Friday, July 07, 2006

The man who knew too much.

Fr. Ryan Erickson - Undocumented and unauthorized reflections.

Today someone gave me a file on this priest containing his autopsy report and evidence, as well as testimony, against him regarding the Hudson, Wisconsin murders of two funeral home workers. Evidently the documents are now open for the public record. The person passing on the file is a staunch defender of the innocence of Fr. Erickson. Nevertheless, I forgot the documents at my office. I had skimmed them briefly with a fair amount of distaste. It's way too much information for anyone, hence it's providential that I forgot them. The case is closed nevertheless, a court has ruled that Fr. Erickson most likely committed the murders, although his reputation had already been tarnished by allegations of homosexual conduct with under age males. Supposedly the motive of the murders was to silence the Funeral Home Director who apparently was going to expose the priest. Almost everyone agrees he had sexual problems; his supporters, admittedly a minority of people, believe he was not capable of the murders. Those who believe the court rulings are in the majority.

I just don't know. My friend who shared the files with me received them from someone else. My friend was once again, visibly shaken. He admired this priest. He was terribly upset when the news of his suicide first broke. Another person I know left the Church as a result of the scandal. Which reminded me of John of the Cross' maxim, (free-base quote) "Take no man for an example, revere him not, for the devil will show you his faults." Or something to that effect.

Erickson was a good priest. Perhaps a bit doctrinaire, dogmatic and therefore rigid in his approach however. He loved the cassock, wore it everywhere, and in the winter, he wore a cloak with golden frogs clasping it. He loved traditional trappings. He was orthodox in his spirituality, perhaps somewhat naive, and he was faithful to the Roman rite - he was a Novus Ordo priest to be sure, but very traditional. He was an impassioned homilist as well as moralist. I suspect he would have loved Savanarola. That is not necessarly a bad thing, although it alienated many. He came on pretty strong. When I first met him, in the cape, I thought he was kind of a fruitcake. After I got to know him, I still held that opinion, although I could see he was sincere and wanted to be a holy priest. He was very likeable, but there was something there that told me he craved affirmation, respect, and deep down, he just wanted to be liked. Human respect was very important to him. Is that motive enough to murder someone who may expose you? Maybe.

His past sins, now public - homosexual encounters, pornography, etc. - are ever so forgiveable. Except of course in a Church, a culture, that insists upon calling it pedophilia. I was 13 once - it's not pedophilia. The adolescent is not to blame, but the perpetrator, stuck in 'arrested emotional/sexual development' is. It's homosexual behavior, not pedophilia, as everyone knows. Yes it's sexual abuse, but it's not pedophilia, in fact, pedophile priests are pretty rare per capita - homosexual priests are a small percentage as well, nevertheless the abuse is rooted in homosexuality, not pedophilia. (Get it straight NCCB!)

Anyway. What was Fr. Erickson's problem? I'm just guessing here, but there has to be a sense of loneliess and isolation in the mix. In a sense his 'sacredotal style' was strange to his peers. I felt he was effeminate, other's disagree. (In the United States it's just wierd to go around town in a cassock and cape - well, not always - but in his case it was odd.) Nevertheless he had mannerisms and vocal inflections that others would consider mid-west country dialect, but I heard it as effeminate. He was 'mad' at all the apostates and liturgical abusers. He therefore was very 'kosher' as regards ritual. His spirituality seemed to be somewhat "mystic" based, with Catherine Emmerich thrown in. There was something, somehow, superficial about him, although I can never question his sincerity. The evidence regarding his life, sadly, shows up many flaws, many struggles. Was there no one he could have talked to? To whom he could have bared his soul? His sins were not unforgiveable, and if he had someone to talk to, he would have been able, perhaps, to work through everything. Although facing a potential prison sentence as a sex offender is a rather hopeless prospect.

Human respect. Personal honor. Idiosyncratic ideas of holiness and priesthood. Isolation and loneliness. Superficial piety. So many things must have contributed to his suicide. What a tortured soul! In his last will and testament he asked for prayers and Masses to be said for his soul. I see in the bulletin at St. Agnes that his wishes are being kept, many Masses are being offered for him.

He was a 'good boy' - that's what he wanted people to think of him - but that is just my opinion. He must have been a good priest as well, as those whom he ministered to can tell you. I didn't really like him however, he reminded me of a fellow I was in the monastery with - who had a 'shadow life' as well, so I was prejudiced, sue me! This guy took his habit with him when he left, it was all about externals for him - he subsequently left the Church. (Alas! I digress!)

Regardless, let's pray for Fr. Erickson for the rest of our lives - God's mercy is so inscrutable.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Rage and murder, it's just a kiss away...

The Immaculate Conception, patroness of the United States.

"I heard the news again today..."(Beatles, "A Day in the life of") - The 36th murder in Minneapolis this year. Murderapolis all over again?

