Whispers in the Loggia links to an interview with Cardinal SchĂ¶nborn. He is frank about some of his familyâs problems. His grandfather and father were not practicing, and his parents divorced when he was young.
He was a young Dominican during the disastrous period after Vatican II. Bultmann was their guide to theology, and he was told prayer was meaningless. He stopped praying for a year, and was getting ready to leave the Dominicans. He returned to the practice of prayer in 1967 after hearing an Orthodox monk who spoke about prayer and the importance of a spiritual father, a staretz. He has told me he is deeply grateful to the Orthodox for saving his vocation. Orthodox have told me that the Catechism of the Catholic Church could have been written by an Orthodox, so I think that SchĂ¶nborn has learned both to pray and think like an Orthodox. SchĂ¶nborn is both the Latin archbishop of Vienna and metropolitan of Eastern Catholics in Austria. If he is ever elected pope, we may see major movements to restore communion between East and West.
Russell Shawâs new book American Church: The Remarkable Rise, Meteoric Fall, and Uncertain Future of Catholicism in America, gives his interpretation of the relationship of Catholicismâs interaction with America. He agrees with Orestes Brownson, who was pessimistic about how Catholicism would do in America, rather than Isaac Hecker (founder of the Paulists) who was optimistic, Shaw also thinks that Cardinal Gibbons of Baltimore set the Church here on a firmly Americanizing and assimilationist course.
The Irish especially were determined to make it in America. They were hostile to German immigrants, and even more so to Eastern Catholics. The Irish were determined to be complete Americans, and their high point came with the election of Kennedy. After Vatican II Catholics dismantled the âghetto,â and wholeheartedly embraced the world. Catholic politicians have completely adopted secular establishment attitudes to sexuality and life issues. Visible practice among the laity has collapsed, and Catholics are indistinguishable from other Americans in divorce and abortion, and Jesuit colleges vie among themselves to sponsor gay organizations.
Shaw thinks the ultimate source of the collapse is the American attitude that individuals have a direct line to the Holy Spirit, and that, in modern terms, “conscience” or the “sensus fidelium” trumps the faith historically transmitted by an authoritative Church.
Shaw is correct in his diagnosis; that is certainly what has happened. He thinks that Catholicism cannot survive in a foreign and increasingly hostile environment without a plausibility structure, the network of schools, institutions, and practices that formerly allowed most Catholics to live in a Catholic environment. Shaw therefore places his hope in the new web of Catholic institutions, such as Thomas Aquinas College, the Nashville Dominicans, etc. , that will form a new Catholic subculture.
But these are miniscule, touching a fraction of 1% of the Catholic population. Catholic schools continue to decline rapidly, and nothing has replaced them as a means of transmitting both Catholic doctrines and practices to the next generation. Religious orders are rapidly dying out.
Progressives want the Catholic Church to be remodeled after the model of the Episcopal Church: accepting married clergy, gay clergy, gay marriage, contraception, abortion etc. But despite the advantages of wealth and social status, the Episcopal Church has been in a precipitous decline for a generation. Only Hispanic immigration has softened the decline of Catholic numbers, but they too will eventually be affected by American culture. Some have already departed to forms of conservative Protestantism; others are being secularized.
God may have surprises for us, but it looks like the Catholic Church in America is going to go the route of Catholics in Europe, without the advantages of an historic tie to the culture. Catholics will be a small remnant. The vitality of the Church is in the Global South.
The sad thing is that the decline of the American Church is self-inflicted. I remember in the 1960s arguing with a Dominican at Providence College. He insisted all Catholic schools should be closed and that Catholics should go only to public schools. I asked him how he expected Catholics to learn their faith. He said Protestants had Sunday School and that was enough. But of course it is not enough for Protestants, and even less so for Catholics, who need to learn both doctrines and practices.
(Here is Shaw’s interview on the book; here is Elizabeth Scalia’s response; here is George Weigel’s response, here are some reflections by an historian I wonder whether Commonweal or America will notice the book.)
CONAN THE GOVERNOR
SCIENCE proves that leftists are the 98-pound weaklings of the political world:
Men who are physically strong are more likely to take a right wing political stance, while weaker men are inclined to support the welfare state, according to a new study.
Researchers discovered political motivations may have evolutionary links to physical strength.
Men’s upper-body strength predicts their political opinions on economic redistribution, according to the research.
The principal investigators - psychological scientists Michael Bang Petersen, of Aarhus University in Denmark, and Daniel Sznycer, of the University of California in the U.S., believe that the link may reflect psychological traits that evolved in response to our early ancestral environments and continue to influence behaviour today.
Professor Petersen said: âWhile many think of politics as a modern phenomenon, it has - in a sense - always been with our species.â
In the days of our early ancestors, decisions about the distribution of resources were not made in courthouses or legislative offices, but through shows of strength.
With this in mind, Professor Petersen and Professor Sznycer hypothesised that upper-body strength - a proxy for the ability to physically defend or acquire resources - would predict men’s opinions about the redistribution of wealth.
The researchers collected data on bicep size, socio-economic status, and support for economic redistribution from hundreds of people in the United States, Argentina and Denmark.
In line with their hypotheses, the data revealed that wealthy men with high upper-body strength were less likely to support redistribution, while less wealthy men of the same strength were more likely to support it.
Men with less upper body strength are more likely to support the welfare state - like Labour leader Ed Miliband
Professor Petersen said: âDespite the fact that the United States, Denmark and Argentina have very different welfare systems, we still see that - at the psychological level - individuals reason about welfare redistribution in the same way.
âIn all three countries, physically strong males consistently pursue the self-interested position on redistribution.â
Men with low upper-body strength, on the other hand, were less likely to support their own self-interest.
Wealthy men of this group showed less resistance to redistribution, while poor men showed less support.
Professor Petersen said: âOur results demonstrate that physically weak males are more reluctant than physically strong males to assert their self-interest - just as if disputes over national policies were a matter of direct physical confrontation among small numbers of individuals, rather than abstract electoral dynamics among millions.â
“It must beÂ true; its SCIENCE!”
Tags: Masculinity · Politics
Some people have asked me to comment on Michael DâAntonioâs book Mortal Sins: Sex, Crime, and the Era of Catholic Scandal.
DâAntonio is a Pulitzer Prize winner, so the book is well written and carries the reader along. He narrates the process in which the extent of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church was revealed over the past generation. He organizes his material by focusing on key agents, especially Richard Sipe, Tom Doyle, and Jeff Anderson (all of whom I know).
Tom Doyle and Jeff Anderson are both recovering alcoholics, which they have made public. In Doyleâs case, I think I was the despair he felt at the hierarchyâs attitude that led him to a drinking habit.
Anderson had deeper problems, including cocaine use and adultery. I thought the book went too far in detailing these problems, to the embarrassment of his children. But Sipe explained to me that AA demands brutal honesty about failings, and Anderson also talked publicly about his sins so no one could blackmail him. That is, no one could say, âGo easy on this priest, or we will reveal that you did XYZ.â Anderson had already told the papers that he had done ABCDEF and so on all the way through XYZ. Â StillâŠ.
Everyone who has dealt with the sexual abuse crisis has paid a price. The fires of hell singe even those who are trying to put them out. Joseph Epstein said he had stopped reading about the Holocaust when he noticed that those who studied it too closely tended to commit suicide. I have had endless nightmares; others have had their marriages wrecked, or have been driven to drink. The collateral damage has been heavy for the rescue workers.
DâAntonio gives a good overview, and it is less painful to read than my book, Sacrilege. Some of my friends, including psychiatrists, told me that they couldnât read my book; it was too explicit about the abuse.
DâAntonio is substantially factually accurate, as far as I know. A few minor quibbles. He said that the First Vatican Council gave the pope the gift of infallibility â that is not exactly what happened. He also said that the pope governs the church through encyclicals. Encyclicals are teaching documents; government is done through motu proprios, apostolic constitutions, and such like.
DâAntonio also follows the party line that clerical homosexuals are no more likely to abuse minors than clerical heterosexuals. I have my doubts about this claim. In the general population it may be true, but I suspect that the type of homosexual attracted to the clergy is more likely to abuse than a heterosexual is.
DâAntonio also doesnât address some of the deeper theological problems that contributed to the abuse â the misunderstanding and over-stress on obedience and the suspicion of emotions, especially anger, in the spiritual life. Conrad Baars diagnosed the latter.
But the book is a good introduction and overview, and I hope that people who canât read the more painful accounts will read this one.
Tags: clergy sex abuse scandal
Everyone would like to forget about how âprogressivesâ in the 1960s-1980s wanted to normalize adult-child sex. A convicted pedophile Edward Brongersma was a Senator, law professor, and author of Loving Boys. And in Germany, as der Spiegel remembers:
In the 1980s, some members of Germany’s Green Party advocated the legalization of sex with minors. Now the party wants to come to terms with this dark chapter via an independent review of internal documents — some of which show that the influence of pedophiles on the young party was much stronger than previously thought.
He is a boy, roughly 10 years old, with a pretty face, full lips, a straight nose and shoulder-length hair. The wings of an angel protrude from his narrow back, and a penis is drawn with thin lines on the front of his body.
The 1986 image was printed in the newsletter of the Green Party’s national working group on “Gays, Pederasts and Transsexuals,” abbreviated as “BAG SchwuP.” It wasn’t just sent to a few scattered party members, but was addressed to Green Party members of the German parliament, as well as the party’s headquarters in Bonn.
Documents like this have become a problem for the Greens today. Some 33 years after the party was founded, it is now being haunted by a chapter in its history that many would have preferred to forget. No political group in Germany promoted the interests of men with pedophile tendencies as staunchly as the environmental party. For a period of time in the mid-1980s, it practically served as the parliamentary arm of the pedophile movement.
A look at its archives reveals numerous traces of the pedophiles’ flirtation with the Green Party. They appear in motions, party resolutions, memos and even reports by the party treasurer. That is because at times the party not only supported its now forgotten fellow campaigners politically, but also more tangibly, in the form of financial support.
When the Green Party was founded in 1980, pedophiles were part of the movement from the start — not at the center of its activities, but always hovering along the periphery. At the first party convention in the southwestern German city of Karlsruhe, pacifists, feminists and opponents of nuclear energy were joined by the so-called “Urban Indians,” who advocated the “legalization of all affectionate sexual relations between adults and children.” From then on, pedophiles, noisy and wearing colorful body paint, were often a visible part of Green Party gatherings.
Possible Independent Review
The aberrations of the early years were eventually forgotten. Today, when party members look at family photos from their early history during anniversary celebrations, they are quick to overlook the proponents ofsex with children. No one asks about these strange figures anymore, the ones who turned up at every party convention, claiming that pedophilia was a “human right.” Who exactly were they? And what did they want? As it advanced from a protest party to a member of various governments, critical self-examination was replaced by nostalgia.
Until now, that is. In an effort to come to terms with this ugly side of their history, party leaders are expected on Monday to adopt a resolution to conduct an independent academic review of documents from the 1980s. The move comes partly as a result of fierce debate over past statements made by Greens member and European parliamentarian Daniel Cohn-Bendit, who, in his 1975 autobiographical book “Der grosse Basar” (”The Great Bazaar”), described intimate experiences with children as a teacher in an alternative Frankfurt kindergarten. In one passage he writes: “You know, a child’s sexuality is a fantastic thing. You have to be honest and sincere. With the very young kids, it isn’t the same as it is with the four-to-six-year-olds. When a little, five-year-old girl starts undressing, it’s great, because it’s a game. It’s an incredibly erotic game.”
Cohn-Bendit, who has since said that the statements were meant as a fictional provocation, calling them a “big mistake,” has been repeatedly criticized for the contents of his book. But it sparked renewed controversy last month when the president of Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court cited it as grounds for his refusal to give the speech at an awards ceremony honoring him for his contributions to European democracy with the Theodor Heuss Prize. In hopes of calming the uproar, Cohn-Bendit later declined to accept the prize.
It’s embarrassing for the Greens. No other party depends as heavily on the claim of being on the right side of morality. The Greens also played a leading role from the start — as prosecutors — in the debate over abuse within the Catholic Church, emphatically demanding answers to allegations of sexual abuse of children. And, of course, a Green Party parliamentarian, Antje Vollmer, was also a member of the Bundestag’s round table to address the abuses that took place in mainly church-run children’s homes in the 1950s and 1960s.
How is the party going to explain that it once tolerated people whose agenda had nothing to do with progress and emancipation, but solely with the exploitation of their position of power and trust in relation to minors?
‘The Only Hope for Pedophiles’
In their initial approach to the issue, Green Party leaders have agreed that they are dealing with regrettable but isolated cases. “Protecting children from sexual abuse was and remains a central concern,” says party co-chairman Cem Ăzdemir. “It is unacceptable that some are now trying to reinterpret the positions of individual groups in the past as a supposedly lax position of the Greens toward the sexual abuse of children.”
But it isn’t that simple. The Greens are not being accused of having advocated sex with children. The real question is whether they contributed to an atmosphere in which people could feel emboldened to pursue tendencies that are illegal if acted upon, and for good reason.
“In terms of national politics, the Greens were the only hope for pedophiles,” says Kurt Hartmann, a member of BAG SchwuP in the 1980s who now heads an association that promotes pedophile literature. “They were the only party that put their necks on the line for sexual minorities in the long term.”
The “Schwuppies,” as pedophiles are known within the party, made no secret of their sexual preferences. BAG SchwuP memos were circulated within party committees that openly portrayed minors as objects of sexual desire. One typical image is a photo of a boy in skimpy gym shorts, bending forward slightly as he stands on a playground. The official letterhead of the chairman of BAG SchwuP, Dieter F. Ullmann, featured a drawing of an older man with his arm draped over a young boy’s shoulders.
Party leaders claim that SchwuP was an embarrassment to the national party from the beginning. A look at the files, on the other hand, shows that the pedophile organization received funding — amounting to several thousand deutsche marks over the years — from the Green Party itself and from its parliamentary group in the Bundestag.
Establishing a ‘Pedo-Commission’
BAG SchwuP was upgraded in the summer of 1984, when it became part of the Green Party parliamentary group’s “Law and Society” task force. This gave it a privileged position within the party. From then on, SchwuP played a part in shaping the party’s positions within its parliamentary group. “The goal of providing the Green Party group in the Bundestag with professional support characterizes the work of the national task force,” states a Green Party document.
The pedophiles’ core issue was to bring down Section 176 of the German Criminal Code, which criminalizes sexual acts with children. With the Greens they found for the first time a political force that was willing to entertain this debate. Indeed, in March 1980, the Greens held their second national convention in the southwestern city of SaarbrĂŒcken, where they approved a program that opposed “discrimination against sexual outsiders.” The convention established a “pedo-commission” to specifically address the interests of pedophiles.
Today, Green Party co-chair Claudia Roth insists that the Greens never made the case for sex with children. “At no point did a committee within the Green Party’s national organization adopt a resolution that would have advocated the decriminalization of the sexual abuse of children,” she said two weeks ago. But in the 1980s, the environmental party had a very specific idea of what did and did not constitute abuse.
