Here Comes Nobody


I ALWAYS liked that the name of my religion was also an adjective meaning all-embracing.

I was a Catholic and I wanted to be catholic, someone engaged in a wide variety of things. As James Joyce wrote in “Finnegans Wake:” “Catholic means ‘Here comes everybody.’ ”

So it makes me sad to see the Catholic Church grow so uncatholic, intent on loyalty testing, mind control and heresy hunting. Rather than all-embracing, the church hierarchy has become all-constricting.

It was tough to top the bizarre inquisition of self-sacrificing American nuns pushed by the disgraced Cardinal Bernard Law. Law, the former head of the Boston archdiocese, fled to a plush refuge in Rome in 2002 after it came out that he protected priests who molested thousands of children.

But the craziness continued when an American priest, renowned for his TV commentary from Rome on popes and personal morality, admitted last week that he had fathered a child with a mistress.

The Rev. Thomas Williams belongs to the Legionaires of Christ, the order founded by the notorious Mexican priest Marcial Maciel Degollado, a pal of Pope John Paul II who died peppered with accusations that he sexually abused seminarians and fathered several children and abused some of them.

The latest kooky kerfuffle was sparked by the invitation to Kathleen Sebelius, the health and human services secretary, to speak at a graduation ceremony at Georgetown University on Friday. The silver-haired former Kansas governor is a practicing Catholic with a husband and son who graduated from Georgetown. But because she fought to get a federal mandate for health insurance coverage of contraceptives and morning-after pills, including at Catholic schools and hospitals, Sebelius is on the hit list of a conservative Catholic group in Virginia, the Cardinal Newman Society, which militates to bar speakers at Catholic schools who support gay rights or abortion rights.

The Society for Truth and Justice, a fringe Christian anti-abortion group, compared Sebelius to Himmler, and protesters showed up on campus to yell at her for being, as one screamed, “a murderer.”

“Remember, Georgetown has no neo-Nazi clubs or skinhead clubs on campus, nor should they,” Bill Donohue, the Catholic League president, said on Fox News. “But they have two — two! — pro-abortion clubs at Georgetown University. Now they’re bringing in Kathleen Sebelius. They wouldn’t bring in an anti-Semite, nor should they. They wouldn’t bring in a racist, nor should they. But they’re bringing in a pro-abortion champion, and they shouldn’t.”

Washington’s Cardinal Donald Wuerl called the invitation “shocking” and upbraided the Georgetown president, John DeGioia. But DeGioia, who so elegantly defended the Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke against Rush Limbaugh’s nasty epithets, stood fast against dogmatic censorship.

Speaking to the graduates, Sebelius evoked J.F.K.’s speech asserting that religious bodies should not seek to impose their will through politics. She said that contentious debate is a strength of this country, adding that in some other places, “a leader delivers an edict and it goes into effect. There’s no debate, no criticism, no second-guessing.”

Just like the Vatican.

Twenty-eight years ago, weighing a run for president, Mario Cuomo gave a speech at Notre Dame in which he deftly tried to explain how officials could remain good Catholics while going against church dictums in shaping public policy.

“The American people need no course in philosophy or political science or church history to know that God should not be made into a celestial party chairman,” he said.

I called Cuomo to see if, as his son Andrew weighs running for president, he felt the church had grown less tolerant.

“If the church were my religion, I would have given it up a long time ago,” he said. “All the mad and crazy popes we’ve had through history, decapitating the husbands of women they’d taken. All the terrible things the church has done. Christ is my religion, the church is not.

“If they make the mistake of saying that a politician has to put the church before the Constitution on abortion or other issues, there will be no senators or presidents or any other Catholics in government. The church would be wiser to take the path laid out for us by Kennedy than the path laid out for us by Santorum.”

Absolute intolerance is always a sign of uncertainty and panic. Why do you have to hunt down everyone unless you’re weak? The church doesn’t seem to care if its members’ beliefs are based on faith or fear, conviction or coercion. But what is the quality of a belief that exists simply because it’s enforced?

“To be narrowing the discussion and instilling fear in people seems to be exactly the opposite of what’s called for these days,” says the noted religion writer Kenneth Briggs. “All this foot-stomping just diminishes the church’s credibility even more.”

This is America. We don’t hunt heresies here. We welcome them.

Complete Article HERE!

Too open about HIV for his own good

A ZIMBABWEAN pastor was asked to leave by two churches when they discovered that he was HIV-positive.

The pastor, the Revd Maxwell Kapachawo, said that he had been trying to break the taboo about the disease by sharing his status with the parishes; but he was asked to leave as a result. A third parish has accepted his status and his position.

Mr Kapachawo said this week: “I felt I had to speak out. The Church must not shy away from HIV. It needs to be a place of healing and care. We must work together to tackle HIV. Everyone in Zimbabwe has family or friends who are no longer here because of HIV. There are many orphans.

“My new congregation asked many questions, but this time I was accepted, and, because of it, people are talking. I hope, as a result, people will learn about HIV, and lives will be saved.”

About 4.5 million adults in Zim­babwe are HIV-positive. The mission agency USPG is working with Mr Kapachawo to raise aware­ness of HIV in other churches in the country.

Zimbabwe was recently awarded $183 million to combat AIDS and HIV by the Global Fund, although the fund’s directors warned that Western donors were failing to hand over money that had been promised. Last year, it was forced to cancel its funding round for the first time in a decade, although it found some emergency cash for countries such as Zimbabwe, which are heavily reliant on its donations.

More and more countries have failed to pay their stated commit­ments to the fund in recent years. Some donors suspended payments after adverse publicity about mis­manage­ment of the fund, but these payments were eventually reinstated.

Complete Article HERE!

The Myth About Marriage


Why do some people who would recognize gay civil unions oppose gay marriage? Certain religious groups want to deny gays the sacredeness of what they take to be a sacrament. But marriage is no sacrament.

Some of my fellow Catholics even think that “true marriage” was instituted by Christ. It wasn’t. Marriage is prescribed in Eden by YHWH (Yahweh) at Genesis 2.24: man and wife shall “become one flesh.” When Jesus is asked about marriage, he simply quotes that passage from Genesis (Mark 10.8). He nowhere claims to be laying a new foundation for a “Christian marriage” to replace the Yahwist institution.

Some try to make the wedding at Cana (John 1.1-11) somehow sacramental because Jesus worked his first miracle there. But that was clearly a Jewish wedding, like any other Jesus might have attended, and the miracle, by its superabundance of wine, is meant to show the disciples that the Messianic time has come. The great Johannine scholar Father Raymond Brown emphasizes this, and concludes of the passage: “Neither the external nor the internal evidence for a symbolic reference to matrimony is strong. The wedding is only the backdrop and occasion for the story, and the joining of the man and woman does not have any direct role in the narrative.”

The early church had no specific rite for marriage. This was left up to the secular authorities of the Roman Empire, since marriage is a legal concern for the legitimacy of heirs. When the Empire became Christian under Constantine, Christian emperors continued the imperial control of marriage, as the Code of Justinian makes clear. When the Empire faltered in the West, church courts took up the role of legal adjudicator of valid marriages. But there was still no special religious meaning to the institution. As the best scholar of sacramental history, Joseph Martos, puts it: “Before the eleventh century there was no such thing as a Christian wedding ceremony in the Latin church, and throughout the Middle Ages there was no single church ritual for solemnizing marriage between Christians.”

Only in the twelfth century was a claim made for some supernatural favor (grace) bestowed on marriage as a sacrament. By the next century marriage had been added to the biblically sacred number of seven sacraments. Since Thomas Aquinas argued that the spouses’ consent is the efficient cause of marriage and the seal of intercourse was the final cause, it is hard to see what a priest’s blessing could add to the reality of the bond. And bad effects followed. This sacralizing of the natural reality led to a demoting of Yahwist marriage, the only kind Jesus recognized, as inferior to “true marriage” in a church.

In the 1930s, my parents had a civil marriage, but my Catholic mother did not think she was truly married if not by a priest. My non-Catholic father went along with a church wedding (but in the sacristy, not the sanctuary) by promising to raise his children as Catholic. My mother thought she had received the sacrament, but had she? Since mutual consent is the essence of marriage, one would think that the sacrament would have to be bestowed on both partners; but my non-Catholic father could not receive the sacrament. Later, when my father left and married another, my mother was told she could not remarry because she was still married to my father in the “true marriage.” When he returned to my mother, and became a Catholic, a priest performed again the sacramental marriage. Since my father’s intervening marriage was “outside the church,” it did not count. What nonsense.

Those who do not want to let gay partners have the sacredness of sacramental marriage are relying on a Scholastic fiction of the thirteenth century to play with people’s lives, as the church has done ever since the time of Aquinas. The myth of the sacrament should not let people deprive gays of the right to natural marriage, whether blessed by Yahweh or not. They surely do not need—since no one does—the blessing of Saint Thomas.

Complete Article HERE!

Civil partnership, medieval style: In the days when same-sex marriage was a Christian rite

Same-sex unions in Christian churches were held as long ago as the Middle Ages, research shows.

Historians say the ceremonies included many of the acts involved in heterosexual marriages, with the whole community gathering in a church, the blessing of the couple before an altar and an exchange of holy vows.

All of these elements are depicted in contemporary illustrations of the holy union of the Byzantine Warrior-Emperor, Basil the First (867-886 AD) and his companion John, an article published on the I Heart Chaos blog this week says.

And Prof John Boswell, the late chairman of Yale University’s history department, found there were ceremonies called the Office of Same-Sex Union and the Order for Uniting Two Men in the 10th to 12th centuries.

The medievalist published Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century in 1980.

According to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies section of Yale University’s website, the controversial book argued that the modern Catholic Church’s stance on homosexuality ‘departed from the tolerance and even celebration of homosexual love that had characterized the first millennium of the Church’s teachings’.

The research brings into perspective the debate raging in America over same-sex marriage after President Barack Obama announced that he now supports it.

The chronicler Gerald of Wales (‘Geraldus Cambrensis’) recorded same-gender Christian unions taking place in Ireland in the late 12th and early 13th centuries.

An icon in a Kiev art museum (pictured above) shows two robed Christian martyrs, St Sergius and St Bacchus who some modern scholars believe were gay.

The image of the two men has a traditional Roman ‘pronubus’ (best man), in the image of Christ between them, apparently overseeing their wedding.

Severus, the Patriarch of Antioch (512 – 518 AD) explained that, ‘we should not separate in speech they [Sergius and Bacchus] who were joined in life.’

One Greek 13th century rite called the Order for Solemn Same-Sex Union, invoked St Serge and St Bacchus and called on God to ‘vouchsafe unto these, Thy servants [N and N], the grace to love one another and to abide without hate and not be the cause of scandal all the days of their lives, with the help of the Holy Mother of God, and all Thy saints’.

And the ceremony concluded with the words: ‘And they shall kiss the Holy Gospel and each other, and it shall be concluded.’

A 14th century Serbian Slavonic Office of the Same Sex Union involved the couple laying their right hands on a Bible while they had a crucifix placed in their left hands.

After kissing the Bible, they were then required to kiss each other and the priest gave them communion.

Records of Christian same-sex unions dating back to medieval times have been found around the world in places as far flung as the Vatican, St Petersburg and Istanbul.

Complete Article HERE!

Church lawyer: Philly cardinal, aides lied to me

A Roman Catholic cardinal and his top aides lied to their lawyer about shredding a key piece of evidence in the Philadelphia clergy-abuse scandal, the lawyer testified Monday.

Lawyer Tim Coyne was looking for an internal list of 35 suspected predator-priests for a 2004 grand jury investigation. He asked Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua and four top aides where to find it.

Coyne said he doesn’t remember any response from Bevilacqua. And the aides — two of whom went on to lead other dioceses — denied they knew where it was, Coyne said.

No one told him that Bevilacqua had ordered the list shredded in 1994, shortly after Monsignor William Lynn, his secretary for clergy, compiled it.

“Everyone who I spoke to said they didn’t know where it was and they didn’t have a copy of it,” Coyne testified Monday.
“Everybody lied to you?” Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington asked.
“That’s fair,” Coyne said.

The list is something of a smoking gun in Lynn’s child-endangerment trial, although each side is trying to spin it to their advantage.

Prosecutors in 2004 were deep into a three-year probe of the archdiocese. Their blistering 2005 grand jury report blasted Bevilacqua, Lynn and others for their handling of abuse complaints lodged against 63 priests, but said no criminal charges could be filed.

It’s not clear if the list — or suggestions that evidence was being shredded — would have helped them make a case against anyone. But one accused priest on the 1994 list continued to lead a South Philadelphia parish until he was suspended this past March.

Lynn, 61, was charged last year over his handling of more recent abuse complaints.

Defense lawyers argue that he alone tried to do something about the festering abuse problem when he served as secretary for clergy from 1992 to 2004. They point to the list as proof.

Lynn told the grand jury that he had decided, after taking office, to go through secret church files to create a list of problem priests who were still on duty. His list described three priests as diagnosed pedophiles, and deemed others “guilty” because they had admitted the abuse. The list was discussed at a February 1994 meeting between Bevilacqua and his closest aides.

According to a memo, Bevilacqua ordered Monsignor James E. Molloy to shred the original list and three copies, including one made for Bishop Edward Cullen, a top aide who later led the Allentown diocese.

Hand-written notes state that Molloy did so in the presence of another aide, Bishop Joseph R. Cistone, who is now the bishop of Saginaw, Mich.
Yet a surviving copy surfaced at the archdiocese early this year — 10 days after Bevilacqua died.

The list was found in a gray file in Coyne’s office. But it had first been found in 2006 in a locked safe at the Secretary for Clergy’s office.

A staff person cleaning out the file room — in disarray after the grand jury investigation — came across the safe and had a locksmith open it, according to her testimony last week.

She said she found a gray file inside and left it with an assistant to Monsignor Timothy Senior, who had succeeded Lynn. Coyne testified that Senior later gave the file to him for safe keeping. He said he only glanced at it before putting it in his files, and didn’t realize it held the list he had sought years earlier.

On cross-examination from defense lawyer Thomas Bergstrom, Coyne acknowledged that Lynn had apparently looked for the list in 2004 after telling the grand jury about it.

“My impression is he looked everywhere for it,” Coyne said.

Bergstrom suggested the locked safe belonged to Molloy, Lynn’s supervisor.

The list only surfaced on Feb. 10, on the eve of Lynn’s trial. Bevilacqua had died Jan. 31 at age 88.

As church officials took the stand Monday, the gray file became a hot potato. Senior, now an auxiliary bishop in Philadelphia, denied ever touching it. Fr. James Oliver, Senior’s assistant and a canon lawyer, likewise said he didn’t recall handling it.

Prosecutors have called the archdiocese an “unindicted co-conspirator” in Lynn’s case. Bevilacqua, in 10 combative appearances before the grand jury in 2003 and 2004, denied any attempt to obstruct the investigation.

The jury is expected to get the case by Memorial Day, after three months of testimony. Lynn faces up to 28 years in prison if convicted.
A spokeswoman for Cistone referred a call for comment Monday to his lawyer, William Winning of Philadelphia, who did not immediately return a message. A message left through the Allentown diocese for Cullen, who retired in 2009, was not immediately returned. Molloy died in 2006.

The Philadelphia archdiocese is not commenting on trial developments because of a gag order.

Complete Article HERE!