Tag Archives: Abuse

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Unflinching Mercy for the Abused

‘The beauty of the cathedral does not oppose the cross but is its fruit.’ – Cardinal Ratzinger

The other morning in prayer I was startled by the image of a priest opening his vestments in a cathedral and abusing a boy. The act was as ugly as the building was beautiful. I felt rage: the boy was sacrificed on the altar of another’s perversion, and this, before the Lord! Ordained to protect, the priest destroyed. And the man over him—a bishop—protected the building, not the boy.

I wanted to race from the image and lose myself in mystery. But I could not. I asked God why and He seemed to say: ‘That boy relives the nightmare constantly. I give you a share in it. Money cannot heal him; His restoration hinges on whether or not he is believed and that priest defrocked, along with any bishop who covered for him.’

I could not flinch and turn away from the boy’s nightmare. To be unflinching means ‘to not be frightened of, or not to not try to avoid something dangerous…to look and describe something directly.’

I vented my anger in prayer and asked for justice to be served at the recent US Bishops’ gathering in Baltimore; I prayed for ways that the bishops might censure themselves (apparently, this question will be taken up by a global gathering of bishops in February.) Please pray for this crucial issue: unless bishops are disciplined, there is no restoration for victims.

I realized that day was the Feast of the Lateran Basilica, one chance a year for the Church to honor the cathedral of the pope in Rome, a mere building but one that conveys an essential about this Church built on apostles and prophets who point us to the new Jerusalem. I felt conflicted; in our abuse crisis, I am tempted to disdain the Church for what I fear hides beneath her ancient creeds and cloaks.

And yet this rather minor feast has always been my favorite day of all. Why? As I reread the Scriptures—Jesus on fire for the temple, incinerating its robbers (John 2), and the river flowing from the temple to ‘make all things new’ (Ezek. 47), I remembered: this is the Church I love—zealous in truth, and boundless in its river of life flowing from the Cross at altar—the water levels rising and my friends and I growing as trees along the banks of this holy river, our fruit becoming food for the hungry, our leaves anointed to heal the broken (v. 12).

Might this be the hour, O holy and merciful Jesus, when You re-enter Your house and expel those who crush the most vulnerable then lie about it? Might You then stir the waters and release a greater flood of healing for those most in need of it? May those devoured by robbers in Your house be restored by Almighty mercy.

May we not cease to pray and act until this is accomplished for the abused. Through the fruit of Your suffering—the healing flood rising in our midst—might the beauty You intend for Your house be restored, first for them then for all.

‘I have posted watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem; they will never be silent day or night. You who call on the Lord, give yourselves no rest, and give Him no rest, until He establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of all the earth.’
(Isaiah 62: 6, 7)

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

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Seeds and Weeds

I heard the news in Ubon Thailand, during our first Living Waters Training there: 70 years of clerical abuse in Pennsylvania involving 300 priests, over 1000 of God’s beloved kids, and the Church’s systematic attempt to cover her tracks.

I knew the report was coming. Nothing prepped me for its magnitude. Jetlagged and restless at 2am, I read until I could not. In the gray light I recalled the night before when we as a delegation from 9 Asian nations renounced idolatry—our relentless self-preservation: we took a stand against constructing false religious personas that hid a multitude of sins. Beneath our robes, over half of us admitted that we as children had been sacrificed on the altars of adult perversion. Otherwise smiling Asians wept as Jesus washed us with His blood and water.

We gathered before the Cross where Divine Mercy met us in our misery. None of us are noble by human standards, most of us sinned grievously as we staggered into adulthood; all of us know now that Jesus considers us deep rich soil in which the Father of lights is supplanting seeds sown from the father of lies. Rooted in Him, we the weak are becoming strong, saplings destined to become oaks of justice. He is Jesus, after all. He acts as He wills with whom He wants. He chooses the least to shame those most inclined to preserve face and place.

I stammer to answer for churchmen who in decades past (today’s clergy is painfully aware of clerical abuse and mandated to root it out) sacrificed sons and daughters in the fire of lust (2K 17: 17, 31) then concealed their deaths. Predator priests and those who guard them are weeds that choke life and incur judgment. These are demon seeds sown among the good wheat of the Gospel. Jesus describes His Kingdom as nothing less–a harvest-to-be of righteousness challenged by deadly weeds. Jesus permits the mixture in preparation for the time that His angels ‘weed out of the Kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil…’ (Matt. 13:41).

A Grand Jury report pales in contrast to the final judgment of the weeds and vindication of the trampled seeds. In the meantime, we must take seriously these gifts of judgment on God’s house and ask for them to be effective in crushing all vestiges of Christian idolatry.

More importantly, I urge you to invest liberally in sowing and tending to the good seed. And may we who have been crushed by sin and summoned by mercy know who we are! We are nothing less than ‘plantings of the Lord for the display of His splendor’ (IS 61:3), tiny seeds emerging into the tallest, strongest of trees that shall provide food, shelter, and healing for wounded ones (Matt. 13:31, 32).

Thank you my friends. As I fly home now from Ubon, I am reminded that your support of Desert Stream Ministries has sown seed and provided tools of growth for the saints in Thailand, Indonesia, Laos, Cambodia, Korea, China, Singapore, the Philippines, and India. You free us for the fields. I praise God for you, His gift to the nations.

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Betrayal

For the last month, I have been sickened by reports of ex-Cardinal McCarrick’s long history of sexual abusing male teens and adults; more deadening still is his denial of the allegations (how so when a diocese settled a couple of these cases years earlier?). Most crucifying are reports that some leaders around him knew of his atrocities and turned a blind eye.

Each Christian bears the shame of this. Those aware of the devastating impact of sexual and spiritual abuse bear more. How could a religious system betray her most vulnerable over and over again? The Church’s structure lends itself to cohesion (for which I am grateful) and cover-up (for which we must become stubbornly intolerant).

Scripture guides me here. As the McCarrick allegations unfolded, I completed a Bible study on the Gospel of St. Mark with my children, using a commentary written by Dr. Mary Healy, a Catholic biblical scholar whom I esteem as one of the greatest gifts to the Church today. St. Mark is the leanest of the Gospels and thus fails to soften much of anything. His account of the events leading up to the crucifixion broke me; I shuddered as demonized men abused Jesus rapid fire, relentlessly. He suffered betrayal on every side, as if dark forces had captivated all men and made them violently stupid. On the cross, Jesus’ only words conveyed forsakenness (‘Where are You, Father?’), ending in a death cry.

Thank God for the cross, the Father’s inner logic that boomerangs wickedness into divine power and wisdom! Yet in St. Mark, even Christ Resurrected is hidden from witnesses who are either too dull or too afraid to believe the Risen Jesus at all. Mary Magdalene ‘gets’ Him but her report to the disciples falls on deaf ears and blind eyes. And this from the Gospel I most associate with spiritual power: St. Mark’s blazing witness of the Word confirmed by signs and wonders.

St. Mark reveals the cross as God’s strength, glory just waiting to shatter the husk of clueless men. If God truly works through human impotence, then we the Church have given Him a lot to work with—the ex-cardinal whose dazzling gifts obscured a predatory double life, dutiful men who doubted their guts and settled on hiding gangrene rather than amputating it. To quote Pope Benedict: ‘In the Church, Jesus entrusts Himself to those who betray Him again and again.’

Eloquent and true. Yet humanly-speaking, how are we to trust the Church now? We must grieve for persons abused by clerics who cannot help but gag at pics of McCarrick gazing effusively at Pope Francis. And what about the innocent clerics who fight for chastity and who urge us to integrate our own, priests now complicit in the eyes of the public who see ‘cover up’ in every Roman vestment? We must cry out for the abused who need justice, and for clergy who should not be maligned because of a cowardly few. And for the unbelieving world who needs to know that the Church is not a secret, self-protective refuge for perverse men who enjoy the theater of religion. Rather, she is a beautiful Mother, served by amazing Fathers.

Power in impotence—the cross, the gist of the Gospel, St. Mark’s especially. And that is what we are beholding as Pope Francis, with the help of friends, acts decisively and strongly to no longer tolerate clerical abuse. He is wielding the surgical knife, as evinced by the resignation of 34 Chilean bishops last month who participated in an extensive cover-up of ongoing abuse, and the conviction of an Australian Archbishop on similar grounds. Most resoundingly, Pope Francis stripped McCarrick of his cardinal status and removed him from public ministry. That is huge, a first, and needs to become standard practice for shepherds who eat sheep or look the other way while others do.

A trustworthy Church? Yes, when she verifies the truth of abuse, disciplines abusers, while making every effort to heal the abused and ensure the sexual integrity of her leaders. Strength at work in weakness: our faith is founded on nothing less. We’ve miles to go. Still, when lived in her members, the cross on which God was betrayed overcomes the sting and stink of this most intimate human betrayal.

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Men with Chests, Part 1

‘We remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect from them virtue and enterprise.’ C.S. Lewis

‘And he will turn the hearts of their fathers to their children’ (LK 1:17).

A man sexually violated John at 9-years-old. From then on, he hated ‘gay’ men (the unhealed do not distinguish between pedophiles and persons with SSA).

John’s disdain grew as ‘gays’ waged and seemed to win the war on normalizing homosexuality in the culture. Until his church’s men’s retreat last summer. A friend of John invited two broken guys in a ‘gay’ union to the retreat. It seems their relationship was in ruins and they were calling out for God’s mercy. Over the course of the retreat, the Father made His love known to both men through the love of the guys there.

John loved Jesus more than he hated ‘gays.’ When he heard the witness of these two men who had suffered much in their lives but were now experiencing the saving mercy of God, John began to soften: mercy primed him to give mercy to these men. As he did so, he could see the underlying stronghold of hatred in his heart from the abuse. God began a work of restoring John from the deep wound of sexual abuse, a healing that continues to this day.

John’s repentance and healing was timely. His only son Tim suffered from a distant relationship with his Dad. A focused and successful businessman, John had little time for his only son who at 15-years-old was showing signs of gender brokenness. The older Tim got, the more he needed his Dad and the less he liked him. Tim sought solace in his mother who could see her son’s need for masculine empowerment but could not give it to him.

The same summer of the men’s retreat, Tim attended an academic camp at a west coast university. There Tim ‘came out’ with the help of a guy further along in his ‘gay’ identification. Tim’s sexual bond with him also sealed what he believed to be his ‘true self’ as a ‘gay’ person. He arrived home days after his father’s retreat; a few days later, his parents found evidence of Tim’s ‘gay’ life on his cell phone. Primed with mercy, John began to fight for the dignity of his son. More next week.

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October 26: Faithful Lovers

‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…Love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Matt. 22:37, 39)

Cultivating undivided devotion to God underlies faithful human relationships. Any adulterer knows this. Those persons whom God has graced with the courage to face the devastation of breaking both marital vows and the heart of one’s spouse become reduced to divine love. Both victim and perpetrator know that the only hope for authentic restoration lies in God.

Repentance is not turning to a set of rules—most know which ones they have already broken. We turn to a relationship—the Relationship—the only One we can trust. Real moral healing must involve the readiness to rely on God alone. He awaits our desperation: ‘Living Water’ only saturates dry broken ground. God bears with us until we recognize the futility of false lovers, coupled with the devastation wrought by our wanderings.

God waits. The marvel of Divine Mercy is this: He who deserves our undivided love simply because He is God will employ our adulterous hearts to bring us back to Himself, back to Love. Misbegotten relationships will always fail us. In His exquisite accommodation to our foolishness, God uses moral failure to anchor us in His unfailing love. Then we can begin the slow and splendid task of learning how to love others faithfully. Founded on Him, fearful of unholy fire, we can become faithful lovers.

Seeking to give God complete devotion is the basis our marriage. Annette and I had no illusions about the native quality of our self-giving. My homosexually addictive background, coupled with her sexual abuse and resulting defenses became our broken ground for drinking in rain from heaven. What else could we do but love Him in return, worshipping Him in gratitude with all our heart, mind and soul? He gave us love with which to care deeply for one another. We sealed that love with our bodies, a vow we have not broken in 33 years. The faithful love of God makes us faithful.

‘As a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.’ (Isa. 62:5)

Please join us as we pray:

1. Appalachian Region, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, Dean Greer -Coordinator: For new regional leadership to be identified and raised-up, for existing groups and to see new groups established.

2. Aguas Vivas: Santiago, Chile, Ruth & Ignacio – Coordinators: Thanksgiving for their participation in the Aguas Vivas Training in July; for guidance and provision in order to run an Aguas Vivas group.

3. RHN: New Pathways, Elton Moose, Springfield, OH: Financial needs and new board members. Prodigal Ministries, Jerry Armelli, Cincinnati, OH: For the fulfillment of the Lord’s purposes for the ministry.

“Courage for Pastor Phil Strout (National Director of Vineyard USA), that he would ensure that the Church becomes a clear fountain of transformation for persons with same-sex attraction!”

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD BLOGS & PRAYER POINTS FOR OCTOBER 23, 24, 25, 26

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