Sed Contra


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Sunday, December 22, 2002

And we thought Rome moved slowly!
Rebel monks get marching orders

A recalcitrant group of ultra-Orthodox Mount Athos monks has been excommunicated, declared schismatic and ordered to promptly evacuate their 1,000-year-old monastery, the Ecumenical Patriarchate said yesterday. The decision could signal final victory for the Istanbul-based Patriarchate in its 30-year war with the monks of the Esphigmenou Monastery, who refuse to acknowledge the “renegade” patriarch’s authority or abide by the Athos monastic community’s rules. Their relations with the Patriarchate — which has jurisdiction over Mt Athos — soured after the 1964 Istanbul meeting between Patriarch Athinagoras and Pope Paul VI. For the 100-odd monks, who have draped a banner reading “Orthodoxy or Death” from their medieval walls, this was high treason. The Patriarchate said yesterday the monks would have to “leave the Athos Peninsula without further ado,” having been declared “unrepentants, schismatics and subject to excommunication.” The Greek Constitution bans schismatics and non-Orthodox from dwelling on Mt Athos.

So, I suppose the problem was the meeting with the Pontiff at all? Does anyone even recall the meeting? What, if anything, was decided or agreed to there?

The Abby of New Clairvaux?
VINA - On a muddy field just west of Highway 99, little blue, yellow and green flags now mark where parts of a medieval monastery are to be reconstructed, starting next year. Expert stone mason Oskar Kempf said he and his assistant, Ross Leuthard, are close to being done with carving limestone for the chapter house that is to be erected here at the Abbey of New Clairvaux. The plan is to slowly put up the chapter house, the cloister, a chapel, library and visitor center over two to three years, Kempf said. Construction is scheduled to begin in July. But first, another $1.5 million must be raised.So far, between 800 and 900 people from 22 states have donated money to the effort, including a few who have given large amounts, said Sandy Goulart, who is doing public relations for the project.

The problem with the article is that it doesn't mention whether there will actually be monks on the site. What's the use of something we might presume to call New Clairvaux if it lacks the devotional, aesthetic, moral and charitable foundation that made the first Clairvaux the School for Saints that it was?

"Quieting the mind is work..."
From a modern journalist who finds a visit to a hermitage to be a bit more than he had imagined it would be.

I start to lose it on Day Two. A chill settles over the mountain and I awake to a Hermitage shrouded in fog. I can barely see beyond the garden. After breakfast I lose track of time completely, sit in my room and struggle to find things to do. I clean out my backpack, then empty my wallet of old receipts, lottery tickets and assorted scraps of paper. Having finished the only two books in my bag, I read the monks' welcome letter to guests, the Hermitage newsletter, the instructions for making coffee and the check-out procedures. When my eyes scan the walls for more reading material, I know I'm desperate. Stripped of all distraction, of any human interaction, I have no choice but to go inside myself. But without guidance, I feel lost. Contemplation is difficult. Quieting the mind is work – much harder than I'd anticipated. Every thought, every idea, every rumination leads to dozens more. Soon my mind is cluttered with unwanted details from my life and the "To Do" list on my Palm Pilot: "Trash bill overdue. Replace the dryer. Buy wedding presents. Get a new computer." The anxiety of yesterday returns. Then, the plaque bearing the words of Saint Rouald, the founder of the Camaldoli order catches my attention. I read his "Brief Rule" for Camaldolese Monks: "Sit in your cell as in paradise. Put the whole world behind you and forget it. Watch your thoughts like a good fisherman watching for fish." So I make myself a cup of tea, sit outside despite the chill and the damp grass, and begin watching my thoughts.

Still here
Hi everybody. Sorry I have been away from the keys again but, this time at least, it was more than just general busyness which has kept me away. On December 16 in the evening I had emergency abdominal surgery to correct an umbilical hernia which, after remaining dormant for something over a year, had become incarcerated was strangling some of my intestine. I have been recovering ever since and I have not particularly felt up to blogging, or much of anything else. However, I do feel better now and will try, as the holiday unfolds, to get here and blog every once in a while at least.

Regards and Merry Christmas,

David Morrison

Monday, December 09, 2002

Kosovo Monastery Thriving Under NATO Guard
The monks of Decani don't complain of their precarious situation, saying it heightens the religious experience. "This situation in which we live is helping us to live a much more intense spiritual life than we would live for instance in a situation with complete security, comfort and opulence," Father Sava said. "It is very hard to think of a heavenly kingdom when you have an earthly kingdom," he said with a laugh.

At 42, Father Arsenios is among the veterans in Decani, one of the first who came in the early 1990s after living as an artist in New York for several years. He leads a small team painting icons in traditional style -- mixing colour pigment with egg yolk, vinegar and water. The order book is full for at least a year, but he suggested they could never equal the depth of feeling of the ancient masters. "There is not a big difference in terms of technique," he said. "But they were more spiritual. The times were more pure."

Like the other monks, he wakes at 3 a.m., devoting the morning to prayer, then working in the studio for up to six hours, church music quietly playing on the stereo. Decani is attracting Serbs from all over, including a newcomer who lived in Sweden. Father Sava, from the Croatian coastal town of Dubrovnik, said they come to find a more worthy life than striving for a career and material things. A revival at Decani was already apparent when British author Victoria Clark visited the monastery before the war for her book on Eastern Orthodoxy, "Why Angels Fall". She found most of the monks were young, from the middle class and well-educated. "Decani was no longer the almost abandoned outpost of Serbian Orthodoxy it had been when Father Sava arrived in 1992.

"Only a couple of months before our visit the Belgrade newspapers had splashed the news that one of the capital's best loved young actors had abandoned his hectic lifestyle to become a monk at Decani," she wrote. Five years on, Father Ilarion is still here.

Remarkable story, worth clicking on and reading. A couple of observations. I agree entirely with Father Sava, the battle for purity of heart is ruthless and there can be no quarter given. The things that clutter or physical lives all too often clutter our spiritual lives as well. Also, man what a shift, from New York to an orthodox community....and as an artist he probably at least worked in Manhattan...

Sunday, December 08, 2002

Monday is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception....
Which has been transferred to the 9th. Here is what Our Sunday Visitor's Catholic Encyclopedia had to say about it in case you wanted to be reminded of what we celebrate..

The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception affirms that “the Blessed Virgin Mary was preserved, in the first instant of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of God omnipotent and because of the merits of Jesus Christ the Savior of the human race, free from all stain of original sin” (from the declaration of the dogma by Pope Pius IX, December 8, 1854).

The perfect sinlessness of Mary had been taught by the Fathers of the Church, appealing especially to such texts as Genesis 3:15 and Luke 1:28. A feast commemorating the conception of Our Lady was known in the East as early as the seventh century and in the West by the ninth century. The doctrine that Mary’s sinlessness began from the first moment of her conception was opposed by some medieval doctors of the Church (e.g., St. Albert, St. Bonaventure and St. Thomas Aquinas) on the grounds that it detracted from the truth of her natural conception: original sin is transmitted in every human conception. Others (especially Duns Scotus) defended it, and by the sixteenth century — when the Council of Trent excluded Mary from original sin in its decree on that topic — the doctrine had become the common teaching of all theologians.

According to this doctrine, Mary was conceived in the state of perfect justice, free from original sin, and all its consequences and penalties, in virtue of the redemption won by Christ on the cross. In this sense, the privilege of the Immaculate Conception was the anticipated fruit of Christ’s saving passion, death and resurrection. It was fitting that she who was to bear the Savior of the world should herself be preserved by Him from sin and its consequences and thus be the first to benefit from what He would win for the whole human race.

From my Bishop
The following was included in my parish's bulletin this morning. I don't know if it appeared in others but I imagine it did. It is from my bishop Paul Loverde.

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Recent news reports have raised issues about how this diocese responds to allegations of misconduct and other situations. As the bishop of this diocese I would like to assure our people that I take allegations of misconduct very seriously, and I seek to treat everyone fairly in accord with the Church's Canon Law.

It is important to note that I work within the canonical structures of the Church whenever there is an allegation of wrongdoing. There is a strict process with canonical representation and the opportunity for pursuing the matter within Church structures. If a priest is not satisfied with the the way his bishop is handling a particular matter, or he feels he is being treated unfairly, the Church provides numerous avenues for him to seek review.

[It does? And how practical are they since, in a very real sense, the bishop is the priest's "boss" with whom he must contend after whatever situation they dispute has passed or been resolved? - DCM]

In the case generating the most media interest, that of Father James Haley, some facts need to be clarified. 1) Father Haley has not been a pastor because of separate issues concerning his own past conduct which came to light before he brought the misdeeds of the other priests to my attention. 2) When Father Haley began a period of discernment and his faculties were withdrawn last year, I ordered Father Haley to behave in a manner consistent with principles of our faith and canon law, and to respect the privacy of others as well as his oath of obedience to me as his Bishop. While Father Haley was always free to "go over my head" and bring his accusations and criticisms to other ecclesiastical authorities, he chose instead to resort to the media. 3) As to the perception that Father Haley was complying with some sort of civil law duty to give a deposition in a civil proceeding, it is our understanding that no subpoena issued by the Court or served on Father Haley. A notice of deposition was served on our civil law counsel, but a notice of deposition is not a subpoena. Father Haley volunteered his testimony to his own lawyer. No one from the Diocese attempted to stop him from doing so. The lawsuit was then dismissed on August 29, 2002., on multiple grounds, including the failure to state a valid legal claim. The deposition was not even used in support of the lawsuit and most of it had nothing to do with the allegations in that suit. The Diocese requested that the court protect the privacy of non-parties, including priests and parishioners, by sealing the transcript, but the court declined to do so.

Most important to note, Father Haley is still a priest. He is receiving a monthly stipend plus full healthcare benefits. The canonical process currently underway involving Father Haley does not seek in any way to punish him for bringing to my attention any concerns about the the three priests mentioned above. This canonical process is dealing with other issues regarding Father Haley and will be carried out in accordance with canon law.

[So, am I reading this correctly if I understand that the Bishop is claiming that had Father Haley never approached with the news of the three priests, the actions against him would be no different? - DCM]

I want every parishioner in this diocese to know that the allegations by some in the media stating that I have ignored priestly misconduct are absolutely false. I expect every priest to live a virtuous life in keeping with his sacred calling, including his commitment to celibacy and chastity. Allegations of retaliation are equally unfounded.

As I wrote to you in my letter of September 14, 2002, and had read at all the Masses that weekend, in every case in which I receive a credible allegation of wrongdoing, I investigate to determine what is happening, and take appropriate steps to correct any wrongdoing. In accord with Christian principles, I reach out to any victims who might be involved , and I try to rehabilitate the offender. Each case is unique, and must be dealt with individually. As the bishop of the diocese, I will do everything in my power to see that wrongdoing or criminal behavior is punished. I assure you that I will faithfully discharge the duty given to me by Christ's Vicar on earth, Pope John Paul II, who asked me to be an Auxiliary Bishop in the Archdiocese of Hartford, Connecticut, the Diocesan Bishop of Ogdensburg, New York, and now the Diocesan Bishop of Arlington.

It has been a difficult year for the Catholic Church, and a difficult time for our diocesan church as well. Let us, therefor, continue to pray for each other, especially during the Season of Advent. I invite everyone in the diocese to join me in praying the rosary each day during Advent,asking our Blessed Lady to obtain the grace of healing and holiness for all of us in the Church: both at the local level and at the national level. May we all grow in true holiness through the power of God's Holy Spirit always at work within us!

Faithfully in Christ,

Most Reverend Paul S. Loverde,
Bishop of Arlington

Thursday, December 05, 2002

Some observations on today's readings
I love Advent. I love the focus on getting one's life even more deeply oriented toward Christ in the anticipation of his coming, both as a babe and in Glory, as He will some day. I love the focus on light in the darkness and I really love the Advent readings. This week we have had the description of the Holy Mountain of the Lord's coming, as well as, today, the admonitions about hearing Christ speak and doing what He says:

Not every one who says to me, `Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven....Every one then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock;and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And every one who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house upon the sand; and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell; and great was the fall of it. (Matthew 7: 21, 24-27)

Now, two observations arise from today's Gospel. First, the obvious question, where am I in my walk with Christ? Where do root my deepest self? On what do I build my life? Second, that it's not enough to simply pray and say the right things. Christ expects those in relationship with Him will show fruit as a result of that relationship. Faith which doesn't show itself in actions towards both God and other human beings really is dead, as St. James observed, and we are to be active on what we find in Christ, not merely those who hear the Gospel proclaimed.

So, those questions will be on my mind as I travel today.....and will they be your mind as well?

Some observations from Boston: the problem is not too much use of authority, it's not enough
My friend Charles, who authors the refreshingly up-front and honest Same Sex Attraction Morality League, laments is there no end to the bad news from Boston? In particular he points to the fact that, according to the documents recently released by the Archdiocese, there was but one Bishop, D'Arcy, now leading the Catholics of South Bend, Indiana, who had the persistance and courage to keep objecting to the policy of shifting predatory priests from one fold of innocents to another. He was ignored, but at least he tried to keep the wolves off the lambs. And Charles makes the following interesting observation:

This whole scandal shows that the Catholic Church is hardly the authoritarian institution that her liberal critics proclaim. Rather, it shows that there is not enough exercise of legitimate authority within the Church. The current leaders of the Church are apparently not willing or capable of exercising ANY authority to discipline wayward ministers or to hold them accountable for their wrongdoings. There is no commitment to upholding both the preaching and the practice of the moral teaching of the Church, at least amongst her ministers. There is no commitment to purifying the sons of Levi so that the Church's ministers may be clothed in righteousness. Yet this kind of authority is sorely needed at this time. Disciplining of errant priests is not a matter of "judging" people for their sins. Only God can do that. But on a human level, if someone holds a particular job, they should be held to account for their performance, or they may be fired or disciplined. It is a matter of ensuring that those who have the privilege of holy orders are also complying with the responsibilities of their high calling. The Church has the right and the duty to discipline priests and to enforce their compliance with Church teaching on sexual morality.

He also makes an observation about our situation here in Arlington:

Apparently there has been a culture of not calling attention to or handling decisively clerical wrongdoing. As events in Arlington, Va. have shown, it is considered just bad form. It is ludicrous that Bishop Loverde of that diocese should throw the book at Fr. Haley for a minor indiscretion (but really for whistleblowing in private and then in public), while the hierarchy has continually avoided leadership responsibility by failing to discipline erring priests. No doubt anyone who spoke up within the clergy or hierarchy on clerical wrongdoing was told in smooth post-Vatican II tones not to be "judgmental," that we are not supposed to be "rulesy" and "rigid" (particularly when it comes to sex, where after all, the Church may be wrong), that after Vatican II we have moved beyond "imposing" rigorous standards of behavior, that canon law is not to be honored or valued in and of itself but is useful only as a rough guideline that helps give some structure to the faith to hand on to future generations (I actually heard such an explanation of canon law in a sermon once).

Wednesday, December 04, 2002

Away from the keys....
Weather permitting I will be travelling on business from Thursday afternoon to Saturday afternoon. I might have something bloggable before I go tommorow, but in case I don't please be assured I am not forsaking the blog again but merely en route to places....

Tuesday, December 03, 2002

More Aelred on friendship: the need for friendship
When I posted recently about St. Aelred and what he had to say about friendships to be avoided I also promised I would include some excerpts from what the Saint had to say about why and how friendship should be cultivated, and so I will try to fulfill my promise.

But why should we care about friendship at all anyway? After all, friends do not tie us by blood, or marriage, or even the claims of extended marriage and family so prevalent in our even-more-fallen age. How embarrassed we are sometimes if someone looks at us askance for seeming to care a great deal about someone else's fate: "oh, I am just a friend," we say. Or we answer "we're just friends" to signal that we don't share what this culture really values, a sexual or romantic relationship, as though we could routinely be so graced as to be just anything so deeply precious.

It is precisely this poverty of friendship that should drive us to care. Mother Teresa and others have observed that in the midst of all our possessions and toys we are among the loneliest people to ever inhabit the world and good friends, while they cannot soak up the existential loneliness we all, as Christians, feel so far far heaven, nevertheless undercut the day to day loneliness than starve our souls and impoverish our lives.

Courageous care of course because the fourth goal of Courage is all about friendship. To remind one another that chaste friendships are not only possible but necessary in the celibate Christian life, and to encourage one another in forming and sustaining them, it reads. In fact, contrary to some impressions abroad right now, chaste, solid, Christ-centered friendship is one of the bulwarks of chastity, acting as a life-preserver we can grab in the midst of loneliness, emotional turmoil, bad news or just discouragement. A wise priest who is a member of Courage and who has experienced years of chastity after acting out for years has observed that sexual intimacy is optional, emotional intimacy is not. To put it bluntly, the need to have someone in our lives give a damn if we are stuck in the rain by the side of the road at 3:00 with a flat tire and need help getting home is a very human need, and one we ignore at our own peril.

For Aelred, the need for friendship is so great that people without can be compared to beasts in the field, as hapless and lonesome.

[Friendship] manifests all the virtues by its own charms; it assails vices by its own virtue; it tempers adversity and moderates prosperity. As a result, scarcely any happiness whatever can exist among mankind without friendship, and a man is to be compared to a beast if he has no one to rejoice with him in adversity, no one to whom he can unburden his mind if any annoyance crosses his path or with whom to share some unusually sublime or illuminating inspiration. (Ecclesiastes 4:10) (Spiritual Friendship 2:10)

Again, we have to make it clear that what Aelred writes of here is true friendship, not the sort which is based on a mutual affinity for vice. The latter, he has already made clear, and restates several places in the book, is not to be considered worthy of even the name of friendship.

And so it is, he writes, that the rich prize friendship as their glory, the exiles as their native land, the poor as their wealth, the sick as their medicine, the dead as their life, the healthy as their charm, the weak as their strength and the strong as their prize. So great are the distinction, memory, praise and affection that accompany friends that their lives are adjudged worthy of praise and their death rated as precious. And a thing even more exceeding than all these considerations, friendship is a stage bordering upon that perfection which consists in that love and knowledge of God, so that man from a friend of his fellow man becomes a friend of God, according to the words of the Savior in the Gospel: I will not now call you servants, but my friends. (John 15:15) (Spiritual Friendship 2:14).

And this is only a small part of the praise he sings for friendship, the portion which the venue and my own tired fingers allow me to post. In a future post I will share portions of what Aelred suggests are the qualities to look for in a friend, as well as the stages a friendship goes through as it grows.
Digging up the dirt?
Roman Catholic Faithful has apparently launched a out and out campaign against my bishop, Paul S. Loverde:

RCF is seeking to compile a resource list of area Catholics, and other interested parties, who can assist in organizing, gathering information, documenting and writing, and networking with one another. These individuals may be involved in organized courses of action, including formal protests and other activities. RCF will be coming into the Arlington diocese to help if needed. Many questions must be asked, especially with respect to Bishop Loverde, as to what might motivate him to react to this exposure with such an unexpected and violent response. RCF will be contacting every priest in the dioceses of Ogdensburg, Hartford, and Arlington seeking information regarding Bishop Loverde's lifestyle and his past.

Further, the group has apparently hiked its interest in the whole Haley affair:

RCF is taking this situation very seriously. So seriously, in fact, that we are temporarily setting aside all other investigations in order to devote our full attention to the Fr. Haley situation. In this time of supposed "zero tolerance" being spouted by the American Bishops, this scandalous treatment of a good priest by his bishop betrays a serious hypocrisy and, if left unchallenged, could set a dangerous precedent for the future treatment of faithful priests everywhere.

I admit I don't know what to think. As I wrote earlier, I find Bishop Loverde's desire to punish Father Haley puzzling to say the least, especially given that what Father Haley came forward with was, in fact, true. I mean, fine don't praise the guy but don't punish him either since that does seem to send the message that messengers who come forward with news the bishop should hear about but might not want to will be shot summarily.

But on the other hand, will this bring a bunch of folks with allegations that 1) cannot be substantiated and 2) will face no more stringent investigators than RCF? I don't know why Bishop Loverde has acted as he has, but I acknowledge that he is the bishop and has the responsibility in the matter. I am not sure his exercising that responsibility in way that might not please RCF should merit him getting his good name dragged through the mud, if that is what how it comes down.

RCF protest coverage
From the Washington Times:

About 100 local members of Roman Catholic Faithful mounted a national effort yesterday to support an Arlington priest silenced and removed from clerical duties after he provided evidence of adultery, embezzlement and trafficking in homosexual pornography by three diocese priests. Carrying signs calling on Bishop Paul S. Loverde to "Stop the Coverup," parishioners of more than a dozen area Catholic churches protested peacefully for the ousted priest, the Rev. James R. Haley, outside the diocese chancery on North Glebe Road in Arlington.

At a planning meeting Sunday evening, former U.S. Rep. Robert K. Dornan, California Republican, told members of the orthodox Catholic group that he would rally prominent local Catholics, including members of Congress, to co-sign a letter to Pope John Paul II if the bishop continued retaliation against the priest that reportedly began in October 2001. "We have got a battle on our hands. I'm one of your foot soldiers," Mr. Dornan told the cheering group. "We've got to demand answers."

Readers not from the Washington area will need to be aware that the Catholic quoted at the end of the piece is not from a Church in the Diocese of Arlington and the article does not say how many protesters were Arlingtonians.


From the Washington Post:

About 50 Roman Catholics demonstrated yesterday outside the offices of Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde to protest his treatment of a priest who blew the whistle on misconduct by three other priests in the diocese.Hoisting signs reading "Emperor Loverde Has No Clothes" and "Bishop, Don't Destroy a Good Priest," the group took up the cause of the Rev. James R. Haley, whom Loverde placed on leave in October 2001.

The demonstration was organized by Roman Catholic Faithful, a conservative Catholic group based in Petersburg, Ill., whose members believe that homosexuals should not be ordained as priests.The group says that Haley was suspended as punishment for alerting the bishop to a priest who was having an affair with a parishioner and to two other priests who kept gay pornography in their rectory bedrooms. The first priest has left the priesthood; the other two have been placed on leave.

"It's outrageous that a holy, orthodox priest would be dismissed like this while the church has a history of protecting sexually abusive priests," said Stephen Brady, president of Roman Catholic Faithful. Loverde disputes that he has punished or suspended Haley.

"Father Haley is still a priest, and he has not been suspended," the bishop said in a statement issued yesterday by spokeswoman Linda Shovlain. "At his request, Father Haley was granted a leave in October 2001. . . . Although he currently does not have an assignment within the Diocese, he [receives] a stipend and full health coverage." However, Loverde has given Haley official notice that he intends to impose a penalty on him for disobeying an order from him, according to a document dated Oct. 28, which was provided by Haley's attorney, Gregory Murphy

Another feature.....
Gordon Zaft asked why there were no permalinks on my page and then was patient enough with me to point me in the direction of where I could learn how to add them. I thank him for his kindness and willingness to help and hope they work properly.

Monday, December 02, 2002

Stones, not bread
Another correspondent, who I will call Robert, has written with an account of another disturbing phenomenon men and women living with same sex attraction encounter "in the trenches" of their Christian lives, so to speak:

Earlier this year I went to confession at a Franciscan parish instead of going to my own parish priest because I didn't want to let him know that I had slipped back into being sexually active with my "soulmate".

The priest asked me questions about the quality of my relationship with my friend and that I should ask God to discern for me whether or not this relationship was meant to be. I mentioned to him that when we are intimate, the words from Leviticus and St. Paul keep coming into my head and he said I should stop listening to the "old" tapes that things are different now. We know more about sexuality than they did in the times of Leviticus.

Well, I wish I hadn't gone to him. It just added to my stress and anxiety by trying to reconcile being sexually active and still be able to receive communion. I didn't have any peace when I was sexually active. Torment would be a better word. I am much more at peace now that I am striving to be chaste. In fact, I find it very hard to say to myself that I am gay. I am comfortable just saying that I live with a degree of same sex attraction.

I have a comment to make about the Franciscans. I was at one time a Secular Franciscan. I joined the Order back in 1975. The Rule at that time had not been updated to reflect Vatican II. In the late 70's and early 80's they began updating the Rule to reflect the changes since Vatican II. That is when everything started to change. I remember reading a Franciscan publication, wish I had saved it. It mentioned that people who were homosexual (they didn't use the term same sex attracted) should strive to overcome their problem and used the example of married life as the ideal to strive for. (It has been over 20 years since I read that article, so I'm not totally sure what the exact wording was.) Anyway, I'm sure St. Francis himself would not approve of people promoting or practicing homosexuality. As I recall from the Omnibus of Sources on St. Francis, when he was tempted he threw himself into a rosebush. There are many times when I wish I had a rose bush to jump into. LOL.

Your brother in Christ...

Now here is a man who came to confession not to have his acting out justified and not to have the friar fight with his conscience but to be able to confess his sins honestly and in humility, as well as receive some guidance about how to avoid the near occasion of sin in the future! Instead, what does he get but arguments that sound suspiciously like the ones gay activists have spouted for the last twenty+ years (at least!). And this happens a lot. Talk of where one can find a genuine confessor who knows the teaching of the Church and will compassionately deliver it, along with some guidance and encouragement, comes up often at Courage meetings. Good counsel cannot just be taken for granted these days.

This reminds me of when I was new to Courage and one of my Courageous brothers ran into the same problem. He was in need of confession for a fall with masturbation and he didn't want to wait for the next Courage meeting. He found himself on a Saturday outside the big Jesuit parish in Washington DC. Aha, he said, noting his watch, they are hearing confessions now and he went in.

Well, when he tried to confess the sin, the priest responded. "That's not a sin." "What do you mean," my friend responded, "yes it is." (This was before the publication of the current Catechism of the Catholic Church, which delineates masturbation as "gravely disordered" and offers some guidelines for determining culpability.) They went back and forth, arguing about it, until finally the priest said in an exasperated voice. "I tell you its completely natural, its no different than sneezing." Whereupon my friend shot back, "Well, Father, here's what we'll do, the next time you offer Mass I will come to front of the congregation. I will sneeze, you may masturbate and we will see who gets the most attention." At which point he stalked out of the confessional to find another confessor.

The point of both stories is that men and women living with same sex attraction deserve the truth and need the truth. It is not "compassionate" or "brave" or "innovative" or "progressive" to deny people seeking Christ the grace they need. Instead it is a treacherous betrayal of both Christ and their flocks and should not be allowed to happen. In the Gospel rhetorically asks his listeners who among them would be hard hearted enough to give their children stones when they wanted bread or snakes when they wanted fish. If you, who are sinful, know enough to give good gifts to your children, Christ asked, how much more can you expect your Father in Heaven to give you? Well, today its an open sorrow that not all those who minister in Christ's name give bread. Sometimes they offer only stones.

"Good sex" led back to the Church
My correspondent John has written this to add to his previous posting here (titled Questioning the concept of "sexual orientation"):

I read the responses to my posting in Sed Contra, and your challenge to the first respondee to define what sex contributes to his relationship with his partner reminded me of the event that probably more than any other led me back to the church.

I had placed a personal. A man responded to it. We hit it off and ended up at his apartment, where we had some of the best sex I have ever had. It was everything I had always wanted in a sexual encounter, but had seldom experienced. But afterwards, I was hit like a ton of bricks with a question I could not answer. "So what?" Can you imagine? I have just had the best sex of my life, and all I could think was, "So what?" That phrase kept echoing in my head, and I did not have an answer to it. It just seemed so pointless. And then, to top it all off, he never called me again, and, apart from some slight damage to my pride, I didn't care. The level of my indifference really shocked me. I had spent twenty years fantasizing about an evening like that. I left the church for the sake of it, but once it happened, it just evaporated into thin air. I suddenly realized, this is no way to live. And the next thing I knew, I was going to confession. Sex between two men has no point, no purpose, apart from the pleasure it provides, and as Thomas Schmidt points out in his wonderful book, Straight and Narrow that just aint enough. But it will always tickle me that if someone asks what brought me back to the church, a perfectly honest answer would be, "Good sex."


Another correspondent has shared his perspective as well:

What a great post. This man's experience was largely my own, heterosexually. When I was in college, and just out of it, and busy trying to claim my right as an American male to have guilt-free sex, I was haunted, literally HAUNTED, by the "So what?" at the end of my conquests. After I got what I wanted, I would lie there with the "So what?" ringing in my ears, replaying all the events leading up to that moment. There was the lying to myself. There was the lying (implicitly) to the girl. There was the buying into the great lie of the sexual revolution, which is: sex without love is fulfilling. I would lie there filled with remorse and self-hatred, plotting to get the hell out of that situation as quickly as I could with minimal hurt to this poor girl's feelings. And my remorse would keep me out of trouble for a few weeks, until I forgot, and got to drinking with my buddies, and returned to my own vomit. A lot of things went into my conversion, but a big element was finally getting sick of hearing, "So what?", and not having an answer.

Clarification on Aelred
Some of my correspondence on the last post has alerted me that it might not have been clear. I am not necessarily taking issue with the possibility that St. Aelred lived with some degree of same sex attraction. Nothing I have read so far has been definitive on that point, either for or against. And in the deepest sense it doesn't matter. What is clear from Aelred's life and writing is that he cannot be looked to as an advocate or promulgator of active homosexuality, which is what other groups in some cases suggest and in a few cases explicitly say.

Sunday, December 01, 2002

Rescuing Aelred
Type "St. Aelred of Rievaulx" into many search engines and you will hit upon many sites which, while bearing his name, have little or nothing to do with the man himself. Indeed, a number of groups that propose a "holy" legitimacy to homosexually active relationships have struck upon St. Aelred, a Cistercian abbot of the 10th Century, as a patron of their claims. Integrity, the Episcopal group that endeavors to lead the Episcopal Church USA into greater and greater approval of active homosexuality, has named St. Aelred as its patron for example.

Well, after much delay, I have finally gotten around to reading one of Aelred's most noted works, Spiritual Friendship (the other being Mirror of Charity) and have to say that anyone who is going to make a case for Aelred approving of homosexually active relationships, particularly within a Christian context, has to ignore some particularly strong passages. Here are some:

After beginning his discussion of the nature of friendship, with another monk, by the name of Ivo, Aelred notes that not all that travels under the name of friendship is equal and that some friendships are to be avoided.

38. Hence let one kind of friendship be called carnal, another worldly, and another spiritual. The carnal springs from mutual harmony in vice; the worldly is enkindled by the hope of gain; and the spiritual is spiritual is cemented by similarity of life, morals and pursuits among the just. 39. The real beginning of carnal friendship proceeds from an affection which like a harlot directs its step after every passer-by (Ezekiel 16:25) following its own lustful ears and eyes in every direction. (Numbers 15:39) By means of the avenues of these senses it brings into the mind itself images of beautiful bodies or voluptuous objects. To enjoy these as he pleases the carnal man thinks is blessedness, but to enjoy them without an associate he considers less delightful. 40. Then by gesture, nod, words, compliance, spirit is captivated by spirit and one is inflamed by the other, and they are kindled to form a sinful bond, so that, after they have entered upon such a deplorable pact, the one will do or suffer any crime or sacrilege whatsoever for the sake of the other. They consider nothing sweeter than this type of friendship, they judge nothing more equable, believing community of like and dislike to be imposed on them by the laws of friendship. 41 And so this sort of friendship is undertaken without deliberation, is tested by no act of judgement, is in no wise governed by reason; but through the violence of affection is carried away through divers paths, observing no limit, caring naught for uprightness, forseeing neither gains nor losses, but advancing toward everything heedlessly, indiscriminately, lightly and immoderately. For that reason, goaded on, as if by furies, it is consummated by its own self, or is dissolved with the same levity with which it was originally fashioned. (Spiritual Friendship 1:38-41)

And there is more.

There are compacts - even sworn bonds - of union among the wicked which ought to be abhorred. These, clothed with the beautiful name of friendship, ought to have been distinguished from true friendship by law and precept, so that when true friendship was sought, one might not incautiously be ensnared among those other friendships because of some slight resemblance. (Spiritual Friendship 1:60)

Further, real friends do not ask one another to sin:

39. For that love which is shameful and unworthy of the name of friendship wherein anything foul is demanded of a friend; and this is precisely what one is forced to do, if, with vices in no wise dormant or subdued, he is either enticed or impelled to all sorts of illicit acts. Therefor one ought to detest the opinion of those who think one ought to act on behalf of a friend in a way detrimental to faith and uprightness. 40. For it is not excuse for sin, that you sin for the sake of a friend. (Spiritual Friendship 2:39-40)

And there are more, which I will not quote in this post. I guess my perplexity rests in the claims made about St. Aelred that his writing in Spiritual Friendship, nor in his biography, bear out. And the really good news for folks seeking genuine spiritual friendship is that Aelred offers some very good advice about what sort so qualities to look for in a genuine friend and how to foster, test and grow good friendships. But those for another post I guess. By the way, those who are interested in reading more from St. Aelred himself, as opposed to writing about him, can find a small and growing list of selections and his biography at Cistercian Publications.