Ahead of the Story

Nobody likes reading about clerical sexual abuse. Yet for well over a decade now, in diocese after diocese, the actions of abusive priests and negligent diocesan officials have been brought to light—and appropriately so. Unfortunately, these revelations have come not from church leaders but from grand jury filings, government reports and press exposés. Almost without exception, the official response has lagged well behind reportage. Chanceries have reacted as though stunned by accusations that they have in some cases known about for decades, appearing combative and defensive while struggling to answer lurid allegations.

Recent weeks have proved no different, as the Irish church has been rocked yet again by a government report on clerical abuse. An investigation of the Diocese of Cloyne found that between 1996 and 2009—after national standards were set for dealing with abuse allegations—such reports were ignored, handled improperly or never reported to civil authorities. Fallout in Ireland, traditionally one of the world’s most Catholic countries, has been severe. In a rare public rebuke, the Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, chided his fellow bishops for withholding reports on sexual abuse of minors, telling them, “Hiding isn’t helping.” Ireland’s Prime Minister Enda Kenny, a Catholic, accused the Vatican of covering up the “rape and torture of children.” The Vatican recalled its ambassador, Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza, to Rome for consultation and to assist in formulating the Vatican’s official response before moving to his next post in the Czech Republic.


The sexual abuse crisis has devastated many, beginning with individual victims and their families. The morale of laity and clergy alike has been severely undermined, as has the moral authority of many bishops. Impressions of coverups and malfeasance have tainted the highest levels of church governance, triggering frequent and justified calls for mass resignations of bishops and, more recently, indictments of chancery officials. Lagging behind the story has made matters worse, fueling the impression that the church is hiding something, shielding abusers to protect “the institution” instead of vulnerable children.

As Ireland smolders in the report’s wake, a hopeful yet far less noted development has emerged in Germany—a nation also weighed down by abuse allegations. Germany’s Catholic bishops have begun taking steps to rebuild the trust that has been lost in recent years. In July they voted unanimously to grant independent investigators access to their files on sexual abuse by clergy—some cases as far back as 1945. No doubt their findings will raise serious questions about how allegations were handled and will reveal systemic failures in protecting children. Though prior damage cannot be undone, the country’s bishops are acknowledging that they need outside help to combat this problem. In so doing, they are also being proactive, not reactive.

Bishops around the world should follow their example. If the church’s own claims about abuse are true—that it is damnable yet distressingly widespread, infecting families and schools as often as churches—then there are certainly allegations against priests and religious that have yet to come to light. To date, the crisis has hit hardest in North America and Western Europe. Far fewer allegations have surfaced in other regions, including Central and South America, India, Africa and Asia. But all of these have enormous Catholic populations, and it would be foolish to presume that these locales have been free of abuse and mishandled allegations. Indeed, this is one instance in which the catholicity of the church will likely prove a liability, not an asset.

Recent years have shown that as a topic in the news, sexual abuse by clerics is resilient. Once in the headlines, it remains there indefinitely. Unless the church begins to respond differently, as the German bishops are trying to do, sexual abuse will continue to be the main story about the Catholic Church for years, even decades, as accusations surface around the world.

Countless bishops, including Pope Benedict XVI, have spoken of the crisis as an opening for repentance, conversion and purification in the church. We continue to hope that it will be so and pray that the many victims of abuse will be healed in the same measure that they have been harmed. For this hope to be well founded, however, church leaders must stop playing defense around the issue of abuse. Rebuilding relationships of trust between the hierarchy and the faithful will take more than promises from church leaders that they are trustworthy. They must prove it. This will require resignations in cases of mendacity and negligence. In more cases, it will demand that bishops be the bearers of their own bad news about abuse. This will be an act of humility, even a painful one. But there is no alternative.

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Michael Barberi
6 years 5 months ago
Our understanding of the truth is progressive, not relative to the desposit of faith, but relative to complex issues. Not all issues, not all complex issues. However, when and teaching can be shown to be: contradictory, incompatible with virtues, causing a moral conflict or dilemma, in tension with one's praxis, reason and informed conscience, it is time to re-think the teaching.  

Theologians were once mostly priests. However, since Vatican II, with the prolilfication of Doctorates in Theology in Universities, most theologians today are married Catholics. The goal and profession of theologians have not changed. They do research, publish scholarly works, provide theological justification for Church teachings, debate alternative theories, and challenge some doctrines and teachings based on better knowleldge of pholosophy, theology, anthropology, culture, etc. They help the Church seek and understand the truth. Sometimes this means rigorously challenging accepted beliefs that may have been based on erroneous assumptions or knowledge that was not known at that time.

If you take a poll of theologians today, I suspect you will find the majority of them fall along a spectrum of thought. On one end would be extreme orthodox traditionalists and on the other extreme liberal revisionists. However, the majority fall about in the middle. Thus, the majority would be called revisionists only because they don't assert that every and all Church teachings are the absolute moral truth. This apples mostly to sexual ethicial issues.

Everyone will agree the direct abortion is illicit, but there is disagreement over what is indirect abortion and whether the ethical context changed. This is an most important point. An exception to a moral absolute does not pertain to the norm, but to the ethical context to which the norm relates. Therefore, what appears to the average Catholic as an "exception to a norm", relates not to that specific norm, but to a different norm all together. This is why we have complex ethical cases and disagreement over ethical method according to Aquinas.

At first, an argument can be envisioned as the faithful versus the non-faithful, the liberals versus the conservatives, the holders of tradition and those that want to distroy the meaning of truth. Unfortunately, such discourse does not prove anything theologically but encourage more division. 

There is much disagreement over Aquinas between revisionists and traditionalists. At the end of the day, one is left with his common sense. One can envision some truth to the thinking of both traditionalists and revisionists. However, you must form your own opinion. Some may choose one way, others another. But, this does not make one camp the true and abiding faithful with a pipeline to God; while the other camp is the victim of individualism, relativism and the ills of the secular age.

Neither is one the enlightened faithful and the other disillusioned unfaithful. As for Sex, it is ok. It is God's gift. One must not abuse the gift or harm another person. Whatever is your belief, it must "ring true" to the deepest sense of the truth, the good, and your minds, hearts and souls. Think about the fact that 97% of Catholic females who are married or in union worldwide practice a form of birth control condemned by the Vatican as intrinsically evil. Are they all invincilbly ignorant? In the U.S. 40% of priests affirm that contraception is seldom or never a sin. Are they all the victims of the 1960s?
6 years 5 months ago
This is a courageous editorial from America, one we have awaited for too long. "This will require resignations in cases of mendacity and negligence." And, we must add, where resignations are not forthcoming, outright dismissals. There can be no true healing, no hope of true reform, until there is true accountability. The conspiracy of silence that has devastated victims of abuse and corroded our church from within can only be stopped when files are open, abusers are revealed, and leaders are called to account. The German bishops have provided an exemplary model for a clean break with the past. But this accountability goes beyond bishops and abusers to touch everyone in the faith community. What did each of us do or fail to do to enable this culture to flourish? How must we act differently in the church we want to become? None are exempt from an examination of conscience.
Katherine McEwen
6 years 5 months ago

The UK Catholic paper last year remarked about the sexual abuse scandal in Ireland that the Church was so Catholic that it forgot to be Christian. And here, I believe, is the crux of at least some of the situation: the rules and their sinful misuse smother the spirit and example Jesus demands we as Christians demonstrate to other people. That how we as Christians think, act and behave will be caught as well as taught. Here's where the institution falls down. And people have gotten hurt and are still getting hurt. And fallible church officials sometimes still don't get it.

Julia Norris
6 years 5 months ago


Archbishop Diarmuid Martin’s chide “Hiding isn’t helping” reinforces the reality the tepid lip service paid here is too little, too late.  As comment 28 points out "The Jesuits have not been immune from the many dimensions of the scandal".


Indeed, the Jesuits of English Canada have yet to get their own house in order: to this day they publicly honour an acknowledged Jesuit sexual predator who wreaked havoc among many lives. Here is but one example of the way the secrecy allows the Order to perpetuate the false myth of a man who they continue to present with near-God-like stature: musician Steve Bell’s story “About a Priest and a Young Boy” bears the hallmarks of the predator’s tactics:


which the Jesuits saw fit to re-publish, extolling the virtues of a priest who the Order has been informed was a sexual molester of minors. If the identity of this predator was made public as two victims asked years ago, then the continuing pain and humiliation to his victims would not be exacerbated, along with the incalculable damage to the Faith and the Institution.


