Readings: Frontline’s “Secrets of the Vatican”

In one sense there are few surprises in Tuesday evening’s broadcast of Frontline’s latest documentary on the scandals that continue to rock the Catholic Church. Few surprises, that is, if you have been following the story for the last ten years: though this is not about birth control, abortion, women’s ordination, liberal nuns or health care’s alleged anti-Catholicism. It is about the corruption of a local culture, where the combination of lust for power, sex and money has undermined the credibility of an institution originally modeled on the body of Christ.

The scandals are familiar—the plague of sex abuse, the victims’ demand for justice, the disgrace of the Legion of Christ and its founder, the Vatican Bank scandal, the charges of homosexual cliques among the priests and hierarchy, the leak of documents by the pope’s butler—as is the scramble of the investigative reporters to make all this public.

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Frontline’s documentaries remind me of the old Edward R. Murrow radio and TV dramas, “You Are There,” where the reporters grab Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson after a meeting of the Continental Congress. Except that the Frontline cameras and researchers are really there to show us the young Marcial Maciel Degollado, of a powerful conservative elite Mexican family, as he founds the Legion of Christ in 1941, rises in Vatican influence by raising money and collecting vocations and wins the favor of Pope John Paul II as he enjoys his double life. We see the faces and hear the voices of former seminarian Juan Vaca, abused at 10, from 1949 to 1961, and of Raul Gonzales, one of Maciel’s two sons, both of whom were abused on every visit. As Raul weeps, so do we.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor of Westminster sets the right tone in the opening shots: On the eve of the papal conclave the air was very tense, because of the impact of sex abuse all over the world, the “trouble at the top,” which had to be confronted. Many of the commentators are the reporters who broke the original stories—Jason Berry for the National Catholic Reporter, Robert Mickens of the London Tablet, Carmelo Abbate of Panorama and Gianluigi Nuzzi, the TV investigative journalist in Milan who received the “Vatileaks” from the Pope’s butler. Add to these parishioners, lawyers and priests from all over America who have their own horror stories to tell—all told in un-sensational tones.

Harvard psychiatrist Dr. Martin Kafka observes that the Catholic clergy accused of sex abuse vastly outnumbered Protestant clergy, at least partly because they suppressed their sexuality to better serve God. Men who abuse children, he says, were likely to be heterosexual, but those who abuse adolescents reflect their own sexual orientation in whom they victimize, the doctor says. For many years the Catholic clergy was a closed world of boys and young men, he says. His answer is to recruit more mature men who understand what a life of celibacy is.

Frontline says the American seminary in Rome is a model in this respect, and we meet three young men in clerics who all say that the sacrifices of the priesthood, giving up a biological family, are worth it; service to the church is life-giving and a source of happiness. We meet another young man, ordained by Pope Benedict himself, who becomes disillusioned by the clericalism of life in Rome, meets a beautiful girl, asks for a dispensation to marry, is criticized by his peers, leaves and also loses the girl.

The scenes that may disturb viewers the most are a report recorded with a hidden camera, on the gay clergy subculture. A visibly shocked journalist attends an all night party after which a priest who has slept with a friend the previous night suits up in his vestments and says a home Mass. The tough word for this is hypocrisy, but the commentary suggests that these men have not faced the contradiction, pretending that these double identities do not really clash.

Into all this mess comes Pope Francis with his interviews, particularly with the cheerful atheist Italian journalist Eugenio Scalfari, to whom Francis describes some of the hierarchy as narcissists, flattered and thrilled by their courtiers. “The court is the leprosy of the papacy,” says Francis. “This Vatican-centric vision neglects the world around us, and I will do everything to change it.” In a most tender moment we see Pope Francis wash the foot of a young woman in prison, then kiss it and look up lovingly into her eyes.

The camera shifts to Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga in Honduras who clicks off the scandals that must be overcome, “The church must fix its own house.” Everybody knows what is necessary. One journalist wonders when the pope will address the sex abuse issue, another comments that all efforts of popes in the last century to reform the curia have failed. Cardinal Maradiaga gets the last line: “Things are not going to continue like they were in the past.” 

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David Pasinski
3 years 9 months ago
Thank you for the "heads up" on this program. I have always found "Frontline" to be both provocative and fair and hope that this will be the same.
David Pasinski
3 years 9 months ago
The show did not disappoint in terms of fairness and prsented modest moments of hope in the final clips of Pope Francis- even with the skepticism about his or anyone's ability to chan\ge some elements of an entrenched culture. What was particularly disturbing however, was that along with the multiple layers of the sex scandals that had fine interviews with Fr. Thomas Doyle as well as tragic disclosures of the victims, was the intimation that the Pope was truly at risk from organized powers and crime for his possible reforms at the Vatican bank. This, naturally, is awful to imagine, but not beyond the scope of credibility. I hope many will see this program and appreciate the depth of reform necessary - no less, I fear in modern ways, that that of some 500 years ago...
chuck thomas
3 years 9 months ago
Comments here are astonishingly on the mark. I missed the broadcast but hope I can find a rerun time. Sounds very much worth seeing.
