Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Upcoming Appearances

I'll be on the radio with Mark Shea on Real Life Radio streaming live tomorrow (Wednesday, April 22) at 5:00 pm Eastern / 4:00 pm Central, and broadcast the following Saturday at 8AM EST and Sunday at 10PM EST.  I have absolutely no idea what we're going to talk about.

Then, on EWTN on Saturday, April 25 at 10:00 pm Eastern / 9:00 pm Central, I'll be featured as J. R. R. Tolkien in Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings - a Catholic Worldview, hosted by Joseph Pearce.  I think this is our first Tolkien special, which first aired many years ago and which features the discussion on Christianity and myth between Tolkien and Lewis ...

My First Post on Finn

This was my first post on Bishop Finn.  It's from October 23, 2011.  Since this post, Fr. Ratigan was convicted and sentenced to fifty years in prison.  Bishop Finn spent $1.4 million of diocesan money to defend himself, but was also convicted in criminal court of failure to report child abuse; he was placed on probation and fined.  He has been serving as bishop of Kansas City ever since his conviction, though such a conviction would have prevented him from even being a crossing guard at a public school.  He finally resigned today, under pressure from the Vatican.

The Catholic Defense League and Opus Dei and some of Finn's fellow bishops shamed themselves by vigorously defending Bishop Finn, and in the case of the Catholic Defense League, spinning the story to a point where the facts of the case were utterly distorted.

My original post garnered 99 comments, some of them very angry at me for daring to attack a doctrinally orthodox bishop.  It remains the third most read post in the history of this blog.  It deserves reposting today, but I'm not allowing comments.  My entire series of posts on Finn, written in the 3 1/2 years since the one below, can be read here.


"Let's step outside and settle this thing like men," she said, and she was a lady. "You're spewing anti-Catholic rhetoric!" he insisted. "How can you criticize a bishop when you're an actor and everyone knows actors are perverts and nitwits," she screamed. (That last gal had a point).

These are all reactions to my post last week about Rod Dreher's article on Bishop Finn's Indictment.

And above all, people are charging me with believing the biased media coverage of the scandal.

This, at least, is not true. In fact, everything I say in this post will be taken not from a media account of the scandal, but from the independent report on it as commissioned by the diocese, the Graves Report, which you can read on your own here.

So let's shove the media aside and see for ourselves what's contained in this internal diocesan report conducted by an independent firm.


Fr. Shawn Ratigan was a priest of the diocese of Kansas City - St. Joseph, Missouri. While pastor of St. Patrick's Parish (a parish with a grade school), his behavior around children raised many red flags. There were several incidents of "boundary violation", in which Fr. Ratigan held girls on his lap or tried to spend time with them alone while waiting for rides. At one function, he began rubbing a girl's back until her father angrily pulled her away. A pair of girl's panties was found in Fr. Ratigan's back yard planter.

In December, 2010, a computer technician servicing Fr. Ratigan's laptop discovered hundreds of photographs of young girls, apparently taken by Fr. Ratigan. Many were of children playing, the photographer focusing on their crotches and not including their faces. There were photos of girls climbing ladders in swim suits, focusing on their crotches. There were photos of girls wearing shorts sitting with their legs apart, focusing on their crotches. The girls appeared to be between eight and ten years old. One stash of photos was of a child in diapers. The series of photos ended with the diaper moved to the side, to reveal the girl's genitals and her bare buttocks. The photos were labeled with this toddler's name. Another series of photos was of a girl of about age seven, sleeping, but posed in sexually provocative ways while asleep. Her face was fully visible. The computer also contained links to internet sites advertising spy photo pens and two way mirrors.

The computer technician who made this discovery, his hands shaking, brought this laptop to the deacon at St. Patrick's and showed him the photos. The deacon immediately took the laptop to Msgr. Murphy, the Vicar General of the diocese, and Bishop Finn's right hand man. Before he viewed the images, Msgr. Murphy called and asked a friend of his who was a police officer if a single photo of a nude girl on a laptop "in a non-sexual pose" constituted child pornography. The officer answered that it might, but, particularly if it were of a family member, it would probably not be prosecuted.

