Sed Contra

 

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Wednesday, July 31, 2002

Away from keys
 
From August 1 to 4 I will be travelling and away from my home keys. I will blog from the road if I see anything of interest and am able to get to a terminal. Cheers.

David
An honest post
 
From the National Review's blog, The Corner:A GAY READER WRITES: [Rod Dreher] In response to my link to Mike Signorile's column earlier today: "Though it pains me to admit it (after all, criticizing mainstream gay ideology makes me a bad homosexual), there is a great amount of disingenuousness within the gay community regarding [AIDS and how one gets it]. Despite the devastation wrought within the community by the HIV virus, many gay men are at pains to maintain a delicate denial of the facts, the risks, and the simple truths about infection, how to combat it, or merely how to prevent it. ... Try telling a group of twentysomething and thirtysomething year old gay men that they oughtn't to sleep around with whomever they want, wherever they want. It doesn't go over well. If the powers that be in the gay movement ever pushed for monogamy or castigated gay men for rampant promiscuity, they would lose their standing. That alone is excuse enough for many gay 'leaders' to avoid the subject altogether."

Yes. And with all due respect to all, and I mean that, this writer honestly puts his pen (or computer) onto the reality that being actively sexual with the same sex is a big part of self-identifying as gay, at least for the vast majority of folks.

I will never forget, and I think I still have the book around here someplace, self-identified gay activist Eric Rofes writing in Reviving the Tribe about what an important step of gay identity it was (and I suspect is still) to stand in line for a shot of antibiotic to cure whatever bugs venereal you might have picked up tricking around. (Though I guess today's reality that a good number of the bugs out there are antibiotic resistant, not to mention the fact being infected with one might be a flag for possible HIV infection, could dampen some of the exuberant flirting in line that Eric reported.)


Tuesday, July 30, 2002

The other shoe dropping and a self-identified lesbian takes Father Liuzzi's place
 
The Washington Blade rather matter of factly this week identified retired bishop Reginald Cawcutt as "gay." Cawcutt had been linked to the so-called Saint Sebastian's angels website, a site on which self-identified "gay priests" distributed pictures of naked men and adolescents and expressed hope for the deaths of the Holy Father and other Vatican officials.

Gay South African bishop resigns over ties to Web site

CAPE TOWN, South Africa -- Pope John Paul II has accepted the resignation of Monsignor Reginald Cawcutt, 63, a gay auxiliary bishop in Cape Town implicated in a gay Web site scandal, the South African Press Association reported. The Vatican announcement July 17 gave no details of the case involving Cawcutt, the highest-ranking cleric linked to the site. Cawcutt had done much to stimulate discussion within the wider religious community regarding homosexuality, the Lesbian & Gay Equality Project said in response to Cawcutt's resignation. In an article in South Africa's Cape Argus newspaper in June, Cawcutt said he was involved with the site as a result of his ministry to gays and AIDS victims and that he consistently promoted celibacy in the group. "I know that I have made mistakes," Cawcutt said in an official statement prepared for the archdiocese of Cape Town. "I know that I have offended and angered some and for that I humbly apologize and beg your forgiveness and understanding."


In another item the paper reported that Frances Ruth, a former administrative assistant with the Ministry of Lesbian & Gay Catholics in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

"As a Catholic who happens to be lesbian, this ministry is very dear to me, and it is my goal to keep it running full throttle," Ruth wrote in an e-mail announcing her new job. Ruth, 54, told the Los Angeles Times that the ministry is especially important in view of the sexual abuse scandal that has swept through the American church. "In light of the scandal, I see this ministry as one of education, education, education," Ruth said.

We can hope that education would include the notions of discipleship to Christ, the meaning and sacredness of human sexual expression and the teaching of the Church on chastity. Unlikely, I know, but the Spirit goes where He wills and anything is possible with God.

The piece further reported that Father Peter Liuzzi, former controversial head of the office, had publicly self-identified as a "celibate gay priest" and that his book, With Listening Hearts which the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is currently reviewing.



Monday, July 29, 2002

What's good, #1
 
Tired of tilting against the latest dragon of the day? Wish you could just drop the theoretical and get down to the practical, hands on, making things better in this fricking world? Check out Helping Others for some suggestions of how you might start....
Excellent exposition on what love is and 'luv' is not....
 
Check out Kairos here for the rest....


This kind of love can be done even when not felt. When I provide for my wife’s material comfort (at least to a point) I am loving her in this sense. When she walks away from a fight I am trying to pick, she is loving me. When one of us is sick, and the other picks up the slack around the house with the chores, that is love. When I am tired and due for an early meeting, but stay up to let her vent about the problem at work, that is love as an act of will. Every time she bites back an acid reply to a stupid remark, whenever one of us would rather be doing something else but instead stick it out, these are love as acts of will. There is nothing romantic about any of them.


Prozac work no better than a placebo?
 
Tim Kelly, a former Virginia mental health commissioner write in today's Washington Post.

The study, performed by Seattle psychiatrist Arif Khan, analyzed 96 Food and Drug Administration clinical trials testing the effectiveness of antidepressants such as Prozac, Zoloft and Paxil. The result? In most of these trials placebos performed as well or better than antidepressants. This startling finding should lead to rigorous debate and follow-up research.

Instead it is being dismissed. In an opinion piece written in response to Khan's study, Jay Dixit, a New York City writer, declared that there is nothing to be concerned about -- that the "placebo effect" is becoming more powerful because of Madison Avenue marketing of antidepressants and the public's growing faith in such medications. So if in clinical trials sugar pills and antidepressants turn out to be equally effective, so be it: Long live placebos and long live Prozac.


Read the entire essay here.


Going Forward
 
A correspondent on the Courage Online list wrote to express frustration and confusion in the current Situation and I thought some other folks might find my response to him useful as I hope he might have found it useful.

J--, I agree that the current situation has a strong personal and emotional component and that is part of the reason I have been really trying to keep the conversation about it on here at the level of the personal. We all could rail at different aspects of it for a long time and still not confront what growing through it will mean for each of us.

This is my thinking about this so far for myself. I don't prescribe it for anyone else. I throw it out there for other folks to take from it
the parts, if any, that they might find useful.

The first thing I have tried to do in this mess has been to keep clear in my own mind, as the Serenity Prayer recognizes, that there are things in my life that I cannot change. Even if I were to take the approach of joining one of the groups which is trying to organize to seek change, I have to live with the reality that nothing I am going to do, today, is going to make a bishop or priest repent or heal a victim or a family member of a victim.

Second, my own responsibilities continue. My responsibility to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in my own formation, my responsibility to pray for, and assist in, the formation of my little Goddaughter. My responsibility to my brothers and sisters in Christ on this very list.
All that still goes forward, scandal or not.

Third, I need to keep this scandal in perspective, both historical and actual. Historically, things have been worse in the Church. We have had times when the majority of sees were held by heretics, when there have been two popes at once, when it seemed that temporal politics and concerns would overwhelm everything - and yet it did not.

I also have to remember that is is a failure of individual holiness, and will, and faith, and sanctity. As such it is not new and not particularly alarming, shameful yes, but not alarming. The deeper crisis, I believe, rests in how poorly catechized so many Catholics about the Faith. When individuals fail their faith and their brothers and sisters in the faith, if they know the way home they can find their
way home and come back to Christ. But if, as so many Catholics appear to, someone does not know even the basics of the faith how do they come home? From where do they draw their map?

Now, I am not trying to minimize the impact of the current crisis. What has been done by ministers of this Church, Christ's body, has been nothing short of heinous. But I am trying to point out that the deeper crisis in catechism deserves at least as much consideration - and in this deeper crisis of the Church I can do something today to help alleviate
it. I can at the very least seek to educate myself, if not explain an aspect of the faith to someone else.

Yes, it is discouraging to hear and see men called to be Christ led off in handcuffs because of the ways they have abused among the most vulnerable and innocent in their care. But, Courageous, I cannot live in outrage. I cannot live railing against these men and their failures. I have to keep going, to keep remembering who I am. In a spiritual sense the task in front of me is as serious and vital as the task of the individual firefighters pulling up to the World Trade Towers on September 11. The building is burning, folks. People are going to die and are dying already. Our role, our call in Christ, is through our prayers and through our example and through our encouragement and, yes, for some of us, through bringing them the sacraments themselves to
see to it that our brothers and sisters, whom Christ died for as much as He died for us, have at least a better chance of seeing Him face to face.

So, as discouraging as it all is. I cannot let it tie me down in anger or rage or sorrow. There is not enough time. The building is burning. Some people are even jumping. I have got a lot of work to do. I think we all do.




Sunday, July 28, 2002

Will to Love
 
The Militia of the Immaculata, the organization founded by St. Maximilian Kolbe, has published some of the Saint's previously published words anew, in a small book called Will to Love. I started reading Will to Love recently and was delighted to see the friars included Bishop Fulton Sheen's introduction to the previous volume in with this one. Something in particular that Bishop Sheen wrote got my attention.

For many decades past, emphasis was put on individual sanctification but with little stress on social justice. How many confessors in the last hundred years ever heard a penitent confess, 'I am not paying a living wage to those who work for me,' but they would confess a distraction at prayer. Now, unfortunately, there is a reaction in the other extreme when, if one carries a banner for racial justice or marches in a protest parade against the building of an atomic reactor, he will find so-called theologians who deny any guilt to fornicators and those who violate the natural laws of God.