Marie Rehbein
3 years 9 months ago
You can watch it online at video.pbs.org
Helen Cohenour
3 years 9 months ago
The first thing the Pope should do is close the Vatican Bank. This has been used for years to launder money. If the Pope can be protected as this is accomplished then start work on the other scandals..
Marie Rehbein
3 years 9 months ago
Real reform will seem like the Church is being destroyed or falling apart, but it will become better for it. The religion is Christianity, not Catholicism, after all. All the monarchical trappings have nothing to do with it. Being its own country and having a bank have nothing to do with it. Being splintered into denominations and sects has nothing to do with it.
Rosemary McHugh
3 years 9 months ago
"Harvard psychiatrist Dr. Martin Kafka observes that the Catholic clergy accused of sex abuse vastly outnumbered Protestant clergy, at least partly because they suppressed their sexuality to better serve God. For many years the Catholic clergy was a closed world of boys and young men, he says. His answer is to recruit more mature men who understand what a life of celibacy is." As a family physician, I agree with Harvard psychiatrist Dr Martin Kafka that more mature men who have experienced intimacy and chosen to be celibate for the rest of their lives would likely reduce the incidence of clergy sexual abuse. An even better option, is to end mandatory celibacy and allow men the freedom to marry or not to marry anytime while in seminary or while a priest. It would even be better if women and men trained for the priesthood together, so that the boys could develop normally psychosexually in an environment where girls are also present and available to become priests and intimate partners for life. Sincerely, Dr Rosemary Eileen McHugh, M.D., Chicago
Bill Mazzella
3 years 9 months ago
What is happening is all the pretense will be going and those who have the joy of a good conscience will lead. The big thing is getting over the sacralization of the clergy. Where they are so indelibly marked that they can do no evil. That the Christian community will flourish where there is the true church, the community. Who will celebrate the life death and resurrection of the Lord because they are the community not imprinted with a divine mandate. The end of hubris, esoteric rules and false perfection. True perfection in the Sermon on the Mount.
Bill Mazzella
3 years 9 months ago
The good news is Francis is confronting this narcissistic culture which has been present in the clergy for a long time. With all the adulation and titles they hardly felt accountable to anyone. We have known all this for a long time. What has changed is that one is not condemned now for telling the truth about it. Telling was the reporter's comment. He said he did not want to bring a video recorder. But he needed backup as he anticipated being challenged by the Vatican. As in most misdeeds there is denial until there is incontrovertible evidence. I am with the Cardinal from Honduras in that things will change. Yes there will be stress and tension. But it will be fruitful and productive.
Janice Poss
3 years 9 months ago
Cleaning up this mess will take a long time. However, the truth is coming out even if it is what we all know already, except those who haven't been following this for ten or more years. On the other hand, how many of us already knew that there are many gay clergy--and how many really care? It appears the secular society is more forgiving than that institution that is supposed to be the most Christlike, a paradox. What I found most surprising was the statement that BXVI's changing of the catechism to declare the homosexual acts as disordered and how so many priests themselves have been deeply hurt by this. That is a good and valid point and perhaps the key to this entire news program!!. It truly is an example of the hurtful and abusive culture that exists within the Vatican and, I am sure in seminaries, and other male-only enclaves. It shows exactly the point that the entire system needs to change. If Francis can begin to do that, then the rest will almost take care of itself. Most of these men need healing, big time!! With pastoral care and compassion, perhaps this culture can find the healing and transformation it needs and that these men can begin to become their own authentic and joyful selves as Christ would want. If the leaders of our Church cannot find life and live it to the full, then how can they even begin to think they can teach that to us?
Stanley Kopacz
3 years 9 months ago
The depth of corruption makes me wonder why so little has happened on a year but perhaps also explains why. It always concerns me when committees drawn from insiders like cardinals are brought in to address problems in the institution, when those problems are already obvious.
Marie Rehbein
3 years 9 months ago
Also shown: the Vatican has records detailing the sexual abuse of children going back to the middle ages. Also suggested: that the pope's butler may have been the fall guy for the leaks.
Charles Ryder
3 years 9 months ago
Has "America" ever written an article about the abuse caused by Jesuits? While it's right to call the Vatican and the hierarchy to account, it's also very easy to do when you're not part of the Vatican or the hierarchy. Doesn't the Society of Jesus need to acknowledge the hurt they have caused through abuse in their ranks and share with the public how this hurt won't happen in the future? Does "America" have the courage to do this. Is the prophetic office only to be directed at the other guy?
