Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Rare sighting of responsible journalism

I know...I'm on a break. But this, from the New York Daily News, should be published as widely as possible, I think:

It has become an increasingly prevailing belief that as a cardinal, before he ascended to the papacy, Pope Benedict enabled a pedophile priest to do enormous harm. This is false.

New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd took the accusations against the Pope, whose given name is Joseph Ratzinger, to their most extreme. She wrote:

"Now we learn the sickening news that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, nicknamed 'God's Rottweiler' when he was the church's enforcer on matters of faith and sin, ignored repeated warnings and looked away in the case of the Rev. Lawrence C. Murphy, a Wisconsin priest who molested as many as 200 deaf boys."

Again, and with certainty: This is false. [...]

While the Murphy case does exemplify the church at its worst, the grievous sins in this matter cannot be laid to Pope Benedict.

For 24 years starting in 1950, Murphy served as a priest at a school for deaf boys in Milwaukee. He was first accused of molesting students in the 1950s, and he was trailed by similar accounts until the church forced him onto "temporary sick leave." His superiors did not report Murphy to the police or take further internal action.

Those crimes, dating back half a century, took place decades before Ratzinger rose to high church positions in Europe. He could not have ignored repeated warnings, nor could he have looked away. He not on the scene at all.

Read the whole thing.

It's nice to see a newspaper doing some actual, responsible journalism for once, the kind of thing that the New York Times used to do. Somewhere along the way, maybe somewhere between the Jayson Blair matter and the present day, the Times appears to have decided that "fake but close enough so long as it furthers our agenda" was a good enough definition of journalism--none of that bothersome detail work like construction of timelines and verification of accuracy is needed, apparently, so long as the headlines sell enough papers.

But the New York Daily News is nailing the Times on this one, and rightly so. It's nice to see. From where I stand, the Gray Lady could use a little lesson in the basics of reporting--unless a new tabloid-based model of "journalism" is going to be the old gal's new standard.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Holy Week blogging break

I didn't plan to start my Holy Week blogging break today, but a late afternoon dentist appointment followed by several errands to run made the decision for me. Of course, as is usual here at And Sometimes Tea, the "break" may be interrupted from time to time--but I know the Triduum will be very busy for us and for all of you, so those days at least I won't be blogging at all.

I'll continue to update the "Alpha to Zenit" post, and will be keeping an eye on comments, of course.

I have to thank all of you who come here each day to read--you mean a lot to me, and you're often in my prayers. I pray especially that this Easter will be a time of spiritual growth and renewal, and that the many little annoyances that may crop up to interfere with our focus on Christ's Passion, death and Resurrection will fade into insignificance.

God bless!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Time to buy a lottery ticket...and invoke St. Michael...

...because I never, ever, ever thought I'd see the day when I'd link approvingly to something written by Cardinal Mahony:
Beginning in that dark year of 2002, the then Cardinal Ratzinger responded quickly and affirmatively to all of our requests for assistance here in the United States.

Recall that Canon 1324, par. 4, states that in Canon Law a minor is a person under the age of 16 years. However, in the civil laws of the United States, a minor is deemed to be a person under the age of 18 years. After we brought this gap to the attention of Cardinal Ratzinger, the canonical age was also raised to 18 years to accommodate civil law in our country and in other countries.

With respect to the processes of dealing with cases of alleged sexual abuse by priests in our Archdiocese, Cardinal Ratzinger and his Congregation responded swiftly and gave us advice on how to proceed with each of these cases. We never had delays or a lack of proper response.

Whenever I proposed that a certain priest be returned to the lay state and no longer serve as a priest, the Congregation responded quickly and in accord with my recommendations. Whether the priest petitioned himself for a return to the lay state, or whether I insisted upon his return to the lay state, Cardinal Ratzinger and the Congregation responded in favor of the Church, not of the priest individually.
Read the rest here.

Now, I know that Cardinal Mahony's name is the one most often mentioned (beside Cardinal Law, who has already left his archdiocese) as a bishop who ought to be Kicked Out. And from a purely liturgical, musical, and architectural standpoint I am sympathetic to this view.

But the rumors and innuendo surrounding Cdl. Mahony often go much farther than that--and I don't say that some of those things might not prove to be true. The point, however, is that this defense of his of the Holy Father is very nice to see, and sheds some light on the way these cases have been progressing for the last eight years.

We're quickly seeing the difference between people who are genuinely concerned about children, and those who want revenge against the Church for the errors of the past. No one excuses a single incidence of clergy sex abuse--no one. But sane, reasonable people aren't calling for the pope to resign just because the New York Times wants him to.

There is an undercurrent of diabolical hatred of the Church in much of what I see and read online about the recent news reports--especially since most of them aren't "news" but rehashing of old incidents. That kind of darkness usually vents itself in violence, and we Catholics should be praying daily for St. Michael's intercession just now. Here's the prayer, which I've also got posted in my sidebar, in both English and Latin:

Sancte Michael Archangele,
defende nos in proelio.
contra nequitiam et insidias diaboli esto praesidium.
Imperet illi Deus, supplices deprecamur:
tuque, Princeps militiae coelestis,
Satanam aliosque spiritus malignos,
qui ad perditionem animarum pervagantur in mundo,
divina virtute, in infernum detrude.
Amen.

Saint Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle;
be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray:
and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host,
by the power of God,
thrust into hell Satan and all the evil spirits
who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.
Amen.

Bullied to death

The crimes involve the statutory rape of a fifteen-year-old girl, the relentless intimidation and harassment of the young victim, which finally culminated in the girl's suicide.

The perpetrators mostly targeted and attacked the girl inside a place where she should have been safe; others knew about the abuse, but did nothing, were inconsistent in their efforts, and sometimes ignored the whole thing.

A Catholic church somewhere? Another sordid tale of clergy misconduct?

No. Just scenes from an ordinary year in one of our nation's public schools:

(CNN) -- Nine Massachusetts teenagers have been charged with involvement in a months-long campaign of bullying that led to the suicide in January of a 15-year-old girl, a prosecutor said Monday.

Phoebe Prince's body was found hanging in the stairway leading to her family's second-floor apartment in South Hadley, Northwestern District Attorney Elizabeth D. Scheibel told reporters in the western Massachusetts town of Northampton.

"It appears that Phoebe's death on January 14 followed a torturous day for her when she was subjected to verbal harassment and physical abuse," she said.

Earlier in the day, Prince had been harassed as she studied in the library at South Hadley High School, apparently in the presence of a faculty member and several students, none of whom reported it until after the death, Scheibel said.

Prince, who had recently moved to the area with her family from Ireland, was also harassed as she walked through the halls of the school that day and as she walked on the street toward her home, Scheibel said. [...]

Though initial news reports blamed Prince's suicide on cyberbullying, Scheibel said the students' actions were "primarily conducted on school grounds during school hours and while school was in session." She said any use of electronic social networks was secondary to "commonly understood bullying methods."

The bullying of Prince was common knowledge to most of the student body and to certain faculty, staff and administrators, Scheibel said. At least four students and two faculty members had intervened during the harassment, but the school's code of conduct was inconsistently enforced, she said.

Though the faculty, staff and administrators' behavior was not deemed criminal, "the actions, or inactions, of some adults at the school are troublesome," she said.

Troublesome? Troublesome?? They're much more than that.

School bullying is an epidemic in America. We're not talking about mere teasing, either; we're talking about the kind of bullying that has involved physical and sexual abuse, that has sometimes gone on for years, that has left parents at a loss when dealing with uncaring school administrators and teachers who tend to shrug such things aside, and that sometimes, as in the case of this poor girl, led to the death of the victim.

Victims of the abuse of this kind of bullying who survive are walking wounded, who may need years of therapy to undo the damage caused by vicious little brutes who inflict physical, mental, and emotional pain on them for years with little or no intervention by the authority figures who have the power to stop the abuse.

In fact, it's not too much to say that our nation's public schools have an institution-wide tendency to sweep this sort of bullying under the rug, to pretend it doesn't exist, to lie about it, to act as though "diversity" seminars or similar efforts have "solved" the problem, and to tell parents who continue to complain that they are the troublemakers, that their son or daughter is just too sensitive or that he or she invites the bullying, and to suggest that the best option is for the parents to remove their child from the school, and explore other educational options.

How many children have been the victims of targeted bullying in their school careers? Numbers are hard to find, since lots of people don't like to admit to having been bullied or harassed by their peers in school. There is a tendency to think that the victim of bullying must be weak, a wimp, not strong enough to stand up for himself or herself.

How many bullies ever end up being punished in any real way for their bullying? Few, I suspect. It took Phoebe Prince's suicide before the bullies who were making her life a living hell were arrested--and while I think that was the right thing, I am stunned that the school administrators are not being held accountable for their failures here.

