Wednesday, July 31, 2013

How to Evangelize - A Quiz

1. To Evangelize on the Question of Gay Marriage, should we


A. Take divorce and remarriage lightly, and divorce and remarry in our own lives
B. Use the pill and limit our family size since sex is for pleasure and not for life or love
C. Commit fornication and adultery while nonetheless insisting upon the "sanctity of marriage"
D. Do None of the Above, but instead become Christian

2. To Evangelize on the Question of Christ as both God and Man, should we

A. Hedge our bets and make sure things go our way, while mouthing pious platitudes about "God's will"
B. Make our lives are exactly like the lives of the pagans around us, only worse
C. Remain ignorant of Scripture and Church Teaching
D. Do None of the Above, but instead become Christian

3. To evangelize the fact that "God is love", should we

A. Despise those who are not members of our party, race or group
B. Cheapen love by denying that it is all about sacrifice and the cross - about death and rebirth
C. Ignore Truth and Beauty and Goodness, which, regardless of their human source, are all expressions of God's love
D. Do None of the Above, but instead become Christian







God is Bigger than Gay

From an email I wrote to a friend ...

Pope Francis may not have used the most measured words when talking about gays on the airplane, but the fact is the love of Christ trumps our sins.  This is not to say that we cannot reject the love of Christ through sin, but that God is bigger than an act of sodomy, even a life devoted to glorifying such shameful acts.  We sometimes flatter ourselves in thinking that our sins are bigger than they are.  I don't think our sins impress Him the way they impress us.  Can we reject love and end up in hell because we devoted our entire lives to anal sex?  Well, yes.
But what do we have to match the goodness of God?  Spite, jealousy, perversion, anger, greed.  And ridiculous things like anal sex. These things are ultimately examples of Unreality.  They cause pain, but they make use of what He gives us and they are our own feeble attempts to thrust something other than love back in God's face.   ...
I have an actress, a Lesbian, who had a child out of wedlock 25 years ago.  The child's father refused to pay child support or even to acknowledge him, and became a leading figure in a Protestant church.  Finally the father came back in my actress' life and tried to reconcile with his child, when the kid was 18 or so.  All along, my actress could have done what almost anyone else would have done - poisoned the well about the boy's father, complained to the boy, leaned on him, etc.  But she didn't.  Despite her animosity toward the boy's father, she stood aside and allowed them to work out whatever their relationship could be.  This is something almost no Christian you and I know would do.  This woman, who has given her life to degraded acts, who is an avowed atheist, nevertheless does one gigantic Christian deed, and thereby shows she is Seeking God.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

About (dot com) the Pope's Remarks

About.com did a great job of picking Scott Richert to be their official spokesman on Catholicism.  Here he is explaining what Pope Francis said about "gays" (emphasis mine).

Pope Francis did not dismiss, much less justify, homosexual activity; he spoke of men with homosexual desires who have already been ordained and are "in eager search of God"—men, moreover, who are not engaged in lobbying on behalf of their disordered affections.
For anyone who has followed Pope Francis's public statements since his election, this all simply makes sense. The Holy Father does not believe that one can "seek God" by obstinately engaging in immoral activity; one seeks God by, among other things, living a chaste life.  


God is Bigger than Niagara Falls

My wife Karen and I are on our annual pilgrimage to the American Chesterton Society Conference.  This year the conference will be held at Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts, and will feature Peter Kreeft as keynote speaker as well as my own troupe Theater of the Word Incorporated performing our play Socrates Meets Jesus, based on Kreeft's book of the same name.  (By the way, there's still space so come join us!)

The annual Chesterton conference is always a very spiritual experience for everyone involved - even when it's in someplace like Reno, Nevada, as I wrote about at length last year.

And even though we're not at the conference yet (things get going this Thursday, August 1), this year's pilgrimage has been no exception - profoundly spiritual.

***

On Saturday the spirituality kicked in in full force, even as Maria Romine and I performed my inter-active mystery Lifeless in Seattle at Willow Ridge Winery in beautiful Westervelt, Illinois.  Doing these shows, which I love and which are a combination of vaudeville, improv, and scripted legitimate theater, always reminds me of God because there's no way anyone should have been making a living at this for 20 years as I have, unless the "hand of God" were in it.

Speaking of the "hand of God", I'll let my favorite Jesuit Fr. Marty Moleski take over from here.  On Facebook Fr. Marty writes ...

Around 6:30 last evening [Sunday], I got a call from Kevin O'Brien, Lord, Master, Producer, Director, Actor, Stagehand, and Groupie of Theater of the Word and Grunky. He was wondering if I would like to go to Niagara Falls with him and his wife. It was a great adventure! Thanks to the rector and the guest master, I was also able to offer them a room for the night. I kept saying, "The hand of God is in it." Of course, that was true, too, of Jesus' death on the Cross. Not all adventures are as delightful as the Falls at night. But the good times strengthen us to endure the bad times. God's love is at Niagara, and, unlike the Falls, it will have no end.

... for the Falls will erode away, but God's love lasts forever.

And here's some of what we saw ...




Then on Monday we met with David Higbee of St. Irenaeus Ministries in Rochester, New York, whose Scripture Study podcasts keep me enthralled and educated while driving as much as I do.

David and I talked at length about the challenges facing the Church in the New Evangelization.

One of the themes on this trip has been faux religion vs. true religion - counterfeit Christ vs. the real Christ - Unreality vs. Reality.  Part of what makes our Faith tricky and part of what makes many conservative Catholics angry at our amazing and holy Pope Francis is that holiness itself comes at us from surprising directions.

Today, for example, my wife and I talked at length to a student at Elms College in Chicopee, Massachusetts, whose continuing education classes have been a hodgepodge of liberal and heterodox theology, mixed in with some genuine Christian spirituality.  But this woman, who may not have entirely the right notion on what the Church teaches, nevertheless has learned and is living the central lesson.  She had had a very troubling experience in her life - a major trauma - that involved a botched medical procedure, which left her in chronic lifelong pain and with other complications, touching every part of her life.  In addition, trouble with relatives who have been rather brutal to her have upset her relationship with her extended family and have caused problems on that front as well.

And yet, by means of much prayer and sincere Mass attendance every Sunday for the past ten years, this student has found the grace to forgive - to forgive the surgeon whose negligence caused so much pain, and to forgive her relatives who have been so heartless to her.  A great beacon of sanctity, a beam of charity, shining in Western Massachusetts!  She is much less burdened and bitter than she was when this was in full swing - and she's come to her forgiveness through the grace of God.

And here are my great-nieces and nephews, who live in West Springfield, MA ...

My brother Alan with Aino, his grand-daughter.

Karen holding baby Gabriel.  Gabriel looks exactly like me when I was a baby.

My great-nephew Julian.  I saw him the day he was born when I was in New England on a Theater of the Word tour.  That was four years ago!

Pray for us as our pilgrimage continues - and join us (if you can) Aug. 1 - 3 in Worcester!


Saturday, July 27, 2013

God Redeems Even Our Selves

On August 5 (a week from this coming Monday) I will appear on The Journey Home on EWTN as Orestes Brownson, one of the most fascinating Catholic converts in American history.

Me as Orestes Brownson
One of the things Brownson strove to communicate in his writings was the cooperation of grace and nature.  For Brownson, the supernatural was the grounding of the natural, and superior to the natural, but the two realms coincided, working together through God's providence.   He was quite suspicious of a rejection of either nature or of that which is beyond nature.

And, while most moderns flatly reject even the concept of the supernatural, sometimes devout Christians make the opposite mistake.

Many Catholics, for instance, are fond of a kind of spirituality that seeks to obliterate the self so that only God and God's will remains.  Men are to become merely empty vessels for God's grace.  This is not only anti-incarnational, it is almost a form of Eastern despair.

Grace perfects nature, and God gave us egos, wills, desires and reason - in short, personalities - not for their immolation (though there are times when even that is called for in a kind of martyrdom) but in order for Him to work through them and for us to work through them as well, in our personal cooperation with Him.

What we seek is not death to self and life in Christ, but death to sin and life in Christ.  For with new hearts our selves, by His grace, can be without sin.


Monday, July 22, 2013

Our Savior the Shopping Mall

Crestwood, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis near where I live, has gone through some hard times.

At one point Crestwood was the home of Crestwood Plaza, "where the big stores are".  Crestwood Plaza was such a popular shopping mall that one year, a week or two before Christmas, it took me over an hour to drive there in bumper-to-bumper traffic from only a few miles away, so many folk were eager to shop at the then very popular Crestwood Mall.

That was maybe ten years ago.

Today the mall is abandoned.

Little by little, over the past decade, every one of the hundreds of stores in the indoor climate controlled retail paradise closed up, from the big anchor stores to the smaller chains.  No one's quite sure of the cause of this.  One factor is the renovation of other malls in the St. Louis suburbs.  Another is the declining demographic of Crestwood and its environs, an area which now consists mostly of seniors whose children and grandchildren live elsewhere.

The interior of Crestwood Mall

For a while, the mall's owners were renting out abandoned shops to locals who were either struggling theater troupes or craft stores.  The rent for each shuttered unit was a token of perhaps $100 per month, which is not enough to enable the mall to stay open and maintained, but a local arts mecca suddenly existed and the mall was being visited again.

But since that economic arrangement could not last, the local tenants were evicted, and the mall now sits totally vacant, its parking lot empty and slowly weathering away.

A development group has expressed interest in tearing the mall down and building a new and improved retail / entertainment paradise, but the group is being stymied by local politics and by a Crestwood board of aldermen who are not willing to authorize the hiring of a planner, and are wary of the tax increment financing the mall's prospective developers are asking for.

***

So yesterday my family and I stepped out of St. Elizabeth of Hungary church in Crestwood to be greeted by a group distributing flyers regarding the situation at the mall.  The group is Metropolitan Congregations United , an ecumenical association of Christians advocating for economic development in St. Louis neighborhoods.

The flyer urges folks to attend the next Crestwood Board of Aldermen meeting to pressure city hall to give the developers what they want, so that the mall can be rebuilt and Crestwood's tax base saved.

So it occurred to me - are Christians really so gullible as to advocate for Salvation by Means of a Shopping Mall?  If this new mall ever gets subsidized by TIF financing and built, who will the tenants be?  Local craft shops and theater troupes?  No, overpriced out of town chains selling useless luxury items.

I understand that it's not economically viable for locals to pay only $100 per month rent on indoor retail space, but is the solution to that the corporate capitalist cave-in to the least Christian element in our economy - the artificial and unnecessary air conditioned affluence of chain store retail outlets?

If Metropolitan Congregations United really wants to help the citizens of Crestwood, then they should learn a bit about Distributism and the social encyclicals of the Catholic Church.  A more local economy, based upon a greater distribution of independent mom and pop business owners, would find a way to make the old mall viable, without surrendering to the "we always get what we want" Mentality of our debt-based consumer culture.

But instead the local Christians are advocating for the very economic system that is both culturally and economically doomed.


Sunday, July 21, 2013

Thoughts on Culture, Celibacy and Purina Ape Chow


  • When people say, "Priests should not be celibate!" they don't mean what that implies.  For a Catholic, that implies that priests would raise families - a hefty calling, to be "father" to a parish and "father" to your sons and daughters at the same time.  But people don't mean, "Priests should be free to marry and raise kids while functioning as priests", they mean "Priests should be free to have sex with whomever they want without any consequences, as the rest of us do - then they wouldn't molest children."

  • When fewer and fewer people in the Church believe in Christ, what we get is what we've got - highly artificial experiences - false intimacy, contrived sentimentality, music and art that no one really likes, a great big game of make-believe.  As in the world of theater, the kinds of people who are most attracted to such empty affectation are women and practicing homosexuals.  One of the reasons, then, that we've got a lavender mafia in the Church is it all seems so highly artificial - without true faith.

  • Culture is related to cultivation.  When we cultivate the better parts of ourselves, the better parts will thrive.  "Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life." (Gal. 6:8)  For a long time now, our culture has been cultivating the worst things in us, sowing not only to the flesh but to the most base and perverse desires of the flesh.  From what I read and hear, this is true for the culture within the Church as well.  The culture of secrecy and depravity within the club has grown a bacterial culture of death, not unlike the secular culture of death that surrounds us.  Pope Francis has made some noise about fixing this.  But it won't be easy.

