Thoughts on the PA Church Scandal Report

In light of the PA report regarding egregious numbers of priests abusing minors since 1940″s: In the early centuries of Christianity, often sinners were required to go public for serious crimes. The local communities required penitents to wear sackcloth and ashes at the entrance of churches until their penance / amends had been fulfilled. The PA Report names the guilty in a way that is fitting, and, hopefully, offers some comfort to victims who need to see public acknowledgment of their perpetrators, many of whom are now deceased. What remains to be worked out is an ecumenical and government consensus defining a universally just reparation to victims and families and a standard of just punishment for surviving perpetrators in both civil and ecclesiastical realms.* This could be applied to all realms where sexual abuse is found – in homes, schools, medical residences, youth clubs, etc. Because of the lifetime trauma victims experience, the statute of limitations must be lifted in all sectors of Church and Society, equally, with no exemptions. Time to set things right in all realms. God help Church and Society recover.

 

  • In 1888 Founder of the Paulist Fathers, Servant of God Isaac Hecker wrote, “The reintegration into general principles of the scattered truths contained in religion, social and political sects and parties of our day would reveal to all upright souls their own ideal more clearly and completely, and at the same time present to them the practical measures and force necessary to its realization.”   I.e., when the same truths are articulated in all or many sectors / institutions, the prospects for acting upon and realizing those truths are great.
Advertisements

I whole heartedly recommend the BBC TV series BROKEN

Only last week did I become aware of and watch the full season of BBC’s one-season tv series entitled BROKEN.   (Available for download on Amazon Prime)  As a Catholic priest in the United States I truly appreciate the series’ honest depiction of a priest, his daily life and ministry, the torment of sexual abuse within it and the willingness of the series’ characters to persevere in the reality of Christ -the heart of our faith– while attending to the failures of Church as Institution.  I was deeply moved by every episode and amazed at how the writer / producer Jimmy McGowen understands Catholic Christianity—what it is, all that it can be and must be.  I also found comforting BROKEN’s assertion that we are all broken in various ways and that one essential choice for health is to claim ourselves as wounded healers comforting others.

The 6-episode series covers the most timely of Catholic Church issues through the experiences of a Liverpool priest and his parishioners. I applaud the series writers and the powerful performances especially Sean Bean and Muna Otura, although all actors were across-the-board excellent.   Directors, too, did a fine job.

I am promoting BROKEN today because of the show’s integrity as drama and as a healthy critique of our Catholic institution badly in need of healing.  In light of today’s publication of the PA Church abuse cases, it is obvious to so many of us that our Church needs much more transparency and much more dialogue and  collaborative leadership with the laity to address its dysfunctions. Clearly, this institution of ours must work together with behavioral scientists and learn more from their collective wisdom about human sexuality in order to reform our moral teachings and praxis, to bring about healing and make further amends.

I hope you will view BROKEN and I welcome your responses to it.

 https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0794Y2B14?aaxitk=vOA9IUnNWVk68zXndoEv8A&pd_rd_i=B0794Y2B14&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_p=3930100107420870094&pf_rd_s=desktop-sx-top-slot&pf_rd_t=301&pf_rd_i=BROKEN&hsa_cr_id=1205442570701&sb-ci-n=productDescription&sb-ci-v=Broken

Movie Review: Disney’s Christopher Robin

True to the gentle philosophies found in A.A. Milne’s classic Winnie-the-Pooh Tales, Disney’s CHRISTOPHER ROBIN will bring a tear to your eye and a smile upon your face.  In some ways the movie is a tender-hearted Dante’s INFERNO for kids and any adult concerned about losing his or her inner child. As Dante began his epic lost at the edge of a wood, the adult Christopher Robin’s crisis brings him into and out of the 100 Acre Wood initially shrouded, like its prototype, in fog and mystery but happily without any of the Divine Comedy’s sense of terror.