Bill Mazzella
3 years 9 months ago
Charles, What is your point. We know a lot already. What are you trying to prove?
Charles Ryder
3 years 9 months ago
Bill Mazzella, I'll turn the question back on you -- what is your point? What are you trying to prove? What do you mean by "we know a lot already"?
Joseph Kalwinski
3 years 9 months ago
A major problem contributing to sexual dysfunction both in clergy and lay is the teaching that all sexual sin (without exception) is mortal (no parvity of matter). A better recipe for OCD could not have been created. The moral theologian Sean Fagan addresses this and the harm that it has done to countless people in chapter 5 of the book Quench Not The Spirit titled "Spiritual Abuse."
Bruce Snowden
3 years 9 months ago
So what’s new? The Church has always reeked of pride and vanity, of sin, from the very beginning. The men handpicked by the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity reeked no less . See the ambition of James and John, wanting the “first place” even trying to get “family” (Mommy) to influence the Founding Father and CEO of the “Corporation” called “Church” Jesus, to grant her wish reflected in her sons. Then there’s the murderous greed of Judas, so hungry for glitter, just like those who followed him, popes, red and purple prelates, laity too, the WHOLE Church, that thirty pieces f silver was a good down payment for betrayal. Also, how about Peter, the first Supreme Pontiff so much the coward that denial three times of his friend and confidant, Jesus, to save his butt, seemed the way to go. Fortunately repentance and holiness followed an example often not followed by the Church at large. Then down through the ages, same old story, pride, vanity, lust for prestige, power money and lewd sexuality, the last mentioned not at all new to the Church, ever sexually lustful in membership, the Church, cleric and lay, “a hospital for the sick” those sick with sin excluding no one, every type of sin possible. Whatever Is happening now in the Church founded by Christ has always happened and will continue to happen as long as membership supply is human, not angelic, the latter ever pride-ridden, vainglorious, adulterous, fornicators, indeed in every way sexually licentious and so much more. Yet, thanks be to God, the Church is also profoundly HOLY, emanating from Jesus who is holy as the Father is holy, empowered by and through the Holy Spirit of Righteousness, the very source of holiness and the most certain hope of all humankind, excluding none. But as always along with chaff growing side by side wheat flourishes, offering to all sanctity and salvation, in a word Everlasting Life! The mistake the Church has made and perhaps still makes, is to forget her FIFTH identifying mark – the Church is not just One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic, but also HUMAN . That explains a lot!
Tim O'Leary
3 years 9 months ago
Excellent Historical Summary, Bruce. To paraphrase the Groucho Marx joke, some people refuse to join a Church because their membership consists of human beings. Even the doctors in a field hospital are susceptible to the infection.
Bruce Snowden
3 years 9 months ago
Thanks Tim for your positive response to my "telling like it is" post, no "watergating" that the Church is what Pope Francis calls himself, "a sinner" but is also like what Pope Francis is, wonderful, marvelous, repentant, HOLY! As the world loves Francis, so too the Church would be loved if it would be like Pope Francis.
Sandi Sinor
3 years 9 months ago
OK, given what you say, why should lay Catholics be expected to pay the slightest attention to the dictates of these men? After all, they're no better than anyone else. They're just as human and sinful and definitely just as fallible as everyone else. The poetic attempt to gloss over the issues doesn't cut it . Most people can see right through it. Nice try though.
Tim O'Leary
3 years 9 months ago
Hi Sandi - Nice try, yourself. The protection from doctrinal error and the validity of the sacraments are not lost because of sins of priests. That is what the Donatist heresy was all about, and in part what the Protestants railed about as well. But, if you or the Donatists were right, we would have lost the faith long ago, probably in the first few years after the Resurrection, and the Church would not have lasted. While we have indeed had a share of bad popes, we have also had many saints. And we have been blessed by several saintly popes in a row, recently. The faith will not be lost. We have Jesus' promise for that.