In 1983, an ad for the Greens ran in the gay newspaper Torso. It featured a drawing of the party’s trademark sunflower and the text: “Sections 174 and 176 should be amended to read that only the application or threat of violence, or the abuse of a dependent relationship in connection with sexual acts should be criminalized!” In plain terms, this meant: Adults could have sex with children, as long as they weren’t their own and they weren’t threatened with violence. Such positions were socially acceptable among the Greens, a fact that today’s party members are only too eager to forget.
The pedophiles celebrated their greatest success in March 1985 at the Greens’ state manifesto conference in LĂŒdenscheid, in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia. There, the party approved a position paper that sought to generally allow “non-violent sexuality” between adults and children, though the resolution was quickly dropped because of public outrage. Nevertheless, BAG SchwuP did not view this as a defeat because it had finally opened the door to public discussion of the pedophiles’ agenda.
“The subject went from being taboo to part of the political consciousness,” reads a SchwuP newsletter from the period. “The fact that, for the first time, the protagonists are becoming the targets of HATE and disgust, scorn and derision, all of this is good and not bad. These emotions always arise at the beginning of a truly deep debate.”
It should be pointed out that the Greens never amended laws to make life easier for pedophiles, but it’s also true that they lacked the power to do so in their early years. And where they did eventually capture seats in state parliaments, such as in the western state of Hesse in 1985, any rhetoric to the effect never materialized into action. The coalition agreement of the first state government that included the Greens, in an alliance with the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), included the pledge to both abolish the notorious Section 175, which made homosexual acts between males a crime, as well as to liberalize other parts of the law governing sexual offences. There were never any practical consequences, though.
The party’s responsibility begins at the point where an atmosphere arose in which sex with children could be viewed as a normal variant of human desire. In this sense, the Greens were entirely a product of the late 1960s generation, which aimed to free society from the shackles of sexual repression. People who were inhibited and dependent were viewed as the root of all evil.
Some results of this struggle for more freedom are certainly viewed as positive to this day. The Greens fought for the sexual autonomy of women and championed the interests of gays and lesbians, for example. But the party lost its sense of proportion by expanding its range of tolerance to encompass everything, arguing that child sexuality should be allowed to develop without prudery and compulsion. In the end, the Greens also protected pedophiles who sought to act out their violent obsessions with children.
No case exposes this more clearly than that of Willi D., a Green Party politician in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia who raped the two-and-a-half-year-old daughter of his female companion in the spring of 1985. After he was sentenced, the Greens’ state party organization advised him to resign from the party, but soon there were those who disagreed. For them, excluding Willi D. from the party would mean “delivering him to the criminal justice system without protection,” wrote the “Prison and Justice Task Force” of the Green-Alternative List, the party’s branch in the city-state of Hamburg at the time. The group argued that it was inadmissible to portray D. as someone who had “acted out of conviction and deliberate anti-child intentions.” In another document, the Prison and Justice Task Force wrote critically that D. was now being “relegated to the male world of prison,” in which an “atmosphere of sexual crudeness prevails.”
An incident that occurred in 1985 shows how aggressively the pedophilia activists defended their views. A young woman using a pseudonym told a Green Party panel how family members had abused her as a child, saying that an uncle would take her to a remote parking lot and force her to play with his penis. “I was 11 at the time, and I experienced how horribly brutish sexuality can be,” she said. “He stared at me with a piercing look in his eyes, and before I knew it semen was squirting at the windshield.” She said she had been traumatized since then, and that the mere sight of semen made her feel sick.
In all of their documents, the pedophile activists had made it clear that sex with children should only occur if it was consensual. In this case, however, BAG SchwuP and various gay state working groups sent out a joint statement that crassly attacked the woman. It said that the statement’s author apparently didn’t see the need to “acknowledge the discussion that has already taken place in this area. Everyone believes that he/she can simply generalize his/her experiences. ‘Girl’ is generalized as ‘child,’ and AN experience is immediately turned into ‘childhood experienceS.’”
It took a full seven years after the Green Party was founded before the pedophiles lost their influence. One reason was the women’s movement, which could never understand why the Greens became involved with men who want to act out their power fantasies on children. Gays in the party had also had enough of being lumped in with the pedophiles. In early 1987, the SchwuP was dissolved, ending the pedophiles’ involvement with the Greens. From then on, there was only the National Working Group on Gays, chaired by Volker Beck.
He had always felt that the pedophiles’ demands were wrong, the parliamentarian from Cologne says today. “I always wanted to pursue pure gay and lesbian policy.”
Yeah. Right. As soon as they realized that parents weren’t happy and parents vote.
Tags: Politics · sexual abuse
Dzhokhr A. Tsarnaev, if he survives his injuries, faces the death penalty if he is tried in federal charges, or life in prison if he is tried in Massachusetts courts.
Execution is probably the more merciful alternative. A life in prison means endless rapes and probably a messy death, like Geoghanâs at the hands another prisoner. Even prisoners like to demonstrate that they are superior to traitors.
Or Tsarnaev could be kept in solitary his whole life. A quick death would be preferable to such a living death.
He is immature and was under the influence of his brother and did not think through the consequences of his actions. They were living in a fantasy world and expected an invisible army to rise from central Asia; they had no escape plan.
But he killed three people, including a child, and maimed scores, and killed a police officer.
What could restorative justice mean in such a situation? What could retribution mean? The best result might be if he would die of his injuries. Then his fate would be up to a higher justice.
PS One always has to wonder if the police got the right people; but as the brothers had both guns and explosives, it is highly unlikely that the police made a mistake.
Tags: Uncategorized · terrorism
Last night I watched an episode of Foyleâs War. The criminal was an English teenager who had watched too many American gangster movies and started to act them out. Ecoterrorists were inspired by Edward Abbey novels.Â The Sorrows of Young Werther led to a rash of suicides.
I fear that the bombers in Boston may inspire copycats. Two teenagers have paralyzed a major city and have made the international news.
But what can the media do? They can hardly ignore what is going on in Boston. But the more coverage they give, the more likely some alienated teenager is going to get ideas.
Tanya Luhrmann wrote When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship With God.
She has a column in todayâs NYT, “When God is Your Therapist.â
IT had never occurred to me to think of God as a therapist when I began to spend time, 10 years ago, at an evangelical church in Chicago. Like many secular observers, I was interested in the fact that people like me seemed to experience reality in a fundamentally different manner. I soon came to realize that one of the most important features of these churches is that they offer a powerful way to deal with anxiety and distress, not because of what people believe but because of what they do when they pray.
One way to see this is that the books teaching someone how to pray read a lot like cognitive behavior therapy manuals. For instance, the Rev. Rick Warrenâs âThe Purpose Driven Life,â one of the best-selling books of all time, teaches you to identify your self-critical, self-demeaning thoughts, to interrupt them and recognize them as mistaken, and to replace them with different thoughts. Cognitive-behavioral therapists often ask their patients to write down the critical, debilitating thoughts that make their lives so difficult, and to practice using different ones. That is more or less what Warren invites readers to do. He spells out thoughts he thinks his readers have but donât want, and then asks them to consider themselves from Godâs point of view: not as the inadequate people they feel themselves to be, but as loved, as relevant and as having purpose.
Does it work? In my own research, the more people affirmed, âI feel Godâs love for me, directly,â the less stressed and lonely they were and the fewer psychiatric symptoms they reported.
More strikingly, I saw that the church implicitly invited people to treat God like an actual therapist. In many evangelical churches, prayer is understood as a back-and-forth conversation with God â a daydream in which you talk with a wise, good, fatherly friend. Indeed, when congregants talk about their relationship with God, they often sound as if they think of God as some benign, complacent therapist who will listen to their concerns and help them to handle them.
I am not sure how it fits into the mainstream of Christian spirituality, but it does not sound bizarre or harmful to try to talk to God and listen for His response (always remembering that we might mistake another voice for His, and even when He speaks we hear Him filtered through our receptors).
God certainly wishes to comfort the distressed, families whose father had died, parents who have lost a child.
I saw the same thing at another church, where a young couple lost a child in a late miscarriage. Some months later I spent several hours with them. Clearly numbed, they told me they did not understand why God had allowed the child to die. But they never gave a theological explanation for what happened. They blamed neither their own wickedness nor demons. Instead, they talked about how important it was to know that God had stood by their side. The husband quoted from memory a passage in the Gospel of John, where many followers abandon Jesus because his teachings donât make sense to them. Jesus says sadly to his disciples, âYou do not want to leave, too, do you?â and Peter responds, âLord, to whom shall we go?â
This sounds mature to me.
Luhrmann doesnât discuss what kind of response people get when they talk to God about cheating on their spouses or stealing from their employers. If God is still benign and complacent I would have doubts about this approach to Him.
Luhrmann also claims that
This approach to the age-old problem of theodicy is not really available to mainstream Protestants and Catholics, who do not imagine a God so intimate, so loving, so much like a person. That may help to explain why it is evangelical Christianity that has grown so much in the last 40 years.
âso much like a personâ â but almost all Christians believe in a personal God, whom they know in Jesus Christ. Although there are problems with the Catholic devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the relationship is certainly personal. And Lutherans have a strong personal relationship to Jesus, âJesu, meine Freude.â
I am not sure that Luhrmann is right, or perhaps what evangelicals mean by a âpersonalâ relationship with God is something completely different from what other Protestants and Catholics mean.
Tags: Catholic Church · Protestantism · prayer
Latino men have the reputation for being detached from the church, and too many of them are caught up in destructive macho and gangster cultures.
Both Catholics and evangĂ©licos (conservativeÂ Protestants, fundamentalist/Pentecostal) try to reach them; I have wondered who has the better success.
John Wolseth lived in Honduras and studied a barrio with gangs, Catholic Base Communities, and evangĂ©lico (Pentecostal in this barrio) churches. He describes and analyzes that environment inÂ Jesus and the Gang: Youth Violence and Christianity in Urban Honduras.
Progressive Catholicism emphasizes community and solidarity with the poor and blames the problems of the poor on structural inequities, especially economic oppression.Â Catholic youth groups in the barrio follow this analysis and try to identify with the poor. But they are fearful of identifying with the poor who are gang members. Catholic youth blame gangsterism on social inequities, but do not explain why theyÂ themselvesÂ have not followed the path of the gangsters.
Pentecostals set up a harsh dichotomy between the world ruled by Satan and the church ruled by Christ.Â Young men who want to give up the destructive and self-destructive life of the gangs can have a conversion experience and dedicate themselves to a new life, totally rejecting the old one and separating themselves from it. They have to change their lives to convince both the church and their old gangs that they are cristianos. If a man leaves a gang, he is killed by the gang, unless he becomes a cristiano. Gangs usually let Pentecostal former gang members alone, if the former members demonstrate that their lives have really changed. Perhaps it is from superstitious motives, but at least the gangs let them go.
Catholics, with their rhetoric of solidarity, do not offer gang members the opportunity for a clean break that Pentecostals offer. Catholics blame society for individual problems; Pentecostals stress individual responsibility. WolsethÂ blames Neoliberalism and American interference for most of Hondurasâ problems (and therefore agrees with progressive Catholics), but admits that Pentecostals help some individuals escape from the most destructive consequences of broader social problems.
Perhaps in Latin cultures, Catholics cannot do this. Catholicism and the culture are so entwined that becoming a fervent Catholic does not offer the same sort of break that gangsters need. Pentecostals, as they reject both destructive machismo and most specifically Catholic practices â mass, statues, procession, rote prayers â are foreign to the general Catholic-based culture and therefore can offer gangsters the clean break. (This is my analysis)
The same dynamic seems to be at work with the older married men that Elizabeth Brusco describes in The Reformation of Machismo: Evangelical Conversion and Gender in Columbia. The general culture includes both machismo and Catholicism. When men become evangĂ©lico, they reject both Catholicism and machismo. They follow a biblical pattern which makes men responsible heads of household. Catholics of course would like men to abandon machismo and become responsible husbands andÂ fathers, but they do not seem to be able to offer the clean break that men need.
When Catholic families get some money, the first thing they buy is a radio; when evangelical families get some money, the first thing they buy is a dining room table. Protestantism more than Catholicism has stressed the importance of the family in the Christian life, sometimes to the extreme. I think C.S. Lewis said that sometimes Protestants set up the dichotomy of the family vs the world, rather than the kingdom of God vs the world. But on the whole, stressed modern cultures need a strong emphasis on the family, and conservative Protestantism seems to have had some success in helping people follow the biblical model.
If anyone has anyÂ observationsÂ on this, especially fromÂ whatÂ they haveÂ experiencedÂ or seen, I would appreciateÂ them.
Tags: Masculinity · Protestantism · crime
Too many Christians have the idea that all you need to do to be saved is be basically good or at least well-intentioned. They have a week grasp on the holiness of God and the infinite distance between divine holiness and natural man at his best.
As a corollary to this attitude, there are acceptable and non-acceptable sins. Acceptable sins are the sins that normal middle class people commit, such as fornication and adultery. More expansive people extend it to underclass sins, such as murder.
But almost everyone draws the line at genocide and child abuse.
What people have a hard time grasping (and I include myself) is that Christ came to die for sinners, including the worst of sinners.
Catholics pray for the living and the dead. Purgatory is a specifically western Catholic doctrine, but Protestants with whom I have discussed it say that the equivalent Protestant doctrine is standing before the judgment seat of God after death, and seeing the full truth of oneâs life and of Godâs attitude to it.
After the attacks pf 9/11. I couldnât bring myself to pray for the attackers, although they needed prayers more than anyone else. I prayed for all the dead. When I did the Camino, each dayÂ Â prayed for the victims of sexual abuse and for the abusers â and that was a hard prayer to make.
As part of their prayers for the dead, Catholics have masses said for the deceased. The mass is not meant to honor the deceased (as idea that has taken hold at funeral masses) but to pray for them as they come before the judgment seat of God.
In Francoâs Spain (and perhaps today) masses are said for the repose of the soul of Adolf Hitler â and if anyone needs prayer, he does. A mass is being offered for the terrible abuser, Cardinal GroĂ«r. He had homoerotic contact with almost very student he can in contact with, perhaps a thousand , perhaps more. His case has devastated the church in Austria, and still causes trouble:
VIENNA - Reacting to criticism, an Austrian bishop says he has changed his mind and will not attend a memorial Mass for a cardinal accused of molesting young boys.
Agidius Zsifkovics, the bishop of Eisenstadt, was to participate in Monday’s Mass marking the 10th anniversary of the death of Cardinal Hans Hermann Groer. But Zsifkovics says he decided not to “after numerous encounters and discussions over the past days.”
Groer stepped down as archbishop of Vienna in 1995 after former theological students accused him of sexual abuse.
After Zsifkovics initially said he would attend the service, a statement on the website of “Those Affected by Churchly Abuse” late last month accused him of planning to honour a man who left “a trail of spiritual destruction.”
I donât know what was the intention of Bishop Zsifkovics; but masses are said â or at least should be said â not to honor the deceased but to pray for him, a sinner. And the worst sinners need the most prayers.
Tags: clergy sex abuse scandal
John OâMalleyâs book Trent: What Happened at the Council has many surprises.
His is one of the few (perhaps four) people alive who have read all the dozens of volumes of the proceedings Â of the Council of Trent. As Trentâs decisions were framed as laws, it is not easy to understand them without understanding the legislative history â and even popes have misunderstood what Trent really said. For example, it did not intend to settle the question of the wider vs. the narrower canon of the Bible. Trent was, all things considered, irenic. It did not condemn Reformers or their books by name. It also focused on external actions, âIf anyone says such and such, let him be anathema, If anyone does such and suchâŠâ; not âIf anyone believesâŠâ or âIf anyone thinksâŠ.â
One reform that Trent took up still has not been fully implemented: a bishop should be resident in his diocese. There are hundreds of bishops in Rome and other cities who carry out administrative duties and are not ordinaries of the diocese. There should be one, and only one bishop, in a diocese, including the diocese of Rome.
Romeâs habit of making bishop and archbishop an honorary title distorts the role of the bishop in the church, which is to oversee a local church. Rome is full of herds of wandering bishops, archbishops, and cardinals, who push papers for a few hours (or watch subordinates think about pushing papers for a few hours) and then occupy seats in coffee shops and restaurants and plot against one another, when they are not up to worse mischief.
There is no theological reason why Vatican bureaucrats have to be bishops, or even priests. The only practical reason is to indulge the snobbery of other bishops, who look down upon mere priests and laity. When Christoph SchĂ¶nborn, then a Dominican priest andÂ theologian, was given the task of writing the new catechism, he had to write to all the bishops of the world for their opinions. John Paul consecrated SchĂ¶nborn an auxiliary bishop of Vienna, because bishops would not deign to answer the letter of a mere priest.
My proposal for the reform of the papal curia: send almost all bishops and priests out to work in dioceses. Staff the Vatican with deacons, lay men, and lay women (and lay men and probably lay womenÂ couldÂ be cardinals, ifÂ thatÂ were deemed necessary). Also, make Italian, English, and Spanish the three working languages of the Vatican, and specify that to begin working there one must be competent in two of the three and learn the third within five years. Â Also, discourage people from making a career of working at the Vatican by rotating them home periodically.
Perhaps after another ecumenical council and in another 500 years, with massive pressure, some of these reforms could be enacted. But I know the power of entrenched bureaucracy.
Tags: Uncategorized · Vatican
I recently read Daniel Quinnâs novel After Dachau. It is a cleverly done piece of alternate history: its premise (warning â spoiler!) is that the Nazis won the war, but the reader does not realize this until he is well into the novel.
I wonât go into all the details, but we learn that time dated A.D., After Dachau, where the great hero Adolf Hitler defeated the Jews.
Someone discovers what really happened, and tries to alert people. But what he learns for his pains is that NO ONE CARES.
I often feel that way about the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church. A handful of people do care, but the Vatican realizes that even in the developed world, very few care, and the typical Catholic is a South American or African peasant who has not even heard of the sexual abuse crisis, and in any case is facing problems even more urgent, such as starvation, massacres, and persecution.
Pope Francis may say the right things â after all, who will defend child molestation? â but will he do the right thing? His record in Argentina does not look promising.
Tags: Pope Francis · Vatican · clergy sex abuse scandal
March 22nd, 2013 · 1 Comment
The Atlantic has an article, Why the Rich Donât Give to Charity: The wealthiest Americans donate 1.3 percent of their income; the poorest, 3.2 percent
The relative generosity of lower-income Americans is accentuated by the fact that, unlike middle-class and wealthy donors, most of them cannot take advantage of the charitable tax deduction, because they do not itemize deductions on their income-tax returns.
American rich are far more generous than the rich in other countries, and give substantial amounts, more in absolute terms than the poor, of course. But they tend to give to elite institutions: Harvard, The Metropolitan Museum, orchestras, conservancies. The poor give to religious organizations and social service organizations.
Researchers theorizes that the lack of generosity is because the rich have no contact with the poor:
Consistent with previous studies, they found that less affluent ZIP codes gave relatively more. Around Washington, D.C., for instance, middle- and lower-income neighborhoods, such as Suitland and Capitol Heights in Prince Georgeâs County, Maryland, gave proportionally more than the tony neighborhoods of Bethesda, Maryland, and McLean, Virginia. But the researchers also found something else: differences in behavior among wealthy households, depending on the type of neighborhood they lived in. Wealthy people who lived in homogeneously affluent areasâareas where more than 40Â percent of households earned at least $200,000 a yearâwere less generous than comparably wealthy people who lived in more socioeconomically diverse surroundings. It seems that insulation from people in need may dampen the charitable impulse.
In college I worked several summers as a substitute mailman in Baltimoreâs zone 18, which included slums in the south along North Avenue, working and middle class neighborhoods along York Road, and mansions in Guilford, houses in which the mail was sometimes delivered to the servantsâ entrance and taken by the butler.
We were warned not to put our fingers through mail slots in the slums, because we might be bitten by rats. We were also told if we were approached by someone who demanded money, to tell him that all the money belonged to the federal government, and it was a federal offence to take any. I was approached once in a back alley, and the would-be mugger apparently decided that a federal case was not worth a few dollars.
Because I was a substitute I did not know the routes and it took me longer to deliver the mail. In Guilford I would sometimes get surly remarks about how I was much later than the regular mailman and they would report me.
In the working class neighborhoods people took pity on a college student in August and frequently offered me water or ice tea and even invited me to take a brief rest on the porch.
I also had a brief and unsuccessful career as a waiter.
If restaurant service is at all decent, I leave at least 20%, because I know how hard it is to be on your feet all day. I also give the garbage men a large tip at Christmas. I also try to help people who have fallen into hard straights.
College students tend to work in summer internships rather than service industries or construction, and they do not have the experience of what it is to do something physically tiring to earn oneâs daily bread âand often little else. A little more experience of the difficulties of the poor might make the well-off more generous- I think 5% is a reasonable goal, 2% to institutions, 3% to the poor. The standard Â for millennia has been 10% - without tax deductibility.
The election of Jorge Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, was somewhat of a surprise, although it should not have been, because he seems to have been the runner-up in the last papal election,, coming in second after Ratzinger.
A few thoughts:
From all reports he is dedicated to the poor and leads a simple, austere life. Â He wants to seek out the most wounded and despised members of society. He is fiercely orthodox in his denunciations of abortion and gay marriage.
His record as Jesuit superior during Argentinaâs dirty war has been questioned. Leftist terrorism in the1970s was designed to provoke a crack-down which would provoke a revolution. The leftists got the crackdown, but not the revolution, and the military executed 30,000 victims.Â Bergoglio remained publicly silent, although he seems to have helped some victims.
What can one infer about his character from this public silence? It is hard to say. He may have had trouble understanding what was going on and uncertain about how to proceed. I think one can say that he does not seek out confrontation, even when provoked.
What does all this mean for the church?
His embrace of the despised may include abusers and enablers of abusers in the Church; he just visited Cardinal Law.
He may ignore the Curia and concentrate on the horrendous problems of the Catholic poor. The typical Catholic, we forget, is a South American or African peasant. These people face starvation, oppression, disease, and grinding poverty. If he concentrates on these problems he will be praised, and he may ignore sexual abuse and the corruption in the Church administration that has enabled it, viewing it as a minor problem compared to what the poor are suffering throughout the world.
That may have been the intention of the Italian cardinals, who are happy with the way the Curia functions and thinks that all the fuss about sexual abuse is Anglo-American Puritanism.
Tags: Vatican · clergy sex abuse scandal
The fate of early bloggers
Just when you think that the bureaucrats at the Vatican cannot do anything stupider than theyâve done before, they manage do outdo themselves:
One of the domain names of a website that is the primary source of information on clergy sex abuse cases has been blocked on the Vatican’s web servers.
Users on Vatican servers who try to access one of the four web addresses for Bishopaccountability.org, which tracks publicly available information on clergy accused of abuse, are told the page has been blocked because of âHate/Racism.â
A Vatican spokesman said the site may be blocked because of an automatic filter system that checks words that appear on websites for explicit nature or inappropriateness.
Bishopaccountability.org, which is a non-profit corporation in the U.S. state of Massachusetts, is run by a staff of two located in the Boston area.
A staple of those researching the decades-long clergy sex abuse crisis, the site includes links to reporting on abuse since the 1980s, a database of accused abusers throughout the U.S., testimonies of abuse survivors, and court documents from lawsuits and criminal prosecutions across the U.S.
Among its activities in the past year, the site has:
*Made available more than 8,500 pages of material detailing claims of sexual abuse by a group of Franciscan priests and brothers in California, after their court-ordered release in May 2012;
*Provided a detailed timeline of the witness testimonies and evidence in the trial of Msgr. William Lynn, a former official in the Philadelphia archdiocese who was found guilty in June 2012 of endangering children during his time at the archdiocese from 1992-2004, and;
*Given background information on the release of some 12,000 files documenting Cardinal Roger Mahony and the Los Angelesâ archdioceseâs handling of abuse cases in the 1980s, following the filesâ court ordered release in February 2013;
âThis Web site is dedicated to the survivors and their families and loved ones,â the site states on its âAbout usâ page.
Access to one of the siteâs four addresses was prevented by the web service provided in Paul VI Audience Hall, a facility the Vatican has provided for use by reporters during the papal transition.
I helped BishopAccountability get started. It has hundreds of thousands of pages of documents which are being organized and put on the web. Sunlight is the best disinfectant.
What the Vatican bureaucrats at all levels do not yet realize is that the web makes secrecy almost impossible. Their idiocies will be broadcast world-wide, so they might as well do the right thing.
Any attempts to suppress the web will fail, and will only give wider publicity to their mistakes:
WHAT THE VATICAN DOESNâT WANT YOU TO KNOW!
It used to be said, O that mine enemy would write a book! Now it can be said, O that mine enemy would try to block my web site!
(PS: The excuse that it was blocked accidentally does not hold water. If it had been blocked because of sexual content â understandable â it would have said BLOCKED BECAUSE OF SEXUAL CONTENT, not HATE/RACISM. MaybeÂ CardinalÂ Mahony’sÂ delicateÂ sensibilitiesÂ were offended.)
Tags: Vatican · clergy sex abuse scandal