Saturday, February 18, 2006

Mystery: How long O Lord?

It has been some time since I have written, in large part because of giving attention to many priests who have contacted me to share their suffering as this seemingly endless agony within the priesthood because of the actual sins of a few, and accusations against the many, continues.

Yet another young priest has committed suicide and my heart wonders when the All-Powerful Holy Trinity will intervene?

It is extremely difficult to speak about the pain of priests, who are adults, when the pain of abused innocents itself cries out to heaven for justice.

Something has gone terribly, terribly wrong in the Church because the horror of abuse of the innocent is now compounded by the abuse generated by so-called zero tolerance.

Victims of abuse still face protracted legal struggles to get compensation, dioceses fall into bankruptcy, and a climate of fear and confusion seeps ever deeper into the hearts of bishops, priests and laity alike – for in the current climate, as the White Queen commanded in the children’s fable: “Execute him and then we will have the trial!”

Clearly, because bishops are in a conflict of interest – or should be because they are first shepherds and fathers for their priests and people before being CEO’s of an institution – the time has come, I believe, to remove all aspects of these cases from the hands of the bishops and establish lay authority.

This would allow bishops to be true fathers to their priests, even to the prodigals and especially to the falsely accused.

It would allow for compassion rather than an unforgiving stance which has so poisoned everything that this epidemic of suicide within the priesthood shows no signs of abating.

While absolutely no effort must be spared to protect the innocent and no effort spared to comfort, heal, compensate victims, we cannot continue down this anti-Gospel road which is causing immense devastation within the priesthood.

It is a mystery to me why, as far as I have been able to find out, there has been no universal call from the Bishops for prayer and fasting to purge the Church of every aspect of the evil of abuse.

When will we see establishment of a penitential order of priests who might become part of a constant cry to heaven for the sanctification of the priesthood?

A place where those who have sinned, or because of the current climate are falsely accused, but because of fear or some other reason their bishop must ask the priest to sacrifice public ministry, so to this place the priest would willing go and live a penitential life.

We seem embedded in the quicksand of secular solutions and mindsets when in truth we should be using all the spiritual weapons at our disposal to confront, convert and heal what is a situation of satanic attack and evil that enables sin.

True, actual priests sin; true, actual people do falsely accuse, but only Christ can lead us out of this every growing darkness and despair into the light of holiness and healing.

It is not a call here for abandonment of legitimate use of ‘worldly’ tools such as courts, therapies, financial compensation for victims – it is a call we remember who we are, who Christ is, who alone is greater than evil.

May Our Blessed Mother, Comfort of the sorrowing, end all abuse of the innocent, end all un-forgiveness and hardness of hearts, and bring about a renewal and sanctification in the lives of all bishops and priests, and may God have mercy on the soul of that young priest and every person who succumbs to despair.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Never Room!

Watching the funeral today of Coretta Scott King many memories and images came to my heart as I am sure they did for millions of others, most especially for her and Doctor Martin Luther King’s children.

Certainly those of us over the age of sixty in particular have vivid memories of the pre and 1968 world.

Some pretty stark memories at that.

One of the great influences in my life, who died some time ago, was a young priest in those days. More than once, because of his walking with Dr. King and integrating his own parish, he was beaten up by those who choose to hide beneath sheets and move about in the shadows.

To see the very dream of Dr. King of the white and black, Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim children of God gathered together unfolding today in the honouring of Mrs. King, was certainly for me a most powerful image of hope.

Which brings me to the powerful sermon of Bernice King: her plea for human repentance and solidarity; her challenge to Christians to rise up and transform the kingdoms of this world into the Kingdom of God.

This sang in my heart as a reminder of the urgent plea of St. Pius X that we “restore all things to Christ.”

Preacher King’s words about the entrapment of greed moved me to reflect on another powerful preaching which I have been meditating upon these many days, line by line: “Deus Caritas Est” of Pope Benedict.

The line which most strikes my heart today is: …..within the community of believers there can never be room for a poverty that denies anyone what is needed for a dignified life. {Deus Caritas Est }

The implications of this teaching, to my mind and heart, are as far reaching, and as the Church pilgrimages through the ages, as forward moving as the horizon.

The first question I must ask is not a question which challenges the political, economic or ecclesiastical systems in which I find myself as a baptized person, but rather how do my personal choices protect from poverty, or if need be rescue from poverty, my brothers and sisters?

Bishops and priests who are not members of religious orders are not vowed to poverty, however the Second Vatican Council urges us to conform ourselves to the very poverty Christ embraced for us.
This powerful word from the Council which was seared on my heart decades ago when I first meditated upon it: Led by the Spirit of the Lord, who anointed the Saviour and sent Him to evangelize the poor, priests, therefore, and also bishops, should avoid everything which in any way could turn the poor away. Before the other followers of Christ, let priests set aside every appearance of vanity in their possessions. Let them arrange their homes so that they might not appear unapproachable to anyone, lest anyone, even the most humble, fear to visit them. {Presbyterorum Ordinis.}

There follows then, in particular from the unambiguous declaration that bishops and priests “..should avoid everything which in any way could turn the poor away.”:

Why are those impoverished in their dignity of life by abuse forced to see massive amounts of monies go to lawyers in the struggle for just compensation?

Why are those priests who admittedly have been guilty of abuse, and likewise those merely accused, being impoverished by an ecclesiastical institution which appears in many instance to have forgotten the Gospel principles of forgiveness, welcoming, clothing, feeding, restoring the prodigal?

Why do we not sell off everything we need to in order to provide such secure and complete alternatives for women that no child would ever be aborted because of fear of poverty or the poverty of fear?

Why are we not challenging the richer parishes to open their hearts and resources so poor inner city or small rural parishes can remain open; or if we must close places, why not take the monies made from the sale of land and buildings to, with love’s imagination, find some replacement sacred and beautiful space for those who suffer the loss of life’s dignity of the familiar, the close, the communal, the traditional sacred space, which has been there for generations?


If, as Pope Benedict truthfully, powerfully, teaches “ there can never be room” within the believing community for: “ a poverty that denies ANYONE “ that which is needed for “ a dignified life”, then it seems to me the first step is to beg the Holy Spirit for the courage to ask all possible “why” questions and not to allow any fear to impoverish our hearts or wills, so that our active and exceedingly generous participation in the fullness of “diaconia” will be so complete we shall finally, as community and individuals, become real servants of the Gospel, of one another, of Christ.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Sunday Suggestion

As I continue my mediation of Pope Benedict’s encyclical, might I suggestion the following three quotations as a Sunday meditation, for they are among countless jewels in this very pastoral and comforting teaching – as mentioned before the entire text can be found on the Vatican web site:

“ Contact with the visible manifestations of God’s love can awaken within us a feeling of joy born of the experience of being love.”

“….God is in fact more deeply present to me than I am to myself.”

“Seeing with the eyes of Christ, I can give to others much more than their outward necessities: I can give them the look of love they crave.”

Have a most joyful and blessed Sunday everyone.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Fragmented Lives

I have received more than a dozen emails in the past few days wherein priests express their extreme suffering at a time in the life of the Church when, because of the sins of a few, the many are suffering.

One aspect of this suffering is a growing fracture between priests and their bishop; between priests and their brother priests; - with the result of the continued fracturing within the Church between those pushing one agenda or another.

Priestly suicide shows no signs of abating.

The multi-year process-struggle for due process drags on, due in large part because Bishops act towards the accused in ways which ultimately trigger appeals back and forth to Rome and because the Congregation responsible for handling these cases is woefully understaffed.

Vindication is, of course, usually a pyrrhic victory for name and reputation are never recoverable, doubts remain amongst laity and brother priests, ministry, if permitted at all, restricted.

In his recent encyclical Pope Benedict in para. 14. [cf. ] teaches us that: Union with Christ is also union with all those to whom He gives Himself. I cannot possess Christ just for myself; I can belong to Him only in union with all those who have become, or who will become, His own.

Now if we choose to look at this narrowly then our union , our solidarity if you will, will be the self-justified/self-satisfied heart-set/mind-set of the Pharisees and bishops will turn their backs on their priests, be the priest guilty or not; priest will turn his back on brother priest; laity against Church , Bishop, Priests – some will turn their backs on actual victims; baptized of one race against another and so forth.

Pope Benedict also notes: Faith, worship and ethos are interwoven in a single reality which takes shape in our encounter with God’s agape.

Obviously any bishop, priest or layperson who truly lives such an interwoven life of grace is unlikely to be either an abuser or a non-forgiver of those who sin, certainly a bishop who lives such an interwoven life will not translate so-called ‘zero tolerance’ into 100% violation of the command to love as Christ loves.

Pope Benedict also teaches: A Eucharist which does not pass over into the concrete practice of love is intrinsically fragmented.

The crisis in the priesthood, the crisis between bishops and priests, priests and priests; the extreme evil of abuse and the every other evil perpetrated by the baptized, all are rooted in this intrinsic fragmentation because there is a disconnect in the lives of many laity and clergy alike between Who and what we celebrate, and Whom we receive, and how we live, moment by moment.

Perhaps the most destructive dimension of this disconnection and fragmentation is the failure to insist, in face of media pressure in particular, fear of ever more lawsuits, and I believe an arrogant assumption the laity will not forgive wayward priests, - yet we insist from the pulpit individuals and nations, families, forgive one another, seek the mutual forgiveness among the Churches in the striving for Christian unity – yes perhaps the most destructive result of the so-called Dallas norms and their implementation has been to tacitly allow for the refusal to forgive.

Certainly when the Holy Father refers to Mt. 25:31-46: …in which love becomes the criterion for the definitive decision about a human life’s worth or lack thereof…the classic list of those with whom Jesus identifies Himself is well known, but here again we must examine ourselves very carefully and look deep into our hearts and ask, truthfully, ‘Whom do I consider to be the least of my brothers and sisters?’

We will know the answer by our interior emotional reaction when we think/imagine, that individual or group.
The more intense our reaction the greater the failure within us to have taken the Eucharistic Love, the Person-Love Jesus, we have received  and concretely practice this love – thus until we can truly love the one/ones we have determined are the least the clear judgement of Mt.25ff, will apply for, as the Pope notes: Love of God and love of neighbour have become one: in the least of the brethren we find Jesus Himself, and in Jesus we find God.

Who is more ‘least’ than the one/ones we most reject?

They are hungry for love; thirsty for forgiveness; estranged from human solidarity and yearning for agape;
naked, stripped of name, reputation, priesthood or family, job, needing to be clothed with support;
some mental, physical and addiction diseases present a very real challenge even for the most devoted of the baptized, these are precisely the least we shall be asked about;
most bishops, brother priests, for example, do not visit imprisoned priests and immense numbers of laity who are in prisons remain unvisited as well, not to mention, for example, the elderly imprisoned in the depths of loneliness or Alzheimer’s.

Pope Benedict’s encyclical should much us uncomfortable!

It should also challenge us to look eyes wide open, hearts wide open, at the crisis within the Church, priesthood, parish, family, society today where there is so much, in all forms, soul destroying, life crushing, lack of love.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

The Child and the Groundhogs

Without overdoing it I must note far more people, it seems, were attentive to the matter of the emergence today of Punxsutawney Phil in the United States and Wiarton Willie in Canada, than of the Presentation in the Temple of the Light of the World!

{It should be noted, as often happens between Canada and the US, there was no agreement between the two rodents as to when spring will arrive!}

I am old enough to remember when churches would be packed early in the morning for this day’s feast.

To see the boxes of candles being blessed for use throughout the year; those brought by families to be blessed and used at home; the procession of lit candles, the great pre-Lenten reminder, in the darkness of winter, that the Child of Light, born on Christmas Day remains with us, indeed draws every closer and that Our Mother Mary places the Child of Light into our hearts and arms, if we but ask her, just as she did for Holy Simeon……THIS is the true import of February 2nd.

It is a great winter exercise in playfulness to have Groundhog Day – but One alone will bring us out of darkness into light, Light Himself.

Something saddened  my heart this year while people gathered round to hear what as rodent had to say, and the media breathlessly reported the event.

Our Muslim brothers and sisters are writhing in anger around the world over a cartoon disrespecting their revered Founder, yet Christians do not rise up in such numbers when the Holy Name of Jesus is blasphemed in music, film, tv, or mocked in some other way.

I am not suggesting here any form of protest akin to what is occurring in the Islamic world in terms of violence for that would be a contradiction of the Holy Gospel and would dishonour Jesus – but I am suggesting the silence of Christians, the hesitancy of Christians to speak up clearly for the holiness of the Name of Jesus, and about other assaults on Christianity, is permitting an ever hardening and encroaching darkness of blatant anti-Christianity, which unlike anti-Semitism or being anti-Muslim, seems to be the one acceptable prejudice.

CBC [the public radio and television system in Canada] has a weekly program called “Wonderland” where the Holy Name of Jesus is abused in every episode I have watched since the series began – now I will not longer watch it.

That’s the appropriate link should you wish to raise your voice.

I will be writing to them myself.