I guess it's happening all over the country, crime, rape and murder on the increase. 'They' say it's because so much money and manpower is being diverted by Homeland Security. Really? Remember the Stones' song, "Gimme Shelter"? I loved that song, Merry Clayton did the background vocals and cut her version of it on an album of her own. "Rage and murder, it's just a kiss away, just a kiss away!" That song and "Sympathy for the Devil" were two of their best songs ever. Although at the time - seriously - I tuned out the lyrics of "Sympathy -" but after their disasterous concert at Altamont I listened attentively and it kind of freaked me out.

Lately, I've observed a lot of "attitude", especially in really young black kids. Many people I've spoken to have said the same thing. Many have experienced looks and slurs on the street. Many have said that kids will walk out into the street so that oncoming traffic has to stop while they saunter across, arrogantly starring you down. Why all of this rage? It isn't just black kids. I was at the doctor's one day in Uptown and this group of 'punks' were walking towards me and I sort of stepped aside to let them pass, acknowledged them with a smile - I liked the colors of their hair - and in the process one of them shouldered me off to the side. I had been praying my rosary in my pocket (a habit I copied from the Missionaries of Charity) and therefore I wasn't prepared for what happened until after they passed. I wasn't angry, I just felt bad for the kids that they acted like that. The same with a little black girl who really gave me attitude when she crossed the street while I stopped for her and smiled, allowing her to cross - even though it was in the middle of the block and she should have waited.

So what's the deal? Could it be that in a culture where there is no respect for life, and that legalizes abortion and wants to legalize euthanasia, that respect for others has somehow diminished? That in a culture which liberally contracepts while marriage is distained, yet women continue to bear children out of wedlock and into poverty and drug infested 'homes' - is there something morally wrong? Could the rise of murders and other crimes, as well as indecency, have anything to do with a morality in the later stages of decay, if not the total lack of it (morality), in our country? Whatever! That has all been said before though hasn't it? "We are good people. We are really good people. We really are!" So most people insist. Then why are we chastised so?

"One Nation under - who?"

Anyway - St. John of the Cross in "The Ascent of Mt. Carmel" says some things about chastisement. First he speaks that God is neither pleased to send chastisements, nor is he pleased to be forced to warn of these chastisements through supernatural means. We may deduce from natural reason that certain sins warrant relative chastisements. He writes:

"Providence responds most certainly and justly to what the good or bad causes arising from the sons of man demand. One can know naturally that a particular person or city, will reach such a point that God must respond in conformity with the punishment or reward that cause warrants...

"It is like saying: surely such sins must occasion certain punishments from the most just God. 'each one is punished in, or through, that by which he sins.' [Wis. 11:17]"

Rage and murder - it's just a kiss away.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Islam and the Blessed Virgin Mary

Loreto and Islam.

The Translation of the Holy House of Loreto.

I happened upon an interesting note on the web of a Muslim man stating he believed that peace between Islam and Christianity could very well come about through Our Lady. He said Muslims and Christians have devotion to her. Here is the article:

ROME - 3 July 2006
Mary can bring religions together says Muslim writer. An Egyptian Muslim and deputy director of a prominent Italian newspaper has suggested that Mary could be the figure to bring Christians and Muslims together.

Mr Magdi Allam of Il Corriere della Sera has launched an appeal in the pages of the national daily newspaper to Muslims in Italy to visit Marian shrines. The journalist said that he is convinced that the Virgin Mary is a meeting point between Christians and Muslims. "Mary is a figure present in the Koran, which dedicates an entire chapter to her and mentions her some thirty times. In Muslim countries there are Marian shrines that are the object of veneration and pilgrimage by Christian and Muslim faithful," he said. "Therefore, I believe that if this happens in Muslim countries, why can't it happen in a Christian country, especially in this historical phase in which we need to define symbols, values and figures that unite religions, spiritualities and cultures?" he asked.

In Allam's opinion, "the Marian pilgrimage of Loreto - Italy's National Shrine - could represent a moment of meeting and spiritual gathering between Muslims and Catholics, around Mary, a religious figure that is venerated by both religions." -ICS

Interestingly enough, he may be correct. I have always considered Our Lady's apparitions at Fatima to have at least some inferrence to Islam, since the name Fatima was the name of Mohamed's favorite daughter. Bishop Sheen also had said some things in this regard.

Along with the miraculous image of Our Lady of Good Counsel, the Holy House was once in Croatia and miraculously transported by angels to Italy. Many saints and popes have made the pilgrimage to Loreto, Bl. John XXIII went as a pilgrim to ask the Blessed Virgin's intercession for the Second Vatican Council. John Paul II had been there many times as well. It is a scientific marvel - the house, now enclosed in an edicule within the basilica, rests without foundations on the bare ground. (For further reading on the image of OL Good Counsel, see an earlier post on my other blog, Rome-ing Catholics.)

