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India Living Waters

India: God Answers

‘The poor and needy search for water but there is none; their tongues are parched with thirst, but I the Lord will answer them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them…’ (IS 41:17)

It was a good sign. As I greeted my Thai colleague Sue and team at the Kolkata Airport, I looked behind her in line and saw a dozen Missionaries of Charity (St. Teresa’s team) gleaming in white robes, their eyes bright with Jesus as they awaited baggage check and a fresh advance in another region. We walk the path of blessed pioneers.

As Abbey and I motored our way up a dusty mountain to our destination of Shillong in the upper north of India—a finger of land surrounded by Bhutan, Myanmar, China, Nepal, and Bangladesh—I noticed roadside dust and clamor growing green as we ascended a mile high up the hills. Teeming with life, the city beckoned to us; after 40 hours of travel, we felt that strange blend of exhaustion and exhilaration and decided to walk to our first meeting.

What a reunion! Our hostess/leader Bobby is a dynamic, faith-filled wife and mother who simply believes God for the needs of persons in her city: she has started citywide outreaches to the poor, an orphanage she still runs, and now wants to ensure that the deep and often shame-shrouded needs of fellow Christians are met in a safe, merciful and effective way. Living Waters! She travelled twice to Thailand and once to The Philippines in order to raise up a team, and there they sat in front of us now, waiting to pray for our advance: beautiful, humble men and women who were growing whole together, now primed to release healing to others.

India Living Waters

Bobby and Family

Bobby recalled: ‘I was unsure if India was ready for Living Waters. We are an honor, family-based culture: we don’t talk about sexual matters or family wounds—these might dishonor loved ones. But when I returned from Thailand and told friends what I heard, they all started sharing deep, hard things. I realized that whether we like it or not, we need Living Waters!’

Before our first gathering, two fun things happened. Bobby gathered a group of pastors with whom we dined and discussed these issues. Their leader, Pastor Hamlet, reminded me of John Wimber—both wise and merciful men whom God blessed as founder/leaders of thriving denominations yet who only wanted to build up the whole body of Christ with the healing power of Jesus. Like Wimber, Hamlet prefers the Kingdom over church government. I love him.

Soon after our lunch I went for a long run up and down the narrow streets of Shillong and noticed an array of Catholic and Protestant institutions. I then discovered that Catholics had invested huge amounts of energy over the last several hundred years to bring the Gospel to these people—the Khati—and have left an array of schools and educational offerings for them. Further, Welsh missionaries landed there in the early 20th century, burning with the flames of revival ignited in Wales a decade earlier. This city is ready for Living Waters. I was so excited that I started running with a group of Indian soldiers and raced them to their barracks, tying for first with a man one-third my age.

Our conference was full of Jesus, tender and powerful in mercy to meet people in profound areas of need. We preached the truth of our own being-healed lives through the power of the Cross; signs and wonders followed. Like Ezekiel in the temple, the water levels kept rising. Because family is so crucial here, sons and daughters who were already receiving healing from Bobby and team brought parents who began to confess their wounds and failures. Families were being healed before our eyes.

I called up all persons who wanted to help release Living Waters in India; nearly everyone arose. Immediately I thought of Isaiah 41 where the prophet voices God’s commitment to answer the stifled cries of His people: ‘I will make rivers flow on barren heights, and springs within the valleys. I will turn the desert into pools of water, and the parched ground into springs’ (IS. 41: 18). As I shouted out these verses, I wept for I realized in a small way we were fulfilling God’s promise to the poor and needy. I saw waters cascading down the green heights of Shillong, throughout the thirsty byways of India.

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Fire. Burning. Notre Dame

Fire. Burning. Notre Dame.

Fire. Burning. Notre Dame.

Judgment at our house, right here, us.

More than a sign of French resilience: a church, our Church.

‘Bearing’ becomes ‘burning’. Bones on fire, lit by McCarrick and Vigano and Martel—strange prophets all—arsonists igniting icons—a house consumed.

And us, in the fire, uncertain, what will remain? Unconvinced by words. Now we burn, living icons; what will remain of us? No time for squabbles: we are burning, plucked from the flames and filthy, in His hands.

Holy fear: no other gods. Face down, blushing. Searing shame. Speechless.

Holy tears: little ones gone. Good grief. New kids bathed in rainbow light, shameless. Church sputtering, spineless. Fierce tears from flames, living water.

Holy ears: listening, at last, the Word rising from the ashes, burning in our bones, consuming us. If we say nothing, we perish.

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

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bearing the cross

Bearing

Though I love the benefits of Jesus’ cross, I am tempted to hate sharing in that cross with Him. It hurts to bear up under the burden He invites us to shoulder, namely grief over His Church.

During prayer for the healing of our corporate compromises, I realized: what I most value as a Christian—killing sin through swift confession before it kills me, my marriage, or another; living out loud in community in order to grow beyond same-sex attraction into real fruitfulness—is not enough believed or practiced in my Church. For this I suffer, a grief Jesus has invited me to bear. I am not alone but alongside other members who share these values and love the bride enough to grieve too.

This Lent He invited us into a little share of His cross; would we bear this for an hour or so each week in prayer? We discovered we couldn’t shake that burden after the meetings ended. It stayed with us, and seems now like a heart condition. Indeed, we carry it for her cleansing. Perhaps St. Paul’s mysterious reference in Col. 1:24 to bear in one’s body a share in Jesus’ suffering for His body applies here. Who knows? We pray on.

My friend Dana recalled her experience of a 14-mile procession she and friends made one Good Friday with a large wooden cross—each took turns shouldering it: ‘As I carried the cross, it sunk into me and its weight increased. It became a part of me; I realized that it was Jesus inviting me to walk with Him to help carry His cross. What seemed too heavy became doable with Him.’ Christ in us: to suffer, and to hope for glory (Col. 1: 27). That reminds me of Bonhoeffer’s words: ‘We know too little in the church today about the peculiar blessing of bearing. Bearing, not shaking off; bearing, but not collapsing either; bearing as Christ bore the cross, remaining underneath, and there beneath it, to find Christ.’

Having looked hard together at a scandalized Church, we have done more than meet to pray; rather, we have received a spirit of prayer with which to pray unceasingly for her. Over the long haul. Change takes time and occurs as prayer like underground wells spring up on the earth and accomplish the impossible.

We pray for witnesses of transformation in the sexual arena to arise and take their places alongside leaders who welcome, guide, and amplify their experience of an empowered Gospel.

We pray for the eloquent truth of Pope Emeritus Benedict—‘Sexuality has an intrinsic meaning and direction which is not homosexual…its meaning is to bring about the union of man and woman which gives humanity posterity, children, future. This…is the essence of sexuality’—to fuse with the fatherly compassion of Pope Francis. May that fullness of mercy and truth compel Christians to turn from sexual sin (beginning with clergy) toward the arduous, splendid process of becoming chaste.

We pray for courageous leaders who eschew politics for the transformation of souls. Might orthodox leaders refuse clericalism by equipping lay men and women to serve the broken; might the unorthodox be routed lest the Church’s mercy be diluted further by the call to ‘accompaniment’ without repentance or discipline.

Might we, horrified by our own sin, find beneath the cross that no sin can ever be alien to us (Bonhoeffer) and in mercy cry out for all sinners–bishops and busboys, popes and plumbers. Might God grace us to bear holy grief and the hope of glory long after Lent.

‘We do not want you to grieve like those who have no hope…’ (1 Thess. 4:13).

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

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securing a fathers foundations

Securing a Father’s Foundations

In prayer with our Lenten group, I saw a flag pole waving an image of the Lamb of God; at a closer glance I could see its base had decomposed to the point that the pole began to waver then slammed to the ground, hurting many and scattering others. Last week, I revisited this vision of a predatory priest at a parish funeral of a middle-aged man, abused as a teen by a priest, who drank himself to death; his wife and kids are fighting hard not to abandon the Church altogether.

A priest’s faulty foundation damages everyone. How much of a fault-line is same-sex attraction among the celibate priesthood? How does such attraction relate to clerical abuse? How can we best help priests with this foundational problem?

We can say that Catholic clerical abuse is unique in its contrast to other institutions as it is primarily a male problem. The Boston ‘Spotlight’ scandal and the aforementioned John Jay Report involved 78-85% male teens; a most recent study of clerical abuse came out last fall and includes both the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report from 2018 and the LA Times Survey of Homosexuality among Priests (‘Is Clergy Sexual Abuse Relate to Homosexual Priests?’ D. Paul Sullins: sullins@cua.edu, The Catholic University of America; published by The Ruth Institute, Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, president.) The study found that ‘the abuse of boys is very strongly related to the share of homosexual men in the priesthood…easier access to males among older victims was an enabling factor.’

Now a disclaimer: I distinguish persons (including priests) with same-sex attraction from men preying upon children. Most same-sex attracted men have no sexual history with minors.

However, the adult male sexuality of teens combined with their youthful vulnerability can be tempting to some men, especially in a culture of secrecy over one’s attractions and a nearly male-only community of formation. Further, more than a few Catholic priests were abused as teens, a combustion of shame and lust that stalled development and can tempt one to furtive replays. F. Martel writes ‘In the Closet of the Vatican’ that ‘the culture of secrecy needed to maintain the high prevalence of homosexuality in the Church has allowed abuse to be hidden and for predator’s to act’ (p. 93).

Faulty foundations. Add to this how the celibate requirement of the priesthood provides one with a seeming ‘pass’ from reckoning squarely with conflictual desires. No woman needed; no need to work out who one is in relation to her. I have witnessed many persons with same-sex attraction who assume a celibate ‘call’ rather than a mandate to look deeper at the meaning of their desires—an invitation to a fuller repentance unto spiritual maturity and sexual integration.

My friend Jim—a 6-year candidate for the priesthood–never thought he could be more than an abstaining, same-sex attracted celibate. He then considered: ‘how can I authentically lay down natural fathering if I’ve never longed for a wife and family?’ Through a healing community, he is discovering who he is in relation to woman so he can decide with a whole-enough heart if God is calling him to natural or spiritual fatherhood.

The point should be clear: any priest seeking a secure foundation on which to spiritually father both men and women needs to work out his life as a sexual man in the light of Jesus and His healing community. That means knowing himself, growing in security and purity as a man through connectedness with other men, and learning the good rhythm of his need for the woman’s gift. Clear and consistent growth in integration has never been more essential for the priesthood and for the integrity of Jesus’ Church and His children.

Amid it all, I have high hopes for men with same-sex attraction who love Jesus and who committed to integration along with others who are equally committed to mastering their traditional idolatries (usually porn addiction). I highly recommend Drs. Kleponis and Fitzgibbons’ ‘The Distinction between Deep-Seated Homosexual Tendencies and Transitory Same-Sex Attractions in Candidates for Seminary and Religious Life.’ Download this most important document, for it highlights what I have discovered after 40 years of pastoral ministry in this area: that the person, not the depth of his moral problem, determines his destiny.

Men who live in the light of truth—that God neither created them ‘gay’ nor saddled them with desires that cannot be mastered with incisive care and community—can ‘transition’ into the fathers of God’s design. On the other hand, Catholic priests who insist that they are ‘gay’, that there is nothing to heal, and who seek to reinforce their queer natures with likeminded others are the ‘deep-seated’ ones–toxic influences who obscure the highway to holiness and make a crooked path for generations-to-come.

So we pray:
1. For an end to a culture of secrecy in all priestly and religious formation, for truthful and merciful onramps on which candidates can work out disordered desires, gender identity formation, childhood trauma, and sexual addiction.
2. For conscientious commitment to helping seminarians ensure that they are becoming mature expressions of their sexual gift and not fleeing sexual conflicts.
3. Hope for priests to overcome homosexuality through persistent repentance unto Jesus’ expert care and community; admonition and discipline to fathers who advocate for LGBT ‘selves’ and invoke the authority of the Church to do so.

May we not protect the foundation of any priest built on sand. Yet we prayerfully honor and ask protection upon those fathers who in weakness have surrendered to the Rock. Long may their flags wave, upright and true!

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

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Humble Priest

Humble King

I sent out a series of questions to my favorite priests and Rev. Msgr William J King who runs a Living Waters group in his parish responded. Excellent priests exist and deserve our prayers.

“Dear Andrew, your email is a source of grace. Thank you.  It is a blessing for me to be spiritual director for a few priests and to work with the accountability group that you have met.  These inform my responses, below…

1. How has the ongoing exposure of your fellow priests impacted you?

I grieve for them, for many priests are disillusioned especially by a perceived absence of concern and fraternal encouragement from their bishops. Personally, I share that disillusionment and I am, frankly, angered by the dearth of leadership shown by our bishops.  I am different, I suppose, than most priests, since I spent 28 years in diocesan administration, with 24 of those years directly involved in these cases.

2. How can we the laity pray for you in this season?

Pray that we never lose confidence in a loving Father who called us to priesthood and sustains us in the likeness of His Son.  Pray that we never withdraw from being Christ to others, with confidence and hope and love instead of fear.

3. What for you is the worst aspect of this exposure? the best?

The worst aspect by far is the unrelenting, unremitting, unrepentant single-minded focus of the secular media on decades-old abuse within the Catholic Church, while turning a blind eye to current abuse in schools and other churches.  The obvious bias is ignored.  I wonder, where are the Catholic leaders who ought to be standing up publicly and pointing out this obvious and unjust focus?  Can anyone really and truly believe that abuse of minors, or inept handling of reports of abuse, occurred only in the Catholic Church and nowhere else?  Yet, this laser-like focus continues, without distinction between cases 40 and 50 years old, and cases today which are handled totally differently.  The unremitting reportage in this vein is having a clear impact on our people, even our most loyal parishioners, whose loyalty and confidence in the leadership of the Church is eroded by the constant reporting and repeating of stories involving old cases.

The best? I am completely confident that our loving Father will raise up saints in the midst of this crisis — saints to lead us into a new era of holiness and purity.  This crisis is also purging the Church of toxic clericalism, which starts with the implicit notion that priests and only priests should perform certain functions, and leads to a desire to focus on the institution of the Church rather than the people. This was one of the principal mistakes we made who were involved in handling these cases — we looked to the safety of the institution instead of feeling, truly feeling, the hurt and vulnerability of the survivors of abuse.

4. Might you give us keys you employ to stay present to Jesus and others amid what may be a new temptation to discouragement?

I beg the Father for the grace to see others as He sees them, not as I do.  When I offer the Mass, especially in holding the sacred body of Christ and His most precious Blood, I consciously call to mind the victims or survivors of abuse and pray that Our Lord unite their pain to His.

5. How have the rumors of a ‘gay’-infested curia impacted you? Is there a homosexual problem in the priesthood or do you perceive this to be a smear campaign?

The rumors are based on fact. My experience in diocesan administration has brought me into contact with this reality.  I am angered by this objectively, and yet I have seen the loneliness and isolation of priests in curial positions and other positions within the Church. At times I have given in to discouragement, to the point of entertaining (only briefly) the idea of pursuing a profession or career other than priesthood. The Father’s faithfulness calls me home as soon as discouragement enters my feelings, and I am grateful for that. I find myself refocusing my priestly ministry away from diocesan and Church matters and more toward individuals, and so I am extremely grateful for the spiritual direction in which I am engaged, and for ministries such as Living Waters in which grace is evidently overpowering the negativity.

6. As men not immune to temptation, has this crisis prompted you into finding new or renewed ways of ensuring clarity and accountability in your own commitment to chastity? Might you describe how you go about this?

I hear a renewed invitation to personal prayer and to prayer on behalf of brother clergy and for survivors of abuse. I find myself more ready to turn feelings and thoughts of impurity into intercessory prayers for victims of sexual abuse and pornography — a prayer for those whose purity was injured involuntarily..

7. Explain any risk you see in this season of priests fearing exposure for moral weakness and thus being more likely to hide from authority.

Priests are in fact reluctant to seek help from their bishops, fearing that self-disclosure will lead to removal from ministry. This fear, sadly, is based on actual action against priests who have self-disclosed and sought assistance in recovery.

8. How can priests best facilitate a culture of accountability and healing that will prevent sexual immoralities?

Priests must find other priests, and trusted laity, with whom they can be themselves: socialize, find enjoyment in healthy relationships, as well as discuss their own vulnerabilities.  Priests are, almost universally, lonely and overwhelmed by their inability to do everything they believe they must do in order to be “good” and effective priests.  This is a result of a misguided metric of what “success” means in priesthood: home visits made, classrooms visited, parish income, Mass attendance, hospital rounds, filling the obligation of the Liturgy of the Hours — when any of these fall, priests too often judge themselves to be failures and “self-medicate” their feelings of inadequacy through impurity, unhealthy relationships, pornography, or alcohol. This culture of equating overwork with success can be undone only by cultivating healthy and mature friendships within the priesthood and among laypeople. A healthy and life-giving prayer life follows, but I believe that it is the fruit of healthy and life-giving personal friendships, which can them model and promote a healthy friendship with God, and the embrace of a loving Father.

9. What good do you pray will result from this season of exposure?

A better-focused leadership in the Church, less concerned with the size and health of the institution than with the holiness of the people and faithfulness to the Father in abject dependence on His Providence.”

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

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