Today is the feast of St. Augustine the greatest thinker of the Western Church. Over the years I have read much of his work.
Augustine and Limited Salvation
Two themes have always struck me. First of all, he always interprets Scripture to make salvation as narrow as possible. “God wills all men to be saved” is for Augustine a tautology: God wills all to be saved whom he wills to be saved, which is a small, very small portion of the human race: those who are members of the Catholic Church and remain in grace at the end of their lives. The rest of mankind is a “massa damnationis.”
On one hand this has given the Western Church a zeal for conversion, but this conversion has frequently used means that have tarnished the Gospel. On the other hand it has given the Western Church a narrow, dark character that ends in sectarianisms, Calvinism, Jansenism, and a hardness of heart, In discussions of the possibility of universal salvation, it is clear that many Christians would be sorely disappointed if everyone were saved. They take as their model the Elder Brother in the Parable of the Prodigal Son.
Augustine and Time
But what fascinates me most about Augustine is his thoughts on time. A few years ago the Scientific American devoted an entire issue to time; is it real? Illusory? What is it? Does is always move in only one direction? Or can it move in the other direction? If not, why not? The issue concluded that the most profound thought on the nature of time was Augustine’s, and he regarded time as a mystery.
Does the past exist? But everything we know is in the past. Even the sensations of our own body take time to reach our brains. Light from the planets takes minutes to reach us, from the stars years, from the galaxies millions or billions of years. They all could have ceased to exist a million years ago, and we would not know it. If the past does not exist, then we know nothing of the present.
Time and space a creatures of God. Are their properties absolute? Can they, will they, be changed? Open theology fails to see that time exists in God, not God in time.
Can God change the past? What would that mean? He has promised to make all things new. Does that include space and time? Can he, will he, change the past? What would be the meaning of the struggles and sorrows of creation?
Reading Augustine forces one to struggle with some of the profoundest themes of theology and philosophy. It is Cross Fitness Training for the mind.
Augustine and Anglicanism
Augustine is many-sided; and two of those sides may be of special interest to those who worship in the Anglican tradition.
Augustine was above all the Doctor of Love. He examined the human heart and saw that disordered love was the cause of our alienation from God. We do not love as we ought, and therefore our lives are not what they should be.
A moment’s refection should convince us that our loves are disordered. We desire food: but how many of us struggle to eat only what and how much we should; and a handful (anorexics) do not eat enough. Our sexual desires are disordered; we desire those whom we should not desire, or do not desire our spouses enough and in the right way or desire pleasure detached from personal communion in holy matrimony. Wealth, reputation, comfort, knowledge – all good things in themselves – we desire in the wrong way.
And so the priest prays:
Almighty God, unto whom all hearts be open, all desires known, and from whom no secretes are hid: cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy holy spirit, that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy name.
What should we desire above all else? “Thou hast made us for thyself, and our hearts are restless until we rest in Thee.”
And what does God command us:
Hear what our Lord Jesus Christ saith.
THOU shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it; Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.
So love is the center of God’s revelation.
Those who love are filled with unspeakable sorrow if they have injured the one they love. What must a parent feel, if he has even by accident killed his child!
And so our hearts are burdened by the thought that we have sought to injure the One who loves us, that indeed we have crucified Him.
ALMIGHTY God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Maker of all things, Judge of all men; We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness, Which we, from time to time, most grievously have committed, By thought, word, and deed, Against thy Divine Majesty, Provoking most justly thy wrath and indignation against us. We do earnestly repent, And are heartily sorry for these our misdoings; The remembrance of them is grievous unto us; The burden of them is intolerable. Have mercy upon us, Have mercy upon us, most merciful Father; For thy Son our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, Forgive us all that is past; And grant that we may ever hereafter Serve and please thee In newness of life.
Therefore to my ear the Anglican use has an Augustinian flavor or emphasis; such things are not absent from the Ordinary Form of the Roman Liturgy, but the Anglican Use makes them more prominent.
PS. Someone just posted this quote from Martin Thornton’s English Spirituality:
“Grace to Augustine is that love which lies at the heart of his spirituality; it is that which, by its very nature, confers independence on the object of its love. It gives, compelling no return, it is the one force that cannot bargain, it is the opposite of irresistible passion, for it liberates rather than enslaves, creates not destroy, strengthens rather than weakens free volition: in more familiar language, ‘the service of God is perfect freedom.’ What Augustine is insisting upon is the first principle of all sound theology, that God acts first in both creation and redemption, and that his love is the force behind both. We are called to respond to that love, but because of frailty response is difficult, because of concupiscence we are drawn to other, unworthy objects of love. Therefore we need discipline, especially the disciplines of prayer: ascetical theology is the technique of loving God.”