  • When I think about the most talented people I know who have gone wrong, it's because they were never cultivated properly and never learned how to cultivate the gifts that God gave them.  A brilliant and caring young woman I know was left fallow by her family, and ended up in a culture that took a character that would have been perhaps a nun or a writer and turned this character into a tramp and a power-hungry vixen.  That's what the culture she fell into produced.  Had she been raised in a more caring culture, other fruit would have been borne.  The point is - this is true for all of us.  We have both apes and angels within us - and if we keep eating Purina Ape Chow, well, we know which of the two will thrive.

  • Our spirits are not being cultivated by a Christian culture.  Our apes are being cultivated by an apish culture, but our angels are simply being starved.  Most of us are hearing either the Prosperity Gospel or the Tolerance Gospel or the Jesus-was-nice-you-be-nice-too Gospel or even the Theology-of-indulging-my-bodily-desires Gospel - false Gospels all of them.  The secular world is offering us rap music and vulgar situation comedies.  The Church is offering us early 80's music and pop psychology.  So it doesn't matter how much we "feel the faith".  The life of Christ will die within us if we don't feed and cultivate it - and no one - almost literally no one - helps us do that.  We "go ape" but we never "go angel".

  • However, in these Last Days we can carry (as my friend Sean Dailey does) the entire works of the Church Fathers on our phones in our pockets.  We can start online communities that can become virtual worldwide parishes.  We can find almost any art, music or literature known to man with a few keystrokes.  The Church may be mimicking the Wasteland of the anti-Christian world, but we have more resources now than we ever have to find the culture we need and to develop it.

  • Again, as Pope Benedict said, "The only really effective apologia for Christianity comes down to two arguments, namely, the saints the Church has produced and the art which has grown in her womb."  And both - saints and art - are a product of Christian Culture.  Let us stop playing games, let us drop the empty affectation and the false gospels - and let us rebuild the Christian Culture, beginning in our homes and in our hearts and in our circles of friends.  For only then, when we become living and breathing saints-in-the-making who carry a reborn and living culture with us, a culture of Christ, will we be able to begin to evangelize.

The Crisis Inside the Church

Rod Dreher at The American Conservative has written about the Scandal in St. Louis and mentions me and some of the things I've posted recently here.

Rod's concluding sentences speak directly to the spiritual turmoil I now find myself in ...

It is very, very hard to walk the tightrope between cynicism and credulity; I struggle with this every day. The problem is when you don’t struggle at all. Hardcore cynicism is a different kind of Big Lie.

Rod says this, speaking as a man whose faith took a direct hit from the horrors he discovered when investigating the Sex Scandal in the Catholic Church - which is something he did as a journalist, in depth and at length.  Learning the truth that he learned - a truth that most of us are unwilling to face - separated him from the true-believers who commit themselves to clericalism at all costs (a Big Lie), but also put him in the dangerous position of giving in to something that was cynical and bitter - "a different kind of Big Lie".

In fact, one of the commenters in Rod's post makes the very natural Protestant claim that if Catholic Bishops are, in most cases, either cowards or scoundrels, and if the people they shepherd are generally no better, then why would any Catholic believe anything the Church teaches?  How can a Christian leader - a successor to the Apostles - teach infallibly on Faith and Morals if he's buggering the altar boy or covering up for priests who do?  Or - even worse - if he's complicit in such crimes, and then cooperating with lay Catholics who shame and ostracize the victims when the victims come forward, sacrificing children and families for personal status and position.  (Which may or may not be happening in the Fr. Jiang case, but which has certainly happened again and again in the Church during the course of this past decade.)

We as Catholics know that Christians Behaving Badly is in fact part of what the Church tells us to expect.   And, if we're honest, we'll admit that we're very much a part of that problem - each one of us.  But the Church also tells us, quite emphatically, that the whole point of it all is for Christians to Become Like Christ.  Yes, we're sinners and we need a savior.  No, that savior will not be content to leave us steeped in sin.  In fact, the whole point of it all is personal sanctification (becoming holy - which, in a sense, is the Kingdom), both for our own sake and as a witness for the sake of our neighbors.

Elsewhere Rod compares the temptation to cynicism for post-Scandal Catholics to what Europeans went through after the Great War ...

The point to grasp here is not that “glory,” “honor,” “courage,” and “hallow” have no meaning. The point is that the experience of the Great War was so horrific and so searing that in its wake, many people could not hear those words un-ironically. That is, those words had been used to conceal so much horror that their very invocation was not only hollow, it was almost a taunt.

Dreher says that, in the same way that shell-shocked Europeans in 1918 began to think that "glory" "honor" and "courage" were fancy words used to excuse and cover for the horrors that had been unleashed from the human heart, so someone who squarely confronts the Abuse Scandal can suspect that "holiness" "priesthood" and "sacraments" can serve as lies that distract us from the depravity that's all around us, the stench of which is merely masked by incense.

Let me be clear: I’m not saying that concepts like “holiness,” “priesthood,” “sacrament,” “bishops,” and so forth are empty. I don’t believe they are, any more than I disbelieve in the existence of glory and honor. It’s just that whenever these things are talked about and invoked, I reflexively become skeptical, fearful, and guarded, and I hold back. I hold back a lot.

And the problem is that, although we can keep reminding ourselves that what the clergy willfully does does not invalidate what the clergy (seeming against its will) teaches, nevertheless this is an incarnational Faith, sacramentally conferred not by word alone but by living fleshed-out examples, taught primarily by the witnesses to the Faith, the living lay and clerical Christians around us.  Dreher quotes Pope Benedict ...

The only really effective apologia for Christianity comes down to two arguments, namely, the saints the Church has produced and the art which has grown in her womb.

What a beautiful quote!

And yet how many saints do we see around us, say, in the typical suburban parish?  We may see parents and grandparents making supreme sacrifices of love in their personal lives; we may see soldiers and businessmen doing the same - but generally not for Christian reasons, and not as a conscious expression of their Faith.  And if we happen to have a pastor who pushes a kind of benign pagansim (as many of them do), or who secretly is into a kind of perversion and depravity that is - even today - difficult to imagine and impossible to describe, then it may be that we find ourselves surrounded by Catholics who don't know their Faith, who don't read the Bible, who would resist what the Church teaches if they ever heard what that actually is, and who have chosen a pop culture Barabbas over the Son of Man crucified for their sakes - and who all might be led by a man whose perversion is unimaginable and who is kept complacent in his sins by a clerical culture that condones and enables it.