This was the only contact the diocese made with the police until the following May. For, even after Msgr. Murphy viewed the images, and after it became clear that these images were not of family members, and that they were of a sexual nature, and that they were almost certainly photos Fr. Ratigan had taken of children in the diocese, neither Msgr. Murphy nor any one else involved in this case, contacted the police for nearly six months.

As soon as the pictures were discovered, Fr. Ratigan tried to kill himself, leaving a note saying he was sorry for what he had done. He survived his suicide attempt and was sent to a psychologist in Philadelphia who specializes in treating priests with problems. And yet, after interviewing Fr. Ratigan, and even after viewing the pictures which were pulled from Fr. Ratigan's laptop, the psychologist concluded he was not a pedophile. He was just lonely. And depressed. Why? Because the principal of the school was "out to get him," having complained about his inappropriate behavior around children. It was her fault, not his.

The diagnosis being evidently wrong, there were at least a few people in the Chancery Office who advised Bishop Finn to seek a second opinion. He did not.

At one point the legal counsel for the diocese told Msgr. Murphy that an attempt should be made to identify the children in the photographs, particularly if they were children in the diocese, as it appeared they were - victims of a child pornographer, and perhaps of other more violent sexual abuse at his hands. Legal Counsel also advised Msgr. Murphy to report this case to the Missouri Division of Family Services.

But contrary to the advise of counsel (and contrary to common sense, not to mention Christian charity), no one made any attempt to identify these victims or to reach out to their families.

No one made any report to the Division of Family Services.

In fact, no one even bothered to report the incident to the Independent Review Board, as required by diocesan "Protecting God's Children" policies!

Bishop Finn then assigns Fr. Ratigan to a Vincentian Retreat Center ... where school groups often go on retreats. He tells Fr. Ratigan to stay away from computers, cameras and children, but he allows him to say Mass for the school groups.

The Vincentian leaders at the retreat house adamantly claim that they were never informed of these restrictions on Fr. Ratigan, nor were they told he was a pedophile with a flair for child pornography; they thought he was simply recovering from his suicide attempt. Bishop Finn says he informed them of the full story; they say he did not. In fact, they told the firm conducting the independent review that if they had known the full scope of the situation, they would not have let Fr. Ratigan live with them. In any event, no one was placed in a supervisory role over Fr. Ratigan. He was living entirely unsupervised.

Immediately, Fr. Ratigan began using Facebook. He started attending public events and St. Patrick's parish-family events where children were present, including a birthday party for a sixth grade girl. He started glad handing parishioners, telling them the reason he had not been re-assigned to St. Patrick's was that the principal was "out to get him". Against the Bishop's directives, he made contact with children on retreat at the center, and on Easter Sunday - Easter Sunday - he tried to take pornographic pictures of a girl at the center.

Bishop Finn was informed of all of these violations of the "honor code" he had placed on Fr. Ratigan and yet Bishop Finn admitted that, as late as May of 2011, he had (in his own words) "not formulated a plan to further address Fr. Ratigan's behavior if he continued to violate restrictions".

By the middle of May, Msgr. Murphy eventually let his policeman friend know of the full scope of the situation - that the laptop contained not one photo of a nude girl in a non-provocative pose (as he had told him earlier), but hundreds of photos of girls, all of a lascivious nature. The police officer said, "You never told me that," and informed Msgr. Murphy that the diocese should immediately turn the laptop over to the police.

But instead the laptop was given to Bishop Finn, who gave it to Fr. Ratigan's brother, who (naturally) destroyed it.

And while copies remained of the photos, the original evidence (the laptop and its hard drive), including any other cached information the police could have obtained, is now gone for good.


Now, Bishop Naumann makes a passioned defense of his brother bishop, and points out that many in the Kansas City media are viciously pro-abortion and will stop at nothing to destroy the Catholic Church. Bishop Naumann, I'm sure this is true.

And many lay folk have pointed out to me that Bishop Finn is orthodox in his teaching and has boldly attacked pornography, for example. I'm sure that this is true as well.

But have we come to a stage where we are so desperate for orthodox bishops that we turn a blind eye to their other shortcomings? Are we so defensive against our own sins that we refuse to acknowledge where we fall shy of virtue, simply because other sinners are pointing our failures out to us?