Sandi Sinor
3 years 9 months ago
Tim, you gloss over Catholic history too. You want to see what you want to see and pretend that your reality is reality. There have been plenty of doctrinal errors in church history. You may think that we have had several saintly popes in a row "recently", so guessing that your criteria for "saintliness" doesn't align with mine. To each her or his own. Saintmaking has a whole lot more to do with politics and pragmatism than with holiness. There are plenty of saints out there. I have known a few - what a blessing. They don't live in Rome and don't wear Roman collars and some aren't Catholic and some aren't even christians. They are saints though. Not aware of too many who have lived in the Vatican in recent decades. When I stopped commenting a year or so ago it was because I realized that beyond venting, it doesn't make any difference. People believe what they want to believe. Some people cling to fantasies no matter what the reality and never ask themselves why the denial. Something going on there, but few are willing to look deep and figure out what it is. Probably too painful. Fanatics cling to their air-brushed vision of the church and its history and attack everyone who doesn't fall into line with their thinking. Most everyone else continues to use the mind and conscience God gave them and don't make the church and its popes and bishops and teachings into false idols. The "faith" will not be lost. The fallacy is equating faith in God and Christ with the Roman Catholic church. The "faith" and God's "church" are a whole lot bigger than that. The RCC won't die either, rest assured - it's the mother ship. I'm guessing that the true defenders ("my church right or wrong") would not take the same passive attitude if it was some other group who were the folk who hid crimes and facilitated the molesting and rape of thousands of kids, who deceived the cops and got the perps out of town at times, who steal the church's money sometimes and use the company accounts to launder money for crooks, who live lavish lifestyles on someone else's dime (pewsitters/taxpayers), promote some truly egregious offenders (who should be in jail) to top jobs at HQ because of their loyalty to the boss, who were sexually promiscuous, some involving homosexual activity. The reaction would be totally different if all of this were pinned on members of the Obama administration. What are the odds that the "true defenders" wouldn't defend all this garbage blindly, but would be screaming for impeachment. Bruce is a true defender of the church - no matter what "it" does and how much harm results from the corruption and how many kids lives were destroyed and how many families wrecked. But, he means well. His saving grace is that he doesn't seem to have any malice against those who don't see everything the same way he does, so he doesn't fit the description below. Something for everyone to think about that was posted on another Catholic site. "Berdyaev (a religious philosopher) .....touches ... on the theme of self deception A man, permitting himself to come into the grip of fanaticism, never presupposes such possible about himself. He, certainly, is prepared to acknowledge himself a sinner, but can never acknowledge himself as having fallen into error, into self-deception, into self-smugness. Which is why he considers it possible, amidst his own sinfulness, to torment and pursue others. The fanatic is conscious of himself as a believer. But perhaps, his faith may actually possess no sort of relationship to truth. Truth is first of all an egress from oneself, but the fanatic is unable to go out from himself. He goes out from himself only in malice against others, but this is not an egress to others nor to an other. The fanatic -- is an egocentric. The faith of the fanatic, his unrestrained and unselfish devotion to an idea helps him not in the least to overcome the egocentrism. The asceticism of the fanatic (and fanatics often are ascetics) does not at all conquer the absorption with himself, nor at all does it turn him to the realities. The fanatic of whatever the orthodoxy identifies his idea, identifies its truth with himself. And he is this idea, this truth. Orthodoxy -- this he is. And ultimately this is always rendered the sole criterion of orthodoxy."
Tim O'Leary
3 years 9 months ago
Long piece, Sandi. I suppose you do not see yourself in your quote "Some people cling to fantasies no matter what the reality and never ask themselves why the denial. Something going on there, but few are willing to look deep and figure out what it is. Probably too painful." For example, there is great resistance in dissident circles to accept that child sex abuse might be even more common in institutions outside the clergy. But the Sandusky affair has resulted in much greater scrutiny of school coaches in Pennsylvania. Lo and behold - the Philadelphia Inquirer has found a surprisingly high amount of it recently, in just the local area. See here http://articles.philly.com/2014-02-24/news/47607020_1_eric-romig-softball-coach-16-year-old-player. 11 cases in only 3 years. And we are not talking about 40-year old charges. Anyway, you are right that we (me included) tend to go harder on groups we already oppose, such as the Obama administration, the abortion lobby, or in your case, the Church and the Magisterium. There is definitely a tendency of those opposed to the Church's teachings to exaggerate or be highly judgmental on any cleric or to skew the history of the Church. And the reason is probably psychological and political, and beyond the actual facts in the sin or crime. But, we can agree it is a problem in the reverse direction for me as well.
Sandi Sinor
3 years 9 months ago
Tim you cannot deal with the truth about the breadth and depth of the coverup and protection of sexual abusers in the church. There is no other institution that comes close to the depth and breadth and the sheer consistency of the enabling behavior - diocese after diocese, all around the world, country after country. You seem to want to treat these men as above the law because they wear miters and claim to be God's spokesmen on earth. How insulting to God that people give these men a pass. You know the truth but you can't face it because your whole "faith" system would crumble. That's the danger of equating an institution and human beings with God. Put your faith in God instead of in men and in an institution. And then pray that God will give you the courage to look the truth in the face. I can tell you, you are also wrong in how "dissenters" react to these reports. Where I live there are reports every year of sexual abuse by someone - a priest, a youth minister, a teacher, a coach. And you know what, nobody gives any of them a pass. Nobody excuses their behavior or claims that somehow the Methodist church is being picked on by all those anti-Methodist media types because this time it was a Methodist youth minister who got caught and made the news. Nobody gives a pass to the school teacher or coach that molested kids and nobody hides behind the excuse that the school is being picked on or there is some kind of anti-soccer coach media out there who are pilloring coaches. If some Catholics continue to excuse the very un-Christlike behavior of men who claim to speak for God - literally- in protecting sexual predators, then the Catholic church will never heal. It has lost almost all moral authority in the world, and even in the church. And believe me, it's not all 40 years old in the church either. Ask Bishop Finn. Ask Cardinal George - both of these men protected priests in just the last few years. Ask the Catholics in Minnesota about the ongoing scandal there. Ask the government of the Dominican Republic who is trying to extradite the former Papal Nuncio and one of his priests, both of whom were molesting boys. The priest procured them - for himself and the Nuncio. Right now Rome is dissembling and refusing extradition saying it will handle it. Yeah right. That famous bridge in Brooklyn is still for sale. Such hypocrites. And they are far from being the only ones. Reported cases are going up. AT least now people aren't so intimidated that they are afraid to report. And thank God most victims now know that they cannot trust the bishop to handle it - they have to go to the cops straight away. I have no patience for those who willfully choose to remain blind. And since you brought up Sandusky - think about this. When that scandal hit, what happened. Some people at the top resigned, and some were fired. Several top management are awaiting trial. One of the most famous coaches in history - revered by many Catholics because of being Catholic - has been disgraced, his statue torn down, his family ruined. How many bishops have had to resign? How many have been fired? How many have had to face trial? What did the Benedict/JPII duo do - they brought Law to Rome and gave him a cushy apartment with three servants (nuns, of course), car and driver, prestitgious cathedral, and several powerful positions, including on the committee that vets bishops. Benedict chose Levada to take his own job at the CDF in spite of Levada's track record, which is very ugly. Other bishops who enabled received promotions, some went from being asst. bishops to head of their own dioceses. Compare that to what happened at Penn State. Compare that to what would happen in your town if someone found out that the Supt. of Schools had been transferring a child rapist from school to school without ever disclosing it. That Supt. would not only be fired instantly, he or she would face criminal charges. Compare that to what has happened in the Catholic church and continues to happen. But, give them a pass, Tim. After all, they are the "descendants of the apostles" and should not be held either accountable or responsible and to you, it seems that they are little gods. I'm not in denial about what happens outside the church. I am fully aware of them because I was as hypervigilant a mom as you could ever imagine. But unlike you, I don't give the folk who enabled sexual predators a pass just because they wear a roman collar. I haven't turned them into idols. Read the description of fanatic again, Tim. As usual, any attempt to discuss anything with you turns into confrontation. Continue to preen your self-righteousness feathers Mr. "I'm just a voice calling in the wilderness", a self-appointed guardian of the church, a selfless and noble warrior taking up arms to protect the "true faith" against all of these awful dissenters who post and comment here, including most of the Jesuits. It's time to get over yourself. Study Bruce's posts. He's every bit as "orthodox" and unquestioning, never-criticizing supporter of the institutional church as you, but he knows something you don't. As does Pope Francis. Pay attention to them. You might surprise yourself and discover something about what being a christian really means.
Tim O'Leary
3 years 9 months ago
Gosh, Sandi - so vehement, so accusatory, so certain, so one-sided, so black & white. Remember what you quoted above by Berdyaev? It says a fanatic cannot recognize their own fanaticism. Have a read of it again, but with the "orthodoxy" among some dissidents about an evil hierarchy. Although, Berdyaev says you won't be able to see the self- deception. Here is the quote again, with the gender changed for clarity and fairness "A woman, permitting herself to come into the grip of fanaticism, never presupposes such possible about herself. She certainly, is prepared to acknowledge herself a sinner, but can never acknowledge herself as having fallen into error, into self-deception, into self-smugness. Which is why she considers it possible, amidst her own sinfulness, to torment and pursue others. The fanatic is conscious of herself as a believer. But perhaps, her faith may actually possess no sort of relationship to truth. Truth is first of all an egress from oneself, but the fanatic is unable to go out from herself. She goes out from herself only in malice against others, but this is not an egress to others nor to an other. The fanatic -- is an egocentric. The faith of the fanatic, her unrestrained and unselfish devotion to an idea helps her not in the least to overcome the egocentrism. The asceticism of the fanatic (and fanatics often are ascetics) does not at all conquer the absorption with herself, nor at all does it turn her to the realities. The fanatic of whatever the orthodoxy identifies her idea, identifies its truth with herself. And she is this idea, this truth. Orthodoxy -- this she is. And ultimately this is always rendered the sole criterion of orthodoxy."
Sandi Sinor
3 years 9 months ago
LOL - I see that you aren't totally dense. You got it. What a shock Tim, you didn't respond to a single issue. Not one word of substance. But nobody who knows your tactics and how you operate would be surprised by that.
Tim O'Leary
3 years 9 months ago
I'm sorry, Sandi. You're not reachable with counter- arguments and I won't return the vitriol.
Marie Rehbein
3 years 9 months ago
You are fooling yourself, Tim. Sandi's points are all valid and her perspective is accurate.
Stanley Kopacz
3 years 9 months ago
Bruce, I agree that the Church as an institution will always be human. However, institutional structures and policies can corrupt humans where corruption could be less. Consider our own country. The ideals as expressed in the Declaration and constitution are wonderful. Our history, however, is full of horrors in complete opposition. Nevertheless, we can either move toward those ideals or away from them. In the present post-Citizens United situation, where money trumps democracy, we are moving away. Same with the Church. If true reform is left outstanding, we and the good of our tradition is in grave peril.
Bruce Snowden
3 years 9 months ago
Hi Stanley. Well put! I agree with your point of view.
Bruce Snowden
3 years 9 months ago
Hi Joseph (Post #12) Your claim that all sexual sins are mortal is not completely accurate. A sin to be mortal or as the NT calls it, "deadly" apart from being an objectively deadly act, the one sinning must also have sufficient reflection, and full consent of the will. If sufficient reflection and or full consent of the will is absent, deadly sin is not possible. Circumstances alter cases removing all guilt, or mitigating its degree. For example, a woman forced into a sexual encounter against her will, cannot be held morally responsible for that objectively deadly act, unless she in some way shares some degree of responsibility say through flirtation for the outcome. Simply, mortal (deadly) sin is impossible if the will is not free and reflection on it is not sufficient. In short, remember, sin is in the will, not in any external action. Augustine was incorrect when he taught that sexuality is always seriously sinful and only the intention to have child made it only venial! Maybe that's where you got your info from. Also, when using the Sacrament of Reconciliation if you have doubt about the seriousness of a sin and cannot resolves the doubt yourself satisfactorily, ask the priest to give you a hand and you may accept his decision with complete peace of soul. God is kind and gentle, not tyrannical and eager to swat us dead like flies!
Marie Rehbein
3 years 9 months ago
Woah. Flirting does not make a woman guilty of a mortal sin if she is raped by the guy she flirted with.
Bruce Snowden
3 years 9 months ago
Hi Marie, I don't want to get into a lengthy discussion on what does, or does not constitute sin, but let me answer your objection about flirting. Yes, of it self flirting can be a blessed thing, or at least morally neutral. Or it can become the occasion of sin and if it does, the degree of sin would be related to intent. Remember what I said, "Circumstances alter cases." Sometimes moral culpability happens without any initial intent, but as the saying goes, if you play with fire you'll get burnt. The smart thing to do is to avoid anything that has in the past been an occasion of sin, or may become one. This is fundamental stuff. I hope this ends discussion on the topic. Let's be more interested in virtue than in sin.
Marie Rehbein
3 years 9 months ago
Sorry, Bruce, but I don't know of any woman who flirts so that she can be raped.
Bruce Snowden
3 years 9 months ago
Marie, Very briefly, a woman doesn't flirt so as to get raped. But flirting can lead to rape against her will. This seems so obvious that I fail to see how it can be questioned.
Marie Rehbein
3 years 9 months ago
I think you are not being logical. You say the woman is guilty of sin if her flirting leads to her being raped. However, how is she to know that the man she is flirting with is inclined to rape? You do realize that rape is an act of violence and not sexual passion. If you are inclined to proceed with the sexual act despite the woman objecting in some way, you are not right to blame her or say she is committing a sin. It would certainly put an end to romance if women had to refrain from flirting out of fear that if it leads to being sexually violated it would be seen as her fault.
Bruce Snowden
3 years 9 months ago
Hi Marie, Yes, I do realize that rape is an act of violence, but did not realize it's not an act of sexual passion as well, as you assert. I though that sexual passion fuels rape of which the young lady seeking romance had no intention of encountering. Romance is certainly wonderful as is a freshly picked rose, but isn't it logical that just as one must handle the freshly picked rose cautiously avoiding its thorny stem, so too with romance, one must handle it carefully? Bad things do happen to good people, so yes, romance is great and I encourage it, but let good judgment (prudence) prevail. I stick with my postings which I believe are morally sound. But PLEASE, enough already!
Marie Rehbein
3 years 9 months ago
It's only an act of passion in the sense that hostility is a passion. It's only an act of passion in the sense that feelings of entitlement are passionate. So long as you are saying "enough already", I see that you are part of the problem of why there is so much rape in our society.
Michael Barberi
3 years 9 months ago
Bruce, Your comment: "For example, a woman forced into a sexual encounter against her will, cannot be held morally responsible for that objectively deadly act, unless she in some way shares some degree of responsibility say through flirtation for the outcome." I doubt you meant that every single woman who flirts with a single man is flirting for the outcome of being raped (e.g., being "forced" into a sexual encounter against her will). As Maria mentioned, flirting by a man or a woman is not immoral if the objective is to pass on a subtle message that one is interested in the another. For example, flirting to convey an interest in further conversation that may lead to a respectful date. And not every first date means that women want to have sexual intercourse. Subsequently, as single adults, that might happen. This does not condone pre-marital sex, but I mention this to make a point about simple flirting. Everyone who flirts are not all practicing immoral behavior. Granted there are some examples of flirtation that may be extreme and invite an over-reaction by another, even an immoral action. However, that is the rare exception and not the rule. The condemnation of irresponsible, immoral and extreme flirtation by some, does not mean that all flirtation, should be condemned as immoral for the rest of us. Clearly, there are moral boundaries for human behavior that should never be crossed. Eating is good, but the excessive and irresponsible use of it, e.g., gluttony, is immoral. The responsible use of drugs and alcohol is good for the majority of people, but the abuse and incorrect use of such things can lead to all kinds of irresponsible and immoral behavior.
Michael Barberi
3 years 9 months ago
Sandi, I think your long comments about the problems in our Church were correct. No bishop has been brought to justice for the cover-up and the transferring of known sexual predator priests to other parishes that resulted in the abuse of children again and again. The Maciel case is most telling. Cardinal Ratzinger/Benedict XVI, and John Paul II knew about the overwhelming amount of compelling evidence of his horrific crimes and grave immoral behavior, long before Maciel was asked to step down and live a live of penance. As for your exchanges with Tim, they were spot on.
Tim O'Leary
3 years 9 months ago
Michael - you say with an air of certainty that Pope JPII did something you find despicable. Well, let's see if Pope Francis cancels the canonization then. Notice how judgmental the dissident left is, while claiming to want tolerance. By the way, Pope BXVI is credited with bringing Maciel to justice. It is still strange to me the Mexican authorities never did anything. Was there a problem with the proof? As you should know by now, I have no difficulty addressing SS's factual arguments. It is just that she went off the deep end of accusations and departed civil discussion rather fanatically. So, let me know if you want me to or if you would prefer drive-by encouragement. SS did mention the Methodists. Here is a link to their sexual abuse crisis http://www.topix.com/forum/city/junction-city-ks/T793LOH9GPHKL2NEF with this rather familiar-sounding quote: ""However, our actual track record for effective prevention, intervention and holding errant clergy accountable for abuse is another thing...too often we protect bad pastors by simply moving them to new assignments, we don’t communicate well with affected congregations and we neglect and marginalize those who are abused—sometimes even ostracizing and punishing “whistle blowers” for reporting misconduct." Now, I am sure the Methodists are trying just as hard as the Catholics and other denominations to fix the situation. But, there have been 48 Frontline documentaries on the Catholic problem (surely, not because of prejudice) and none on the other denominations.
Marie Rehbein
3 years 9 months ago
The Frontline program made me see Pope Benedict XVI as sincerely moved to do something that he may have ignored or failed to do before he was made pope. I had the sense that while he was still Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he hid away behind technicalities in the rules and concentrated on his own spiritual life. However, when he became head of the Church, he began to deal with the problems, but actually had little skill in that area. It made me think that these issues were the reason that he resigned; it seemed as if his sense of having these matters eclipse his spiritual interests was being projected onto the Church as a whole, and he hoped that someone unlike himself would replace him. It looks like Pope Francis may be the kind of person Pope Benedict XVI would have chosen entirely by himself because the problems of the world did not overwhelm him or his spirituality. Tim, you wonder why a Catholic country like Mexico would not have gone after Maciel? You surprise me sometimes, because you must be intelligent, but it appears you are not well-informed as to how things are outside your little circle of the world.
Tim O'Leary
3 years 9 months ago
Really, Marie - "your little circle of the world"? This ad hominem style is metastasizing. Someone as intelligent as you could be might have read about the history of severe anticlericalism in Mexico. It even made it to the movies a few years' back.
Marie Rehbein
3 years 9 months ago
Tim, the Mexican Catholics that I know are very devoted to their religious practices, their churches, and the Pope, but they are politically liberal. I think that as individuals they are disinclined to bring forward charges of child abuse in a country that 1. doesn't have the resources to enforce too many of its laws and 2. that reveres the local holy father. If you are implying that the government goes around looking for these cases in order to pursue an anti-clerical agenda, and since it doesn't bring any cases that must mean there aren't any, I think you are wrong. If you imagine your child telling you that he or she has been abused by your priest, what do you see happening in your life?
Tim O'Leary
3 years 9 months ago
Marie - you really need to get out more. The good Catholic Mexicans are not the same as the government in Mexico. In 2010 the Mexican Congress approved a reform of the Federal Law on the Protection of the Rights of Children and Adolescents, criminalizing pedophilia.. I know, I know, - too little too late. But, it seems to be getting results http://articles.latimes.com/2013/jun/19/local/la-me-ln-former-usc-professor-child-sexual-abuse-mexico-20130619 As to your last sentence, an exception to the modern repudiation of capital punishment comes to mind. But, now I'm flirting with revenge. And, I know how dangerous flirting is.