While most of the mainstream media is still busily trying to tie Pope Benedict XVI to abuse cases that are decades old, children are being harassed, threatened, attacked, beaten, assaulted, and otherwise mistreated every single day in America's public schools. And nobody even wants to talk about the problem. A case like this one will be seen as a horrifically sad anomaly, not a glaring indictment on the American public school system as a whole. It will be a nine-days' wonder, and then everyone will go back to talking about how evil the Catholic Church is for crimes that happened twenty, thirty, forty, fifty years ago.

Will it take fifty years for the American public school to become a safe place for parents to send their children, to know that they will not be, like Phoebe Prince was, literally bullied to death? I don't know. All I know is that somewhere in America tonight, some child, some little boy or little girl, will lie awake in the darkness of the night dreading the sunrise, because sunrise means school, and school means a catalog of horrors, again, every day, from now until what seems like forever. Maybe he or she has tried to tell Mom or Dad; maybe Mom or Dad has even seen the teacher; maybe the teacher has even talked to the class about bullying and said it won't be tolerated. But none of that matters much to the child whose stomach is in a knot of fear for those lonely, dark hours before the dawn.

Insanity from the world of health insurance

Here's some insanity from the world of health insurance: a couple who can't afford insurance for themselves, but who buys it for their children, is told by the company they can't buy insurance for their unborn child until he is born. Then, when he's born with a heart defect, they tell the couple their son can't be insured--because he has a preexisting condition:

At birth, Houston Tracy let out a single loud cry before his father cut the cord and handed him to a nurse.

Instantly, Doug Tracy knew something was wrong with his son.

"He wasn't turning pink fast enough," Tracy said. "When they listened to his chest, they realized he had an issue."

That turned out to be d-transposition of the great arteries, a defect in which the two major vessels that carry blood away from the heart are reversed. The condition causes babies to turn blue.

Surgery would correct it, but within days of Houston's birth March 15, Tracy learned that his application for health insurance to cover his son had been denied. The reason: a pre-existing condition.

"How can he have a pre-existing condition if the baby didn't exist until now?" Tracy asked.

New federal legislation that will prevent insurance companies from denying children coverage based on a pre-existing condition comes too late for the Tracys. The legislation, passed by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama this week, won't go into effect until September.

But Houston, who is hospitalized at Cook Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth, needs coverage now.

Of course, little Houston did indeed exist before he was born, but our pro-abortion laws don't recognize his existence as a person before his birth. Luckily, he has had the life-saving surgery he needed, but it won't be paid for by insurance, and thus far he has continued to be denied coverage.

This story does highlight one of the major problems with insurance--yet the fix may end up being worse than the cure. Since the new law is supposed to prevent people with preexisting conditions from being denied coverage, there's no incentive for people to buy coverage until they need it--and the insurance model depends on healthy people paying into the pool to minimize the costs of those who need expensive treatments, surgeries, etc.

I'm not one of those people who thinks that the government's expanded role in health insurance is going to be as helpful as people hope it will. But I'm also not one of those who thinks that things were perfect as they were. The insanity of denying an unborn child coverage only to insist that his heart defect present at birth is a "preexisting condition" is hard to fathom, yet the twisted and strange world of health insurance contains many such irrationalities. The worst thing is that adding an overlay of government bureaucracy to these already serpentine rules and regulations may end up doing worse than no good--yet it's clear that reform, sensible, targeted reform, was needed a long time ago.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

A few things

Comments are back open now, and we'll see how things go--though I will simply delete any trolls who show up to leave drive-by posts, so don't worry about responding to any that you see.

Blogging will be extremely light this week, and will probably stop altogether for the Triduum. I will keep checking in on comments, though, so if any of the Legion posts from last week start to get out of hand I may briefly initiate comment moderation. I don't ordinarily like it because it makes conversation so hard--several people may make the same point, and then the blog owner frees up comments, and only at that point is the repetition clear. But I don't mind turning it on for Holy Week if it becomes necessary.

I do want to offer one brief apology, to Danielle Bean, if her feelings were hurt by my use of her post, and to any of her fans who were offended as well. I was using her post to illustrate a larger point, and while I myself am of the opinion that what one presents publicly is open for public inspection, for argument or discussion, for shredding and dicing, so to speak (and I've seen this done to everything I've written, here, at the old Crunchy Con blog when I used to substitute host there, and even with the couple of pieces I've published at MercatorNet, though the commenters there are pretty polite), I sometimes forget that not everyone who presents words or ideas publicly is comfortable with that level of not-always-positive scrutiny. However, I'm an argumentative redhead who is perfectly comfortable with the give-and-take of heated discussion, so I can't impose my experiences on others. If Danielle was offended by my post then I'm sorry for any hurt feelings etc.; it can't be easy for anyone who is still working for the Legion in some capacity right now. Most of us are quite eager to hear what Rome will say about the Legion, but for those employed in Legion apostolates there must be some painful anxiety, as well, and I ought to have considered that.

I still think, though, that the point I was trying to make ought to be restated, as I'm not sure it was understood. I'm not saying, as some have accused me of saying, "Drop all contact with the LC/RC at once, or you are a bad Catholic/bad person generally/etc." Any determination of what to do about the LC/RC, its ministries and apostolates, support of those, etc. has to be made by individuals using prudence and discernment.

What I am saying is this: given that the Legion has been investigated by Rome, that its future status is uncertain, and that there is the possibility (yes, an understatement, but I'm trying to be fair to all sides on this one) that Maciel's crimes and sins may yet prove to have negatively impacted many aspects of the foundation, formation, charism, and ministries of the Legion all of which would need major reform at the very least, what options do Catholics have as regards the Legion?

I think there are three options:

A. Continue to work with and for LC/RC ministries, schools, etc. in the belief that the God did select and use Maciel, the "flawed vessel," to establish the Legion and that God further entrusted a perfectly valid charism to Maciel who then bestowed it upon the Legion as any founder of any religious order or movement might.

B. Refuse to have anything to do with the LC/RC under the grounds that Maciel and his order have done more harm than good, or that there is no charism, or that the order has absorbed too much of its founder to be trustworthy, or some similar grounds. Boycott all Legion ministries, schools, apostolates, businesses, etc. and refuse to lend any financial support to any outlet of the Legion or Regnum Christi.

C. Proceed with great caution in regards to the Legion, knowing that Rome has yet to pronounce on their status. Limit contact to one or two small areas (e.g., subscription to F&F or the National Catholic Register, perhaps, or a book purchase from Circle Media, or involvement in a K4J club at one's parish) without giving any financial support to the Legion generally.

I may be leaning more toward "B," myself, for various reasons, but that's me. What I was trying to write about before was that if you are a person who has chosen "C," then it is my belief that you are going to need to be careful. It isn't always easy to be sure you really are limiting your contact with the Legion as much as you might think you are; the still-growing Legion list post illustrates why, and it is not uncommon for people in or involved with the LC/RC to steer people from one apostolate to another without mentioning that the second is also LC/RC. Putting the most charitable possible interpretation on this, we can say that perhaps people in or closely involved with the LC/RC simply forget that those of us on the outside aren't aware of all the many branches of the Legion and all the works and apostolates which are affiliated with them.

I think it would be helpful if those in the LC/RC would mention the connections clearly all the time in recognition of the fact that people are not always aware of them. An RC member running a Challenge chapter or group might invite members to attend a Pure Fashion show, but just remember to mention that Pure Fashion is also a Regnum Christi endeavor, and so forth. In that way those who are, understandably at this point I would say, wary about getting overly involved in an organization whose future status is not known could be certain that they are not inadvertently doing just that.

In the meantime, the Legion list might be a good way for "C" people to make sure that their involvement with the Legion goes only as far as they are comfortable having it go, for the time being.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

We interrupt this blog...

I'm addressing my "loyal 1.5 readers" here (see comments below the most recent post for the joke). I've got a really long choir practice this afternoon (3 hours!) for the Triduum, and then early Mass tomorrow morning.

Since the Legion trolls and their drive-by anonymous comments have been increasing (interestingly enough, only since I started that post listing all the Legion affiliates I could find--and thanks to the readers who keep sending more!) I think the prudent thing here would be to shut down comments for now. When I open them back up, we'll avoid feeding the trolls, because I've decided to just delete comments from anyone only interested in bouts of combox bile-puking.

Will open them back up sometime tomorrow afternoon. Thanks, all!

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Legion, from Alpha to Zenit

This ought to be my last Legion post for a while; I plan to wait and see what Rome will do, and while I'll continue praying for all affected by the Legion (including the good people who are involved in some way, some of whom are struggling to decide what to do) I don't anticipate that I'll need to write any further for the time being. Of course, in the event of breaking news I reserve the right to jump back in to the topic.

But it occurred to me that one of the reasons for all the heated comments in the earlier posts is that people who are in the LC/RC or who are Legion defenders really don't get how difficult it has been for those of us outside the Legion even to figure out who and what are Legion apostolates or ministries. Some might have assumed, for instance, that everyone knows that Catholic.net is a Legion apostolate, when in reality some people still don't realize that Faith and Family or the National Catholic Register are. Sure, most of the Legion apostolates' websites now contain information (usually a small mention at the bottom of a web page) which says who is behind the site. But it wasn't all that long ago that information like that was very difficult to find. Even today the Legion connections aren't always that easy to spot.

For instance, take the National Catholic Register's website. At the bottom of the page there is copyright information which says "Copyright 2010 Circle Media, Inc." Okay, well, everybody knows that Circle Media is the Legion, right? Or do they? I know I didn't always know that.

Okay, but the "About Us" page mentions the Legion, yes? Actually, as of this writing, the "About Us" page only mentions that Circle Media is a nonprofit company located in North Haven, CT. The page giving information about the publisher does mention that Father Kearns is a Legionary of Christ--but to see that Circle Media is, indeed a Legion-affiliated company you have to visit Circle Media's webpage.

It's like that with many other websites. Oh, "X" is a Mission Network apostolate! And Mission Network is affiliated with Regnum Christi! And Regnum Christi is, of course--etc. For the newcomer to Legion affiliates and apostolates this can all seem like a tangled puzzle, especially when you start getting information or fund-raising solicitations from groups you've never heard of, and have no idea that these groups are Legion affiliates or apostolates.

So, as a service to those who, like me, are seriously pondering what connection, if any, we ought to have with Legion of Christ apostolates or affiliates until after Rome has issued directions for the future, whatever those might be, I'm providing an alphabetical list of all the Legion of Christ/Regnum Christi apostolates I could find on the Internet in various places. I'd be happy to add more names if people know of other apostolates/affiliates I haven't listed here; I'll also be happy to remove and clarify if anything listed here is definitively not a work of the Legion.

To make it easy to update the list and for people who want to use it to find it, I'll keep a link to this post available on my sidebar.

Here's the list:
Alpha and Omega Clinic
Altius Foundation
Anahuac Network of Universities
Cancun-Chetumal Prelature
Canyon Heights Academy (San Jose, CA)
Catholic Kid's NEt
Catholic Spiritual Direction website * (heavy LC/RC involvement; not necessarily owned by Legion)
Catholic World Mission
Catholic Youth World Network
Catholic.net
Center for Family Development
Center for Integral Formation
Challenge
Christian Life
Circle Media
Clear Water Academy (Calgary, Canada)
Compass
ConQuest
Cypress Heights Academy, Baton Rouge, LA (heavy RC connections)
Dublin Oak Academy (Dublin, Ireland)
El Arca Business Group
ePriest
Everest Academy (IL)
Everest Academy (Manila)
Everest Academy (MI)
Faith and Family
Familia
Gateway Academy (St. Louis, MO)
Guadalupe Radio Station (NOTE: Not Guadalupe Radio Network in TX & NM)
Grupo Integer (see here)
Helping Hands Medical Mission
Holy Spirit Prep. School, Atlanta, GA. * Not a Legion school; has Legion priest at head of Campus Ministry
Hombre Nuevo Multimedia Center
Immaculate Conception Academy, RI
Immaculate Conception Apostolic School, NH
Integer
Institute for the Psychological Sciences
International Center for Integral Formation (a term, by the way, the LC is trying to trademark)
Kids4Jesus (K4J)
Leadership Training Program
Lumen Institute
Magdala Center
Mission Hope
Mission Network
Mission Youth
Moda Real (a Pure Fashion-esque program begun by Regnum Christi women as a similar program for Hispanic young women)
National Catholic Register (Note: has been sold to EWTN)
National Consultants for Education, Inc.
Northwoods Catholic School (Houston, TX)
Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center
Oak International Academies (some individual schools already on this list)
Oaklawn Academy (Edgerton, WI)
Our Lady of the Apostolic Family Center, Indianapolis
Our Lady of Bethesda Retreat Center
Our Lady of Mount Kisco Retreat Center, NY
Overbrook Academy (Warwick, Rhode Island)
Pilgrim Queen of the Family
Pinecrest Academy (Atlanta, GA)
Pontifical Regina Apostolorum College
Pure Fashion
Rolling Hills Academy (San Antonio, TX)
Royal Palm Academy (Naples, FL)
Sacerdos
Sacred Heart Apostolic School
School of the Faith Pontifical Catechetical Institute
SportsLeader
Springhill Center for Family Development
St. Rafael Guizar y Valencia Missionary Center
The Highlands School (Dallas, TX)
TORCH homeschooling * has many lay leaders with strong LC/RC ties
Triangle Center for Family Development, Cary, NC
Universidad Interamericana Para el Desarrollo
University of Sacramento
Vocation Action Network
Vocation.com
Walking With Purpose (Catholic women's Bible study--not an official RC apostolate but containing heavy RC ties and use of RC materials.)
Why Not Priest? (whynotpriest.com)
Woodlands Academy (Dublin, Ireland)
Woodmont Academy (Baltimore) NOTE: a commenter informs me that this academy was shut down a couple of years ago. Information on the web says the school closed in June of 2011.
Zenit

Total: 77 (and counting...)

If you know of more, please send them along!

Also, any asterisks beside a name indicate less formal connections or ties. If you have proof that any of these listed groups, ministries, etc. are NOT LC/RC, especially the asterisked ones, please send that to me as well (or list it in the comments here). I will gladly remove any group which either a) is not formally associated with LC/RC or which b) does not have more than 50% of leaders, instructors, board of director members, etc. who are involved in LC/RC.

[Update 3/29: I've removed the spaces in the list since it's growing so lengthy. If this makes it too hard to read, let me know.]

Update 7/1/2012: Woodmont Academy in Baltimore closed last year (see list). If readers know of other updated information, please continue to share it! I make the best effort possible to keep this list current. Thanks!

The Monk, the Cow, and the Peddler

After pondering my Legion-related postings from the last two days, I thought I'd steal a leaf from Pete Vere's book and compose a little tale. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, after all, though my silly little story won't measure up to the ones written by Pete, I'm sure. But anyway, here goes.

*******************
There was once an Abbey where a strange Abbot lived. He had to be very, very holy, because nothing he ever said or did made much sense to ordinary men. He gathered around himself a following of monks, to whom he gave strange advice and directions. Some he sent to minister directly to the rich, who were under-served by traditional religious orders; some he sent to instruct children in the lesson that the best wisdom of all could be found at the Abbey; and some he sent with curious orders to find poor families who owned only one or two cows, and push their cows over the nearby cliffs (the story takes place in a mountainous region). The monks often wondered what this program of holy bovicide could possibly mean, but they didn't ever discuss it, because the Abbot's law of charity forbade such conversations among the monks.

One evening, having successfully pushed eight cows and one donkey over a cliff, a monk was walking along the village road. He was sad, because of the donkey; the light had been failing, and in his haste and zeal to exterminate a few more cattle for the Abbot before the day was over, the monk had made a dreadful error. So engrossed in his penitent thoughts was the monk that he collided with a man who was carrying a basket over his shoulders.

"I am so sorry that you did not see me!" exclaimed the monk, not stooping to help the man pick up the things he had dropped; monks don't stoop, for it is as undignified as eating an apple without the proper utensils. "Are you a food-seller, perhaps?" he continued hopefully; he had not had time to eat this day, aside from his breakfast, and the lunch he had packed, and the dinner he had eaten with a poor family before going out to send their cow to bovine glory.

"No," grunted the man, without any proper deference to the monk, for which the monk forgave him immediately. "I sell cowhide. But prices have risen, and the shoemaker in town is being stubborn. He won't buy my hides; he says he will travel to a distant town to buy cheaper skins to make his shoes."

"Dear me," said the monk. "And why have the prices risen?"

"Cows are becoming scarce around here," said the peddler. "Some say it's an act of God, but others say that it's just wickedness and superstition."

"The first is undoubtedly correct," said the monk severely. "However, I have been thinking. If it is an act of God that cows should perish, I am certain that He will tell me so. And if cows have perished some distance from their owner's land--some distance straight down, say--then no one really owns what is left of the cow. If God were to enlighten me as to where these unfortunate cattle have--er, landed--and if their hides are still in good condition..."

The peddler's eyes brightened. Soon he and the monk had worked out a deal. The monk would show the dealer in cowhide where to obtain skins without paying anything, and the peddler would pay the monk out of the proceeds of his sales.

That night the Abbot himself approved the great idea the monk had had to increase the work of the Abbey in this slightly unconventional way. He encouraged the monk, and their brother monks, to continue in this great work. Soon in addition to profiting from the cowhides, the Abbey was profiting from the apostolate of the unclaimed beef, the apostolate of the bones (for use in making gelatin which, alas, was unable to soothe the Abbot's mysterious digestive pains, though it was a great seller at village fairs), the apostolate of the soap, and many other such works.

