Why Ex-Cardinal McCarrick’s Past And Putting His Victims Into Context Matters

By Clemente Lisi

It’s been quite some time since a story involving a major figure or incident in the Catholic Church was covered by both the mainstream and religious press.

Stop and think about that for a moment.

A family photograph of Father McCarrick and James in the 1970s.

The story in question at the moment involves disgraced ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, one of the most influential Catholic prelates of the past half century on both sides of the Atlantic.

Pope Francis, readers will recall, defrocked McCarrick — the press-friendly former cardinal of Washington, D.C. — in 2019 following a Vatican tribunal into allegations that he had molested a 16-year-old boy decades ago. McCarrick resigned from the College of Cardinals the prior year, but only after an accusation that he had molested the teenage altar boy while serving at the Archdiocese of New York was found to be credible. At that point, some newsrooms finally began covering years of off-the-record reports about McCarrick’s behavior with seminarians.

McCarrick, now 93, has gone into seclusion the past few years. He’s been largely forgotten by the mainstream press (with a few notable exceptions).

That all changed on Aug. 30, when the latest chapter in the McCarrick saga emerged in the form of a court hearing. A Massachusetts judge ruled that the former cardinal was not competent to stand trial in another sex abuse case. The 2021 case stems from a charge that “Uncle Ted” — as he was often called by seminarians — had sexually assaulted a teenage boy in Massachusetts.

The Associated Press covered the story this way, replete with a dateline. Here’s how the article opens:

DEDHAM, Mass. (AP) — The once-powerful Roman Catholic Cardinal Theodore McCarrick will not stand trial on charges he sexually assaulted a teenage boy decades ago, as a Massachusetts judge dismissed the case against the 93-year-old on Wednesday because both prosecutors and defense attorneys agree he is experiencing dementia.

McCarrick, the ex-archbishop of Washington, D.C., was defrocked by Pope Francis in 2019 after an internal Vatican investigation determined he sexually molested adults as well as children. The McCarrick scandal created a crisis of credibility for the church, primarily because there was evidence Vatican and U.S. church leaders knew he slept with seminarians but turned a blind eye as McCarrick rose to the top of the U.S. church as an adept fundraiser who advised three popes.

During Wednesday’s hearing, Dr. Kerry Nelligan, a psychologist hired by the prosecution, said she found significant deficits in McCarrick’s memory during two interviews in June, and he was often unable to recall what they had discussed from one hour to the next. As with any form of dementia, she said there are no medications that could improve the symptoms.

The biggest takeaway from the coverage wasn’t the news of the day. That was straightforward, as you can see from the AP dispatch.

In fact, all the coverage was similar when it came to the facts of what happened in the courtroom and in this particular case. Where the coverage differed was the lack of proper background information regarding McCarrick’s past and his powerful influence on the church in this country and Rome, which he had discussed (included claims to have helped elect Pope Francis) in public remarks. The coverage also needed additional background information about the clergy sex-abuse scandal as a whole.

This is how CNN explained McCarrick’s past standing in two throwaway paragraphs at the end of its web story:

Raised to cardinal in 2001 by Pope John Paul II, a year after he became Archbishop of Washington, McCarrick went on to become a power player both in the Church and in Washington, DC, and was known for his fundraising and influence overseas.

He resigned from the College of Cardinals in 2018 and was defrocked by the Vatican in 2019 after a Church trial found him guilty of sexually abusing minors.

CNN wasn’t alone. NPR, also at the end of its story, did it this way:

Many victims of clergy sex abuse that took place during their childhoods have only been able to seek legal recourse through civil cases rather than criminal charges.

A number of states in recent years have opened special “look back” windows in their statutes of limitation for sexual assault and harassment. That move was prompted by the #MeToo movement, but it also benefited survivors of clergy sex abuse.

Not much there. No discussion of “Team Ted,” the circle of loyal mainstream news reporters who looked to McCarrick for inside information about Catholic life?

Let’s compare those two approaches with the offerings of some reporters in the Catholic press. Catholic News Agency, for example, published three stories about McCarrick last week. One of those stories — under the headline, “Theodore McCarrick: ‘I have trouble with words’” — delved into Uncle Ted’s current mental state.

In focusing a piece on McCarrick’s health now, CNA said this about who he used to be:

In 2000, when McCarrick was archbishop of Newark, New Jersey, and under investigation by the Vatican for occasionally sharing a bed with seminarians at a vacation home on the Jersey Shore owned by the archdiocese, McCarrick issued a comprehensive and apparently heartfelt denial of sexual misconduct with others.

“Your Excellency, sure I have made mistakes and may have sometimes lacked in prudence, but in the 70 years of my life, I have never had sexual relations with any person, male or female, young or old, cleric or lay, nor have I ever abused another person or treated them with disrespect,” McCarrick wrote to Pope John Paul II’s secretary, then-Bishop Stanislaw Dziwicz.

McCarrick’s letter seems to have gone right to John Paul’s heart.

“Tell McCarrick that I believe what he said and I am still a friend,” John Paul told Cardinal Angelo Sodano, his secretary of state, shortly before Sodano was to visit the United States, according to a 2020 report by the Vatican commissioned by Pope Francis.

“McCarrick’s denial was believed,” the Vatican report states, “and the view was held that, if allegations against McCarrick were made public, McCarrick would be able to refute them easily.”

Three months after McCarrick sent the letter, John Paul promoted McCarrick, appointing him archbishop of Washington. In February 2001, the pope made him a cardinal.

McCarrick served as archbishop of Washington until 2006, when he resigned at the canon-law retirement age for bishops, 75.

Notice a difference between the mainstream press’ background information versus what Catholic media provided to readers?

McCarrick’s past, in terms of mainstream press coverage, was much less detailed and gave little to no context to the ex-cardinal’s role and associations. CNA did the best work here.

It’s not a surprise. CNA, owned and operated by EWTN, is on the doctrinal right. McCarrick is automatically seen as an adversarial figure — and not just because he molested teenage boys. McCarrick was a powerbroker and hobnobbed with D.C. politicians as well Vatican cardinals. He was, he said, a kingmaker in terms of Americans given red hats as cardinals.

Also, he was the man behind the strategic “McCarrick Doctrine.” It was in June 2004 when then-Cardinal Benedict XVI sent a letter to then-Cardinal McCarrick and then-Bishop Wilton Gregory, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The instruction was in the context of dealing with Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry, a Catholic whose public positions on abortion contradicted church teachings.

The key: The Ratzinger letter affirmed that denial of Communion is obligatory “regarding the grave sin of abortion or euthanasia.”

But McCarrick misrepresented the Ratzinger letter, thus shaping mainstream press coverage for years to come: “The question for us is not simply whether denial of Communion is possible, but whether it is pastorally wise and prudent,” he said. As a result, during the meeting of the USCCB that year, the bishops voted 183-6 to approve a compromise statement allowing each bishop to decide whether to give Communion to “pro-choice” politicians.

Considering President Joe Biden’s position on abortion, many Catholics see this as a continuing scandal.

Why does this lack of information about McCarrick matter? Does it matter that men McCarrick claimed to have promoted remain powerful leaders in the Catholic Church, especially here in America?

It matters because background and context help readers understand stories better. In McCarrick’s case, context matters because the ex-cardinal hasn’t been in the news for some time. It also matters because McCarrick is a complicated figure who needs explaining.

What do I mean?

This is what I wrote in a March 2019 GetReligion post as the McCarrick scandal was still ongoing:

Lost in all the news barrage sometimes are pieces that make you sit up and ponder the ramifications of all these sordid revelations regarding the clerical sex abuse crisis. More importantly, what are the ramifications are for the church’s hierarchy.

The big story remains who knew what and when. Who’s implicated in potentially covering up the misdeeds of now-former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick over the years? The implication here is that the cover-up — if that’s the word you want to use — goes beyond Pope Francis, but back in time years to when Saint Pope John Paul II was the head of the Roman Catholic church.

Last August, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano released an 11-page letter describing a series of events in which the Vatican — and specifically Francis — had been made aware of McCarrick’s immoral behavior years ago. Vigano claimed Pope Benedict XVI had placed restrictions on McCarrick, including not allowing him to say Mass in public. Vigano alleged that Francis reversed those sanctions. In the letter, Vigano, a former papal ambassador to the United States, said Francis “knew from at least June 23, 2013, that McCarrick was a serial predator who attacked young men. He knew that he was a corrupt man, he covered for him to the bitter end.”

Over the past seven months, the allegations have yielded few answers. McCarrick was recently defrocked — the church’s version of the death penalty — but little else has been made public about the timeline. A news analysis piece by veteran Vatican journalist John Allen, writing in Crux, makes some wonderful points. His piece, under the headline “Vigano may have made it harder to get to the truth on McCarrick,” has a series of wonderful strands worth the time to read. It also gives a roadmap for reporters on the beat and editors to look at and track down.

