Sed Contra


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Thursday, August 29, 2002

Wow, a backbone!
A Medicine Hat bride who was refused a wedding in a Catholic church because of her employment at a pro-choice organization may be excommunicated.

Calgary Catholic Bishop Fred Henry said Celina Ling has violated Canon 1398 of the Catholic doctrine that states people involved in "a deliberate and successful effort to eject a non-viable fetus and are necessary or principal collaborators" fall under automatic excommunication.

"She is involved in actually counselling and facilitating abortions by reason of her position," Henry said.

"She has already separated herself from the body of believers by virtue of the position she has taken. In terms of running to the media with her story, she obviously is not showing any signs of penitence."

St. Patrick's Church broke an agreement to marry Ling, 24, and Robert Symmonds on Sept. 21 after Father John Maes read a newspaper article quoting Ling as a representative of Planned Parenthood -- a pro-choice agency that teaches people about contraception, sexually transmitted diseases and options for dealing with unplanned pregnancy, including abortion.

Telling The Truth
For Herod had seized John and bound him and put him in prison, for the sake of Hero'di-as, his brother Philip's wife; because John said to him, "It is not lawful for you to have her."
And though he wanted to put him to death, he feared the people, because they held him to be a prophet. But when Herod's birthday came, the daughter of Hero'di-as danced before the company, and pleased Herod, so that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she might ask. Prompted by her mother, she said, "Give me the head of John the Baptist here on a platter."
And the king was sorry; but because of his oaths and his guests he commanded it to be given; he sent and had John beheaded in the prison, and his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother. And his disciples came and took the body and buried it; and they went and told Jesus. Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a lonely place apart.
The Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 14:3-13.

Today Catholic Christians recall the death of John the Baptist, specifically the way that he lost his head because he dared speak truth to power. His memorial today brought to my mind something of the controversy that is rocking Catholic Americans about whether faithful lay Catholics have any business criticizing, questioning really, priests, bishops, cardinals, and the Holy Father himself, for the ways the institutional Church, for years, failed to respond adequately to priests who sexually molested young people and for other ongoing, poorly managed problems. Some of the discussion has been helpful and has helped shed light while minimizing the heat of this emotionally charged question. But some of the discussion has been, frankly, less helpful. In this regard I write about the most recent editorial from the National Catholic Register that includes these unfortunate passages:

Before too long, these questions are no longer about how John Paul has handled this or that issue - they are a fundamental challenge to his papacy. Then, if you look at history, they become something more - a challenge to the very structure of the Church.

The truth is, the Church has never functioned in a pope-as-police-chief model - or even pope-as-CEO. Not in the times of the Christological heresies, when large sectors of the Church went to Mass and received the sacraments from bishops who didn't believe in the divinity of Christ. Not before the Reformation. Not after the Council of Trent, which corrected abuses from before the Reformation. Not in the days of Cardinal John Henry Newman, who described a Church rife with heresy and negligent bishops.

If John Paul has let us down, every pope has let us down. And that just means Christ's model of the Church has let us down.

But it isn't clear that the Church could have functioned on this disciplinarian model. Can the pope know best how to handle the situations of every diocese? And with whom would he replace negligent bishops? Saints? They are always in short supply. More to the point: Today, many people assume that the Pope ought to boot this or that bishop out, when they have a very limited knowledge of the facts of the matter. There are cases where the Pope asks for bishops' resignations - perhaps he knows something we don't about the others.

Nope. I am sorry. But to make observations about things that have gone on the Church and to raise questions about the leadership’s response to them and to even conclude that the response has been woefully flawed is not to conclude that Christ’s model of the Church has let us down. We are not talking about matters of doctrine here. We are not talking about folks questioning whether the Church’s teachings on this issue or that are true.

We are talking about criticism of the way the Church’s leadership has responded to real crimes, moral offenses and legal breaches, committed by its clergy. We are talking about Roman Catholic priests and bishops being involved in heinous and damnable actions and breaches of trust. We are talking about the knowledge that these things have gone on for years and of a failure to address them. We are talking about the costs both temporal and, we pray not, eternal. And, important to note today, we are telling the truth.

I am certain, as the Register pointed out, that previous bishops and priests, sometimes a majority, have both let each other down as well as the Catholic laity. But does the Register mean to suggest that those failures are goods or that they did not merit criticism during their tenure?

Much has been made of the observation that “the Church has never functioned in a pope-as-police-chief model - or even pope-as-CEO.” But maybe it should. Maybe the reason it has never done so has less to do with any deep spiritual insights but strictly temporal, pastoral and technological challenges. Before the telephone, the fax machine, the Internet, when communications were much more difficult maybe it was too hard to demand significant accountability from bishops. Well, things are different now, at least in the first world. News of what errant clergy have done travels much faster, and demands for accountability do too.

I don’t have the answers to the questions the Register raises. I don’t know that a pope is going to know how to handle a situation in every diocese, but I do know that when he hears of something sufficiently wrong he can ask for an explanation and, if none is forthcoming, can investigate further and maybe clean some chanceries out. Further, I don’t know whom he would choose to take over sees vacated, but part of his job as pope is to address these types of problems and find answers.

My friend Irene has commented to me on numerous times that grace builds on nature, and I think she has a powerful insight into this situation. No other natural institution, not the family, not the small business, not the government, not the major corporation, not the school, not the army, none, runs the way the Church has been allowed to run. None of them are places where members can afford to not be accountable to the leadership, where necessary discipline is not maintained. In this sense the Church is definitely un-natural and gives the Holy Spirit little with which to form the Supernatural identity she is also called to show.

On this day of John the Baptist’s death, faithful Catholic laity must, and will, continue to tell the truth and to ask questions. Why do we have dioceses in America with “Gay and Lesbian Ministries” that don’t preach the gospel and march in “gay pride” parades? Why are Catholic priests allowed to write screeds praising pro-abortion politicians in their parish bulletins? Why have Catholic bishops been allowed to recycle priests who have been credibly accused of abuse from parish to parish to parish? These questions are not disloyal, and there is no disloyalty in expressing frustration with how little has been done to remedy grievous ills. These questions and observations are true – and they will be true whether anyone communicates them or not.

Tuesday, August 27, 2002

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Sex in Cinema
I finally got to see Tadpole on Saturday. I chose to see it deliberately, as opposed to having been carried to it by friends, so that I could compare it to Y Tu Mama Tambien. Tadpole, you might recall, is the film which purports to dramatize the adolescent crush of a fifteen year old boy-man on an older (45-50) year old woman. Y Tu Mama dramatizes in a very gritty and realistic way a road trip undertaken by two slightly older (17) Mexican young men on an older woman (in her twenties). Both movies address what in some quarters have come to be called inter-generational relationships, both with older women and younger men, and both films have been, to some extent controversial.

Much of Y Tu Mama's controversy stemmed from its frank and un-sentimental depiction of sex. In the course of the movie you see people doing it, in the term of the playgrounds of my childhood, as well as the the two young men masturbating. The camera does not linger on the sex, but it doesn't shy away either and in this sense it is of a piece with the film. Part of the power of Y Tu Mama derives from the contrast it continually makes between the two young men's behaviors and desires and the cold, brutal reality of the Mexico flashing by just on the other side of their car windows. And the way the films handles sex is part of that.

Frankly, the sex in Y Tu Mama is not sexy. It is naked, yes, but it is also hurried, undignified, unloving, surreptitious, fraught with conflict and shadowed with disappointment and despair. The audience soon comes to realize that just as the two lads are lost in the broader Mexico, so they are also lost in the enormous topics of sexuality, sexual expression and the absolutely mystifying emotions that parts of their society insist are only incidental to the sexual act and the foundation for it. In this way I found the sex in Y Tu Mama entirely and refreshingly realistic. Yes, the acts were depicted, but so was the selfishness, lostness and lack of regard they contained.

Tadpole, on the other hand, didn't appear to even concern itself with Realism. Censors would have been more pleased with Tadpole since it didn't really depict any sex, but the movies makers clogged the story with great gobs of sentimentality, so gooping up the narrative that the viewers appear to be supposed overlook embarrassing questions like why the young man's father doesn't even raise more questions when it comes out that his wife's best friend has slept with his son. In a way, although Y Tu Mama is more naked, Tadpole was significantly more obscene. In perhaps the film's most revolting scene the young man, Oscar, has arrived at a cafe to impress on his mother's best friend the need to spare his feelings and dignity and not talk about what has happened. To his embarrassment and horror he finds that she has not only let her friends know what had happened the night before, but had recommended him to them and suggested they get together.

While more graphic by far, I think I found the sex in Y Tu Mama less egregious and more honest than what passed for sex in the more careful Tadpole. Ironically I found the role sex played in each story to be a good deal worse in Tadpole even while it showed less.
A Thousand Apologies
Well, Netcomment appears to have gone away and I apologize to the few folks who were kind enough to leave me comments before the departure. I have switched to Haloscan in the hope that will offer a more reliable commenting function, even though it has apparently, for some bizarre reason, changed the posts which used the old commenting system to italic.

Please feel free to continue commenting on the new system, thanks.

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Saturday, August 24, 2002

Is the Church in America in Schism?
One of my correspondents sent me this account. I throw it out there for comment and to spark discussion because, as my correspondent noted, this would explain at least some of the behavior on on the parts of some of our bishops that has had us stewing in St. Blogs lately.

From Jason Berry's "Lead Us Not Into Temptation" (p. 338-339) comes this account of a 1989 meeting between a Chicago area couple, called here the Does, which was suing the Chicago Archdiocese on behalf of their little boy, alleging physical and sexual abuse at the hands of a priest and nun at the child's parochial school. The Archdiocese was playing extreme hardball with the parents. The dad and mom got to meet Cardinal Edouard Gagnon of the Pontifical Council for the Family on June 22.

Berry says the following story is based on individual interviews with the Does, their Dominican friend Fr. John O'Connor, who introduced them to Gagnon, and "detailed correspondence between Gagnon and John Doe, who took notes immediately after the drive":

Doe discussed [with Gagnon, O'Connor and Mrs. Doe present] and said he wanted to meet Pope John Paul II. "There is no need for you to go," said Gagnon. "We already know about the pedophilia problem. It is particularly an American and Canadian problem."

"You mean to tell me you've known about it and haven't done anything about people who entrust their kids to priests?"

Gagnon replied that Rome had received "hundreds of letters. It is beyond the power of the Holy See to control."

"They exercise more control over a McDonald's franchise than you exercise over bishops," John Doe snapped.

"That is unfair," said Gagnon. "The Church is in a schism. American bishops will not obey the Holy Father where he has sought to intervene. It only makes matters worse."

Schism means that a group formally breaks away from teh authority of Rome. When the word dropped from Gagnon's lips, years of tutelage under nuns made Jane Doe sit forward: "Pardon me, Cardinal, did you say schism?" Yes, replied Gagnon. John said, "If we're in a schism why don't you tell the laity."

"They have no right to know."

John Doe's Irish wrath was rising: "I don't give a damn about altar girls or doctrinal points! I've only got one issue: protecting children from their priests!"

"You're trying to right all the wrongs of this world," said Gagnon. "You talk about bad priests. What about bad lawyers?"

Doe cited recent convictions of Cook County judges and attorneys for bribery. "The people who put them in jail are lawyers. We clean up our mess, not like you priests."

"Then you should pursue a lawsuit," said Gagnon.

Jane Doe was amazed: a Vatican cardinal was telling them to sue. Did he know that mean naming another cardinal, the archbishop Joseph Bernardin, as a defendant? But what difference did it make? Suin the Church was -- *suing the Church*.

A bitter silence filled the car. Then, gently, Gagnon asked: "Is this your only child?" "Yes," said the parents. "It's terrible what happened," the cardinal brooded. "I am sorry. When I was a boy in Canada, we had ways of dealing with men like this. They must feel the lash. Then they won't do it."

Soon thereafter, John Doe wrote Gagnon in Rome, recounting their exchange, and sent an impassioned, respectful letter to the Pope. Gagnon wrote back: "I understand your suffering and your worries and I shall do my best to convince the Holy Father that he should do something urgently." A papal secretary replied: "His Holiness ... invokes God's blessings upon you."

Now, discussion among some of my correspondents has ranged widely on this question. Some have argued that the Church in America is not in Schism because Schism is a very formal state of affairs and requires some sort of formal recognition of a break in the communion. Further, naysayers point out, Cardinal Gagnon has made similar statements in the past and, they contend, what he is really doing is throwing up a smokescreen for the Holy See. They also point out that if Schism existed the dioceses would no longer collect money for the Holy See (the Peter's Pence etc).

But, the proponents wonder (and I count myself among the wonderers) that if it is possible to be in Schism without formally declaring it. If teaching and edict, edict and teaching, comes out from the Holy See (including some addressing, presumbably the roots of The Situation) and Bishops in the U.S. simply ignore those isn't that tantamount to Schism?

A follow up question. If a state of de-facto Schism does exist shouldn't the Holy See do the laity (and everyone else) a favor by saying so?
A reader writes:
Mike wrote some thoughtful observations about the ongoing discussion of ordaining some folks with SSA and I offer them here, with some annotation:

The bishops do need to address the link between 'SSA' and the recent scandals, but to do so publicly is to instigate a major mudfight, which they may not win. An extensive and general housecleaning is needed. But focusing on one group because it has been the source of public scandal and lawsuits can be easily and fairly tagged as scapegoating and does not address the more profound issue of fidelity.

Yes. In the heat of these moments its all too easy to forget that seminaries exist to help the Holy Spirit form men into very specific people, people who will be called upon to participate in the Church's very sacramental life. Fidelity is key - and it is key enough that when there is infidelity it needs to be addressed ASAP.

To be sure, I feel that reforms in seminary training, careful screening of applicants and careful ongoing assessment of candidates (I would reject I-am-my-sexuality 'gays', or anyone else who is immature.) must be done. (And of clergy and hierarchy as well.) The existence of same-sex-attracted candidates and clergy is not the primary issue.

I have known a number of 'ssa' men who I believe are good and fairly orthodox priests; some have even been accused of -gasp!-- conservatism. That their priesthood is or was somehow invalid is simply not credible. There are other kinds of misbehavior among priests, albeit not all of them as actionable in a court of law. If our only concern is to prevent behavior that will avoid lawsuits, then we are missing the point. That candidates swear to the demands expected of them and demonstrate an ability to do so during the period of their training is more important.

Failure to enforce the rules, and the growth of an atmosphere that suggested that the rules could be taken lightly, has contributed as much as anything else to the present crisis and doubtless helped push some over the edge, whatever their sins were. Bad morale leads to bad behavior. Leadership, more than membership, is the issue. Remember that a tiny percentage of priests (<2%) are involved in the scandal, but a large majority of the bishops are involved, at least in the coverup.

Dear All, the Utne Reader for October of this year has a longer version of this. I would have pointed you to it but I can't since its not online, but there is this version online and its better than nothing.

A couple leaped from the south tower, hand in hand. They reached for each other and their hands met and they jumped. Many people jumped. Perhaps hundreds. No one knows. They struck the pavement with such force that there was a pink mist in the air.The mayor reported the mist.

A kindergarten boy who saw people falling in flames told his teacher that the birds were on fire. She ran with him on her shoulders out of the ashes.

Several pedestrians were killed by people falling from the sky.A fireman was killed by a body falling from the sky.But a man reached for a woman’s hand and she reached for his hand and they leaped out the window holding hands.

Jennifer Brickhouse of New Jersey and Stuart DeHann of New York City saw this from far below.

I try to whisper prayers for the sudden dead, and the harrowed families of the dead, and the screaming souls of the murderers, but I keep coming back to his hand and her hand nestled in each other with such extraordinary ordinary succinct ancient naked stunning perfect simple ferocious love.

It is the most powerful prayer I can imagine, the most eloquent, the most graceful. It is everything that we are capable of against horror and loss and death. It is what makes me believe that we are not craven fools and charlatans to believe in God, to believe that human beings have greatness and holiness within them like seeds that open only under great fires, to believe that some unimaginable essence of who we are persists past the dissolution of what we were, to believe against such evil evidence hourly that love is why we are here.

He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, wrote John the Apostle.

I trust I shall shortly see thee, and we shall speak face to face, John also wrote.

Jennifer Brickhouse saw them holding hands, and Stuart DeHann saw them holding hands, and I hold onto that.

Friday, August 23, 2002

What's wrong with this letter?
One of the Courageous sent me the following letter, which appeared in the Dear Padre column in the back of a bulletin at one of the parishes he attends in his home city. I copy it here as an example of one of the sorts of things that appear in various Catholic settings addressed to people living with SSA. I will discuss it more below.

Topic: Does the Catholic Church hate gay people?

Question: "I am a college student, a former Catholic, and gay. I just wanted to ask why the Catholic Church hates gay people. Other churches seem to be more understanding. Why can't the Catholic Church be more welcoming?" Signed, Kept Out and Confused

A Fr. William J. Parker, C.Ss.R. responds:

Dear Kept Out and Confused,
My heart just broke when I read your letter. I didn't include the examples you mentioned because I was afraid that they might compromise your identity. You have received more than your share of bigotry and hate from closed-minded members of your former Church; I can understand why you no longer attend a Catholic Church, and yet it makes me so mad I could spit!

Prejudice is nothing new in the Catholic Church, and that is a painful fact for me to state. Throughout the centuries, the Jews, Muslims, Protestants, Blacks, Hispanics, Women, singles, and now gays have all experienced the kinds of prejudice that you mention: exclusion, judgemental statements, and persecution. It is a discouraging story, which has been told for centuries! This response does not represent the Catholic Church, but rather people who call themselves Catholic but have stopped listening to Jesus.

Jesus was comfortable with everyone. He never made a list of who was acceptable and who was not. It was the religious leaders who tried to enforce separations with their labels: sinners and righteous. Such labels were nonsense! Jesus came to change hearts, but what happened is that hard-hearted people convinced themselves that Jesus' plan was the same as their own. So they said and did things that have no connection whatsoever with what Jesus said and did.

Jesus challenges all of us to live truthfully and love honestly. where people do so, Jesus is in their midst. I sincerely hope Catholics will truly hear the words of Jesus, but if history is any guide, I fear prejudicial labels and the resulting divisions will be with us for a long, long time.

Fr. William J. Parker, C.Ss.R.

Now, first, it is hard to analyze this letter well without knowing what sorts of information the questioning letter contained. But even without having that degree of full information, it is possible to study, and put into context, some of Father's response.

To begin with the letter contains some definitely good messages. First, Father Parker is right to note that people in Catholic Churches can be pretty harsh to folks living with degrees of same sex attraction, particularly if the the SSA appears obvious or if they self-identify as "gay." There are no excuses for this, but I will note that it can be difficult to convey the nuanced position of the Catholic Church, which differentiates between the person living with SSA and acts associated with homosexuality to the average Catholic. Too many folks are all too ready to make snap judgements based on perceptions and leave it at that.