The secrecy has created a public perception inconsistent with the abusive behaviours of this Jesuit priest. Clearly secrecy and silence feed the humiliation and outrage and break down the integrity of the Church!


The Canadian Jesuits are out-of-step with their own Conference of Bishops who reported the danger of silence and secrecy nearly twenty years ago:

The ideal breeding ground for the development and repetition of child sexual abuse is a general conspiracy of silence, motivated by the fear of scandal and of major repercussions for the institutions directly or indirectly concerned… The spontaneous reaction of shamed self-defense must be avoided under the circumstances, lest one risk becoming, consciously or not, party to further cases of abuse.  The fear of scandal often conditions our instinctive reactions of inadvertently protecting the perpetrators and a certain image of the Church or the institution we represent, rather than the children, who are powerless to defend themselves. The Church finds itself in a position that contradicts its own message when a priest or religious is accused of child sexual abuse.

 From Pain to Hope: Report from the Ad Hoc Committee on Child Sexual Abuse, p.22                  Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, June 1992


Appearing accountable to no one but themselves, the Canadian Jesuits will not disclose the names of those of their members who they are aware committed abusive acts, even keeping their own members in the dark. One victim, who cares deeply for the Church as it was meant to be, has appealed to them to speak publicly and address the ongoing issue of secrecy surrounding her abuser. Her request was spurned. One can only conclude that in order to protect the reputation of their Order, they are willing to give comfort and security to abusers past and possibly present. The Vatican commits to “rigor and transparency”. Where is it? This most certainly is not an indication that the Jesuits are “getting ahead of the story”, as the editorial implies.

6 years 5 months ago
You're darn tootin I'm "angry". We've got a lynch mob mentality forming that lumps the bad bishops with the good and is calling for a reform not of individuals according to Catholic teaching but reform of the very structure of the hierarchy according to secular criteria of what constitutes government, oversight, and authority.

We've got bullies taking their righteous anger over the heinous abuse of minors and then pouring out this wrath as a general principle of infallibility in their claims of authority to "make the call" when it comes to how best to clean up the mess....including their calls for an end of celibacy, calls to create women priests, calls for direct lay election of bishops etc. - all based on their wrath... being angry with the Church is the coin of their new economy of salvation.

We've got religious orders and theologians in full dissent against the Pope and bishops in union with him (and their own charisms!) who claim "theology" is not the study of God from the sure sources of Revelation and Magisterium, but rather is whatever pops into their minds from secular and uninformed sources, viewed not from a Christian but a pagan world view..... and the fools apparently don't realize that two people can play this game and the criteria they use to condemn the Pope can much more easily be used against themselves and their "magisterium"!

Much hay is made of dissent teaching Catholics that contraception is OK - and that since "the majority" of Catholics mistakenly believe this and practice it, they are right and the Church is wrong. Again, two can play this game.... if "the practices of the most" make anything OK, tell me again why patriarchy and sexism is wrong?

Such muddle headed "theology" is a failure of basic philosophic logic. Any time two can play a game you ought to know your ethical premises are unsure.

After all, if most Catholic men the world over abuse women.... would that make it OK? What about if most men, period, abused women - being "normative" would it automatically, axiomatically be "moral" and good behavior? Apparently so given what passes for arguments on abortion, contraception, homosexuality, promiscuity, etc. that are all based on what's hip and cool to the elites and pop culture, the Gospel and Church teaching be damned.

Finally the whole issue of "progress"... how can you even GUAGE "progress" unless you have a clear idea of the end state or goal of the journey? Unless you have a read on the North star and sun you can't navigate the ocean. How can any theologian pooh pooh the deposit of Faith, spread doubt into the Magisterium's charism and then claim their dissent is "progressive" as though following those ideas and behaviors necessarily will lead to the Kingdom of Heaven when the very sources of data on what the Kingdom is like and who populates it has been pooh poohed as old fashioned, out of date, superseded by "immergent" "theologians" who get their core criteria not from scripture but from the secular spirit of the age?

This thread is about leveraging the righteous anger of sinful priests and bishops - who were NOT faithful to the Church's moral teaching and using it to propel a radical overthrow of the Church. This thread is about ralling a mob of laity and rebellious religious to overthrow our hierarchy who ALONE were guaranteed the presence and teaching authority of Our Lord. And I'm not cool with bullies or lynch mobs or folk who will shout me down in the name of some nebulous "progress".  If you're coming this way to loot and pillage everything in sight in the name of "the majority" then I'll be standing in the street before the Cathedral to shout "over my dead body". 

Because that's the end game in all this. It always boils down to literal violence against the Church. Every century. Every country. Every time. Those who were least active Catholics have always led the troops of repression in the name of some nebulous "progress" that seemed for the day to be "the majority view".  
6 years 5 months ago
John, having written what must be thousands of words already on this thread, why don't you consider moving on to another subject. I think you've had your say. 
Michael Barberi
6 years 5 months ago
John, if you expect to change behavior or influence others by your blogs you will have to lose the anger and increase the quality of discourse.
6 years 5 months ago
I'll cease once people actually engage the argument and defeat it or prove it based on wrong presuppositions.

Instead, they just ignore it and move on with their prejudices all while claiming the Church is the one who is bigotted and claim they're victims while acting like a lynch mob.

So prove me wrong guys. Show me the error of my ways. If you can't, then why should I be the one to leave?
C Walter Mattingly
6 years 5 months ago
Anyone on this site who believes John Lyons' spirted and sometimes angry response compares with the vitriol that has come from the other side in the long history of commentary on this subject in America has inhaled too much incense. And then the pathetic attempt to suppress John's dissent a la Fr Curran. What next? Will you declare him a heretic?
6 years 5 months ago
"Rebuilding relationships of trust between the hierarchy and the faithful will take more than promises from church leaders that they are trustworthy. They must prove it. This will require resignations in cases of mendacity and negligence. In more cases, it will demand that bishops be the bearers of their own bad news about abuse. This will be an act of humility, even a painful one. But there is no alternative."

What good are resignations? Most of the men guilty of covering up sexual crimes against children were promoted and sent to other dioceses.  Some have died or resigned due to age, one is firmly set in the Vatican and one was chosen as head of the USCCB after covering up clergy abuse.  All remain in positions of honor.
While  the church continues to rearrange the deck chairs (new translations at Mass, etc.), many laypeople realize that the hull had been rotting for years.
We find God everywhere - except in the Catholic Church.
6 years 5 months ago
"Rebuilding relationships of trust between the hierarchy and the faithful will take more than promises from church leaders that they are trustworthy. They must prove it. This will require resignations in cases of mendacity and negligence. In more cases, it will demand that bishops be the bearers of their own bad news about abuse. This will be an act of humility, even a painful one. But there is no alternative."

What good are resignations? Most of the men guilty of covering up sexual crimes against children were promoted and sent to other dioceses.  Some have died or resigned due to age, one is firmly set in the Vatican and one was chosen as head of the USCCB after covering up clergy abuse.  All remain in positions of honor.
While  the church continues to rearrange the deck chairs (new translations at Mass, etc.), many laypeople realize that the hull had been rotting for years.
We find God everywhere - except in the Catholic Church.
6 years 5 months ago
Sadly, I do not believe that Pope Benedict XVI, the Curia, and many in the hierarchy have the courage, NOR THE WILL, to truly face the truth of their errors in allowing priest sexual abuse to flourish worldwide!  

I think they are too self-centered and comfortable in their positions to admit their guilt, and to face the civil and legal consequences of their actions!  

The problem is not outside the church, it is within the leadership and culture of the Roman Catholic Church!  It will take an action from outside the Roman Catholic Church to force accountability from the Pope on down!

This article states: "Countless bishops, including Pope Benedict XVI, have spoken of the crisis as an opening for repentance, conversion and purification in the church. We continue to hope that it will be so and pray that the many victims of abuse will be healed in the same measure that they have been harmed."