And how do we expect to turn the hearts of the pro-abortion zealots in the Kansas City media if we don't even have the gumption to protect a two-year-old girl who's being victimized while asleep by one of our priests? Why on earth would they listen to us about the evils of killing unborn babies when we won't even do anything to protect a sleeping two-year-old from a predator?

Because, my friends, it comes down to this.

Bishop Finn and his Vicar General knew that children under their care had been exploited and abused. Bishop Finn and his Vicar General did nothing to identify or protect those children. Instead, and incredibly, when the story finally broke, Bishop Finn and his Vicar General instructed that the parish of St. Patrick's hold listening sessions at which parents were asked to write down one "hurt" and one "hope".

As the Graves Report states, two "hurts" collected at listening sessions included the following ...


The images of my daughter's private areas that the FBI showed me, they are forever burned into my brain. Shawn Ratigan was in my house, around my children in February, and I thought my children were completely SAFE!!


You let one of your priests hurt my children and you saw the pictures and decided to cover it up. That monster was in my house in February 2011 to prey on my children and I let him in since you felt you were above the law and made that decision not to turn in photos of my kids.


So those of you out there who are offering to take me out back and fight me, those of you who think I'm an anti-Catholic filled with hatred and Chick-tract rhetoric, those of you who think that if a human being happens to be an actor, he should not be allowed to write about this, answer one question for me ...

What would you say to these parents? Or better yet, if Fr. Ratigan had taken pictures of your sleeping two-year-old girl and removed her diapers to take a spy-pen snapshot of her vagina and her bare butt for use on his computer, and perhaps molested her and the diocese never bothered to tell you this, and never bothered to warn you not to let this man back in your house, or reach out to make sure you and your daughter got the help you needed (all the while the beg letters for the annual diocesan appeal kept coming in the mail) ... what would you put down on the "hurt" card? What would you "share" as your "hope" during the listening session while somewhere a man we call father masturbates to a picture of your sleeping two-year-old?

Perhaps Bishop Finn should not be tried for this misdemeanor (failure to report the crime in a timely manner) in the criminal courts of my state. I think a case could be made either way. But one thing I'm sure he should do.

He should repent in sack cloth and ashes and beg the forgiveness of every girl dancing naked in Fr. Ratigan's dreams. For he had the ability to reach out and offer help and the love of Christ to these girls and their parents, and he did not do it.

Fin de Finn!

This was a long time coming and is a welcome relief - The Pope has accepted the resignation of Bishop Finn of Kansas City.

I've decided to turn comments off on this post.  I really don't want to read indignant Catholics who think this was the result of a liberal conspiracy against poor, persecuted, "conservative" Finn.  Read my two dozen or so posts about the situation, or go straight to the source and read the Graves Report, the independent investigation into how Finn covered up for and enabled the sexual abuse of children in his diocese.  Step away from the right / left factional split for a while and simply look at the facts.  Finn should have been removed long ago.

I suspect Bishop Barros in Chile will be asked to resign as well if the situation there continues to fester.

It is perhaps naive to hope that our bishops can be good, holy Christians.  It is, however, incumbent upon us to demand that they be decent, trustworthy human beings.

Sadly, most of them are not.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Produce your own Christian Movie! A Handy "How To" Guide

Regular reader of this blog M. Hashtag, who has intimate knowledge of the motion picture industry in California, has sent along a handy guide for how to put together your very own Christian film.  What follows is a guest post by M. Hashtag, which I hope will be helpful to all of you Christian screenwriter / producer / director / actor wannabes.


Necessary Elements for a Christian Film: A Practical Guide
M. Hashtag

  • God answering people’s prayers: The primary role of God is to intervene directly in the movie in order to give the main characters whatever they’ve wanted since the beginning of the film. Ideally, this happens toward the end, in a scene that lets the entire community rally around the main character in joy and triumph. Especially effective in slow-motion.

  • Sacrifice: This is an automatic win for Christian audiences because it reminds them of Jesus. It doesn’t matter whether the sacrifice is necessary within the world of your movie, or even if the reasons for it are clear.

  • Tears: Make sure that every main character cries at least once. If you do that, you don’t need to worry about whether the audience has an emotional connection to the characters, since crying automatically lets the audience know that whatever is happening is meaningful and they should care about it.  It is also the only way for the audience to know that the characters are sad.

  • Family: All members of a family unit should be in harmony and agreement at all times. If disagreements occur, make it clear that it is because someone is being influenced by evil and be sure they come around before the end of the movie. Once you let the audience know that characters are related to each other, it is not necessary to establish whether or not they have a close relationship or think of creative ways to show that they mean a lot to each other. The word “family” automatically implies it.

  • 2-dimensional Good Guys: The Good Guys should not have much depth, contradiction, or growth during the film, and their flaws should be minor and all resolved by the end. Remember that the main purpose of the Good Guys is to teach people an important lesson about faith, and if a character is very flawed he or she will not be able to do that. The best position to put a Good Guy in is as an underdog or victim of injustice.

  • 2-dimensional Bad Guys: The main purpose of the Bad Guys is to try to lead the Good Guys astray, provide a platform for the Good Guys to be able to teach the other characters and the audience a lesson about faith, or to be astonished at the end whenever God finally answers people’s prayers. They should have no depth, no redeeming qualities, and speak in convenient sound bites.

  • Kindly pastor, priest, or nun: It is necessary to have a member of the clergy say something wise and truthful to the Good Guys, because that is the only way the audience will be able to recognize the Christian teaching in the movie. They should have no flaws, or the flaws should be minor and taken care of by the time the movie ends. They should also speak in convenient sound bites so that the audience will know what your film is about just from watching the trailer.

  • Faith: The meaning of faith in Christian film is the belief that everything will work out the way the characters want it to. If a character has a crisis of faith, make sure they are chastised (preferably by a kindly pastor, priest, or nun) and repent before the end of the movie.

  • A snazzy marketing plan: It is best to use celebrities and conservative political figures to endorse your movie, since that is the only way Christian audiences can tell whether or not something is worth seeing. If you don’t know any celebrities, members of your church can make people feel guilty if they don’t support you. This is especially effective if you can choose a release date that lets you frame your movie in a David-and-Goliath narrative against movies that will make a lot more money than yours. Under no circumstances should you seek promotional quotes from professional film critics. They are never to be trusted.

Things NOT to include:

  • Sin: If you show characters sinning or even talking about sin, someone in the audience will think sinning is a good idea and you will be responsible for their soul going to Hell. The exception to this is the 2-dimensional bad guys, who are allowed to talk about sinning if they repent at the end.

  • Humor: The occasional quip or visual gag is acceptable, but do not include anything in your movie that might elicit more than a chuckle. If people laugh during your movie, they might not take the Christian teaching in it seriously.

  • Intense Conflict or Bad Things Happening: Conflict should be between the Good Guys and the Bad Guys, or occasionally between Good Guys and other Good Guys under the influence of the Bad Guys. However, things should never get so bad that the audience thinks God might not be able to sort it out. If you think your audience might be getting confused about why bad things are happening to a Good person, make sure that God quickly answers that person's prayers in the next scene.

  • Symbols or Metaphors: Everything should be as literal and easily understandable for your audience as possible. If an action or object has any sort of symbolic meaning, have a character spell it out for the audience. It is dangerous to let people draw their own conclusions about meaning.


Got all that?  Now get cracking!

This reminds me of my own guide for How to Write a Really Bad Play.  Many writers have taken my advice over the years, and I hope many producers continue to take M. Hashtag's advice.  Judging from the sort of self-styled "Christian" movies that are being released, it appears that many producers are.

Good for them!  And remember, even if a Christian movie is bad, it's a sin not to go see it.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Why We Believe

My actress yesterday told me of a friend of hers.  The friend is a minister / elder in a Methodist church.  She frequently preaches.  However, she is not a believer.  She has no faith.  Only those who know her well know that she's an unbeliever.

When you ask her, "Why do you work as a minister and preach to others when you yourself have no faith?" she answers, "People need to believe.  It helps them.  By preaching, I'm helping them."