As Christopher Robin, Ewan McGregor is as focused, honest in his acting and charming as ever — a perfect casting for a character lost in work and in need of redemption. In that sense, the basic plot is not unlike that of 1964’s  MARY POPPINS.  Of course, here Winnie-the-Pooh and friends are the catalysts that restore the overworked, conformist of a man to his family and rekindle the spark of his individual soul.  There’s not as much POPPINS’ magic in this film, however, and no one sings any songs (with one exception) so CHRISTOPHER ROBIN feels a bit less joyful,  Yet, there’s laughter to be had and a good deal to beam about.  Thrill seekers be warned: the second act is quiet and slow; only the third act has the more typical action and suspense typical of many contemporary family pictures such as those in the wonderful (yet very different) PADDINGTON BEAR (Studio Canal Pictures).

As with PADDINGTON, the digital animation aspects that enliven the storybook characters and enhance the sets are seamlessly woven into the realistic contemporary English locales.  The supporting cast is admirable, too.  Hayley Atwell as Mrs. Robin and Bronte Carmichael as the daughter are naturals and remain true to the understated flavor and thoughtful spirit of the movie appropriately conducted by director Marc Foster (Finding Neverland and The Kite Runner).

I am happy to report that CHRISTOPHER ROBIN offers a sweet experience at the movies. I recommend it to children age seven and beyond and all adults fond of A.A. Milne’s books and classic characters.

 

August 10, 2018

A prayer by Blessed John Henry Newman

“My great God, you know all that is in the universe, because you yourself have made it. It is the very work of your hands. You are omniscient, because you are omnicreative. You know each part, however minute, as perfectly as you know the whole. You know mind as perfectly as you know matter. You know the thoughts and purposes of every soul as perfectly as if there were no other soul in the whole of your creation. You know me through and through; all my present, past, and future are before you as one whole. You see all those delicate and evanescent motions of my thought which altogether escape myself. You can trace every act, whether deed or thought, to its origin and can follow it into its whole growth and consequences. You know how it will be with me at the end; you have before you that hour when I shall come to you to be judged. How awful is the prospect of finding myself in the presence of my judge! Yet, O Lord, I would not that you should not know me. It is my greatest stay to know that you read my heart. Oh, give me more of that openhearted sincerity which I have desired. Keep me ever from being afraid of your eye, from the inward consciousness that I am not honestly trying to please you. Teach me to love you more, and then I shall be at peace, without any fear of you at all.”
Source:  Everyday Meditations by John Henry Newman

Know the Past to Improve the Future: Knowing Jesus

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time  Lectionary: 101

Reading 1 Ez 2:2-5  Hard of face and obstinate of heart are they to whom I am sending you.  But you shall say to them: Thus says the LORD GOD!  And whether they heed or resist—for they are a rebellious house— they shall know that a prophet has been among them.they shall know that a prophet has been among them.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 123:1-2, 2, 3-4   Our souls are more than sated with the mockery of the arrogant, with the contempt of the proud.

Reading 2       2 COR 12:7-10  :     for when I am weak, then I am strong.

Gospel  MK 6:1-6   Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house.”  So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there, apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.

Two men rummaged through the remains of their deceased Uncle’s estate.  They happened upon a stack of canvas paintings, unframed, piled high in a corner.

“What a waste of money, buying all this junk” said the older brother to the younger. “He was a foolish man.”

“You didn’t know him as I knew him,” said the younger.  “He enjoyed supporting the locals, the shops that were on the verge of closing. Maybe some of these are worth something. I’m going to have them appraised.”

His brother retorted: “Don’t waste your time or your money. Not much of an inheritance. That’s all I can say,”

In time, the paintings were appraised.  Alas, all worthless, except for one. It brought a great price.

“Here’s your share,” said the younger to the older.

“It’s yours,” said the other. “I didn’t want any part of it.”

“If you knew him, you would know he wanted us both to have something from him. He was a very generous fellow.  Take it.”

He does.