As a Catholic physician who has met many who have been sexually abused by priests, I do not believe that the words: "pray that the many victims of abuse will be healed in the same measure that they have been harmed" convey an accurate understanding of the harm that has been done to so many children and adults by abuser priests and bishops throughout the world, and by the complicity of the Pope and others!

In my research on child abuse in the RCC, I have learned that there are at least 13 documented suicides in Belgium, and at least 26 documented suicides in Australia, of victims of priest sexual abuse.  How many others will have their futures taken from them by so-called followers of Jesus?  

There are wayward priests and I know there are many good priests.  I believe that Pope Benedict XVI is not the person to renew the church in this, the 21st century.  

Dedicated lay women and men, who desire to follow Jesus in their lives, married and single, are needed to take positions in the hierarchy, and replace immature clerics who have had limited life experiences and who have abused their positions of authority!  

The voices of parents, especially, are needed to be heard among the voices of the faithful, in order for the Church of Jesus Christ to be renewed in a more mature manner for the protection of innocent children and for the greater glory of God!

Sincerely,   Dr Rosemary Eileen McHugh, Chicago

Norman Costa
6 years 5 months ago
What Dr Rosemary Eileen McHugh said!!!

See my article HERE "Blame the Victims and Make Them Feel Guilty - Part 1"

See my article HERE "Blame the Victims and Make Them Feel Guilty - Part 2" 
6 years 5 months ago
It's way too sad that defenders of the Church think they are doing well to attack critics. So here.
I take seriously Justice Ann Burke who headed the Natl, Review Board at one point and while on the old sod wrote today that the Bishops' word has lost its credibity.
I think the editorial is correct then and the prolix Mr. Lyons and his fellow "apologists" should rethink their views.
Michael Barberi
6 years 5 months ago
My suggestion to Mr Lyons reflected my intention to be helpful. As I stated, if Mr Lyons exects to influence others, he should tone down his anger and increase the quality of his dicscourse. Mr Lyons has a right to express his opinions and no one should demand his silence.  As Mr Nunz correctly stated, Mr Lyons should rethink his views.
Mona Villarrubia
6 years 5 months ago

@ clergy victim

Like you I was a minister - a liturgical minister, and a religious educator. Like you I believed that I could somehow do some good in the church to counteract the evil that I experienced. Like you I gave up my ministry when I could no longer in good conscience be an "Apostle" and represent the Archbishop who authorized me to teach Catholic theology in his archdiocese. Like you I was a victim of clergy sexual abuse. Unlike you I was 4 years old when it started and 11 when it stopped; unlike you I am a lay woman.

@ The Editors

I am not sure if healing is possible for victims like me, the way that is it spoken of here, because I no longer feel a part of the Church. More than that, I have a visceral revulsion to all things clerical, all things hierarchical. And most other victims I know feel the same way: they don't want "back in." But there is an aspect of the abuse crisis that this article does not address and that is the collateral damage that has occurred among the family and friends of victims.

You see, our family and friends often feel they have to choose: us or the Church. I had a number of friends disown our friendship when I “came out” as a victim and published my first book (though my Parish Priest organized a book signing for me in the Parish Center, and my Dominican bosses supported me all the way to the Archbishop). My parents and sister completely rejected me and accused me of lies. But what choice do family and friends have? How can we, the victims, ask them to accompany us on such a journey of loss: loss of community, loss of comfort and consolation, loss of hope in a God, or a Plan or a Meaning. It isn’t as easy as becoming Anglican, as one commentator once suggested to me. The abuse crisis is not about abusive Catholic priests it is about the institutionalized abuse of power in the name of God. It is about the corruption of Christianity itself.

I wrote about this recently:


“What happens when you rip the soul out of someone’s life? What happens when you destroy someone’s hope in a loving God? What happens when you tear someone from their support community, from their rituals of comfort and consolation, renewal and restoration? What happens when you emotionally or physically lock someone out of their spiritual refuge?

What happens is that people die — from the inside out. Their soul shrivels, their hope disintegrates…”

My oldest son committed suicide in 2007. I sometimes wonder, if I had not told my story and left my church maybe he would not have become so hopeless. I sometimes wonder if the abuse crisis, and my part in it, stole his last hope in goodness and God.

If there is ever going to be healing, if it is even possible, it has to broaden to include the families and friends of victims who have lost their faith and their hope.

Norman Costa
6 years 5 months ago
@ Mona Villarubia:

Thank you for your words, your bravery, and your wisdom. I have followed your writing and I am so sorry for the evil that was visited upon you and your family.

I hope that others can come to understand and feel that clergy sex abuse of minors is not just a very bad and very hurtful experience. From victims whom I have met and worked with and talked to over the past 7+ years, as well as from the healers who treat them, I have come to understand that it is a wound that goes to their very soul.

From the victims and their wonderful therapists, I have come to understand that their bravery and forthrightness have come at the cost of losing support from family and friends. It is not just losing support, but the further wounding by their slander and turning on them as if they were the perpetrators. This is not an infrequent occurrence. It happens many, many times.

How could parents, siblings, friends, even children turn on a victim in the most horrible of circumstances? Why do they do it? The why of it all can be complicated, but it is not resticted to matters of clergy sex abuse of minors. It is not uncommon for a 14 year old girl to come forward and tell of her years of abuse by a father or step father, and then have THE ENTIRE FAMILY accuse her of lying. Or they may acknowledge the abuse but then blame the victim for bringing it upon herself.

Some will wonder how such an obvious dysfunction in a family unit could be so common. There is nothing to wonder about. It happens and it is not uncommon at all. A twenty-three year old graduate student living at home with her single mother confides that the mother's live-in boyfriend is raping her. The mother yells at her daughter and accuses her of lying and trying to break up the relationship. YES, this happens all the time.

Some here cannot understand the enormous insensitivity to even suggest that it's not so bad here as in the public schools. They mean no intentional harm, but their lack of empathy and thoughtlessness on the matter are unknown to them. They believe, sincerely, that they are not trying to diminish the suffering of the victims nor its impact, but they are opaque to the realization.

To everyone reading this, if you want to understand the depth and impact on victims of the horrors of clergy sex abuse of minors from the abusers and their enablers, THEN LISTEN TO WHAT THE VICTIMS AND THEIR THERAPISTS ARE SAYING. Stop trying to parse it, and position it, and compare it, and revel in your own take on the matter. TALK TO THE VICTIMS AND THOSE WHO MINISTER TO THEM. IF YOU CAN'T TALK TO THEM, THEN LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN. They know. The rest of us do not.

G Miller
6 years 5 months ago
I commend the Editors of America for making this valid point. I am tired of seeing the Church Bishops with that "deer in the headlights" look. It is unbecoming a person in a position of power in authority. If you cannot take control of these situations, then either hire someone who can or resign. Enough of playing catch-up. I hate being an apologist for my church. I want to talk about the great work it does not explain away benign neglect or cover-ups. Didn't the bishops learn anything from Watergate??
William Bendzick
6 years 5 months ago
    John Lyons' comments embody attitudes and beliefs widespread in Catholicism.  The individual items of his words above that miss the mark are too numerous to take up here.  But the basic problem is that there are 2 histories of the Catholic Church, and the one is more faithful to the actual past than the other.
    Just one example.  Before Arabian Muslims started taking over much of the Middle East and North Africa after 700 AD, the Church was governed by the Five Patriarchs.  These were the highest ranking archbishops of Alexandria, Egypt; Jerusalem; Antioch, Syria; Constantinople; and Rome.  The five were peers, and preserved the unity of the Church by each recognizing the legitimate election of each of the other four.  It is not at all incompatible with history to call this the "Era of the Five Popes."
    The Arab Muslims conquered three of the five patriarchal ciites, Alexandria, Jerulsalem, and Antioch.  Thus began the time when the Church was governed by the remaining Patriarchs of Constantinople  and Rome.   The Patriarch of Rome had some other honored titles such as Pontifex Maximus, Patriarch of the West, and Papa or as we say Pope.  To this day, the English word Pope is Papa in Latin and Italian.
     The two patriarchs got to squabbling over doctrine and liturgy and morals, and unfortunately started to call each other rank heretics.  The result was what we call the Great Eastern Schism.  Each patriarch went away calling his branch of the Church the Only True Church, and the other branch Anathema (ie. accursed) Before God.  At the time of Vatican II, both sides dropped the accusations of anathema against the other.  But both still believe and act like they are the one and only beloved Church of Jesus Christ.
     HERE IS THE KICKER:  If God loves all of God's people, and I firmly believe that God does, then it is nonsense to believe that God has ever taken one side in this squabble over the other.  Whatever Benedict XVI or his uninformed advocates might like to believe, in the eyes of God the Patriarch of Constantinople still ranks equal with the Patriarch of Rome, PERIOD!
     So we do in fact have two popes on this planet, like it or not.  We still owe it to God to get the useless squabble over with.  Any part of Vatican theology that causes men like Mr. Lyons to invest sole top-kick status to the Pope in Rome over anything whatsoever is untrue to the facts of history.
     There are more examples of Vatican "top-kick" theology that flout the facts that I could go into, but I have taken up enough of your time.  When I first was being informed about the way Church history was being distorted to back up someone's pet theological rubber duckies, I recalled this very wise saying:  "The truth will set you free, but don't be surprised if at first all it does is really tick you off!"
     The Roman Church has a lot of work ahead, getting its head right and its leadership in sync with its new right head.
     Anyway, since after all God is still runnin' this world, peace to all.
Norman Costa
6 years 5 months ago
@ Wm Bendzick:

Thank you. Some good thoughts.

Here's something told me by a Jew, some years ago:

In Israel there are at least 140 different sects of Judaism. With all of the differences that keep them squabbling and apart, there is one overriding idea that binds them together as one. The firm and unalterable belief that the other 139 got it wrong.
Michael Barberi
6 years 5 months ago
Well said Mr Bendzick.

If I may take this theme forward a bit. It is a two-world view that has plagued the Church in modern times. The traditionalist or hierarchy view says that the world is a finished product and the truth has already been revealed, taught and known. It is universal and unchanging. Clarity is key. Its logic is deductive: we apply the principle to the situation and we derive an answer from the syllogism. Hence, tradition is to be held firmly and at all costs. Change in moral teaching is problematic because it suggests that at one point a teaching was right, and in a later (or earlier) instance, wrong. The truth cannot be compromised by local claims; if it is, it is dismissed as culturally relativistic. This world view is also called classicism. Classicists identify God's characteristics with those of God's will and God's law. The Church is the guardian of that desposit of truth; her leaders cannot change church teachings because they must never undermne God's will. Humans have innate weaknesses and wickedness that hinder their ability to follow God's law. Thus to call for reform of the law is a charade. 

Revisionalist have a world view based on historical consciousness. This world view asserts that the final word on the truth is outstanding but emerging. This view is not relative to the foundational truths of our religion: God is a triune God, God is love, Jesus Christ is the son of God, salvation comes through Jesus and His Gospel, etc. Truth is discovered in history by historical persons. It is experience that differentiates the two world views: classicism and historicism. Classicists see experience as an attempt to diminish the truth-claims. On the other hand, historicists are anxious about whether they adequately grasp and understand human experience. They are modest about their judgments and assertions. Historicists, then, are much more incluined to context. Unlike the classicists, they accept change in teaching on usury, capital punishment, or contraception when that change illustrates a greater approximation to the law of love.

The differences are not in kind but in degree. For the classicist, the agent does not enter into the equation of moral truthfulness; the moral truth remains the same for all and in all circumstances. For historicists, the agent is integrally involved in the morally objective judment.

This is why we have a crisis of truth in the Church today. These differences manifest themselves in the moral dilemma of complex ethical cases, such as: the Phoenix case where the life of the mother could not be saved by termination of the pregnancy even if the fetus was going to die regardless of what was done.....or the case of a serodiscordant couple where the husband must practice celibacy, and risk the surviviability of his marriage and carry an unreasonable cross for the rest of his married life, because he must never use a condom to protect his wife from a deadly disease.
Norman Costa
6 years 5 months ago
@ Michael:

Good thoughts, and good writing, as usual. Thank you.

I remember another essay and thread, perhaps with John Martens, where we discussed some related issues. What we understand as truth in spiritual awareness and theology, is not unlike truth in science. At any point in time our understanding of spiritual and scientific matters is but the embodiment of what we have learned to date and coupled with new thought and discovery. In this, spiritual and scientific inquiry are very much the same. 

Of necessity, this cultural evolution is not an easy or comfortable means to progress. It requires thinking, knowing how we come to this point, speculating, arguing, criticizing, looking at the past with fresh eyes, challenging ourselves and everyone else. There are those of us who will take to this with more gusto than others. Many will find sufficiency for themselves in tradition, while experiment, parsing, and reconstruction are more attractive and beneficial for another lot. 

Your two examples in the last paragraph are excellent exemplars of this discussion. 
C Walter Mattingly
6 years 5 months ago
As Norman says, the two examples of the last paragraph of your post are pertinent examples, albeit extreme rather than typical cases, with the attending caveat that extreme cases do not necessarily make good law. Yet in the most disturbing of all examples, the much-discussed Phoenix case, the fundamental and long-standing Church law invoked is grounded on the blanket prohibition against taking an innocent life, that this prohibition should not be tampered with. There are of course other issues involved which were well covered in a previous thread here, yet there is the related issue of continuity. If the Church is not true to itself, it is not likely to survive. And almost all scholars agree that the chief reason the Church has survived and prospered for two millenia and counting is its organizational structure, the same structure whose leaders have failed with reasonable constancy from the cowardly liar and base betrayer, Peter, to the present.
But that's an aside; here's a question. You recognize above that everything is a matter of degree, including traditionalists and revisionists, and you give a few examples from the deposit of the faith which would not be subject to revision, including the Trinity, Jesus' divinity, I would guess the Real Presence, etc. Would the revisionists, however, acknowledging that Jesus' own words in Matthew define marriage as occuring between a man and a woman, feel free to overlook these words and argue that same-sex marriage should be accepted, indeed welcomed, by a loving Church? Or would that be off-base because it contradicts marriage as Jesus defined it in the NT?
Norman Costa
6 years 5 months ago
@ Walter:

You addressed Michael, but I am up late so I'll put in my two cents.

You phrased the issue of marriage very nicely in the context of continuity vs variation by degree. For argument sake, let's stick with a holy, sanctioned marriage where there is an ideal of commitment and love and responsibility. I contrast this with a less committed, not very responsible, and selfish coupling - same or different sex - that I will set aside and not consider.

The question remains as to whether the ideal form is only available to one man and one woman. I do not think there is any disagreement as to what the authors and editors of the Hebrew bible and Christian testament had in mind. So I do not think we have to argue what Matthew, or the prophets, or Paul and others had in mind.

So what has changed from 2000 plus years ago that could justify a modified or contrary interpretation of the one man - one woman restriction? [I am not going to get into the issues of polygamy. I want to stay with same vs different sex restriction.] What has changed is an understanding about the psychology of gender identification that was unknown until only recently. There are many millions of people in this world who have the body and equipment of one sex, but the psychological identification and emotional sense of the opposite sex. 

If non-confused gender identity folks were to close their eyes and listen to "same-sex" couples talk about love, commitment, roles of husband and wife, desire for children, and sexual compatibility, they might not be able to distinguish between between them and different-sex couples.

So the issue is not same vs different sex marriages. The issue is what constitutes gender identity. Those who seek sex change operations, as an example, are almost unanimous in declaring they feel like a woman trapped inside a man's body, and vice versa. The party line that gays, lesbians, and transgenders are selfish and debauched flies in the face of their words that sould a lot like the straight majority. They want to to be held, and loved, and made loved to, and make love just like everybody else.

We know more today than the authors of the Gospels could ever know about gender identity. Yet throughout history various cultures (some North American aboriginal peoples, for example) acknowledged four genders. So, where does that leave us? It leaves us with a marriage between a man and a woman. All we have to do is understand what constitutes gender identity and makes us a man and a woman.
Dennnis MacDonald
6 years 5 months ago

The church may have decided that Jesus and/or Scripture "defined" marriage based on its self-determined authority but I would suggest that Jesus and Scripture "reflected" the tradition, law, prohibitions of their culture in time.