Second, I think Father is right to emphasize that Christ was very accepting of people. That was very true. People society labeled as "sinners" felt very comfortable approaching Christ. But its worthy to note that Christ was not interested in leaving them to commit sins. When he spoke to Zacchaeus, the corrupt tax collector of Jericho, when He spoke to the woman taken in adultery, when he spoke to the woman at the Well, the text suggests that Jesus 1) identified their sin and 2) made it clear that in His presence the sins had to be left behind. In the case of the rich young man, he went as far as to identify the overreaching attachments in the young man's heart, to his wealth, that was actually keeping him from the Kingdom of God.

I think it is this invitation to discipleship that Father Parker's letter lacks, some notion of the broader and deeper vision Christ has for each of us, as human beings, no matter our temptations. I think Father missed an opportunity to invite this young man to enter into this vision and, through the invitation, to educate Catholics further about what the Church actually teaches. If I were to write this letter (and I freely admit to a degree of presumption here) this is what I might have said:

Question: "I am a college student, a former Catholic, and gay. I just wanted to ask why the Catholic Church hates gay people. Other churches seem to be more understanding. Why can't the Catholic Church be more welcoming?" Signed, Kept Out and Confused.

Dear Kept Out and Confused,

First of all, let me assure you, as a man who used to self-define as gay and who lives with a degree of Same Sex Attraction (SSA)even today, the Catholic Church does not hate gay people. Though, to my sorrow, I can understand from the examples you gave why you might believe that to be true. I can't apologize for my fellow Catholics, but I can point out that the topic of "gay people" is a hot one today and that people often react emotionally to that which they don't understand and that which they fear. Myself, I try hard to cut folks a little slack when I run into unthinking or ignorant comments.

In contrast to what those folks said, I can assure you that, far from "hating" you, the Catholic Church loves you in the name of Christ and believes you, along with everyone else, can attain heaven; that you and I and everyone else living with SSA can and should be Saints. Now, living Chris's life on the road to becoming a Saint is not easy - for anybody. Doing it successfully means putting out of our lives the behaviors and attitudes that can prevent us from living in Grace. That means striving for to live a life of charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, perseverance, mildness, faith, modesty, continence and chastity. But it can be done! The good news is that, if we ask Him, the Holy Spirit will bring us people who can help us and Jesus Christ, "true God from true God" gives us His Very Self in the Eucharist to be with us, comfort us, console us, strengthen us and love us with His very heart, mind and Grace. Meaning no disrespect to whatever good folks you have around you already, that is a gift very few other Christian churches can claim.

Know that you are loved and that we invite you to love us as well. I will pray for you, please pray for me too.

Your brother in Christ,

David Morrison

Thursday, August 22, 2002

August, Art and The Catholic League
Maureen Mullarkey (see previous post) has a great essay on her site about the ways that many culturally conservative Catholics (like, for example, the Catholic League) manage through their denunciation of blasphemous art to advance the careers of the artists. For example, Chris Ofili, the artist responsible for the portrait of the Virgin Mary made partially of elephant dung, will represent Britain at an upcoming Venice showing and competition. Not being a dummy and having had a great deal of success outraging Catholics in New York, Ofili apparent plans to stay with his Blasphemy for All themes. Maureen writes: Word is out that he will exhibit "Upstairs Chapel," a group of twelve paintings of The Last Supper depicting the assembly as a gathering of monkeys. I imagine he hopes the Catholic League gets wind of this one too, since he might need the promotion. Anyway, Maureen writes about more subtle approaches to the Ofilis and Serranos of the world which might make the necessary points and, maybe, help save their souls too. She includes this wonderful what if press release:

Simply as an image, without regard to its provocative title, Serrano’s infamous photo is quite lovely. The crucifix floats in a pale golden, effervescent haze. Ginger ale? Champagne? It could read as a celebration of the means of redemption. Only the title tells us otherwise.

Taking offense is the anticipated and desired response. Imagine the confusion among our culturati if the League welcomed the image as a true picture—not necessarily to its taste, but nonetheless valid—of the way the world treats its Redeemer. In truth, the world pisses on the cross every day. Catholics, sinners all, are not exempt.

Imagine a press release along these lines:


We, members of the Catholic League, acknowledge the power of vulgarity in exposing the raw indecency of sin. While some might have reservations about the prudence of Mr. Serrano’s composition, we unite in applauding the sound theology behind it.

The Spirit works in mysterious ways, even to transforming the questionable taste and bad manners of artists. Not every artist is gifted with powers of exalted expression. But even lesser gifts bear witness to the effects of original sin. They, too, serve who only stand and stun. Mr. Serrano has given us a graphic image of a point made daily, if less colorfully, in pulpits from Seattle to Amsterdam. Especially Amsterdam.

The League remembers that the Church has its own iconographic tradition that many find unseemly or shocking. Think of statues of St. Agatha carrying her breasts on a plate, like cherry-topped meringues. Then there’s St. Lucy, her eyes served up as canapés. Picture St. Roc, lifting his skirt like a chorus girl to point coyly at horrid sores on his inner thighs. The crucifix itself is startling, an image of violent cruelty.

Andres Serrano has brought up to date an ancient pictorial pairing of the sacred and the grotesque. He has helped us see the crucifix with fresh eyes. Bravo!

• • •

Pssst, Andres! You’re a Catholic, right? Here, take the Mass schedule at St. Agnes. If ever you feel like praying with us—or for us—please come by. Don’t be shy about stopping at the rectory for coffee and crullers after Mass. We’d love to talk about your new work. God bless. You too, Chris. See ya.

To what end?
Lately, in the last couple of days, St. Blogs has been in tempestito (a little tempest) about a piece of Rod Dreher's which ran in the Wall Street Journal. Rod, an orthodox Catholic and a friend, expressed his unhappiness and frustration with how little Rome has done to help orthodox Catholics enduring The Situation, as well as a myriad of other failures of Episcopal leadership over the years.This inaction on the part of Rome in regards to the Situation, Rod argued, is part of a pattern of inaction on other issues and conveys the appearance that the Holy Father does not care about children or the situation or the Catholic Church in America.

Well, now that it is done, what good has it accomplished? An orthodox Catholic has come out and expressed disappointment with the Holy Father's decisions and doubted, by extension, whether He really has the best of interests of Catholics in America at heart. Great. Good to get that off the chest but now what, after all the breast beating is done?

For the record, I share Rod's frustration, both with the incredible perfidy and incompetence of some of our shepherds in The Situation and with the other aspect of Episcopal infidelity as well. How many people, body and soul, have been lost because more clerics did not and do not stand up an annunciate the Church's teaching on SSA? Or sex before marriage? Or the nature of the Holy Eucharist? Or on discipleship? Heck, diocese without Courage groups have "ministries" that take out floats in gay pride parades - and have for years and all that is considered fine. How many lives and souls has that, and the underlying attitude it conveys, cost?

But I also recognize that the Church is not merely, as someone else suggested recently, "God Inc." The Church is not just a human institution over which I should feel competent to judge its leaders in the same way I might, say, Enron's or Global Crossing's or the Government. Actually, if the Church is just a human institution like those others then I am taking my leaner and buffer body out and getting laid. If its just a human institution, then who needs it? Like Flannery O'Conner's famous comment about the Eucharist, if the Church is just a human institution then to hell with it and let the party begin.

But if the Church is more than that. If it really is Christ's Body in the world, both temporal and mystical, if God is in fact in charge of all these decisions, ultimately, both the ones I like as well as the ones that disappoint me and the Church is really a community of people striving for heaven, that is something worth keeping in my life and I remember those failed leaders are not just CEOs but are also my brothers in Christ.

In the end I can't control what goes on the overall Body of Christ. I can't hire and fire bishops. Heck, I cannot even control what my own bishop does or does not do. I can't know what is going on in the hierarchy which leads to the decisions that have been made. But I can control my own life. I can help edify, catechize, strengthen and encourage my brothers and sisters in the Faith to bring as many people along the road to heaven with me as I can. Isn't that the only end that, ultimately, matters?

Wednesday, August 21, 2002

A reader writes
Maureen Mullarkey, of Studio Matters, has written to thank me for pointing out, in the comments section of another blog that Father John Harvey OSFS opposes a blanket ban on ordaining men with any degree of same sex attraction (SSA) to the priesthood. Who is Father John Harvey, you might ask? Father Harvey is a priest who has been working for decades with men and women from all walks of life, ordained and lay, living with a degree of same sex attraction to do so chastely. He is the principal Founder (though he will say he is the not the only one) of Courage, the Catholic Church's ministry of hope and discipleship to men and women living with same sex attraction. In an era crowded with experts, on this topic at least, along with living a faithful Catholic life, Father John is an Expert and an incredibly generous and persevering pastor.

Maureen writes well and makes a number of good points so I thought I would share them.

Where would we be without Gerard Manley Hopkins, priest and poet? W. H. Auden who articulated Christianity in the trenches of the lived life? Shall we strip Hopkins of orders posthumously for homosexual inclinations? Disdain the beauty of Auden's spiritual quest? We all have our disorders[out-of-orderness], some more visible than others. Some more acceptable or less disruptive than others. But there isn't one of us who could stand before our God stiff-kneed and proud. Each one of us, if we have any self-awareness at all, can only crawl on our bellies to the One Who is come to redeem us.

To impose a ban on the ordination of homosexual men would impoverish us all. It would endorse a shrunken, desiccated morality that hoarded the concept of grace for itself. John Harvey has a large spirit--far larger and more luminous than those who would ban homosexuals from priestly witness.

Forgive me if I sound florid to you. But last Wednesday I stood at the graveside of a friend. He had died prematurely of lymphoma.Because he was HIV positive, the cancer could not be fought as aggressively as it required. He was, in truth, the most fervent believer that I have ever known. Everyone who knew him loved him. There is no doubt that Christ loves him as well.
Is such a man to be barred from the priesthood? John Harvey wouldn't say so. Who is any of us to say so?

Indeed. And since I have blogged a little on this topic before I risk being seen as a crusader on the topic. But not matter. Here are my top four reasons why I believe a ban on on ordaining men who live with a degree of same sex attraction from the priesthood would be a foolish and destructive policy. These are in no order of importance. They are all important.

First, such a policy would go against the spirit, if not the actual letter, of the Church's current teaching on same sex attraction (homosexuality) which I find to be, frankly, head and shoulders above what anybody else has had to say on the subject. Alone among Christendom, or at least alone among the Christendom that I know, the Catholic Church looks at me with the eyes of Christ and calls me into deeper discipleship, to walk the road to heaven with Him and all my other brother and sisters by adoption. The Catholic Church does not, as some other Christian churches do, pretend she can play God and judge that I am worthy only of hell on the basis of what tempts me. Neither does she, as other Christians do (and sometimes churches) deem to decide in advance for me that I deserve on the soft and easy parts of the Gospel message and that I should not hear Christ tell me to sell everything I have and follow Him. She looks at me with Christ's eyes and loves me and invites me to become a Saint. So, if my living with same sex attraction is not enough to keep me from heaven, should it be enough to keep me from the priesthood if I believed the Holy Spirit called me in that direction? Once we sought to discern my vocation maybe it would become clear that I am not called to be a priest. Fine. But don't close the conversation without even considering what the call might be.

Second, such as ban would be fundamentally impossible to administer. How little SSA will it take to keep a man from the priesthood? Will the crush he had as an eighth grader on an eleventh grader who seemed to have everything he wanted be enough to keep him out? How about fantasies as an early teenager. And do we presume that all candidates have some degree of SSA, as I have been told is the current procedure now? If so, under this policy, how do we ask candidates to prove they are not, essentially to prove a negative?

Third, such a ban will merely force SSA further underground among priests and seminarians, make it further ill considered and stigmatized and virtually guarantee that it will linger to malform yet further seminarians and priests. The ability to be honest, with oneself, with ones spiritual director, with ones confessor, appears to me to be instrumental in all Christian Formation, not just that of seminarians and priests. I cannot understand how anyone could consider having to keep ones sexual temptations a secret from anyone else could be conducive to helping you learn to confront them and live chastely.

Fourth, such a policy would be essentially a red herring, distracting us from the real problem, which are priests and bishops who, for whatever reason, are malformed and willing to live and administer the Church essentially faithlessly. If we are honest we have to admit The Situation only casts a spotlight on things which we have known to be wrong for a long time. While there is no guarantee that pastors who are faithful to the Gospel would necessarily have 1) confronted the situation when it was still small and 2) not participated in it themselves I cannot help but think they would have been less willing to have betrayed Christ as apparently readily as they did.

O.K. Objections. Aren't there already bishops who have such a ban in place even, for example, in your own diocese of Arlington, VA? Yes, that's true. But guess what, they still have priests living with a degree of same sex attraction, priests who, for obvious reasons, cannot be honest about that with people who might be able to help them carry that particular Cross. Which is better, to be able to honest and forthright, when one has to be, about what tempts you or to have to feel like you need to hide it all the time? In my experience isolation and secrets are not aids to chaste living.

Won't letting men living with a degree of SSA enter the seminary expose them to near occasions of sin? For some, maybe. For others maybe not. SSA is not a one-size-fits-all phenomenon. That's why situations need to be evaluated on a case by case basis.

Anyway, that is my (long) take on it as of August, 2002.

Tuesday, August 20, 2002

A change in black bear behavior?
A five-month old baby girl has been killed by a black bear which snatched her from outside a house in the US town of Fallsburg, in New York State.

O.K, this normally would have gotten little more than my sympathy and prayer, but I have actually seen bear when hiking on the Appalachian Trail and bear actually show up fairly often pretty close to where my Goddaughter and her family live. But what really got my attention was that this tale came on the heels of yet another relatively rare (at least it seemed that way at the time) and bizarre tale of a black bear attack.

According to a story I had just read earlier this week two brothers, 24 and 25, had been camping in the Santa Rita mountains in Arizona and, having taken the usual anti-bear precautions (food in the tree, rangers had checked the campsite for bear precautions), woke up to find one of under attack from a male black bear. The bear had siezed the younger brother in his sleep and was dragging him by the back of the neck into the woods. The older brother was only able to rescue his mauled and wounded younger brother by rushing the bear, screaming at it, actually hitting it and pulling his brother's body out of the bears mouth.

Now this attack. The American Bear Association is on the web but is not too terribly helpful. Not only do they not have any statistics on bear attacks, their advice on bear-human encounters is:

Remember, negative confrontations with bears are usually the result of bears reacting DEFENSIVELY rather than acting aggressively. By understanding their behavior and their needs, you can avoid unpleasant encounters. The sight of a wild bear can be a rewarding experience! Take time to care - be BEAR AWARE.

Somehow, I am not sure the baby pulled from her stroller was threatening the bear. I am not "anti-bear" at all. I have thrilled to see them in the wild on the occasions when I have been able to, and have usually seen them run faster when they saw me than I could have run upon seeing them. But as the headline of this item asks, are we seeing a change in black bear behavior?

Mom of autistic lad seeks to hire him a playmate
I will admit this story really got to me. Autism is such a mystery, ranging from a seeming complete withdrawal and an apparent mental disability to extraordinary abilities in music and numbers. There is just something about this little kid, looking over the fence at the others playing and not being able to reach out...

The mother of a four-year-old autistic boy who wants a friend for her son is offering to pay children a fiver to play with him.
Jack Rumsey, of Thurnby, Leicester, is autistic and cannot speak, which has made it difficult for home to socialise. His mother, Emma Upfold, 25, has put an advert in a newsagent's window appealing for a playmate for her son, but so far has no response. She said: "It's really heartbreaking. I suppose the advert is really a last resort.

UK river being considered for role as "another Ganges"
A river in West Yorkshire could be used by Hindus and Sikhs for the ceremonial scattering of ashes. Traditionally the River Ganges, the most religiously significant river in India, has been used. But now Bradford City Council is considering whether to allow part of the River Aire to be used instead. This would save relatives having to make the trip to India.

Now I don't know anything much about either Hinduism or Sikhs but I have always been under the impression that it was important to actually use the Ganges - that any other river just wouldn't do. Is that not so? More on this story here.

Scores clamoring to become a Hermit....for two days.
The successful applicant will be allowed to take only the clothes they are wearing into the grotto and a "spiritual text" of their choice, while their food will be prepared and provided by estate staff. Visitors to the house, which is home to photographer Lord Lichfield, will be led on an evening visit to the hermit as part of the exhibition.

Mrs Caddy said Shugborough was looking for someone with "an inspiring personality" to take on the role of the hermit, whose job traditionally ranged from acting as a sage to the more "frivolous" task of frightening walkers enjoying a quite stroll around the gardens.
Artist Anna Douglas, who came up with the idea, said: "In the 18th Century, it was very fashionable to have a hermit living in a remote corner of your estate.

"We are keen to see whether we can recreate this fashion and whether people are as equally eager to escape from the pressures of everyday life as they were in the 18th Century."

Read more and find out how to apply here.

Monday, August 19, 2002

Some thoughts on "Godless Americans" (Their definition - not mine).
So apparently self-defined "Godless Americans" are planning a March on Washington and gathering sponsors for the event. A controversy has a arisen about whether two Satanists groups are "Godless" enough to sponsor the event. The tempest in the ranks is amusing enough, but I want to take on this notion that there really are any "Godless" Americans and, if there really truely are any, to suggest that we would all be safer if they were locked up in prison or asylums or otherwise sequestered from where they could hurt anyone.

Because I don't believe there will be any really God-Less people Marching on Washington. Unless they have no morals whatsoever, as in psychopathic serial killers and the like (see my note about prisons and asylums above), these soon to be Marchers Without Deity remain very willing to live lives completely saturated in the trappings, attitudes, laws and customs of a society and culture very deeply invested in God. Their very ability to March to Washington in freedom to express their opinion that there is no God, to travel the roads in relative safety, to walk down the street without fear (at least in the areas they will likely visit) testifies to the fact that they are quite willing to live with the benefits of a culture that does believe in God. It's all very quaint to argue that there is no God, or to March to make that point, as long as you have you gun or club or other defensive tool handy in case a majority of your fellow citizens begins to believe you.
Making ready the stones....
The sentence was confirmed.

A Sharia appeal court in Funtua [Nigeria] will today give judgement in the case of a woman who was sentenced to death by stoning for bearing a child out of wedlock. If the sentence is confirmed, 30-year-old Amina Lawal would become the first woman to be stoned to death since 12 states in northern Nigeria reintroduced the Islamic legal code more than three years ago.

Her lawyers, who are confident of victory, have vowed to appeal the verdict if the upper Sharia court in Funtua ruled against her.
But Amina wearied by illness and months of controversy, told reporters at her last hearing that she would accept whatever verdict the court handed down.

"I will leave everything to Allah," she said, cradling her baby daughter in her arms outside the court house in Funtua.

The trial is the second such case to attract public outcry over the application of the full Islamic penal code in Nigeria, a secular state.

Since the return of civilian government in 1999, the mainly Muslim communities of the North have begun reintroducing Sharia, in part as a response to perceived rise in lawlessness. The law code has not been welcomed by the North's Christian minority, however, and in past years its application had triggered bloody riots that left hundreds dead.

The Federal Government has made half-hearted attempts to oppose it, once declaring it unconstitutional, but had seemed unwilling or unable to directly challenge the 12 states over the issue. Rights campaigners, and some international groups, have also raised alarm, claiming that cases like Amina's show that the Islamic law as applied in Nigeria discriminates against women.

As in the earlier case of Safiya Husseini, another young mother sentenced to stoning, who was cleared on a technical grounds earlier this year, leading lawyers have taken up Lawal's case.

Tomorrow as in previous appeal hearings, she will be represented by an Abuja barrister and Sharia expert, backed by representatives of the bar council and womens' defence groups.

Looking for Mr. or Miss Goodclick?
Are dating sites the singles bars of the new Millennium?

Lured by the convenience and the thousands of potential dates, legions of people are seeking romantic connections online, making personals one of the Internet's rare financial successes. At least a couple of Web sites competing in this fast-growing industry are profitable.

To make money, dating Web sites generally require users to pay subscriptions or small fees. In exchange, users can post an ad with at least one photograph and send e-mails to others on the service.

It's part of the Internet's shift in the past couple of years from offering everything for free to charging a fee. Although the jury is out on the overall future of this model, analysts said dating sites appear to be one of the Web's most lucrative subscription services.

Gay group comes out for zero tolerance.
According to the Washington Blade's Religious notes section, a self-identified "gay Catholic" group called the Rainbow Sash strongly backs the Dallas' Zero Tolerance policy. Now, if the Bishops adopted a policy cracking down on priests having sex with adults, would the Rainbow Sash be as vocal or is Zero Tolerance a convenient float to ride in the parade?

CHICAGO — The Rainbow Sash Movement, a gay Catholic organization, said it was "shocked and dismayed" at a statement by Rev. Canice Connors, president of the Catholic Conference of Major Superiors of Men, at the conference's national meeting Aug. 9 in Philadelphia. Connors told the gathering of Roman Catholic religious leaders that American bishops have been "paralyzed in remorse" over sex abuse and were only concerned with regaining the public's trust, the Rainbow Sash Movement said. Leaders of Roman Catholic religious orders said they would abide by the U.S. bishops' zero-tolerance policy toward sexually abusive priests, but also openly questioned the new dictate. In his opening speech, Connors described zero tolerance as a policy that "scapegoats the [sexual] abusers," the Washington Post reported. The Rainbow Sash Movement said that "it is apparent that the Conference of Major Superiors of Men wants to coddle those sexual predators who engage in criminal activity."


Courageous Rosary Reflections: Loneliness
Courageous Rosary Reflections

Every once in a while I have felt moved to write some rosary reflections that folks might find useful in their devotions to Our Lady. Anyone familiar with Father Peyton’s Rosary Prayer Book will be familiar with the format. Each reflection will be no more than 200 words long (and most much fewer) and all the reflections in a given rosary – whether considering the Joyful, Sorrowful, or Glorious Mysteries – will be linked around a theme. This being a rosary meditating on Christ’s Sorrowful Mysteries, the theme is Loneliness.

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

That a deeper understanding of Loneliness Our Lady will give me today through the five Sorrowful Mysteries.

The Apostles Creed, the Our Father, and Three Hail Mary’s, One Glory Be

Christ’s Agony in the Garden. “So, could you not watch with me one hour?”

Loneliness may be among the most pervasive of human afflictions, so pervasive, in fact, that we could readily understand it as part of our human condition. Loneliness can creep upon us in our marriage beds as well as our single beds, our family gatherings, our sports teams and sporting events and our parties with friends. Even Jesus, though he was truly God as well as being truly man, experienced loneliness. In the Garden of Gethsemane, on what He knew would be His last night among them and when He perhaps needed them the most, He returned three times to His friends only to find them sleeping.

Our broken connections hold the keys to loneliness. Our broken connections to God which came about as a result of original sin, and our broken connections to one another, which find their roots in the same calamity. We are fundamentally lonely because we are fundamentally homeless. Our home and deepest connections remain in heaven, and part of our souls toss and moan until we will come Home again.

One Our Father, ten Hail Mary’s, one Glory Be.

Christ’s Scourging. “Then Pilate took Jesus and scourged him.”

Only someone who has lived many years with a deep physical or spiritual pain really understands how isolating it can be. How many people have reported strained or severed friendships after uttering the words, “I have cancer,” “I have AIDS,” or “I live with same sex attraction?” Or sharing the news that a close family member has died? Our friends don’t mean to be neglectful, or mean, but the advent of a great pain can make it hard to know how to go forward or what to say.

Christ, too, when the Roman soldiers took him to beat him, endured His pain alone. Flogging at all times is a terrible thing but flogging in Roman times was particularly horrible, tearing the skin from the body and often leaving the flogged man more dead than alive. Later, when Pilate dragged Him before the crowd to ask which they would choose to save, Jesus or Barabbas, did He see even one friendly set of eyes in the crowd? How terribly loneliness must have echoed and reechoed in His heart at that moment.

One Our Father, ten Hail Mary’s, one Glory Be.

Christ’s Crowning with Thorns. “And the soldiers plaited a crown of thorns and put it on his head…”

Part of Christ’s loneliness might have arisen through His singularity. How many times in the Gospel does He speak – only not to be understood? How much did it hurt to hear three of his inner circle of disciples ask if they could call down fire and brimstone on a town that had not received Him? How long would they not get it?

But despite being so alone and so badly misunderstood, Christ’s real nature still shone through despite the loneliness and pain. The Roman soldiers meant to mock Him with the crown of thorns, to crush His Spirit even as they tortured and beat His body. But little did they or Pilate know that when they crowned Him with the thorns and put the placard over His head on the Cross they really were recognizing the King of the Jews.

As Christians we are baptized into both His death and His resurrection. When we are suffer in loneliness or pain or misunderstanding how much do we let our true nature, our deeper nature in Christ, shine through our loneliness?

One Our Father, ten Hail Mary’s, one Glory Be.

Christ carries His Cross. “And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes back on him and led him away to crucify him.”

It’s easy to forget how people, particularly Jews, lived in Roman Palestine at the time of Christ’s ministry. When Christ stepped out on the road to Golgotha, when Simon of Cyrene was pressed into service to help him carry his Cross, He likely knew many of the people in the crowd. He probably knew the names of the ones who had called for His death. He probably had fed some of the others from the loaves and the fish. Some of them would have had their children healed. Others might have followed him from afar, wishing to approach but lacking courage. Yet now, as He walked, bloody, beaten, bereft, most of the faces he saw were likely cold, closed and afraid – and His loneliness increased through their rejection.

Many of us pass by people who have been beaten by troubles in their lives. The most obvious of these are those who lack homes. But there are others too, folks in our lives who have seemingly everything they need and yet wail on the inside for the loneliness. When they see our faces do they find them open, or closed and fearful? Can we see Christ in them and remember?

One Our Father, ten Hail Mary’s, one Glory Be.

The Crucifixion of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. “And Jesus cried again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.”

(Moment of Silence)

Whether Saint or Sinner most of us, seemingly all of us, will have to face the moment of our passing from this from bodily life alone – and at that moment so much for which we have driven ourselves so hard, our wealth, our education, our recognition, even the bodily effects of our charity fall away and death arrives to find only ourselves, our souls and bodies, awaiting.

But while we will be alone at our deaths, we still can take comfort for Christ, who has conquered death, nonetheless experienced it. At the moment when He died, when all that He had known in a bodily sense slipped away, it appears that to his earthly senses it seemed as though God Himself, with the Holy Spirit, had left Him too – the greatest loneliness of all.

Yet we live in His Death and His Resurrection know that the Cross is not the end of the story and that, if we persevere, God will bring to a close our loneliness too when we see Him, finally, face to face.

One Our Father, ten Hail Mary’s, one Glory Be.

Hail Holy Queen and other prayers as desired.


Sunday, August 18, 2002

The Good Girl
Hi all, yes I know, no blogging. I hang my head in regret and promise to try to do better. A lot going on is my only excuse.

Without releasing any spoilers I must urge you to go out and see The Good Girl. This film has got to be one of those nominated this year. Jennifer Anniston gives a great, understated, intense performance - really, unless she starts picking bad scripts I don't think she has to worry about the small screen trapping her again. The Good Girl has qualities that make me want to compare it to Norma Rae, The Deep End (great flick) and American Beauty. It is the kind of film where you will want to talk about it afterward so budget some time for a meal and discussion too :)

Thursday, August 15, 2002

My latest thoughts on the The Situation
You know, a while back I doubted that I would have anything else to say about The Situation, but the perfidy/stupidity/obtuseness of some of our shepherds keeps finding its way to my mailbox and demanding attention. Whether it is the unbelievable situation in Richmond, Va (my home state) or the depositions of Cardinal Law (with their attendant revelations about what the (now) Bishop of Brooklyn knew and when, apparently, he knew it) or the lies being spouted as truth in Fort Worth or the simply incredible revelations coming out of Los Angeles - there seems to be no end of these folks abilities to obfuscate facts and tolerate behavior that, I have to believe, would send me to pray and weep for my sins in a monastery for years. Really, the general situation of what has gone on in chanceries can be communicated in a few sentences, but the enormity of the personal failures, betrayals, lies, ass covering and craven cowardice can only really be found in the details of what these men have done and those details would take a novel length book.

Which brings me again to the Dallas policy. One of the problems I have long had with it is that you cannot substitute laws for human hearts. That America is not a completely lawless society is not a function of the fact we have the laws but reflects the fact that we have a population that, by and large, is willing to live under laws. Applying this understanding to The Situation it becomes clear that we need less policy and more men who are willing to actively administer the policies already on the books, and who have a higher degree of common sense and love of the Gospel that many of these lot seem to have.

Which leads me to throw this question out to St. Blogs as a whole. Do these men believe in anything that they are supposed to believe in? Do they believe in God? In Christ? In the notions of sin and virtue? How, for example, does a Bishop of the Catholic Church, and called by Holy Spirit, write a grieving mother that he had no idea that the priest who raped her child had a background in child raping when, as subpoenaed files show, he knew it when the priest arrived in the diocese? How does he do that and still celebrate Mass? Communicate? How does another Bishop celebrate Mass after he finds out that a priest of his diocese has spoken in favor of child-adult sexual contact at a meeting of the North American Man Boy Love Association and he didn't do anything about it. I don't care whether he told subordinates to handle it and they might of did or did not. When you hear something like that how on earth do you not follow up, yourself, that day, and call the cleric in to ask about it and contact the canon lawyer to see what you can do about it. How? How do you sleep at night? I don't understand. I want to hear what other Catholic bloggers think.
Sorry to have not been blogging....
But 1) work has been very crazy in the last few days, 2) it pleased God to allow me a dandy head cold which took from Sunday until today to Move Through (undoubtedly to let me have yet one more thing to offer up )and 3) I have been busy getting ready for Consecrating my life to Christ through Mary, which I did today. Recognizing the role Mary played in Christ's life, and that she plays now in our lives as Christians and as a Church, took a long time. But when I finally began to understand what a great advocate for Grace we have in her, Consecration was a natural next step! I hope everyone has a chance to draw closer to, and understand more, Our Lady on today, the Feast of her Assumption.


Monday, August 12, 2002

Some of the costs of "luv".....
As opposed to the cost of genuine love, for which and through which a person will give their life and regain it, are enumerated below. Following up Louis of Grenada's observations on the costs of lust I thought I would post some of the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association's (GLMA) most recent advice (July 17) of what medical professional need to be aware of the health lives of men who have sex with men (MSM).

Naturally, not everyone has the same set of risks," said educator and medical journal editor Vincent M. B. Silenzio, MD, MPH. "But after we look at gender (men in general are increased risk of heart disease, for example) age, family history, and other basic factors, we need to consider issues that relate to the culture or subculture.

These are warnings against only some the physical ills of men who actually act out sexually with other men:

Safe sex: That men who have sex with men are at an increased risk of HIV infection is well known, but the effectiveness of safe sex in reducing the rate of HIV infection is one of the gay community’s great success stories. However, the last few years have seen the return of many unsafe sex practices. While effective HIV treatments may be on the horizon, there is no substitute for preventing infection. Safe sex is proven to reduce the risk of receiving or transmitting HIV. All health care professionals should be aware of how to counsel and support maintenance of safe sex practices.

Substance Use: Gay men use substances at a higher rate than the general population, and not just in larger communities such as New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. These include a number of substances ranging from amyl nitrate ("poppers"), to marijuana, Ecstasy, and amphetamines. The long-term effects of many of these substances are unknown; however current wisdom suggests potentially serious consequences as we age.

Hepatitis Immunization: Men who have sex with men are at an increased risk of sexually transmitted infection with the viruses that cause the serious condition of the liver known as hepatitis. These infections can be potentially fatal, and can lead to very serious long-term issues such as cirrhosis and liver cancer. Fortunately, immunizations are available to prevent two of the three most serious viruses. Universal immunization for Hepatitis A Virus and Hepatitis B Virus is recommended for all men who have sex with men. Safe sex is effective at reducing the risk of viral hepatitis, and is currently the only means of prevention for the very serious Hepatitis C Virus.

STDs: Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) occur in sexually active gay men at a high rate. This includes STD infections for which effective treatment is available (syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, pubic lice, and others), and for which no cure is available (HIV, Hepatitis A, B, or C virus, Human Papilloma Virus, etc.).

Archbishop of Canturbury deciding against open schism?
365Gay, a self-identified gay website in the UK, is reporting that the new Archbishop Of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, has backed away from his previously widely publicized position in favor of ordaining sexually active self-identified gay men and celebrating "gay marriages" and has written a firm letter against both practices. The report's take on this is that Williams aimed his letter at Canadian Anglicans but I wonder if he merely recognized that there are some turns so severe that middle of the road Anglicanism cannot take them without jumping the tracks.

The new Archbishop of Canterbury has reversed his position on gays and lesbians in the church and issued a warning to churches not to perform gay commitment ceremonies. Dr Rowan Williams, a long supporter of gays, now says he supports church doctrine which condemns gay relationships and rejects the ordination of gay priests. Williams becomes leader of the worldwide Anglican and Episcopal Church this fall. (story)

In a letter sent to all 38 Primates of the Anglican Church Dr Williams says that the 1998 Lambeth Resolution "declares clearly what is the mind of the overwhelming majority in the Communion and what the Communion will or will not approve or authorize. I accept that any individual diocese or even province that officially overturns this resolution poses a substantial problem for the sacramental unity of the Communion."

In June, an Anglican diocese in British Columbia voted to allow its churches to perform commitment ceremonies. (story) Several weeks ago, moves were made in both the Toronto and Ottawa dioceses to also consider allowing priests to perform the ceremonies.

Dr Williams' letter is believed to be directly pointed at the Canadian churches.

More Louis of Grenada
My previous correspondent who sent in the chapter headings from the book The Sinner's Guide by the Ven. Louis of Grenada now sends some of Louis' specific warning against lust.

...The evils which [lust] brings in its train are no less numerous than the sins it occasions. It robs man of his reputation -- his most important possession, for there is no vice more degrading or more shameful. It rapidly undermines the strength, exhausts the energy, and withers the beauty of its victim, bringing upon him the most foul and loathsome diseases. It robs youth of its freshness, and hurries it into a premature and dishonorable old age. It penetrates even to the sanctuary of the soul, darkening the understanding,
obscuring the memory, and weakening the will. It turns man from every noble and honorable work, burying him so deeply in the mire of his impurities that he can neither think nor speak of anything but what is vile.

Nor are the ravages of this vice confined only to man himself. They extend to all his possessions. There is no revenue so great that the exactions and follies of impurity will not exhaust; for it is closely allied to gluttony, and these two vices combine to ruin their victim. Men given to impurity are generally addicted to intemperance, and squander their substance in rich apparel and sumptuous living. Moreover, their impure idols are insatiable in their demands for costly jewels, rich adornments, rare perfumes, which gifts they love much better than they love the donors, their unfortunate victims. The example of the prodigal son, exhausting his inheritance in these pleasures, shows how terrible is such passion.

Consider, further, that the more you indulge in these infamous gratifications, the more insatiable will be your desire for them, the less they will satisfy you. It is the nature of these pleasures to excite the appetite rather than appease it. If you consider how fleeting is the pleasure and how enduring its punishment, you will not for a moments' enjoyment sacrifice the unspeakable treasure of a good conscience in this life and the eternal happiness of Heaven in the next. St. Gregory, therefore, has truly said that the pleasure is momentary, but the suffering is eternal. (Moral. 9,44)....

This last is something I have noticed myself. There has long been a tendency in some conservative Christian circles to posit that the promiscuity which has long been associated with a least a very public portion of self-identified gay male life is somehow inherently a part of homosexuality. Which actually I don't think is true.

I think for better or worse, mostly worse, American culture has taught boys and young men that their primary sexual goal is one of conquest. How many women can a man get to sleep with him, how many times, etc. I think this teaching and socialization is taught to men generally, and does not break down along temptation lines. Where self-identified gay male promiscuity does occur, it happens in part because there is no party to the encounter who is socialized to say no. Essentially, I guess a man could walk up to 100 women in a bar situation and say wanta ---- (which I have actually seen and heard in gay bar situations) and maybe only 3 in that 100, if that many, would take him up on it. (Yes, it could be higher but still not too much higher). By contrast a greater percentage of guys, who will be to a great extent a similar socialization about the matter, will likely have a different response.

Also, there is a factor of boredom as well. Self-identified gay writers ranging from Larry Kramer to Michelangelo Signorile and Edmund White, among others, have written about how the fundamental sameness of same sex acting out fuels the growth of both fetishes and promiscuity.

But for those trapped in lustful thinking and acting out, Louis does not close the door:

If you have not preserved the gift of chastity in the perfection in which God gave it to you, endeavor to restore the beauty of the Creator's work by giving yourself to His service with a zeal and fervor born of deep gratitude for forgiven sin, and with an ardent desire to repair the past. "It often happens," says St. Gregory, "that one who was tepid and indifferent before his fall becomes, through repentance, a strong and fervent soldier of Christ." (Past., p 1). Finally, since God continued to preserve your life
after you had so basely offended Him, profit by this benefit to serve Him and make reparation for your sins, lest another fall should be irremediable.

Go see xXx
Went to see xXx (Triple X) on Sunday afternoon and, if you are in the mood for an action and stunt packed film, can heartily recommend it. Vin Diesel does some amazing stuff the film and their are lots of scenes with chases and explosions etc. It's also notable for what it does not have:

1) Gore. Yes, there are lots of explosions and people get killed, but it is not a mano-a-mano beat them to death sort of killing ala a Sly Stallone or Chuck Norris flick. No fake blood etc.

