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Catholic Life | Category Archive | Scandal
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A Story

There is a story that I have heard over and over again. It is not precisely my story, though it contains echoes of what I have experienced. Because of all of this I assume that others know it. Not merely that they have heard it, but that they know it just as well as I. And yet it is apparently unknown to many. It is a truth which is whispered only behind closed doors in certain circles. I am free from these circles, though oh so closely united to them, and so I will repeat it here.

It starts with a little girl. She has been gifted with a special love for God, the Church, and the liturgy. She is, in many ways, the most innocently perfect example of what the entire Church should be. She longs to serve God in every way possible, and naturally draws near toward the fullest participation in the liturgy possible. She wants to serve God at the altar.

Her joyful anticipation of giving herself in this way is quickly squelched. She may not serve at the altar because only boys may do so. She is told that this is simply the way things are. The Church wants boys to serve at the altar, and because she is a girl, she may pray quietly in the pew–she may pray for the boys that they will serve God well. Certainly she can see that the boys need prayer, but the news that she is unworthy of joining them in the great privilege of serving at the altar is wounding beyond any of those instructing her can understand, most likely because they have never been full of such a pure desire for God.

Perhaps this is the greatest damage of the situation. But the full ramifications and more obviously problematic results do not show up for years. When the girl is in her late teens or perhaps even her twenties she learns that those who told her she simply could not serve because she was a girl were wrong. There is nothing in the Church’s infallible dogma which prevents her from serving.

The traditions which arose and led to the complete exclusion of women from all ecclesiastical office were a result of Hebrew and Roman influence–not the earliest traditions of the Church. The arguments used to prevent girls from serving at the altar are, in fact, often rooted in a deep misunderstanding of the tremendous privilege of serving at the altar.  Even the language of privilege rather than rights is used as a mask for turning something holy into a petty boys club for the utilitarian purpose of compensating for a culture which has lost its authentic faith and thus lost the Spirit which should rightly inspire vocations.

The girl, now a woman, is sick. It is not the fact that she could not serve which makes her sick. It is the fact that she cannot trust her Church. If the Church which told her she could not serve at the altar was simply making up petty rules to keep her from God when there was, in fact, no real reason that she could not serve, how on earth can she trust that Church when it says that only men can be priests?

When she does a bit of research she realizes that all of the arguments she has heard against the ordination of women to the priesthood are not in fact from the Vatican. The Vatican says very simply that Christ did not count women among the Apostles, even though they were counted among the disciples, and so, in keeping with that the Church can not count women among her priests.

But it is too late. It is clear that whatever the Vatican may say at any given point, the Church as a whole is still deeply sexist and happy to crush girls at whim in hopes of building up a warring empire of boys. It is clear that the actual history of the Church will be tossed aside in order to make a new tradition based only on the past 500 years, and that TRADITION will, in fact, mean whatever the good local traditionalists want it to mean.

And so, this girl who never would have dreamed of being a priest now questions her Church. She questions not because she served at the altar and thought she should advance in the ranks, but precisely because she was denied the opportunity to serve when there was no valid reason to deny it.

It is precisely the confusion of those who imagine that all actions surrounding the altar are the same, and thus exclude girls when there is no spiritual reason for exclusion, which has led to a doubt which will never be healed in this lifetime. She may continue to live with the rest of her Church and appear to be the most docile of congregants, but she will never trust the way that she should have been able to–the way that she would have--had we not placed worldly ideas of Church organization above the truth that our Lord taught.

Let the little children come unto me.

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Why I Won’t Vote for Newt Gingrich

I am Catholic. That fact influences the way that I vote.

I don’t know anything about Newt Gingrich’s current political stances or plans and I do realize that they may bear little relation to what he has done in the past. But I do know that I can’t vote for Newt Gingrich.

You see, Newt Gingrich became Catholic. I believe that he has a real, valid, sacramental marriage. I also believe that it is a sin to contribute to someone else jumping into inevitable the near occasion of sin.

GINGRICH: There’s no question at times of my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked far too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate. And what I can tell you is that when I did things that were wrong, I wasn’t trapped in situation ethics, I was doing things that were wrong, and yet, I was doing them.

I found that I felt compelled to seek God’s forgiveness. Not God’s understanding, but God’s forgiveness. I do believe in a forgiving God. And I think most people, deep down in their hearts hope there’s a forgiving God.

Somebody once said that when we’re young, we seek justice, but as we get older, we seek mercy. There’s something to that, I think. I feel that I’m now 67 I’m a grandfather. I have two wonderful grandchildren. I have two wonderful daughters and two great sons in law.

Callista and I have a great marriage. I think that I’ve learned an immense amount. And I do feel, in that sense, that God has given me, has blessed me with an opportunity as a person. Forget about all this political stuff. As a person, I’ve had the opportunity to have a wonderful life, to find myself now, truly enjoying the depths of my life in ways that I never dreamed it was possible to have a life that was that nice.

And so it doesn’t matter to me what Newt’s current political views are, or what he has said or done in the past politically. What matters is that, in his own view, political power makes him especially vulnerable to marital infidelity. And, also in his own view, he currently has a marriage that is worth far more than any political stuff.

Because I seek to take Newt Gingrich at his own words, I will not vote for him. It does not matter if he would be the best president ever. It is simply not okay for a Catholic who values marriage to contribute to the downfall of another’s marriage.

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Posting Elsewhere About Condoms

Thom has graciously allowed me to spew some of my hatred of condoms over at his blog. For this you owe him thanks as it protects you from seeing it here. And if the concept of “Progressive Theology, Traditional Liturgy” intrigues you, then I highly recommend that you take some time to read his thoughts.

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Circumcise Your Son and Go to Hell

[The holy Roman church] strictly orders all who glory in the name of Christian, not to practise circumcision either before or after baptism, since whether or not they place their hope in it, it cannot possibly be observed without loss of eternal salvation. Council of Florence

It is unsurprising that Midwesterners lead the crowd in damning behavior, but I am rather surprised and horrified that the Northeast is so much higher than the West.

For a more updated (and less anathamistic) Catholic take on circumcision see “The Morality of Circumcision.” All joking about losing salvation aside, I do not understand why anyone would choose elective surgery for their infant unless it were ordered by their religion. And that is obviously not the case for Catholics.

Why don’t Catholic hospitals have rules designed to reduce elective infant circumcision?

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Encountering Evil: What Do You Do?

I don’t mention the Catholic sex abuse scandal much on my blog for a very simple reason: I grew up in New England and went to college in the Archdiocese of Boston right after Cardinal Seán became archbishop. Everything that had to be processed had to be processed years ago, and there is little that could arise in the way of scandal that I have not already considered. I am saddened by further revelations of abuse, but I am not surprised and they do not require new thought or action on my part. I am sorry, and that is all. Mostly.

But the fact that I know what I think about scandal does not mean that I am somehow free from dealing with evil in the Church. As an active Catholic I cannot escape problems, and it is my job to do what I can to help eradicate evil in my little sphere.

On our way to Michigan a few weeks ago, Josh and I stopped at a Catholic bookstore to pick up a booklet. I pointed out the Liturgy of the Hours section to Josh since I was familiar with the store, and then left him to his favorite activity of book-browsing while I went to adoration. Once we were on our way Josh tiredly told me that he had seen a “Maciel” among the authors. Josh was not certain that it was Marcial Maciel since he had avoided looking at the book for confirmation so as to not be responsible for addressing the situation at the start of a long road trip.

On our way back we returned to the bookstore to make certain that our fears were unfounded. The store was still closed, so I went back a few days later. It turned out that it was not just any book by Maciel. There were two copies of Christ is My Life. From what I could tell it was intended to be more hagiography than biography.

I waited until I was the only customer in the store and approached the clerk. I asked her to bring the two books to the attention of the manager for removal. She informed me that she was the manager, and so I told her that the Vatican had clearly denounced Maciel as an evil man. She indicated that she would get rid of the books, but expressed surprise that I should find something wrong with a book published by Sophia.I pointed out that the book was published in 2003 when many still saw Maciel as a Saint, despite evidence to the contrary. I told her that I did not expect her to remove the books based on my request alone, but asked that she look into the matter for herself. She assured me that she would, and placed the books below the counter.

I went to adoration again but was upset enough about how hard it is to end the “good name” of an evil man that I knew I would need to read to focus on anything else. I turned to the adoration chapel bookshelves sparse contents and soon savored the irony of reading Saint Josemaria Escriva for respite from evil “conservatives.”

I have also stopped visiting a popular website funded by the Legionaries. The current atmosphere allows people to continue with their view of Maciel as morally ambiguous. “Yes, he did bad things, but that is because the devil always tempts those who do God’s work.” I am not concerned that my click-throughs will give them more than a penny or two in revenue, but it is important to me that I not contribute to an atmosphere of acting as if evil and manipulation through money are of minor importance and inconsequential in forming a group’s identity.

Talking to bookstore managers and not visiting certain websites are a few of the very small ways that I deal with Catholic scandal in my daily life.

What do you do when you encounter evil? If you’re Catholic, what suggestions do you have for me for helping to clean up our Church? If you’re not Catholic, what do you do when you find evil in your church or other organization in which you are deeply involved?

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