Evensong, Chapel Royal, Hampton Court Palace
The Synod on the Family raised the vexed issue of the reception of communion by those Catholics who have civilly divorced and civilly remarried. Some cardinals propose allowing such people to receive communion. I (and apparently most theologians) think this is impossible, given the Catholic understanding of the indissolubility of a sacramental marriage. The Orthodox and conservative Protestants believe that divorce is wrong, but that a sacramental marriage can be dissolved. I am not sure if the indissolubility of a sacramental marriage has ever been solemnly defined, but it is certainly part of the ordinary teaching of the Church, and any reconsideration should be done by an ecumenical council, not be a cabal of manipulative German cardinals.
Given that, everyone knows about matrimonial disasters among friends and family. I think a neglected question is whether people really intended to enter into an indissoluble marriage. They may say so, but their actions later may indicate they did not. I believe until the 1917 Code of Canon Law, people with marital problems consulted their parish priest about whether their marriage was indeed valid. Now it is a matter for complicated canonical procedures. I am not sure that that is an improvement. I think one must ordinarily presume the good faith of a Catholic who believes, after consultation, that his or her first marriage was not valid and that he or she is free to enter into a sacramental marriage. I know canonists would disagree, but canon law should serve the salvation of souls, not be a self-contained legal system which strives for coherence and consistency above all.
Nonetheless, there would be many cases of people whose first marriages were valid and who have entered into another union from which they cannot extricate themselves without doing grave harm to others, especially children. They cannot receive communion, because they are objectively in an irregular and sinful state. However, they may want to maintain a connection with the Church, especially for their children’s sake.
The growing problem of irregular marriages has combined with the increased emphasis since the time of Pius X on frequent reception of communion. The Eucharist is seen as the summit of Catholic life and worship; with the general abandonment of popular devotions, it is usually the only communal gathering of Catholics. The mitigation and indeed practical abandonment of fasting and the almost complete neglect of the sacrament of Penance means that almost everyone goes to communion, except for those in civil marriages, who feel acutely left out. Tightening up the requirements for the reception of communion by re-imposing a more serious fast and stressing the need for confession would help; but it is always harder to tighten than to loosen discipline.
In addition to those in irregular marriages there are many people who want to have a connection with the Church but aren’t ready to take on the full discipline necessary for a worthy communion.
Catholics have forgotten that the Liturgy of the Hours is also part of the public worship of the Church. If Catholic churches would imitate the Anglican custom of sung Morning or Evening Prayer (and Vespers used to be common in parishes), and if the Church would allow attendance at such services to fulfill the Sunday obligation, a lot of problems could be avoided. In England church attendance is plummeting; but attendance at choral Morning and Evening Prayer in cathedrals in increasing. Here is Pope Benedict at Westminster Abbey Anglican Evening Prayer.
Anyway, just a suggestion.
The Adoration of the Golden Calf by Nicholas Poussin
John Henry Newton (1725 -1807) is best known as the author of “Amazing Grace” and of “Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken.” He also wrote a hymn, “The Golden Calf,” which is the subject of today’s reading from Morning Prayer.
When Israel heard the fiery law,
From Sinai’s top proclaimed;
Their hearts seemed full of holy awe,
Their stubborn spirits tamed.
Yet, as forgetting all they knew,
Ere forty days were past;
With blazing Sinai still in view,
A molten calf they cast.
Yea, Aaron, God’s anointed priest,
Who on the mount had been
He durst prepare the idol-beast,
And lead them on to sin.
Lord, what is man! and what are we,
To recompense Thee thus!
In their offence our own we see,
Their story points at us.
From Sinai we have heard Thee speak,
And from mount Calv’ry too;
And yet to idols oft we seek,
While Thou art in our view.
Some golden calf, or golden dream,
Some fancied creature-good,
Presumes to share the heart with Him,
Who bought the whole with blood.
Lord, save us from our golden calves,
Our sin with grief we own;
We would no more be Thine by halves,
But live to Thee alone.
Newton was an English sailor. In 1743, while going to visit friends, Newton was captured and pressed into the naval service by the Royal Navy. He became a midshipman aboard HMS Harwich. At one point Newton tried to desert and was punished in front of the crew of 350. Stripped to the waist and tied to the grating, he received a flogging of eight dozen lashes and was reduced to the rank of a common seaman. Following that disgrace and humiliation, Newton initially contemplated murdering the captain and committing suicide by throwing himself overboard. He recovered, both physically and mentally.
Later, while Harwich was en route to India, he transferred to Pegasus, a slave ship bound for West Africa. The ship carried goods to Africa and traded them for slaves to be shipped to the colonies in the Caribbean and North America. Newton did not get along with the crew of Pegasus. They left him in West Africa with Amos Clowe, a slave dealer. Clowe took Newton to the coast and gave him to his wife, Princess Peye, an African duchess. She abused and mistreated Newton equally to her other slaves. Newton later recounted this period as the time he was “once an infidel and libertine, a servant of slaves in West Africa.”