So the witness of sanctity is scanty.  As to Catholic or even Protestant art - well, where is it?  It's certainly not in architecture, music or literature these days.

Of course it once was.  Shakespeare, the greatest writer of all time, created masterpieces that were profoundly Christian and indeed quite Catholic.  And there are plenty of saints of the past, even the not too distant past.  And plenty who are still living - though they are usually not where we would expect to find them.

In brief - we're in a crisis the extent and depth of which we cannot imagine.

The only solution to this crisis are the two things Pope Benedict mentioned - personal sanctity and the restoration of Christian culture.

And neither can happen without death to sin and rebirth in Christ - even when all the world and almost the whole Church counsels against that very jarring and radical concept.

But without Him we can do nothing.  (John 15:5)

Saturday, July 20, 2013

My Hesitation

Re. Fr. Jiang and Archbishop Carlson, I just wrote to a friend about the difficulty of blogging about this ...

I keep trying to address the fact that we don't really know all the facts here - but even when we did (as in the Bishop Finn case), the Super-Catholics still rallied around their guy and vilified the victims.

So, yes, I'm skeptical and I'm cynical.  The story told by the alleged victim in Old Monroe fits a pattern; it rings true.  It may be false.  But apparently there's enough evidence to substantiate it, and if it is indeed true, it means we're dealing with a level of depravity in our archdiocese that no one is going to want to face head on.  It means that clergy and laity alike will lie thorough their teeth or at least bend the truth in order to keep up appearances and reputation.  It means that children and families will be sacrificed for the sake of status and power.

If the allegations are false, then we're dealing with a similar level of depravity on the other side.

Either way, I pray that we all have the courage to confront the truth when it finally comes out.  If it finally comes out.

But I fear that if this girl has indeed been victimized, and if Archbishop Carlson has indeed enabled the crime and attempted to cover it up, my fellow theologically orthodox Catholics will look the other way, call Bill Donohue for a spin job, and crucify me and any other Catholic who reports on this in the process.

The decade-old scandal is darker and deeper than we care to admit, and until we confront it and the hell that it inhabits and celebrates, it won't go away.


Sin and Character

I am glad to say that the combox discussion in my post about Fr. Jiang has been civil and intelligent.

Fr. Jiang's defenders are defending him, it seems, not just because of his Catholic orthodoxy, but because of his character.  And I don't know Fr. Jiang, so I can't comment on his character.

But I can say something about character in general.

It is quite possible for the most reverent of men to harbor the most sinful of thoughts and desires, and even to conceal some of the most heinous of acts.  We have lost sight of sin.  As I'm often saying, we hear very little about sin from the pulpit, even the most common (and deadly) sins that surround us in our parishes - adultery, greed, fornication, the use of pornography, lying, contraception, etc.  And when have we ever heard any Catholic echo St. Paul, "How can we who have died to sin still live in it?" (Rom. 6:2)

Our baptism was a death to sin and a rebirth to Christ.

For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin, because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.  (Rom. 6:6-7)

Indeed, our only way to be free from sin is to die to the old self and to be born again to the new nature Christ gives us.  This is a lifelong process, it would seem - but it is the center of our lives as Christians.  Sanctification is nothing less than a death and a rebirth; and without sanctification, we are but hypocrites.

And I say that as a hypocrite.  I say that as one of those reverent men who harbor the most sinful of thoughts and desires.

Perhaps that is why the more I get to know the Catholic Church, the more confused I become.  Is it not obvious to Fr. Jiang's defenders and to the good Catholics who stood tall for Fr. Corapi, Fr. Maciel, Fr. Euteneur and others, and who were let down and disappointed by the Old Adam in even the best of us, that anyone can do anything at any time - and that given the right environment, the culture that grows is not a culture of the Spirit but a deadly and virulent culture of the flesh?

I mean, let's get real for a minute.  This is a Church whose recently appointed head of the Vatican Bank led a notorious life as a flaming sodomite, cruising for male prostitutes and living with his male lovers - a man who is a monsignor.  This is a Church that was hit hard by a sexual scandal of abuse, but that still enables and covers up abuse.  This is a Church that has allowed and encouraged a different kind of abuse - liturgical abuse - and that has allowed 90% of  its members to be poorly catechized and to stray from the Faith de facto if not de jure.  This is a Church that is not only made of sinful men (as always), but of sinful men who have, from the bishops to the laity, pretty much abandoned Jesus Christ for a cheap Barabbas who plays weak pop tunes and who rationalizes the indulgence of our desires.  This is a Church whose Catholic Education is neither Catholic nor Education and whose school principals are feminist bullies and whose pastors are typically emasculated weirdos - as a rule.

And yet, knowing all this about Human Nature, about the current state of the Church, and even in the face of what appears to be a good deal of evidence that substantiates the allegations against him, Fr. Jiang's defenders feel the need systematically to post on comboxes in an attempt to gain a PR victory before the trials.

Do they have a right to do this?  Certainly.  Especially if they're convinced of his innocence.

But that conviction does not seem to take into account the pattern that we've seen over the past decade, nor does it seem to account for the fact that men still "prefer darkness to light" because our "deeds are dark".

In other words, Fr. Jiang may not be guilty, but he's certainly not innocent.  None of us is.  And if we're honest with ourselves, we see the horrid corruption we nurture and water daily.

In this case, either Fr. Jiang and Archbishop Carlson are lying, or the alleged victim and her family are lying. I'm saying any one of us is capable of what Fr. Jiang and Archbishop Carlson are accused of; and any one of us is capable of making false accusations, given the right circumstances and given our own daily rejection of God's grace.

So it's not character but the evidence that will decide this - for our characters are at best rather shoddy and unreliable things.

But now that Archbishop Carlson has been subpoenaed for a deposition in the criminal case and sued in the civil case, I can't imagine either of these cases getting to trial, and I can't imagine the actual evidence coming to light.