Michael Barberi
3 years 9 months ago
Your argument that JP II will be canonized as a saint by the RCC, ipso facto excuses his poor judgment in bringing Maciel to justice is the weakest of arguments. Your other argument, that since the Mexican government did not bring criminal charges against Maciel is proof that nothing he did was criminal or wrong, is another weak argument. Don't you know that the Mexican government is largely corrupt and inept in bringing the most vicious of criminals, the cartels, to justice? All you do is defend the hierarchy blindly regardless of the facts. Make no mistake about what I am saying. I love my Church, God and neighbor. However, I don't like the way the church has been managed over the past 50 years. The church continues to do good things, but history has taught us that not everything that a pope has done is good. Enough for now Tim. I don't want to go around in circles with you.
Tim O'Leary
3 years 9 months ago
Michael - you really need to come up to speed on the etiquette of dialogue. You do not trash someone's argument and then cry uncle. It would have been fine to complain about the "poor judgment" of the saint. But, the wording you used, and your endorsement of the fanatical tone of SS, goes beyond a criticism of poor judgment. If the Mexican government was indeed corrupt to turn a blind eye to obvious sex abuse (your contention), then it would seem you and Frontline and the UN would be going after them, as a matter of justice and equity. Or, maybe it would not be of sufficient political use to do so. Marie thinks it is the Mexican politicians' love of the Church that has delayed the investigation, and that only a rube would think otherwise. As regards the bishops and hierarchy, I have said in previous posts that you read that they handled the sex abuse crisis terribly, that they initiated a reform in the early 2000s, in the US and shortly thereafter in the Vatican (and Germany) and that the recent announcement of 400 defrocked priests was evidence of that. But, some inveterate opponents of everything Magisterium, and every anti-Church conspiracy theorist cannot see the reforms. Yet, every large institution that deals with children has seen the same pattern (just use google to see what's out there). The Vatican is now part of the solution and everyone should learn from their reforms. In the US, there are now 747,408 people on the US Sex offender list, a 32% increase since 2006. Isn't a 32% increase an outrage, given what we know today? Maybe, PBS will do a documentary on this epidemic (don't hold your breath). Speaking of the reforms, two most recent priests removed this year by the Philadelphia archdiocese - both for 40-year old homosexual relationships with 17-year-olds. It seems to me better screening of seminarian candidates will reduce this problem even more. Maybe, the Episcopalians should try the same screening. See here http://www.hermanlaw.com/practice-areas/clergy/episcopal-sex-abuse
Michael Barberi
3 years 9 months ago
Tim, You normally take the extreme position and never, or rarely ever, see the truth in facts. You like to dismiss any profound error in judgment of the magisterium/hierarchy as being human and then, in the case of the sex abuse scandal, point to the many things the church is doing to correct it. I clearly see, as others do, that the church/hierarchy is trying to fix the problem. I simply don't see enough of it, not enough transparency, and especially not enough justice for bishops who covered it up and moved know sexual predator priests to other parishes resulting in more child sex abuse. You will never admit to this, but only deflect from the facts so that the reputation of the magisterium/hierarchy can be preserved. I applaud the steps the church has been taking, and I love the Catholic Church, but this does not mean they are perfect or doing everything that they should do. Nor does this mean that I or anyone else should not call them out on being more responsible and just. In your opinion, any criticism of JP II is disrespectful, defaming him, et al. The Mexican government issue is a moot point. The evidence about Maciel is undisputed. He should have been brought to justice by the JP II, or Cardinal Ratzinger as CDF prefect, long before Cardinal Ratzinger became Pope Benedict VI. At that time, the pressure to finally do something about Maciel was embarrassing, almost immoral, to say the least. History has taught us, and continues to teach us, that popes and the magisterium make mistakes, errors and changed teachings that were once taught a truth.
Bruce Snowden
3 years 9 months ago
Hi Mike, I agree with what you say. I also agree with what I said, even if misunderstood in part. I know all about flirting , my wife and I in our 47th year of marriage, I'm now 82, she 72 and together we have parented four children one going to the Lord in the third month of the First Trimester through miscarriage, and now seven grandkids. So I know a lot about flirting and I like it. But not if or when it leads into some degree of sin which it certainly can do for man or woman. I hope I've managed to be clear this time, hopefully the final post on this subject. Thanks for commenting.
Michael Barberi
3 years 9 months ago
Bruce, I did not think your comments were as extreme as they sounded. I think Marie made good points and since I agreed with her, I wanted to provide more context on the issue of flirting. For your information, I am in my 42nd year of marriage and will be 68 this year. I have parented two children, a boy and girl, and one is married. No grandchildren yet. Good to hear from you.

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