In 1748, he was rescued by a sea captain and returned to England. During a storm, when it was thought the ship might sink, he prayed for deliverance. This experience began his conversion to evangelical Christianity. Later, whilst aboard a slave vessel bound for the West Indies, he became ill with a violent fever and asked for God’s mercy; an experience he claimed was the turning point in his life.
Despite this, he continued to participate in the Slave Trade. In 1750, he made a further voyage as master of the slave ship ‘Duke of Argyle’ and two voyages on the ‘African’. He admitted that he was a ruthless businessman and a unfeeling observer of the Africans he traded. Slave revolts on board ship were frequent. Newton mounted guns and muskets on the desk aimed at the slaves’ quarters. Slaves were lashed and put in thumbscrews to keep them quiet.
In 1754, after a serious illness, he gave up seafaring altogether. In 1757, he applied for the Anglican priesthood. It was seven years before he was accepted. In 1764, he finally became a priest at Olney in Buckinghamshire. He became well known for his pastoral care and respected by both Anglicans and nonconformists.
Newton began to deeply regret his involvement in the slave trade. After he became Rector of St Mary Woolnoth, in London in 1779, his advice was sought by many influential figures in Georgian society, among them the young M.P., William Wilberforce. Wilberforce was contemplating leaving politics for the ministry. Newton encouraged him to stay in Parliament and “serve God where he was”. Wilberforce took his advice, and spent the rest of his life working towards the abolition of slavery.
Worldly interests supported slavery. Evangelical Anglicans such as Newton, Hannah More, and most of all William Wilberforce were tireless advocates for ending slavery. Although derided by those who profited from slavery, the decades-long effort of these Anglicans led to the abolition of slavery in the British Empire and the use of the British navy to suppress slave trading throughout the world.
At Mount Calvary we have been using John Merbecke’s setting of the ordinary of the mass: the Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei. In the sixteenth century both Catholics and Reformers disliked church music that obscured the text. The chief offender in chant was the melisma, many notes on the same syllable. Church authorities of all persuasions maintained that the text, the Word, was more important than the music, or at least should be of equal importance. Therefore both Catholics and Reformers proposed limiting music to one note per syllable, as much chant in fact already did.
Sarum Chant with melismas
Catholics were concerned that complicated music, sometimes of a secular origin, was obscuring the text and becoming mere entertainment. The Council Fathers considered banning polyphony for that reason. The legend is that Palestrina composed the Missa Papae Marcelli (1562) in an intelligible, declamatory style and thereby saved polyphony for Catholicism.
In 1607 the composer Agostino Agazzari wrote:
“Music of the older kind is no longer in use, both because of the confusion and babel of the words, arising from the long and intricate imitations, and because it has no grace, for with all the voices singing, one hears neither period nor sense, these being interfered with and covered up by imitations…And on this account music would have come very near to being banished from the Holy Church by a sovereign pontiff [Pius IV], had not Giovanni Palestrina founded the remedy, showing that the fault and error lay, not with the music, but with the composers, and composing in confirmation of this the Mass entitled Missa Papae Marcelli.”
Reformers even more strongly emphasized intelligibility. Therefore the liturgy should be in English and with very simple music. Thomas Cranmer wrote of the musical settings for the new English liturgy:
“But in mine opinion, the song that shall be made thereunto would not be full of notes but, as near as may be, for every syllable a note.”
This continued to be emphasized by Anglicans. In 1571 Winchester Cathedral instructed;
“Item, that in the quire no note shall be used in song that shall drown any word or syllable, or draw out in length or shorten any word or syllable otherwise than by the nature of the word as it is pronounced in common speech, whereby the sentence cannot be perceived by the hearers. And also the often reports or repeating of notes with words or sentences whereby the sense may be hindered in the hearer shall not be used.”
John Merbecke (1510-1585), a chorister and organ at Winchester, was an ardent Protestant and was almost executed under Queen Mary. He followed the new musical policy. Merbecke adopted a very simplified plainchant for his setting of the Book of Common Prayer (1550). It was used only briefly, because under Queen Elizabeth all service music fell into disfavor. Merbecke’s setting of the mass was revived by the Oxford Movement; it is this that we have been using. Some branches of Anglicanism celebrate Merbecke’s feast day on November 21.
1. Songs of thankfulness and praise,
Jesus, Lord, to Thee we raise,
Manifested by the star
To the sages from afar;
Branch of royal David’s stem
In Thy birth at Bethlehem;
Anthems be to Thee addressed,
God in man made manifest.
2. Manifest at Jordan’s stream,
Prophet, Priest, and King supreme,
And at Cana, Wedding-guest,
In Thy Godhead manifest;
Manifest in power divine,
Changing water into wine.
Anthems be to Thee addressed
God in man made manifest.
3. Manifest in making whole
Palsied limbs and fainting soul;
Manifest in valiant fight,
Quelling all the devil’s might;
Manifest in gracious will,
Ever bringing good from ill.
Anthems be to Thee addressed,
God in man made manifest.
4. Sun and moon shall darkened be,
Stars shall fall, the heavens shall flee;
Christ will then like lightning shine,
All will see His glorious sign;
All will then the trumpet hear,
All will see the Judge appear;
Thou by all wilt be confessed,
God in man made manifest.
5. Grant us grace to see Thee, Lord,
Mirrored in Thy holy Word;
May we imitate Thee now
And be pure as pure art Thou
That we like to Thee may be
At Thy great Epiphany
And may praise Thee, ever blest,
God in man made manifest.
The Hymnal is the liturgical book of the laity, and the Episcopal Hymnal of 1940, which Mount Calvary uses, was carefully thought out in both its organization and choice of hymns. The Epiphany hymn Songs of Thankfulness and Praise was written by Christopher Wordsworth, the nephew of the poet William Wordsworth. Christopher Wordsworth was an athlete, classicist, poet, and Anglican bishop of Lincoln, to which he was appointed by Disraeli. He wrote the hymn for the Sixth Sunday after Epiphany and described it as “recapitulation of the successive manifestations of Christ, which have already been presented in the services of the former weeks throughout the season of Epiphany; and anticipation of that future great and glorious Epiphany, at which Christ will be manifest to all, when he will appear again to judge the world.”
Epiphany means “manifestation.” The Son of God existed eternally, but he was manifested in time. First of all at his birth to the Jews in the persons of the shepherds, as he was the offspring of David, the “branch of royal David’s stem”; but then to the pagans, the Gentiles, the “sages from afar.” He began to fill the prophecies that all nations would come to worship the Lord.
Again he was manifested at his Baptism in the Jordan, when the Spirit in the form of a dove descended on him and a voice was heard from heaven, “Thou art my beloved Son; with Thee I am well pleased.” His Sonship was publicly announced.
John emphasizes that Jesus worked his first miracle at Cana, “Changing water into wine.” He “manifested his glory, and his disciples believed in him.” Jesus continues working his miracles to manifest his Godhead, and his miracles are not miracles to punish sinners, but in healing bodies, “in making whole/Palsied limbs and fainting soul,” and in delivering men from the power of Satan, “quelling all the devil’s might,” first in his exorcisms and at the end, in the “valiant fight” of his death and descent into Hell to destroy the power of the devil and of death.
This stanza refers to Jesus, “ever bringing good from ill.” The existence of evil, suffering, and death is a mystery: how could a loving God allow such things. But in the life of Jesus on earth we see a manifestation of God’s “gracious will,” that “ever” brings good from evil. How this will be is not yet fully manifest.
The 1940 Hymnal unfortunately does not use the fourth stanza of the hymn, the stanza which explicitly refers to the end of the world, when “stars shall fall, the heavens shall flee” at the sound of the trumpet, and “all will see the Judge appear.”
But the last stanza also refers to the End and our preparation for it. The purpose of the Scriptures is to show us Christ, “mirrored in Thy holy Word.” We imitate Jesus by becoming pure as He is pure, free from all sin, both justified and sanctified. We are indeed divinized, “like” The Son, “partakers of the divine nature.” This stanza mentions “Thy great Epiphany,” which is the end of the world, when Jesus will be fully manifest as Judge in his divine power over all creation. At the end all will be praise, as God reveals His gracious purpose for creation and history, and in the vision of that, we will be “blest.”
Hymns for specific events often incorporate references to the main events of the history of salvation, so that we do not forget the important connections among the events. Jesus was born so that he could die, and he died so that he could rise and return as the Judge of all the world. At Christmas especially it is easy to indulge sentimentality, forgetting the dark shadows that already are present, and the light that will at the end conquer those shadows. The greatest hymns remind us of this.
PS This hymn has been modified in many hymnals because it uses the word “man,” which is offensive to the ears of those who do not want any mention of masculinity in the Church. The line is changed to “God in flesh made manifest,” which is theologically correct, but of course eliminates the rhetorical connection between “manifest” and “man.” Rhetoric persuades not so much by logic as by making an idea seem natural and inevitable: Where else should God be manifest but in man?
Herod then with fear was filled;
‘A prince’, he said, ‘in Jewry!’
All the little boys he killed
at Bethl’em in his fury.
Today is Childermas, Children’s Mass, the Feast of the Holy Innocents.
In the Middle Ages, both St. Nicholas’ Day and today were the times when Boy Bishops were installed.
A boy, usually a cathedral chorister, was chosen and vested in episcopal regalia. At Vespers, when the verse deposuit potentes de sede (He hath cast down the mighty from their thrones) was sung, the bishop left his throne, and while the verse et exaltavit humiles (and He hath exalted the lowly) was being sung, the Boy Bishop sat in the throne. He gave a blessing and preached a sermon.
The custom has been revived in some Anglican cathedrals and parishes.