There is no doubt in my mind that traditional marriage - between an adult, consenting woman and similarily disposed man - publically committed will remain the norm. The problem, for me, is that our "culture" has failed to catch up with its intellectual realization that "norm" does not with any necessity equate with "right" or 'necessity" let alone "law" , "good", "evil", sin" . "Normality" has come to equate with "health", and moral rightiousness. "Abnormal" seems to have missed its essential meaning of "outside the norm". The notion of "extreme" which merits law or regulationn is a work in progress. The church warrants respect for slowing down its evolution and thus promoting reflection, discernment and debate but fails miserabely in its prime obligation of recognizing "love" and compassion as the "prime directive" standing by those values as essential elements in the public discussion and ultimate determinant of "rightiousness".

By labeling "outside the norm" as evil, sinful and identifying its position so violently with itself- my way or the highway- the church. as it has with many other contemporary issues defined itself as historically obselete.

Michael Barberi
6 years 5 months ago
Mr Mattingly raises good points, but extends my remarks and opinions into areas that I do not assert. The two examples illustrate how a Church teaching conflicts with certain virtues. Here is another one.

A married woman has three children and another pregnancy would be life-threatening. Her husband travels frequently and is home about 14 days per month. When the husband is at home, most times are during fertile times. Sometimes two to three months pass where there are no infertile times when they are together. Under these circumstances, they jointly decide taking the pill or sterilization would provide more effective security than PC in preventing a life-threatening pregnancy, and will enable them to express their love for each other and limit the size of their family for good reasons. The Church says this couple should not violate HV but practice PC regardless of their circumstances or potential consequences.

Did not the ethical context change? The wife performed an act of self-preservation, charity and prudence by choosing a highly effective type of security (the pill) to protect against the possibility of a life-threatening pregnancy and allowing reasonable time for the expression of conjugal love. Additionally, would not sterilization be a prudent option in a life-threatening situation? Which is more important to God, ensuring every marital act has a procreative meaning (i.e., risky Chastity/-PC) or safeguarding one’s life?

The basic goods necessary for human flourishing are not incommensurable as proposed by Germain Grisez’s New Natural Law Theory (NNLT). “Sometimes, in promoting human flourishing, we have to make choices between goods….what matters is human flourishing, not the flourishing of individual goods or values….right choosing will involve a different mixture of goods in different situations.”[1]

This couple practices an extreme degree of conjugal chastity in the real sense that both spouses are not together most of the time. When they are together, would not further conjugal abstinence be imprudent and an act of injustice endangering the marriage and the well-being of their children?


[1] Bernard Hoose, “Natural Law, Acts and Persons,” in Method and Catholic Moral Theology, ed. Todd A. Salzman (Omaha, Nebraska: Creighton University Press, 1999), pp. 55-56.

John Barbieri
6 years 5 months ago
All of the above, the editorial and comments, show such erudition and concern!
How sad that the hierarchy has all the cards, so it all is futile.
The behavior of the hierarchy shows that they couldn't care less about the laity whom they seem to regard as serfs working on their estates.
Whatever justice there will be will only come from civil authority. There is only a small chance that indictment, trial, conviction, and jail time would bring about change.
What good will the hierarchy's much coveted authority do them when eventually no one cares about it - and them - anymore? 
C Walter Mattingly
6 years 5 months ago
Thanks for taking the time to answer my questino to Michael; that was helpful. 
I do think, however, you may be oversimplifying things a bit, or I could be misreading you. The ancients didn't downplay or discourage homosexuality. Achilles certainly seemed a lot more interested in Patroclus than his wife; was it Plato and other Greeks who lived the axiom, "Women for children, men for pleasure?" Spartans loved their convivial warm baths with fellow soldiers, and female infants were tossed into their version of Gehenna, etc.  All these things were considered normal enough. Purists, turning to the early church and its astounding success in flourishing against the odds, note that it was the early church's concern for women and family that was a key to its attraction, that its sharing collections with widows and orphans and prohibiton of abortion and infanticide so common in the Greco-Roman culture strongly appealed to the women of the time. So while these early church leaders and members were quite familiar with the Roman and Greek norms that permitted, indeed encouraged, homosexual relations, abortions, and infanticide, the early church took a stand against what was then the norm and in favor of what today would be deemed the "traditional family."
In many ways, society's general lifting of sexual restrictions seems the cycle of history coming back round to something resembling the pagan viewpoint. (Dr. Singer, professor of bioethics at Princeton, advocates permitting the parents to kill their child up to 30 days after birth for any reason. And he is influental in shaping opinion, perhaps even to an extent to President Obama.)
My own current view, for what its worth, on the homosexual issue is more one of acceptance than preference. You may remember a few years back when homosexuality was described by its proponents as an alternative lifestyle? That's the best analogy I can think of. The church, and society for that matter, should find a way to move toward acceptance of homosexuality as an alternative lifestyle, while heterosexual marriage should remain the preferred lifestyle. While travelling on I-10 west is the preferred route, with more maintenance and resources devoted to it as a result, Highway 90 remains a viable, and for some more attactive alternative, although the state devotes less resources and encouragement to its pathway. In any case, in taking that route we don't have to contradict Christ's own words in the NT and the Judeo-Christian tradition of the definition of marriage.

C Walter Mattingly
6 years 5 months ago
I am familiar with such examples as you have provided. The disconnect, for instance, between the church's formal position and the great majority of catholics on using non-abortive methods of birth control to affect the size and timing of their children, as distinguished from denying the admission of children into their marriage, is well known. You seem to acknowledge the blanket prohibiton of direct abortion, which is consonant with the well-established position of the church.  But I was curious as to how you might extend that process into the question of homosexual marriage. Do you approach that question in the same or similar manner? 
Michael Barberi
6 years 5 months ago


The point about the examples I mentioned did not fully express my point of view. In an essay I wrote recently for potential publication, I used 3 examples involving the doctrine on birth regulation (i.e., HV) to demonstrate a contradiction in the application of HV and how the moral absolutes described in HV cause a moral conflict between virtues. Using the ethics of Aquinas, as JP2 did in Veritatis Spendor in support of HV, I draw a very different conclusion frequently missed or not addressed by most theologians. SEE MY LAST PARAGRAPH BELOW FOR THE SECTION OF MY ESSAY THAT DESCRIBES THIS CONTRADICTION.

As for homosexuality, the Church has not changed its prohibition. They have changed their opinion that homosexuality is not a "choice" but a human orientation they assert is dyfunctional. My view is based on a holistic complementarity: sexual orientation, personal and biological. Thus, some homosexual and hetersexual acts, those that do not meet the requirements of holistic complementarity, just, and loving sexual acts are not truly human. Whether any given sexual act, hetersexual or homsexual, is truly human is determined, as is every moral judgment in the Cathlic tradition, not by the naked application of abstract moral principles but by a careful, hermeneutical analysis of how these principles apply in real, concrete human relationships.

The sexual anthropology of JP2 is frequently explained and defined in term of "nature" and more often than not ignore the lived human experience of married couples. A violation of nature is a violation of human love and contracepton does violence to nature. After all that is said about the person and his dignity, and responsibility, HV boils down to the physical and biological. According to JP2, the language of the body has an ontological message, the procreative plan of the Creator. It is indeed theological speculation, but that does not make it wrong. However, a women has a maximum fertility window of 6 days per month and one must not prevent procreative consequences during fertile times. Most natural planning programs require conjugal abstinence for 10-14 days. It is execessive in terms of God's procreative plan if we follow the exhortation of JP2 and apply our knowledge of biological laws to birth regulation. This is the reason that periodic continence (PC) programs have a 25% failture rate and a 76% discontinuance rate within 4 years and the reason 3% of female married women "worldwide" practice PC. I could go on to other issues concerning this issue, but I will stop here.

THE 3 CASE ANLAYSIS: The Married Woman That Faces a Life-theathening Pregnancy and Uses the Pill as a Means To Preserve Her Life; The HIV-positive husband who Uses a Condom as an act of Health and Safety; and A Marred Woman With Endometriosis who Uses the Pill as an Act of Health to Relieve Pain. 

A young married woman takes the pill to avoid the pain of endometriosis by regulating menstrual periods. The Church asserts that her act is moral because her intention and proximate end is to treat her medical condition by relieving severe pain and not to prevent procreative consequences. The fact that the physical effects of taking the pill causes temporary infertility by suspending ovulation, and therefore procreative consequences are prevented, is outside of her intention.

How is this different from the wife in our first example who took the pill to preserve her life from a life threathening pregnancy? This was her actual intention and proximate end. Why does the Church assert that her intention and proximate end is to prevent procreative consequences?

How is this different from the HIV-positive husband in our second example who used a condom as an act of health and safely and to preserve his marriage? This was his actual intention and proximate end. Why does the Church assert that his intention and proximate end is to prevent procreative consequences and disrespect the aptness of generation?

The answer is that the Church assigns an intention and proximate end to the agents in our first two examples, a priori. These were not their actual intentions and ends. In contradiction, the Church asserts the intention and proximate end of the woman in our third example was therapeutic because that was her actual intention and end. The Church also claims that the third example does not involve the marital act. However, in these three examples physical acts were performed before the marital act that prevented foreseen procreative consequences. Additionally, all three acts were appropriately chosen as a means to achieve morally good intentions and ends.

A means to an end is appropriately right or wrong relative to the good realized in the end (S.T. I-II, q. 19). For example, cutting off one’s toes is not good, but if they are gangrenous, the act of choice is appropriately right. Other choices were rejected because they had bad consequences or would not work. Similarly, PC was rejected by the first woman because it lacked adequate security in guarding against possible death and it involved excessive conjugal abstinence endangering her marriage. Celibacy was rejected by the HIV-positive husband because it was unreasonable and excessive and would endanger his marriage. The choice of taking the pill and using a condom were appropriately right means to morally good ends and intentions.

These examples demonstrate inconsistency and contradiction in the application of HV and the moral specification of human acts according to Aquinas. The result is a conflict between virtues and the moral absolutes described in HV. It also represents a problem in ethical method.


C Walter Mattingly
6 years 5 months ago
Thanks for taking the time to present your thoughts above. Your points are clear and your arguments coherent.
Again, I don't see that my question was addressed directly. No doubt loving relationships exist between two people of same or different sex, including sexual relationships. And no doubt we are all disoriented toward one thing or another. Yet though Paulo and Frencesca may have loved each other, and though Dante was clearly sympathetic to them-as he was to the homosexual friar scholar-he still situated them in hell. The question is do we preference same sex relationships with marriage within (and, separately, without, but that's not our concern here) the church as we do heterosexual marriage?  To my way of thinking not only would we have to overcome the traditional view of natural moral law, but contradict the definition of Christ in the NT. It would take a bold man indeed to do that.
Michael Barberi
6 years 5 months ago

You are correct, I did not answer your question about homosexuality as adequately as I would have liked to. At the moment, I am perplexed by the condemnation of homosexuals. For an excellent argument and different theological point of view, check out "The Sexual Person: Toward a Renewed Catholic Anthropology" by Todd Salzman and Michael Lawler. This book was condemned by the USCCB, but it is thorough, rigorous and compelling. Not everyone will agree with this theology, but it is worth your time.

In the end, we are all God's children and salvation was given to us all. The Church tradition has been grounded, until the late 20th century, with the belief that homosexuality was a choice or such persons and their acts were "freaks of nature". One "choose" evil. Today we know that it is a human orientation. This does not mean that every homosexual does not commit sin, just like every heterosexual does not commit sin. We all are subject to certain moral codes of conduct.

Consider that a priest voluntarily chooses celibacy because of his profound love and orientation to God. He sacrifies his natural sexual appetite for Christ. His inner strength is a gift from God. Contrast this with a homosexual who was born that way. Clearly a few homosexuals become priests, but the vast majority choose a secular lifestyle, like most heterosexuals. The Church asserts that the homosexual must practice celibacy or risk condemnation because the conjugal act must respect the "aptness of generation". The sperm must be desposited in the proper place for reproduction. However, as my 3 examples in my pervious blog demonstrated, this teaching becomes unreasonable under certain circimstances. It conflicts with certain virtues. Yet, the Church ignores the moral dilemma.

Why not a union between persons, blessed by God, under the same obligations that appy to heterosexual couples?  I understand how difficult this suggestion is. For example, if the Church asserts that a woman whose life is threatened by another pregnancy cannot take the pill or be sterilized, to safeguard her life, then they will not allow a more reasonable approach to homosexuality. Hence, what becomes obvious is the fact that many complex issues of sexual ethics are grounded in the teaching of contraception. That is why I choose to challenge it. Not because I want justice for homosexuals, but because my informed conscious tells me that the philosophical and theological foundation of HV, in particular the two moral absoultes described in this encylcial, is flawed. Once you allow flexibility on the issue of birth regulation, you provide a licit avenue for other forms of sexual behavior under specific circumstances. That is why the Church rigorously defends its doctrine at all costs regardless of praxis and reason. Tha is why we have a crisis of truth.

Many theologians and prominent lay people have written books on homosexuality calling for change. I don't know the answer to the issue of homosexuality, but I am inclined to believe that a more moderate approach is needed.
6 years 5 months ago

This is patently absurd. Sodomy is a voluntary act which is considered immoral. SSA is considered a disorder. Like depression. A disorder does not automatically make one "subhuman" or 'evil' or damned.

So the Church is entirely consistant. Actions which many with SSA (and others) do sexually are condemned as immoral., whereas the motivations for such actions are understood to vary - from genuine mental disorder to anger (as in the case of rape) or lust (as in the case of prison rape) to experimentation (as can happen with some young people who are confused).

All your "authors" do is create a straw man that is a-historic and then knock it down which flourish but no effect on the actual debate.

As for humanae vitae, yes, if you deny it, then all else tumbles - as one would expect in a system like Catholicism that is logical. Once you accept an a priori that masturbation is licit, then ANY sexual act whatsoever, in, out, before, apart of marriage is ipso facto OK so long as the subject is cool with it.

But that's not proving masturbation is in fact, hunky dory, just that many or perhaps most people "do it" or like it. Ethics and biblical morality are not based on majority experience though, so this doesn't 'prove' anything.

Christianity has always held any sexual act outside of heterosexual marital 'embrace' to be considered immoral - so feeling really good about it doesn't transmogrify it into graceful and wonderful from a Catholic perspective. Or from a psychological one.

Just because your conscience feels good about it doesn't make you right or 'it' OK. After all, lots of pedophiles feel absolutely OK with what they do and their consciences are OK with what they do too and will argue that their victims are OK with it too.... but this assertion doesn't make it so.

And again the proof is in the phenomenological pudding of SSA being a mental disorder inasmuch as normal, healthy, sane people don't spontaneously combust with outrage when disagreed with OR cronically fails to distinguish between an act and a motive as virtually all homosexual activitists routinely do.

Michael Barberi
6 years 5 months ago

With due respect, I think you are exaggerating these issues and have not grapsed the larger picture. If HV is reformed along the lines of the Majority Report of the Pontifical Commisson on Birth Control, masterbation and other sexual acts are not ipso facto licit. Consider the fact that most Christian Churches do not agree with HV yet they condemn masterbation etc. 

If Catholicism is logical as you affirm, this does not apply to all of its teachings. History can attest to that. There is a respectful and theologically sound justification for disagreement about contraception and abortion to save the life of the mother when the fetus will die regardless of circumstances. The Church considers both of these issues subject to moral absolutes. The issue is certain norms that are asserted as moral absolutes. Catholicsim will not crumble if the Church reforms a doctrine. What the Church fails to recognize or chooses to ignore is ethical context. An exception to a moral absolute is not an exception to the norm but to the ethical context that the norm relates.

You are correct that the individual informed conscience can err. However, this does not mean that the papal magisterium is the absolute moral truth either. The issue of authority cannot be separated from the content and meaning of what is presented as authoritative. It is not a matter of blind faith but the convictions of our minds, hearts and souls. It is not about "feeling good" as you assert. 

As to the issue of the moral specification of voluntary human acts, I suggest you read my previous blog about the 3 case examples. No one is confusing the difference between an act and a motive.

I think we can agree that Catholics should not pick and choose doctrines to fit the personal and relational circumstances, nor embrace individualism or relativism. We should also be able to agree that a Catholic, theologian or priest that disagrees with a Church teaching is not a "dissenter" or "invincibly ignorant". Nor is their reasoning patently absurd. 

If there is consensus in medical, psychological and scientific communities that homosexuality is a mental disorder, I would appreciate knowing where I can find it.
James Jenkins
6 years 5 months ago
Well, it's about time!

This America Magazine editorial is certainly welcomed, but it would have been immensely more helpful if it had been published about 10 years ago.

It seems that Jesuits, like most pew Catholics, have been on a slow learning curve, due in part no doubt to their own internal vexations with child sexual abuse, and presumably because of church hardball politics played at the highest levels attendant to this issue. 

What we knew then is about the same that we know now:  For decades, because of their privileged position within the Catholic community, priests wantonly sexually exploited children and vulnerable adults with impunity.  And, hierarchs have corrupted their high office by their abetment and complicity in child rape and sodomy.

To say these things today is no less painful for me even though I first learned the enormity of the dimensions of this scandal as the first chair of the SF archdiocese review board long before the tsunami hit Boston in 2001.

I can concur with the editors' view that the church needs to come out of its defensive crouch about its history of child sexual abuse and forthrightly take steps to reform the Catholic priesthood from parish to pope.

The only way for the Catholic Church to salvage its mission to ensure the viability of the Gospel for generations to come is to LET THE PEOPLE DECIDE who is to be their priests and bishops, how their communities will celebrate the mysteries of our faith.  

In the meantime, Catholic men and woman must teach, pass on the traditions, encourage the life of the Beatitudes, await the day when Catholics can speak aloud their beliefs in their own church.

It would certainly help if Jesuits joined the people in their inexorable evolution toward a People's Church.
Michael Barberi
6 years 5 months ago
Well said Jim. However, consider that many Jesuits speak out like Todd Salzman and Michael Lawler of Creighton University, a Jesuit institution. Also, there are many others such as Jim Keenan S.J. of Boston College. The list goes on. Nevertheless, it will take more than the Jesuits to cry aloud. Most theologians are revisionists who are rediculed by the hierarchy as dissenters. According to the hierarchy, the laity who practice contraception as a form of birth regulation, but have children, and do not abide by all sexual ethical teachings are simply invincibly ignorant. They are mislead by the secular world. Priests and some bishops who disagree with certain Church teachings unfortunately embrace "silent pulpits".

What we need is a wise and courageous pope who is not mislead by an exaggerated fear of reforming the structure of the Church and some of its teachings. Catholicism, like most Christian religions, will not crumble because some aspects of "tradition" are refined to address the ethical dilemmas confronting Catholics in the modern world.
Norman Costa
6 years 5 months ago
What Jim Jenkins said!!!
James Jenkins
6 years 5 months ago
Michael Barberi has suggested that we [i.e., Catholics] "need" a pope to lead us out of the darkness the church has fallen into of late.

I believe that time, and history, has run out for the hierarchs on that account. J23 was the pope that Michael Barberi is still longing and hoping for.  I daresay that I don't believe that we will ever see his [J23's] like again for many centuries - arguably the greatest apostle since Peter & Paul. 

For all intents and purposes, the hierarchs have abandoned the people, retreating behind Vatican and chancellory walls, paid for by $billions stashed away in fraudulent Vatican banks and stock portfolios, thinking that they can emerge from hiding in a century or so when everyone has forgotten their betrayal and failures.

Rome may be eternal, but not so the affections of the people, especially the young.

The challenge for us today is the same as the one the angel posed to the disciples ["Men of Galilee"] in Acts just after the Ascension: "Why do you stand here looking into the sky?"

Leadership will not come from hierarchs on high.  The vision of a People's Church will not be achieved by politics or councils. 

An inexorable evolution toward a People's Church has already begun.  The evidence has been with us for a long time.

Like the first-century Christians, we are struggling toward a new enlightenment.
It may take decades, even centuries to reach it, but we will reach it.  And we must all help. 

We Christians must do as we have always done:  Continue to teach the Beatitudes; pass on the Gospel to new generations; work for the day when new thoughts, new faith maybe spoken aloud in our own church.
Michael Barberi
6 years 5 months ago

I agree with you. I do long for a pope like J23 and it will take decades or even centuries before we see the reform we need. While we wait, pray and work for change, it is difficult for many Catholics to turn to another Christian religion. Nevertheless, many do.

My only religious life is my daily prayer life. Like you, I try to live by the Gospel and work in my own way for change. However, like many other Catholics, I yearn for solidarity and community worship. I have not turned my back on Christ, but on the Church. One day, I will find community. One day my cousin who was the Chancellor of a Catholic Diocese in Flordia, now retired said:

"When you are young, your parents can do no wrong. They are perfect and they mean the world to you. As you grow older and wiser, you realize that they are not perfect, and they may even be terrible parents. However, you don't turn away from them but continue to love them as best you can. The same can be said of the Church."

There is always some truth in such advice.
C Walter Mattingly
6 years 5 months ago
From what I can see, your call for a People's Church is to teach the Beatitudes and pass on the Gospel. Would that equally include the 10 Commandments, Christ's prohibition of divorce, his definition of marriage as disussed above, etc? Or would it be an edited version of the Gospel?
James Jenkins
6 years 5 months ago
Michael Barberi:

My sainted sixth-grade teacher, Sister Mary Adelaide, always reminded us:  "Never confuse the "church" for the CHRIST!"

Actually, without the hierarchs, finding communities of faith for "solidarity and community worship" would be a lot easier.

Christians need to adopt the dictum of the environmental movement:  Think Globally.  Act Locally!

James Jenkins
6 years 5 months ago
Walter Mattingly, you're missing the point - most likely on purpose, I fear.

Like the pharisees who posed the same questions about marriage and divorce to Jesus, you're only looking to entrap and ensnare the message of the Gospel into a web of politics and laws.

I find the words of Jesus to be sufficient for me: "What God has joined together, let no man put asunder." (Mark 10)

And like your apparent spiritual pharisee forebears, Walter, you seemingly would ignore Jesus' quoting Deuteronomy when he tried to sum up the whole of the Law:

"'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" (Luke 10) [This is the Beatitudes & Gospel I was referring to!]  

And in Matthew:22 Jesus does say that these two commandments are the "first and greatest commandment."

Maybe, Walter, these references were left out of your "edited version of the Gospel?!?" 

[P.S. As far as I can tell there is no record of Jesus making pronouncements on the "10 Commandments," although Jesus does repeat five of the ten in Matthew 19.  In fact, many New Testament exegetes believe that to many of his contemporary critics Jesus was trying to do away with the "Law and the commandments."  Go figure!]
umay cool
6 years 5 months ago
Boston has a specific responsibility because this is where the sexual abuse crisis started,” said Erikson.

Of course, we now know that the sexual abuse crisis started in many other places in the 1970s and 1980s, r4 when most of the abuse actually happened. What happened in Boston in 2002 was a different crisis, a crisis of episcopal moral authority.

What we learned in 2002 was that bishops had been told about the horrific things that had occurred and they did not react with horror. They reacted with legal strategies and mealy-mouthed apologies and, most sadly, in some cases they reacted with continued efforts to cover-up the crimes that had been committed.

Not in Boston. In Boston, ever since Cardinal O’Malley arrived, the response has been forthright. O’Malley has met with scores of victims.

C Walter Mattingly
6 years 5 months ago
Despite spirited exchanges in this blog from varying points of view, this is only the second time I have encountered a judgmental, ad hominem response in my several years here. I presented you what I considered to be a conundrum, that your point of view may run contrary to the words of Christ as recorded in the New Testament (not to mention the OT and Paul, etc) and asked for your comment upon that; you responded by associating me with the pharisees, purposely missing the point, etc, (perhaps because you don't like the implications of the question), creating a straw man image of the questioner as one who misses, in your judgmental omniscience probably culpably, the point. Yup, a genuine pharisee here for sure.
When I asked earlier about a variation of this same question, how do you effect a change society is sympathetic toward that goes contrary to the word of Jesus in the NT on this subject of same-sex marriage, Norman Costa replied, #74: "I do not think there is any disagreement as to what the author and editors of the Hebrew bible and Christian testament had in mind. So I do not think we have to argue what Matthew, or the prophets, or Paul and others had in mind (regarding a definition of marriage as between a man and a woman.)" No pussyfooting, dodging the issue, no ad hominem attack on a bogus evil questioner, etc,, just a just and truthful response: marriage in both the OT and Jesus' words is between a man and a woman, no ifs, ands, or buts.
Isn't it nice to have an honest response to a question? One born out of love for the other? Born out of candor, honesty, and caritas. This despite the fact that he quite likely is much more liberal on the question than I am. Then he goes on to develop a reasoned and coherent response of the changed societal viewpoint on the nature of homosexuality as providing a basis for change despite that. An argument that is a hard sell from my viewpoint, but one to be respects. In short, it's great to dialogue and disagree with a thougtful, informed person of good will.
Not to say he isn't a hothead on occasion.
Yet I have to credit you as finally answering the question, sort of. By quoting a portion of Jesus' saying on marriage, from Mark 10, and summing up that "as sufficient" for you, you are effectively ruling out what he said in Matthew 19, and yes, you are editing the NT words of Jesus to suit your purposes; you are eliminating them. Pulling teeth maybe, but there it is. And as you mention, Jesus is responding to the Pharisees, even chastizing them for even daring to call into question the nature of marriage being an indissoluble bond between a man and a woman. 
A bit less twisting, a bit more genuine candor, and a bit more caritas toward others who might not agree with you or ask honest questions would go a long way, Jim.

James Jenkins
6 years 5 months ago
@ Walter Mattingly:

Since you acknowledge that I answered your question(s), albeit grudgingly and not in the manner that you'd prefer, I was wondering, in an effort to stick to the point of the blog, if you could share with us what your reaction/response was to the conclusion of the America editorial at the font of this blog stream:

[C]hurch leaders must stop playing defense around the issue of abuse. Rebuilding relationships of trust between the hierarchy and the faithful will take more than promises from church leaders that they are trustworthy. They must prove it. This will require resignations in cases of mendacity and negligence. In more cases, it will demand that bishops be the bearers of their own bad news about abuse. This will be an act of humility, even a painful one. But there is no alternative.

It's just that I fail to see the connections you're trying to make between divorce, marriage, the '10 Commandments' and the hierarchs' abetment and complicity in the sexual exploitation of children by priests over decades.  

All in the spirit of a bit more caritas... 

P.S. Walter, you should review the research literature and record on the incidence of child sexual abuse in all sectors of the population before you make embarrassing exaggerations on risk factors for children in public vs. parochial schools.
Michael Barberi
6 years 5 months ago

I have not been driven to the point where I must choose between the Catholic Church and another Christian Church for solidarity and community worship. For now, I choose to work for reform as best that I can, understanding that reform is likely not in my lifetime. It is easy to walk away from the Catholic Church, as millions have, but much more difficult to stay and work for reform. I have not confused Christ with the Church. I believe his Body is the larger Christian community. Having said that, it would seem the solution is an easy one. However, this is my conundrum that I will have to solve myself.
C Walter Mattingly
6 years 5 months ago
Since you ask, I will repeat my direct answer from an earlier post, #36, yet again. After a response to a mention of the abortion issue introduced by a previous blogger, I commented, "None of which takes away from the succinct summation of the problem presented in the editorial. Why hasn't there been more progress in reforming the Church's response to this disaster? It's as if the Church must go through the 12 Step program, and has taken a generation to get to Step 6. As Norman Costa states, it must be stated again and again until this changes. The enormity of the problem extends even to our own editors at America, who while addressing the failures of the bishops and papal hieracrchy did not mention the Jesuit scandals until immediately befor the scandals and the hundred-million-dollar settlements were about to be broken in the media." 
In sum, I guess I introduced a harsh metaphor into the equation. But I believe in a sense there is something akin to an unhealthy addiction involved here. And I also wanted to communicate that in the editorial, in my opinion a timely and on target one, there exists, to some degree at least, a dash of the pot calling the kettle black. 
As is common on this blog when some or another fault, particularly the abuse scandal issue, comes up, the topic soon expands to include the various current issues of concern and the question of how/if the changes are or should take place, the nature of the church hierarchy and its relation to the laity, etc. That process was well established in this thread fairly early on.
As regards your P.S., my "embarrassing exaggerations" of public school sexual abuse you refer to are not mine but the conclusions of the 2005 study by the US Department of Education. You can refer to my comment, #47 in this long thread of commentary, for my summary of the study and its salient points, overseen by an experienced authority on the issue, Dr Charol Shakeshaft. Google Shakeshaft andyou can review for yourself. Most, such as yourself, try to sweep this reality under the rug. Costa thinks it erroneous and can demonstrate it to be so. I doubt he can, as it has not yet been refuted by those most sensitive to its charges.  
The only ones who should be morally embarrassed, in my opinion, are those doing the sweeping rather than acknowledging the huge, horrendous problem  the Dept of Education report identified. As in the church, however, slow progress is gradually being made in the public schools, at least.

Norman Costa
6 years 4 months ago

Walter and I will have to agree to disagree on the incidence of sexual abuse of minors, for the time being. I see I will have to get to the matter sooner rather than later, and I will. I just cannot do it right now.

Until I spend more time on it, I will make the following observation. The AAUW study is notable for a couple of reasons. 1. It is among only a few studies that attempted to say something about incidence of abuse. 2. The AAUW study presents results that are so far apart from any other study, and what experts in practice can accept as generalizable, that it is highly suspect. This does not mean it is fraudulent. But, it invites a closer scrutiny to sampling, bias, and many other methodological matters.

All things being equal, I agree with Shankshaft that the best of the lot was the UK study that showed something like 9 percent of students during a 12 history of elementary and high school experience will experience abuse. There is still the problem of making apples to apples comparisons, if for no other reason that definitions are not consistent from one study to another.

Finally, keep in mind that Shankshaft is not doing any primary research. She did a review of available research in the literature. The pickings were very slim, methodologically poor (for some of them,) and trying to generalize from these limited studies calls for a great deal of reservation and hedging.
James Jenkins
6 years 4 months ago
@Norman Costa:

I tried to "Google" your name to see if I could find an email address to write you, to no avail since at the time I was rushed and couldn't find anything appropriate.

I want to encourage you in your research interests around the topics of the incidence of abuse, really across demographic and social categories.  

Also, the identification of and preference for certain potential victims by priests needs to be thoroughly researched beyond just claims of "opportunity victimization" as reported in the John Jay study.

Ever since I was introduced to the ambient issues of Catholic priest abuse of children when I was chair of the SF archdiocesan review board, my main interest has been the estimate projections for the frequency of victims per perpetrator because of its implications for the necessity of searching for survivors who have yet to come forward with their stories of abuse, and who remain essentially untreated for their assaults.

Co-morbidity factors for survivors alone demand such a line of inquiry.  The research literature in this area is really paltry.

I tried to encourage now Cardinal Levada to pursue this kind of scientific inquiry because of the church's moral responsibility to "make amends" with survivors. Needless to say, Levada was not very receptive - in fact, he was dismissive and derisive. Instead, we got the John Jay study that is replete with problems.

Thank you for your research considerations.

P.S. I'm unfamiliar with Shankshaft.  Do you have citations for her studies?
Michael Barberi
6 years 4 months ago
Below is a URL you can access for an excellent analysis of the AAUW study. The author of this article concluded that:  

"Educator Sexual Misconduct," by Carol Shakeshaft of Hofstra University, is seriously flawed, both in its methodology and in the way researchers defined sexual abuse and misconduct.

The URL is www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,126385,00.html.

Poor methodology and the misuse of statistics is not new. For example, traditionalist theologians often selectively choose statistics and exaggerate and mislead readers in order to justify unpopular and highly controversial teachings. As I mentioned briefly in a past posting on this blog, traditionalist theologians assert that Pius VI was prophetic when he issued Humanae Vitae. They assert that because the increase in the use of contraception correlates with the increase in other observed phenomena, contracepton must be a cause, or major influencer, of such phenomena, such as: the increase in spousal abuse, abortion, cohabitation, unwed mothers, premarital sex, etc.

Clearly, the Vatican cannot police every study or opinion, regardless if such facts are wrong and highly misleading. However, silence is often viewed as support for such views, especially when they benefit a religious-political agenda. 


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