But hard times came on the Abbey, when the Abbot was revealed to be a fraud and sent away to do penance. Walking along the same village road one day years later, the monk was accosted by a beggar. Declaring himself unable to give more than a blessing, the monk started in surprise. "Why, are you not the peddler of cowhide who first gave me the idea to increase the great work of the Abbey?"

"I am," said the unhappy wretch. "And because of you I am now as poor as those poor fools you stole the cows from."

"But why? People have not stopped wearing shoes," said the monk reasonably.

"No, but they have stopped buying shoes made from leather that came from cows that were pushed over cliffs by monks of the Abbey," said the peddler bitterly. "The village shoemaker is hanging on to his business by a shoelace, and the Abbey's friendly butcher had to flee for his life. As for the soap-seller--it's better not to talk about it."

"You surprise me," said the monk. "The Abbot is gone now. We poor monks have suffered terribly because of his fraud. But we must continue his great good work! Ignore those silly people who refuse to deal further with the great work of the Abbey and our many, many partners. Do they not realize that God writes straight with crooked lines?"

When he regained consciousness an hour later, the monk got to his feet slowly and rubbed gingerly at his black eye. Too bad the Abbey's favorite butcher had been run out of town--the other butcher would charge him dearly for a piece of raw beefsteak to put over his eye. But the monk was glad to have an opportunity for great charity. Once he stopped swearing, that was.

Compare and Contrast

Gisele at Life-after-RC has the text of two different documents up on her site today. One is the Legion's communique to the world in which they admit that Maciel abused young men and fathered children. The other is a letter from directed to their own members, written by the General Director, Father Alvaro.

I thought it might be interesting to compare the two. For the purpose of this comparison, excerpts from the Communique will be in red. The letter from Father Alvaro will be in green. My own comments will remain in normal font.

We had thought and hoped that the accusations brought against our founder were false and unfounded, since they conflicted with our experience of him personally and his work. However, on May 19, 2006, the Holy See’s Press Office issued a communiqué as the conclusion of a canonical investigation that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) had begun in 2004. At that time, the CDF reached sufficient moral certainty to impose serious canonical sanctions related to the accusations made against Fr Maciel, which included the sexual abuse of minor seminarians. Therefore, though it causes us consternation, we have to say that these acts did take place. [...]

We later came to know that Fr Maciel had fathered a daughter in the context of a prolonged and stable relationship with a woman, and committed other grave acts. After that, two other people surfaced, blood brothers who say they are his children from his relationship with another woman.

We find reprehensible these and all the actions in the life of Fr Maciel that were contrary to his Christian, religious, and priestly duties. We declare that they are not what we strive to live in the Legion of Christ and in the Regnum Christi Movement.

It is, of course, 2010. Why has it taken the Legion four years from the time they admit the CDF had reached moral certainty of Maciel's crimes until now, to admit all of this publicly?

From Fr. Alvaro's letter to members we get different words:

As you will see, the communiqué is devoted almost in its entirety to topics that in one way or another we have been talking back and forward on for over a year now. We have done so with some of you individually, and with others in larger meetings and gatherings. On several occasions I have also made sure to write to all of you together. We have prayed together many times. I also know that the Legionaries and consecrated members who serve you have done their best to be available to you, and to answer your questions and concerns as we got a better understanding of what was happening.

It has been a very painful time for everyone, even traumatic. The sudden uncovering of some facets of our founder’s life that were so removed from what we lived by his side, was a totally unexpected surprise for us all. We were not prepared for it. We all had to go through a process of gradual assimilation, in many cases a necessarily slow one, requiring an uncommon store of human and spiritual resources, which each one has been finding in prayer, in conversation with Christ in the Eucharist, by staying close to the Blessed Mother, and in conversations with your directors, spiritual guide or your section members, family members and friends.

As is natural, in this process of facing the historical reality and its consequences, each one has followed his own path depending on his sensitivity, cultural background and spiritual foundation. And it is just as natural that everyone is not at the same point. Some, having received a special help from grace, can say that this is now behind them, while another will still need time and prayer to finish processing and give closure to this chapter in their conscience. We have to be very considerate in respecting and understanding each one’s individual pace.

Notice the time discrepancy, first of all? The public communique says that "at that time," referring to 2006, the Legion accepted that the CDF had moral certainty of Maciel's abuse of seminarians. But in the letter from Fr. Alvaro, mention is made of "topics" the Legion has been discussing "for over a year now." True, four years is over a year, so I suppose I have no grounds for a legitimate complaint here, right?

The other thing that's noticeable is the difference in the denunciation of Maciel. The communique is fairly straightforward, here; but the letter still refers obliquely to "some facets of our founder's life..." Gravely sinful conduct persisting over decades isn't really just a "facet" of someone's life, in my way of looking at things. Doubtless, though, I merely lack charity.

Let's move on:

Once again, we express our sorrow and grief to each and every person damaged by our founder’s actions.

We share in the suffering this scandal has caused the Church, and it grieves and hurts us deeply.

We ask all those who accused him in the past to forgive us, those whom we did not believe or were incapable of giving a hearing to, since at the time we could not imagine that such behavior took place. If it turns out that anyone culpably cooperated in his misdeeds we will act according to the principles of Christian justice and charity, holding these people responsible for their actions.

My biggest quibble here? "Once again..." For some victims, this is the first apology they've ever heard.

Second biggest: "If it turns out that anyone culpably cooperated in his misdeeds..." If? IF? How about, "When we figure out who was helping Maciel cook the books, skim off funds for his illicit families, cover up his trips to visit them, and otherwise aid and abet him in his life of crime, that person will be handed over to civil authorities, even if he's highly-placed and well-regarded in the Legion."

Contrast:

In recent days, I have been thinking through all of this with the general counselors and the territorial directors. Together, we have seen that once we have all read and assimilated this page in the life of the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi, our task is to take a step forward, individually and as an institution, to close this chapter of our history and open a new one

It is true that we are still awaiting the results of the apostolic visitation, whose operative phase has ended. Undoubtedly, our attitude is one of complete openness, and we will embrace supernaturally and with docility whatever the Holy Father sees fit to ask of us. But until that moment comes, which is presumably still some months away, we want to get moving, so to speak, to set out again on our way with faith and humility, and throw ourselves back into working with all our ardor in the mission the Lord has given to us at the service of the Church. The attached communiqué, besides what it means in itself, is also in function of this goal of institutional re-launching.

Our job is to...think about this sad reality, assimilate it, and get back to work. Victims? What victims?

More:

For his own mysterious reasons, God chose Fr Maciel as an instrument to found the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi, and we thank God for the good he did. At the same time, we accept and regret that, given the gravity of his faults, we cannot take his person as a model of Christian or priestly life.

Christ condemns the sin but seeks to save the sinner. We take him as our model, convinced of the meaning and beauty of forgiveness, and we entrust our founder to God’s merciful love.

This is so...amazing. Visit Father Z.'s website for his pithy comment on the last sentence of the first paragraph, here. But notice what this betrays--the Legion is still clinging tight to Maciel as its founder. If he's not the founder, then who is, and where did the charism come from? They can't answer that, so they have no choice but to cling to Maciel, despite what they call "...the gravity of his faults..." But can a sexually deviant con man possibly found a valid order? I suspect that's what Rome will be pondering.

We get a different take on this in the letter:

On Calvary, at the foot of the cross: silence and trustful prayer. Once again, she understood nothing. It was so cruel, so degrading, so impossibly evil. But though her eyes were fogged with tears and her mind stunned with confusion, her soul radiated faith. She knew that God was carrying out his plan. And once again, she answered, “Yes.” And she went on meditating. She meditated, believing. She believed, trusting.

I think this is the kind of faith God is asking of us. Perhaps we will never come to understand the reason for so many things that have come to light. Nor why God chose such an instrument to establish the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi. Why will the Legion and Regnum Christi not be able to present the figure of its founder like other congregations and movements? God knows. We have to accept it with faith. And with faith and humility recognize that, in spite of such a great mystery, God is wiser than we are. Once again, his warning is proven true: “My ways are not your ways” (Is. 55:8).

There's a pretty obvious difference between Mary at the foot of the Cross and the Legion at the edge of the gaping chasm left behind by their reprobate of a "founder." Mary knew her Son was innocent. But that kind of thing, the magnitude of that being glossed over in this way, gives a glimpse at the kind of thinking some find so terribly unsettling about the Legion even now.

I can't help but notice the sad childishness of the complaint, here: "Why will the Legion and Regnum Christi not be able to present the figure of its founder like other congregations and movements?" I wonder if Maciel's children were ever sad that they couldn't see their father more often, or, perhaps couldn't call him "Daddy" in certain public places. To say that "God knows," is to say that God alone understands the mystery of iniquity, which is true enough--but if we're not looking for such a deeply spiritual insight, the real truth is that this question is painfully and sadly simple to answer: Because your founder was a sexually deviant con man who used you, and everything he created, to fuel a life of narcissism, power, and pleasure. Your own future as a movement is more seriously in jeopardy than you can still seem to bring yourselves to believe.

One final comparison:

We are resolved, among other things, to:
- Continue seeking reconciliation and reaching out to those who have suffered,
- Honor the truth about our history
- Continue offering safety, especially for minors, in our institutions and activities, both in environments and in procedures
- Grow in a spirit of unselfish service to the Church and people
- Cooperate better with all the bishops and with other institutions in the Church.
- Improve our communication
- Continue our oversight to insure that our administrative controls and procedures are implemented on all levels, and to continue demanding proper accountability
- Redouble our dedication to the mission of offering Christ’s Gospel to as many people as possible
- And above all, seek holiness with renewed effort, guided by the Church.

A nice, clear plan of improvement, right? Some of it may be worded oddly (e.g., how do you "honor" the truth about your history in a case like this, exactly, other than by being excruciatingly truthful about it all?). But it's not bad for a start.

Trust follows faith. If we truly believe in God, his Providence, his infinite wisdom and goodness, we cannot but grasp his hand and place all our trust in him, only in him. Nothing in the future can make us fear.

Looking to the future with theological hope means facing it with a deep sense of responsibility. It is God who willed to bring forth the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi, so as to give the Church a group of apostles to humbly and passionately cooperate in the great mission of evangelization. He is not going to abandon us. He will not let us down. All he asks of us is to be holy, consistent, and responsible, so as not to let down him, the Church, society and souls.

This is a little...less clear. Does trust really follow faith? I think that trust precedes it, and follows knowledge. I know my husband, therefore I trust him, therefore I have faith in his fidelity and trustworthiness. Placing faith before trust is making it blind, isn't it?

What is also less clear, here, is what Father Alvaro means by "responsibility." Are the members to see themselves as responsible to and for the Legion and Regnum Christi? Are they being asked to be "consistent" to their promise to serve the Legion? Because given that the Legion has finally admitted publicly that their founder was a sexually deviant con man, you think they'd be vocal about respecting the consciences of those who no longer wished to remain in the Movement.

My final conclusion here is that while the public communique is on the right track, it is disappointing in many aspects, including the stunning understatement of Maciel's unfitness to be considered a model of holiness (no, really?). I will grant that the letter to the Legion is intended to be directed at members, not the world at large, and so it is proper for some of its tone and directions to be different--yet the examples I've highlighted show some of the extremely problematic thinking still coming out of the Legion.

I do trust that the Church will do the right thing as regards the Legion. I think the greatest and most charitable thing that could be done would be to dissolve it and allow it to be reformulated under a new founder, with a much clearer charism, a much more specific ministry, and much better spiritual formation--not to mention transparency, clarity, and the shedding of anything Maciel created or instituted.

A fair question

In the comment boxes below this post, Ian of Aquinas and More writes, in reply to an anonymous commenter:
1) Catholic.net is part of the LC.
2) Catholic.net gets affiliate commission from the storefront.
3) If 1 and 2 are true then isn't obvious that the Legion is getting the commissions? I don't understand why you have such a hard time with this and why you seem to think that I'm being shady with my answer. You are striking at shadows that aren't even there.
But is it obvious that the Legion is getting the commissions? Here's what was posted at Faith and Family, remember:
Making your purchases through The First Communion Store at Catholic.net is one way that you can support Faith & Family while finding some beautiful gifts. [...]

Though you are guaranteed the same low price, a portion of the proceeds from all purchases made at the Catholic.net store goes to support the work we do at Faith & Family ... in the magazine, on the blog, and in our podcasts. We appreciate your support!

Suppose someone is still reading, subscribing to, and supporting Faith and Family, but other than that has serious reservations about supporting the Legion generally. The question I have is simple: does a purchase from Aquinas and More via Catholic.net support Faith and Family exclusively, or does it support the Legion generally?

I think that's a fair question to ask. Don't you?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Fiat

I'm in a bit of a grumpy mood. There's the subject matter of the last post, which I've been discussing elsewhere, there's some general crabbiness, and to top it off we're about to head off for what will be a lengthy and complicated and, well, lengthy (yes, I know I already said that) choir practice tonight, to get ready for Palm Sunday and the Triduum.

Today is a feast day, of course--the Feast of the Annunciation.

When we think of Mary's role on this beautiful day, we think of her "yes" to God. The angel tells her God's plan, she raises one trifling little objection relating to her previous promise to God, the angel reassures her that God Himself will miraculously preserve her virginity and conceive the Child in her womb--and Mary says, "yes." Her "fiat," her "let it be done to me," is our model as Christians as to how to accept God's will for us, in all things, great and small.

But we really have to avoid the temptation to see this "fiat" as an isolated incident, a momentary action of grace in Mary's life. Mary's whole life prepared her for that moment, and Mary's whole life after that moment continued it: Mary always says "yes" to God. The angel called her "full of grace," and to me, that signifies just how true that constant "yes" really was.

We, too, are supposed to say "yes" to God, always. But it is a bit harder for us, who bear the stain of Original Sin. Our intellects are darkened, our emotions and appetites sometimes too powerful, our wills too weak. We get bogged down in the big picture, trying to figure out God's will, thinking that He always has big plans for our lives, and forgetting that sometimes He has tiny plans for our hours.

Plans that require a little cheerfulness when we're inclined to be grumpy, maybe. Plans that don't let us harshly dismiss our Internet-conversation sparring partners as misguided fools and intransigent blowhards (however temporarily satisfying that might be). Plans that require us to go to choir practice anyway, and do our best to set aside our selfish desire to stay home and re-read old Agatha Christie stories instead (reveling in her decided ability to describe human character in a few pithy sentences). Plans that are infinitesimally small--yet that still require a "Fiat!" as a response.

We're so much smaller in the ways of grace than our dear Mother. But she encourages us with the gentle patience of a mother, smiling at our efforts, and drawing us ever closer to her.

A blessed Feast Day to everyone!

Incendiary journalism

So, the scum that crawled out of pond water and eventually animated itself enough to become the New York Times puts up a misleading, stupidly-written, and ugly hit piece pointed at the pope. Their colleagues at the Associated Press soon follow, and retain all the egregious wrong impressions of the NYT piece.

It's not that the real story isn't ugly enough. A priest of the diocese of Milwaukee named Father Murphy abused deaf children, allegedly 200 of them. He did this in the 1960s and 1970s. Despite being investigated by civil authorities (read: police) he was never charged with this crime; he was also moved by the present archbishop, Abp. Cousins, away from the school and to Superior, WI in 1974. Archbishop Rembert Weakland finally got around to writing about the matter to then Cdl. Ratzinger in 1996; by that time Murphy was elderly and ill, and had had a stroke. Murphy himself wrote asking to be spared a canonical trial; this was granted, and Murphy died in 1998. (A prior discussion about a canonical trial went nowhere because more than twenty years had passed since the allegations were made, which put the case at the time beyond the Church's statute of limitations at that time.)

Not content with the ugliness of the actual story, though, the yellow journalists are conducting an orgy of incendiary journalism. The pope canceled a priest-abuser's trial! Uncaring pontiff leaves deaf children crying! Abuser gets off scot-free due to callous Vatican inaction! (Etcetera ad vomitum.) The little matters of things like facts, details, and timelines are swept aside in all the passion to use the Scandal to attack Pope Benedict. Again.

And there are already alarming signs that their tactics are having an effect. In the comments below one of those news articles, commenters were calling for violent acts against the Pope, against priests, even against Catholics generally.

No one is denying that sex-abuse scandals happened, that they were more widespread than many at first believed, that the Church did not in every instance manage to deal effectively with the wicked perpetrators, or that some internal policies dealing with incidents like these were in dire need of changes. But this particular instance shows the failure of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and of the local civil authorities; it does not indicate what the enemies of the Church are determined to find--some evidence that the Catholic Church at the highest levels winks at child abuse and covers it up as some sort of institutional policy, or that the pope himself cares nothing for abused children.

The peddlers of this scurrilous gossip-rag stuff should be ashamed of themselves, but I have a feeling they won't be, not even if some of the mob they raise goes off and does something like this at some point. But in this latest attempt to sling whatever muck they can at the Vatican, the media's bottom-feeders have shown their hand a little too plainly. This has never been about protecting innocent children from abuse. It has always been about trying to bring down the Church.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Spoon-fed by the nanny state

In the recent past, whenever my husband or I or our family has had occasion to grab a bite to eat at a restaurant, we've noticed that quite a lot of chain restaurants have been subtly changing their menus. Nothing new in that, of course; one way restaurants try to keep business increasing is to offer new items--but these weren't so much new items as healthier versions of older ones, containing less salt, less fat, fewer calories, or all of the above.

Thad and I both said that the restaurants were trying to get ahead of the nanny-state push to make restaurant food healthier, as seen in this rather egregious effort from New York. It turns out that we were right--but we had no idea that the new nanny-state regulations were contained within the health care bill itself, and that restaurants, likely aware of this fact, were apparently betting on the legislation passing:
Buried deep in the health care legislation that President Obama signed on Tuesday is a new requirement that will affect any American who walks into a McDonald’s, Starbucks or Burger King. Every big restaurant chain in the nation will now be required to put calorie information on their menus and drive-through signs.

In other words, as soon as 2011 it will be impossible to chomp down on a Big Mac without knowing that it contains over 500 calories, more than a quarter of the Agriculture Department’s 2,000-calorie daily guideline.

The legislation also requires labels on food items in vending machines, meaning that anybody tempted by a king-size Snickers bar will know up front that it packs 440 calories.

The measure is intended to create a national policy modeled on a requirement that has already taken effect in New York City and was to go into effect in 2011 in places like California and Oregon. The new federal law requires restaurant chains with 20 or more outlets to disclose calorie counts on their food items and supply information on how many calories a healthy person should eat in a day.[...]

The measure was approved by Congress with little public discussion, in part because restaurant chains supported it. They had spent years fighting such requirements, but they were slowly losing the battle. Confronting a potential patchwork of conflicting requirements adopted by states and cities, they finally asked Congress to create a single national standard.

“We have been strong advocates and supporters in trying to ensure this provision became law, and are extremely pleased that it was signed into law today,” Sue Hensley, a spokeswoman for the National Restaurant Association, said on Tuesday. “The association and the industry were supportive because consumers will see the same types of information in more than 200,000 restaurant locations across the country.”

Now, I'm not opposed to restaurants providing customers with information about the calorie content of menu items. It's certainly helpful, when we're trying to make healthy food choices, to know, for instance, that a McDonald's (tm) four-piece chicken nugget kids' meal with fries and small soda contains 520 calories, and that a ten-piece chicken nugget meal with supersized soda and fries has 1,340 (not counting the extra hundred calories you consume if you use two packages of most of the available dipping sauces). I know that, were I to be sitting at Chili's (tm) and looking at a menu, it might make a lot of difference to me in terms of what I'd order if I knew that the Guiltless Grill Salmon entree contained 530 calories and a side of seasonal veggies added 80, while an order of Crispy Honey-Chipotle Chicken Crispers with ranch contained 1,950 calories and the side of fries added an extra 380, plus the 190 from the corn on the cob (and that's not the most calorie-laden item on the menu, nor does it include the calories from any beverages ordered).

What I am opposed to is the notion that the government has to come in and order that this information, which in the case of most national chain restaurants is available online and elsewhere, be printed on menus (including drive-thru menus) and otherwise placed prominently in front of diners. I resent this for two reasons: one, it reinforces the idea that Americans are just too stupid to do their homework and look up the nutrition information for the food they eat without the government mandating that this information be presented to them in a specific way, and two, there is the question someone interviewed in the New York Times article asks: what if this doesn't work?

In other words, what if restaurants put nutrition facts all over their menus, and consumers keep on ordering and eating unhealthy, fattening foods? Will restaurants then be penalized for every entree over, say, six or seven hundred calories on the menu? Will diners pay a "fat tax" on certain dishes? Will some of the ingredients that raise caloric value be banned, or taxed so heavily that restaurants will stop using them?

I recognize that obesity is a great problem in America, and I also see that restaurants, with their oversized portions and seemingly healthy choices which are anything but (some restaurant salads are over 2,000 calories apiece when served with dressing, for instance), play a part in this. But I wonder what our founding fathers would have thought of the idea that the central government could, for the most part, override local governments by insisting that one central menu labeling law be packed into a health care bill and require, on the grounds of public health, that all restaurants with more than twenty stores abide by this Washington-based policy.

Of course, I wonder what our founding fathers would have thought of the idea that the central government should be making decisions about the health care of individual Americans, too--but that's a different topic altogether.

Troubled

I realize that I've written rather a lot about the Legion of Christ lately; now that the Apostolic Visitation has concluded and the report has been sent on, we can only wait until Rome reaches some decision in regard to the Legion.

One question I asked here before is this: while we wait, what level of contact/participation with the Legion of Christ/Regnum Christi and its many affiliates, apostolates, media sources, fundraising efforts, etc. do you feel comfortable with?

Take Faith and Family, both the magazine and the online site, as one example. It is produced by Circle Media which is affiliated with the Legion of Christ, but there's not a huge amount of LC/RC content in it, aside from some content written on occasion by LC priests. Moms may enjoy the homemaking tips, craft ideas, etc. both on the online site and in the magazine. So are there any "red flags" that people should be aware of, or is this a Legion affiliate that doesn't have much of the Legion about it?

My concern is that there's not really any such thing as a Legion affiliate/apostolate/ministry etc. that doesn't connect closely back to the Legion, sooner or later.

Take this seemingly straightforward, non-Legion post by Danielle Bean (who, I think, has said before that she is not involved with Regnum Christi herself, if I recall correctly), encouraging people to check out First Communion gifts, holy cards, Lenten resources, etc. for sale at the gift shop of Catholic.net. Danielle mentions that "Though you are guaranteed the same low price, a portion of the proceeds from all purchases made at the Catholic.net store goes to support the work we do at Faith & Family ... in the magazine, on the blog, and in our podcasts." That kind of sounds like the good people at Catholic.net just love Faith and Family and willingly contribute to the magazine and website out of their proceeds, doesn't it? I know of other Catholic businesses which donate a portion of their proceeds to various pro-life ministries and other works, so it's not an uncommon thing to come across.

Except, of course, that Catholic.net is also Legion. From the "About" section on Catholic.net's site:
Catholic.net is a web based apostolate, directed by the Legionaries of Christ and Regnum Christi Movement, intended to equip Catholics with information to help them build a Christlike character, so that they can engage and transform the culture with the Truth of the Gospel transmitted to us by the Holy Mother Church, which is One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic.

In Answer to our late Pope, John Paul II, Catholic.net aims to form an online Catholic community committed to evangelize the social world by building up the Kingdom of Christ through their Families, Parishes, Dioceses, and general communities. To foster this commitment Catholic.net promotes interaction among Catholics worldwide through information sharing and online interactive tools. Fundamentally Catholic.net serves as an online platform to build synergies among the various apostolic initiatives.
In other words, if you shop at Catholic.net, a Legion affiliate, some of the money will go to Faith and Family, another Legion affiliate. The rest of the money also ends up...in the Legion. UPDATE: The for-profit Catholic business, not owned by the Legion, which is facilitating this arrangement is Aquinas and More, and the owner appears anxious in the comment box conversation that everyone should know that. I did not mean to imply that the Legion, a non-profit religious order, owns a for-profit religious goods store and collects *all* profits involved in the sale of goods. My concern is that the percentage of the money donated via Aquinas and More goes, not directly to Faith and Family, but first to Catholic.net. The relation to the wider point is simply that people who have had experience with the Legion are used to the mixing of apostolates and donations etc., and are justifiably wary when this situation occurs. END UPDATE.

Now, I can already hear the objections: what's wrong with supporting Legion affiliates, a lot of good, hardworking, innocent people work in these ministries and apostolates, should they suffer because of Maciel, etc. ad infinitum. I'm not saying people ought to be boycotting all Legion affiliates--such matters can only be determined by individuals. However, there's something troubling to me about the way that post of Danielle's is written, especially the fact that she doesn't mention that Catholic.net, like Faith and Family, is a Legion affiliate. I'm not saying this is intentional, but it does end up giving the impression that one totally independent Catholic company is supporting the work of another--like I said, not unprecedented at all. But this isn't the case when two Legion affiliates are entering into a symbiotic relationship with each other, where all the money raised will end up in the Legion, whether it goes to Faith and Family, Catholic.net, or some other Legion affiliate.

I'm not trying to pinpoint Faith and Family here; I'm just at the point where I'm tired of this particular game. The Legion has so many different ministries, apostolates, affiliates, and so on operating in parishes and dioceses all over America--yet if a Challenge club is urged to attend a presentation on Pure Fashion, or a Familia group urges all its members to purchase a "wonderful" book published by Circle Media, the same dynamic is at work. There is something disconcerting, troubling, by people in one apostolate or ministry telling people to go buy something offered by another, without ever discussing the fact that the Legion is behind both.

At this point, I won't knowingly get involved with anything at all that is connected in any way with the Legion of Christ or Regnum Christi. The tactics at work here don't inspire confidence or trust, and whatever Rome decides to do about the Legion, the lack of forthrightness on the Legion's part whenever this sort of situation arises is not the sort of thing I expect from my fellow Catholics.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Something you won't see blogged about much

When the pope's Irish letter was released, we saw lots of blogging commentary to the effect that this wasn't nearly enough, that the only way to fix the problems of clergy sex abuse is to kick out bishops, increase lay power, reformulate the Church, do away with the hierarchy, let women run things, quit teaching that sex outside marriage is sinful, or all of the above.

I'm guessing that this story won't get nearly as much attention from mainstream secular bloggers:
While the Roman Catholic church in Europe reels from a widening sex abuse crisis, the scandal that has plagued the U.S. church for nearly a decade is tapering off, a report released Tuesday says.

The number of abuse victims, allegations and offending clergy in the U.S. dropped in 2009 to their lowest numbers since data started being collected in 2004, the report said. [...]

The latest annual report from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops identifies 398 allegations of abuse involving clergy from Catholic dioceses in 2009 - a 36 percent decline from 2008. Most cases involved preteen or teen males and incidents that were decades old, in keeping with past patterns.

The number of offenders dropped 32 percent, to 286. Most are dead, no longer in the priesthood, removed from ministry or missing, the report said.

Of the allegations reported in 2009, six involved children under the age of 18 in 2009.

The report said that about one-eighth of the allegations made in 2009 were unsubstantiated or determined to be false by the end of the year.
I want to be clear about this: even one case of a child abused by a member of the clergy is too many, just as one case of a child abused by anyone is one case too many. The problem of child sexual abuse is not something to take lightly or to speak of as if a mere "downward trend" is all the progress we need to see.

That said, though, by this report it would appear that the practices adopted by the Church in America to address the problem are, thus far, working. The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People is having the effect it was hoped that it would have. The situation is improving.

Of course, not everyone thinks any of this is true. Those determined to see the Church as a darkly secret and irreparably corrupt organization will argue that the Church's data on this can't be trusted in the least, that unless we kick out bishops, increase lay power, reformulate the Church, do away with the hierarchy, let women run things, quit teaching that sex outside marriage is sinful, or all of the above, there won't be any real or lasting reform. I can understand where those who think this might be coming from, but I don't think there's any real reason to doubt the report. A whole lot of policies and procedures have changed since the Scandal became news and the Charter was adopted; at the very least, any adult who would leave a child in the sole company, not only of any priest, but of any employee or volunteer of the Church at all, would be doing so in direct violation of what every person has been taught through endless "Keeping Children Safe" classes. Child predators need not only motive (which they have abundantly, alas) but opportunity, and the strategy of removing as far as possible any opportunity for abuse to occur has probably been the reason for the significant decline in abuse cases.

The real thing to watch here is how this rather positive news will either be ignored entirely, or spun in wholly negative ways. This illustrates one of the beliefs I've long had about the Scandal: those who scream loudest about the Church's admittedly bad record in this--and who will continue to do so even given a positive news story like this one--will tend to be people who, for whatever reason, have come to hate the Church. Those whose deepest concern really has been for the safety and well-being of children will welcome this good news, and will see in it a model of how other large groups can address the problem of child sexual abuse in ways that will heighten awareness, protect children, and prevent abusers from gaining access to the young and vulnerable.

Of course, there is much more work to be done. One thing I'd like to see all those concerned about child sex abuse do is admit the little known fact that coming from a single-parent household doubles the risk that a child will be abused. In all the things I've seen so far, this statistic is never mentioned--yet it's not an unimportant one. Child predators look for stressed-out parents who welcome their "help" with the children; parents trying to do the job of raising children alone might, however careful they are, miss the signs that a person they've let into their home or into their children's lives might be a predator. But, again, truly focusing in on these and other risk-factors for abuse requires that we look beyond the Church (which, here in America, really does seem to be making headway in addressing the problem) and toward the children who need our protection.

In the coming years, those of us in America will be able to tell the difference between those who care about children and those who only cared about tearing down the Church. The ones who care about children will be optimistic (however cautiously so) that the real changes which have been put into place are doing what they ought to do, and slowly eradicating the evil of child sexual abuse from the Church; those who really only wanted to see the Church fall because of this terrible evil will refuse to accept any evidence that things are improving, and will, instead, continue to call for the Church to kick out the bishops, increase lay power, reformulate--oh, do I really need to go through the whole list again?

Monday, March 22, 2010

The reality of the situation

It has been a busy Monday here, and so I haven't had the time to delve into the aftermath of the health care debacle as much as I'd like.

I posted the below as part of a comment on another blog; I'd like to expand on it here:
A middle-aged man enters a bar and sits beside an attractive young lady. At first, she is cold, but having observed him well enough to realize that he is wealthy, she becomes friendly.

Noticing this, he muses, "I wonder. Would you spend the night with me for $100,000?

The woman gasps and says, "Sure!"

"Hmmm," the man continues speculatively. "Would you spend the night with me for $100?"

The young lady becomes angry. "Just what kind of woman do you think I am?" she snaps.

"Madam, we have already established what kind of woman you are. We are now merely haggling over the price."

We ought to know by this time what kind of men and women we have representing us in Congress. All that is left for us to do is haggle over the price.

However, some Americans become angry when they first realize this, because they are naive enough to suppose that politicians are honorable people. If they were, I don't know where they would come from. In fact, our nation would be an anomaly: a nation of people who have been taught for generations that "virtue" can be defined in exactly the same way as "situational ethics," but who somehow managed to find leaders who adhered to an older, more restrictive notion of what virtue is. Such people, were they to hold public office, would only make the rest of us exceedingly uncomfortable; having established that our "price" is cheap sex, cheap food, and cheap consumer goods, for which it is necessary to keep up a good flow of government handouts and "freebies" (including free abortions), we would find it hard even to speak the language of someone who thought human beings transcended any of these goals, or had the capacity to do so.

What I was trying to say there is that this isn't a problem that began with the 2008 election, or any time in the recent past. This is a problem that traces its roots back to the dawn of the slow, relentless decline of Christianity in America. Different people might trace the beginning of that time with different historical events--World War II and its aftermath, perhaps, or the tumultuous sixties or decadent seventies; it's hard to pick an exact point, though a better historian might find a starting place that we could all agree on.

But what happened, even if we can't say for certain when it happened, is that Americans stopped being people of faith, for the most part. They stopped believing that they were answerable to almighty God for their conduct. They stopped having an ideal of what it meant to be honorable, to live a life of virtue. They stopped having rules of good, decent behavior that governed life in communities, towns, cities, and so on. They stopped trusting each other (for the most part) and started viewing each other as distant strangers, unknown and unknowable.

Now, I'm not going to suggest that people in those days really were as virtuous as most of them pretended, in public, to be. But if hypocrisy is the homage vice pays to virtue, then people paid a lot of homage to virtue. A man might be known to be a fraud, but so long as he kept his irregular behaviors decently quiet he might expect the public respect of his neighbors--though what they thought of him in private was a different matter.

Today, things are very different. Society calls few things "sins" at all, preferring to act as though there's no moral difference between a woman of easy virtue, the various men who father children with her, and her highly irregular household with its catechism of immorality for the young children unfortunate enough to call her "mother," and a household composed of a married husband and wife and their children. Society pretends not to notice that the first household is likely to cost the taxpayers a lot of money in maintenance (as the various paramours of the woman leave her for women of even easier virtue and lesser fertility), while the second is likely to be composed of the taxpayers who foot the bill for "families" of the former type. Society, to put it bluntly, is an ass; but sadly society presents these views as normative, and harshly suppresses the sort of view which would say that the married husband and wife are morally superior to the irregular households composed of people who don't commit to each other and the children who may or may not call the present adult male occupant "father."

At one time, in school, all the children would have learned about things like ethics and virtue, which would have been taught from a mainstream Christian perspective. Was this sometimes unfair to Catholic children (whose views were marginalized) or to Jewish, Muslim, etc. children (whose views were not mentioned) or to the children of atheists (whose views were sternly countered)? Perhaps--but it was, on the whole, better for society than our present schools, which teach that words like "ethics" and "virtue" are both old-fashioned and hopelessly vague and relativistic; what is "good" is simply what is good for me, right now, and there is nothing deeper to discuss--at least, nothing deeper that can legally be discussed in the public school environs.

What relevance do these things, the breakdown of Christian society and the loss of education in virtue, have for the present situation regarding the health care debate?

It is simply this: we keep expecting our politicians to be men and women of high ideals, principles, and virtues, when in reality they would be, socially speaking, extremely rare birds to be any such thing.

We live in a society where it's not only acceptable to divorce and remarry, but to shack up, commit what's cheekily called "serial monogamy," or involve oneself in any number of irregular and dubious sexual arrangements--yet we think our politicians ought to be Puritanical models of chastity and marital fidelity.