For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open. (Luke 8:17)

Our Lord told us this, but He was not speaking of this life.

And certainly not of Church politics.


Friday, July 19, 2013

Fantasy vs. Reality among Super-Catholics


Most of this is just a teenage girl's fantasy.

... so said a commenter on the St. Louis Post-Dispatch website, dismissing in the most brutal manner possible a teen-aged girl in Old Monroe, Missouri who claims to have been molested by a St. Louis priest, whose crime her parents insist Archbishop Carlson enabled and tried to cover up.

As I said before, this case has yet to go to trial (and I strongly suspect it never will, that it will now be plea bargained away).  And while we don't know many things, nor can we pre-judge the guilt or innocence of the accused cleric, we do know some things for certain.


  • The priest was a favorite of Archbishop Carlson's, actually living with the archbishop in the archbishop's mansion, and having been brought by Carlson to St. Louis from Saginaw, Michigan, where Carlson was last assigned.
  • The priest became a very close friend of the alleged victim's family, and would often spend the night at the family's house - even though it was only an hour from his room in the archbishop's mansion.
  • The parents became concerned about inappropriate contact between the priest and their 15-year-old daughter - stroking, physical displays of affection.  When they confronted the priest about this, he stopped seeing the family, asked for a transfer from St. Louis for "personal reasons", but eventually ingratiated himself back into the family, visiting them frequently.
  • The family claims that they discovered emails of a sexual nature the priest was secretly sending the daughter.  If these emails actually exist, their content will be revealed in both the criminal and the civil trials - if either case comes to trial.  Since the DA in Lincoln County is prosecuting this case, it is almost certain that these emails do in fact exist; a case like this would not be prosecuted on the victim's verbal claims alone, if the claims were not somehow substantiated with hard evidence.
  • Speaking of hard evidence, the family claims that the priest tried to buy off their testimony against him with a $20,000 check, which he placed on the windshield of their car.  The family also claims that Archbishop Carlson intervened to try to get this check back.  The family took the check to the police.  The check has led to an additional charge against the priest - tampering with a witness.  The check must exist, or this additional charge would not have been raised by the prosecutor.  (Incidentally, another Post-Dispatch commenter said the family is suing the archdiocese because they're in desperate financial straits and they need money - if that's their motivation, why didn't they keep a $20,000 check?)
  • There is supposedly an eye-witness who saw the priest kiss and fondle the alleged victim.

So it really sounds as if this is anything but "a teenage girl's fantasy".

It seems much more like a tale of abuse and "depraved indifference" - to use a term from the lawsuit.

***

But I may be wrong.  Perhaps Fr. Jiang has been falsely accused and the archbishop maligned.

I may be wrong about that.  But I'm not wrong about this - "Super Catholics" have a "negative charism of discernment" as Mark Shea says.  They always back the wrong horse.  From Fr. Maciel to Fr. Corapi to Fr. Euteneur to Bishop Finn - if a clergyman is "orthodox", he's our guy and we're gonna go to the mat for him, regardless of the evidence.

Sadly, orthodoxy does not equal sinlessness.  It doesn't for me, and I'm a worse person than any of the players in this drama.  And it doesn't for priests or bishops.


To attack a 15-year-old girl for accusing an orthodox priest who happens to be your favorite and the archbishop's favorite, without regard to the facts - this is hardly something orthodox Catholics should be proud of.  If we should refrain from prejudging this case, then that means we should suspend judgment against both the priest and the girl.

And let us pray, not for Fr. Jiang's "exoneration", as the Super-Catholics are suggesting we do, but for justice.  Exoneration for Fr. Jiang if he's been falsely accused; conviction for Fr. Jiang if he is indeed guilty - and the full truth regarding his ordinary's participation in the crime.

My photograph of a stained glass of Mary in the church at Old Monroe, Missouri

Our Lady of Victory, Pray for us!


More videos from Grunky coming on Monday!

Thanks to Richard Aleman for this!

Hobby Lobby Wins Preliminary Injunction

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty reports ...

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, a federal court granted Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. a preliminary injunction against the HHS abortion-drug mandate, preventing the government from enforcing the mandate against the Christian company.  This victory comes less than a month after a landmark decision by the full 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled 5-3 that Hobby Lobby can exercise religion under the First Amendment and is likely to win its case against the mandate.
“The tide has turned against the HHS mandate,” said Kyle Duncan, General Counsel with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, and lead attorney for Hobby Lobby.
In an opinion read from the bench, the court said, “There is a substantial public interest in ensuring that no individual or corporation has their legs cut out from under them while these difficult issues are resolved.”
This is a major victory for not only Hobby Lobby, but the religious liberty of all for-profit businesses.
There are now 63 separate lawsuits challenging the HHS mandate. The Becket Fund led the charge against the unconstitutional HHS mandate. The Becket Fund currently represents: Hobby LobbyWheaton CollegeEast Texas Baptist UniversityHouston Baptist UniversityColorado Christian University, the Eternal Word Television NetworkAve Maria University, and Belmont Abbey College.
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty  is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions—from Anglicans to Zoroastrians. For 18 years its attorneys have been recognized as experts in the field of church-state law. The Becket Fund recently won a 9-0 victory in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Seeking the Kingdom

One of my favorite quotes of St. Paul is

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. - Gal. 1:10

Once we become "servants of Christ", or "slaves of Christ", we must leave off seeking to please men.

Naturally, we must still be respectful and prudent and charitable in our dealings with them.  But we must stop being "man pleasers", toadies, obsequious boot-lickers.  And more than that.  We should be willing to speak the truth with mercy, even if it ticks a few people off.

This is hard, especially for actors.  We have such a built-in hunger for applause.  We want so badly to please people and get them to like us.

Or for salesmen.  Most salesman want to get the sale at all costs, even if they make promises that Operations cannot keep.

And yet behind the curtain the actor will say, "We killed them tonight!" and he will often speak with a certain disdain for the audience whose approval he seeks so desperately.

And have you ever chatted with a salesman about his prospects?  Hardly an attitude of Christian charity, in most cases.  A salesman, like a lady-killer or a vixen, is primarily seeking conquest.  How much can you care even for the people you're trying to please if your main goal is to conquer them or "knock 'em dead" in some way?

The great irony is that the more we try to please others, the more we end up resenting the people whose approval we depend upon.

So the Apostle and the saints are right when they speak of keeping your eye on something far off, of seeking first the Kingdom and trusting that all other things will be added, of yearning not for the passing pleasures of this life, but for the eternal land of the New City.

Each one of these people of faith died not yet having in hand what was promised, but still believing. How did they do it? They saw it way off in the distance, waved their greeting, and accepted the fact that they were transients in this world. People who live this way make it plain that they are looking for their true home. If they were homesick for the old country, they could have gone back any time they wanted. But they were after a far better country than that—heaven country. You can see why God is so proud of them, and has a City waiting for them. - Heb. 11:13-16

Another Scandal?

CBS St. Louis reports that Archbishop Carlson has been accused of "tampering with evidence" in a civil suit related to a criminal case.  The criminal case involves Fr. Joseph Jiang, who has been charged with endangering the welfare of a minor by means of fondling a teen-aged girl - after the girl's family had given him long and intimate access as a "friend of the family" who would sometimes sleep over.

Here in St. Louis there are many supporters of Fr. Jiang, who is a young orthodox priest and who served at the Cathedral Basilica.  Note, for example, the vehemence of the comments at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch website.

The Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis at Midnight Mass, Christmas 2012

Of course no one knows if Fr. Jiang is indeed guilty.  But orthodoxy does not equal innocence, as anyone familiar with Fr. Maciel or Bishop Finn knows.

My only observation here is that what Archbishop Carlson is accused of  is almost exactly what Kansas City Bishop Finn did, when he saw to it that evidence was destroyed in a similar case a while back.  Bishop Finn saw to it that a computer with child pornography on it was destroyed, so as to protect one of his priests.  And now Archbishop Carlson is alleged to have attempted to take possession of a $20,000 check Fr. Jiang wrote to the parents of the alleged victim; a check Fr. Jiang wrote to persuade the parents not to go to the police with the criminal facts that the parents say Jiang admitted to - both to them and to Carlson.

Instead of handing over the check to Carlson, the family gave the check as evidence to police. Jiang was then charged with sexual misconduct and witness tampering.

This just sounds way too much like history repeating itself - history in any number of cases like this within the Church - except in this case the parents were smart enough not to give in - if what they say is true.

Of course it is prudent and charitable to reserve judgment - but this whole thing is, I'm sorry to say, plausible because of patterns bishops and priests have established in the past.

Let us pray for all involved.

Justice for the victim if Fr. Jiang is guilty.

Exoneration for the accused if he is not.

***

ADDENDUM:  I have a prediction.  The trial will never happen.  There will be a plea bargain.  That may be one of the things the civil suit is trying to force, and I suspect it will.

A key to all of this is that Fr. Jiang was Abp. Carlson's favorite.  They were living together.  The archbishop would have been particularly motivated to protect him.  This may be why there's been no plea bargain yet - though if things promise to get messy for the archdiocese, I think there will be.  The archbishop can't afford to go to the wall for his favorite if he himself gets somehow implicated.

Again, these are allegations only - but the more that comes out, the more this seems like fact and not fiction.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Theology of the Family

Kevin Tierney has a short but clear-headed piece at Catholic Exchange entitled What the Theology of the Body is Really All About.  Hint: it's not all about sex.

Indeed, one of Tierney's most compelling quotes is this ...

When you limit TOB to primarily something about sex, you run into a glaring problem.  According to Blessed John Paul, the two individuals (outside of Christ) who lived the theology of the body perfectly were Mary and Joseph, and their union was emphatically non-sexual.  (General Audience 3/24/82)

This is really a pretty big glaring clue that the pop-Catholic excitement about TOB as sex-sex-sex-and-did-we-mention-sex? comes from our modern secular madness and not from what the Church actually teaches.

Tierney admits that sex plays a role in what JP2 was saying in his Wednesday audiences, but that John Paul put sex in context, as the Church always does, and as we sinners never want to.

And what is the context?

Babies.  The family.  Mutual sacrifice.  All that stuff that we don't find sexy.



Monday, July 15, 2013

We Is Church!

The liberalists have long liked the slogan We are Church.  As unpoetic and gramatically jarring as that phrase is, it's probably better than what Wikipedia says is the German equivalent, Wir Sind Kirche.  That such a phrase is given a German equivalent - what with all that German bullying we had to deal with from 1870 to 1945 or so - well, this seems somehow quite fitting.

According to Wikipedia, the organization called We are Church advocates, among other things

  • More participation of women in the Church, in particular female priests
  • Ending the requirement of celibacy in the Latin Church priesthood
  • Positive attitude towards sexuality, including homosexuality
  • Promote a message of joy, rather than threat or discrimination.


As to the first item - women "priests" - I'm with Stanford Nutting.  

Thanks to Richard Aleman for this

As to the last item - promoting a message of joy - I'm all for joy - the problem is homosexual activity and priests and priestesses who sleep with each other is hardly the way to find joy.  

***

But the fact is We are Church.  Or, in the interests of sloganeering, We is Church!  

What I mean by that was revealed to me in a very encouraging way this past weekend.

Del and Terri Teeter, Chestertonians and John Hartford fans, hosted the First Annual Mid-West Chester-Fest in Waunakee, Wisconsin, which included drinking, debating, barbecue, and a fascinating talk by Dale Ahlquist on Chesterton and Education.


Dale's talk was given to benefit St. Ambrose Academy, an independent Catholic school, which, like the amazing Chesterton Academy in Minnesota, offers a classical education from a Catholic worldview.  

These independent schools - privately run and not under the direct control of a diocese or parish - which are now popping up all over the country - are the proof that WE IS CHURCH.  We is Church Indeed!

What do I mean by this?

Consider the problem with public education ... 

  • It is an education toward a liberalist political agenda
  • It cultivates only one virtue - tolerance - at the expense of all the others
  • God and questions of ultimate meaning are not allowed to be discussed
  • It is social engineering, using our children as subjects in a kind of heartless experimentation
  • It serves the interests of big government, big business and anti-Catholicism
  • It is the primary weapon of the Dictatorship of Relativism
  • It produces young people who are violent, perverse, and nihilistic

... I could go on.

The problem, however, with Catholic education - at least here in the U.S. - is that it is exactly like public education, only worse.  I am speaking in general and as a rule - but most so-called Catholic education in the U.S. is neither Catholic nor education. 

In fact, as I've written before, the most consistent indicator that a young Catholic will abandon his or her faith is twelve years of Catholic education.

***

Now I, like many others, have been furious about this for many years.  

"Why don't the bishops do something?" I would scream.  "How can a pastor of a Catholic parish allow his school to be run by a bullying feminist whose motto is Wir Sind Kirche and who makes the children chant praises to Mother Earth during the all-school Mass?"  

That actually happened, you know.  I was there for it.

It was one of the O'Brien family's many run-ins with the parochial school system in our home archdiocese.  We even pulled the kids from one Catholic school and put them in another, only to find the second one was far worse than the first.  It got to a point where I refused to meet with the principal of the second school without a third party present, because she would threaten and intimidate my wife and me if we met with her privately, and she would lie about having done so afterwards.  

And once a year we'd have to cook for the teachers and make them brownies and clean up after them during Catholic Schools Week, which consisted of five consecutive days of them giving each other awards.  

***

The thing is, though, that the liberalists get some of it right.  We are THE Church - we are the Body of Christ.  The Church is not just the bishops, not just the priests, not even just the feminist principals and parish secretaries who wield the real power in the vacuum created by the de facto abdication of the bishops and pastors.  The Church is the Catholic laity - specifically, that body of lay Catholics who are orthodox and who have been bearing a very heavy cross these past several generations.

And these Catholics have finally started to get off their butts and do something about the problem.

Yes, homeschooling is one solution and a great one - but the other valid solution is what we are beginning to see - independent private schools that are actually Catholic in philosophy, in atmosphere, in charity, and in the quality of the education they convey and the graduates they turn out.

***

One of Dale's best lines in his talk was, "What we're aiming for is not the separation of Church and State - but the separation of Education and State."  As long as the anti-Christian and increasingly totalitarian State educates our children, we are lost.  

And I echoed that line when I spoke.  

"In the same way that we need to separate Education from the State, we also need to separate Entertainment from Hollywood," I said.  

For I spoke after Dale did, but I talked about Grunky.  

Grunky is part of this same Catholic revolution, this same grass roots movement where independent lay initiatives are reforming the Church and the Culture.  Now, it's hard to say that Grunky is reforming the "culture" when most of our videos are satiric sketches filmed in my basement in which I play all the parts, but that is in fact what we are doing.  

So the next time you tend to despair, dear faithful Catholic reader, about bad bishops, bad priests, bad principals and the apparent death of the Catholic Church in America, just remember that You are the Church - you are as much a part of the Body of Christ as any narcoleptic bishop (Grunky Bishop Recumbent Weakman has had narcolepsy since he's been installed as bishop, which happened during the Second Vatican Council).  

If you strive to reform the Church, you will probably be a bit extreme.  You may even become a crank, for you will have little or no episcopal or pastoral oversight.  But even that will change, for the young guys in seminary and the new young priests are orthodox, and if we lay Catholics lead the way, they will be encouraged, and they will follow, and once again the Church which has died a thousand deaths will find its way out of the grave, once again.

***

Left to right: Tim Jones, art teacher at Chesterton Academy; Sean Dailey, editor of Gilbert Magazine; Kevin O'Brien, star of Grunky; Julian Ahlquist, philosophy teacher at Chesterton Academy; Dale Ahlquist, president of the American Chesterton Society.
The beautiful St. John the Baptist church in Waunakee, where we spoke.
Stained glass image at St. John the Baptist
Reproduction of a Madonna and Child at St. John the Baptist

Photo
Sean Dailey and Dale Ahlquist discuss education and wine.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Sin is Waiting to Pounce

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast?  If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” - Gen. 4:6-7

We fool ourselves by thinking that we can master sin.  We tell ourselves that sin doesn't really exist, or that good people like us who are well-intentioned can't really sin seriously.

But everyone I've known who thought they could master sin ended up mastered by sin.  Myself included.

Sin indeed is crouching at our door, desiring to have us.  Perhaps this intentional aspect of evil is proof of the malevolent angels, the devil and his demons.  There is certainly a scheme that we fall into when we sin, and the scheme is not our own.  It is a scheme that even out-schemes the schemers.  Even at our most malevolent, we are no match for the malevolence that engulfs us and entraps us as we do wrong to others.

In the Pope's latest encyclical, he talks again about how "goodness comes from God" (Par. 19).

Once I think that by turning away from God I will find myself, my life begins to fall apart ...

he adds

This is true psychologically, practically, spiritually.  This is true on every level.  But we keep ignoring this lesson.

Perhaps the greatest barrier to evangelization these days is our sense of self-sufficiency.  We're just fine, thank you, while we do horrible things to one another for the best of reasons and wake up one day and find ourselves in hell.

Jesus said ...

Apart from me you can do nothing. - John 15:5

He could have added, "except a lot of harm."


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Light (and Sound) of Faith

The Light of Faith, the Pope tells us, is a "work of four hands".  Benedict XVI had written the first draft, and Pope Francis has completed it.

Using another metaphor from music, the encyclical is kind of a Lennon / McCartney composition.  Benedict is the John Lennon of the duo - an incisive style, more traditionally intellectual, a bit more brooding.  And while Benedict is Beatle John, Francis serves as Beatle Paul - softer, more lyrical, sentimental, lilting.  And as it was with the Beatles, the combination is a very effective one.





***

I would like to comment here about one aspect of the encyclical that really struck me.

The encyclical, though titled The Light of Faith, points out that Faith is not just a light; it is a sound.

The first call to Faith in Salvation History is literally a vocal call to our father Abraham, who hears the LORD and heeds him.

Abraham does not see God, [the Pope writes] but hears his voice. Faith thus takes on a personal aspect. God is not the god of a particular place, or a deity linked to specific sacred time, but the God of a person, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, capable of interacting with man and establishing a covenant with him. Faith is our response to a word which engages us personally, to a "Thou" who calls us by name.

Before Abraham, for the pagans a god was a "god of the grove" or a god of a particular place or a god of a particular season; from Abraham on God reveals Himself as the God of a person who relates to us as other persons do, and who calls us by name.

This is a profound mystery and is perhaps the central key to the New Evangelization - God is a personal God who knows us more intimately than we know ourselves, and who calls us by name.

I wrote not long ago of the Mystery of this Call ...

The greatest mystery is our vocation.  The strange mixture of love and longing and opportunity and satisfaction - along with plenty of frustration and struggle - there is nothing like it when you marry the gal you're meant to marry, or when you answer the call you're made to answer.  It is a great and awesome mystery.
And we can never fake it or force it.
It comes from God.

You see, it's easy for secularists to deny Nature in every aspect of Nature that does not touch them personally - if your neighbor wants to "marry" his boyfriend, let him; if you can't see the babies being aborted, don't worry about them; if your nephew follows a bizarre religious cult that's "true for him", you can call that a positive good.

But God has a way of stirring us up, of getting under our skin - the very skin He made.  His Holy Spirit is a "disturber of the peace" - of that false thing that we call "peace, peace" when it is no peace.  Jesus has a way of calling us by name and addressing us intimately and personally.  He serves as a confrontation with Nature - the Nature of our very Being - which we cannot ignore.

Just look at me, for example.

I am doing exactly the things the Lord has made me to do (though I don't say I'm doing them well) - which include (odd as this sounds) filming satiric videos that critique heresies in the Catholic Church, traveling the country performing two-man interactive comedy murder mysteries and small-cast religious dramas, writing a blog that provides untold frustration to me, and teaching every academic subject to a home-schooled Catholic teenager who knows nothing about Jesus.

Now this is an odd career.

And it's not just me.  I am good friends with the only man on earth who God made to be president of the American Chesterton Society.  And guess what?  That's exactly what he's doing!  Nobody else on earth was made for that job, called to that job, and nobody else is doing that job.

I am also good friends with a man whose journey of faith has made him perfectly suited to write about Catholic literary figures and to explain Catholic elements in the works of Shakespeare, Tolkien, Lewis and others to his readers.  He was also made to start the literary and cultural journal The St. Austin Review, which is exactly what he did!

***

Now maybe you can't relate to this.  Maybe your "vocation" is a mundane thing that anybody could do and that you hate doing, like selling dog food or working at Wal-Mart.  Maybe you're not doing what God called you to do "vocationally", perhaps because of a combination of circumstances that are no fault of your own.

But if you're married, you know what I mean.  If you're a priest or a religious, you know what I mean.

Not every marriage is "made in heaven" in the sense that it's a piece of cake.  The vocation of married life is much more challenging than any career "vocation".  But really every marriage is "made in heaven" if you're marrying the person you're called to marry.  Even if life together turns out to be the most challenging thing in the world - as it would be for any woman who married me.

But not just any woman did marry me.  A certain woman married me, and while we have both struggled to be true to our vocation in a variety of ways, there is no doubt that God called us to be with one another as long as we live and to form a family together.

***

It is this fidelity to one's vocation that is at the root of the Sound of Faith - the still small voice of God that calls us by name.

What is fidelity to a vocation?  It is trusting God and leaning not on your own understanding, sticking with what He's made you to do and with whom He's made you to live for better or worse - being true to your role and letting Him take care of the rest.  If your job is to sow, then sow.  If your job is to water, then water.  And let God give the increase.

That is fidelity to a vocation - though it's much more than that.  It includes (as The Light of Faith shows us) affirming a commitment to God's commandments, which are an expression of a relationship of love; turning from the false gods made by our own hands to the true God who made our hands; being faithful to the Cross through the suffering it entails; believing in the promise it contains and the new life it will bring; and so forth.

And so, deny the Nature around you as much as you like; you cannot deny your own Nature, which is the shape and form that God made you and the purpose for which that form was made.


Sunday, July 7, 2013

I Have Become a Negative Example in Catholic Homilies

Sean P. Dailey writes ...

Today, Sunday, July 7, 2013, Stanford Nutting made his first ever appearance in a homily at holy Mass. 
It was in Springfield, Illinois. The parish will be unnamed to protect the innocent. The homilist is a permanent deacon, husband of Maggie Bishop. And he used Stanford Nutting and the Nice Creed as a negative example. 
Huzzah for Stanford Nutting!


Thursday, July 4, 2013

Sane Talk about Sex

Lifesite News has run a tremendous interview with Papal Theologian Rev. Wojciech Giertych.

Here are some highlights, all quotes from Fr. Giertych (emphasis mine).

Asked about the problem of homosexuality, gay ‘marriage’ and their incursion on relgious freedom, Fr. Giertych noted “this is not an issue which is reacting against the Church’s teaching – this is a fundamental anthropological change.” It is, he said, “a distortion of humanity which is being proposed as an ideology, which is being supported, financed, promoted by those who are powerful in the world in many, many, countries simultaneously.”
“The Church,” he added, “is the only institution in the world which has the courage to stand up to this ideology.”

Rev. Wojciech Giertych

The 61-year-old of Polish background said, “I’ve seen the Communist ideology, which seemed to be so powerful, and it’s gone! Ideologies come and go, and they have the idea of changing humanity, of changing human nature. Human nature cannot be changed; it can be distorted. But the elevation of perversion to the level of a fundamental value that has to be nurtured and nourished and promoted – this is absolutely sick.” 

"Homosexuality is against human nature. Now, there are many things that people do that are unnatural – smoking cigarettes is also unnatural. You can live with the addiction to tobacco, you can die of it, but there are people who are addicted to tobacco, yet they live and we meet with them and we deal with them and we don’t deny their dignity. So certainly people with the homosexual difficulty have to be respected … And so the important thing is how to pastorally help such people to return to an emotional and moral integrity." 

"...we began talking about contraception, and homosexuality is tied with it because since contraception destroys the quality of relationships amongst the spouses, and it generates sexual license outside marriage, and it reduces sexuality to an easy source of pleasure with no responsibility, that pleasure without responsibility is never satisfying, and it generates like a drug. It generates a hunger for even more pleasure, which is even more not truly satisfying, not giving ultimate happiness, and so there is a search for more perverted types of sexual pleasure, which can never fulfill the human person.