Stefania Salomone, an Italian woman who signed the widely publicized open letter [English] [Italian] to Pope Benedict XVI calling for an end to the Roman Catholic Church’s priestly celibacy, is part of a Web discussion for women who are in relationships with priests. Yet she remains the only public signatory to the letter, which she says has been endorsed by more than 40 women.
Although it is oxymoronic to give presumptive credence to an unverified number of anonymous women, Salomone’s assertions apparently ring true to Cristina Odone. A Research Fellow at the Centre for Policy Studies, a former editor of the Catholic Herald and deputy editor of the New Statesman, she wrote:
But I think the women have a point when they speak out against the hypocrisy of the status quo. I came across, when editor of The Catholic Herald, hundreds of priests. Many of them had “housekeepers” who adored them and … well, who knows what goes on behind net curtains in the priest’s house? Tongues wagged, but only mildly: the priest looked happy, worked hard, and his parishioners looked away. This was so routine an arrangement, that for centuries canon law specified that the priest’s housekeeper should be past child-bearing age, so that the Church would not be embarrassed by the fruit of a carnal relationship.
. . .
For too many priests, loneliness is their lot. Once, they had parishioners vying with one another to see who could wine and dine him; now they are derided and worse. When this was a less secular society, priests always knew they held a certain status in our community; now they are in the habit of being treated like pariahs. One brilliant and witty priest I know is taking a year’s sabbatical. Free of his dog collar, he has found himself in many situations where strangers heap scorn upon the priesthood and talk of priests as synonymous with kiddie-fiddlers. “There is so much hostility out there,” he told me, sadly.
The British/Scottish group Sonflowers is an organization of who have affairs with Catholic priests. It was founded by Adrianna Alsworth. She has addressed the desire for anonymity and the need for mutual support:
I know of many older priests who have been in long-term relationships which are an open secret in their parishes.
Sadly, all the stress and responsibility is placed on the women and it’s a heavy burden to bear. If the relationship becomes public, it’s the woman, the Church’s silent mistresses, who get the blame.
She sees celibacy as doing harm to both the community and the priests. For example, she has observed:
Young men spend six years in a male environment at seminary then are thrust into parishes where they feel isolated. They are often sexually immature but have enormous power over people.
Salomone’s letter further argues that celibacy is not only destructive but also unscriptural:
We are trying to reaffirm — although many Christians already know it — that this discipline has nothing to do either with the Scriptures in general, or with the Gospels in particular, or with Jesus, who never spoke about it.
Quite the contrary. As far as we know, He liked to surround Himself with disciples, almost all married, and women. You would say to us that Jesus also lived as a bachelor and the priest is simply matching Him with his choice. A choice is good. But a rule can never be a choice, if not forcing its meaning. If, moreover, it is defined as a charism, it can not therefore be imposed or required, much less by the Lord, who wants us to be free, because love is freedom, always.
Her goals are simple and realistic. She told CNN she has not heard from and does not expect to hear from the Vatican:
I don’t really care, to be honest. The important thing is to call attention to this problem.
Equally important in the long run, even the most cunning attempts to mislead — like those to which Tony Cartledge, Nick at Bold Faith Type and Mark Silk responded — have a cumulative self-discrediting quality.
Posted by SteveDeVane at 7:22 AM
Accusations that Ergun Caner fabricated parts of his background hit newspapers across the country this week increasing the likelihood that the president of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary will have to resign.
For months, Liberty University administrators stood by Caner as bloggers questioned statements he made about his background. Then newspaper reporters started calling, and last week school officials decided to investigate.
If questions from reporters prompted an investigation, one would think the recent articles would force the school to show Caner the door.
The GetReligion post correctly notes the importance of a paragraph in The Tennessean story that says several Southern Baptist leaders who have supported Caner in the past declined to comment. One of those who wouldn’t talk is former Southern Baptist Convention president Paige Patterson.
Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, has close ties to Caner and his brother, Emir.
Any chance Southwestern will have an opening for Caner on its staff?
Posted by SteveDeVane at 7:38 PM
A Southern Baptist researcher asks the right questions, but not enough of them.
Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research, looks at the “ongoing decline” in Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) membership. He says a loss of 68,350 members in 2009 and statistics from other recent years shows that SBC membership has peaked, and suggests that Southern Baptists react with questions like the one posed in Charles Sheldon‘s novel “In His Steps:”
Stetzer, who previously showed the downward trend of SBC membership, says, “We are a denomination in decline. Some don’t like to admit it. But, the decline of SBC membership is not a matter of debate. It is a matter of math.”
Stetzer rhetorically suggests four ways the SBC can fail to handle the decline:
- Option #1: Act as if nothing negative is really happening.
- Option #2: Acknowledge that the decline is real and blame some “other” segment of the convention for the decline. “It’s those contemporary pastors who have colluded with worldliness.” Or “It’s those old dusty pastors who have confused tradition with the power of the gospel.”
- Option #3: Blame lost people for being lost. Perhaps complaining about the state of the country will make lost people want to be saved.
- Option #4: Wish for something else. We can dream of a different future or pine away for a preferred past but without action in the present context of our churches, nothing with change.
Then Stetzer suggests a fifth option, which he says is the only way to impact the world: “a serious self-examination as to whether how we make disciples is rooted in Scripture and delivering the gospel effectively to our mission field. We can scarcely hope to impact the world if we do not approach the gospel and kingdom of God in the same way that Christ did.”
Stetzer goes on to list four questions Southern Baptists should ask themselves.
- Do we value the kingdom as He did?
- Do we love sinners as He loved them?
- Do we serve as He served?
- Do we remind our neighbors of Jesus and tell them of His gospel?
Good questions, to which well-known SBC realities suggest that we add:
- What would Jesus do about pastors who use titles they haven’t earned?
- What would Jesus do about a large majority of trustees coming from a small minority of churches?
- What would Jesus do about actions toward women that “fall short of biblical standards”?
- What would Jesus do about a former convention officer praying for the deaths of the president and members of Congress?
- What would Jesus do about executives who won’t reveal their salaries?
- What would Jesus do about inflated mission numbers?
- What would Jesus do about a denomination closely aligning itself with a political party?
- What would Jesus do about church autonomy protecting predators?
- What would Jesus do about Batholics and Cathists?
To reverse the slide, the SBC must broadly consider what ails it. Not frame WWJD narrowly in an attempt to reduce the number of hard questions.
Idaho Southern Baptist Laura Silsby was released after being found guilty of child smuggling by a Haitian court on May 17. BBC news reported:
A US missionary has been convicted of trying to illegally take 33 children out of Haiti in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake in January.
The judge sentenced Laura Silsby, 40, to the time she had already spent in jail on remand, and said she was free to leave the country.
Her case was linked to that of Jean Sainvil, who was tried en absentia. She was the last of the ten originally arrested to be released.
The charges stem from incidents in 2008 and 2009 involving two 15-year-old girls. Duffer was arrested last August after the parents of one of the girls contacted the Sheriff’s Office after discovering an inappropriate text message from Duffer to their teenage daughter.
In February, when the conviction was handed down and the March 13 sentencing date set, the York County, Va., Daily Press, wrote:
Jeremy “Jack” Ryan Duffer, a 40-year-old former youth pastor at Seaford Baptist Church, pleaded guilty in York-Poquoson Circuit Court to eight charges of aggravated sexual battery with a child between the ages of 13 and 17 and a single count of taking indecent liberties with a child. In return, nine additional charges of aggravated sexual battery were dropped by the prosecution.
“For the First Time in My Environmental Career, I’m Using the Word ‘Hopeless’,” says the narrator of a riveting amateur video of the Gulf oil spill.
[H/T: A Blog Around the Clock]
Ugly and “considerable pressure” was required to persuade BP to release even this brief video:
There is a price in smear to taking a stand against revisionist history, as a group of moderate to liberal clergy – members of the Texas Faith Network – did recently.
Jonathan Saenz, , a lawyer/lobbyist for Liberty Institute (the Texas affiliate of the far-right Focus on the Family), quickly accused the group had used their press conference “to personally attack the Christian faith of some State Board of Education members.” Although he didn’t explain how that occurred, he did correctly report that they support separation of church and state. They said, for example:
“Our Founding Fathers understood that the best way to protect religious liberty in America is to keep government out of matters of faith,” said the Rev. Roger Paynter, pastor of Austin’s First Baptist Church. “But this state board appears hostile to teaching students about the importance of keeping religion and state separate, a principle long supported in my own Baptist tradition and in other faiths.”
False history is typically cited to support the Texas board’s hostility, Saenz’s and that of his allies. To wit, Dave Welch of the arch conservative Pastor Council issued a press release which, among other things, said:
“The Northwest Ordinance, passed in 1787 by the same Congress which presented the Bill of Rights for ratification, declared that ‘Religion, morality and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.’”
He’s just wrong.
The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 was passed by the Congress seated under the Articles of Confederation.
More than two years later, first federal Congress under the Constitution sent the Bill of Rights to the states for ratification. And of course included the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights — the one which forbids government from either promoting or disfavoring religion.