Here is one of the prayers used in the ceremony:
O Almighty God, who out of the mouths of babes and infants art pleased to perfect praise: Grant this thy son grace, that he may praise thee with a child-like heart. Keep him, O Lord, from wandering thoughts and all irreverence, and from whatsoever other sin may most easily beset him; and make us all to glorify thy holy Name, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Pope Francis has called for a decentralization of the Church. But that is no cure for many of its problems, especially of serious ones like sexual abuse. The Anglican Church as a decentralized structure which makes it difficult to act, at least according to Archbishop Aspinall, the Anglican Primate of Australia.
Like Catholic Cardinal, George Pell, Primate Aspinall is keen to remind anyone who will listen, that he is not like a CEO of his church, in that he has no power over his apparent underlings. Aspinall has so little power, that he has called on the commission to recommend that the government pass laws to force his church to be more humane towards its victims, through a national compensation system.
“I think, in terms of the Anglican Church, it would be much quicker and simpler for us if that were imposed on us from outside. And then dioceses wouldn’t fall into the trap that Grafton did in terms of focusing on financial matters to the detriment of victims. They would simply be given a determination by a statutory body and required to find the money,” Aspinall said.
He felt that it would be essentially impossible for the Anglican Church to set up such a fund, because it would require agreement from all 23 dioceses. Agreement was unlikely, because, as he poetically put it, “Anglican politics makes federal politics look like kindergarten.” Members of the Church would “take a dim view” of having to sell property to raise cash for victim compensation and assistance.
Anglicans, with a married clergy and female bishop, can be as hard-hearted as Catholic celibate males. The clergy of both churches also same attitude to money: it is the lifeblood of the church.
Patrick Parkinson AM, Professor of Law, University of Sydney recently gave a lecture, CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE AND THE CHURCHES: A story of moral failure? He stresses that his observations are based upon incomplete data, but that he has observed and fought sexual abuse for many years. he is an evangelical who once studied in Czechoslovakia where be observed the brutal repression of the Catholic Church and admired the courage of Catholics. He says “I regard myself as a friend of the Catholic Church” and wants it to overcome this corruption.
From the evidence he has examined it appears to him that sexual abuse is more prevalent among Catholic clergy than among the clerical and lay workers of other denominations and among the general male population:
Prof. Des Cahill identified 378 priests who graduated from a particular seminary in Melbourne and who were ordained between 1940 and 1966. Of these, 14 (3.7%) were convicted of sex offences against children and, after their deaths, another four were acknowledged to have abused children. That is, 18 priests or 4.8% of the total who were ordained between those years, sexually abused children. Taking a later cohort of seminarians, the 74 priests who were ordained between 1968 and 1971 from that seminary, 4 (5.4%) had been convicted of sex offences against children.
In fact, I think it is higher. In the United States I think that between 7% and 10% of Catholic clergy have been sexually involved with minors. But even the lower percentages that Parkinson cites are alarming. Parkinson asks
Is this level of offending higher than for men in the general population? There is no reliable baseline data on levels of offending in the general population in Australia. Peter Marshall’s study in England found some indication of population-wide conviction rates (Marshall, 1997). One in 150 men over the age of 20 had a conviction for sexual offence against a minor. Lifetime propensity figures will of course be higher than those derived from a snapshot of the adult male population at a given moment in time. Based on his data of various cohorts of these men, Marshall estimates that between 1% and 2% of the male population would be expected to be convicted for some form of sexual offence over their lifetime (including sex offences against adults). If those figures are similar for Australia, then Prof. Cahill’s research would indicate that the rate of convictions for Catholic priests who studied at the seminary in Melbourne is much higher than in the general population (3.7% of those ordained between 1940 and 1966 and 5.4% of those ordained between 1968 and 1971).
How do Catholic clergy compare to church workers in other denominations? Parkinson notes that
The figure for the number of victims in the Catholic Church was exactly 10 times that in the Anglican Church. This is only partially explained by the greater size of the Catholic Church in Melbourne. The Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne lists 287 parishes on its website. The Anglican Diocese of Melbourne contains 203 parishes covering greater Melbourne and Geelong (Anglican Diocese of Victoria, 2012). That is, the Anglican Church is about 70% of the size of the Catholic Church in the two Archdioceses as counted by number of parishes. In addition to parish ministries, the Catholic Church also ran schools and children’s homes in which priests and brothers worked, and this would add significantly to the tally of sexual abuse incidents which might involve members of religious organisations. There is not the same tradition in Protestant denominations of clergy or other people called to religious vocations running schools and children’s homes. Such institutions tend to be run by lay people. For these reasons, Catholic priests and religious have had a much greater opportunity for abuse than their counterparts in other denominations.
On the other hand, Anglican churches, like other Protestant churches, would also have many paid youth workers. When all explanations have been offered, the rate of convictions of Catholic Church personnel does seem to be strikingly out of proportion with the size of this faith community compared with other faith communities.
The profile of the victims of abuse also differed from those in the general population. In Australia, about 27% of girls and 9% of boys have been sexually abused. But both the Catholic and Anglican Churches vary from this pattern.
The John Jay College study of child sexual abuse in the US Catholic Church found that 81% of the victims of abuse were male. This is the opposite of patterns seen in the general population, where approximately three times as many females are abused as males.
Lest it be thought that these patterns are unique to the Catholic Church, we found a similar pattern in our Anglican Church study. Three-quarters of complainants who alleged sexual abuse were male.
Parkinson thinks that the difference is caused by the greater access to boys that clergy have:
The greater abuse of boys than girls in both the US Catholic Church and the Anglican Church of Australia is likely to reflect the fact that priests, ministers and youth leaders have a much greater opportunity to abuse boys than girls, given the patterns of their ministry. In the past, at least, it has been more common for priests and religious to be alone with adolescent boys or to have the opportunity to form unsupervised friendships with them, than with girls. Parents were likely to be concerned by too close a friendship between a 30-40 year old man and a teenage girl; but they would have had no such concerns if the priest took an interest in their troubled teenage son.
Little of the abuse by clergy has been true pedophilia. Most of the victims are adolescents:
No doubt some offending priests and members of religious orders have been paedophiles; but this is likely to explain only a proportion of sex offending against children by priests and religious. The loneliness and difficulty of a celibate life with all the demands of the priesthood may lead other men to seek out teenagers to meet their needs without them being paedophiles. Indeed, sexual attraction to post-pubescent teenagers may be, biologically-speaking, within the boundaries of normal adult sexuality.
If adults are sexually attracted to adolescents, male or female, why do the Catholic clergy succumb to this temptation more than other clergy and the general male population do?
One of the unanswered questions about sex offending by clergy is how much of it is situational, or influenced by the culture of a group, rather than the outworking of an abnormal sexual deviation.
And that is where the Catholic Church may have a unique problem.
Some priest-offenders rationalise their abusive behaviour on the basis that sexual activity with boys is not a breach of their vow of celibacy whereas sexual relations with a woman would be. Different levels of sexual contact falling short of intercourse may also be excused in this way. Some support for this thesis emerges from the survey conducted as part of the research for Towards Understanding, the discussion paper on sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church in Australia. Respondents noted that offenders within the Church dissociated their abusive behaviour from their commitment to celibacy. Indeed, a high number of respondents described offenders they knew as having a strong commitment to celibacy (Towards Understanding, 1999, p. 44).
This cognitive distortion may well be an important factor in sex offending against boys. If priest offenders have a strong commitment to celibacy, then sexual relations with adult women or girls will not be permissible. If these men rationalise sexual contact with men or teenage boys as either not being a breach of their vow of celibacy at all, or a sexual peccadillo which may be both tolerated within the Church and forgiven by God, then they may well be as prone to situational same-sex activity as men in prison or in other confined, all-male environments. Teenage boys in children’s homes and boarding schools, and boys in parish contexts with whom the priest or religious may find good enough reason to be alone, may disproportionately become victims because of their accessibility and vulnerability, not necessarily because of a paraphilic sexual attraction to boys of that age.
What this means is that it is impossible to end abuse by screening out men with abnormal sexual desires, because their abuse is not caused by abnormal sexual desires.
I would add that a flattening down of sexual sins is part of the problem. Traditionally, theologians have taught that there is no light matter involving sexuality. Therefore any sexual sin, a voluntary fantasy, masturbation, fornication, adultery, and child abuse, are all mortal sins that lead to damnation. Although it was not taught tat they were all equally serious, the differences among them were less important than the fact that they were all mortal sins. But they could all be forgiven by going to confession and saying a few prayers.
Clericalism has long afflicted the Catholic Church and is deeply ingrained in canon law.
There has long been a culture within international Catholicism that in some way the Church is its own jurisdiction, its own legal system, and that the proper place for judging clergy is within the structures established by Canon Law. Canon Law provides that clergy or religious who abuse children under 18 are to be “punished with just penalties, not excluding dismissal from the clerical state” (Canon 1395(2)). However, it is no part of canonical thinking that child sexual abuse is a crime that ought routinely to be reported to the police and dealt with by the criminal courts.
Priest thought they were beyond the reach of the police and the courts.
Another was the culture of clericalism. The 2011 document puts it succinctly: “The bishop has a duty to treat all priests as father and brother” (Congregatio Pro Doctrina Fidei, 2011).
That was interpreted, in some quarters, as involving an obligation to protect priests and religious brothers from the criminal law. In 2001, Bishop Pierre Pican of Bayeux was given a three-month suspended prison sentence for not reporting Fr René Bissey, who had been sentenced to 18 years in prison in 2000 for sex offences against children. It appears that the bishop indicated at his trial that the admission of guilt by the priest had not been in the confessional. Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, wrote to the Bishop, congratulating him on not denouncing a priest to the civil authorities. He was said to have acted wisely in preferring to go to prison rather than denounce his priest-son. Cardinal Hoyos advanced a theological reason for this position. He explained that the relationship between priests and their bishop is not professional but sacramental and forges very special bonds of spiritual paternity. He drew the analogy with rules of law in various countries which excused one close relative from testifying against another.
The letter concluded that in order to ‘encourage brothers in the episcopate in this delicate matter’, a copy of the letter would be forwarded to all the conferences of bishops. The Cardinal said at a conference in 2010 that he wrote the letter after consulting Pope John Paul II, and that it was the Pope who authorised him to send this letter to all the bishops.
Pope Francis plans to canonize John Paul in the spring of 2014 – will Francis follow the example of his sainted predecessor in the way he handled sexual abuse?
Parkinson also notes the chaotic structure of the Catholic Church as a source of the failure to deal with abuse:
People think of it as a highly structured and hierarchical institution; but actually the opposite is the case. Each bishop is the prime authority in his diocese, subject to oversight from Rome. Each leader of a religious Order is responsible for his or her members subject to direction from the worldwide leadership of the Order, if there is one.
The management structure made sense in the Middle Ages, when the fastest mode of transport was a horse and authority even within countries, was highly decentralised. All that has changed now. To address these issues in future, the Church needs to find a way of throwing out its rotten apples, publicly rebuking or removing leaders from their positions if they have failed egregiously to do the right thing. It needs, in other words, to modernise and to create an authority structure with power to deal with the recalcitrant and the obstructive in its midst. I have no reason for confidence that this leadership will come from the Vatican or from the leaders of the worldwide religious orders, some of which are also based in Rome.
I would add that the laity are the only possible source of reform, but except for a handful of people, the laity don’t want to think about abuse or actively blame the victims for making it public. Only pressure from the police and courts will control the corruption.
Committed Christians in a Christendom that has many competing Christian bodies have to do something they really should not have to do: decide which Church they should belong to.
Journeys of Faith: Evangelicalism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Catholicism, and Anglicanism
edited by Robert L. Plummer (Zondervan, 2012) recounts faith journeys among the various Christian traditions: Evangelicalism, Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, and Anglicanism.
A convert explains why he left, for example, the Baptist Church for Orthodoxy. A Baptist responds, and then the convert gets to respond again. It is a good format.
All churches have their severe problems. I have documented some of Catholicism’s worst problems, so I have no illusions about the Roman Catholic Church. Evangelicalism, Orthodoxy, and Anglicanism all have severe problems; some are historical accidents, some may by intrinsic to the traditions.
For my part, it has always been clear to me that the Roman Catholic Church has all the elements of the complete Church as described in the New Testament, including a central authority, the papacy, to strengthen the brethren and to foster unity. Whether they are in the right proportion or operate in the right manner in another question entirely.
In reading the rehearsal of the Catholic-Protestant arguments on justification in this book, I keep sensing that nominalist, voluntarist assumptions have made the controversy insoluble. God is the cause of all things, the creator of all things, including all actions. Every human action is created by God, or it would not exist. But a human action is both free and caused (a concept difficult for modern Westerners to understand – we have a nominalist, voluntarist conception of freedom in the air we breathe). God causes some things by acting through free agents. Therefore the actions are both the action of God and the action of the agent. This is true in the orders of nature and of grace.
When God acts in us, God acts in us. That is, out just actions are truly His, but they are also truly ours. Since they are truly His, they are saving, since they are truly ours, they are worthy of blame or praise, that is, they are meritorious. Paul was confident that the just God would give him the crown he had merited.
Chrysostom explains this in the context of friendship. Friendship finds or makes friends equal. A friend when he discovers that his friend needs something, gives it to him, but in a way that makes the recipient seem to be doing a favor to the giver.
As to the Eucharist, the best explanations I have ever read was by a member of the Eastern Church. He explained that the same thing happens invisibly at the Eucharist as happened when Jesus was on earth. When Jesus ate bread, it was transformed into his body. In the Eucharistic banquet, the same thing happens invisibly. Although we see bread, it has truly become Jesus. This explanation avoids terminology that sounds foreign to the New Testament (transubstantiation) and better preserves the whole context of the Heavenly Banquet at which God and man are sat down.
The Evangelical in this book also takes some swipes at the supposed unity of Roman Catholicism by comparing it to Hinduism. If he knew more about popular Catholicism, he would have even more ammunition. But the imperfect assimilation to Christianity in many Catholic cultures (an endless source of frustration to the clergy) has two sides. Less so than Protestantism, the Catholic Church (for all the charges of cultural genocide) has tried to transform rather than totally destroy the cultures it encounters, so that the riches of all nations will serve the Lord. But the result is often an odd mixture, sometimes charming, sometimes appalling.
And, if personal experience and lifelong immersion in a sub-culture is any form of persuasive evidence, I can tell you that conservative Anglo-Catholicism–at the clerical level–is totally dominated by gay men. Mostly repressed. What used to be called when I was in seminary, the pink mafia.
Anglo-Catholics do have that bad reputation; but I doubt that things are much worse than in the Catholic clergy. The Anglicans just do things more colorfully. One Anglican foundation is especially amusing:
A slightly less bizarre foundation was the “Anglican Congregation of the
Primitive Observance of the Holy Rule of St. Benedict.” This was founded in 1896by a former medical student, Benjamin (Aelred) Carlyle, who had been fascinated by the monastic life since the age of fifteen, when he had founded a secret religious brotherhood at his public school. His choice of the religious name of Aelred, after a twelfth-century Cistercian abbot of Rievaulx who had written treatises on “spiritual friendships,” was a deliberate one, for a biography of St. Aelred by Newman’s companion, J. O. Dalgairns, had revealed to him “a monastic world in which natural and spiritual relations could be fused” (Anson,
Building up the Waste Places, p. 134).
Aelred Carlyle was a man of dynamic personality, hypnotic eyes, and extraordinary imagination. In 1906 his community made its permanent home on Caldey Island, off the coast of south Wales (outside Anglican diocesan jurisdiction), where, largely on borrowed money, he built a splendidly furnished monastery in a fanciful style of architecture. The life of this enclosed Benedictine community centred upon an ornate chapel where the thirty or so tonsured and cowled monks sang the monastic offices and celebrated Mass in Latin according to the Roman rite. As there was nothing like it anywhere else in the Church of England the island abbey inevitably became a resort for ecclesiastical sightseers, and many young men were drawn to join the community out of personal affection for Carlyle.
The self-styled Lord Abbot of Caldey introduced practices into the life of his monastery which many outsiders, accustomed to the austere atmosphere of the existing Anglican men’s communities, found disconcerting. “Stories Toto Told Me” by “Baron Corvo” (Frederick Rolfe), which had originally appeared in The Yellow Book, were often read aloud to the assembled monks at recreation time, and during the summer months they regularly went sea-bathing in the nude. Nor did Carlyle make any secret of his liking for charming young men. Spiritual
friendships were “not discouraged,” recalled his biographer, himself a former
member of the Caldey community:
… and their expression sometimes took a form which would not be found In any normal monastery to-day. . . . Embraces, ceremonial and non-ceremonial, were regarded as symbolical of fraternal charity, so our variant of the Roman rite permitted a real hug and kisses on the cheek between the giver and the recipient of the Pax Domini at the conventual Mass. (Anson, Abbot Extraordinary, pp. 125-126)
(From UnEnglish and Unmanly: Anglo-Catholicism and Homosexuality by David Hilliard)
The current Cistercian community at Caldey is not continuous with the Anglican foundation; from Carlyle they have inherited only the building, not, I trust, the eccentricities.
The Pope’s decision to allow the setting up of an ordinariate for Anglicans who wish to become Catholic is a generous experiment. It would not be a separate “church” like the Eastern Churches, which are self-governing churches of apostolic origin in communion with Rome. As far as I kow, no pope has ever claimed the ability to establish a “church” is this sense.
The structure that the pope is contemplating is more like that of the military ordinariate. The bishop is appointed by the pope, and has spiritual authority over military personnel and their families. The ordinariate has its own priests and seminarians and manages its own affairs.
The difference with the Anglicans’ is that they would have their own liturgical books, approved by Rome, and many of the clergy will initially be married. It is unclear (and perhaps Rome has not decided) whether married men will continue to be ordained for this ordinariate.
There are already formerly-Anglican priests who converted and now function as Catholic priests. And of course Eastern Catholic churches have a married clergy, and have begun ordaining married men not just in their home territories but also in North America. If a married Catholic in the Western Church feels he has a vocation to the priesthood, all he has to do is transfer to an Eastern Church, enculturate in that church, and ask that Church to test his call for a vocation. I have not noticed any mass movement in that direction.
I doubt that the new Anglican ordinariate will have any significant effect in North America. I devoutly wish that there were such an Anglican-use church in the places I live. The standard of music in Catholic churches ranges from the mediocre to the truly abominable, and the translations grate on the ear of anyone who has studied English literature.
The long-term significance of the move is that it may provide a model for reintegrating Protestant Churches within the Catholic Church. It may also be a test as to whether it is worthwhile modifying the discipline of clerical celibacy in the West. From my limited contacts in higher ecclesiastical circles (my name is poison to most bishops) I sense that there is a willingness even among the most orthodox to reconsider the discipline of clerical celibacy.
But a married clergy is hardly a panacea to the problems of sexual abuse and shortage of clergy, and brings with it a whole raft of problems. I have spoken to wives of ministers, and I have seen the toll that their husband’s ministry takes on them and their children.
However, whatever happens, Benedict’s gesture is generous, and I hope it bears much fruit.