2) Bad language. None. I can't remember hearing a single word that to which a parent might squirm in the presence of their young teen.

3) Nudity/sex. There are a few scenes with extremely scantily clad women but no nudity per se and no real sex other than kissing.

And, in the meantime, its an action packed, fast paced and generally well-made film. I heard it topped the box office for the week and I bet it makes a boatload of money.
Hi all. Good to be back and very busy, but want to blog in the down times. Had a really good weekend seeing my Goddaughter and her folks, even though the task of helping Mike on Saturday turned into a purgatorial experience, finishing tearing down an old shed/small barn for the scrap wood. I can't recall a dirtier, dustier, hotter and generally more miserable day in a while. Not only did we suffer under the burden of the work itself, but we could have taken an omen from the very first part of the day when we walked out of the house to find a vehicle we needed to use had a flat tire. It was that sort of (12 hour) day.

But I am rested, cleaned and all my scrapes and scratches bound up and healing, so I am happy. :)

Friday, August 09, 2002

Away from the keys
I am aware I owe some folks some mail but I am nonetheless going to be away from the keys a lot of tommorrow driving to Front Royal, Va, to see my Goddaughter and her parents. Mike, her dad, and I will spend a lot of tommorrow finishing pulling down a small barn from which he will use the old wood to build other stuff, but I expect there will be time for fun stuff to do too. Will write more when I return

Eleven Motives for Practicing Virtue and Twelve Privileges of Virtue:
One of the Courageous writes:

I'm weeding out my library and have found some good stuff. The following is
from the table of contents of the "Sinner's Guide" by the Ven. Louis of
Granada, much prized by noteworthy saints such as Theresa de Avila and
Francis de Sales.


Eleven Motives for Practicing Virtue:

1. God's Being in itself, and the excellence of His Perfections

2. Gratitude for our Creation

3. Gratitude for our Preservation and for the Government of His Providence

4. Gratitude for the Inestimable Benefit of our Redemption

5. Gratitude for our Justification

6. Gratitude for the Incomprehensible Benefit of Election

7. The Thought of Death, the First of the Four Last Things

8. The Thought ot the Last Judgment, the Second of the Four Last Things

9. The Thought of Heaven, the Third of the Four Last Things

10. The Thought of Hell, the Fourth of the Four Last Things

11. The Inestimable Advantages promised to Virtue even in this Life

Twelve Privileges of Virtue:

1. God's fatherly Care of the the Just

2. The Grace with which the Holy Spirit fills Devout Souls

3. The Supernatural Light and Knowledge granted to Virtuous Souls

4. The Consolations with which the Holy Spirit visits the Just

5. The Peace of a Good Conscience

6. The Confidence of the Just

7. The True Liberty of the Just

8. The Peace enjoyed by the Just

9. The Manner in which God hears the Prayers of the Just

10. The Consolation and Assistance with which God sustains the Just in
their Afflictions

11. God's Care for the Temporal Needs of the Just

12. The Happy Death of the Just

Yet another sign of the Times: Crows
Who would have guessed that, sitting on my balcony praying the rosary this morning, I might have been cheered by the raucous arrival of the two smugly plump crows that usually hang out in my neighborhood but which I had not seen in a couple of days. When dead crows are considered a good sign of the advent of West Nile virus to your area, you tend to appreciate the live ones more.
St. Lawrence
The feast of St. Lawrence is tommorrow, August 10.

The prefect was neither amused nor edified. He accused Lawrence of making him a laughingstock, of mocking him, and of staging a farce. He promised that Lawrence would pay for it with a slow and lingering death. The prefect then prepared a bed of coals and ordered Lawrence to ascend the pyre and lie on the bed he deserved.

Thus spoke the prefect. At his nod
Forthwith the executioner
Stripped off the holy martyr's robes
And laid him bound upon the pyre.

Prudentius wrote that the "martyr's face was luminous" and that "round it shone a glorious light" but noted that this phenomenon was only visible to the baptized. Similarly, he wrote that, "the very odor given forth by holy Lawrence's burning flesh was noxious to the unredeemed and to the faithful nectar sweet." The poet then presents the final moments in the life of Lawrence in a paean that has resounded through the centuries.

When slow, consuming heat had seared
The flesh of Lawrence for a space,
He calmly from his gridiron made
This terse proposal to the judge:

'Pray turn my body, on one side
Already broiled sufficiently,
And see how well your Vulcan's fire
Has wrought its cruel punishment.'

The prefect bade him to be turned.
Then Lawrence spoke: 'I am well baked,
And whether better cooked or raw,
Make trial by a taste of me.'

I don't know why I expected any different....
Apparently the Bishop of Layfayette, LA, has a long history of banning speech he doesn't like: This from the New Oxford Review.

The Catholic bishop of Lafayette, Louisiana, has banned Catholic writer Flannery O'Connor's book A Good Man Is Hard to Find from Opelousas Catholic High School. Why? Because, according to Rod Dreher, writing in The Weekly Standard (Sept. 11), certain black parents protested that the book "contains characters who use the words `nigger' and `pickaninny.'""Pickaninny"? Why, we haven't heard that word used in thirty years. Indeed, we forgot what it meant, and had to look it up. But, thanks to the Bishop of Lafayette, that word is now back on our map. We do remember what the word "nigger" means, but again, we haven't heard it used in thirty years, with one exception: When among blacks we do on occasion hear them call one another "nigger." In his righteous zeal to be politically correct, the Bishop of Lafayette, one Edward J. O'Donnell, decreed that "no similar books" may replace O'Connor's, meaning other books containing racially offensive words in any context. As Dreher notes, the students at Opelousas Catholic High therefore won't be reading Mark Twain or William Faulkner or even the black writers Ralph Ellison, Toni Morrison, or James Baldwin. Golly, the old Index of Forbidden Books didn't come close to being this censorious! Oddly enough, Flannery O'Connor was not a racist, A Good Man Is Hard to Find is anti-racist, and, as Dreher notes, O'Connor is "widely held to be the greatest Catholic fiction writer of twentieth-century America." ....
Shhhhhh, maybe if we don't talk about IT, IT will just go away?
The latest from From Fortress Catholicism, or more precisely, Fortress Episcopacy or rather one (more) ninnyish Bishop. Father Bryce Sibley, of the Saintly Salmagundi, has been silenced. Lest they decide to force the good father to pull the blog down all together, this is what he wrote:

So Sorry, Bad News

Just to let you know, I have been asked to be silent in the public forum for the next six months, so that means no more blogging. It's been fun though. Hope to see you in the new year. Y'all will be in my prayers, please keep me in yours.

Now, I don't know Father Sibley's blog all that well, but I definitely enjoyed its take on things cultural, its vivaciousness, and strength of faith. I think it is near the pinnacle of stupidity to try to silence it, but I am not sure why I would necessarily expect anything like intelligence at this stage of the Situation.

For the record, and for chanceries everywhere to wake up, evil hidden is evil perpetuated. Some Catholics moan oh the wicked secular press is making the Church look bad. Well, dang it, maybe they wouldn't have had as much of a platform to run their stories about Scandal if the Catholic Church in this country had a genuinely open and responsible press of its own. I mean, take for example my own diocese, the Diocese of Arlington. I don't necessarily have any beef with Bishop Loverde, except for the usual handful of issues that I would quibble about, but just like the other Bishops before him I am reasonably confident that he is the official publisher of the Diocesan paper, the Arlington Catholic Herald. And in my opinion that is a major weakness.

In a healthy Church it is the Archdiocesan paper in Boston that would have first broken a story, years ago, about a boy who was molested and a priest that was moved. It would have been public and handled then, when it was small, before the evil had a chance to take root and grow like vile mushrooms or virus in the dark of the secrecy. One of the single, longest term, most healthy reforms a plenary council could enact, in my opinion, would be to take the leash off the Catholic press in this country. Heck, even my own beloved publishing house and paper, Our Sunday Visitor, in my opinion has not provided the coverage it should or could because it is tied too closely to the hierarchy.

There is an old saying among 12 steppers, who actually have a lot of wisdom for the rest of us: we are only as sick as our secrets. That has really been true in my life, and I think it is true in the life of the Church. Guess what bishops, when people are silenced about problems, the problems don't go away, they grow bigger, and they grow great big long teeth with which they will one day come back to bite us in the arse.

Thursday, August 08, 2002

Sentimental orders?
In case you might have missed it:

Leaders of the thousands of American priests who belong to religious orders said the Roman Catholic belief in compassion and forgiveness will guide how they discipline clergy members who molest children. The Conference of Major Superiors of Men, an association of the heads of orders including the Jesuits and Franciscans, said during their annual meeting Wednesday that they would keep sex abusers away from children but in the priesthood, fulfilling a pledge to support their members for life. Religious orders will bar guilty priests from ministries involving face-to-face contact with parishioners, but they plan to find a role for the men in administrative jobs far from young people, said the Rev. Ted Keating, a Marist priest and the conference's executive director. "We have a family dimension. If a man is sick, he's still one of us, and often, these men are very sick," Keating said.

A correspondent who has asked not to be named comments:

This is already proven to be a failed strategy. Consider the 2 abusive Jesuits reclused at Sacred Heart Center in the hills above Los Gatos. They abused two elderly retarded workers on the property. A woman in town, the daughter of a policeman, befriended one of the two abused men, built an air tight case against the abusers, and outwitted the Jesuits. One of the SJ's is now serving hard time, the other is on trial.

Then there are the Benedictines at Collegeville. As far as I know, they had to go off the property to meet kids. But they did, and abused them.

Then there's the facility in New Mexico for abusive priests, way, way out in the desert. The patients still got hold of kids and were responsible for scores of attacks.

These orders are too sentimental. If they read their canon law, they would know the mechanism is in place for booting abusive members. It is time they used it.

Quotes on Providence
Coming back from my recent travels I re-read Fr. Walter Cizek S.J's remarkable With God in Russia. I had read it before but maybe because of my callow and immature state it didn't really speak to me. Now, with a little of life with Christ under my belt, boy did it ever. Essentially, With God in Russia tracks Cizek's amazing and incredibly difficult experience living as a priest and prisoner in the Soviet Union's labor camps for most of his 23 years in the country. It is a truly remarkable book and I wish I could quote it, but I can't because I gave to a Pentecostal lad (I used to be Catholic) who sat in the unfortunate middle seat beside me, saw what I was reading and, in the luggage retrieval area at National Airport, expressed an interest. I would have given him a Miraculous Medal as well, as a token of God's love for him, but I am consecrating myself to Christ through Our Lady on August 15 and the medals I ordered haven't arrived yet.

Anyway, I haven't finished re-reading Cizek's second book, He Leadeth Me, which contain some of the spiritual lessons he was able to draw from his experience and I want to quote a bit from that. I lot of my friends are really suffering through this ongoing Situation and, in some, their faith is under attack so I found this passage especially moving and useful. Maybe it might be for them too.

God is constant in his love if we will but look to him, he will sustain us in every storm if we will but cry out to him, he will save us if we but reach out our hand to him. He is there, if we will only turn to him and learn to trust in him alone. The upheavals in this world, or in the Church herself, are not the end of everything, especially of his love. They can in fact serve best as signs to remind us of his love and of his constancy, to make us turn once more to him and cling to him again when all else that we counted on is overturned around us. -- Walter Cizek S.J, He Leadeth Me.
A bitter cross?
Dear B., little sister of Jesus, little lamb of God and my sister too,

My book doesn't have a chapter on living with a cross you don't want or being bitter, I'm sorry. But the book does have chapters on intimacy (emotional, not sexual) and on loneliness and isolation. I think those might be useful.

Human beings are remarkable creatures of God. We don't have to have sex, but we do need to have other people in our lives and hearts. That song "people who need people" had it mostly right except everybody needs people. A priest I really appreciate and look up to on the Courage Online list, who lives with a degree of SSA and used to act out compulsively but who has been living chastely, by the grace of God, for more than five years, has a great saying sex is optional, intimacy is not.

What is intimacy? Intimacy is having someone(s) in our lives whom we love and with whom we risk sharing ourselves and them their selves with us, in order to foster that love and caring. If you ever saw the movie Stand by me in the relationships between the primary characters you had a glimpse of what the intimacy can be. If we read in scripture that David and Jonathan loved one another that does not mean, as some suggest, that they were sexually active with each other. Far from it, since sexual activity would betray the claim of love. But it means what it says, that they did love each other.

And there is nothing wrong with this love and deep friendship. People seem to assume that to live chastely as a single person, whether one has a degree of SSA or not, means living a life of loneliness. Untrue! I am not married or in a "lover" relationship with anyone, yet I am have been given four people to love deeply and who deeply love me. Heck, God has overflowed my cup enough that I have even been allowed to become a spiritual parent to a beautiful little Goddaughter. The guy with whom I was sexually active for seven years has continued to be my best friend, actually he is more than that, he is really my brother and he will be part of my life (God willing) probably into time when we are old and grey - and there is no sin there.

Now, is this easy to do? No. It can mean looking at oneself and removing defects of character which could prevent us from forming such friendships and, once we have them, friendships take a lot of work as well as the Grace of God. But I don't buy the notion that to not be married and to live with SSA means necessarily that one is going to have live a life of loneliness - outside, of course, of the loneliness that is a regular part of the human condition. We could have perfect lives, in perfect cities and towns, with perfect people to love and to love us, and still feel lonely from time to time. Because as great as this place can be and as we can be in it, we aren't made for here. We are made to see Christ face to face and part of us will toss and turn and moan until we do.

Now, about having SSA itself. I don't know why God has allowed this into my life or yours. I could speculate, but that would only be speculation from my piddling little brain and what is that in the flow of His Providence? I will say that, in my own life, I see how God has used SSA to bring me, a former child of wrath, into His arms. I see how other people who do not have SSA and who seem to have every blessing our society and culture provide yet appear to be very far from God.

I will note, too, that nobody gets out of suffering. When Adam fell we all fell and the earth fell too and suffering became our lot. If it weren't SSA it would be something else, something maybe possibly worse. I would rather, for example, have SSA than to bury one of my children. I would rather experience SSA than lose a limb or an eye or an ear.

I will say, too, that I can't see how being bitter is useful. There is a lot of wisdom in the old saying that bitterness is how we punish ourselves for other people's faults. Why waste our time being bitter? Remember, sister, who we are and whose we are. Yes, absolutely, God has allowed us to have a hand that has SSA - and man, that can be rough. But you know, other saints have had it rough too and we know as well, that with the Grace of God, and with the participation in the sacraments and with the help of folks who love us and whom we love, we can become Saints. The Church says that in black and white in her Catechism and if she believes in me I think I can afford to believe too, at least a little ;).

God bless you. Consider getting an anonymous email account if you want and coming to the Courage Online list at There are a bunch of folks on there who would love the chance to lift you up. I won't use your name or your original email but, unless you let me know, I would like to blog this reply and share it with the Courage Online list. Others have asked similar questions in the past and might find something useful they could take from the reply.

Hugs, your brother in Christ,

David Morrison

Wednesday, August 07, 2002

Reading about the Church versus spiritual reading
A friend wrote me this splendid distinction yesterday and I thought it worth sharing, particularly at this time when there is a relatively high degree of interest about the Church. Sadly, she wants her name left off so credit cannot go to where credit is very much due.

It is critically important for you to build your faith on Jesus Christ, not even on the most admirable of His representatives. Your spiritual reading and prayer life must be solidly rooted in the life of Jesus Christ, much more so than in the history, politics, culture, art, politics, or personalities of the church. I counsel you thus because when I was younger I didn't do this and it took a long time to sort out. From my first-hand experience, I'm telling you that I honestly think that the Devil can use these very honorable-looking considerations as temptations to distract us from what's most important, i.e.. Jesus Christ and the transformation that he intends to work in us. Satan, remember, tempts the good with good, i.e., lesser goods than the ultimate good which is God himself.

I don't mean that you, a reporter, must turn monk. I do mean that you need to examine your day and chart what it is you are reading and praying about. Sometimes we delude ourselves (I speak from experience) into thinking that when we read ABOUT the church, its personalities and institutions, that's spiritual reading or prayer. It isn't. It's similar to studying history, math, English, art, architecture, politics, and so on. Look at your spiritual reading and see how much time goes to the Gospels as opposed to books about contemporary church affairs. Again, I'm talking about your prayer life as opposed to your professional life which might require such reading. I just want to make sure you don't think you can substitute the one for the other.

Actually, if I wasn't a reporter and if so many folks didn't consider some degree of same sex attraction an impediment, I could see myself living in community (maybe much more than a community could see themselves living with me (hah!)). But my spirituality just now is very caught up in the notion of living out the will of God where we are, in the houses, streets, workplaces,families, and friendships where we find ourselves now, - so I am happy, Joyful even.

Tuesday, August 06, 2002

Loaves and fishes squabble
Lately a few in St. Blog's have been squabbling about the tendency among some priests to explain away some miracles of the Gospel, particularly the feeding of the multitudes. John McGuinnes reacts to the reaction here and asks what people are so ticked about in the ongoing clerical scandal. I wrote him this reply.

I think there are a couple of things working in the anger people feel about not just the clerical abuse scandal but the Church in general. First, the issue is only PARTIALLY abusive priests. That a priest or priests would abuse doesn't particularly surprise me - priests are human, fallen, and it has been amply demonstrated that seminary formation is not what it ought to be. I have more trouble, and I think others do to, with the degree of cover-up that has gone on in the chanceries, that even after it became steadily more clear that reform of abusive priests was not working chanceries still sent them to new parishes to victimize new kids.

Second, people wonder HOW this happened. How is it that men sworn to the love of God could jump the tracks so badly? I myself have longed to sit a couple of bishops down in a room for a frank, no lawyers, not for publication talk just so I could get a better understanding. I want to ask them, what were you thinking? Do you believe the Gospel? Do you even believe in God? How remotely does what you did square with your responsibility as a one of Christ's apostles?

Third, in my own case, as a former gay activist and a man who now seeks to live chastely according to the teaching of the Church, I have to really question what is going on in some places. How is it that the Archdiocese of Los Angeles can have a "gay and lesbian ministry" that never talks about pursuing chastity or about deepening discipleship? How is it that so called gay and lesbian ministries, at the diocesan level, around the country can march in gay pride parades?

Ideas have consequences. I have buried 19 people lost to HIV/AIDS and a number of them I lay directly at the feet of dissident theologians that were allowed to keep teaching in the Church's name even after it was clear they should not be. My friends made decisions about behavior based in part on what these folks taught and were allowed to teach without objection. Why is it that Courage, a ministry I am involved with, cannot get permission to start a chapter in some dioceses even though we have members who deeply want one and who, for support in living chastely, will drive drive hours to reach a meeting?

I guess my point is that what these priests did they did not in isolation but against a backdrop that is both shocking and dismaying. My own faith is not shaken, but I understand the anger of those who find the tendency of some priests to discount the miracles in the Gospel yet one more straw they don't want to have to accept.