Category: Catholic Sexuality

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture
praying for priests

Radiance from the Ruins: Praying for Priests

What had been alien to me—a black-coated mystery, heady and aloof, men in rectories, celibate yet suspect—became engaging and vital through actual priests who loved me well. Priests I know possess an attuned compassion that has deepened my trust in Jesus through His Church. No priest has enough time and resource, yet his faithful ‘yes’ to me has been the occasion more than once where I’ve seen the Father multiply his loaf and fish many times over.

The priest brings a feast—he offers up the sacrifice of Jesus at the altar; he makes the Mass a real meal, the center of Catholic worship. Maybe that’s why some of the devoted defer to him slavishly, and become nearly infantile before his ‘power.’ Rather than treating him as an icon of the divine, they make him an idol.

The idol has fallen. He lies before us in pieces, a divided human being, poured out and bleeding, possibly infectious. Of course not all priests abuse; the majority has not. No matter. We don’t discriminate. Hit nearly every day by another stinking wave of abuse allegations, we wonder what lurks beneath every cassock. The brave collared servant racing through the airport or post office provokes our grim reaction: ‘I wonder what he’s hiding…’ He is no fool; he sees your mistrust. Wise priests offer that up to Jesus as a prayer for real victims.

Every priest today shares in the suffering of little ones sacrificed on the altars of demonized colleagues—both living and dead. They know what they represent to us in our disillusionment. They pray more; they take the hit.

Pray for them. They laid their lives down for this Church that we visit weekly at best. They live there. Do they not experience our shared disappointment in her many times over?

As I consider the prayer needs of priests, I see clay oil lamps with simple globes of glass. Might we first pray for the source of that light—Jesus—to be alive and well in every priest? Might we pray for a special unction in this season for each priest to ‘go boldly to the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace to help him in his time of need’ (Heb. 4: 16)? His need for Jesus has never been greater.

Then we can pray about the projections of others upon his ‘lamp.’ In my prayers, I see dirt hurled at him, unholy judgments we fling upon a human being who deserves our respect until he proves unworthy of it. We sin against God’s servant when we assume the worst about him; we darken his globe like mud spattering a house or street light. Pray for Jesus Healer to make know to his heart any way he has been darkened from without, by groundless accusation. Pray also for the fresh washing of his globe by undiluted mercy—cleansing of the blood and water so that he is able to make Jesus known to others in a clear, undistorted way.

Then we can pray for his heart, his source, where he can welcome the Source and stay true and undivided in his moral life. These abuse scandals have revealed the vulnerabilities of priests to immorality—not just on the extreme end with children but with adults, with pornography, in their own fallen imaginations. Might we pray for a fresh humility—an inspired fire upon the sacrifice of his life, that might compel him to give account to wise friends and elders? No more Jesus alone—He invites us to share our divides with His members. Let us pray for priests to willingly discover new and challenging communities where they lead out in moral weakness, discover love as never before, and learn to refuse a host of counterfeits that breed in isolation.

Lastly, I ask that we pray for priests to discover a new impetus for sharing their humanity with us. Unspoken rules of ‘prudence’ have rendered most priests big on ‘teachiness’ and low on self-disclosure. Today we need the witness of how to live the truth-in-love; how do priests actually work out their integration as celibates? We all benefit from our leaders sharing a bit how they stay at once pure and open to Jesus’ members. Apart from well-worn prohibitions, what do we do with longings for love when there is no genital outlet? Pray for priests to wisely and candidly let us in a little to their process of sanctification.

As for the faithful who have fawned a bit too much over ‘father’ and who now are levelled by his cracked, clay foundation: pray for that priest. And repent of the childishness that made the jar an idol. He is just a man with a call that requires our prayers. We each have a priest in us that needs to arise on behalf of our beloved priests. I for one want to help them shine.

‘We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that the all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side…struck down but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus might also be revealed in our body’ (2 Cor. 4: 7-10).

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

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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.’

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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.’

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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.’

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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.’

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