Thus it would seem there are two kinds of atheism: atheism of the left, which denies God and atheism of the right, which denies neighbor. To overcome this, the Holy Spirit in addition to proclaiming love of God and neighbor, placards before the twentieth century the life of a saintly soul who practiced both - not only in minute touches on the canvas of monastic life, but by one great stroke in the oblation of God-consecrated life for the sake of neighbor. The vertical piety directed to God not took on a horizontal dimension in the laying down of his life for a friend.

G.K. Chesterton wrote in Heretics, 'We have to love our neighbor because he is there. He is the sample of humanity that is actually given us. Precisely because he may be anybody, he is everybody." Father Kolbe died for everybody, for that is another name for neighbor. And in doing so, while himself starving, he gave the lie to those who say 'no one can love his neighbor on an empty stomach.' His stomach was empty, but his heart was full.


I think this is precisely right. It is far too easy to love, or hate, amorphous groups with names like "humanity" or "the poor" or "gays" without ever having to interact with individuals who might belong to one of those amorphous groups but who cannot be contained within them. There is far more going on with the poor than their physical poverty. There is far more to dark skinned people than the color or their skin. People who might live with same sex attraction or self-identify as gay likely have more going on in their lives than their sexual desires.

Instead we have to be Christ to the individuals in our lives, all of them, from all sorts of backgrounds. We don't have to agree with everything in their lives, as though sin no longer binds, but we have to see them as more than their sins. We have to ask Christ for the measure of Grace we need to see them as He sees them.


Fast food suit
 
Father Jim Tucker, over at Dappled Things, has a small blurb about a good-sized fellow who had sued four major fast food chains, arguing that their food contributed to his obesity and other health problems. Father, from his comments, does not support the suit and I don't believe I do either. A key difference between smoking and fast food is that while there is no way to use a cigarette in a healthful manner - and the cigarette manufacturers knew that and covered up what they knew - the same cannot be said for fast food. While neither one McDonald's hamburger nor one cigarette is likely to kill anyone, a cigarette by it's very nature damages a person's lungs etc. in a way that a burger does not in its own nature (unless of course the burger has been infected with e coli. In that case it could in fact kill someone, particularly if they are very young or the immune system is compromised in any way.)

With that said, however, I am not about to let the fast food chains off the hook so easily.


I will likely never eat fast food again. Honestly, I cannot envision right now a circumstance extreme enough to make me put anything they make that they like to call food into my mouth. The guy who is helping me get fit now has an expression that I have used often to good effect: that would look better in the trash then it would on me. And few things qualify more than fast food.

I have observed in my travels around the U.S. and overseas that Americans, in general (including me before I start to educate myself) have no idea of how much they are eating in a given meal. Not a clue. And the that has helped grow the number of calories Americans eat and our waistlines as well. Overseas, in Europe for example, and industrialized South America, I have noticed portions are just smaller, plain and simple. And I am struck while travelling that there are no "super sizes" to help pile it on.

Anyway, I know this is boring but here is some information that might help. Disclosure, folks, is everything. If you decide to eat fast food, at least know what is in it. Anyway, a very fast and handy way of getting data on fast food can be found here. And I would highly recommend reading Fast Food Nation By Eric Schlosser which can be ordered online. C'mon America, Just Say No to Fast Food!

Friday, July 26, 2002

Other divorce news
 
Actual divorce, as opposed to dissolution, was also in the news the week with the release of a study from the National Center for Health Statistics. The study was conducted in 1995, according to an Associated Press report (so why are the results only being released now?) and surveyed only women. According to the survey:

First, divorce appears to be self-perpetuating. The survey found that women whose parents were divorced are significantly more likely to divorce. Among women whose parents stayed together, 29 percent were divorced after 10 years. Among those who came from broken marriages, 43 percent were divorced.

Second, "living together" before marriage, rather than strengthen relationships, actually weakened them. The survey found couples who live together before getting married are more likely to divorce. After 10 years, 40 percent of cohabiting couples had broken up, versus 31 percent of those who did not live together first. Interestingly it may be because the folks who would live together before marriage are also the same sort of folks who think divorce is ok, according to one of the study authors.

If you have a couple thinking about getting together, they don't believe it's right to cohabit. These are also the kind of people not likely to divorce,'' said Matthew Bramlett, the report's lead author.

Divorce is become more permanent, at least for women. Just over half of divorced women - 54 percent - get married again within five years. For white women, it's 58 percent, but just 44 percent for Hispanic women and 32 percent for black women. These rates have been falling since the 1950s, when divorced women had a 65 percent chance of remarrying.





gay marriage, gay divorce
 
The Associated Press, via The San Francisco Chronicle reported this week that a Connecticut appeals court has rejected an attempt by two self-identifying gay men to have their civil union, obtained in Vermont, dissolved. The court ruled that it could not dissolve the union because Connecticut law does not recognize such relationships in the first place.

The two men, were "married" in Vermont in 2000, and one of the men,Glen Rosengarten, applied to have the relationship dissolved by a Connecticut court in July of 2001, according to the Chronicle. The motive for seeking the dissolution was reportedly the desire to protect the inheritance rights of the man's three adult children, the paper reported. Rosengarten's lawyer said he would advise his client to take the matter to the state's Supreme Court.

According to the paper, since the law was passed 4,222 self-identified gay couples have received licenses and 3,533 have been from out of state. Of the 4,222 total, the paper reported only six have been dissolved, which is a pretty low number until you read that Vermont, for its own reasons which the article did not explore, will only dissolve a relationship when one of the parties is actually a Vermont resident. There is no way of knowing how many, for example, of the civil unions have collapsed into de facto dissolution which are not granted because neither party wants to travel to Vermont and take up residency to do so.

I have long suspected that the chief beneficiaries of widespread civil unions would be lawyers, since many civil unions will also likely mean many dissolutions. I think its interesting to note that the man filing for the dissolution did it just about a year after taking part in the civil union. The paper reported that the couple "married" in Vermont about six months after the law came into affect. Assuming the law came into affect on January 1, 2000, which I don't know but I am assuming for the sake of this analysis, that would mean the civil union would have been in June 2000. Rosengarten applied to have the union dissolved in July of 2001.


Thursday, July 25, 2002

Earthen Vessels
 
Todays Mass Readings are so rich! Too much so to talk about their two biggest ideas, but here is a take on the first.

The first reading is from first Corinthians and man is it powerful:

Brothers and sisters:
We hold this treasure in earthen vessels,
that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us.
We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained;
perplexed, but not driven to despair;
persecuted, but not abandoned;
struck down, but not destroyed;
always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus,
so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body.
For we who live are constantly being given up to death
for the sake of Jesus,
so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh.


Nobody likes to talk about suffering. Christians can feel embarrassed by it, as though we are accountable for bringing to earth the heaven we seek so passionately. Non-Christians hate it and fear it and flee from it. And Christians sometimes wonder if we should join them. Suffering is often where the rubber of our Faith meets the hard tarmac of our lives. "Rocks are Hard and Water is Wet," to quote my stepfather. We need to live in that reality. Our world is fallen. We, ourselves, are fallen. We reflect the glory of God but in the same way that funhouse mirrors distort our reflections. Original Sin has thrown everything out of whack.

But as Christians we don't suffer alone. Christ suffers with us. In the midst of the very earthiness, so very muddy and dusty and dirty, for very dull, so easily broken, so often marred by sin, Christ will shine if we let Him. If we quit trying to be in control all the time, if we quit trying to guarantee ourselves this or that, protect ourselves from suffering. If we become willing to live and die with Him.

No one gets out of suffering. Being a Christian does not guarantee escape and being a non-Christian will not mean safety. Christians, or people who think they are Christians, can be very impatient with this. "Lord, I have given you everything! I go to Church every Sunday. I tithe! I don't cheat on my my wife (or husband). How could you let this happen?"

And often times there is no answer to that prayer. God doesn't say why and how something could happen. Sometimes He does. In my own life I have seen, to quote an old country song title, blessings at first hidden in "unanswered prayers." But often we don't get an answer. I have a list of questions as long as my arm for when I see Christ, finally, face to face.

But the message of the Cross, and Easter, and the message of today's readings, is that our suffering is not the end of the story. Christians remember how dismayed, and depressed, and frightened the first disciples were in the hours immediately after Christ was brought down from the Cross. So many of us can relate to those feelings, that despair, that sorrow and dismay and pain. But Christians remember to that Christ came through their door in the upper room and as Christians we are called to affirm that He will come through ours too. Both the Christian and non-Christian can suffer unto death, but the Christian goes, if he or she calls upon Him, with the confidence that God does not abandon us. No matter how broken and weak we are, no matter how sinful we have been, heck, no matter how sinful we are right now, God does not and will not abandon us. Deep inside, maybe so covered with sinful dust that the light barely gets through, the Treasure still shines.

I have known people, men and women, who for a variety of reasons have lived lives of deep degradation and sin. I have known people who have lived away from God for so long, so out of touch with Him that they have forgotten what the Pearl of Great Price even looks like, if they every had Him at all. Yet they still carried the Treasure and, when they dared finally to put down their fears and to open themselves to Him, to open their hearts and risk a little repentance, they found Him too, shining there.

Men and women with Same Sex Attraction have often been fed so many lies about ourselves. Because we live with SSA many of us have been told we cannot have the Treasure. That God will not invest Himself in anyone as wicked as we must be. We have been told that our sexual attractions keep us from God. See, it says so right here in scripture. We have been told, essentially, that God allowed this in our lives in order to damn us.

But, thank God, that's not true! Yes, we live with SSA. We suffer the misunderstandings of people who fear our SSA and we suffer the misunderstanding of people who cannot understand our devotion to Christ. But no matter the misunderstandings, no matter the dismay, the perplexity, the discouragement - we still carry the Treasure. And, with the help of Grace, our friends, the sacraments and our Faith, if we persist we can and will one day see Him face to face, and understand to the very bottom of our souls the power and love of the Treasure we have carried so long.

Peru and sterilizations
 
Heard from some friends that the BBC has reported on the Peruvian Congressional Commission investigation into the coercive sterilizaton campaign which I helped investigate in the 1990's. Of course blogspot is down now so I can't know when anyone will ever read this, but I hope you will make it here eventually.

I am short on time this morning because I need to get to the gym, but probably the thing that shocked me most at the time was the fact that anyone who called himself or herself a physician (though I never heard of physicians who did these things being women) would have operated on anyone in those conditions unless they absolutely had to do so. I mean if you are in a filthy circumstance and someone is dying and only your surgery will save them, then yah I guess you have to operate. But these were healthy women and there was no need to do what was done.

The second thing that I remember struck me most powerfully was the overwhelming contempt of the whole system for these people. From beginning to end these women were humiliated, called names, called dogs, pressured, threatened, lied to. Heck, some of them didn't speak Spanish, even, only the Indian dialect - and when it was done the post-op care was aspirin. And unsuprisingly, women treated this way and having their bodies opened in such circumstances, were infected and some died.

Anyway, like I said, time flies. I hope to be able to write on this more later in answer to questions if anyone has any. Here is the introduction of the premier article I wrote on this. You can get the entire text here, and more information here.

When the first sterilization campaign arrived in their little town of La Legua, Peru, Celia Durand and her husband Jaime were unsure they wanted to participate. Although they had discussed Celia’s having the operation in the past, and had even researched its availability, they had begun to hear rumors about women damaged and even killed during the campaigns and Celia had decided she didn’t want to be sterilized that way. Maybe sometime later she would do it; maybe in a hospital. Certainly not in the little medical post down one of La Legua’s bare earth streets, with its windows opened wide to the dust, insects, and the smells from the pigs and other animals rooting and defecating in the nearby streets and yards.

But then the campaign began and the Ministry of Health "health promoters" began to work her neighborhood. Going door to door, house to house, they repeatedly pressed the sterilization option. Interviewed later, her husband Jaime would recall the singular nature of the workers’ advocacy. They wouldn’t offer Celia any other contraceptive method, he reported. It was sterilization, nothing else. Many of the conversations centered around minimizing Celia’s fears about having the procedure during the campaign. "Do it now," they said. "You may have to pay [to have it done] later." Other lines of argument included how "easy," "safe," and "simple" the procedure would be. And the workers persisted. Again and again they came to the family’s home, refusing to accept ‘no’ for an answer, until finally Celia gave in and made an appointment. On the afternoon of July 3, 1997, she agreed, she would have the procedure.

Her mother, Balasura, worried and the two even quarreled about it. "Don’t go, daughter, there is always time later," Balasura remembers saying. But Celia wanted the daily visits to end and, besides, the health workers emphasized the procedure’s easy nature. "Don’t worry, mama, I will be back in a couple of hours," she said as she left. That was the last time her mother saw her alive. Sometime during the procedure at the medical post, the surgeon caused enough damage to Celia that she slipped into a coma. Medical staff put off frantic visits from Celia’s brother-in-law, mother and husband, finally moving her entirely out of the post and into a larger clinic in nearby Piura. It did no good. Celia died without ever regaining consciousness.

Celia’s story is just one of many which have resulted from a nationwide campaign which aggressively targets poor, working class and lower middle class women for surgical sterilization in often filthy circumstances and without adequately trained medical personnel. Although estimates of how many women may have been hurt in these campaigns are difficult to tabulate, a survey of reports about women who have suffered some injury, indignity, or coercion reveals a pattern stretching across Peru’s length and breadth. Methods of coercion have included repeated harassing visits until women consent, verbal insults and threats, offers of food and other supplies made conditional upon accepting sterilization and making appointments for women to have the procedure before they have agreed to do so. Further, none of the Peruvian women interviewed by a PRI investigator reported having been adequately informed as to the nature, permanence, possible side-effects or risks of the procedure. "All they told her was how easy it was," Jaime said later. "No more."




Wednesday, July 24, 2002

Meeting Bishop Dolan
 
Bishop Timothy Dolan, an auxiliary bishop with the Diocese of Saint Louis for a year, has been appointed to the see recently vacated by former Archbishop Rembert Weakland OSB. The Adoremus Bulletin, the journal of the Society for the Renewal of the Sacred Liturgy has reported some of the new Bishop's remarks on the Situation.

Specifically I would like to comment on a couple of them. The article quotes Dolan as speaking to Zenit in June 2001:

One, they must never allow a man to be ordained who gives any evidence of tendencies to sexual immorality. Two, they must be very blunt in holding up to their men the clear expectations of Jesus and His Church.... Positively, this means they present the beauty of celibacy, that it is a gift, a call from the Lord to love Him and His Church totally, exclusively, radically. Negatively, this means they are candid in warning about dangers to celibate commitment, and a homosexual inclination falls under this category, he said.

Well, certainly it can, but it doesn't have to. And for that matter a history of womanizing, a troubled relationship with women, a history of promiscuity generally, a history of the use of pornography...all those can be factors too.

Then he is quoted from a piece after the Dallas meeting in the National Catholic Register:

I really think we're at a moment somewhat similar to the Catholic Reformation after the Council of Trent, he said. I think what we've got is a privileged moment of grace when the Lord is inviting His Church to intense renewal and a call to sanctity.

There are some who say - and I would disagree with them wholeheartedly - that this is a time for radical change in the Church, the bishop said. I would maintain that instead this is a time for radical rediscovery of what is most noble at the core of the Church.

The horrors that we're talking about did not grow out of the Church. The horrors happened because the Church wasn't true to itself, wasn't true to its most noble core, which is impeccable virtue, heroic sanctity and the pursuit of perfection, which shows itself in fidelity and integrity of life
.

Yay! Absolutely! Very well said.
The elephant in the article
 
Janet Kornblum in USA Today has reported that an analysis of a database of 1,200 victims of sexual abuse by Roman Catholic Priests has found that over 85% are male. Now, other bloggers have seized upon this as a further indication that "predatory homosexual priests" are at the root of the sexual abuse problem, but I am not going to join that chorus, essentially because I don't know that. And if I did know that, what would that necessarily prove except that someone, somewhere, has grievously erred when it came for forming those priests, either from the beginning or in an ongoing way? And we knew that already.

What I will comment on is Ms. Kornblum managing to speak more loudly about the possibility that "homosexual priests" might have been at the root of the abuse by not talking about it than she would have if she raised the question with authorities in different disciplines and then reported what they said. As it is her silence is really quite deafening. Consider for a second that with over 85% of the 1,200 victims in the database are young men, yet she could not find even one male victim to talk to about it? Not one?

Then there are some of the reasons that are being given for the lopsided gender count. I will comment on two, I have no opinion on the others.

1) Availability. Actually this is plausible to me. I am not an expert and I don't play one on TV but I would not be surprised at some later point to learn that a bunch of the priests doing these things have some kind of arrested sexual development and that this is precisely the sort of sexual activity (secretive, hidden, maybe somewhat romanticized) that would attracted them, either with girls or boys.

2) It's easier for the boys to publicly accuse their victimizer. Sorry, this one I am skeptical about. If anything, I expect the 1,200 is an underreporting. Everything I have read so far leads me to conclude that most of the male victims of priestly sexual abuse would rather walk across broken glass barefoot than tell anybody about what happened to them. In Kansas, at least five chose to kill themselves.

I feel confident that Ms. Kornblum and the paper thought that by not talking about the allegation they would somehow avoid opening a can of worms yet, by their silence, I think they may have added one more firecracker to the explosive pile building under the whole issue.

Tuesday, July 23, 2002

More on the label
 
Apparently the disinclination of the Courageous to self-identify as "gay" has been the subject of a rant from Mike Hardy.

First, I have to object to Mike's characterization of Courage's position as "propaganda." The use of the word indicates a true lack of understanding of what the organization is about.

Second, if I understand the core of Mike's objection correctly, since other people have negatively labeled people with same sex attraction throughout the years, isn't it better for them to adopt a label they prefer? Actually, no. I don't think so. I can't control what other people call me or how they treat me. I can control my own actions and reactions and how I act and react in the world - particularly in the context of Christ. If the men and women of Courage decide to label themselves it is with the Cross and with Him.

Third, I particularly question this sentence.

In summary, folks with same sex attractions aren’t choosing whether or not to be labeled but rather they are taking charge of which label they want to be known by.

That may have been Mike's experience, it was not mine. I chose to self-define as gay as a pro-active decision. I wasn't being labeled before I took on the identity and many people I know were not. In many people same sex attraction is not something as noticeable as skin color in one's appearance.

I suspect that the core of the dispute rests in the observation Mike makes about Courage "discouraging [members] from seeing gayness as an integral part of their personalities." That is probably one of most basic differences between Mike's approach and mine, and that of Courage. I don't see my sexual attraction as an "integral part of my personality." I see it as something which is part of who I am, but it lacks the degree of importance the phrase "integral part" seems to imply.

Mike also quotes from a letter sent to the Washington Post which attacks Rosin's article for, are we surprised, its alleged "homophobic basis" (since the author's impetus for doing the article is the current Church scandal.) Based on this letter Mike concludes that perhaps the even the "plausible account given there might have been exaggerated."

Sorry, but that smells a bit like Fortress Homosexuality (to borrow Mark Shea's phrase) to me. Reports of anything like a culture of acceptance of homosexual sex, or of the problems which might arise when a significant part of the seminary population appears to have little trouble with active homosexuality, just couldn't be true?
Tadpole again
 
Barbara has written to generously answer my question about whether such a movie depicting a forty something man and an adolescent girl would have been as well received, starting her answer, of course, with the well known but also touring through some lesser cinematic lights.

The definitive film (and book) has been done. It's called Lolita, and in it Humbert Humbert is a villain (although an extremely complex one). The film, of course, missed the subtlety of the book, which pretty much showed you how awful and destructive the whole situation was, even as it made you understand how irresistible HH found his little girl. It's really very disturbing, still.I think that there was a film starring Michael Caine that was set in Brazil that was essentially about the same subject with a slightly older girl (age being left intentionally ambiguous). It was a lousy film, and some reviewers were repulsed by the child abuse angle. There was the Liv Tyler film called, I think, Stealing Beauty (not a very good film, but no shock over the theme). And then there's American Beauty . . no need to say anything there.

Actually I would differentiate between American Beauty and the rest. In American Beauty, in the end he DOES NOT sleep with her. As a matter of fact, that entire five minutes of film, from the point where he realized what he is about to do, and repents of it, choosing instead to become a Dad figure (getting the robe, making the breakfast, treating her like a young girl again and not like a sexual expedient) is why I think American Beauty is ultimately a very redemptive and Christian film.

As a matter of fact, in my opinion this is why he is killed in the movie, because the only place he can go from his epiphany with her is to conversion and to Christ and Hollywood is just not going to go there. Death before the Cross, so to speak.

Barbara continues:

Sexual abuse of adolescent/teen boys throws society for such loops because males are supposed to “want it” pretty much under any conditions. And of course, how could they "do it" if they didn't want it? [It’s] much easier to defend when the guy is clearly getting pleasure, and therefore much easier to inflict careless damage . . . and to sow emotional confusion in the boy. Look at the Le Tourneau situation in the Pacific Northwest. As Humbert Humbert finally realizes when he finds the runaway Lolita, who is a pregnant and married 16 year old, and no longer delectable, he robbed her of nothing less than her entire childhood. It didn't matter whether she liked the rewards and power it gave her over him.

I agree. I think that the body’s reaction to sexual pleasure may make it much easier for the adolescent boy to get deeply confused as to what exactly his role, in an almost existential way, way, was in the abuse. I think this is one reason so many of these young victims wind up leading devastated lives afterward, and maybe one reason why many kill themselves.

Barbara concludes:

And who are these people who find it so important to indoctrinate us into seeing our children as "sexual beings"? Do they actually have children? They are to sex education what Peter Singer is to neonatal development: using theories on childhood experience to press a whole social agenda without a thought for the welfare of individual children. I can't believe that the same people who rail against clerical abuse can so casually intellectualize over "intergenerational sex" as they call it. And then of course, they say, primly, we don't mean with adults who are in a "position of trust" vis a vis the young person (so we can still rail against the priests and the teachers), and of course only with consent freely given, and proper contraceptive and safe sex precautions taken. Oh yes, the joy of sex.

Very well said.

Families of Action
 
At the end of today's Gospel Jesus extends His hands toward his disciples and says:

"Here are my mother and my brothers.
For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father
is my brother, and sister, and mother."


His words remind me of all the ways God has brought family, created family, for me when my own family of birth couldn't, for a lot of reasons, be the family I needed. Recently some of the Courageous in the Washington D.C. area got together to say farewell to one of our beloved brothers in Christ who is embarking onto a new stage of his spiritual path to Christ in another city. It was the best kind of party of this sort. There was a lot of laughter and a lot of serious, appreciative moments too, as each of the party members got to tell our brother how much his friendship had meant - and likely would still mean - in our lives.

As we went around the room, each saying his or her piece, I was struck at how interconnected everyone was, linked by fibers of history that, in a day to day way, most of us rarely even though about - but each of which represented the ways God's call in our lives brought us together as a family of friends. Two people to my right was a man who, when we met, he had still been an Anglican, lured by the Roman Catholic Faith but still filled with uncertainty about it, and about his ability to live chastely. When he had looked me up in response to something of mine he had read the only place we could find where we could easily meet and talk at that hour of night was a Dunking Donuts before he faced a long drive to his then home. Now, he is a Catholic, living chastely, working as a lay man for the Church.

Across the room is a young woman who studies at university that many consider fundamentalist. There she suffers from an inability to easily express her Catholicity and fear that someone will discover her same sex attraction. I met her through the ministry of another one of my Courageous brothers who met her and led her to Courage Online because he knew she needed a way to connect with God's unconditional love for her especially when she was away at school.

I could go on and on, but I will spare you. Verbal slide shows of family are likely every bit as boring as the real slide shows of Uncle Billy and Aunt Marge at the Grand Canyon. But I suspect that any Christian sincerely seeking to follow Christ who is part of a small Christian community can report a similar experience. Our love for Christ draws us together, to a place where His love for us can expand and consume us in love for each other.



Monday, July 22, 2002

Clarification
 
Mike Hardy has questioned my belief that Theological College accepted, at least passively, same sex sexual activity (or acting out, a term which Mike "hates"). "This might lead one to believe that the seminary accepted homogenital activity - there's just no evidence of that!" he protests. Actually, I think we do have evidence of that - at least evidence from silence. Nowhere in the piece does it mention that seminarians who had been seen involved in sexual activity were called in and in any way reprimanded for it, or questioned about why they considered such activity acceptable from a Catholic seminarian. Nowhere in an otherwise articulate piece does Andrew mention feeling comfortable telling anyone in the seminary superiors about his having been "checked out" and, when he does report the incident with the other seminarian he leaves with the distinct impression that had he told his director that the incident had made him realize he was gay, the director would have said congratulations and have done with that.

Mike and I do, however, agree that for a Catholic seminarian Catholicity and celibacy (chastity) should be more important elements of one's identity than gayness. I just question whether the seminary atmosphere fostered that priority. The conversations Andrew complained about needn't have been explicitly about having sex for them to still contain the assumption that having gay sex is ok; conversation about who might have been flirting with whom, who might be considered attractive, or not, etc etc are not out of the realm at least of my experience and would not be appropriate in a seminary context, just as non-gay seminarians discussing similar things about women in their purview would not be appropriate.

Mike questioned whether I assume "that if nobody "self identified as gay" then the pathologies Andrew observed would not have occurred as frequently." Actually, yes I do. Mike (and others to be fair) appear to make the assumption that a person only has two ways of dealing with a same sex attraction, either repress it, don't acknowledge it, and deny it at every turn, or self-label as gay and take on all that has come to mean.

I think that assumption is wrong. In my life I acknowledge that I live with some same sex attraction. I don't deny it, I don't act on it, and I don't identify with it, yet I don't repress it. I don't take particular steps to hide it, but I understand that it is just not central to what I am about, as a man, as a Roman Catholic as one of Christ's disciples. I believe that by understanding myself in this way and putting same sex temptations into the basket with all the other temptations against which I struggle daily, I both strengthen myself and rob the temptation of much of its power. I believe the same or similar dynamic can and does work with other men who live with same sex attraction as well, including seminarians. But I also think that moving same sex attraction from something one lives with in the course of their life to something that someone is (e.g.. the phrase: I am gay), makes living that balanced life that much more difficult.
Double standards, or mere confusion?
 
Just when you think that you have understood the cast of characters correctly and the adults having sex with adolescents wear the black hats, something comes along to throw you a loop. In this case an 78 minute loop in form of a film called Tadpole. Tadpole is a film from Miramax in which a 15 year old lad has an affair with his stepmother's forty something friend who then, in the words of the New Yorker Review, "introduces her new conquest to her girlfriends over tea, and pretty well pimps him to any takers."

The Chattering Classes pretty much love this movie. The New Yorker complains about its cinematography, which it compares to shooting through bubble wrap, and sharply questions the why any of the women involved would find the lad attractive, but essentially likes the film. (Actually, a trailer for this flick that I saw a while back let one of the women indicate the source her attraction to the boy. Let's allow the phrase prurient endurance suffice and the reader can fill in the details.) The other moderators of public opinion liked it overall. The New York Times gave it a B-, the New York Post and A, and the Los Angeles Times a B.

I know its supposed to be funny and a "coming of age" film, but how come when Hollywood wants to smear artistic Vaseline over a what is basically a "horny film posing as a refined one" ( the New Yorker again), everyone sits up like trained seals to clap? Maybe its just me, but at at time when it is coming out just how extensively our churches (yes, it is more than just the wicked papists) and other institutions have abused the trust of young people and their parents, its considered ok for a Hollywood film to basically romanticize it?

It will be interesting to compare Tadpole's telling of the teen boy older woman storyline with that of the much older Summer of '42 and the contemporary Y Tu Mama Tambien. In the former the young man is infatuated with an older woman living with mostly alone at a nearby beach house while her husband is away fighting World War II, and they do end up sleeping together, but only after the woman suffers a tragedy which leads her to an action that we are led to believe she would not have otherwise taken. In Y Tu Mama Tambien the story line is similar though I wont' reveal it to spare anyone who might want to see it.

I guess I get the impression that both those films handle the sexual aspect differently by putting in what seems to me to be a much larger and more realistic context. Events like those apparently depicted in such a banal way in Tadpole are NOT usual and, when they do happen, (in at least the two instances with which I am intimately familiar in that I know the people involved) they have more potential to end badly and with long term bad results than not. Second layer of double standard, would this film be as welcomed had it depicted a forty something man and an adolescent girl?
Sic Transit Telecom Mundi
 
As seen this evening in the Pentagon City Costco. Two shopping cards full of MCI Prepaid phone cards, pulled from store shelves and awaiting their fate.
UNFPA and forced sterilization in Peru
 
Currently there is a controversy afoot in Washington because the Bush Administration has put a hold on U.S. funding to the United Nation's Population Fund (UNFPA - the acronym of the old name: the United Nation's Fund For Population Activities). The Administration has done so because a number of investigators and the U.S. State Department have determined the UNFPA funding has gone to enforce the forced abortion provision in China's notorious One Child Policy, under which hundreds of thousands of little girls have either abandoned or killed since its inception.

UNFPA, of course, has hotly denied the charge. That denial might carry a bit more weight with me if a Peruvian government commission had not just recently concluded that UNFPA funding was behind the wave of forced sterilizations (all, of course, aimed at poor Indian women) in the Peruvian countryside in the 1990's.

Under former dictator Alberto Fujimori, Peru's National Population Program consisted of the systematic and forced sterilization of over 100,000 women, during so-called “ligation festivals,” particularly aimed at rural Indian women.

The report of the Peruvian congressional commission, called the Anticoncepcion Quirurgica Voluntaria, or AQV, Commission, notes that Fujimori’s coercive population control campaigns “presupposed an inverse relationship between population growth and economic growth. Based on this mistaken presupposition, [Fujimori’s] National Population Program established demographic strategies and methods explicitly restrictive and controlling; in this line, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), known for its support of population control in developing countries, took charge. For that end, the United Nations Population Fund act[ed] as Technical Secretary, working in coordination with the National Population Council.”

“UNFPA increased their support and even participation in the task during the government of the ex-president Alberto Fujimori, especially in the period 1995-2000,” the report states.

The coercive sterilization campaigns “executed by the Peruvian government [under Fujimori] were induced and financed by international organizations, especially… the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA),” states the report. The UNFPA, along with other international groups, “brought not only special financing but also demographic goals, for the focalized reduction of the Peruvian population and the fecundity of Peruvian women, especially the women of rural areas.”

Given what UNFPA was willing to fund in Peru, I find it complete plausible that the agency might have funded forcing women to abort their children in China.



Condoms and abstinence and World Youth Day
 
The National Post (Canada) is reporting today that members the dissenting catholic group We Are Church have been busy passing out condoms to the young people coming to World Youth Day.

I think abstinence is a great thing for everybody who can manage that. But it doesn't work for everyone. It's not reality, Tobias Raschke, spokesperson for the International Movement We Are Church, said yesterday.

Leave aside, in charity, any speculation that Mr. Raschke is just as happy, or even happier, when good Catholic kids are not chaste, that their lack of chastity actually helps further the We Are Church agenda and look at the assertion that abstinence (chastity) may be possible for some and not for others.

The remark calls to mind Chesterton's comment that the Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been thought diffucult and left untried. There is no doubt that living chastely is difficult, as it living out any Christian virtue. Try living perfectly prudently, justly, temperantly and with ideal fortitude for 24 hours sometime!

But the answer to the difficulty of seeking virtue is not to dehumanize people by prejudging their ability to live a virtue, but instead to educated them more completely about who and what they are in Christ and to encourage them to live their vocation as Christians. When you come to someone and hand them a condom, particularly when an older person is handing one to younger individual, the older person says essentially that they expect the young person to fail to keep themselves chaste and that they cannot be trusted to honor their vocations. What a terrible message! And you know, I think at the root of handing out the condoms is more a desire to justify their own previous sexual misbehavior than keeping anyone "safe." How devastating it would be if mere striplings succeeded where their parent's generation failed.


Sunday, July 21, 2002

Seminary situation, real life (or at least real press) examples
 
One the front page of the Washington Post of July 21, Hanna Rosin has an extremely interesting article that ran under the headline At Seminary, Unease Over Gay Priests. It’s rather long so I won’t quote the whole thing, but it explores the experiences of two former seminarians, one who self identified as gay and one, Andrew Krzmarzick, who did not. I think the parts of the piece that depict what can happen when a seminary does not take steps to make it clear that not only is acting out sexually not acceptable, but that an identity based primarily on sexual desires and an attitude of acceptance of that acting out is also not acceptable, is the most interesting. Rosin writes:

TC, as Theological College is known, was one of the seminaries investigated in the '80s, when the "gay subculture was a fairly significant element" and the faculty was not strict, said the Rev. Bill Parent, outgoing vocations director for the Archdiocese of Washington and a TC student at the time.

Many of the two dozen present and former TC students who were interviewed for this article described participating in, or witnessing, some sexual activity, sometimes in the dorms and sometimes off campus. But mostly what they described was the "weirdness," as several called it, meaning the gay undercurrent that Krzmarzick described -- ubiquitous yet unacknowledged.

The Rev. Lee Purcell, president of Krzmarzick's class in 1997 and now a priest in Indiana, said about 20 seminarians in a class of 80 told him they were gay -- some who "were almost flaunting it," some who had never admitted it to anyone else. He guessed about the same number were clearly heterosexual and the rest were "struggling."


She also writes at some length about Andrew’s experiences of seminary in the atmosphere that was allowed to flourish.

When Krzmarzick arrived at TC in August 1997, the place looked a bit worn, at least from the inside, with its peeling paint and cinder block walls. But he had no doubts about his choice.

It was a national seminary, with the smartest men from dioceses all over the country. The students lived and ate in the seminary building but took classes across the road at Catholic University with lay students, men and women. They were free to skip any meal and head to a restaurant or a movie in downtown Washington, a short Metro ride
away.

At 22, he was one of the youngest in his class, and, compared with the accomplishments of his fellow seminarians, his degree in philosophy paled. The list of 80 in the house included educators, business people, an astrophysicist.

Like most of the freshmen, Krzmarzick was "on fire to serve the Lord," a zeal confirmed by a personal moment of revelation: a message from his earthly angel, a woman he met who had dreamed that the Virgin Mary gave him a rose.

Krzmarzick's previous experience of living in dormitory life was his fraternity at Iowa State. It was a dry fraternity full of guys like him, high achievers who 10 years down the road would be heading some agribusiness, "wearing their Number One Dad apron, flipping burgers with one hand and throwing a ball with the other."

But at TC he couldn't quite find his place. "Why do I feel so uncomfortable in social situations here at seminary?" he wrote in his diary at the time. "I went up to another seminarian's room where several candidates were gathered and I felt really uncomfortable ..as if there were inside jokes going on, conversations that made no sense to me."

First, there was the stare at the library. Then Krzmarzick walked into a seminarian's room and saw him kissing another student. No one mentioned it; Krzmarzick just asked his question and left.

"It was starting to hit me: This was a place where a lot of the guys are gay," he recalled. "But I wasn't sure what to make of it, who to talk to. There was no public forum where we could talk openly about it."


I think this is key. The issued needed to be talked about. Because as long as it was unaddressed, the Church’s teaching left unexplained, or poorly annunciated or not acted upon, there was entirely too much room for confusion to spring up. Essentially, not only did the seminary allow acting out to take place, but it also allowed a culture to develop which accepted the validity of same sex acting out, where it was considered acceptable for one seminarian to “check out” another in a sexual way, where it was acceptable to talk about homosexual acting out as an “inside joke” and where folks who didn’t experience those temptations felt alienated. Heck, in that kind of environment Andrew even questioned his own sexuality.

Let me be clear, I don’t think there is anything inherent in living with a degree of same sex attraction and being a good lay Catholic or a good priest. I don’t think there is anything inherent in living with even a high degree of same sex attraction and living chastely. I live chastely, with the help of God's grace, and I know of Courage members all over the country and all over the world who do so as well.

But the bottom line is, the seminary is not the place to come to be “gay,” to define yourself by who you sexually desire. For the matter, the seminary is not the place to come to be married, either, or to have a girlfriend. The seminary is the place to come if you believe you are called to make the sacrifices necessary to be wholly Christ’s in a very unique and especially sacramental way. The mission of the seminary is to train and to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in your formation into a uniquely prepared man of God – and that man of God is not going to be someone who thinks checking out another man’s butt, or the legs on an attractive young woman, is ok.

Screwtape's advice on chastity
 
From the collection of letters from a Senior Devil to a junior devil. The "enemy" in the comunication is God and the "patient" the person the junior devil is responsible for tempting into hell.

