perhaps if we do that honestly,” Crispian concludes, “we may find that we are able to find solutions that will bring new energy, vigor and life to the Church.”

 Amen indeed!

John Greenleaf

Is the Roman Catholic Church Lost at Sea?


The Bark of Peter, it seems,  is drifting somewhere these days with neither map nor compass.

The Lord has not abandoned the People of God; but our institutional leaders have lost their bearings.

A quick summary of what’s been happening……

(1) Sexual abuse by Roman Catholic clergy and religious and the episcopal cover-up of  that rape and sodomy are now a systemic deformity in the global church. Put a pin in your globe for every country where Roman Catholic sexual abuse has been acknowledged and you have a sieve not a globe. Austria, the USA, Canada, Ireland, Germany, Belgium, Chile, Brazil, India, Italy – you can add a new country every day with your morning coffee and newspaper.

(2) And then we have the still-to-be-revealed other forms of sexual abuse. Certainly the Vatican knows about the practice in some parts of Africa where women religious are expected to help priests relieve their sexual tensions with special attentiveness: young “brides of Christ” turned into present day temple prostitutes, with a covert snicker from church authorities.

(3) And certainly the Vatican knows about those prominent bishops, archbishops and cardinals – often publicly homophobic – who have an inordinate fondness for androgynous young seminarians.

(4) Roman Catholic hierarchical credibility is at an all-time low. If one is a “successor of the Apostles,” the expectation is that the fellow (officially we have only fellows who are successors of the Apostles in the Church of Rome) carries on and lives the faith, ministry, and witness of the Apostles. Far too many members of our hierarchy today have the imposition of hands but their actions and attitudes seem terribly distant from those of the Carpenter from Nazareth and his band of faithful followers. The moral authority of the Roman Catholic Church’s leadership has never been weaker. The men dressed in purple and red have sold their souls to self-protective power, control, and arrogant privilege and prestige.

(5) The Dean of the College of Cardinals (and former Secretary of State under Pope John Paul II) Angelo Sodano complained on Easter Sunday that news reports about sexual abuse in the Church were petty gossip. That same old gentleman was long-time friend and supporter of Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, Founder of the Legionaires of  Christ and a favorite of John Paul the Great.

Some fellow that Father Degollado: when he had abdominal cramps, invited seminarians to his room to masturbate him.  At   other times of physical and psychological malaise, Degollado penetrated and masturbated seminarians. Good at sexual multi-tasking, Father Marcial also fathered at least one child and (according to his son’s testimony) sexually abused his own son. But perhaps Cardinal Sodano would say this is just more petty gossip.

(6) According to Cardinal Darió Castrillón Hoyos, former prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, sexual abuse is just a fact of life; and lawyers and the media have unfairly focused on it. In 2001 he praised a French bishop for breaking the law and refusing to hand-over to civil authorities a priest engaged in the sexual abuse of minors.

(7) Increasingly our bishops and cardinals parade around and process down the central aisles of churches and cathedrals like princes in some medieval royal court. Twenty-feet-long red trains are now in vogue as episcopal haute couture. And Jesus only complained about tassels and phylacteries! 

            The signs of the times call for creative action and deep and serious planning for the future.

As an institution we seem to have all our engines running full-speed in reverse.

The Roman Catholic institutional regression began with the election of Pope John Paul II. And now under Cardinal Ratziner-become Pope Benedict XVI and his “reform of the reform” we are moving back to a nineteenth century Roman Catholic ethos that stresses power and control and demands unquestioning obedience to Rome.

 Pope John XXIII opened the church’s windows to the contemporary world; and the council he inaugurated stressed collegiality and shared decision-making at all levels in the Church. Pope Benedict XVI is nailing those windows tightly shut. All roads now go in one direction back to Rome.

Joseph Ratzinger’s institutional church is a centralized power structure which controls everything in the Catholic Church through a network of Vatican congregations controlled by a group of old men who demand strict compliance to what they deem orthodox. Censure and punishment await the disobedient. Control and command have replaced conversation and persuasion.

Most recently Pope Benedict has announced the creation of a new department at the Vatican: the Pontifical Council for New Evangelization. The Pope hopes his new office will clear up the problems created by secularism out there in Western Europe and the United States.

I think the Pope should focus first of all on the problems at home: in the very heart of his institutional superstructure.

Some readers have accussed me of being both anti-Catholic and anti-hierarchy.

NOT TRUE!

I just want the Church to be what it should be:

TRULY   CHRISTIAN    AND    TRULY    CONTEMPORARY

    

 

 

 

The Lord has not abandoned the People of God; but our institutional leaders have lost their bearings. The Bark of Peter, it seems,  is drifting somewhere these days with neither map nor compass.