This morning the BBC will broadcast [Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams] recorded remarks on the Irish Catholic crisis, in which he says, quite in passing, that the church there has “lost all credibility”. This perception is so widely shared, and so close to the truth, that to say it out loud has provoked an enormous row. After the interview was made public, Williams produced an uncharacteristically political apology – which is to say that he regrets the offence he has caused, but not the offending remark; the Roman Catholic archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, could be heard on Radio 4 yesterday biting back the word “insult” when he was asked about it.
No one can blame Williams for pointing this out, nor indeed for getting his own back for years of patronising comments and aggressive behaviour from the Roman church. The official Vatican observer at the last Lambeth conference appeared to say that the Anglican communion was suffering from Parkinson’s disease. Pope Benedict has personally encouraged the schism in the Anglican churches over homosexuality and most recently announced, to the consternation of even his own church here, a scheme to allow the Anglican opponents of women priests to convert in groups.
Both the conflict, and absent clear-eyed Catholic confrontation with the real circumstances, the decline to which Williams correctly alluded will almost inevitably continue.
Reuters terse, “Factbox” roundup is for those not comfortable studiously looking the other way.
The full, English text of the Pope’s message.
In answer to a BBC interviewer, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams told the blistering truth about the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland:
And an institution so deeply bound into the life of a society, suddenly becoming, suddenly losing all credibility – that’s not just a problem for the Church, it is a problem for everybody in Ireland.
Without retracting, Williams responded today to the avowedly “stunned” Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, by saying he meant no offense and regretted any difficulties his remarks had caused.
Indeed, how could he retract? He was talking about a country where a recent poll by the Irish Independent found: “Just over half believe that Pope Benedict, who faces allegations of covering up sex abuse in the US and in Germany, should resign.”
That poll is part of the evidence that both the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church are losing public esteem hand over fist, worldwide. For example, a similar poll in Austria found that 57% believe the pope should resign. While:
More than 53,000 people left the Catholic Church in Austria in 2009, and local figures for the first three months of this year hint that last year’s record number could be exceeded.
Likewise, a Stern Magazine poll found that only 24 percent of Germans still trust the Pope, whereas six weeks ago 38 percent said they did. And “19 percent of Germany’s estimated 25 million Catholics were thinking about leaving the Church in response to the sexual abuse scandal.”
A CBS poll found that in the U.S., 24 percent of Americans view Pope Benedict XVI negatively — a startling change from 4% in 2006. While his favorable rating among Catholics plummeted from 40% to 27%.
Stinging fellow clerics who in passing state the obvious will not reverse the decline, and because sharp protests of the undeniable are not likely to be well-received, may accelerate it.
Put a woman in the pulpit and the ax of Southern Baptist discipline falls. The Georgia Baptist Convention is preparing to disfellowship Druid Hills Baptist Church in Atlanta because the Reverend Mimi Walker is a co-pastor there. While critics write the South Carolina Baptist Courier to abjure Eau Claire Baptist Church for calling Kelly Dickerson Strum to be co-pastor, one suggesting that church discipline is in order.
Yet amid the recurrent revelations of Southern Baptist pastoral sexual abuse, again documented by Christa Brown, no equivalent scripture-laced outpourings about applying the force of denominational discipline to the protection of the young from sexual wolves in Baptist clerical cloth. Or disfellowship of churches which ship predators of the cloth along to other congregations without a word of warning.
Oh no. Policy is clear: Women in the pulpit are a danger to the entire denomination. As are homosexuals welcomed into the pews. For the proliferation of predators, however, Southern Baptist Churches are autonomous. No denominational consequence for negligence.
The Holy See’s chief exorcist, Father Gabriele Amorth, charmed geotechnical engineer Bob Felton to take up his calculator. Because Amorth’s lifetime achievement numbers are so impressive. According to Richard Owen of the Irish Independent:
Father Gabriele Amorth said the Pope “fully believes in liberation from evil, because the Devil lodges in the Vatican. Naturally it is difficult to find proof, but you can see the consequences”. Fr Amorth (85) has been the Vatican’s chief exorcist for 25 years and says he has dealt with 70,000 cases of demonic possession.
Felton began his analysis as follows:
Father Amorth is 85-years old. If we assume he was a prodigy and began his exorcism career at a mere 25-years old, and that he kept a workmanlike pace for 60-years — no ramp-up as he mastered his skills — and worked 6-days a week (resting on Sunday, though Satan doesn’t) without vacations, then …
60-years x 365-days/year x 6/7 = 18,772 days vanquishing demons
The inflexibility with which the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) disfellowships member churches which affirm homosexual behavior may surpass Roman Catholic application of excommunication to other issues. The Catholic Church is more tolerant of homosexuality, but like the SBC, faces unrelenting problems with clerical sexual abuse.
The 500-member Royal Lane Baptist Church of North Dallas, Texas, recently placed itself in peril of ejection from the Baptist General Convention of Texas and from the SBC when the diaconate voted to rewrite the About Us section of its Web site to include:
Royal Lane Baptist Church is an inclusive, multi-generational congregation joined in Christian community. We are a vibrant mosaic of varied racial identities, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and denominational backgrounds.
That did not represent a change of heart by the church, as Sam Hodges of the Dallas Morning News reported:
“In effect, this is a collective coming out about who we are and have been for a long time,” said Ruth May, vice chair of the deacons.
. . .
[The Rev. David] Matthews, who became Royal Lane’s pastor last year, said the Bible “understood through the prism of Jesus” calls for full acceptance of gays and lesbians.
Debate over the issue immediately related BGCT/SBC action against local churches with regard to homosexuality and their failure to apply similar force to sexual predators. Nathan Barnes wrote:
The leadership of the SBC and apparently the BGCT are not willing to sacrifice church autonomy to catalog and track sex offending clergy but are willing to sacrifice it to keep GLBT folks from serving the Lord.
In rejoinder, another commenter said, “If aberrant behavior is to be accepted as normal and within God’s provision for human sexual expression, why not pedophilia, or bestiality, or??” and Barnes responded:
BUT pedophila is already accepted. No church has been disassociated from the SBC or BGCT for passing on sex offending clergy to other churches.
It’s not a double standard. It’s the standard.
Christa Brown said at Stop Baptist Predators:
Mr. Barnes got it exactly right. Baptist leaders have so twisted the doctrine of local church autonomy as to make it little more than an easily manipulated excuse to serve their own ends. It’s pure contrivance for Baptist leaders to say they can’t do anything about clergy predators because of local church autonomy. After all, look at how quick they are to interfere with churches that admit to having gay members.
Like the Roman Catholic Church, the SBC is attempting to assert ethical/spiritual authority in the midst of a long public parade of evidence of its failure to protect young Christians from predatory members of its own clergy.
Both have other priorities.
Like hiding what they can behind confidentiality agreements. To protect the church’s reputation and authority, of course.
As the Irish Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse wrote in 2009 that the Catholic Church pre-occupation”in dealing with cases of child sexual abuse” was “the maintenance of secrecy, the avoidance of scandal, the protection of the reputation of the Church, and the preservation of its assets.” Not the protection of the children.
Suffering little children are a lower priority for the SBC than keeping women pastors out of the pulpit, keeping homosexuals out of the pews and barring otherwise somehow insufficiently fundamentalist churches from affiliation.
Realistic minds in both denominations must foresee, absent restoration of their reputation as safe places for the young, a future of empty pews.
No, Austrian Arch-abbot Bruno Becker did not spontaneously come forward, admit to abusing a 12-year-old once, four decades ago and resign out of contrition.
Becker was first confronted. There was, the victim says, an attempt to bribe him into silence.
Two other clergy were apparently involved and the well-know pattern of predator behavior is evident:
The two padres – one of whom has left the Church, while the other has died – were arrested in Morocco in 2005 on sex tourism charges, according to Salzburg prosecutors. An Austrian court found one of them guilty of abusing underage Moroccan boys, they said.
Becker’s abuse was particularly heinous because it occurred as part of a conversation whose declared purpose, available accounts indicate, was to help the victim deal with previous abuse.
To wit, Catholic Culture reports:
Archabbot George Becker of St. Peter’s Archabbey in Salzburg was 24 years old and not yet ordained a priest when he found out that two monks had abused a boy. The future archabbot then conversed with the boy and molested him.
Yet the Catholic Church continues to insist that it can handle those matters itself and is “doing all it can,” The Irish Times reports, to ensure these things “will never happen again.”
The Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., has declared that it “will be in compliance” with the requirements of the city’s same-sex marriage act [.pdf], which takes effect Wednesday, and that the church will as a result maintain a quarter of a million dollars worth of social services contracts.
Some members of the religious right made a last ditch pitch to Congress, asking passage of legislation requiring a public vote — a strategy already rejected by the DC Board of Elections and Ethics [.pdf]. DC Superior Court refused prevent the act from going into effect.
Reversal on appeal is not expected, and Congress is not expected to act.
What adjustments the Archdiocese of Washington will make is unclear. It has already shut down its adoption and foster-care services, transferring “seven staff members, 43 children and their families, and the 35 foster families” to the National Center for Children and Families (NCCF) for future administration.
Placing children with same-sex couples has been a sticking point elsewhere because it involves a direct collision with matters of Catholic doctrine, but successful adjustment in administration of other services does not seem unlikely.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice John G. Roberts “denied a last-minute request Tuesday afternoon for a stay of the District’s same-sex marriage law, disappointing opponents of the measure, who wanted to bring it before city voters in a referendum,” the Washington Post reported Tuesday afternoon.
Apparently, D.C. can begin accepting applications by gay couples for marriage licenses tomorrow morning.
Read the rest of the story here.
Catholic Charities denies coverage to spouses of all new hires
Catholic Charities adaptation is to deny benefits, thus escaping the possibility of providing coverage to the spouses of gay marrieds.
In a March 1 letter, President and CEO Edward J. Orzechowski informed employees that health benefits will be denied the spouses of all new employees, although coverage for those who are employees as of March 1, will be unaffected.
For those who would swear that the Legion is fundamentally flawed at its very root and cannot be salvaged (and there are a good many in this camp), I would suggest they take careful note of the difference between the Legion and the women religious in the United States as to how each group has responded to their respective current apostolic visitations. A large number of communities of women religious are in open rebellion against Rome, resisting the visitation, and revealing their desire to do without the Petrine ministry, the male priesthood, and the “patriarchal” dogmatic theology of the Church, including the traditional definition of the Holy Trinity. In contrast, the Legion has turned confidently toward the See of Peter as to Our Lord Himself. It is not too much to say that the one thing necessary to fruitful ministry is an ongoing willingness to make the mind of the Church one’s own. If the Legion can do that—as a number of female religious congregations apparently cannot—then there are many, even among its just opponents, who would be well-advised to hold their fire.
Something about that comparison rankles.
The last Legionnaires’ apostolic visitation (1956-1959) & predicted March 2010 outcome [Updated: Plagiarism]
Cassandra Jones explains:
. . . it concluded obscurely and Father Maciel and the Legionaries were able to misrepresent it for fifty years afterward. But the visitation did occur and actually concluded that Maciel needed to be removed from office and that the Legionaries needed reform. The Legionaries defeated that first apostolic visitation with untruth, appetizing presentation, and the help of curial friends. This is something that anyone interested in the honest outcome of today’s visitation needs to be aware of.
Attending the article is an instrucitive timeline.
- Visitators will submit in their reports in mid-March, 2010.
- The order will not be dissolved but reaction will be stern and dismissals are expected.
- Current Legion leaders “are trying to disengage completely from the figure of” Maciel because Benedict has declared “zero tolerance” for pedophiles:
The Pope was visibly shaken by everything that he has learned about the life of the founder of the Legion of Christ, and the responsibility not only Maciel, but many of his colleagues, who are now trying to avoid its responsibility by ignorance and apologizing.
- The seminaries will be restructured.
- Many top leaders will be asked to resign, among them probably Alvaro Corcuera, the current General Director, whom many accuse of having “instigated” the silence around Maciel for many years.
Does all of that remind you of Ireland, where after decades of systematically concealed abuse is revealed in a stunning report, the pope is outraged and an Irish bishop’s resignation is accepted but thus far no one is going to jail? Nor, it seems, is the pope going to visit Ireland to apologize.
Just make some changes in top management, tidy up the offices and move on.
“El Salterio de mis días” (The Psalter of my Days), popular and long-venerated by members of the Legion of Christ as a work of Fr. Marcial Maciel’s spirituality, was plagiarized from a book by Spanish Catholic politician, Luis Lucía.
According to the Catholic News Agency, the plagiarism was disclosed in a recent, internally circulated Legion of Christ memorandum whose purpose was to further distance current members of the Legion from its founder.
The original book was “El Salterio de mis horas” (The Psalter of my Hours).
CNA reports that in it Lucía, a Spanish Christian Democrat, “reflected on his experience of being persecuted both by the Communist government during Spain’s civil war (1936-1939), and the Nationalist government of Francisco Franco, who condemned him to death, but later changed the sentence to life in prison.”