Tuesday, December 28, 2010

III. Ask Me Your Questions and I’ll Tell You No Lies.

           Q.  The biggest issue before the Catholic Church in 2010 was priestly pedophilia.   Do you feel the Church has made any progress?
          A.  Yes but as with everything else in the Vatican I feel there’s a great gap between the Pope’s brilliant analysis of the problem and the Italianate  comme si, comme sa dilatoriness to get things done.  Eternity means nothing to a Roman.  If we don’t get to it in the 21st century, it may be accomplished in the 22nd.
          Q.   Why do you say that?
           A.   All you have to know about the Vatican’s tending to detailed matters  is  the almost daily embarrassment ofL’Osservatore Romano.  It is  either the official newspaper of the Vatican or it isn’t. .  It gets first dibs on all the official news which other papers don’t, which tells you it’s the official paper; but it has a variant theology of its own in contradiction to the Church’s as to the pesky details as to when to pull the plug on life… as well as a predilection for listing the Top 10 rock and roll albums of all time which tells you it isn’t.
          Q.  …which means?
          A.  Which means if the Pope as Bishop of Rome, the  Vicar of Christ on earth and the Visible Head of the Church can’t get the issue of the Vatican newspaper clarified can we imagine the Church will get to seminarian formation?   Let us pray he will.  Anyhow I started thinking about this in a strikingly unusual way.
          Q.  How do?
         A.  With the very revelatory article written by John  Allen in of all things The National Catholic Reporter.  I admit it’s strange for an authenticist Catholic to begin there.  
         Q.  Good grief man, are you mad?
         A.  Not that I am aware.  Allen contrasts two views—Benedict’s and that of Dominican priest Thomas Doyle who has been studying the crisis for years.  Benedict is indubitably right.  He goes straight to the heart of the problem—in “priestly formation” i.e. the theology taught in seminaries and lays the blame where it belongs on the heretical dogma of relativism which by downplaying good and evil and in Allen’s words “treating morality as a matter of weighing consequences” the door was opened to “justifying gravely immoral behavior including the sexual exploitation of minors.”   Allen you see ran a seminar on the issue with George Weigel. 
          Q.  Of the two I take it you favor Weigel.
         A.   Wrong.  Weigel is a brilliant writer but far too much a Company Man.  His biography of John Paul is well-written but at the same time is evasive.
          Q.  Evasive?  How so?
         A.  In that Weigel never examined thoroughly the anomaly of John Paul’s appointment of so many substandard bishops.  Weigel is a very good writer of an authorized biography.   I’ve had some experience with him in at least one address where both Henry Hyde and I felt he was too much a shill for the bishops.  Of the two I’d rather believe Allen. Weigel has a better spiritual formation but he’s still a Company Man. 
          Q.  And what is Doyle’s approach?
         A.  It’s procedural which is correct as far as it goes but is unsatisfactory since it doesn’t pinpoint the root cause: the faulty theology beginning in the `60s that permeated the seminaries.  He complains that Benedict hasn’t met with a sufficient number of victims, that the Church accuses the media too much, seems to shift uneasily, assailing Jeff Anderson the personal injury lawyer for allegedly seeking to prosper with the lawsuits, blaming the duplicitousness and manipulativeness of Church legal counsels.  As a Chicagoan who has seen professional parsing carried to its highest pinnacle,  I have no doubt he’s right but it doesn’t begin to rectify the situation as the Pope’s analysis has.  But while I think the Pope’s analysis is the right one, no one has come out with the brutal facts.
         Q.  …which are?
        A.   The lavender seminaries which is the root of the problem. The Pope has identified it somewhat when he talks about spiritual formation that has been lacking.   While not all homosexuals are same-sex pedophiles, all same-sex pedophiles are homosexuals.  Thus the job is to fight this trend in the seminaries even though the fashion in this country is to regard all criticism of homosexuality as homophobic.
         Q.  How can this reform be accomplished without being assailed in this world of cultural ferment?
          A.   It can’t.   That’s why the reform is not for bishops who wish to be loved by all.  When you get a bishop who wishes to establish the reform and is willing to be assailed in the secular media he will recognize It can be fought in two ways—first , forthright denial of the heretical Fundamental Option theory that unless one totally rejects God no mortal sin can be committed.  On this premise no sexual immoralist can commit grave sin unless he abjures God.   Second the reaffirmation that any misuse of the sexual function outside the marriage bond is a mortal sin. That goes for sin committed in private—masturbation. Human sexuality pertains to marriage in the context of procreation and mutual love in the physical relationship.
          Q.  So in summary you say the Pope has identified the solution.
         A.  He has indeed.  Fr. Doyle runs away from it. I don’t think Allen faces up to it and Weigel doesn’t really want to tread in this deep water. But Benedict has the vision if he will only carry it out. Pronouncements aren’t enough.  I am confident this can be done but then I look at L’Osservatore Romano, remember the Italianate and Roman procrastination and maneuvering (perhaps some Cardinal’s nephew is involved) and grow despondent.


  1. Tom,

    IMHO the problem is specifically biblical studies. With the grace of God giving him a push Junior breaks off with his girlfriend, says goodbye to his friends and goes off to the seminary to be a priest. First day of Bible 101 the prof says or implies that there are no miracles, that scripture is a pastiche of fables and legends. In other words, practically the first thing that happens is that the legs are cut out from under his faith. He discovers that the whole thing is a charade. This is due to the JEPD theory being in possession in our seminaries, even and especially the Roman theologates. Seminary professors don't become seminary professors unless they have a degree from Rome. Each of the letters in this acronym stand for a different human author of scripture. Long and short, it was discredited long ago, but it is still in possession. You don't get a degree in scripture or teach in the seminary unless you buy it.

    With his faith wounded, despair begins to lap at Junior's soul...and too many men are ( or were) tempted to give themselves up to sensuality out of despair, as St. Paul puts it.

    Pope Benedict is himself a biblical theologian and is very aware of the problem, addressing it in many of his books. But apparently this is not a problem that can be solved by papal fiat. It can only be resolved by the triumph over Catholic minds and seminaries by papal teaching issued long ago and by better Biblical scholarship.

    It would definitely help if the Catholic people would bring themselves up to speed on this issue and pressure bishops and seminaries to take our Biblical studies out of the dark ages.

    Long ago, in 1915, Solomon Schecter, a Jewish rabbi, referred to the JEPD theory (also known as The Documentary Hypothesis, the Wellhausen theory)as the Higher Anti-semitism and said that it would make the positions of the Jews in this world untenable. In other words, he essentially predicted the Holocaust.

    Yet we still teach this garbage in our Catholic seminaries.

  2. With all due regard for the demi-heresies of JEPD, I'll support Tom's thesis (and join Rome in this regard) that homosexuals simply should NOT BE ORDAINED. Albeit not a perfect analogy, it's like allowing a counterfeiter to work as a bank teller.

    By the way, G. Weigel also opined (2006) that the Mass has no need of Latin; that a 'better' English translation would make all the problems go away.

    Company man, yes. Liturgist? Nope.

  3. I suspect that in every age there are people who feel that the travails of the current time are the worst ever. But, are they? Even in our own lives we tend to get down when things go wrong and may be tempted to feel that we have “never had it so bad” or that no one else has it as bad as we do and that there is no end in sight.

    In Gethsemane Jesus’ closest followers all ran away. While St. Peter made an abortive attempt at defense, he too succumbed to the despair and cowardice of the others. At Calvary, of the remaining Eleven only John stands at the foot of the Cross. What must the others have thought? All was over, hopes were dashed, everything was ruined. This must be the worst of times.

    But after the Crucifixion came the Resurrection and, finally, the coming of the Holy Spirit. Faith was strengthened, Hope was renewed and Charity was shown. This would be repeated over and over again in the history of the Church – Arianism, Pelagianism, the Eastern Schism, the Great Schism and all the other “isms” down to our own day and Relativism.

    Yet the Church survives, the Gospel is preached, the needy are served and Jesus’ words that the “Gates of Hell shall not prevail against Her…” still ring true. No, it is not the worst of times. We’ve been here before, and most likely will be again, until all is revealed in the Second Coming of Our Lord.