A 449-page Vatican report issued a year after that post detailed McCarrick’s decades of sexual misconduct. The report largely exonerated Pope Francis when it came to McCarrick’s depravity. Instead, it placed much of the blame on Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. In other words, who knew what and when they knew it was something this report left open to interpretation.

Of course, it’s much more complicated than that. Nonetheless, some in the Catholic press managed to give context, while many in the mainstream press did not.

CNN and NPR weren’t alone. The AP story referenced at the start of this post makes no mention at all of McCarrick’s past or standing as the most influential, most media-friendly Catholic prelate in the United States. It also fails to distinguish between children who were molested and teenagers. It doesn’t appear that any of McCarrick’s victims were prepubescent, which is another topic the mainstream press has shied away from when covering any cases involving clerics and the sex abuse of seminarians.

It’s no surprise that, when it comes to most stories, the some in the Catholic press had an edge here. But when it comes to context and background (especially when it comes to doctrine), no one should have an edge.

In fact, asking the right questions and knowing where to look can provide all that. Like with everything involving McCarrick, it’s complicated. But making this less complicated and explaining it to readers is what journalism is all about.

Complete Article HERE!

Why all Christians should support LGBTQ persons

by >

I recently saw a sponsored social media post by a Catholic that said “Call the LGBTQ community for what they are: sexual degenerates.” A Catholic website garnered over 90,000 signatures in attempts to stop a recent LGBTQ ministry conference at Fordham University — a conference whose modest goal was “to build community, share best practices and worship together.” Meanwhile, a prominent Catholic speaker campaigns to “Reclaim the Month” of June — with t-shirts and everything! — for the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which is apparently threatened by Pride month.

And this is just a mild sample — and all in my limited purview as a Catholic whose experience with LGBTQ support has otherwise been generally positive.

Unsurprisingly, the Christian community at large offers a range of perspectives on LGBTQ issues. Many progressive churches perform same-sex marriages, ordain openly gay ministers, and embrace theologies that allow for a more inclusive sexual anthropology. Many other churches maintain a traditional Christian sexual ethic and understanding of marriage. The Catholic Church itself, while officially upholding its longstanding sexual teaching and ethics, varies largely in its approach to LGBTQ issues and support of LGBTQ persons.

While it may be true that many traditional communities are not openly hostile to the LGBTQ community, one may nevertheless feel unwelcome simply for being gay or trans. Indeed, as the abovementioned examples demonstrate, some Christians go at length to stress that LGBTQ persons aren’t welcome. Moreover, many churches do not offer opportunities for their LGBTQ individuals to flourish and offer their own gifts.

In other words, many churches do not encourage their LGBTQ members to be, well, church. But it shouldn’t be like this. All churches — conservative or progressive, Catholic or otherwise — should welcome, appreciate, and care for LGBTQ persons. Here are seven reasons why.

1. Because LGBTQ above all refers to individual persons and not merely any moral or political issue.

We’re so accustomed to relating LGBTQ to the so-called “hot button” issues of the day — often in the realm of political ideology and activism — that we forget the faces behind the acronym. But to put first things first, LGBTQ individuals are (surprise!) people. Whether gay, lesbian, trans, or straight, all of us are made in the image and likeness of God. Each person is stamped with an intrinsic dignity, no matter one’s experiences, struggles, and weaknesses.

God calls every person into relationship with him. The human person is literally designed for intimate communion with his Creator, and being homosexual, bisexual, or transgender doesn’t change this. The Church’s job is to advance — not obstruct — every person’s relationship with God in its work of evangelization and pastoral care. It’s no secret that the Catholic Church adheres to a traditional Christian understanding of marriage and the family. But consider how Pope Francis nevertheless addresses the need to affirm the dignity of those who are gay:

“We would like before all else to reaffirm that every person, regardless of sexual orientation, ought to be respected in his or her dignity and treated with consideration” (Amoris Laetitia 250).

Affirming the dignity of the LGBTQ person involves an appreciation and engagement with the concrete reality of the individual. The call to accompany the person — in view of her experiences, however complex and messy — is therefore more important than a mere recitation of abstract principles. “Realities are greater than ideas,” as Pope Francis would say. When we consider the Holy Father’s own approach, it makes sense that our reasons for LGBTQ support should begin with this basic call to encounter other persons as persons. Rather than have a ready-made answer from the “realm of pure ideas,” we are called to accompany the person in the specific situations of her life — even if (and especially if) they challenge our usual ways of thinking (Evangelli Gaudium 232).

2. Because the Church is for everyone.

The Church is for everyone. That’s what the word “catholic” means: the Church is universal, encompassing all kinds of people. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female,” as Paul says, for we are “all one in Jesus Christ” (Gal. 3:28). So why does it seem like our churches pick out LGBTQ persons to the extent of making them “other”? There is no other in the Body of Christ. As I once heard a priest say, there is no “them and us” — there’s only “us.”

Because the Church is one big Us, we cannot go about our lives while disregarding the rest of our brothers and sisters, particularly those in need. Paul likens the Church to a body with many parts — a union so intense that “if one part suffers,” then “every part suffers with it” (1 Cor 12:26). Do our churches recognize the suffering endured by many of its LGBTQ children? Do some of our churches actually make the lives of LGBTQ Christians more difficult, whether by simply acting as bystanders or by actively engaging in insensitive rhetoric?

The challenge of the Church is to ever expand its tent, for its mission is to the gather the human family into the Family of God. Many Catholics are shocked by such outreach, but often those we consider “outside” the Church are precisely those who most belong. Then again, this is the way of the Kingdom. In his earthly ministry, Christ initiated the in-gathering of the Kingdom of God by going to — and preferring — those otherwise considered outside the household of God. The Church, says Pope Francis, has to “go forth to everyone without exception” because in the Church “there is a place for everyone, with all their problems” (EG 47-48).

3. Because, well, Jesus.

When it comes to reaching out to LGBTQ persons, then, we have a solid foundation in the example of Christ himself. It sounds cliché, but really, what would Jesus do? If one searches for the Jesus of the Gospels, it’s not hard to find a guy who is compassionately concerned for the outcast and other. Christ preferred the poor, the sick, the sinner. Christ went to the margins — to those otherwise excluded from society. It doesn’t seem like too much of a stretch to imagine a gay man in that category, does it?

Many Christians counter by pointing to a Jesus who “loved in truth” (with a firm emphasis on “truth”), who would “name the sin for what it is.” They will argue that Christ may have reached out to the outcast, but only for the sake of the individual’s salvation. According to this line of thinking, the emphasis is not on accompaniment per se but really about conversion. In this view, the most necessary part of Christ’s outreach involves a demand that the sinner turns away from her sin. But we must realize that first Christ invited those he encountered into a deeper relationship with himself, and this relationship is the seed from which conversion grows. What he did in his encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well, he does with all of his broken, would-be followers. Jesus calls us into a deeper life founded on himself. And even here, the focus of Christ is not on condemnation but on how an intimate relationship with Christ is the only way to transform our lives and set us on a trajectory for true fulfillment.

The flaw in the approach of some Catholics towards the LGBT community is not that they want to tell the “truth in love” or believe we should take sin seriously. The issue is an inordinate focus on sin in the LGBTQ community, as if being gay or trans or queer was especially sinful. (Be assured: LGBTQ Catholics are quite familiar with what the Church says about them in relation to sin.) The inordinate focus on sin by some Christians comes across as a thinly-veiled desire for control and certainty. In a different context, Pope Francis talks about contemporary Catholic gnostics who want to “force others to submit to their way of thinking.” I would submit that this gnosticism lurks behind many Christians’ constant insistence on emphasizing sin when speaking about the LGBTQ community. Instead of proceeding from Christlike care for gay or trans individuals, such thinking reduces Christ’s teaching to a “cold and harsh logic that seeks to dominate everything” (Gaudete et Exsultate 39). Once again, it’s just another sample of the idea trumping the reality of the person.

4. Because sexuality is more than just sex.

Are LGBTQ persons — as members of the human family — sinners? Of course. Can sexuality be used in sinful ways? Again, definitely! But identifying LGBTQ persons as morally disordered, simply due to their being gay or trans or queer is unwarranted and unjust. Acts can be sinful, and desires towards sinful acts can be morally disordered. But something like sexuality or sexual orientation, which are much broader than desires to commit specific acts, can hardly be reduced to an intrinsically sinful inclination.

A popular slogan among some traditional Christians is “love the sinner, hate the sin.” Oddly, I’ve only ever heard this in reference to homosexuality, which in itself is telling. But if we only focus on sexual activity (as if that’s all it means to be gay or lesbian or trans), then we are doing a grave injustice to the persons involved. To get this, all one has to do is reflect on one’s own sexuality: Think how it affects you in multiple aspects of life. It’s not just about who you want to go to bed with; it also concerns how you relate to others, how you see the world, and how you desire to love and be loved.

Churches can’t start and end with sexual ethics. If our churches want to maintain traditional teaching, they will still need to consider that homosexuality is as much about personality and relationship-making than “sexual acts.”

5. Because LGBTQ persons are made for relationship.

LGBTQ persons want meaningful lives centered on love, relationship, and self-giving. They are like everybody else in that way. It’s a sad fact that, for many traditional churches, the “best” pastoral advice offered to gay persons is simply to “remain celibate.” That’s it. For traditional churches, marriage is not an option. However, in many of these same churches, marriage is the only conceivable path to intimate relationship. This is as much part Western culture’s fault as it is the Church’s. In effect, we’re made to believe that we’ll be forever alone and unfulfilled if we’re never married.

It’s not hard to see, then, why our modern culture has demanded gay marriage. If marriage is the only way to ensure meaningful relationships, then ought it be a right for everyone? Makes sense to me. Yet if traditional churches are to maintain marriage as a man-woman institution — as well as the only legitimate place for sex — they must find other ways to foster vocations of love and relationship for LGBTQ persons in our churches. Thankfully, there are Catholics doing just this. (Anyone who has not read up on Eve Tushnet should do so!) The greater Church must recognize this basic human need for relationship as one that affects the self-understanding of LGBTQ Christians. We don’t want lonely, loveless lives!

All people — regardless of sexual orientation or sexual identity — need intimate, self-giving relationships. The human person is not meant to be alone (Gen 2:18). This is as true of the gay or lesbian or trans person as it is for the heterosexual man or woman. While the Christian is called to carry his or her cross, the LGBTQ person’s embrace of the Christian faith does not change this fundamental anthropology. In our support of LGBTQ persons, can we promote meaningful paths of love and relationship? Can our churches recognize committed partnerships as a locus of Christian love — or are they to be rejected from the get-go as inherently sinful? Such questions cannot be avoided if we are to responsibly listen to the experiences of LGBTQ Christians.

6. Because LGBT persons have gifts to offer the Church.

Should we really be surprised if many LGBTQ persons perceive they have nothing to offer their churches — especially the ones that have routinely called them “objectively disordered” and hell-bound? Should we be surprised that gay persons feel unwanted when openly gay teachers and workers are fired from Catholic schools and businesses?

LGBTQ persons testify to the diversity of God’s creation and the manifold ways of reflecting the divine wisdom. This doesn’t mean the human condition as we now find it entirely reflects God’s will, for we cannot ignore the presence of sin and the present imperfection of a creation still “groaning” for its renewal (Rom 8:22). Still, the LGBTQ community challenges us to expand our understanding of humanity. LGBTQ persons challenge the Church in particular to discern how God is working their lives. “God is present in the life every person,” as Pope Francis says, and “we cannot exclude this by our presumed certainties” (GE 42). When the Church can recognize and embrace the Spirit in gay and trans and queer folk, the Church will live up to its calling as the family of God.

I truly feel a great embarrassment for our Church — a Church that claims to be Christ’s universal family — whenever Catholic leaders and institutions decide to single out LGBTQ persons as particularly scandalous or sinful. It seems to me —informed by the Jesus of the Gospels and pastoral approach of Pope Francis — that it is such Catholic leaders and institutions that really act scandalously and sinfully.

7. Because the Church is called to listen.

Supporting LGBTQ persons is a call to first listen to them. As Church, our posture must always be of listening. The Church first receives God’s revelation; the Church then teaches. The Church must first discern the Word of God before it can proclaim it. Since the Second Vatican Council and especially with Pope Francis, the Catholic Church has sought to posture itself from a position of listening — of listening to non-Catholic traditions, of listening to the surrounding culture, of listening to the experience of the lay faithful. No longer is the Church seen primarily in terms of a downward pyramid, where the hierarchy issues commands to a passive laity. Instead, the entire People of God receives and teaches the Word of God; the pope and bishops are servants first. The Church does not always have a ready answer. Instead, the Church must discern what God may be saying here and now.

Many Christians would claim to be “courageous” in their fight for truth in a secular culture. Many conservative Christians believe their challenge is to be “courageous” by standing up for traditional values and rebuffing the modern way. Many Catholics also want “courageous” priests to preach out strongly against moral evils in society, or “courageous” bishops to speak out against political opponents. In the midst of the many cultural wars — both outside and inside the Church — there is a call for a new crusade to defend a certain approach to traditionalism and orthodoxy. And the stance tends to be one of suspicion and resistance. Instead of openness to what could be, these Christians think they already have the answers.

Responding to LGBTQ issues with suspicion and resistance, these Christians choose the comfort of “settled doctrine.” But this is an easy way out, and it’s anything but courageous. Arguably, fear, not courage, lurks behind this approach. There is a fear of change, a fear of a shaken worldview, or a fear that Christianity is not as neat-and-tidy as otherwise hoped.

Listening is an act of true courage. Becoming vulnerable by opening ourselves to the experiences of another is courageous. Allowing ourselves to be challenged and embracing new questions is how we allow the Holy Spirit to lead us into further truth. Closing ourselves off prevents the Spirit from moving us beyond ourselves. Closing ourselves off is divisive and sinful. It is contrary to the way of Christ, who was self-giving, even unto death.

Complete Article HERE!

Young Catholic Priests In America Are More Conservative Than Older Generations, New Study Finds

By Kate Anderson

A recent study from the Austin Institute (AI), a research group at the University of Texas, showed newer generations of Catholic priests are more likely to be conservative than their older counterparts, despite the leadership of Pope Francis and the Vatican becoming more liberal in recent years.

The study was based on a similar survey from the Los Angeles Times in 2002 that found younger priests were noticeably more conservative and showed that as the age of the priests increased they were likely to identify with a more progressive approach. AI’s study found that among issues like abortion, younger priests still condemned the practice at a high rate in comparison to other issues.

Priests ordained after 2010 expressed concern regarding the direction Francis is taking the Catholic church.

“In the latest cohort of priests, ordained in 2010 or later, only 20.0 percent ‘approve strongly’ of Pope Francis and nearly half (49.8 percent) disapprove, whether ‘somewhat’ or ‘strongly,’” the study pointed out. “Evidence from other survey items suggests this pattern is attributable to the relative conservatism of the recent cohorts.”

Pope Francis became the first Vatican pope to endorse same-sex civil unions in 2021 and in August, he selected then-Bishop Robert McElroy for the position of cardinal. McElroy has voiced support for same-sex marriage and female roles in the clergy, and has denounced Archbishop of the San Francisco Archdiocese Salvatore Cordileone for denying communion to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over her support of abortion.

AI’s survey concluded that there was a “notable conservative shift on ecclesial matters” in comparison to the Time’s survey in 2002.

“[P]riests in the more recent survey were, on average, less in favor of female deacons, less in favor of ordaining women as priests, and less favorable toward married priests compared to the 2002 Times sample,” the study stated. “Likewise, when asked about politics, priests in the recent samples were significantly more likely to describe themselves as conservative compared to 2002.”

Pope Francis speaks as he leads the weekly audience in Saint Peter's square at the Vatican, October 14, 2015. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini
Pope Francis speaks as he leads the weekly audience in Saint Peter’s square at the Vatican, October 14, 2015.

Conservative priests were more likely to believe that Jesus was the sole way to salvation at 82% but only 19% of more progressive priests supported this view, according to the study. The average age of new priests that joined the clergy since 1992 is around 37, as opposed to the 1970s when new priests were on average 27.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Austin Institute did not respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

Complete Article HERE!

Uh, Can the NYT Please Not Treat Catholic Reactionaries as a Fun Sexy Trend Story?

By Molly Olmstead

On Tuesday, the New York Times published an opinion piece that declared “New York’s hottest club is the Catholic Church.”

The piece was written by an editor at the stuffy conservative Christian journal First Things, which, under the recent leadership of the Catholic theologian R.R. Reno, has swung toward the reactionary right. The author of the piece, Julia Yost, argued that young, cool intellectuals—bored by the corny politics of their liberal peers—have found transgressive delight in embracing the rituals of traditional Catholicism, along with at least some of its moral stances on sex and gender.

These young edgy reactionaries, she wrote, are associated with the buzzy but mostly nominal downtown Manhattan “Dimes Square” scene. (The name refers to a restaurant in the area.) They have embraced “monarchist and anti-feminist sentiments,” she wrote, and they debate esoteric Catholic topics.

“This is not your grandmother’s church—and whether the new faithful are performing an act of theater or not, they have the chance to revitalize the church for young, educated Americans,” Yost declared.

The writer also didn’t mention that “trad Cath” social media, with all its semi-ironic memes about saints and sacraments, attracts those who like to post winkingly about the Crusades. Or that there is a growing group of traditionalist Catholics, yearning for an old version of the religion before the church took out violently anti-Semitic language from its liturgy, who sometimes tread dangerously close to white supremacy. (Traditionalist Catholics are often defined by their rejection of the teachings of the 1965 Second Vatican Council.)

Just as white supremacists reach back to a fictional version of the Middle Ages or the Viking Age to create their own mythos, the trads look back to an imagined pre-modern church.

Yost is not entirely wrong about Catholicism’s online cultural moment and the “transgressive” appeal of it for the young participants. It’s undeniable that many young trads pride themselves on their intellectual independence from their peers, and on the countercultural nature of the worldview they’ve embraced.

Yost may also be right that Gen Z’s intellectual formation in the waters of social media could naturally make the aesthetics of Catholicism more tempting. Catholicism, in an artistic sense, is nothing if not dramatic. It’s gold and lace. It’s incense and violence. It’s martyrs and marble and blood. (Or at least, the theatrical version of it is. Pope Francis has urged the church to drop its obsession with “grandma’s lace.”)

But Yost tries to push the argument further than it really goes. Young trads may think they are being transgressive, but that does not mean that they genuinely are. There are some 50 million Catholics in the U.S., and there’s no denying the influence the religion has had in shaping the country: Just look at its role in the reasoning of the justices who overturned Roe v. Wade. The Met’s “Heavenly Bodies” theme, Yost argued, was chosen because “Catholicism pairs well with transgression.” Are we sure it’s not because of the centuries of religious artwork? The opulence of the church’s vast historical wealth? Or of the slight thrill of sacrilege, rather than the appeal of traditionalism?

This line of the piece was intriguing to me: “The scenesters of downtown Manhattan may simply find it less dreary to shame one another for fornication than for bearing privilege.”

But Yost tips her hand when she implies that these young people have been, essentially, forced into this position by the failures of secular society. “Disaffection with the progressive moral majority—combined with Catholicism’s historic ability to accommodate cultural subversion—has produced an in-your-face style of traditionalism,” she writes. “By disparaging traditional gender roles and defining human flourishing in meritocratic terms, progressive moralism militates against young people’s attainment of basic goods: marriage and procreation.”

It’s this—more than describing the fashion of any sort of scene, real or imagined—that matters here. The traditionalists are not all harmlessly “larping.” Many are campaigning, sometimes quite vehemently, for the stripping of rights from women and queer people

Yost knows this. Her arguments about the church’s “chance to revitalize the church for young, educated Americans” makes assumptions based on the specific philosophy First Things represents. To conservative Catholics, there is a clear strategy to survive this crisis point in the church’s history: embrace tradition, embrace aesthetics, embrace black-and-white morality and discipline to give clarity in a tumultuous and confusing time. Pope Francis’ strategy is the opposite: reach out to the young and disaffected and bend, as much as possible, to the times; embrace the vast diversity of the faith and hope young people are drawn in by compassion

The church in the U.S. is, in many ways, torn between these two philosophies. In New York, the several members of the trad Cath Dimes Square crowd may be the flashiest and most exciting public display of the faith to trend story aficionados—as a journalist, I certainly can’t scoff at a fun trend piece—but there are so many other forms of Catholicism operating in the city, with far greater numbers: Immigrant groups, socialist worker groups, old-fashioned Italian and Irish cradle Catholics. It’s a mistake to overstate the trads’ influence, or even to imply they’re the most interesting story in the Catholic Church right now—especially in New York.

It would also be a mistake, however, to ignore traditional Catholics’ political power. There are degrees to trads. Some are apolitical converts or reverts, who love the “larp” of it, as Yost noted. Some choose to engage more in the church’s political wars than in partisan politics. (Yost nods to the sedevacantists, who typically think Francis is an anti-pope; they may be oddballs, yes, but they are also loud and active on social media). Some—the “rad trads”—are ready to wage the culture wars in American politics, regardless of whose civil rights are thrown under the bus. And extremism experts have been warning about them for some time.

To be fair, Yost writes with some skepticism of this crowd, especially when it comes to their perceived faith. The story links to pieces on “the housewives of white supremacy” and the “awful advent of reactionary chic.” But still, Yost urges the reader not to reject the Dimes Square trad Caths’ practice as inauthentic because “‘authentic’ internal conversion is not a Catholic demand but a Protestant one.” Instead, she says, “what Catholicism requires is adherence to disciplines and dogmas.”

She’s right that we can’t dictate who is and isn’t a Catholic by examining the authenticity of their faith. But she falls short by claiming it is, instead, a matter of rule-following. Scholars will tell you there are many ways to live out any religion, including Catholicism. Polls show that even when it comes to basic dogmatic elements, such as the literal transformation of the Eucharist, many Catholics simply shrug off the official line. Some Catholics choose to draw inspiration more from biblical teachings on tolerance and compassion. Catholics, like nearly all Christians, have chosen which elements of the faith to live by. Yost and the First Things crowd highlight a militant and rigid version of that choice, declaring it the church’s promising future.

Complete Article HERE!

With bishops like these, it’s hard to be Catholic

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone leading a service in San Francisco. His stance against Nancy Pelosi will alienate others who are tired of U.S. clerics’ rigidity.

By Jackie Calmes

To flip the famed line from “The Godfather Part III,” just when I think I might return to the Catholic Church, they pull me back out.

“They” are the church’s archbishops and bishops, in particular those in the United States, who not only advocate for the church’s teachings against gay rights, contraception and abortion, which is their right, but also repeatedly enforce them in ways that often seem un-Christian and downright wicked. All the while, the church’s pedophilia scandal persists into a third decade because of the clerics’ coverups.

What would Jesus do? Not act like these guys.

On Monday, two weeks after the archbishop of San Francisco, the archconservative Salvatore Cordileone, ordered that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi not receive Communion because of her support for abortion rights, leaders of the Colorado Catholic Conference sent an open letter condemning state lawmakers who’d voted for an abortion-rights bill.

The Denver archbishop and three bishops admonished the lawmakers not to take Communion until they performed “public repentance” and confessed their sins to a priest. In contrast, they praised four Republican legislators who opposed the bill. Increasingly, church leaders overtly ally with the Republican Party, despite its general hostility to policies beneficial to needy people once they’re born, to immigrants and to those on death row.

The clerics’ “pro-life” actions in California and Colorado came even as Americans were reeling from news of one mass shooting and then another, including the massacre of fourth-graders. Four bishops wrote a letter to Congress calling for “reasonable gun control measures,” but where’s the muscle and outrage comparable to that against abortion rights?

Seven months ago, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement on the sacrament of Communion that stopped short of singling out the pro-choice President Biden for sanction, but only after much debate. While conservative bishops are often critical of the progressive pope, uncommonly so, Biden had just enjoyed a warm meeting with Pope Francis, who blessed the rosary the president routinely carries and urged him to keep taking Communion.

As Francis says, the Communion wafer that Catholics believe incorporates the body of Christ “is not a prize for the perfect.”

With the Supreme Court expected to soon issue a decision overturning abortion rights after a half-century, the divide between Catholic bishops and most rank-and-file church members is likely to widen. A majority of the justices, five, are conservative anti-abortion Catholics.

The U.S. church hierarchy isn’t exactly playing single-issue politics. Opposing gay rights as well as contraception also remain the bishops’ preoccupations, at the expense of attention to poverty, social and racial justice, and nonviolence. Those latter issues are the ones that “my” church emphasized during my first 18 years, including 12 years in Catholic schools. Then came Roe vs. Wade in 1973, and the peace-loving church turned culture warrior.

I recall Masses during which the priests directed us church-goers to use the small pencils and postcards provided in the pews to petition lawmakers against abortion. There were parish convoys to Washington to protest on the anniversary of Roe. And there were the periodic sermons, including one so graphic when I listened from the front pew with my preteen daughters that I switched parishes — and took another step in my walk away from the church.

Yet from early on, even as I accepted the church’s teachings and its authority to preach them, I privately questioned why those positions should bind the state, public officials (including the Catholics among them) and citizens of other faiths.

Again to quote Francis, speaking in this instance about LGBTQ people, “Who am I to judge?”

I’m hardly alone in my estrangement from the church. While Catholicism remains the nation’s largest religious denomination, the church has declined in membership from about a quarter of the U.S. population to roughly one-fifth. Polls consistently show that the hardline positions of so many bishops are anathema to most of their so-called flock.

The bishops may be known as shepherds, but we’re no sheep. A poll of Catholics in mid-May from the Associated Press and NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that 63% of Catholic adults said abortion should be legal in all or most cases; 68% said Roe should stand. Both percentages are in line with the views of the overall U.S. public.

Two-thirds of Catholic adults said Catholic politicians who are pro-abortion rights should not be denied Communion, and even more — 77% — said that Catholics who identify as LGBTQ should be allowed to receive Communion.

Still, a Catholic diocese in Michigan recently said its pastors should deny the sacraments, including baptism and Communion, to transgender, gay and nonbinary Catholics “unless the person has repented.” That’s rich coming from “leaders” of a church in which a disproportionate number of priests are gay.

Thank God, literally, for the dissenters like Archbishop Michael Jackels of Dubuque, Iowa, who recently said that “protecting the Earth, our common home, or making food, water, shelter, education and healthcare accessible, or defense against gun violence… these are life issues too.”

It’s priests like him, and the sentiments they espouse, that entice me to return to the church. Yet there are just too few like him among the men in charge. The self-righteous Cordileones are setting the tone, in religion and politics. And they keep pulling me back out.

Complete Article HERE!