Skip to content

The Spiritual Crisis of the Modern World and the Sex Abuse Scandal: A Reflection

April 5, 2010

As we find ourselves in the midst of another discussion of sex abuse by priests within the Church, and the covering it up or mishandling of it by our bishops, one of the things we have yet to explore in its fullness is the role social structures as they exist in and outside the Church have had in this problem. This is not to say there has been no discussion on this point, but what we have mostly seen is a defensive posture by bishops and their defenders, where they look out to the world and point out how the same evil found within the Church exists in the world. Those who reject this see it as an excuse; they point out that although this might be true, it should not be used as a way to forgo reformation in the Church. The Church is expected to be better because it is the bearer of God’s grace into the world. It is in this light it is being judged and criticized, as it should always be judged and criticized when it fails to follow what God would have of it. Peter said that the Church should be judged first, not second: “For the time has come for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1Peter 4:17).

We are to be the light of the world. When we are engulfed in our own darkness, we cannot sanctify the rest of the world. It is for this reason we must always be reforming ourselves. When the darkness has come into the Church, we must expel it — not make excuses for it. But to expel it, we must understand how it got there, and we must understand what it is we can do to help prevent it from coming back.

It is in this light I find an e-mail sent to me by Gerald Campbell provocative. In it, he goes further with many of the observations he has made on Vox Nova in the past. He presents in it the spiritual crisis which exists in America today — but one can say, and must say, it is a crisis which we find not only in America, but in the world at large. But significant for our discussions on the sex abuse scandal, it is also the crisis which helped create this scandal in the first place. It is, as Gerald points out, the crisis created by the way we have become isolated from each other:

From the depths of the person, there exists an existential urgency to reach out to others and alleviate “the unmet need to belong.”  St. Augustine put it this way: “Our hearts are restless till they rest in Thee.”  Simply put, spiritual alienation is a state of being that cannot be tolerated by the human heart.  Never.  Never.  Never.  By virtue of its existence within, the person must find a way to alleviate it, to mitigate it.  The “unmet need to belong” has to be reconciled at any cost.  This accounts for the choices we make and the compromises we choose.  The person’s intrinsic desire is “To Be” with others through Freedom in Solidarity.  As the play writer says: To be or not to be.  That is the question that confronts us all in the depths of our being.  For this reason, Love constitutes the central form and passion of a free person.  Freedom and Dignity can only be perfected in Love.[1]

We are lonely and we need each other; we were not meant to take on the world as lone individuals, but together. When that bond is lost, people suffer and try to find a way to compensate for it. In our society, sex and drugs are two of the means by which this is attempted. Gerald understands this as it plays out in the United States:

It is a sad commentary that Love is only remotely present in the living dynamics of America.  Neither dignity, nor freedom, nor solidarity but spiritual alienation is the essential form of America today. The wealth of sociological statistics is a dramatic demonstration of the truth of this statement.  All too clearly, this data shouts to the heavens that to heal America, it is necessary to alleviate the “unmet need to belong.” Indeed, for America to once again be a “beacon on the summit of the mountain,” it is necessary that America radiate to the world not only Freedom but the warming spirit of Love and Mercy.[2]

This observation has been central to many of conversations Gerald and I have had, both in person and in e-mail. Gerald understands this loneliness, knows first hand the wounded nature of the people in the streets, not only because he sets out to observe what is happening around him, but he has set out to overcome that isolation and to enter into communion with others:

When I lived for five years on the streets of Washington, D.C., after leaving USIA, I stayed in abandoned buildings, in crack houses, on park benches, and in the untraveled alleyways and forgotten hedgerows of the nation’s capitol.  I befriended the homeless, the substance abuser, and violent youth in ways that were authentic.  I was usually by myself and undefended.  I was totally vulnerable, meeting unknown people at night while alone.

Despite this, I discovered strength in vulnerability.  I discovered that, if I attempted to protect myself against a perceived threat of others, I was sending them a message that they were something to be feared.  At a deeper level, this act would disrespect their intrinsic dignity and it would require from them an angered response.  So, I accepted my vulnerability, and instead of fear, I set about to forge meaningful relationships with street people, knowing beforehand the universal laws of human passion would carry me safely to their acceptance.  I tried to act as Pope John Paul II advised: Be not afraid.  As a consequence, I underwent a personal metamorphosis of spirit, reconciliation with the “other” and the “Other.”[3]

For the short time I have known Gerald, this insight, which is central to his concerns, has been important to me — it fits in with my own understanding of the problems of individualism and how it creates hell on earth. But what came to me in this observation is how close to home this really is about the Church. The crisis we have before us has come, in part, because of the isolated nature of priests, and the even greater isolation that bishops themselves have with us.

One of the problems I know many priest confront is how lonely their life is. While some think the answer to this is that we should allow married priests, this is not the case — it is not that I think priests need to be celibate (I understand the arguments of both sides here, and I favor the Eastern approach, but I can see the wisdom of the Western), but rather, the priests need to somehow form better ties with their parish community, and their parish community needs to form better ties, not only with the priest, but with each other. When I visited Egypt so many years ago, one of the things which really fascinated me was how close the Christians were to their parish; they would go, not just for worship, but also as a place for family outings. One monastery-parish I would go to, every day, was filled with families — in the courtyard, they would have picnics and the children would be at play. There was a real sense of community, and to a level I have not felt at any parish in America.[4] As a way to begin overcoming this isolation, the priest needs to be seen as for what he is: one of us. Yes, he has holy orders — but he is also one of us. This is why, in the Divine Liturgy, he has his back to the people for so much of the service: he is praying with us, he is one of us.

With this lack of community, with the loneliness priests feel, many of them break down. They break down as anyone who is lonely breaks down. Their responses to that break down might be different according to the priest — alcoholism, for example, was and is a big problem for many priests. In this way, saying their isolation causes their spiritual problems is not to say that they will end up in the same kind of activities because of it. But the things which tempt them the most, the things which they desire the most, will become even greater a temptation for them. It might even get perverted as it is influenced by many other outside sources. But the point is, the isolation, the way the priest feels outside of society leads to the breakdown, and that breakdown can lead to many problems including the sexual abuse which is prominently before us today.[5]

Bishops, on the other hand, are further isolated. In the earliest era of Church history, bishops were quite close to their flocks — it would be easy for one to be united with their bishop, as St Ignatius of Antioch says is necessary for orthodoxy — because their bishop was never far from them and would most likely be directly presiding at their liturgical celebration. Through the centuries, bishops have become more and more distant and isolated. And now, after having been isolated as priests, they become bishops, and only know how to relate in the way they have trained themselves to relate due to that isolation. Is it any surprise they then reinforce that isolation as a defense, and put up all kinds of barriers when confronted with problems within the Church? They are comfortable in their isolation, they no longer know how to be vulnerable and open, to be with the people, to see to their needs — how can they be, when they are so cut off from the people?

Who were the great bishops of history? Were they not the ones who were with the people, who understood them — and were understood by the people in return. They were free because they didn’t feel the need to construct barriers of protection to defend themselves -or their own good name. They were willing to do what was necessary when confronted by the people –sometimes, to be sure, they did so in excess (as we see in the case of Theophilus of Alexandria), but the excess could be and was balanced out. In this way, we can understand why Oscar Romero was and remains beloved, just as we can understand, in the early Church, why St John Chrysostom or St Basil were beloved. They did more than speak from the seat of authority — they were willing to be with, and suffer with, the people.

While I am suggesting that priests and bishops to be more open to their communities, this openness must be true openness — a true restructuring and reformation of the Church from within which brings about true communion and an end to the isolation which has been reified by the present structures of the Church. This is something which requires work from the hierarchy but also the laity — both sides need to be open for communion, both sides need to work for that communion, to be willing — as Gerald points out — to be vulnerable.[6] We need to make sure that, as a result of the current priestly abuse crisis, priests are not further isolated, that bishops are not further isolated, from the people. This does not mean “put the spotlight on them” — just being in public does not end this isolation. One can look about and see people gathered together in their isolation (as Gerald has shown me and many others in his photographs). Indeed, being alone in the crowd, being isolated in the crowd, is a further source for alienation. Priests need to be understood as one of us — whether or not they are married or celibate (the Eastern tradition of secular priests being married priests is one way to help this along, but it is not enough, and it is not necessarily the only way this could be done). Bishops need to be more with us, listen to us, work with us, instead of constantly pontificating on political matters instead of ecclesial concerns.[7] If I were to suggest how they could do this — my answer would be extreme, and it might shock many: elevate many churches to that of bishoprics, so that one can begin to have the ecclesial dimension found in the time of St Ignatius of Antioch.

Henri de Lubac in his monumental work, Catholicism, brought into the open the problem of individualism and how it had been brought into the Church. He engaged the problem theologically; this, of course, was necessary in order to show why Catholics cannot back such a Satanic principle. This individualism, one could suggest, had its start long before the Protestant Reformation, but it certainly was reinforced and doubled-over as a negative influence from the Reformation itself. The hierarchical approach combined with individualism has made our bishops and popes as monads which had no real connection to another or their people. The Church has, for far too long, been seen mostly as the hierarchy (a problem which faces us today as we see criticism of bishops as being attacks on the Church; such a defense isolates the bishops from the Church and shows once again the problem as it now stands). Thus, not only were bishops isolated, they grew comforted in that isolation, and reinforced the structures with bastions formed by egoistic power, making the Church all about themselves. The Church became divided into independent structures, and then the lower structures were removed from the vision of the Church.  The sex scandal before us is only one of many problems which we must face as a result of this imbalanced ecclesiology. We must be sure, it is not the only way this spiritual crisis can be, or has been, played. By being brought out in the open, by breaking down the isolation which has separated the hierarchy from the Church and the world, there is a chance for real renewal, if the hierarchy does not retreat further into isolation. The media, even if it has a bias and is not making criticism of the Church for the Church’s own good, nonetheless can be, like Cyrus, used for the good. The Church as a whole needs to come together, to work together, to open up — to let the world and each other know of our failings, to be vulnerable so that, in such openness, grace can come and perfect us. As long as we retreat in a defensive posture, we are closing ourselves from God, reenacting the fall as we blame the other for our sins. The story of the fall is the story of sin, the story of isolation. Adam could have repented and opened himself to God, but instead, went into his bastion of the self, putting up the defenses which lead to his spiritual death. He started the blame game, and we see it continues today.

Let’s stop that now. It’s time to raze the bastions.

Footnotes

[1]E-mail of Gerald Campbell., “Easter: promise/warning” (April 2, 2010).

[2] ibid.

[3] ibid.

[4] I find it is better with Byzantine parishes than Roman ones, but even then, it did not compare to what I saw in Egypt.

[5] It is a problem not only for the modern church, but something which can be found throughout time. One needs only to read Chaucer or the Desert Fathers to see this.

[6] This must be understood in the proper sense; of course. More importantly, the more authority one has, the more vulnerable they must be — power is for service, not egoism.

[7] Their confusion of prudential decisions as being absolute principles comes as a result of this isolation.

About these ads
27 Comments
  1. digbydolben permalink
    April 5, 2010 8:13 am

    Who were the great bishops of history? Were they not the ones who were with the people, who understood them — and were understood by the people in return. They were free because they didn’t feel the need to construct barriers of protection to defend themselves -or their own good name.

    Have you heard the story of Cardinal Ratzinger calling Catholic University’s personnel office himself, in order to ascertain whether Charles Curran had been sacked, as ordered by Rome? This story is all over the blogs, as evidence that Josef Ratzinger was, indeed, a micro-manager when it came to his own enforcement priorities.

    The modern, centralized Catholic Church, with its “personality cult” of its popes (especially the rock star-like John Paul II) has become something remotely like the Soviet Politburo, and has absolutely no inclination to “reform itself” be devolving responsibility and authority to local bishops, as you suggest.

    This tragedy began with what Newman considered to be the “unnecessary” declaration of papal infallibility of 1871, and it is reaching its logical conclusion now. The public is realising that the “emperor” (i.e. the papal system) “has no clothes” (in other words, that it serves only itself and not the Vatican Council’s “People of God”).

  2. M.Z. permalink
    April 5, 2010 8:58 am

    Without being exhaustive in reply, I’ll note that a married clergy introduces its own issues. In some respects, it is almost a different ecclesiology. A married pastor, for example, is often expected to work in his community for some of his support. Then there is the matter of bishops coming for all practical purposes exclusively from the monasteries. I’m not sure how that necessarily brings a bishop closer to the people.

    I certainly agree that a major, major problem is that priests are isolated. As a first step, the rector of rural parish churches should be a deacon or some other person stabily constituted in that community. There is already room in law to do this. Priests would then go and service those parishes.

    I’m really not sure what reforms you (or Gerald) have in mind. Among liberals, the idea of some variation of democratic reforms comes up. I think such a thing is a terrible idea. I would imagaine you think similarly.

  3. April 5, 2010 9:11 am

    I think it ironic that the Vatican thinks that it is being savaged by the media in the aftermath of the biggest media Papacy in history, that of John Paul II. He became the darling of the whole world by the image that he portrayed, and everyone loved him even if they didn’t agree with him. I believe there have been exhortations for Catholics to use modern means of communication for evangelization. And now they are complaining because the very same media is biting back. You live by the media sword, you die by the media sword. It turns out that the image of the golden Papacy wasn’t so golden after all.

    It would be one thing if the Catholic Church had been handling all of this stuff successfully “in-house” for so many years, but it hasn’t as we all know. Do we really think that something would have been done if the media DIDN’T make a stink about it? Of course, there were those very public apologies for past sins at Jubilee celebrations of 2000. There was even a photo of Ratzinger lighting some sort of menorah-type thing for each sin. Yet he can’t even be bothered to make mention of the current problems during Holy Week. It makes it seem that the Vatican is willing to issue apologies, as long as its for things that it wasn’t directly responsible for.

    • April 5, 2010 10:05 am

      CV who is complaining that the media is doing such in this post?

  4. Kurt permalink
    April 5, 2010 9:16 am

    Another reflection I think has great merit by Tim Shriver:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/04/04/AR2010040402726.html

    • April 5, 2010 10:07 am

      Kurt

      There are indeed many reflections which are needed — and I think right now, even if many of them turn out not being good (I am not arguing about this one or not), the Church needs to hear them all, let them come out, and indeed, become vulnerable right now — to hear, not defend. As long as it is a wall of defense, it is not hearing. And then respond in the charity and love and self-giving Christ expects of us, which includes humility, willingness for penance. I don’t know if it will happen under Pope Benedict, but I think it will happen… probably too slowly for our own liking.

  5. Ronald King permalink
    April 5, 2010 9:47 am

    Henry, I am extremely grateful that you have written this excellent reflection. I am also grateful that you shared Gerald’s email.
    Why are we so isolated? We are afraid of one another. The reason for this fear, according to the analysts, is the development of an identity whose foundation is constructed on a “basic fault”. In western culture there is a strong influence to create independence as early as possible with the developing child. This will then lead to a loss of a safe attachment to one or both parents.
    When this occurs it leaves the child with an internal sense of emptiness, isolation and fear. The child does not know how to verbalize this, and, consequently is unable to externalize these feelings through communication with a safe adult.
    Maslow has identified four basic critical needs for each developing human being. The first one is self evident with food and shelter. The second one is being able to form a safe rewarding attachment to the primary caregiver who is mother. This can only be accomplished if mother has a safe rewarding attachment to the child’s father. The third need is to have a sense of belonging which follows the meeting of the second need. The fourth need is the sense of having value and being loved.
    If these needs are not met before the age of three then a basic sense of anxiety awaits the birth of consciousness and this will affect each person differently throughout their lives.
    We develop a false personality through which we interact with the world. This personality structure may become so hardened that the person may even be isolated from her/himself–the vulnerable self. Winnicott, an analyst, stated “It is a pleasure to be hidden but disaster not to be found.”
    The underlying core belief of the “basic fault” is a sense that I am not neurotic or have some personality flaw, rather, I am made wrong. This core belief is then defended internally from leaking into awareness in order to keep some sort of stability within and also to protect others from seeing the ugliness that is truly oneself.
    The physical structure that is the Catholic church seems to be an extension of that unresolved “basic fault”. The Church is afraid of the world and does not love as it should. There are tremendous known and unknown saints who have and continue to perform tremendous acts of love and are held up as examples to emulate by those in authority who do not love as these saints, yet, defend the church with the examples of these saints. Through this defense the authorities are defended against looking at themselves. These authorities are driven by the desire to be special which is a classic response to the unresolved influence of the “basic fault”.

    • April 5, 2010 10:15 am

      Ronald,

      When Gerald emailed me his reflections, and as I contemplated them, I knew I had to do something with them; there is more in what he sent than these, but I think they showed a major part of his theme and some of the highlights which affect us all.

      Sadly, I think you are right, the Church is right now afraid of love; even sadder, I think Pope Benedict knows the requirements of love (self-giving). But he is, as with many others, human, and I think part of his own experience (having been raised under Hitler) can explain aspects of his own lack of trust to the world. World War II and the great Cold War both I think are still the memes which control the modern dialogue with the world, and both have caused those reified bastions — even when Pope John XXIII wanted to get them out. But I think we need to keep pressing on this theme — love and communion, because it is the way out, the way for renewal. What I put in here was only some elements of what this can mean — but, as society itself is becoming more isolated and alienated, and priests are becoming more and more alienated, we must also understand the difficulty which lies before us.

      The lack of trust has been developing for centuries because of the mutual alienation. The whole Tridentine Liturgy, in its worst presentation, shows this alienation (I am not saying it is all that is involved in it; but one can see the isolation it created, though there are good elements to it and I am not dismissing its importance and value in history). But it is this lack of trust, this alienation, which continues to create the ideal of individual alone — which does not want to open up, to admit the whole. I struggle with it as anyone does, but it is also why I try to write posts on some of my own weaknesses here from time to time — I hoped more people would open up in it, because I was trying to help a communication that could lead to communio. There is still hope. But I think right now the Church needs the exposure from outside because it is not doing it from within. Alas.

  6. April 5, 2010 10:28 am

    My experience has also been that Eastern Rite parishes (Byzantine, Russian, etc.) in the US tend to be much more communal than Latin Rite ones. It’s much the same with Tridentine chapels, and also with some of the small “progressive liturgy” communities.

    In other words, the ironic thing is: The parishes which show the least individualistic isolation are those which are voluntary communities chosen on an individual basis rather than parishes which are strictly geographical. In this regard, while the small size of such parishes might well be a good guide for your less-individualism project, their voluntary nature is entirely enimical to it, so one would want to be hesitant about what lessons one derived from them. (Indeed, if one really wanted to eliminate individualism from the Church, one might ask if it is even a good idea to have two rites approved in a given region. Perhaps people should simply have to go to their nearest parish, whatever its rite, regardless of their heritage or preference. If that idea does not appeal, perhaps it is not actually individualism one is against.)

    On a side note: It’s worth questioning the extent to which images can be used to reinforce one’s interpretation of a situation in isolation from what’s actually going on. For instance, if someone else had taken that photograph and included you and Gerald in the field of view, would you necessarily have looked more happy and “in community” than any of the other people in the photo, or is the sense of unhappiness and isolation simply something which the viewer is applying to the image?

    • April 5, 2010 10:39 am

      DC

      Eastern Catholics, for the most part, are not voluntarily chosen communities. One is born in the Eastern tradition, save for an odd person like myself. There can be change of rites but I think it is often done for the wrong reasons — not saying one shouldn’t, even for wrong reasons, but I don’t think we can use them as the point of entry but the exception which proves the point.

      As for the image– Gerald took at his camera as he was coming to meet with me and MM; he saw something he wanted to take a picture of and took it, then showed it to me. As for if someone else had taken it — with Gerald and I in it – I don’t know. I do know I am myself usual and incapable of proper social interaction, period, and so not a good example for much of anything.

  7. April 5, 2010 10:34 am

    M.Z.

    A couple things. The Eastern approach for the priest is that the secular priest is a married priest. The couple are together, in many sense, as one in the work for the priest’s ministry. But beyond that, they are really connected to the concrete reality of worldly life — they are not just thinking things in theory, but concrete forms from experience. They are in the world, and it is for this reason, they are expected to be pastors who share the experiences of the ones they are pastoring. I am not saying the West needs to go this way, since I think a celibate priesthood is possible, but I also think of the two prudential methods, I agree more with the East (and no surprise, I am Eastern, and I work with this material more, and I see the work of married priests all the time).

    But to the second point — Gerald wasn’t talking about the crisis itself; I took his point and brought it forward to the crisis (which, though, when I brought it into the discussion, he came out with even more interesting points). But the issue I am bringing out is how the churches themselves are filled with individuals who are distant from one another and from the priest. The priest is isolated. The priest is lonely. This is something which is quite well known by those who work with priests. Not all of them are this — but the vast majority are. They are over-worked, given all kinds of expectations, and are treated as if they have no lives, no social needs of their own. I can’t say how many times I’ve heard “what is a priest doing on the internet?” to priests who are online — dialoguing with people, and not just dialoguing about theology. The answer is simple: they are people too. But the way people treat them, they are to be as if officiating liturgy 24/7 and nothing else — the breakdown from that should be obvious.

    For me, what I think is needed is a community approach following the early centuries. Isolation and alienation today are a problem in the Church. And bishops especially suffer from this. For me, there needs to be a vast increase in the number of bishops, period. This is not an issue of democracy, but an issue of how the early church had far greater connection between the laity and bishop because, for the most part, the bishop was at their church. It might not be one for one today, but a far more closer connection and community, so the bishop is not isolated, with all kinds of extraordinary pressures of a huge diocese put on him. Smaller dioceses allow for more connection, and less stress. And there still needs to be better trust of the laity, to realize they are the Church and not just the hierarchy. That’s another point for another time.

  8. Nate Wildermuth permalink
    April 5, 2010 10:54 am

    Thank you for this reflection, Henry. And thank you Ronald, for identifying something that has troubled me since my first memories: “I am made wrong”. I’ve only just started to realize how wonderfully made we are.

    • April 5, 2010 10:57 am

      Nate

      Glad you liked it. I am trying to deal with the issues, and find them important, but certainly find there is more to say about them then what we have seen to date. Gerald’s e-mail really got me thinking; I don’t think my post did his own e-mail justice (for many reasons), but I hope it can help motivate people to start thinking beyond the memes we have seen over the crisis.