My Dear Wormwood,

I note with great displeasure that the Enemy has, for the time being, put a forcible end to your direct attacks on the patient's chastity. You ought ot have known that He always does in the end, and you ought to have stopped before you reached that stage. For, as things are, your man has now discovered the dangerous truth that these attacks do not last forever; consequently you cannot use again what is, after all, our best weapon - the belief of ignorant humans that there is not hope of getting rid of us is by yielding. I suppose you have tried persuading him that chastity is unhealthy?


In light of Screwtape's advice to Wormwood we have Oscar Wilde's observation that I can resist everything but temptation.
We are all in formation
 
Something has been niggling at me about the debate over Michael Rose’s Goodbye, Good Men and the broader discussion over whether or not the Catholic Church has, or should have, “too many gay priests” and whether or not the Catholic Church should have any “gay priests” at all.

It has been a pretty openly acknowledged topic for a while that formation has been deeply troubled in many of the nation’s seminaries. Father Benedict Groeschel writes in From Scandal to Hope that:

It is no secret in the Catholic community that the quality of seminary training is very uneven (pp. 93-94) and also praises Rose’s book, with qualifications, on page 102:

A sad and shocking but comprehensive survey of this phenomenon (of an active gay subculture in the seminaries) can be found in Michael Rose’s book Goodbye, Good Men, which we mentioned in the last chapter. Although Rose is writing advocacy literature and at times overstates his case, the facts are there. As may happen in such literature, he may move over the line occasionally into gossip or an overly judgmental attitude toward those who are trying to walk a middle way. However, any honest person reading Rose’s book will admit that he gives facts, figures and direct testimony of people by name. I know some of the people he mentions, and I also know of the injustices and sufferings they endured because they were considered intolerant of the gay scene. I know very well because I endured the same injustices for the same reason.

But even as we acknowledge the problem in the seminaries (and I am not trying to minimize or otherwise downplay it) we also have to be aware of the broader problem of formation generally. In short, all of us, no matter the temptations we fight against and the failings we have, are in formation. I am likely never going to be a priest, but I am nonetheless in formation as a Catholic man on his way, God willing, to meet Christ face to face one day in heaven. I have a beautiful Goddaughter, less than a year old still, and she is formation too, and helping the Holy Spirit to form her is part of her parents’ formation, and mine. In our interactions with our family and friends, our dealings with people we do not know, our interaction with God in Prayer and they way we meet Him in the sacraments, we daily (if we are malleable and humble enough to stay teachable) participate in our formation to be the men and women God has meant us to be from the beginning, before Original Sin and The Fall distorted the way His vision played out in our lives individually and in the life of the whole world.

So, is proper formation of the Seminary student important? Absolutely. But so is the proper formation of the busy Catholic mom trying to meet the demand in her life of family and whatever other occupation she might pursue. So is the proper formation of young Catholic men and women who may never be priests or religious but who nonetheless are called to be Christ to their friends and to other students. The Catholic business executive, the accountant, the fireman, policeman, scientist, teacher, laborer, janitor, are all called to two vocations, the vocation of that they do in the working lives but also the deeper vocation to Christian men and women. Further, it is this broader and deeper vocation that contains and supports the working life and gives it a context. As soon as we answer Christ’s question “who do you say that I am,” along with Peter, “you are the Lord,” then our formation begins because we begin the task of gathering ourselves, burdens and blessings all, and following Him.

So, by all means reform the seminaries, but let us not imagine for a second that this is enough. Let us also by all means seek to reform our own lives. Let us think of ourselves more often in an explicitly Christian context. Let us ask ourselves not only how well did “they” (be it priests, seminarians, bishops, etc) reflect Christ today, but how did we? And I am not talking about in the vein of a plaster saint piety but in an explicitly earthly, Flannery O’Connerish real way. Of whom do I need to ask forgiveness today? Who do I need to forgive? Where have shortchanged my spiritual life? Where I have sinned, if not in deed then for certain in spirit?

This is hard. In a lot of ways it is the work of a whole life of formation, an ongoing effort to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in our recreation in Christ. But that’s one reason God gave us the sacraments, the special channels that help us participate in, and understand, His grace more completely. When was the last time we went to confession? When was the last time we walked out of a confessional and, after praying our penance, went straight to do something that to actively break a bad habit or heal a wound? The formation problem in the Church today is not only in the seminaries, or even primarily in the seminaries, it is also pervasively and deeply in us.

Saturday, July 20, 2002

A Hummer SUV?
 
No, not that hummer. Get your head out of the gutter.

Apparently, General Motors is not satisfied producing a civilian model of the vehicle that replaced the venerable army jeep, now it has produced a Hummer SUV, called the H2. I know, I saw one one the road today. I recognize that this is free country and I glory in the freedom each of us has to throw our money after whatever we like, but why anybody would want one of those things is beyond me. At least the original Hummer (H1) has a distinctive look. The H2 looked, I swear, like someone had renovated an armored car so it could carry passengers. Who would want such a thing, aside maybe from drug dealers, Italian Mafia prosecutors and Columbia business executives? I mean it looked armored and I would be surprised if it didn't eat gas through two straws - but, like I said, I saw one on the road so I guess there is some market for it.
Eight Legged Freaks
 
Alright, so I am not sure I would have paid full Saturday night prices to see Eight Legged Freaks, but it was definitely worth laying the money for a matinee. While it lacked the kind of encompassing vision of say, Reign of Fire (which one friend called a Max Max Monster Movie) it still managed to keep the viewer interested and itself away from ridicule. And the spiders, like the dragons in Reign of Fire, are done very well. The movie definitely lacks gore, reserving any spouting fluid to the green gunk which is supposed to fill the spiders, but even that is fairly tame. No cursing that I can recall, and even the one instance of "teen sex" resolved itself with the girl successfully saying no, so the pic lets the audience members walk away without feeling like they need a shower. On the whole Eight Legged Freaks is probably not any more than it promised to be, but its not any less either. Go and have fun.

One thing maybe. There were some little kids at the showing I attended, there with older brothers and sisters. Spiders the size of great Danes might be entertaining to those of us who know that they exist only on screen, but I gathered from two rows up that the smaller kids were a little perturbed.

Friday, July 19, 2002

Mark Shea's MCC posts
 
One of the odd things of blogging has been the way that, when you arrive on the scene, you tour blogs and wind up walking in on a lot of ongoing controversy. Mark Shea's blog has an active discussion brought on because Mark linked to an article on Worldnet about the sexual goings on at a couple of the Metropolitan Community Churches, which have congregations where most of the congregants self-define as gay or lesbian.

I'm not going to comment on the piece itself. Maybe I'm too jaded, but I can't say I found it terribly surprising and I found its breathless Look What I Found tone a little exasperating. A think time could be better spent looking at the fundamental flaw that makes such apparently widespread behavior, at at least those two Churches, in any way remotely acceptable.

Like I said, I may be too jaded. When I self-identified as a "gay Christian" I ran across numerous folks who did so as well and who had no trouble exercising their sexuality in a lot of ways that were bizarre even in my mindset at that time. I remember an ordained deacon at one event going into a long explanation of why his having sexual encounters at almost an orgy-like pace was ok, despite his HIV status, since he was the one on the bottom (and hence the passive partner.)

But as multipartnered and perverse as those folks' behavior was, by itself its not worth a whole lot of time or ink. People have been failing Christ and the Faith since the Garden when the original disciples couldn't stay awake praying with Our Lord - and I am not shocked that they still are. But as Peter Kreeft has pointed out much better than I, there is a world of difference between individual Christians failing the Faith and Christian institutions attempting to redefine the Faith to accept and even approve the Failure.

In Chapter One of Back to Virtue, Kreeft cites several examples of personal moral failure and institutional change and then comments.

In each of the above cases, the first statement shows only the perennial fact of hypocrisy, of not practicing what one preaches or believes. But the second statements are something altogether new. They represent a changing of the rules that makes hypocrisy impossible! Matthew Arnold defined hypocrisy as a "tribute that vice pays to virtue." With that tribute not longer paid, we no longer need virtue. The first set of facts above shows a lack of virtue, the second a lack of the knowledge of virtue.

That's the nature of my problem with the activity in the profiled MCCs. I am less troubled with the acts themselves as I am with the fact they were advertised on the church's websites as though there was no trouble with them at all - as though folks were not being used as the means to sexual ends, as though the meaning and dignity of sex were not being trampled as though, in fact, everything was fine.

The failure of the so-called "gay Christians" in my life to really show me Christ - combined with the loving acceptance, encouragement of so called "straight Christians" who did were part of what helped convince me to take Christ's claims seriously, to stop hanging around the edge of the crowd merely looking at Him and to seriously try to answer His question Who Do You Say That I AM.

When I made the break with my "Gay Christian" compadres I sent a letter to the editor of a Gay Christian journal I helped found and I think an excerpt from will illustrate my thoughts then and now.


At their deepest, my disagreements with [the publication] run right to the heart of what I believe it means to be a Christian in the latter part of the twentieth century. Not, please note, what it means to be a homosexually oriented Christian, or a white Christian, or a Male Christian, but a Christian. Over hours and months of reflection and prayer I have come to understand my relationship with Christ and His Church to be far more about what He would have me do than what I would have me do. This, I have observed, runs sharply counter to the surrounding philosophy - the ballpark if you will - in which [this publication] operates. Unlike many others who write for it I find my battle, as a Christian, to be more one of bending my own selfish will to the Moral Law than of trying to bend, twist, reshape, or recast that Moral Law to endorse my will. I have come, for better or worse, to feel [this publication] endorses a course of life that is willfully sinful; in as far as it supports a demand among some that God change to meet their actions and desires rather than change those actions and seek purification of those desires out of love of God.

It has been my observation that one cannot embark upon a path of sexual misconduct and sin without finding the other aspects of one's being, body, soul and spirit, eventually to be also corrupted. While homosexually active I accepted with only minimum regard, assumptions regarding scripture, the nature of sacrifice and the nature of what Christ demanded from me. These assumptions do not bear up under closer scrutiny and intellectual honesty demands I abandon them in favor of those closer to the Truth. This is why I can no longer assent, willingly, to have my name upon a publication which is founded upon premises which I have to regard, at best, as sin-induced error or, at worst, as a sinister attack upon souls.



The more things change...
 
The Washington Post today reported that a lawyer who serves on the Diocese of Richmond's panel which is meant to review allegations of clerical sexual abuse has resigned after the Bishop, the Reverend Walter F. Sullivan, reinstated a priest, John Leonard, to a Richmond-area parish without consulting the panel. Leonard had been alleged to have committed sexual abuse thirty years ago.

The Richmond case "typifies all our worst fears, which are that even after Dallas, it's back to business as usual with bishops selectively following their own preexisting policies," said David Clohessy, executive director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

According to the paper, although the Bishop's Dallas' policy defines child sexual abuse as any act in which an adult uses a minor as an object of sexual gratification "whether or not this activity involves . . . genital or physical contact," Sullivan reinstated Leonard, who had been previously suspended, because there was no genital contact.

One of the alleged victims said that Leonard made him disrobe; another said the priest gave him back rubs; and the third said Leonard wrestled him to the ground and held him tightly. Leonard, 63, who was also accused of sexual abuse in 1996, has denied all the allegations through his attorney, James C. Roberts. Roberts said there were "a number of inconsistencies" in accounts of the alleged incidents. The bishop's investigation of the allegations, Roberts added, "was very thoroughly done."

DCM: So, I guess copping a feel is ok? But wait, it gets better.

According to a Diocese spokeswoman, the lay panel definitely should have seen the report on Leonard's case.

But panel member Dennis O. Laing, a Richmond lawyer, said that as of yesterday most of the 10-member panel had not seen the investigating team's final report, delivered in early June to Sullivan and to the panel's chairman, Monsignor Robert M. Perkins.
"The panel's work, as far as I'm concerned, is incomplete," Laing said. "It's in the regulations that the panel is supposed to make sure that [the investigation] was done correctly and to make recommendations to the bishop."


DCM: But it's in the details of the allegations that the incredulity simply rises to a completely new level.

Thor Gormley, 49, manager of a mortgage loan office in Virginia Beach, was the first to come forward, prompting Sullivan to suspend Leonard on May 6 because of what the bishop characterized as allegations "of inappropriate behavior and crossing boundaries." Gormley said that in 1971, Leonard took him and another student on a trip to Pittsburgh. While in a hotel room, he asked them to drop their underpants before a mirror, Gormley said.

DCM: Ok, maybe there might be an innocent explanation.

He also said that on two or three occasions he gave back rubs to Leonard at the priest's request, while Leonard was dressed only in his underwear. DCM: Ok, a lot LESS likely, but still possible.

Leonard's second accuser, Bill Bryant, 47, vice president of a telecommunications company in Tucson, said that four or five times a year, Leonard gave him a back rub. He said the priest would bring it up, and "I would always say 'yes' in order to please him."

The third man agreed to be interviewed on the condition that he not be identified. He said that after a spiritual counseling session in Leonard's room, the priest locked the door, shut off the lights and "wrestled me to the ground and held me tightly. He was breathing really heavy saying, 'I love you. I love you. I want you. I want you.' He put his face into my neck."

DCM: DING, DING DING, C'mon Bishop Sullivan. PLEASE! There are clearly serious problems with this situation and not just because this was a young man. There would be serious problems with this behavior had the other man been an adult. Behavior has got to be the standard, acting out cannot be tolerated, no matter WHO it's with.

On June 18, Sullivan issued a statement saying he had concluded that Leonard's removal from ministry was "unwarranted." The statement did not elaborate on why he had reached that conclusion. A day later, another diocesan statement said that three accusers had complained "of incidents involving back rubs, questionable conversations, immodest dress or inappropriate contact, none of which involved genital touch or activity."

DCM: Nothing like sticking to the letter of the policy when its spirit becomes inconvenient.


Thursday, July 18, 2002

Comparison
 
The Mission Statement of one so-called gay and lesbian outreach ministry:

We, the members of the Archdiocesan Gay and Lesbian Outreach, as people of God, create a sense of community for those who wish to reconcile their sexual orientation with their faith; provide an accepting and affirming atmosphere in which to worship in the Catholic tradition; provide opportunities for integration of personal experience through spiritual growth; share our distinctive gifts with each other and the Church at large, and witness our Catholic faith to the gay and lesbian community.

The five goals of Courage:

1. Live chaste lives in accordance with the Roman Catholic Church's teaching on homosexuality. (Including chastely - DCM.)

2. Dedicate ones life to Christ through service to others, spiritual reading, prayer, meditation, individual spiritual direction, frequent attendance at Mass, and the frequent reception of the sacraments of Reconciliation and Holy Eucharist.

3. Foster a spirit of fellowship in which all may share thoughts and experiences, and so ensure that no one will have to face the problems of homosexuality alone.

4. Be mindful of the truth that chaste friendships are not only possible but necessary in a chaste Christian life and in doing so provide encouragement to one another in forming and sustaining them.

5. Live lives that may serve as good examples to others.


In a nutshell, that's why I am a member of Courage and not one of these other outfits which claim to "minister" to gays and lesbians.



SSA?
 
This from a correspondent today:

I like your bog but I don't get the Same Sex Attraction thing. Why not just say you're gay. It seems like you are ducking the issue.

A worthwhile question to try to answer. There are at least four (in my opinion) principle reasons why I, and other folks as well, choose not to self-identify as "gay." Here there are. They are not in any fixed hierarchy of importance and, like all taproot ideas, they tend to deepen as they play out over time, but this is their shape in July 2002.

First, I prefer to use the term Same Sex Attraction (SSA) over "gay" because the use of SSA recognizes that same sex attraction is something I experience or have as part of my life, it is not what I am.. I am a child of God. I am a brother of Christ by adoption and baptism, thank God. I am a man. I am a Godfather to an absolutely beautiful little girl. I am not any of my temptations. In fact, thankfully, we are all as human beings much more than the sum of our temptations.

Second, I prefer SSA because it recognizes the wide variety of experiences among people who live with SSA. In my life I have known people, myself included, whose SSA was so pronounced it could reasonably be called omni-present and I have known men and women who experience of SSA was almost entirely situational and had a lot to do with other things going in their lives, stresses, anxieties etc. The term "gay" groups all these folks together in the popular mind when, really, they are very different people who have had very different experiences which deserve to appreciated and taken into account.

Third. I prefer the term SSA because it allows me to distance myself from a political and theological agenda which does not represent me or my best interests, either temporal or eternal. For better or worse, the word "gay" in this society carries with it the automatic notion that you are someone who at least condones same sex acts even if you don't actually do them. That's not me and I don't want to muddy the water any more than I helped muddy it as a gay activist.

For the longest time gay and lesbian activists have been very successful at blurring the lines between sexual activity and personhood. Put in its most simplistic way, and I acknowledge that it is simplistic, the message has been "love us, love what we do." And its flip side has been to claim that if someone opposes active homosexuality they must "hate gays." Well, the parents of any three year old know that you can love the heck out of somebody and still not approve of the muddy hand prints all over the freshly washed wall or coloring the dog blue with magic marker. Using the term SSA reinforces the reality that while experiencing same sex attraction is out of the control of the vast majority of us, how we live and what we do with it (with the exception of addictions etc) is largely up to us.

Fourth, I prefer SSA because the term recognizes that it is not something fixed in everyone to the same degree forever. "Gay" carries with it an assumption of immutability that, frankly, I don't think can be supported any longer. No, I am not suggesting that everyone who attempts through a variety of means to reduce the degree of SSA they experience is going to see diminish to negligibility - but some will. And I do know that in my own life I have seen the degree of same sex attraction I experience diminish, and I know that others have experienced similar phenomena in their lives as well. We are not all the same, and the degrees of same sex attraction we experience across the course of our lives will likely not be the same either.

So, J, you asked and there is an answer. If you write back again and give me permission I will use your name. Unless or until you do so, I won't. Let me know.


As predicted, Lance takes the stage......
 
Yep, Lance took the first mountain stage and will probably hold the lead for the balance of the Tour. This from Lance's page:

Stage Report: No one can say CSC's Laurent "Jaja" Jalbert didn't give his all today, going off the front from 25 kms in and holding on until a recapture on the final ascent to La Mongie. And if ONCE was going to defend their jersey, they did it today from behind a red, white and blue train as Team USPS basically took over the Tour de France from a team leadership standpoint.

