Friday, August 20, 2021

All are made drunk from the cup of the whore of Babylon...

Vision of S. Hildegard
Giovanni Casparro

The miseries of the Church.

As a sort of follow up to my post yesterday, and as a kind of contradiction to those online opposed to exposing the latest priest and bishop using social media to hook up for sex, I want to share a 2010 Christmas address by Pope Benedict to the Roman Curia. In his extensive greeting, the Holy Father laments that amongst the great tribulations of that year, the worst seems to have been how the priestly sexual abuse scandal went global - right in the middle of the Year of the Priest.  (I wonder what he thinks today?)

The torn garment..

The Holy Father likens the Church to a vision of St. Hildegarde, wherein she saw the garment of the Church torn and her feet all muddied by the crimes of her ministers. Pope Benedict asks where these sins came from, and what must be done to avoid them. He cites the decadence of culture saying:
We must be determined to make every possible effort in priestly formation to prevent anything of the kind from happening again.

"In the vision of Saint Hildegard, the face of the Church is stained with dust, and this is how we have seen it. Her garment is torn – by the sins of priests. The way she saw and expressed it is the way we have experienced it this year. We must accept this humiliation as an exhortation to truth and a call to renewal. Only the truth saves. We must ask ourselves what we can do to repair as much as possible the injustice that has occurred. We must ask ourselves what was wrong in our proclamation, in our whole way of living the Christian life, to allow such a thing to happen. We must discover a new resoluteness in faith and in doing good. We must be capable of doing penance. We must be determined to make every possible effort in priestly formation to prevent anything of the kind from happening again.
... trades with bodies and souls and treats them as commodities...
We are well aware of the particular gravity of this sin committed by priests and of our corresponding responsibility. But neither can we remain silent regarding the context of these times in which these events have come to light. There is a market in child pornography that seems in some way to be considered more and more normal by society. The psychological destruction of children, in which human persons are reduced to articles of merchandise, is a terrifying sign of the times. From Bishops of developing countries I hear again and again how sexual tourism threatens an entire generation and damages its freedom and its human dignity.
The Book of Revelation includes among the great sins of Babylon – the symbol of the world’s great irreligious cities – the fact that it trades with bodies and souls and treats them as commodities (cf. Rev 18:13). In this context, the problem of drugs also rears its head, and with increasing force extends its octopus tentacles around the entire world – an eloquent expression of the tyranny of mammon which perverts mankind. No pleasure is ever enough, and the excess of deceiving intoxication becomes a violence that tears whole regions apart – and all this in the name of a fatal misunderstanding of freedom which actually undermines man’s freedom and ultimately destroys it.
Morality is replaced by a calculus of consequences, and in the process it ceases to exist.
In order to resist these forces, we must turn our attention to their ideological foundations. In the 1970s, paedophilia was theorized as something fully in conformity with man and even with children. This, however, was part of a fundamental perversion of the concept of ethos. It was maintained – even within the realm of Catholic theology – that there is no such thing as evil in itself or good in itself. There is only a "better than" and a "worse than". Nothing is good or bad in itself. Everything depends on the circumstances and on the end in view. Anything can be good or also bad, depending upon purposes and circumstances. Morality is replaced by a calculus of consequences, and in the process it ceases to exist. The effects of such theories are evident today." - Source

What is happening cannot be dismissed as homophobia just because vocal elements on Catholic social media are engaged in creating a sort of moral panic over every revelation of sexual activity or misconduct.  It is much deeper than all of that.  I've been so perplexed by how otherwise holy men and religious personages could engage in habitual sinful behavior, as well as somehow justify the behavior, while living what we've all considered an exemplary life.  I'm thinking of Jean Vanier, his spiritual directors, and even McCarrick and others.  What kind of spirituality admits sexual affections within a celibate, chaste life?  

It may be too simple, yet it seems to me, a key to understanding it may be Pope Benedict's conclusion: "Anything can be good or also bad, depending upon purposes and circumstances. Morality is replaced by a calculus of consequences, and in the process it ceases to exist. The effects of such theories are evident today." 

Thursday, August 19, 2021

When they try to tell you to shut up...

They may have something to hide.  (Updated 7 September 2021)

Pope Francis famously said the very rigid have something to hide - I agree.  It's not just trads however.  In the news this week, Bishop Tomé Ferreira da Silva, 60, of São José do Rio Preto, Brazil, resigned over explicit images of him masturbating in a hook-up conversation with another man on his cell phone.  I wondered if he knows Monsignor Jeff Burrill - or is this just SOP among gay clergy?  Yet that's not what this post is about.

When they say you're being uncharitable...

They probably have something to hide.  That happened with a priest I knew.  (Actually, it happened with many priests who read my blog when I used to write critically on the subject of gay priests.  Who are not gay BTW, but same sex attracted.)  Sometimes my posts would be facetious and I'd get called out, other times I would be reminded of my own past, asked how I'd like it if it was exposed?  It had been, so been there, done that.  It wasn't until I began pointing out a few indiscreet conversations made by my priest friend, that I began to get these rebukes to shut-up, as well as corrections in the form of reprimands, accusations of being holier than thou, and eventually the silent treatment until finally complete 'unfriending' in the social media sense.  

Guilt ensues.

Naturally, I felt I was the bad guy - his manipulative, shaming technique worked.  I shut up, stayed away and second guessed every gut feeling I had.  I felt I was going against a holy priest, a mystic, a founder - one whose vocation it was to establish a safe place for priests.  He wanted to help priests who suffered with same sex issues and associated behaviors.  It was a magnanimous undertaking and well funded, backed by bishops, who was I to question?  It wasn't my place to do that.  Case closed.

A monk who alleges abuse came along.

I don't know the monk.  His name is Fr. Benedict Andersen.  His story reminded me of my own experiences.  I never lived with the priest I was referring to above, but Fr. Andersen's story is somewhat relatable, as well as convincing, based upon my limited impressions. Yet one must remember, Andersen's story is one sided - and although he made it a matter of public discourse, the findings of the visitation are not public.  I'll link to the story immediately below, and then editorialize a bit afterwards.

"Almost nothing about Fr. Benedict Andersen’s experience of the Catholic Church has been typical.
He was baptized a Catholic, but raised in evangelical communities, and spent most of his twenties in the Orthodox Church. He became a priest in 2014, but was never formally a Catholic seminarian, and was not yet a solemnly professed member of his monastery when he was ordained.
And all of his experience as an adult Catholic coincides with his time at Silverstream Priory, a well-known Benedictine monastery, of which Andersen was a founding member.
Unusually, he took the habit at the same time he returned to the full communion of the Catholic Church — he “went to confession, made a profession of faith, and a couple minutes later I was clothed in the habit,” he recalls.
Some of that is unusual enough to raise the eyebrows of canon lawyers. “As I’m learning, a lot of things were not done in the right Silverstream Priory,” Andersen told The Pillar.
Andersen now says he is in another unusual situation: he is out of ministry and without priestly faculties, living thousands of miles from his monastery, and accused of a canonical crime he insists he didn’t commit.
The priest claims that since he spoke out about years of troubling behavior within his monastic community, he has been ostracized, accused of violating the confessional seal, and been left without a ministry, a home, or a way forward.
That’s another unusual thing about Andersen: While his monastery, Silverstream Priory, is frequently praised by Catholics as an example of thriving Benedictine religious life, the priest says it was for him also a place of harassment and manipulation, which he reported to his bishop in April 2020, and to official visitors soon after that." - The Pillar 


What do I think?

First, there is so much wrong with this story. When M. Teresa sought permission to found the Missionaries of Charity, her bishop grilled her on the responsibility she would have for the souls of those who would sign on.  She was responsible for their welfare, for their vocations - for their souls.  Thus I cannot understand Fr. Mark.  The editors of The Pillar article seem to express a level of skepticism over the formation and what I at first thought was a rush to ordain Fr. Benedict.  Although I understand his seminary formation was in an Orthodox setting, I wondered about his formation as a Roman Catholic seminarian, especially regarding moral theology.  That said, the Bishop of the place accepted him and validly ordained him.

Fr. Kirby was a Cistercian monk at the Abbey of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme in Rome, shortly before the community was suppressed.   Before that, he was living in a Cistercian monastery in Canada.  I first met him at the Sisters of Jesus Crucified when he and another fellow were seeking to establish their own Benedictine community in the mid-1970's.  He was not ordained as yet, but later, he and his friend were ordained.   The story by Fr. Benedict led me to speculate on several points, which I have since removed simply because the subject objected to what I had written.  I apologize.

"A person's reputation may be injured in various ways, notably by detraction and calumny or slander. Detraction is the unjust violation of the good reputation of another by revealing something true about him." - Fr. Hardon

The Pillar article speaks for itself and encapsulates nearly every detail of Benedict's complaint against Fr. Kirby and his foundation.  He expressed hope that Kirby could be replaced.  

"Andersen said he hoped Kirby would be removed or resign, and that the Silverstream Benedictines would be encouraged or directed to join a federation of Benedictine monasteries, for the sake of some stability as they grew, and to provide temporary leadership for the young, small, and — in his view — dysfunctional Silverstream Priory." - The Pillar

That's rather devastating, coming from a co-founder of a community. It's one thing to reveal all of this to the Visitors and the diocesan authorities, it's quite another to do so publicly.  This is far more damaging than anything I could ever have said, even my writing about it here.   

I think, seeing the visitation appears to be open ended, enough damage may have been done that the community will be suppressed.  The irony in not lost on me, since the former Prior set out to found a refuge for priests suffering crisis - at least that was his intent in Tulsa.  Like I said, there is so much wrong with this story.

Is the truth is coming out?

In my experience, I sometimes thought some religious people leave established monasteries to make their own foundations, just because they want to do their own thing, adding in all the trappings of tradition and sacred atmosphere they prefer, to make them feel more religious.  Surrounding themselves with like minded people, if they can recruit them and form them into their own image of what they believe monastic life should be.  

As Archbishop José Rodríguez Carballo, secretary of the Vatican Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, is quoted as saying about the investigation of new religious foundations: “Therefore, much more attention should be paid when discerning the need, benefit and usefulness for the church when approving associations whose canonical recognition is underway.” - Source

Of course, this is all just my opinion, based upon my own experience and observation.  I may be wrong.