The Catholic Church has obliterated its ability to inspire trust

Cardinal Theodore McCarrick listens during a news conference in Washington in this May 16, 2006, file photo.

by Elizabeth Bruenig

We live in an era of diminished trust and heightened cynicism. It is hard, now, to imagine someone expressing unqualified faith in government, the media, business — or even, for that matter, religious institutions. And the implication of this development is not simply the erosion of trust. It is the increasing difficulty of learning about the world around us, as we lose belief in those who might teach us.

Learning requires risk-taking. It forces us to face what we don’t know with the hope of advancing toward some grasp of it. The smaller the undertaking, the lower the emotional gamble — learning tomorrow’s weather forecast doesn’t entail an interior journey. But learning about the true and important things in life does require trust and dedication and vulnerability — usually under a teacher’s guidance. It is no surprise so many of us come to love the ones who teach us.

Neither is it a surprise, any longer, that some people charged with these roles of profound responsibility abuse them in the cruelest ways. The latest revelation concerns the former archbishop of Washington, Theodore McCarrick, who resigned Saturday from the College of Cardinals. Over several decades, McCarrick is alleged to have sexually abused at least one child and several adult seminarians or young priests, all of whom looked to the charismatic prelate for guidance — moral, vocational, spiritual. Into his den, he drew them.

McCarrick, who has denied the allegation involving the child, has now become the first prince of the church to resign his role since 1927 and the highest-ranking member of the Catholic hierarchy to step down amid sexual-abuse allegations. But there are others in the church who presumably knew of the charges against him decades ago and failed to act when given the chance. Two New Jersey dioceses where McCarrick served as a bishop paid settlements to young men who alleged abuse as recently as the early 2000s; it isn’t likely that $180,000 went missing from church coffers with only McCarrick’s knowing. In 2011, a priest from Brazil filed a lawsuit against McCarrick for unwanted sexual advances. The suit was withdrawn — but again, it seems unlikely the episode came and went unknown to anyone other than McCarrick.

The question of who in the church hierarchy learned of the allegations against McCarrick — and when — has thus spawned its own predictable controversy. Some Catholics have blamed the hierarchy’s lax attitude toward abuse claims on a modern, Pope Francis-inflected tolerance for gay priests and disregard for traditional church doctrine on sexual morality. Others counter that scapegoating gay priests who remain faithful and celibate is a dangerous and misplaced overreaction. The particular matter of who abetted McCarrick and how has taken on a dimension of doctrinal argument, subtly shifting into a debate about what the church ought to teach.

I am a faithful Catholic, and I worry that this discussion seems not only off-point but also ominously premature. What the church ought to teach makes sense to debate only if it is established that the church can teach at all. And it is precisely that capacity that McCarrick, along with his anonymous enablers and his legions of abusing predecessors, have all but destroyed. As New York Times columnist Ross Douthat observed, “the Catholic bishops are now somewhat protected from media scrutiny by virtue of their increasing unimportance.” The price of that protection is a conspicuous moral muteness: The light has gone under a bushel, and the salt has lost its flavor.

The church has described itself as “mater et magistra,” mother and teacher. Yet, having obliterated its ability to inspire trust, in large part through decades of abuse and abuse-enabling, the church has now been rendered unqualified, in the eyes of many, to serve in that role. As McCarrick allegedly transgressed and abused his position as a spiritual guide, so, too, can it be said that the church has forfeited, at least for now, its own teaching role.

Every effort ought to be made to restore this crucial function, which begins with rebuilding trust. And that requires accountability, which is painful. Francis has already mandated that McCarrick remain in penitent seclusion until the accusations against him can be examined at a canonical trial. This is a positive step, but the Vatican ought also to invite an independent inquiry into who aided McCarrick’s reported abuse, passively or otherwise, how and for how long.

The church should punish those found guilty and cooperate with law enforcement when needed.

The process will likely be ugly, but so much less so than what came before. It is not too much to ask not to be raped or otherwise sexually abused by shepherds of the faith in the course of following Christ. Neither is it too severe to say that if clerics cannot meet that meager demand, they can scarcely teach His people anything at all.