Telekom's Erik Zabel managed to wrestle "his" Green jersey back from McEwen for at least another day. Onto the final ascent, the last 12 kms all WAY uphill, and the boys in blue were still in charge - George Hincapie prominent up front as were 5 other Posties, Lance included. Jaja still had 3'30" at the base but was not looking too dominating. With 6 kms to go serious selection occurred in the pack, driven by USPS's Chechu Rubiera, then Lance, de Galdeano and Beloki. All the big names were still in contact, and Jaja's gap was dropping steadily.

Rubiera, Heras and Lance drive the pace - and then the Yellow Jersey de Galdeano cracked! He could not hold the steady USPS-made pace - he's dropped and so was practically everyone else save for Joseba Beloki! Heras received encouragement from Lance and it was simply "See ya, wouldn't want to be ya" - and only one minute to go to Jalabert.. The trio rode steadily - Beloki looking tired but still there - and Jaja could certainly see them coming with just 3 kms to go. Jaja's caught then dropped, then it was through the final corridor of massed Basque supporters and into the final strecth, Beloki barely hanging on but still there.

Into the last km and Roberto and Lance were just playing with Beloki - literally hemming him in through the final stretch. Beloki would not quit, though and then Lance took off with a few hundred meters to go! No way Beloki could hold on to this assault - Lance wins and will be in Yellow once again! Simply a GREAT team effort today by Team USPS...




Pray for the Kansas five
 
In The Boston Globe there is a story today about five young boys from Conway Springs, Kansas, who were sexually abused by a priest the diocese knew was abusive. The five later, as young men, killed themselves. There are no words. I have tried to think of something to say and I can't. You can - and should and, if you are a Bishop must- read their story here.

Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.
Bishop Cawcutt speaks
 
Bishop Cawcutt has released a statement in the wake of his retirement from the episcopacy. I won't bother to post the whole thing here. But I will observe that no where in it does he express any concern for the souls of the priests who were posting up pornographic images on the St. Sebastian's Angels website and talking about the sexual desirability of members of their congregations. The bottom line is discipleship and, thank God, Christ offers equal opportunity salvation no matter the temptations we struggle against - but we have to at least try.

Wednesday, July 17, 2002

The death of Double Jeopardy?
 
On a more alarming note, the Times reported today that David Blunkett, the British Home Secretary, proposed eliminating Double Jeopardy, the 800 year old common law rule that if one has been tried and found innocent of a crime that you cannot be tried again for the same crime. Shockingly, the only response reported by other British officials and politicians has been concern that the impact of such a change (more crowded prisons) may not be adequately funded.

While I am hardly a card carrying member of the American Civil Liberties Union, if I lived in Britain I might be a little disturbed at the notion that if the crown had been unable to convince a jury of my peers that I was guilty of something it could keep convening juries and trying me until such time it empanelled a group that would find me guilty.
Education: it could be worse
 
On this side of the pond the educational controversy currently raging is over vouchers, while in England the Times letters pages have lately been stirred by a dispute over what sorts of culinary education young brits should be getting. In today's editions Fiona Widdowson, of Worcester, agreed that teaching the the proper identification of root vegetables is probably outside the responsibility of the schools but asked if it is not too much to ask that children learn basic weights and measures. Recently, she writes,

My husband requested: “A kilogram of your mild cheddar, please.” The young man behind the counter replied: “We’re only allowed to sell things in grams or ounces.” My husband responded: “Then you had better make it a thousand grams.”

Surely this is considered to be within the remit of the national curriculum
.
Lance Armstrong readies to eat competition :)
 
Let me note, from the outset, that I am not generally a bike racing fan. I don't have bike racing posters on my walls or even a racing bike. I do have a blue hard-tail mountain bike that I rode on last summer for 300+ miles as part of the AIDSride, but I don't think for a second that matches some of the sleek and incredibly light machines I see out there now.

I am, however, a Lance Armstrong fan. His is the only autobiography of an athlete I have ever been able to get through. There is something about his persistence and courage and willingness to suffer to do what he loves that really gets to me. Anyway, Lance is in the Tour De France again this year and I predict he will win it again. Currently he is in second place, but the mountain stages where he traditionally shines start tomorrow and I anticipate he will start to eat up the 26 seconds he lags very well. Here is what the Washington Post had to say today about about his competition and Thursday's riding:

Gonzalez Galdeano has held the yellow jersey worn by the race leader for six stages, and will wear it in Thursday's opening mountain leg from Pau to La Mongie, high in the Pyrenees.

The 98-mile ride features two difficult climbs and should see Armstrong make his first serious bid for the race lead.

Gonzalez Galdeano has been the talk of the Tour, suddenly toured as Armstrong's next big rival.

Armstrong is a little puzzled.

"I never feel safe," the Texan said Tuesday. "But I wonder sometimes where such confidence comes from, when there's been no precedent, or rather, where the buzz comes from."

While undeniably talented, Galdeano did not come close to scaring Armstrong in the Tour's key mountain stages last year.

He lost 4:03 to the U.S. Postal Service rider in the opening mountain stretch from Aix-Les-Bains to L'Alpe d'Huez. By the end of the 2001 Tour, he trailed by 13:28.

"I was reading all of this stuff – this is such a big war between Armstrong and Galdeano," Armstrong said. "And I thought, I've got to look at the Tour last year.

"I looked at L'Alpe d'Huez: four minutes. I looked at the final: 13 minutes. These are big chunks of time."

Riders face one exceptionally difficult climb up the Col d'Aubisque mountain pass on Thursday. The day's other major challenge is the ride to the La Mongie ski station on the Tourmalet, one of the Tour's toughest climbs.


On a sad note, please pray for a 7 year old boy who was killed today while crossing the road the Tour uses. A car belonging to one of the tour sponsors struck the lad.

A Mass in rural California
 
About sixty miles to the west of Washington, out route 66 in Berryville, Va., there is a Cistercian Monastery called Holy Cross, where the community makes its living by making fruitcake and running a guest house for retreatants from the Washington chaos. It's a beautiful place and the retreatants are encouraged to take part in all the offices which means, in the Winter, arising in what feels like a bitterly cold dark to troop, flashlight in hand, down the road for a tenth or a mile or so to get to the Chapel.

The chapel is decorated really lovely way, with only minimal decoration but in a way that does great things with light and shadow. The effect is quite holy and striking. It was here, actually, where I got the first real intimation that maybe what I had been told all my life about the Catholic Church, and what Catholics did and did not believe, might not be true.

But all is not so in every Cistercian cloister, as a friend of mine, freshly returned from a trip to Oregon (which may be, if I am remember rightly, the most unchurched state in the Union) wrote recently about a Mass she recently attended at an Oregon Cistercian community.

The Monastery chapel is a bare gray concrete box where one entire wall is a window behind which stands a giant redwood tree. I wish I could tell you it was a lovely place. It wasn't. I found it depressing and told my husband I would go mad living there even for even a month. In true Cistercian style, there were NO decorations - nada, zip, zilch - just high gray concrete walls and a polished concrete floor. The benches were set monastic style, against two walls, facing in. Zen prayer mats were on the floor behind the benches, and Zen meditation pillows were piled in the sacristy. The seating arrangement meant that one's attention was focused on the concrete wall, not the altar, tabernacle or redwood tree.

The monastery has nine 50+ year old nuns who support themselves producing honey butter for gourmet shops. For Mass, they slip long white monastic robes over their jeans. The day we arrived, the chapel was pretty full. A group from the Catholic Worker movement was making a retreat, and they in combination with my husband and myself and a few locals pretty much filled the chapel.

If you thought we would experience a festival of ancient chant, you would have been wrong. The music was vintage OCP with just a tad of chant thrown in. My husband practiced the melodies quietly during the last 15 minutes before Mass, observing that one of the Dan Schutte songs was to be sung in two parts with descant, an arrangement he found puzzling.

The Mass was a bit odd. The word "Father" was replaced by "God" in every part of the Liturgy except for the *Our Father.* Communion was handed round the room in one of those flat baskets you slip under paper plates to keep them from collapsing and sending spaghetti all over the place. Each person took a priest-size host and broke it. But that wasn't the worst of it.

The homilist du jour was one of the Catholic Workers, who, despite the high place he has undoubtedly earned in Heaven on account of his ministry to the poor, was simply not called to preach. His sermon opened, "Hi, Earthlings!" My husband suppressed the urge to give some hand sign from Star Trek whose meaning now escapes me. The text of the day was the sower and the seed and somehow we earthlings were something or other that tied into the life of a deceased nun who heroically changed the liturgy and the rule for her order (Sisters of the Presentation), then became a Catholic worker and then died. My husband and I rolled our eyes.


Note, visitors who have viewed this blog more than once (if there are any) may notice that this piece originally appeared as a A Mass in Rural Oregon. My friend has written me to tell me that I got that wrong, the actual Monastary is in California. My point, however, still stands - that liturgy well done is one of the many ways Christ speaks to us and it is one of the few ways we can really honor Him. Catholics, Christians, deserve the chance to worship in beauty and holiness.


Bishop Cawcutt resigns
 
The Vatican news service is reporting this morning that the Holy Father has accepted the resignation of Right Reverend Reginald Cawcutt, Auxilary Bishop of Cape Town, under the terms of Canon law established for resignation on account of illness or some other grave reason.

Bishop Cawcutt's remarks on the notorious St. Sebastians Angels site, which was established and used by self-identifying gay clergy, included prophesying the death of John Paul in January of the Millenium as well as the suicide or muder of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Behavior is, has been and remains the issue.