The crowd in Jesus’ home town didn’t really know him.  They couldn’t have. Evidently, they didn’t take the time to know his story – Angels at his birth, light and revelations at his Baptism, conflict with religious authorities through which he stood his ground and healings that occurred through him in Capernaum and other villages south of the lake.

What’s more, they didn’t know their own stories very well.  Not necessarily their personal stories, but their collective stories; stories from the Torah and the prophets:  Remembrances of things past meant to inform the present.  Why were these stories recorded on scrolls if not for edification, for learning, for hope?  Inspiration and Wisdom to be gleaned from reviewing the conflicts among the great patriarchs, matriarchs, prophets and kings; Passovers of deliverance on more occasions than one; battles between good and evil within human hearts as much as among and between rival tribes and nations. They must not have personalized their own biblical and national histories, otherwise those stories of arrogance and humility, greed and generosity would have kept them constantly aware of the human condition ever in need redemption.

Ignorant or forgetful they were—probably  some combination of both—the people who dismissed Jesus. They reduced him to his contemporary family links. No one special. No one unique.  Didn’t they realize that negating Jesus’ uniqueness they were denying themselves of their own uniqueness, and their universal needs? How foolish they were.

How foolish are we!  It is essential that we  be mindful of our pasts if we are to live fully in the present.  I’m not speaking only of our personal pasts–our families’ pasts, but that of our nation and our biblical heritage as well.  These are the realities that impact our minds and hearts consciously and subconsciously every day; they are the realities that bring our need for Jesus and His communion of disciples—those on earth and in heaven—working together in prayer and action to  navigate the rights and wrongs, the truths, the lies, the generosity, the self-serving aspects of human nature and society in every generation, in every age.

The Good News is whether we know Jesus or not, whether we claim our identity and our heritage as His Disciples or not, His love and Wisdom is for everyone.  And, on wider circles, the same is true for God the Father as the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures reveal God – generous, kind and forgiving to all including the ungrateful, the clueless and the wicked.

Let’s face it, even we who know, we who follow Jesus and seek communion with him, exploring, discerning, illuminating Christ’s Spirit in ourselves and others, yes, even we could be more knowledgeable of Biblical, Church History and that of our nations.  All offer innumerable examples of virtues that triumphed, goodness that failed;  hospitality and selfishness, of peace and violence, the ever-constant approach / avoidance of God we all experience – a treasure chest of knowledge with great potential for Wisdom for today.

Come to the Eucharist today with a greater willingness to wrestle with our past—the failings of Saints and Nations as much as their successes. Gauge them alone and with others as to the degrees of our ancestors’ cooperation with God, with 10 Commandments, the extent of their  identification with Jesus and the Spirit.

Confident that Memory is one of God’s most vital gifts to humanity for Growth and Wisdom, may today’s mass motivate us to keep learning from our mistakes, acknowledging our ignorance, inspire us to know more who of we are, who we’ve been and what the signs of our times call us to be.  Pope Francis has written encyclicals that urge us to attend to care for the Environment and our relationship with the animal world (Laudato Si), to re-evaluate the way business and commerce commence (part of Lumen Fidei—light of faith—an encyclical that insists we engage the world not just our individual souls).  And let us not forget the 1986 US Bishops “Economic Justice for All” – so much of the wisdom and compassion of that document has yet to reconcile our culture to the values of Faith. Nor should we forget the warnings of Pope Saint John Paul II on that same topic: Centesimus Annus – on Capital, Labor and Catholic Social Teaching.

May we trust Christ’s indwelling in us will strengthen us to name the sins of the past, undo the damage done that continues to threaten the land, the air we breathe, the water we drink, the relationships among nations and within and among peoples. May faith, hope and love be strengthened in us through today’s sacrament, moving this entire generation of Christians forward –ever-ready, ever-willing to access every possible opportunity for GRACE, knowing that Christ Jesus and his truth make him not just yesterday’s Savior, but Our Savior for today, tomorrow and always.

Homily: Joy & Sorrow, Sickness & Health

HOMILY FOR THE THIRTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR B  1 July 2018

 Reading 1 Wis 1:13-15; 2:23-24   For God formed man to be imperishable;”

Responsorial Psalm Ps 30:2, 4, 5-6, 11, 12, 13 I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me”  and “O LORD, my God, forever will I give you thanks.”

Reading 2 2 Cor 8:7, 9, 13-15For you know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.
Gospel Mk 5:21-43 or 5:21-24, 35b-43  “He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.”

Twelve years with a severe medical condition and her livelihood spent on doctors!  Today, as the medical profession continues to transform itself into medical “industry” – the many dedicated, well-intentioned, self-giving doctors, nurses and support staff notwithstanding – and amidst all the complexities of the political debates, this woman’s drama sounds exceptionally contemporary. The Gospel says, “she spent her livelihood on doctors but was unable to be cured by any.”  No AARP or Medicare. What made her turn to Jesus?  Sheer desperation?  Perhaps.  Yet desperate people don’t often make the wisest choices.  What prompted her decision to risk life and limb and public outcry (if not stoning) as a designated “unclean” individual defying laws separating her from healthy citizens?  To discern an answer to that question, it may be helpful to posit possible situations (and corresponding mindsets) a person with her condition would find herself.

She must have been WEARY.  Twelve years with a condition that would certainly have made her anemic, weak and perhaps struggling with associated depression.  It probably crossed her mind to repeat the words of Job’s wife when she said to him: “Curse God and die.”  Evidently, this woman eschewed that temptation. Instead, she found ways to maneuver through those dark thoughts and impulses.  Here are some possibilities:

  1. Consolation: Perhaps identifying with others who suffer offered some relief – recognizing she was not alone in her condition or her situation. She may have sought friendship with others with similar conditions.  Lepers, after all, were forced to associate exclusively with lepers.  At that time, women experiencing menstruation were set apart from men. So perhaps our protagonist spent her days and years in the company of menstruating women.  Of course, these women would come and go leaving her alone, but they would re-appear and the life flow of women’s natural rhythms and the conversations and insights shared may have brought her deeper wisdom and some levels of peace. Perhaps, she was not the only one with continuing hemorrhage and found some kindred solidarity, one among several women there waiting for doctors’ arrivals, commiserating together the lack of antidotes to their condition. In that way, she provided her own sense of consolation with her refusal to isolate herself, to fall into the trap of alienation even though the societal norm pressured her to do so.
  2. Resourcefulness: We know nothing of her life situation:  Married? Single?  Widowed?  Divorced? Whatever the case she found some way or had some means to have her basic needs met:  food, clothing, shelter and the ability to offer her doctor’s recompense.  We can assume she was not married for the Gospel specifies “she spent HER livelihood on doctors,” i.e. not her husband’s.  Furthermore, her medical condition would have made her unfit for the marriage bed, so it most likely she never married or divorced. Very likely she weaved cloth at her loom and had a colleague purify her products for sale in the marketplace.
  3. Gratitude: That her medical condition did not inhibit her from productivity, however, mitigated her energy levels. She must have cultivated ways to be thankful for what was, rather than what was not; grateful for who she was, rather than who she was not.

We have much to learn from this woman plagued with but cured of hemorrhaging: Weariness supported by prayer; Consolation in identification with others who suffer; Resourcefulness; Gratitude and Hope, all bound together in FAITH.  The beauty of her faith in Jesus and her subsequent healing comes from the fact that she refused to remain a victim; she did not let her past or the crisis of her present illness inhibit her choices for the future. Her faith instilled in her that marvelous capacity to hold suffering and joy in body and mind without annihilating, ignoring or failing to attend to either one.

She must have known enough about the Messianic expectation that the true Messiah would identify with her—for He was to come to the lowly, the persecuted, the suffering, the bereft.  After all, Jesus’ miraculous healings fulfilled an essential aspect of JESUS HIMSELF:  His oneness with humanity.  She was able to recognize in JESUS as the one who perfectly held the tension between joy and sorrow, suffering and deliverance as her faith had motivated her to do.  Thus, she courageously surrendered her fallible condition to His Perfect Condition, recognizing that she and Jesus had more in common than what would be apparent to most who did not take the time to know her or consider Jesus to the extant that she had.

YOU and I have more in common with Jesus than we readily acknowledge.  You and I continue to be nourished by Him in Sacrament and Word.  You and I grapple with joys and sorrows, degrees of sickness and health, social successes and social failures but find our hope in Christ and His Being, His Union with God the Father, trusting in their literal sharing of their Spirit within us – the divine spark in every human being that, for us, for God’s good purposes, has been nurtured so lovingly, consistently through our Catholic Faith and Traditions.  For God formed us to be imperishable in the Spirit, and God engages us to cooperate with Grace just as Jesus continually merged His human will with His Divine Will.  Hear today what Jesus said to the woman he says now to you: “Your faith has saved you, Go in Peace and be cured of your affliction” — that is be cured of whatever separates you from you, from us, from Christ.

 

 

Reclaiming the Wild Man / Wild Woman in Each of Us

Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist – Mass during the Day (12th Sunday since Pentecost)

Reading 1:  Isaiah 49: 1-6;  Psalm 149;  Reading 2: Acts 13: 22-26;  Gospel:  Luke 1: 57-80

 Today we celebrate the Saint and prophet who was and forever will be John the Baptist. It is fitting that we explore the many persons and events contributing to his legacy and to expand his legacy to ourselves as people pointing the way to Jesus.  

Like many a prophet before him, John the Baptist came to embody the persona of the WILD MAN, and, in deference to “The Women Who Run with Wolves,” Wild Woman, too.  

These are their Strengths
Wild Men and Wild Women can be role models for taking the road less travelled.

These are their Weaknesses
Because they are unchecked in their sensitivities and brutal in their will to do things their own way, they can be frightening and threatening to those who live more traditionally.

Here are their Passions
Nature, festivals, poetry, singing, spirituality, and storytelling

The Merriam-Webster Definition of wild man / Wild Woman

1 a: an uncivilized person: savage

b: a person of fierce and ungovernable character

c: a person holding radical political views

Throughout the centuries, nearly all cultures have admired these strong, eccentric, impulsive men and women, evolving stories that celebrate their courage, wisdom and strength, while offering lessons to be learned from their more reckless and vengeful natures. From as early as the third millennium before Jesus – that is, some five thousand years ago, the Epic of Gilgamesh carved in stones in Sumerian and Akkadian languages told of Enkidu, a wild ass of a man, covered in hair, attune to the speech of animals, in harmony with nature, set apart from the corrupted so-called civilized societies humanity created. Enkidu, however, is ultimately initiated into love and the better aspects of human society by a woman, Shamat.  Eventually he wrestles with and is befriended by the great King Gilgamesh who benefits from Enkidu’s strength and more nature-based wisdom.

The First Wild Man in the Bible is Ishmael, son of Abraham and Hagar in Genesis 16: 11 Then the Lord’s angel said to her:

“You are now pregnant and shall bear a son;  you shall name him Ishmael,[e] For the Lord has heeded your affliction. 12 He shall be a wild ass of a man, his hand against everyone, and everyone’s hand against him;
Alongside[
f] all his kindred shall he encamp.

 The Second is Esau, twin brother to Jacob, sons of Isaac and Rebekah:  

When the time of her delivery came, there were twins in her womb. 25 The first to emerge was reddish,[k] and his whole body was like a hairy mantle; so they named him Esau. 26 Next his brother came out, gripping Esau’s heel;[l] so he was named Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when they were born.

27 When the boys grew up, Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country; whereas Jacob was a simple[m] man, who stayed among the tents. 2

 We know from the twins’ saga that once Jacob steals Esau’s birthright, Esau plots to kill him but Jacob escapes, become indentured to his cousin Laban’s estate.  Jacob marries Leah and later Rachel. When he decides to embark upon a bold but cautious return to his homeland with his wives and flocks, Jacob wrestles with God as he prepares to face the consequences of his betrayal of his brother.  Esau, wild as he is, has also matures over the years and evidences a hallmark of the biblical Wildman who cooperates with God’s grace: On Jacob’s return home, the adult Esau embraces his adult brother in a great moment of reconciliation.  Esau, the original “hairy man,” expanded the biblical Wild Man/ Wild Woman prototype as one who is guided by God, in part, because of his or her earthiness.

From that episode we traverse from an unknown time and place to the second millennium (12th century around 1,200 before Jesus).  Here we encounter two Wild Women:  Deborah and her sidekick Jael whose feats are reported in the biblical book of JUDGES: Deborah from the Hebrew “bee,” as in “honeybee” that bestows both sweetness and scathing sharpness of a sting; Jael—a name derived from the root word for “mountain goat.”  Deborah summoned some of the tribes of Israel to a great battle on Mount Tabor in which an oppressive Canaanite regime was defeated.  Meanwhile, Jael seduced the Canaanite general Sisera only to kill him in his sleep. Their victories are recorded as “The Song of Deborah,” chapter five of the Book of Judges, which is hailed as the oldest extant poetry of antiquity–the antecedent and inspiration for over one third of poetic verse found in the Bible from Psalms and Proverbs, Song of Songs to prophetic poetry of Isiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel.  

          Quickly moving through the Bible, we note that the prophets in Books of Samuel and Kings (10th and 9th centuries) Elijah, Elisha, Nathan further develop Deborah’s political acumen, crystalizing the essentially political and social dynamics of God’s ethics.  These figures established a strong foundation upon which the three greatest prophets stand: Isaiah, Ezekiel and Jeremiah (8th and 7th centuries B.C.E.).  In today’s Isaiah reading we find the prophet and poet Isaiah’s ministry blossoming with strong political as well as spiritual directives for Israel as a nation.  By this point, the political aspect is fully harmonized with the Wild Man / Wild Woman ‘s Spiritual attributes. Those who argue religion and politics should not mix and that the Church should avoid political critique, have eschewed, whether consciously or unconsciously, this strong biblical tradition of these wild and crazy prophets.

          So, too, John the Baptist, perpetuates the consolidation of both spiritual and political in his Wild Man role.  We do well to remember on this day John’s highly critical exhortations against tetrarch Herod Antipas, as much as his insistence on the legacy of Esau:  reconciliation rooted in the essential virtue of truth.  For John commanded the citizens and political leaders of Judah to acknowledge their sins, repent and be open to a new life in harmony with God, the Law and with one another.  And who nurtured and extended this bible-based legacy to him?  Elizabeth, his mother, of course, along with his father the priest Zechariah.

          In their own way, Elizabeth and Zechariah fit the Wild One archetype as they lived “in the hills of Judah” –apart and above the great city of Jerusalem.  Their initial childlessness set them outside the norms of Jewish life and must have added to their ability to see it more critically, with an outsider’s objectivity. We don’t know the extent to which John and Jesus spent time together growing up, but both would have been learned in the prophetic legacy that reinterpreted the Torah for their age and continues to do so for our age and for centuries to come.

          As we come to communion this day celebrating Saint John the Baptist and the way he prepared people for Jesus, may we reclaim our prophetic Wild Man, Wild Woman roles to apply faith to all aspects of our lives – personal, social and political.

Isaiah proclaimed: “I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”  John the Baptist cried, “Repent in all the ways you fail to cooperate with God’s grace, God’s plan for the earth, for the world.” And remember, Jesus called Herod “a fox,” and some of the Sadducees “Hypocrites,” reminding us that sin has not only personal but deeply social dynamics.  May we share the Eucharist today conscious that Jesus commanded that Eucharist be perpetuated through the Church through time and space so that all His followers be nourished in this truth: Communion with God is about personal transformation, and, equally so, about transformation of the world.  A Wild idea indeed.