  9. April 5, 2010 11:00 am

    Is it not the case that many of the offenders are persons who discovered urges within themselves because of which they feared they would be mocked and scorned and marginalized in society, if such urges ever came to light? And did not some of these, suffering from such a “thorn in the flesh,” reason that if they entered the priesthood, the vow of celibacy would eliminate their fear by eliminating the possibility of such urges ever being acted upon and also make them objects of respect–even love and devotion–to Others–rather than pariahs?
    And, in some of these, wasn’t the urge to find shelter from themselves a stronger motive than their vocation for the priesthood? And didn’t the vow of celibacy fail to provide the safe haven that was sought for this very reason? And finally, isn’t this problem systemic and quite widespread?

    • April 5, 2010 11:09 am

      Rodak

      What you are pointing out, I think, is that there is an element of some people becoming priests as a means of self-alienation? That, I think is true; and with it, of course, the self-alienation is something which cannot last when they find themselves alienated from their parishes in their own isolation. They end up having none of the shelter you talk about to protect themselves — they think they will get it, but they don’t.

  10. digbydolben permalink
    April 5, 2010 11:09 am

    This discussion really is magnificent–so much better than most of the sermons issuing from most of the pulpits–including the Vatican’s–this Holy Week.

    Again, I urge Vox Nova to make Ronald King a regular columnist.

    • April 5, 2010 12:32 pm

      Digby

      You are right– Ronald has a lot of real world experience which many of us do not have, and it is invaluable for our discussions. I really wanted to open this up because I think much of the discussion, pro and contra, has been insufficient and doesn’t go far enough. Ronald has helped bring elements into it. I hope we might still see more. There is a lot left which has been ignored — of course, the testimonies of those abused being the #1 ignored in all of this.

  11. April 5, 2010 11:14 am

    Yes, that’s what I’m suggesting. There is probably also some of the “birds of a feather” phenomenon that leads to a disproportionate percentage of–for instance–male dancers, having a same-sex orientation. That would be a more conscious thing, however, and undertaken more cynically.

  12. Ronald King permalink
    April 5, 2010 11:25 am

    Nate, In my counseling practice I was forced to face my fears because I did not want to fail. I am the oldest of 6. My father and mother came from coal mining families. My father was in Guadal Canal with the 1st Marines. He pushed me to face my fears although I resisted much being 5’8″ and 135#’s and playing football to gain his approval. I always thought that I was dumber than anyone and when I left catholic grade school and went to public high that is when my fear kicked in and I graduated 180 out of 220 and was not expected to attend college. There is a transgenerational knowledge of where we belong or do not belong.
    Enlisted in the Air Force and a great friend got me started on the path of psychology. A long story. Went to Penn State in ’70 and BA Psych in ’73. Master’s in ’77 while attempting to hide the shame of not being good enough and it leaking through with a public speaking phobia. All the while still fighting to face my fears. Publicly acknowledged them and actually compensated for them by making a fool of myself with the help of mindfullness for many years. God came to me consciously as Light and Love with the statement “I love you.” 12/04 and I returned to Catholicism Easter of ’05 after 40 years.
    I know my true identity now and I am free to express myself in love. When I do not express myself in love the old fear enters and my cognitive distortions create a defensive and hateful internal state that actually makes me ill.
    Buddha stated that we must know our hate before we can love. I love that God has enabled me to know my hate.

    • April 5, 2010 12:33 pm

      Ronald

      I think we both have learned much from our encounter with the Buddha. I hope we will see more Catholics who bring their own experiences into the mix sometime as well.

  13. dan permalink
    April 5, 2010 11:38 am

    “a true restructuring and reformation of the Church from within which brings about true communion and an end to the isolation which has been reified by the present structures of the Church. This is something which requires work from the hierarchy but also the laity — both sides need to be open for communion, both sides need to work for that communion, to be willing —”

    Yes, an important reflection to share.

    Love and communion…through all of this ugliness, we need to be open to the reality that Jesus loves all of these priest who committed these crimes and the church leaders who failed to act.

  14. Nate Wildermuth permalink
    April 5, 2010 12:59 pm

    Amen, Ronald! Thank you for sharing some of your story. It resonates with me a lot – I’m the oldest of 5.

  15. April 5, 2010 4:20 pm

    In the Thirties of the Nineteenth Century a great Italian priest and philosopher theologian, the blessed Antonio Rosmini, wrote a book entitled “Le cinque piaghe della Chiesa” (The five wounds of the Church). Your post made me think of it. The first wound he mentioned is in fact the distance between the clergy and the laity.
    You might like to know that in those same years he founded a religious congregation named The Institute of Charity, with extentions in England and in America, so that some of Rosmini’s books are translated, including probably the one I mentioned. The task of his Institute is charity in its full range.
    He distingueshes essencially three types of charity: spiritual charity, intellectual charity, material charity. In recent years we Catholics have been too much concerned with the last type of charity, and not enough with spiritual and intellectual charity. Most of all we have been lacking on the latter one.
    Your analysis of individualism being the plague of our time is exactly up top the point. And I am moved by the story of your friend Gerald. But I would like to add that individualism isn’s just a spiritual, socio-cultural, desease. It is also an intellectual one. I mean, we haven’t been able to account philosophically for man’s being a social animal. Actually all modern philosphy runs agains this idea. You complain of the state of things in the US. Well, here in Europe, where I am writing from, things are worse. Europe, I am used to say, is dying of philosophy (in its modern understanding).
    Concerning the marriage of priests, I’d agree with your asking whether it wouln’t be appropriate for the Catholic Church to follow the Eastern Churches’ model. I just see one trouble in it, due to a fact you didn’t mentioned: there all the bishops are religious and celibate. That is part of the Eastern model too, and I ask whether, given our democratic mentality, our eventually married priests would be ready to accept to be barred from bishopry.
    I’d have more things to say, expecially concerning the idea of hyrarchy. In connections with democracy. But I’ll abstain. If you like, you can find some comments of mine in the site I named.

    • April 5, 2010 4:46 pm

      Giorgio,

      A few things. I actually strongly agree with the intellectual problem which led to individualism. I’ve discussed it outside of the current crisis in several posts on here — it is a major part of my own reflections. There are many layers to it — but I just wanted to show the practical ramifications of the intellectual problem here.

      Bishops and married priests: yes, in the East, the tradition is to elevate monks, or widowers, to the bishopric. One of the things which people forget is that the monks should, in their own way, have formed a community and understood aspects of communio because of it. It is not the same kind of thing as married priests, to be sure, but I think many of the concerns are addressed in the rule of St Benedict as to why it is a community vs individual monks. I would add, though, it is right to say there will be a kind of disconnect; but historically, one of the things which as fascinated me, is that Eastern bishops don’t show that disconnect the same way — and I think it is because of the communal aspect of the monastery. Something is taught there which helps in their role as bishop which celibate, non-religious, Western priests do not have.

      My discussions of hierarchy are in relation to the present circumstance, and how Dionysian understandings have been hurt and wounded by the modern individualistic mindset. I don’t have a problem of hierarchy per se, but individualistic, distanced hierarchy which cuts off the communion, which I fear we have today.

      I am not familiar with Blessed Antonio Rosmini, but what you say is very interesting — and sounds very promising!

      Christ is Risen!

  16. Jim N permalink
    April 6, 2010 10:10 am

    The church is put in a difficult position when a story appears in the media which mischaracterises or distorts the facts regarding the sex abuse scandal. The church has apologized incessantly and taken monumental steps to address the underlying issues and punish offenders. Also the church has addressed administrative problems which delayed action on charges of abuse. However when a story comes out that suggests otherwise the church can not correct the distorted facts without drawing accusations of acting defensively and blaming the victims.

    • April 6, 2010 10:11 am

      Jim

      Just because the Church did good in some cases does not mean the mismanaged and bad examples are now off the hook. Just because I don’t sin 90% of the day, and even partake of virtues, doesn’t turn the 10% into something to ignore.

Comments are closed.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 885 other followers

%d bloggers like this: