Archive for February, 2014

February 22, 2014 – Still On My Mind

February 22, 2014

The one event that I was paying close attention to during the Winter Olympics was hockey.  Unfortunately it’s been a rough last few days for the U.S. squads.  The women’s team had a 2-0 lead in the gold medal game only to lose in overtime.  Then the men’s team lost a tough semi-final game to Canada yesterday 1-0.  Finally, this morning the men’s ream laid a big 5-0 goose egg in the bronze medal game.  OUCH!  On the bright side, there are four St. Louis Blues players in tomorrow’s gold medal game.  and spring training is now in full go for the Cardinals, so things could certainly be worse on the sports scene.

Last week I wrote about separating the facts from the myths when it comes to the subject of clerical sexual abuse of children.  I have also written about it several times in the past.  However, I have to admit that I’m still on a bit of a guilt trip for not doing enough to defend those priests (which is the vast majority) who conduct their ministry with dignity, generosity and dedication.  Maybe it is because I am involved in a number of parish and diocesan ministries, so I see more of what is going on with our local situation – a shrinking and aging pool of priest having to take on more and more responsibility.  Maybe it is because I feel that if I would have taken the path that I had thought about in high school and attended the seminary, that I could have eased other priests’ burdens somehow.  Or maybe it is because even though I have written extensively in this, when it comes to talking about it one-on-one with someone who still has a prejudice toward the church and particularly the clergy, I don’t show as much courage as I should.

“Yeah, well your priests like little boys.”  “Do your priests still carry candy in their pockets to draw the kids to them?”  “Is this new Pope finally going to do something with the pedophiles?”  We probably have all had someone say something to this effect to us.  The priest/sex scandal card still gets played and played often.  And too often, we as Catholics cringe and duck out of the argument.  Responding to a slam on the priesthood or anything against the Catholic faith is an opportunity to witness to others.  This is not to sat that we should engage haters in their sport, but to varying degrees, we need to respond,  because the media’s dogpile on the priesthood has left many misinformed.

Sex abuse of children is epidemic throughout society.  Pedophilia among priests is extremely rare, only 0.3% of the entire clergy (Yes, 0.3% is absolutely still too much.)  This figure was cited in the book Pedophiles and Priests: Anatomy of a Contemporary Crisis by a non-Catholic scholar, Philip Jenkins.

The Media Report.com has reported that:

* “Catholic priests abuse at a rate far lower than that of other males in the general population.”

*  Most of the reported cases of abuse were an historical anomaly, occurring during a narrow time period from the Sixties to the early Eighties.  The handling of those cases was a reflection of that era, not the Church.  Experts in the field at the time, believed offenders could be successfully rehabilitated. Offenders were sent for treatment, rather than reported to police, which resulted in a temporary spike in repeat offenses.

* It has been reported that sexual abuse by teachers in public schools is “more than 100 times” that by Catholic priests. Yet there is little reporting on this, but old allegations of abuse by Catholic priests keep getting rehashed.

So why does the media continue to vigorously attack the priesthood?  It would appear that there are several reasons.  Part of it is an anti-Catholic and anti-religion mindset.  Protestant faiths, even if they split from another Protestant church, ultimately broke away from the Catholic Church so that is the Church they tend to discredit in order to defend themselves.  And if one opposes Catholic teaching on contraception, homosexuality or anything else, then the priesthood is a favorite target.

Another reason for the attacks speaks to the true value of the priesthood.  Catholic priests are held in high esteem, above other denominations and occupations. An offending priest is bigger news than when anyone else in society offends.  We expect more from them.   The sensationalizing proves that priests really do hold a special place in our world.

We have greater expectations for the priesthood because it is greater.  Why else, when Hollywood makes a movie on exorcism, it is a Catholic priest that goes head to head with evil?  The Catholic priesthood represents Christ and Christianity in a bigger way than other denominations. Priests bring us the Eucharist and absolve our sins in the place of Jesus during confession.  When it comes to the priesthood, the shockwaves for wrongdoing are much fiercer because of what is represented by them. Even non-Catholics, whether they like to admit it or not, hold priests to a higher standard.

Thus far, when I’ve encountered such attacks, I try to respond with the fact that it’s well documented that there are as much or more abusers in the general population. And any priest that does abuse, behaves in stark opposition to Catholic teaching so it does not represent the Church.  It may silence some, but many times it will not.  The point is that not only should we defend our priests, but also knowing the facts makes it easier.  But aside from the facts is our witness, loyalty, and courage to our faith.  If Catholics everywhere spoke up (without getting sucked into mud slinging), more detractors would be better informed and less inclined to risk looking like an ignorant bully.

I promise that next week I will delve into a different subject, but I thought this was important enough to devote two weeks to.  Have a great week.  Peace.

