Blog

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture
priestly abuse

Grieving the Divides

In her face, I witnessed my sorrow and somehow could feel it. My friend conveyed simple pain over her (natural) father’s ongoing failures, a man she wanted to love but could not trust. All she could summon was pity. And now grief as she witnessed him unraveling before her eyes.

Strange. Since this prayer/fast for a Church shackled by abuse, I have been overcome by grief, a loss I cannot shake. Outrage over cover-ups and talky inaction has given way to disappointment, an abiding sadness for her, this Church, MY Church for whom I left all other churches in order to know her more. For she is the first and last and most coherent champion of a culture of life for persons– from conception to childhood through puberty onto adulthood– whose gendered gifts can become fruitful. And she has been taken hostage by a filthy few. Predators in the mercy pool have polluted the waters for many. I grieve. A recent survey claims up to one-third of all American Catholics are considering leaving the Church.

Yet she is still my Church, my champion, founded on the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus as her cornerstone (Eph. 2: 20). Called and capable of integrating lives, her abusers have divided them. I recall a conversation with a young man cut down in his most formative years as a pre-adult by a former colleague of mine who, in the true meaning of diabolical (Gr. ‘to tear apart’), divided this boy right down the middle. Before jail time, a wolf tore into this sheep and rendered his body alien to him, a foe. In our meeting, the young man acted vagrantly. Instead of helping him secure a masculine home, that minister made him destitute.

So I grieve. I cannot give that young man back his dignity. He distrusts me as much as he does his predator. Unable to make him ‘right’, I grieve. I grieve for all the men who as teenagers were divided by priests. According to the John Jay Report, 3-6% of American priests allegedly abused 11,000 children, 78% male teens, between 1950 and 2002.

I ask God to make my grief good. Maybe He will do so by channeling inaction into prayer. I can lament along with the Psalmist: ‘We have become the reproach of our neighbors, the scorn and derision of those around us…Do not hold our iniquities against us; may Your compassion come quickly, for we are brought very low.’ (PS 79: 4, 8)

And we can ask Jesus to raise senior shepherds who are lion-hearted, courageous in their discipline of spiritual sons under their charge. 1 Samuel 2-4 describe better than I can the consequence of fathers not curbing their kids’ bad behavior. If you recall, Eli’s sons acted immorally in the temple, neither respecting God nor the people they served (1 S 2:12, 22); these young men did not heed their father’s warning and kept on defiling God’s house. As a result, God withheld His blessing from the Israelites and they suffered a disastrous defeat at the hands of the Philistines (4:10), including the death of Eli’s sons.

Swift discipline helps us all. How else can trust be regained? As we pray for its outworking, we do well to remember that Jesus created this Church in His image, not ours. I’m grateful. A visiting priest joyfully asked us: ‘Aren’t you glad your ways are not God’s?’ Utterly, I thought. This padre grabbed my attention, held it.

Jesus’ way for the Church isn’t mine. This same priest reminded us that ‘faith was imputed to Abraham as righteousness who believed even though he did not quite understand what was happening.’ He closed: ‘Aren’t you grateful for the riches of our Church? Aren’t you glad to be Catholic?’ Taken aback, I saw the light of Jesus beaming on his 80-something-year-old face and I smiled, nodded within then returned to prayer for her healing.

Please take time to watch our new video and become ‘Chaste Together.’

Download PDF
liberating chastity

Liberating Chastity

Chastity has taken a lot of hits lately. Many would deem this ‘successful integration of sexuality within the person’ (#2337) a failure, the prospects dim for unifying one’s best spiritual aspirations with bodily desires. As Church sexual abuse scandals drone on like a dirge, we are stumbled in our stewardship of ‘these powers of life and love.’ If our fathers who claim to represent Jesus have faltered to the point of wrecking children’s lives, and their fathers (bishops) cover for them in order to defend ‘holy’ banks and appearances, what hope for us?

Hypocrisy fires our anger, which readily goes south to ignite dark longings for justifying our own lusts—you screw up ‘holy’ man, I’ll screw up worse!

Eloquent fools rush in. I just read with sobriety and incredulity LGBT activist Frederic Martel’s ‘outing’ of the last four popes and their Roman administrations: ‘In the Closet of the Vatican.’ Pretty intense stuff; more later. What alerted me to Martel’s interpretive key was this one line skewering Pope Emeritus Benedict, whose commitment to sexual orthodoxy is consistent and much hated: ‘He was haunted by the fact that someone else might be having pleasure…’

Huh. That’s Benedict’s legacy, his own chaste life (and there’s no evidence to the contrary) so curdled by conflictual desires that he spends his life spoiling others’ ‘gay’ revelry? That’s Martel’s cause and cure: ‘out’ these collared hypocrites and party on! Unwittingly, Martel ‘outs’ himself and shows he knows nothing about genuine chastity. Only in discovering more about this misunderstood virtue can we rescue it from such a caricature.

Chastity is about uniting the good of our bodily desires for pleasure and creativity with a desire to dignify other lives. This is not a virtue of children but of adults who must lay aside childish things in order to own good and lusty longing for human connection then decide, with ongoing training, to assert the upper hand on what drives them; desires channeled to achieve life, not destroy fun.

No stranger to lust-propulsion, I through Jesus’ mercy discovered a longing greater than sexy idols—that is, a peaceful composure that invited me to explore a range of relationships fully-clothed in which I learned to open my mouth and heart, not my pants. It was fun–pleasurable, if not sensational. I grew up without sensual limits so biblical boundaries saved me. A clear unbiased reading of Scripture led me to conclude that ‘Jesus committed to only one model of sexual union, opposite-gender monogamy…He regarded all sexual activity outside of marriage to one person of the opposite gender as capable of jeopardizing one’s entrance into the Kingdom.’ (‘The Bible and Homosexual Practice’, Dr. Robert Gagnon). To follow Him meant to commit to the same. Scary stuff.

Yet I needed the fear of God in regards to what I did with my body, precisely because of its impact on others. Masturbation hid me from others, porn demonized my vision of God’s children, and immoral acts violated the trust of holy friendships.

Two keys from the work of St. John Paul ll helped transform fear into expectancy. The first is his philosophical ‘personalism’ which invites all persons into an interior journey toward actualizing the truth in their lives, one that requires self-awareness and commitment to a process of development. Chastity, endowed by this ‘personalism’, is ‘how the subjective desires of the heart come into harmony with the objective norm’ (Christopher West).

That norm involved acting upon the second key. I learned through Theology of the Body that I was a ‘gift’ to others and that my design, however damaged by homosexual lust, was still inclined toward the other gift: woman. Then I discovered a pretty good relationship with a real one; I marveled at the difference between lust-propulsion and the emerging chastity in me that could open to Annette’s gender gift and grow to appreciate its exquisite rhythms. As I did, sexual ardor increased in a way that I can only describe as integrated. St. John Paul ll’s insists that chastity applies as readily to marrieds as to singles. We do not marry in order to avoid or channel lust; Jesus calls us in the spirit of St. Paul to love her like Jesus loves His Church. That requires nothing less than integration—the gift of slow-growing chastity.

Hypocrites and rumors of hypocrites aside, I can take responsibility for my own happiness. That requires loving free from the fetters of childish desires. Chastity liberates that happiness. Long may she live and grow in us.

Please take time to watch our new video and become ‘Chaste Together.’

Download PDF
Church

Blemished

My face is a mess. Overexposed for years in the California sun, it now looks like rugged desert terrain, baked red by heat. I am undergoing a harsh chemical treatment that surfaces precancerous blotches. Hidden no more, these sores must face the light, scab, and fall away with the advent of new skin.

Vanity aside, I am glad to be monstrous for a time. How else will I heal?

Our Church’s face has become monstrous too. I tremble at the deposing of now ex-Cardinal McCarrick whose charismatic persona charmed and seduced countless young men. Everyone loses here. A recent book on praying for priests begins with the author—a devout woman–gushing over McCarrick’s nearly perfect homily as he kicked off the Year for Priests in 2009. How devilish the divided heart; how deadening for the devout.

So we pray. For this convert, it means laying aside childish dreams of the Church; it means looking at her through adult eyes, seeing her blemishes while beholding her underlying beauty. That takes work. I am convinced that we can discern the truth of sin, artfully dodged by big guys that we should be able to trust, while not allowing that sin to destroy our vision of what she can be. The truth: she needs our prayers and discernment. If I forsake her, she will suffer. I suffer too. Sick with sin—McCarrick’s, mine, ours–I must spit up my waste and eat Jesus. Strange: at her ugliest, I need Jesus’ presence from her more than ever. We are one. Head and body cannot be split.

What do we pray? First for sheep partaken of by shepherds: may the abused be respected, heard, and restored. By a miracle of mercy, might the house of horrors become for the wounded a home that heals?

Secondly, discipline for those who abused. The main way we liberate healing for the abused is by verifying that in truth (s)he was abused, the abuser committed a criminal act, and both the Church and the state are holding him accountable for what he did. For once I agree with the NY Times editorial board: ‘Priests who are credibly shown to abuse children should be thrown out of the pulpit and identified to civil authorities; bishops who cover their actions should be laicized and exposed, and the order to do so must come from the pope.’

We in Kansas City have the backhanded honor of being the first diocese in world history to have its bishop investigated by a grand jury for mishandling a priest mucking around in kiddy porn (now in jail). Though good Bishop Finn wasn’t fired by the pope, he was compelled to resign in 2015. Our own diocese served as a testing ground for the state refining the Church. Let us pray that the Church will act before the court must! We can pray that the pope will unite the global Church to discipline abusive shepherds and their protective bishops. Anything less re-wounds abused sheep. No more chatter on the horrors of abuse. Action alone speaks now.

Yet we have a deeper problem that includes but is not limited to child endangerment: pastors who forsake vows of chastity and engage with consensual adults. What’s the big deal, you ask? They’re only human, eh? Does it really hurt anyone? Consider this spiritual incest–a father making a son or daughter his lover. Is it not obvious how this undermines our trust and moral fortitude?

Scripture and Church teaching hold us to holiness–a high standard for happiness in the sexual realm. Shepherds who sidestep their own vows mock this standard—chastity–and the Holy One. Sexually divided priests defile us all by rendering chastity an option when it is God’s call upon every human being.

So third, let us pray for the grace of repentance for our shepherds. Pray for safe opportunities for them to return to the One who can restore hearts and boundaries. Prayer frees us to act and to hope again. After all, we are conversing with the Lord of all! That action may well begin with our turning back to Him where we have grown dim and disillusioned, compromised in our own right.

And we can pray with discernment. Let’s look at the blemished face of Jesus’ bride and love her as ‘gently as doves, as wisely as serpents’ (Matt. 10:16).
As we do, we can be assured that God hears our prayers and will act. After all, He ‘gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by washing with water though the word, to present her to Himself as a radiant bride, without spot or wrinkle or any blemish, holy and blameless.’ (Eph. 5: 25b, 26)

Please take time to watch our new video and become ‘Chaste Together.’

Download PDF

Killing The Truth

The other night, I dreamt of complicity—a good friend and colleague had been pronounced innocent of murder yet I knew otherwise. She killed someone and I killed the truth by saying nothing.

I was just speaking with a fellow minister/healer from another country who described an important priest there who brought in a lot of money for the Church; most there knew he regularly pursued same-gender sex, yet even the bishop gave him a ‘pass’ because of his usefulness.

Are we all a little complicit? Certainly we are all divided by a duplicitous Church: shepherds who race after lone lambs in order to consume them, fathers who seduce spiritual daughters under silky vestments, bishops who see but don’t say, a man who pontificates over ‘child sacrifice’ yet whose sword is soft with unsanctified mercy, so much so that we struggle to trust his rhetoric.

Yet my divided heart toward the Church benefits no-one. My rant may just amplify the voice of the accuser himself; he is good at saying for the sake of slaying even the righteous.

Perhaps we should pray. I awaken these days after bad dreams and recall the mess we are in, yes we. I am one of the faithful, with as much say as anyone before God. Prayer knows no hierarchy. Or if there is one, it seems from Scripture to be inverted, as if God Himself prefers little ones who cry out for mercy (Matt. 18: 31, 32; LK 10:21) over the wise and strong.

I don’t know many big leaders, just weak people who trust God. And become mighty in faith, ‘routing foreign armies’ (Heb. 11:34). Mary herself sang of the One who ‘brings down rulers from their thrones and lifts up the humble’ (LK 1:52).

Lent is a time of deliberately humbling ourselves before the One. I pray that He might take us down in order to lift us up as we ask Him to initiate in all members a clear call to repentance. For those who resist Him and persist in hypocrisy, I ask for Him to use our prayers like stones of David and to slay giants.

I can wake up numb to the divided Church and further dull myself in a host of sins. I then become like the ones I accuse. Or I can pray. Will you join us this Lent (which starts Ash Wednesday the 6th) as we cry out for a Church that is at once chaste and fruitful through undivided devotion to Jesus and each other? We shall do our little part through a 6-part Lenten prayer series. May prayer make a way through duplicity and complicity!

‘Grieve, mourn, and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord and He will lift you up.’ (J 4:9, 10)

Please take time to watch our new video and become ‘Chaste Together.’

Download PDF
in the closet of the vatican

Good Natured

‘Just as there is a momentum to evil, so is there a momentum to repentance.’

Sour moods tempt me easily these days. As bishops from around the globe gather in Rome to bind up an abused Church (Responsibility, Accountability, Transparency–RAT—unfortunate acronym), ‘In the Closet of the Vatican’, a lurid expose debuts and incites the ‘rat’ by sensationalizing what the author describes as an essentially ‘gay’ administration surrounding the pope—a point made more respectfully by Archbishop Vigano when he wrote of a Roman ‘clergy rife with homosexuality’: ‘It is an enormous hypocrisy to condemn sexual abuse, to weep for its victims, and yet to refuse to denounce the root of so much abuse—homosexual predators.’

Blinded by its rainbow lens, the New York Times stumbled badly at nationalizing the ‘gay’ priest thing with a front page article featuring a gaggle of them entitled (don’t laugh) ‘It’s not a Closet, it’s a Cage’! What follows wouldn’t make the National Enquirer’s cut; the author knows little to nothing about what she writes except the now dreary ‘ain’t it an outrage when every immoral identification isn’t given equal time on every imaginable front, including the Church?’ The piece is full of zingers from collared whiners who lament: ‘It was never my shame; it was the church’s shame’! ‘The vast majority of gay priests are not safe’! ‘This is not a me issue. This is a human rights issue’! ‘Listen to how the Church traumatized me for being gay’! I look forward to the telenovela.

On the home front, cultural warriors who live to kill the prospect of life beyond sexual narcissism accuse me of being ‘a self-loathing homosexual…who needs to be straight and to portray himself as SUPERIOR to others.’ Relentless is the drone of activists who apparently base their LGBT+ liberties on everyone doing just as they do. Could make you blue.

Not a chance. I reread one of my favorite books: J. Budzisweski’s ‘What We Can’t Not Know’ about the moral law written on our hearts (Romans 2:15). In spite of ‘the evasions and subterfuge of men’, I can know the truth of God’s evident design for my masculine sexuality. My calm in the storm is clarity of conscience, the fact that I live in alignment with who I am as a man made for woman—to dignify and secure her in love and to have the strength to care for my kids and grandkids well.

The ‘gay’ self? Just a figment of one’s impoverished imagination. There is no such thing as an ‘LGBT+’ person, just pilgrims who have yet to discover the truth of who they actually are.

A smarter man said it best (my paraphrase): ‘We have a nature we must respect, that we cannot manipulate at will. We cannot create our own freedom, because we don’t create ourselves. We possess intellect and will but also nature, and we are ordered to the degree that we respect this nature, listen to it, and accept ourselves as persons who did not create themselves. In this way, and in no other way, is true human freedom fulfilled.’ Pope Emeritus Benedict

My nature is good, outlook sweet, because I line up with the One who made me. Deep calls to deep and composes my soul. Free to think and to feel and to act in accord with the truth, I recall homosexuality as a distant imposter. Lurid media-handling of the Church? I’ll wait for the telenovela.

Please take time to watch our new video and become ‘Chaste Together.’

Download PDF
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers: