Thoughts on the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter

COMMENTARY by Lisa Fullam

The New York Times reported on the launch January 1 of the new ordinariate (like a diocese, but nation-wide in scope,) for Anglicans wishing to swim the Tiber and become Catholics. (For more about the ordinariate, go here.)

Is this good news or bad news, and for whom?

I react with dismay to the perception that these folks were finally motivated to move to Rome because of two issues–ordination of women (which strained the camel’s back,) and the Episcopal Church’s stance of openness to same-sex partnered clergy and laity, (which seems to have been the proverbial last straw.) Sure, some folks were likely wanting to rejoin Rome for some time, but the door’s always been open–it does seem to me that these two issues are the key turning point. The establishment of the ordinariate means that the new RC’s will be able to use a variant liturgy that echoes the Book of Common Prayer, and of course their clergy in this generation may remain married, though future applicants to seminary must promise celibacy like regular Roman priests.

My dismay is that once again the Catholic Church is defined by negation–”Don’t like the idea of women in ecclesial leadership? Come join us! Don’t like gay people? We’re the Church for you!” Along with the US magisterium’s attack on Obamacare because it might involve paying for contraception–”We’re Catholic! That means we’re against the Pill!”–Catholicism is seen as summed up in negative positions. The fact that Episcopal priests need only take an on-line course to qualify for ordination underscores the idea that the point here isn’t educating new clergy in the fullness of Catholic tradition (which is distinct in many ways from Anglican tradition, right??) but in welcoming in people who take the “right” position on these few issues, teach them a few things about liturgical particulars, and they’re good to go.

A point of curiosity is how the wives feel about being tolerated for a generation as an exception. Many, doubtless, believe that clergy should be celibate. Still, the implicit attack on their marriages must sting. “Sure, your husbands are welcome in our ranks, and we’ll let you stay married to them–but no future married priests will be allowed! You wives are a distraction and obstacle!”

And perhaps there’s good news, too. Good news for the Episcopalians, surely, who will continue to celebrate the vocations of women, married men, and partnered gay people with less internal opposition. The message of the Episcopal Church USA as a place of welcome for those disdained by Rome will be more clear than ever. I’m curious about the magnitude of the reverse flow of RC’s who have moved to the ECUSA–I suspect that far more are swimming the Tiber in the opposite direction than are swimming toward Rome. I know some very good people who are now Episcopal laity or clergy, and lots of Protestants, too. I’ve been in churches where half the congregation (by the pastor’s estimate,) are former RC’s.

A final point–the one-two punch of rejecting women’s ordination and excluding gays as defining why people would become Catholic should remind Catholics that those of us concerned about the role of women and concerned about attitudes toward gay people in our Church are natural allies. The issues facing the two groups are not the same, to be sure. Women are not described as “disordered,” nor are women described as a threat to society should they marry. On the other hand, women with vocations to priesthood cannot “pass” in a hostile Church the way gay men can. And there are other points of difference. But still–let’s remember and cultivate those natural alliances of all those regarded as outsiders in the Roman Church, yet remain Catholic nonetheless.

Complete Article HERE!

Church’s response to abuse not good enough for some

Ten years after revelations of clergy sexual abuse rocked the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, victims of the scandal said yesterday that they remained unmoved by Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley’s plea for forgiveness.

Instead, victims and advocates reacted to O’Malley’s written retrospective on the crisis with a demand that the church do more to make survivors confident that abusive clerics will be punished and that future cases will not be shrouded in secrecy.

“The church has failed miserably, miserably, miserably,’’ said Bernie McDaid, 55, of Peabody, who was abused in the late 1960s in Salem.

“Nothing has been done [except] whatever the court has made them do,’’ he said. “I’m so hurt by all this.

“After Penn State erupted, it put it right back in my face,’’ McDaid said, referring to a string of abuse charges filed recently against a former assistant football coach at the university.

According to O’Malley’s report, the archdiocese has settled about 800 clergy sexual abuse accusations, is providing care to about 300 abuse survivors at any given time, and has given training in identifying and reporting suspected abuse to nearly half a million children and adults.

Those adults include priests and candidates for ordination, O’Malley said.

The screening process, he said, has been made “the strongest possible, with particular attention to any issues related to child safety.’’

The archdiocese conducts more than 60,000 criminal background checks a year on priests, teachers, volunteers, and other people working with children, according to the report, “Ten Years Later – Reflections on the Sexual Abuse Crisis in the Archdiocese of Boston.’’

Although such work is a step forward, victims and advocates said, they question whether the church would have confronted abuse without the pursuit of news organizations and the persistence of survivors who went public with their pain.

The report from the archdiocese marked the 10th anniversary this week of the Globe’s publication of the first of a series of articles that reported a widespread pattern of covering up abuse in the archdiocese.

“I’m very underwhelmed,’’ said Terence McKiernan of, a Waltham-based website that maintains records on priests accused of sexual abuse.

The cardinal, said McKiernan, president of the website, “basically recycles the usual claims that we’ve heard a lot already, that they’ve experienced a learning curve, that they really didn’t understand the situation.’’

Although background checks and increased awareness are welcome, McKiernan said, “it shows not so much that the church wants to do the right things here, but that they’ve been forced to do the right thing.’’

Questions about the archdiocese’s enthusiasm for the task were echoed by Phil Saviano, 59, of Roslindale, who founded the New England chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

The changes outlined by O’Malley, Saviano said, are “basic, common-sense procedures that any organization that has a lot of contact with children would take.’’

“It’s probably good for him to enumerate the things they’ve done,’’ he said, “but they’re not things that are that remarkable. I don’t think it’s anything to brag about.’’

Although Saviano was abused in the 1960s by a priest outside Worcester, he said he has worked with many victims of abusive priests from the Boston Archdiocese.

“Every step they’ve taken, they’ve done it begrudgingly,’’ Saviano said of the church.

Saviano and McKiernan cited O’Malley’s release of the names of 159 accused clerics in August as an example of half-steps to address the crisis.

A review by the Globe showed that 70 accused clerics had not been listed.

The cardinal said they had been left off the list because they belonged to religious orders or had been transferred to Boston from other dioceses.

“That excuse is really lame, because if you’re a 10-year-old kid and a priest is assaulting you, you’re not going to ask if the priest is a diocesan priest or a Jesuit or Franciscan that’s been assigned to the parish,’’ Saviano said. “The experience is the same.’’

O’Malley, however, said yesterday in the report that the crisis and its aftermath have been his top concerns.

“Since the time I was named archbishop of Boston in July of 2003, our highest priority has been to provide outreach and care for all the survivors of clergy sexual abuse and to do everything possible to make sure this abuse never happens again,’’ O’Malley said.

“As an archdiocese, as a church, we can never cease to make clear the depth of our sorrow and to beg forgiveness from those who were so grievously harmed,’’ he said.

O’Malley acknowledged that “one effect of the abuse scandal is that many people view a priest’s Roman collar and clerical appearance with suspicion.’’

Acknowledging that the “the task is never complete,’’ O’Malley also said he hoped that the church’s response would persuade Catholics to return to the church.

In addressing the “spiritual dimension,’’ O’Malley said, the church has held special services in parishes hit particularly hard by the crisis.

“It is our prayer that by seeing the response of the church and by viewing the issue in its proper context, all those who have been away will return to join with us, to make the church stronger and always a safe place for all people,’’ he said.

Ann Hagan Webb, a psychologist from Wellesley abused by a Rhode Island priest from the late 1950s through the mid-1960s, said the report seemed disingenuous.

“It really looks like more of the same,’’ Webb said. “It looks like he’s trying to use the 10th anniversary as a public relations moment. The crisis still continues.’’

McDaid, who founded a group called Survivors Voice, also said he is skeptical of the church’s motivation. “They only go so far every time, because they want to move on,’’ McDaid said.

“What people don’t understand about survivors is that we have a trust issue,’’ said McDaid, who met Pope Benedict XVI in Washington in 2008. “For us to move on, we have to have some degree of faith’’ that those clergy responsible for abuse “will be charged, reeducated, something.’’

“If anything, it’s worse than we ever thought,’’ McDaid said.

To mark the 10th anniversary of the reports on abuse, survivors will gather in Boston beginning tomorrow for a three-day conference to recognize victims who stepped forward to speak of their abuse and others who worked to reveal the extent of the scandal.

The gathering, at the Holiday Inn on Blossom Street on Beacon Hill, is expected to include a demonstration at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.

Complete Article HERE!

Courtroom fury as Catholic bishop walks free just hours after child porn sentencing

Angry scenes erupted inside an Ottawa courthouse Wednesday after a Catholic bishop with an addiction to Internet pornography walked free despite admitting to possessing images of naked boys wearing rosary beads and crucifixes.

Ontario Court Justice Kent Kirkland sentenced Raymond Lahey to 15 months in jail Wednesday, time that he will be credited with already having served, prompting an outburst from one man in the court.

“You’re not a pedophile, you’re a demon, you f–king idiot,” the man yelled at Lahey.

“I’m a survivor, I got to live with it. He’s a f–king demon!” the man shouted, as the judge called for security.

Lahey, who once negotiated a $13-million settlement for victims of child sex abuse by priests as the bishop of Antigonish, N.S., pleaded guilty in May to possession of child pornography for the purpose of importation.

However a leading children’s rights activist said Wednesday that the 15-month sentence did not reflect the seriousness of the crime.

Rosalind Proger of Beyond Borders said Lahey helped fuel a market for child pornography.

“These are real children in these images,” she said from Winnipeg. “They are not drawings. If you look at this sentencing from the perspective of the victims — the children in those images he had — there is a real disconnect between the crime and it ramifications on young lives.

“If the children in those images could have stood in the court room perhaps the sentence would have been tougher.

“No one would be making child pornography if there wasn’t demand and what people like Lahey do is create the demand”, Ms Proger said.

Complete Article HERE!

SNAP says it will keep working with victims

An advocacy group for clergy sexual abuse victims on Wednesday urged the public to continue to contact it despite a judge’s recent order that it release emails and other documents.

Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Ann Mesle required that the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) and its national director, David Clohessy, produce an extensive amount of correspondence with alleged victims, whistleblowers, journalists and others.

In a news conference in Kansas City, Clohessy declined to comment about the order but said the group was not deterred and is continuing to assist those who say they were abused by clergy, church staff and volunteers.

“Those who call us for help, please keep coming forward and reach out,” he said. “Please don’t be intimidated or bullied, don’t let anything keep you from finding the strength and the courage to report child sex abuse crimes and to get the help that you need.”

Critics have said that SNAP has repeatedly demanded that the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph release certain records but now is not willing to be as transparent with its own documents.

Mesle issued the order in one of five abuse lawsuits filed against the Rev. Michael Tierney since 2010. Tierney has denied any wrongdoing. Diocesan officials said Tierney was removed from all pastoral assignments in June.


he judge’s order also allowed defense lawyers to depose Clohessy. The deposition took place in St. Louis on Monday, and Mesle ordered it sealed on Tuesday.

The plaintiff in the civil lawsuit, identified as John Doe B.P., said he was 13 when Tierney molested him in the 1970s.

Mesle issued a gag order in the case last year, prohibiting attorneys on both sides from making any prejudicial statements. Defense attorneys later accused the plaintiff’s attorney, Rebecca Randles, of violating the gag order by providing SNAP with details of the case that they said SNAP then printed in a news release. They subpoenaed Clohessy and demanded that he turn over the documents involving SNAP as evidence of the gag order violation. Randles has denied violating any ethical rules.

Complete Article HERE!

US Catholic bishop with secret family, Gabino Zavala, quits

A Catholic bishop who fathered two children has stepped down.

Pope Benedict has accepted the resignation of Gabino Zavala, an auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles, the Vatican said.

The Archbishop of Los Angeles, Jose Gomez, wrote in a letter to worshippers that Bishop Zavala told him in December that he was the father of two teenage children.

The children, who are minors, live with their mother in another state.

Archbishop Gomez said that the archdiocese was offering the family “spiritual care,” as well as funding to help the children with college costs.

In his letter he described the news as “sad and difficult” and said Bishop Zavala had been living privately and not participating in ministry since resigning.

Bishop Zavala is 60 and was born in Mexico. He has campaigned against the death penalty and for immigrants’ rights.

The Vatican did not spell out the reason for Bishop Zavala’s resignation in its statement, but made reference to canon law which allows bishops to step down before normal retirement age if they are ill or unfit for office for some other reason.

The Pope has shown no sign of relaxing the Roman Catholic Church’s rule on priestly celibacy, which has been in place since the 11th Century.

In March 2010 he described celibacy as “the sign of full devotion, the entire commitment to the Lord and to the ‘Lord’s business’, an expression of giving oneself to God and to others”.

Priests are not allowed to marry but married Anglican priests who convert to Catholicism are exempted from the celibacy rule.

Two days ago Pope Benedict appointed an American married priest to head the first US structure for Anglicans converting to Roman Catholicism.

Complete Article HERE!