 

 

 

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February 15, 2014 – Separating Fact from Myth

February 15, 2014

In the spirit of the Winter Olympics, I begin by borrowing the line from one of the most famous games and broadcasting calls in history.  Brian has blogged for two weeks in a row!  Do you believe in miracles?!?!?!  YES!!!!!  I didn’t get to see it live this morning, but T.J. Oshie of the Blues put on a show in the shootout win over Russia.  Go U.S.A.!!!  I haven’t followed the Olympics too closely to this point, but I do get in to the hockey.  It’s the best players in the world, some who are teammates otherwise in the NHL, going at it for national pride.

I hope you had a good St. Valentines Day.  I had my old stand-by line at the ready in case anyone asked me: “Do you have a date for Valentine’s Day?”  My answer: “Yes, the date is February 14 – same as last year.”

I debated on whether to tackle this subject again since I had already talked about it so often, but I think it is important to stay updated and also to point out misguided information.  Last week a United Nations committee slammed the Vatican’s handling of child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church and accused the church of protecting itself rather than the victims.  The report follows a hearing last month where Vatican officials were grilled over the church’s handling of child abuse allegations.  The report stated that “The committee is gravely concerned that the Holy See has not acknowledged the extent of the crimes committed, has not taken the necessary measures to address cases of child sexual abuse and protect children, and has adopted policies and practices which has led to the continuation of the abuse by and the impunity of the perpetrators.”  Here is a link to an article which describes the report in more detail:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/02/05/us-vatican-abuse-un-idUSBREA140K620140205

Those who do not follow the Catholic Church closely would probably agree with these conclusions.  This past week I was in a discussion about current events, and one of the things brought up was charges against a deacon in a Baptist church in Fairview Heights for sex crimes.  Before all of the details of the story were raised, someone said “well, must have been a Catholic priest!”  We continue to be under indictment as a church for crimes and cover-ups which were mostly committed 30 or more years ago.  As I have said, and as we know, horrible crimes were committed.  And as we know now, it was wrong for church leaders not to remove known sexual perpetrators from active ministry (although at the time many doctors felt that pedophiles could be cured through rehabilitation).  However, what continues to be overlooked is that over the last 10-15 years, the Catholic Church, particularly in the United States, has been one of the most pro-active in dealing with accusations of sexual abuse.

The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights recently published a fact sheet on priestly sexual abuse which I thought would be helpful to reprint here:

Now that Pope Francis has set up a commission to study priestly sexual abuse, Bill Donohue urged reporters to get their facts straight:

Myth: Children have been the main victims of priestly sexual abuse.

Fact: Since more than 95 percent of all the victims of priestly sexual abuse, as reported by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, are not prepubescent, that means that adolescents have been the primary victims.

Myth: Pedophile priests have been the problem.

Fact: Homosexual priests have been the problem. Proof: 81 percent of the victims have been male, and more than 95 percent have been postpubescent. When males have sex with postpubescent males, it is called homosexuality.

Myth: The problem is on-going.

Fact: The homosexual scandal took place mostly between the mid-1960s and the mid-1980s. In the last ten years, the average number of credible accusations made against 40,000 priests is in the single digits.

Myth: The Church’s repressive teachings on sexuality are the problem.

Fact: It was liberals outside the Church who pushed for the sexual revolution, and it was liberals in the Church who abetted the revolution in the seminaries. Moreover, it was liberals who promoted therapy as the way to deal with molesters, instead of using punitive measures.

Myth: The Church has done nothing about the problem.

Fact: Pope Benedict XVI made it more difficult for active homosexual priests to enter the priesthood, thus getting directly to the source of the problem. Also, steps have been taken in every diocese to ensure that anyone who works for the Church must participate in a training program aimed at curtailing the abuse of minors.

Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, head of the Institute of Psychology at the Gregorian University in Rome, and director of the Centre for the Protection of Minors, said the report does not take into account the many positive steps that have been taken in recent years to prevent the abuse of minors.  Despite the many efforts that have been taken by the Church to ensure child protection, Fr. Zollner said, the wording of the report wrongly implies that the problems of the past are still current.  “It says priests are not punished,” Fr. Zollner said, and that “the Holy See does not do anything in prevention, or does not cooperate with the civil authorities.”  It is “absolutely wrong” to make these assertions as if they apply to the present, he said, as they do not reflect the policy of the Holy See, nor the guidelines set by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

“It looks as if some parts [of the report] are just repeating things that have been in opinion papers and blogs for many years,” he said, without taking into account the work that has been done for more than a decade.  “The report focuses on the wrongdoing, the sins, the crimes that have happened in the past, and had been covered up.” These offences did take place and ought to be denounced, he affirmed, but “to say that the Church has never defended victims, has never taken into account child safety, has always protected priests, and does not punish priests, is simply wrong.”

Let us continue to pray for those priests (the vast majority) whom have conducted their ministry with morality and dignity.  And let us work to erase the untruths that continue to plague the church.

Have a great week.  Peace.

February 8, 2014 – Passing On the Faith

February 7, 2014

Well here we are, about a week into February, and I have yet to keep my normal blogging schedule.  As I mentioned a couple weeks back, last Saturday I spent the day with our Confirmation class at the Shrine in Belleville for their Confirmation retreat.  My original plan was to write a blog the following day.  However, this was Super Bowl Sunday, and by my own declaration, I proclaimed it a couch potato day.  Of course, with the way the game turned out, I might as well have been doing something more constructive.  Anyway, I have the best of intentions to get back to my weekly blogging schedule.  I have kept my peeps hanging long enough.

Overall, I think the retreat was a good experience for everyone.  Fortunately, the weather, while not perfect, cooperated long enough for us to make the trip.  I think it was beneficial for our kids to see that they are not the only ones preparing for this important step in their faith life, as they were joined by about 300 other kids from several different Dioceses.  We had some good speakers, especially Fr. Chava Gonzalez, an Oblate priest who did a good job relating to the kids.  He shared the fact that he came from a family with 10 brothers and sisters, and joked that they their pastor had to have a separate penance service just for his family.  He also said that his mother would consult the priest before confessions, and would tell him “make sure so and so confesses to you when he or she did this …”  Talk about embarrassment!  Please continue to pray for our Confirmation class as they prepare for their big day on April 22 at the Cathedral.

We in the Catholic faith put a lot of time and resources into catechizing our children.  However, out efforts are in vain if the faith is not made a priority at home.  Despite our best efforts, we still see many of the people we spend so much time teaching the faith to falling away from it as adults.  An article that I read this past week talked about how we could make our catechesis more effective,  The author makes the point that our catechesis fails not because of our teaching methods, or because of our educational philosophies.  Maybe our teaching would be more effective if it were directed to a different audience.  In other words, maybe it is the adults who are in greater need of catechesis than the children.

Unless adults are intimately involved in church ministry, their faith formation pretty much consists of reading the bulletin, listening to the homily (if they attend Mass regularly), and the sacramental preparation of their children.  The author contends that, whatever methods we use, it is not fair to expect us to transmit adult faith concepts to a child. There is even less possibility of success when you expect the child to retain that barely-comprehensible catechesis into adulthood and assume the challenge of being a disciple and catechist of his or her own children.

I agree with the author that there is plenty of need for adult catechesis.  However, for whatever reason, this has not been part of our expectation and structure as a church.  So do we try to expend even more resources into adult catechesis when funds are already scarce and the church calendar is already overflowing?  This doesn’t seem realistic either.  I wish there were some way that we could have had all of our adults be a part of our “Fanning the Flame” program a couple of years ago.  It was so beneficial in learning about why the church takes the positions it does.  Fortunately, in this day and time, there are resources that can be had easily from the internet and other sources.

One great opportunity for adult catechesis is an offering from the Catholic Conference of Illinois.  The Conference is offering a 91-day program of daily, emailed readings of the Social Teaching of the Church. This is the perfect opportunity to learn about what Pope Francis has been focusing on since his election last March.  Participants will receive a daily email featuring a small section of the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church — usually just a few paragraphs — beginning on Ash Wednesday (March 5) and continuing through June 8. This 91-day project is modeled after a similar program conducted in the Joliet diocese last summer, which the bishops of Illinois approved for statewide use.  To sign up to receive these daily e-mails, click on the link below and fill out the information:

http://www.ilcatholic.org/91-days/

In our local Catholic Church, the main recent news was the announcement of the suppression of 5 parishes. including St. Leo’s Parish in Modoc.  There is a movement among a group of people to try to maintain the parish grounds for weddings, funerals, and other social events.  I certainly appreciate the fact that these folks put a lot of their hard work and treasure toward keeping their parish afloat.  However, at some point, practicality has to reign, and to keep a parish of 26 families going just doesn’t make sense.  It would be better for all involved to put their resources toward their new parish and make that parish as viable as it could be.  By the way, the numbers of families in the other parishes being suppressed are 58, 36, 29 and 19.  It is hard to even call these parishes in that they do not have the resources to provide the ministries and services a parish should.  They are essentially gathering places for Mass once a week.  Yes, the process is painful for some.  Yes, the process will continue.  However, it is necessary in order to ensure that our church is as strong as it can be for us and for the generations to come.  Please prat for those who will become part of new parishes and for those who have the responsibility of continuing to make these difficult decisions.

Lord willing, I’ll be back writing again next week.  Thank you for your patience and understanding.  Have a great week.  Spring training starts this week!  Peace.