Both The Holy House and the image of Our Lady of Good Counsel were transported by angels away from Muslim invaders. The Sacred Image was carried from their onslaught of the Balkans. The Holy House was transported, first from the Holy Land to Croatia, and what seems now providential, to Italy. Some people dispute these stories as mere legends. I do not. I spent nearly a week at Loreto and never left the Holy House except when they closed the Basilica at night. I had been enraptured by it, literally.

Photo of the Cairo apparition.

Finally, Our Lady appeared above a Coptic Church in Cairo, Egypt in the 1970's. Her apparitions were witnessed by thousands of people while the apparitions were even photographed. Our Lady said nothing however. Muslims and Christians both were witnesses to the Cairo apparitions that the Coptic Church later confirmed as being authentic. Our Lady promised at Fatima that in the end her Immaculate Heart would triumph, that Our Lord had entrusted the peace of the world to Her.

We need to pray our rosary I think.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Devil in the details...

The title doesn't quite tell it.

"C'mon, it's just a fun movie!" That's what I tell people when they act surprised that I actually left the house to see a movie in a theatre and tell me my choice is wierd - for a guy. When I was just a boy I started out retail in fashion and went onto management for a large department store. A friend from all those years back stayed on and got a corporate position as Senior Designer. We sort of 'grew up' in a segment of the fashion business and had to know our stuff. I read Vogue, Women's Wear; I went to the markets, I knew who every designer was and who was wearing them, I also knew who all the top models were - by name. (Do you know who the first real super model was? Suzie Parker, a 1950's cover girl who did a stint in the movies.) Yeah, I knew too much, it was my job!

My friend and I both worked for a vice-president who was not unlike Meryl Streep's character in the film. He was a bitch too. Immensely talented and successful as well. Lucky for us, he liked us and we both learned a lot from him. His name was Andrew Markopolous, now deceased, yet his legacy lives on, with industry awards named after him, and people like my friend and I who will never forget him. Anyway, I digress, it's a fun film however, and it's entertaining for those who may have worked in fashion or retail, or for fashion magazines, or just anyone who follows fashion. It's a multi-billion dollar industry that employs a large segment of the population, so the film should do well. Having said that, I'll get to the point of this post.

Of course the devil doesn't wear Prada, he's a spirit and doesn't wear clothes, I think he just inspires their designs. Since the '6o's ready to wear designers have increasingly looked to the street for inspiration in their designs. Couture has followed suit. It's pretty obvious when most of the top designers feature barely clad models that look like hookers.

A Versace 'dress'.

Get back to the street, the supermarket, the office. The look is tight, and low. Even for men. Remember last year's Dolce and Gabbana's ad for men's jeans? It was hot, as the industry would say. Scandalously low rise jeans. Where'd they get that idea? The streets. Kids;
boyz and girlz wear their stuff so low you can almost see their stuff. It looks really bad on the fat ones. I don't know what they are supposed to wear, but don't dress like that, fat or anorexic. Little Blessed Jacinta of Fatima in 1918 repeated something Our Lady told her, "Many fashions will be introduced that will offend Our Lord very much - do not follow fashion." That was in 1918!

Years ago, early '70's to be exact, Carlo Carretto, a Little Brother of Jesus wrote a simple book titled, "The God Who Comes". It influenced me a great deal in the first stages of my conversion. In a chapter, "You'll all come to the same end unless you repent" where he discusses the need for repentance in our culture so steeped in hedonism - the pursuit of pleasure - not happiness. That was then! This is now! It was back then when you only saw women dressed as prostitutes who really were prostitutes. Or men dressed with revealing jeans that were usually always gay - but now the so-called "metrosexual" has evolved - non-gay men obsessed with fashion. In the chapter Caretto writes: "To begin with, we must go against the ideas of the day, for these are always opposed to the Gospel. We must resist 'the latest fashions and the spirit of the times,' which are almost always influenced by the evil one." That would be the devil.

Dolce and Gabbana ad.

Fashion is a clever manipulative game that makes tons of money for the purveyors. The cosmetic industry alone is a phenomenal money maker. If women really understood the mark up for the product and services they purchase - well, I think they do and it doesn't faze them. Age defying makeup, cosmetic surgeries. Shoes! Women love shoes. At major high-end retailers the mark-up on shoes is around 300%. A jacket from Christian LaCroix in the '90's was $20,000.00 - that was more than a modest car. I do not shop or read the trades any longer but I know for certain couture costs equally as much today. Why do women fall for this? And now men are doing likewise. Makeup for men? Manicures? Hair highlighting? I'd be embarrassed. It's a racket.

Fashion changes year to year, season to season, it takes people's money away, and distracts them from the essentials in life, it encourages people to become more vacuous and superficial, not to mention provocative and sensual - even an occasion of sin for others. The devil may not wear Prada, but he's in the details.