Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Defending Roman Catholic Clergy


While trying to make sense of what is going on.
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Bear with me these days as I try to make sense out of all that is going on in the Church, our country, and Europe.  I'm reading articles and blogs I normally do not patronize - I have to hear what other people are saying - especially people outside this little corner of the blogosphere.  I do not listen to talk radio, Limbaugh, Savage, Beck or anyone else.  In fact I suddenly realized why some blogs come off so caustic - they must listen to that type of stuff on the radio, which they in turn emulate on their blogs.  If that's what does it for them, fine - it's not my thing. 
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Anyway.  Sunday I commented on another blog that if I had become a priest, or had persevered in the monastery, of all the times I would have been tempted leave, now would be the worst - in fact I'm sure I would chuck the habit and just walk out the door.  The upside of such a discouraging reflection is that it forced me to consider the extraordinary ordeal faithful priests and religious must be experiencing in these days, as the Church and consecrated life is so vehemently attacked and ridiculed.  How many are tempted to give up or call it quits?  So I decided I need to pray for them more than ever - priests, religious, bishops, and the Pope.
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That said, I stumbled upon an excellent article by Elizabeth Lev at Politics Daily: In Defense of the Catholic Clergy (Or Do We Want Another Reign of Terror?)  Lev reaches back into history to the days of the French Revolution, a time somewhat analogous to our own when it comes to dredging the past for evidence of clerical immorality.
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A little bit of history repeating.
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After the National Assembly diminished the authority of Louis XVI in 1789, anti-monarchical literature dwindled, but fierce accusations against Catholic clergy for misdeeds past and present increased. Isolated cases of clerical immorality were magnified to make depravity appear endemic to the entire priesthood (ironically, in an age where sexual libertinism was running rampant). The French propagandists labored night and day, dredging the past for old scandals whether decades or even centuries distant.
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In his Reflections on the Revolution in France, published in 1790, Edmund Burke, a Protestant, asked the French, "From the general style of late publications of all sorts, one would be led to believe that your clergy in France were a sort of monsters, a horrible composition of superstition, ignorance, sloth, fraud, avarice and tyranny. But is this true?" 
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What would Edmund Burke make of the headlines of the past few weeks, as stories of a clerical sex abuser in Germany a quarter century ago, made front page headlines and top TV stories in US news? What would he think of the insistent attempts to tie this sex abuser to the Roman pontiff himself through the most tenuous of links?
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In 1790, Burke answered his own question with these words: "It is not with much credulity I listen to any when they speak evil of those whom they are going to plunder. I rather suspect that vices are feigned or exaggerated when profit is looked for in their punishment." As he wrote these words, the French revolutionaries were readying for the mass confiscation of Church lands.
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As the present sales of church property to pay settlements swell the coffers of contingent-fee lawyers and real estate speculators, one has to credit Burke for a profound and historical sense of human nature.
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The salacious reporting on clerical sex abuse ( as if it were limited to only Roman Catholic clergy) has been given a prominence greater than the massacres of Christians happening right now in India and Iraq. Moreover, the term "clerical sex abuse" is often misleadingly equated with "pedophilia" to whip up even more public outrage. It doesn't take the political acumen of an Edmund Burke to wonder why the Catholic Church has been singled out for this treatment.
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While no one denies the wrongdoing and the harm caused by a small minority of priests, their misconduct has been used to undermine the reputations of the overwhelming majority of clergy who live holy quiet lives in their parishes, tending to their flocks. These good men have been smeared with the same poisonous ink. - Elizabeth Lev - Read the entire article.
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Makes sense to me.
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Art: Carmelite Martyrs of Compiegne

4 comments:

  1. Spot on.

    In these days who would wish to be a Catholic priest or religious ?

    A particularly vicious example of the type of treatment was noted in a comment on the blog of Damian Thompson in The Daily Telegraph and which is reported in The Scottish Sun (http://www.thesun.co.uk/scotsol/homepage/news/2894230/TV-star-allegedly-brands-innocent-priest-a-paedophile.html)

    Most priests are one to a parish. So unless they have family nearby they are probably quite isolated.

    If morale among priests and religious was low before, then what is morale like now ?

    We do demand a lot of them: celibacy being only one aspect of what is expected.

    As well as prayers, what about exhibiting some form of support - even stopping by and chatting after Mass to say how much you appreciate what they are doing and to indicate that they still have our full confidence.

    We are quick to criticise them. How eager are we to support and praise them ?

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  2. Terry: I was privileged to see "Dialogue of the Carmelites" at the Met in NY several years ago...it brought me to tears...I love the Compniegne Carmelites...Gertrude von le Forte's "Song at the Scaffold"...
    Bernanos' script for the opera.
    How real this is today; it's not hard being a religious or priest if you love Jesus and are following His Call...the hatred of the world is something our Lord promised ALL of His disciples...I pray for and compassionate all of you laity who have to "stand tall" in the midst of a "depraved generation", when your families, co-workers, friends and associates ridicule you, defame you, hate you for loving Jesus and following His Way. YOU are the real martyrs...priests and religious, although the way is rough at times, are supposed to be beacons of strength for you all; how much we have failed you; how we need to make reparation and convert.
    Please accept my sincere apologies for all the religious and priests who have failed to be a sign of God's Kingdom, of His Love, of His power and strength. Please love the Church, even if we fail you.
    Jesus is the Lord!

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  3. Re: the Carmelite Martyrs of Compiegne; have you read the book "To Quell the Terror" by William Bush? It is non-fiction; the story of their lives. Very interesting and inspiring.

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  4. The child abuse, sex scandel has now enveloped the Universal Church but what could have propelled it this far except for the outside forces of progressive feminism? Undoing the mystery of the faith, exposing it layer by layer, remains an ongoing effort from the secular left. Casting doubt upon the jurisprudence and discipline within the clergy as too soft or ineffectual and demanding intervention from secular courts is practically a chess master's move. Is it not the secular courts who have officiated the millions of deaths of the unborn? Will they now be given sway to officiate the demise of the Church itself?
    Many say that this sin is harbored willfully by the Church itself and the Church should suffer for this which it has quite bitterly. Yet would you thrust another spear into the Crucified Christ to satisfy your own vengence against the misconduct of certain wayward servents? Those who are apostate or simply hate the Church certainly will.

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