Complete Article HERE!

The Catholic Church is enabling the sex abuse crisis by forcing gay priests to stay in the closet

Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, former D.C. archbishop, waves to fellow bishops at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle on September 23, 2015 in Washington, D.C.

by Robert Mickens

The Catholic Church is being rocked — again — by high-level sexual abuse scandals, with allegations in recent weeks surfacing in Chile, Honduras and the District, home to Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, a once-super-popular cleric who is facing accusations by five males of harassment or abuse.

And again, people say they are shocked and outraged, which shows how Catholics still refuse to see that there is an underlying issue to these cases. It is the fact that almost all of them concern males — whether they are adolescents, post-pubescent teens or young men.

And while no adult who is of sound psychosexual health habitually preys on those who are vulnerable, there is no denying that homosexuality is a key component to the clergy sex abuse (and now sexual harassment) crisis. With such a high percentage of priests with a homosexual orientation, this should not be surprising.

But let me be very clear: psychologically healthy gay men do not rape boys or force themselves on other men over whom they wield some measure of power or authority.

However, we are not talking about men who are psychosexually mature. And yet the bishops and officials at the Vatican refuse to acknowledge this. Rather, they are perpetuating the problem, and even making it worse, with policies that actually punish seminarians and priests who seek to deal openly, honestly and healthily with their sexual orientation.

McCarrick’s case made me think of that of the late Scottish Cardinal Keith O’Brien, who in 2013 was removed from ministry after the surfacing of reports that he’d harassed and been involved with seminarians. That year, cardinals picked a pope, and O’Brien stepped back – or was pulled back by higher-ups.

Something I wrote then comes to mind amid the McCarrick scandal: O’Brien should not have recused himself from voting in the pope-picking “conclave,” as “only a naif could believe that he is the only man among the electors who has broken his solemn promise to remain celibate,” I wrote in the March 9, 2013, edition of the Tablet. “There are likely others. And even those who’ve done worse,” I warned.

Our problem in the Church is of the abuse of power, an abuse that happens as a result of homophobia that keeps gay men in the closet, bars them from growing up and results in distorted sexuality for many gay priests. We need to address this elephant in the rectory parlor.

Had O’Brien attended the 2013 conclave, I believe he could have looked several of his red-robed confreres who have also “fallen below the standards” directly in the eyes.

This is not to justify his conduct, but rather to say that the hypocrisy must end.

Incredibly, there are still priests and bishops who would deny or profess not to know that there are any homosexually oriented men in the ordained ministry. O’Brien and many other priests and bishops who have engaged in sex with men would probably not even identify as gay. They are products of a clerical caste and a priestly formation system that discourages and, in some places, even forbids them from being honest about their homosexual orientation.

Sadly, many of these men are or have become self-loathing and homophobic. Some of them emerge as public moralizers and denouncers of homosexuality, especially of the evil perpetrated on society by the so-called gay lobby. Unfortunately, O’Brien was, at times, one of the more brazen among them.

The Vatican knows all too well that there are large numbers of priests and seminarians with a homosexual orientation. But rather than encourage a healthy discussion about how gays can commit themselves to celibate chastity in a wholesome way, the Church’s official policies and teachings drive such men even deeper into the closet.

And like any other dark place lacking sunlight and air, this prevents normal development and festers mold, dankness, distortion and disease. Nothing kept in the dark can become healthy or flourish.

As recently as 2005, just a few months after the election of Benedict XVI, the Vatican issued a document that reinforced the “stay in the closet” policy by saying men who identified as gay should not be admitted to seminaries.

In fact, one of the prime authors of that document — Monsignor Tony Anatrella, a priest-psychotherapist from Paris — was recently stripped of his priestly faculties after being credibly accused of abusing seminarians and other young men in his care.

And yet there are gay priests who have found a way to wholesome self-acceptance of their sexuality. Some of them are sexually active, but many live celibately. Arguably, they are among the best and most compassionate pastors we have in our Church.

Their more conflicted gay confreres — and all gay people, indeed the entire Church — would benefit greatly if these healthy gay priests could openly share their stories. But their bishops or religious superiors have forbidden them from writing or speaking publicly about this part of their lives.

This, too, only encourages more dishonesty and perpetuates a deeply flawed system that will continue to produce unhealthy priests.

O’Brien admitted he was sexually active with adults.

Some of the things O’Brien’s three accusers alleged he did to them (similar to some of the accusations against McCarrick) certainly fall under the category of sexual harassment. And because these alleged actions occurred with people in his charge when he was a seminary official or bishop, they constitute an abuse of power.

But this should not be confused with the sexual abuse of minors, which some people have deliberately tried to do.

That, by the way, is just another effort to refuse to deal with the issue of homosexuality and a clericalist, homophobic culture in the Church.

Complete Article ↪HERE↩!

#MourningWhileBlack:

Priest Calls Cops on Black Funeral-Goers, Tells Them to ‘Get the Hell Out’ of Church

By Michael Harriot

Despite having ample evidence that Jesus will work it out, a Catholic priest halted a homegoing service in Maryland to have a black family removed from the church. The servant of God even kicked the dead body out of the funeral, proving once again, there is no sanctuary when it comes to racism.

Aside from the fact that she was no longer alive, Agnes Hicks’ Charlotte Hall, Md., mass was going along perfectly fine on Tuesday until an attendee of the funeral went in for a hug and accidentally knocked over a chalice at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, angering pastor Michael Briese.

“There will be no funeral, no repast, everyone get the hell out of my church,” Briese reportedly told the family. According to Fox 5, Briese then kicked the family out of the place of worship, telling them to remove the body of the woman who wished to be laid to rest in the church where she was baptized.

But Briese wasn’t done. Yea, though he walked through the valley of the shadow of death, the priest feared no evil, but he was a little bit scared of black people. Instead of getting Jesus on the main line, Briese decided to call his Lord and Savior from whom all white things flow: the police.

After the police responded to the call, the officers determined that the family had done nothing wrong and escorted the family to another church in a nearby county where they finished the service.

Following the incident, the Archdiocese of Washington issued a statement saying: “What occurred at St. Mary’s Parish this morning does not reflect the Catholic Church’s fundamental calling to respect and uplift the God-given dignity of every person nor does that incident represent the pastoral approach the priests of the Archdiocese of Washington commit to undertake every day in their ministry.”

Church officials said they are still investigating the incident. I haven’t checked the archives, but I’m sure the Catholic church has a spotless record of handling priest wrongdoing. An organization of this size wouldn’t have millions of followers if the church had a history of dismissing traumatic events. If you Googled “Catholic priest scandal” or “Catholic church cover-up,” I bet you wouldn’t get any results.

Although the family says they are still upset by the event, I’m sure they’ll be ok.

It’s not like anyone died.

Complete Article HERE!

Defending the indefensible? Why the Catholic Church wants no talk of women’s ordination

Despite Archbishop Diarmuid Martin’s hardline response to Josepha Madigan this week, there is every reason to question masculine dominance of the Church

Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin

By Sarah Mac Donald

‘If priests disappear, then Masses will disappear and if Masses disappear, the Church will disappear.” That was the stark warning of the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) in response to the furore over Minister Josepha Madigan’s involvement in a communion service at her local parish and her subsequent call for the Church to ordain women and permit priests to marry.

Members of the ACP know the reality of the priest shortage first-hand. The Association, which represents over 1,000 Irish priests, most of whom are over 65, has been highlighting for years that priests in Ireland are having to work longer hours, do more work, and retire later due to the decline in their numbers. With so few priests under 40, the future looks bleak.

The robustness of Archbishop Diarmuid Martin’s response to the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht’s comments surprised many.

The no-show by the priest assigned to say Saturday evening’s Mass in the parish of St Thérèse in Mount Merrion created a dilemma for the parishioners and particularly those like Madigan who are involved in the parish’s Ministry of the Word or the Ministry of the Eucharist.

Rather than send everyone home, they decided to hold an ad hoc service of prayer and distribute pre-consecrated Communion, as is done in many other parishes in Ireland and remote mission parishes around the world. When interviewed about the service, Minister Madigan availed of the opportunity to highlight the shortage of priests and call on the Church to change its teaching that women cannot be ordained priests.

Survey after survey has shown that the vast majority of Catholics in Ireland believe women should be ordained and that priests should be allowed to marry. So there was some bafflement that the archbishop should describe Josepha Madigan’s call as “bizarre”.

Minister Madigan gave voice to a question vexing many of the faithful – why is the Vatican so determined to quash calls for women priests even if it means sowing the seeds of the Church’s extinction? The fact is, this issue has not been aired and debated in the manner it needs to be because of the stricture imposed by the late Pope John Paul II in his 1994 Apostolic Letter, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, which forbids Catholics even discussing the issue of women priests. Now, that is bizarre.

In 2010, Pope Benedict XVI elevated the ‘crime’ of ordaining women to ministry as one of the most serious, putting it on a par with paedophilia. Those who defy this edict are liable to be excommunicated, those who question it, if they are priests or religious, are liable to be censured by the Vatican and removed from ministry, while lay people working for church organisations are liable to lose their jobs. That is a sufficiently strong deterrent to ensure very few Catholics give the issue of women’s ordination any thought. Furthermore, there are signs of a hardening of attitudes even on the issue of women deacons.

The diaconate is an ordained ministry. But a deacon cannot perform some of the ministries that a priest can. For instance, a deacon cannot consecrate the bread and wine. This week, the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith (CDF), the Vatican’s doctrinal watchdog, told reporters that while women deacons existed in the early Church, they were “not the same” as their male counterparts. Cardinal Luis Ladaria said the commission on women deacons, of which he is president and which was set up by Pope Francis two years ago to look at the issue, was examining women deacons’ historical role in the early Church rather than whether women could once again be ordained as deacons in the 21st century. Many will see this as a fudge and contradictory, and perhaps even a little bizarre.

Soline Humbert is one of many Catholic women who feel called to priesthood. “I was 17 when I first felt called to be a priest; 34 when I told my bishop; 37 when we founded Basic (Brothers And Sisters In Christ) to campaign for women who feel called to ordination. (There weren’t even altar girls at the time); and 48 when I met Archbishop Diarmuid Martin about it.”

Sense of calling

The 61-year-old French-born Catholic says there are “other women who have a sense of calling but not to the present broken clericalist model with compulsory celibacy.”

In her opinion, Archbishop Martin’s kneejerk reaction to Minister Madigan is probably due to the fact that “Ireland and Dublin are in the spotlight because of the World Meeting of Families and Pope Francis’ visit. Archbishop Martin cannot afford to be seen as not fully in charge of a properly functioning diocese – hence his comment on there being no shortage of priests. All cracks have to be plastered over…”

According to Humbert, even though lay-led Communion services are common in Ireland and throughout the world, she has heard that “they are not encouraged” in some Irish dioceses. “The Archbishop would have preferred if the gathered congregation had gone home.” She also believes that one of the main factors for Dr Martin’s antagonism was Minister Madigan’s role in the Yes campaign in the recent abortion referendum and also because her role at the Communion service was headlined as ‘saying Mass’.

“It was all too much. I think the Church authorities are trying to stop the unstoppable, and delay the unavoidable: the Spirit-led gospel equality of women and men. John Paul II tried to forcibly close the discussion in 1994 and Diarmuid Martin and others are feeling more and more under pressure to defend the indefensible on women’s ordination – what Mary McAleese has called ‘codology’.”

Last week, the retired bishop of Middlesbrough in Britain said the time was ripe for the Church to re-examine “the key theological premises regarding the exclusion of women from the priesthood”.

In a letter to international Catholic weekly, The Tablet, Bishop John Crowley said that “as far back as 1965, I had sensed on a purely instinctive, subjective level, that whether someone was married or single, male or female, should not be determinative in admitting someone to the priesthood.”

However, it was made clear to him that he should not express his views publicly. Now that he is retired and has no public teaching role in the Church, he feels able to do so. According to Bishop Crowley, “a growing number of theologians” and “a number of bishops … would want this burning issue to be at least looked at again in a calm, open and public discussion within the Church” in a debate which “is already manifestly happening around the world among many lay people and some priests.”

Chris McDonnell, secretary of the Movement for Married Clergy, agrees that there are many who wish to have this discussion. “Just to say ‘it can’t happen’ is not good enough, the position requires greater justification than that,” he wrote last week in an article for the Catholic Times newspaper.

Furthermore, he believes the oft-quoted argument used to challenge the validity of women’s ordination, “that priesthood was conferred initially on 12 men sharing a Passover meal doesn’t hold water. It is more than likely that other women were present; nowhere in the Gospels is ‘priesthood’ claimed as an exclusive male prerogative. Only through time and custom has that come about.” He believes that the Church “cannot continue to support equality if, within our own community, the Roman Catholic Church, we maintain masculine dominance in a core aspect of our teaching”.

For Soline Humbert, there is an irony and a sense of the Spirit whispering in all that has happened in Mount Merrion. “The parish church is dedicated to St Thérèse. She is the unofficial patron saint of women priests because of her stated desire to be a priest…”

Complete Article HERE!

Body of priest exhumed to establish whether he fathered a child decades ago

Jim Graham with a picture of the Rev. Thomas Sullivan, who he contends was his father.

For 25 years, Jim Graham has tried to prove he is the son of a deceased Catholic priest who grew up in Lowell and graduated from Boston College.

He pulled old adoption records that mention his “alleged father.” He leaned on leaked documents from a friendly priest and petitioned Catholic leaders all the way to Rome, to no avail.

The quest continued Monday afternoon in a Catholic cemetery in Tewksbury, as a backhoe turned up earth on the Rev. Thomas Sullivan’s grave and promised to provide answers once and for all.

“We missed a lot, the two of us,” Graham said, fighting back tears after the exhumation. “Didn’t have much opportunity for father and son.”

Graham, his wife, and forensic pathologist Anna Marie Mires came to this cemetery on the grounds of an infirmary run by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate to take a DNA sample from Sullivan’s body. The sample will be compared with a sample provided by Graham and should offer a morbid capstone of Graham’s long search for the truth.

Children of Catholic priests live with secrets and sorrow: Jim Graham

“I never wanted it to come to this,” he said days earlier.

Graham, 72, had longed for some kind of confirmation from the Oblates, a 202-year-old Catholic religious order. He sought some acknowledgment that they knew and had tried to save face all these years.

“But they wouldn’t do that so I was left with no choice,” Graham said.

Although his quest appears to be unique, Graham is one of thousands of people around the world with credible claims that they were fathered by Catholic priests, often with no confirmation or financial support from the church. Frequently compelled to lead lives of silence and sorrow, they are the unfortunate victims of a religion that has, for nearly 900 years, forbidden priests to marry or have sex but has never set rules for what priests or bishops must do when a clergyman fathers a child.

Earlier this year, Graham received permission to conduct the exhumation from the Washington, D.C., office of the Oblates and had to overcome a variety of obstacles before the digging could begin.

He acquired a permit from the town of Tewksbury. Later, he went shopping for a drill bit that would be used to bore into Sullivan’s femur, an optimum location for retrieving DNA from a body that may have decomposed.

Jim Graham visits the grave of Rev. Thomas S. Sulllivan.

“So, there I was at Lowe’s buying some of the tools that the forensic anthropologist would use on my father,” said Graham, who was featured in a 2017 Globe Spotlight investigation into the children of Catholic priests. “I’m learning about all these procedures in ways I never thought I would.”

That drill bit came into play Monday. Mires, the forensic anthropologist, said the metal casket was raised from the grave. A nameplate identified the remains as the Rev. Thomas Sullivan, ensuring her that she had found the right body.

Mires said the remains were so well-preserved that she could recognize Sullivan from the photos she had seen. She took a sample from Sullivan’s femur, and three additional samples from other parts of his body, which was standard procedure for her. “From a DNA perspective, I was very happy about that,” Mires said.

The accelerated DNA testing will be done in Virginia, by Bode Cellmark Forensics, and Graham expects to receive test results in about a month. He said the total cost of the exhumation, the forensic anthropologist, a funeral director, and testing will exceed $10,000.

Coping International, a group that provides counseling and other support for priests’ children, has followed Graham’s case.

“I’m happy for Jim and I hope he finally finds closure,” said Vincent Doyle, the son of an Irish priest and the group’s founder. “But this was really a last resort and I can’t help but wonder, after 70 years, was there not a simpler solution?”

The Oblates say there was not. “Nobody is denying Jim’s idea that Father Tom Sullivan was his father,” said the Rev. Thomas G. Coughlin, the assistant to the order’s United States provincial. “We’ve been attempting to put his mind at ease. We just don’t have the information he wishes we would give him.”

Graham remains skeptical of that explanation, and for good reason. For a quarter century, at times working with the help of a detective agency, he has collected documents showing that Sullivan was almost certainly his father. The documents include more than 30 pages of records from a New York City adoption agency, which his mother used for day-care services after she left her husband, the man who raised Graham, in Buffalo, N.Y.

Those records refer to Jim as an “o.w. child,” or a child born out of wedlock, and mention a sympathetic “alleged father” living nearby.

Other records — church documents given to Jim by a friendly priest, and a transcript of his mother’s divorce proceedings — strongly suggest Sullivan deserted the Oblates and moved to New York City at about the same time as Jim’s mother.

The church records show that Sullivan was transferred from a church in Buffalo to the Oblate College in Newburgh, N.Y., about a 90-minute drive from Manhattan, “to protect him and save him” from “a serious occasion.” They also show that Sullivan left the college a month later, without leaving a forwarding address, saying he would never return.

If Graham’s mother and the Rev. Sullivan were attempting to start a new life as lovers and his parents, their plans were abruptly dashed when private detectives raided their New York City apartment. This, according to Graham, gave his stepfather the evidence he used to divorce his mother and retain custody of him and two girls that Graham now believes are his half-sisters.

After the raid, Sullivan rejoined the Oblates and spent the next 16 years doing penance — translating religious texts and performing menial tasks — at a shrine the Oblates maintained in upstate New York, according to church records reviewed by The Boston Globe. When the Oblates deemed him rehabilitated, he fulfilled assignments in far-flung regions of the country and eventually returned to Tewksbury, where in 1993 he died of melanoma in the infirmary overlooking the cemetery where he was buried.

Troubled by questions about why the man who raised him treated him so coldly, Graham carefully assembled the documents and interviewed clergy members, including a nun who knew the priest well. He petitioned Oblate leaders in Rome, asking that they formally acknowledge Sullivan was his father, but to no avail.

Then, last year, when Graham was prominently featured in the Spotlight investigation, he was contacted by a clergy abuse survivor from the Boston area who has been a vociferous advocate for other survivors.

Olan Horne, who was molested by the late Rev. Joseph Birmingham, offered to broker a meeting with Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley, the leader of a commission established by Pope Francis to study the issue of priests who sexually abuse children and young people. It was Horne’s hope, and Graham’s, that O’Malley would use his influence to push the Oblates to be more responsive.

O’Malley met with Horne in late December, Graham said, although Graham was not permitted to be there. As a result, Graham received a call from the Rev. Louis Studer, the head of the Oblates in the United States, though Studer offered little in the way of help.

“We’ve told him our records contain no reference to any offspring by Father Tom Sullivan,” said Coughlin, Studer’s assistant. “We have records but they don’t contain the information he’d like us to find there.”

But Graham persisted, until the Oblates agreed to allow him to exhume the Rev. Sullivan’s remains, leading him to pursue his quest to the end of the line – the small cemetery here on the grounds of the Oblate infirmary. “I’m pretty persistent,” Graham said. “I wasn’t going to go away.”

Complete Article HERE!