We live in a society where cheating financially to get ahead is winked at or "bailed out," where special interest groups pour money into political campaigns, where it is possible for people who have never held a commercial-sector job to hold high office--yet we think our politicians ought to be models of fiscal responsibility and careful, conservative thrift like our forbears reputedly were.

We live in a society where religion is attacked in the media, in entertainment, in popular culture, in just about every imaginable and insulting way--yet we expect our politicians to be men of faith, soberly religious, prayerful, and wise.

We live in a society where "looking out for number one" is a creed that governs the behaviors of many, where failing to enshrine one's own self-interest is seen as weakness, where sticking to one's principles when there's a much more lucrative option to doing so is looked upon as akin to madness--and yet we expect our politicians to be immune to back room deals, promises of airports or cash for their districts, firmly disinterested in all but high ideals.

The truth of the matter is that given the present condition of our society, we really need to stop being surprised that politicians will sell out the pro-life cause (or any other cause) at the drop of a hat (or as soon as a tempting enough offer to buy is made). The real surprise is that we expect it to be any other way; the real surprise is that we can look around at our cities and towns and communities and expect anything else from our politicians but boorish, scandalous, selfish, greedy, corrupt and self-interested behavior. If we could just get over that surprise and accept the reality of the situation, perhaps we could convince people like Stupak and the men who caved with him to list their votes on Ebay, whereupon wealthy pro-life advocates might at least have a fighting chance to prevail.

We may not like, at all, the fact that this is, indeed, the reality of the situation--that we know what kind of men we're dealing with, and that all that is left to us is to haggle over the price. But changing that will mean, I'm afraid, a lot more than simply changing Congress; changing it will mean changing society altogether. Because a culture as steeped as ours is in wickedness, evil, corruption, and sin isn't going to start producing virtuous politicians out of the vacuum of vice.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

First Casualty of Government Health Care


Stupak caves to the lie that an executive order (signed by a man who said his daughters should kill his grandchildren rather than be "punished" with a baby) will in any way protect American babies from being murdered on the taxpayer's dime. Anybody who believes, after this, that Democrats can actually be pro-life is living in a fantasy land.

God help America.

UPDATE: This video is supposed to be from a meeting last year in MI. Stupak clearly says back then that if a pro-life amendment were voted on and failed, he would still vote for the health care bill. Which is exactly what he's doing now.



I wonder what the word "principles" means to politicians anyway. Getting a chance to vote for your values, some good sound bites and drama, and enough CYA efforts so that when you go ahead and vote with your party anyway your constituents don't fire you on the next election date? Men without chests, Lewis would call them.

Waiting for the health care vote...

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Proof

For some time now, I've promoted a theory that Barack Obama really wants to divide Catholics for his own political advantages. When he appeared at Notre Dame I put it this way:
Barack Obama has from even before his election adopted a strategy of "divide and conquer" when it comes to American Catholics. His goal is to associate with, reward, appoint, and honor Catholics who either openly and fiercely dissent from the Church's teachings on abortion, or who are at least willing to be good little quislings and keep their mouths shut about it in order to curry favor with him. At the same time, he doesn't shy away from marginalizing and excluding Catholics who are faithful to the Church's teachings, so much so that he has thus far refused to name a single pro-life Catholic to any position in his administration, not even to serve as ambassador to the Holy See. It is clear that Barack Obama thinks there are two kinds of Catholics: the ones who actually accept all that superstitious nonsense about the right of the unborn to keep on living instead of being ripped apart in their mother's wombs, and the enlightened ones who recognize that unfortunate viewpoint for the medieval nonsense it is, and who are more willing to follow the One than they are to follow the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Obama has gone out of his way to show which kind of Catholic he prefers.
Well, guess what? Now we have proof:

WASHINGTON, DC, March 18, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) - White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs revealed to reporters today that President Barack Obama actively promoted the Catholic Health Association's public break with the American Catholic bishops to support his health care legislation. [Emphasis added--E.M.]

Gibbs also suggested that the CHA and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious' (LCWR) break with the U.S. Bishops has provided legitimate political cover for pro-life Democrats to switch their votes from "no" to "yes."

"I think over the past twenty four hours we have seen strong indications from those in the Catholic Church that support our belief that the legislation is about health care reform, and that it shouldn't and doesn't change the existing federal law [on abortion]. The Catholic Health Association and the order of nun's support is very important," Gibbs told reporters on the White House lawn for Thursday's press conference. [...]

So far, the president's strategy appears to have paid off: some lawmakers have evidently already taken the two groups' endorsements as an excuse to switch their vote.

Gibbs cited Congressman Dale Kildee's (D-MI) Wednesday press conference - in which he explained how CHA's endorsement had "affected his thinking" to get him to support the bill - as a sign that Democrats may be able to get more lawmakers on board in the same way.

Gibbs said that the president had been engaged on the issue, and a reporter asked if he had reached out personally to the groups.

"The President met earlier this week with Sr. Keehan of the CHA," said Gibbs, saying the meeting took place in the Roosevelt Room, but that he "did not get a detailed run-down of the pitch that [Obama] made."

If it's stupid to sell your soul to gain Wales (as St. Thomas More put it), it's beyond stupid to sell it for a presidential meet-and-greet, to boldly go (into the Roosevelt Room) where a polyester pantsuit has never--oh, wait, we're forgetting a former First Lady; never mind.

But anybody who thinks this isn't part of a pattern has only to look at Obama's other interactions with prominent Catholics. Why, Barack Obama loves Catholics--so long as they're with him on the goodness and worthiness of butchering unborn children in utero, or are, at least, willing to look the other way while he advances the abortion agenda in every way imaginable. Pro-life Catholics? No, of course not; why, unborn-child-butchering is such a highly prized American value that taxpayers ought to be funding it, and a huge health care reform bill ought to go down in flames before the goodness and worthiness of choppin' up the lil' babies on the federal dime ought to be removed; so clearly Catholics who actually think unborn babies ought to emerge alive and whole, intact brains and everything, from their mothers' wombs, are a lunatic fringe the president can safely ignore.

I've always suspected that Barack Obama divides Catholic Americans into "good Catholics" (who are pro-abortion or willing to shut up about it for some glad-handing and perks) and "bad Catholics" (defined as any Catholic who actually accepts Church teaching on abortion). Now we have proof that this is exactly what he does--which makes it more imperative than ever for bishops to clarify that Obama's "good Catholics" are not setting shining examples of Catholicism for their brothers and sisters in the Church in America.

The template

In my post below, I linked to some reactions to Pope Benedict's letter to Ireland; as I said, I plan to update the post with more as they come in.

However, I won't be linking to any of the typical mainstream media stories about the letter--not from antipathy toward the MSM (though I have that from time to time) but because all these stories fit a predictable media template.

In fact, to save you time, I'm putting up the template below. That way, you can just read this post instead of reading the New York Times, CNN's website, the AP, or any of the other news factories whose weekend reporters will be filing a report on the pope's letter.

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All Purpose Template for the Media to Report on Clergy Sex Abuse Matters:

Rome--Pope Benedict XVI today [released a letter, issued a statement, discussed, etc.] the growing problem of clergy sex abuse, which has tainted bishops and begun to cast shadows on his papacy, leading for calls by victims groups for [the pope to resign, bishops to resign, women to be ordained priests, lay people to govern the Church, married men to be ordained priests, the Church to change its teachings on sex, especially homosexuality, and so forth].

Although the pope [apologized to victims, prescribed both spiritual and legal remedies, promised greater efforts, etc.] victims' groups expressed dismay. [Insert quotes from victims' groups accusing the Church of actually encouraging clerical sex crimes while actively covering them up, and demanding that the pope resign and civil authorities be given blanket permission to rifle through decades of files on priests and lay employees.]

Despite the pope's [words, letter, speech, etc.], critics say that the Church has yet to institute proper transparency and accountability [N.B.: Never attempt to define either of these terms]. Many find that the pope's latest efforts to address the matter fall woefully short of what is needed to move forward towards a solution [again, defined as women priests, married priests, a lay-run Church, and the immediate change of Church teachings on sexuality such that all sex is good and everybody should be engaging in condom-clad versions of it all the time with everybody else, so long as children are off limits until they're old enough for school sex-ed, at which point they're still off limits to adults, but not to each other].

Optional template ending one: create a final paragraph using words like "crisis of confidence," "hemorrhaging of members," and "institutional corruption."

Optional template ending two: add a quote from a liberal nun who thinks women should be running things. Extra points if she refers to God as "she" or talks about women popes.

Optional template ending three: insinuate that the clergy sex abuse problem is unique to Catholicism, deplore (while snickering in your journalistic sleeve) the loss of the Church's moral authority, and refer to the pope as "elderly." Extra points if you manage to tie in the split among America Catholics over abortion in health care to the whole article.

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There! That should save you a whole bunch of time this weekend. :)