My response to my actress:

To hell with that.  Are we such ignoble creatures that we need the comfort of a lie, of a handy fiction to make us feel good?  We believe because it is true; we believe because God is truth.  If it turns out (as I was convinced when I was an atheist) that God is a lie and that this whole thing is an elaborate illusion, propped up by well meaning hypocrites for the benefit of cowards, then let's get pick axes and kerosene and smash up and burn to the ground every god-forsaken church in the world.  To hell with all religion if it's simply a lie that we like.  I am for truth, as any man with any dignity would be.

Give me believers with courage.  Give me atheists with courage.  Then we'll live again.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Cheating at Easter

Excuse my Catholic crabbiness.

Easter is more than making it from Friday to Sunday.  Easter is more than an empty tomb.  Easter is more than "He is risen" and "Alleluia".  Easter is more than "rebirth" or "fear not".

Easter is the Cross.  It's not just the empty cross.  It's Christ on the cross, it's the Son of Man on the cross, it's man on the cross.  It's the wounds that the Resurrection does not heal, that remain in Christ's side and hands and feet as a sign and as a witness to the fact that Easter is not cheap.

But we want our Easter cheap.

The spirit of antichrist is the spirit that denies the cross.  The cross is discipline, structure, the backbone of life, suffering, form, sacrifice - all the things the modern world hates.  Deny the cross and you deny the Shape of God, and God becomes a slippery amoeba that you can play around with and keep in your back pocket.

The spirit of antichrist is the spirit that denies the cross.  In denying the cross, it necessarily denies the incarnation.  In denying both the incarnation and the crucifixion, it empties Easter of all its meaning, drains it of its blood, drains it of of its Body and Blood, makes the source of all our joy a vapid and empty parody of itself.

The spirit of antichrist blinds us to the deeper reality of Easter.

For Easter is more than an event.  It is a sign of the Consummation, the final payment, the conclusion.  Easter is the fruit of the fact that at some moment of every life, every single isolated human being can say, in dreadful terror, in his or her own way and for his or her own desperate reason, "God is dead."

Without that horrible moment, the moment (or the month, or the year) when the bottom drops out, without the horror of Golgotha, there is no Easter.  Unless God is dead, He cannot rise again.  Unless we take up our cross daily, we cannot follow Him.  And unless we follow Him - on a very narrow path - there is no reality to Easter.  We know that but, by God, do we resist it.

We are cheating at Easter.  We want our Easter cheap.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Holiness and Hashtags

George Takei and a cat

We live in an age where all it takes to be good, right and morally superior is to change your Facebook profile picture.

Hans Fiene writes of our generation and those that follow us ...

More than we wanted to find the perfect prom date, we wanted to find our own bigotry to eradicate. After years of hearing those saints sing “We Shall Overcome,” we were overcome with jealousy. We coveted Selma. We envied that march. We looked at that footage and hungered for our own cause to devour.
Cruelly, the Lord of Social Justice wouldn’t grant us a cause, at least not an easy one. Sure, we could march against Roe v. Wade and defend the unborn. But opposing abortion would have required us to adopt sex lives consistent with that position. No more hookup culture, no more consequence-free sex, no more placing our own desires over the needs of children. Opposing Planned Parenthood would never be our cause. It would have cost us too much fun.
Likewise, fighting poverty couldn’t possibly be our Selma. The annoying thing about defending the poor is that the poor need money, and we had student loans to pay. And sex trafficking wasn’t any more attractive. To be holy, you need a cause no one else supports, least of all those wretched white Southern fundamentalists. While forcing women into prostitution is certainly bad, what’s the point of speaking against it if Jerry Falwell agrees with you?

The solution?  Fiene continues ...

Then, one day, manna descended from heaven in the form of gay marriage. Here it was! The cause we’d longed for all these years had finally arrived! Here was an injustice no one had ever opposed before. Here was a group of marginalized people no one had ever defended. So by embracing this cause, we would instantly be more compassionate, more accepting, more saintly than every human being who had ever lived.
What did it cost us to embrace this cause? Absolutely nothing! It required no moral consistency, no financial sacrifice, no effort. We could sleep with as many people as we wanted, divorce as many people as we wanted, father and then abandon as many children as our hearts desired, and lose no credibility. We could spend our entire adult lives defecating on the institution of marriage and this could not sully our gay marriage halos.

Read the whole amazing article.  There's some great stuff in it ...

We looked to the icon of racial equality, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a man whose greatest accomplishments included spearheading nationwide non-violent protests, preaching peace, giving speeches, and writing letters that will live forever in the annals of American history, and we felt not an ounce of humiliation when the best prophet we could place beside him was George Takei, a man whose greatest accomplishments include pretending to fly a spaceship on TV and sharing funny pictures of cats on the Internet. 

 It concludes in a masterly sweep of prose ...

We will continue diminishing the bravery of Rosa Parks by claiming a seat beside her as our reward for the one time we boycotted Chick-Fil-A for a month. We will trivialize the death of Medgar Evers by praising his blood for freeing gay couples to financially ruin a florist who hurt their feelings instead of walking one more block to find another purveyor of petunias who was happy to take their money.
In the Kingdom of Heaven, countless children of God will embrace the older saints who gave them lives of far greater dignity on earth by following Christ’s example and enduring insults, beatings, imprisonments, and even death for them. We know this and yet we will insist that we’re owed an equal measure of honor because we tweeted our support for every gay kiss on “Glee.”
From the days of our youth, my generation hungered for a cause that would make us as righteous as the saints who marched on Selma. We have found that cause. We have sunk our teeth into that righteousness and, at this point, we couldn’t care less if it’s real. The Lord of Social Justice has finally answered our prayers. And Lord help the bigot who comes between us and our cause.

Sexual Abuse and the Fires of Purgatory

St. James church in Brighton, Australia.

A parish church in Australia is burned to ruins by arson, and its members, in general, celebrate.

"For the community here, it's kind of the haunted house on the hill," said one of them.

It was "hard going to this church" said another.  "If the church is rebuilt after the fire, it would have served its punishment to some degree."

These are normal Catholics saying this.  Think about that for a moment.  Normal suburban Catholics - the kind who, here in the States, grill in the backyard, go to the mall, watch their kids and grandkids play sports - normal suburban Catholics happy that an arsonist burned down their parish church.


Because one of its priests groomed and abused altar boys, some of whom later committed suicide.

"It's always been a difficult building for us to drive past because there's been so much tragedy and complicated feelings, I guess.  We've all attended many funerals of boys that we now know were abused by [Father Ronald] Pickering ... and other perpetrators in the parish - at the actual church that it occurred in."

Meanwhile, in Chile, Pope Francis appoints as bishop of Osorno a notorious supporter of a known abuser and quasi-cult leader, this appointment causing a riot in the cathedral there.  Jennifer Haselberger analyzes the situation and concludes that it would be literally impossible for the pope to appoint as bishops men who aren't at least somewhat tainted by their participation in the Sex Scandal - either as having participated in it or as having condoned or enabled it.  Haselberger saw the situation from the inside in the archdiocese of St. Paul and would, presumably, know what she's talking about.

And I have become more and more convinced that what is probably fairly common in the Catholic Church is what Cardinal Keith O'Brien in Scotland did, and what Fr. Karadima in Chile did, and what Abp. Nienstedt in St. Paul is accused of doing: priests and bishops preying upon and sexually harassing boys and men over whom they have power.

In any event, we have come to this.

Most of our bishops and many of our priests are so far from living as Christians - or even as decent human beings - that this level of corruption and contamination has been allowed to fester.  And the laity have enabled this by putting up with it.

But perhaps there's a sign of a turn around.  When lay Catholics begin rioting in cathedrals and begin to tell reporters how happy they are that their parish church has burned to the ground, hoping this will purge the evil out of it - as surprising, socking and disturbing as that is, it might be a sign that there is an Easter Sunday following Good Friday after all.

Still, this is almost impossible to comprehend.  There are parishioners happy that their parish church has been torched - happy that this is perhaps the only way for them to start over.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Self-Surrender in Words and Music

So yesterday while getting gas, the gas station was playing loudly John Legend's song "All of Me", which is not a bad song as pop songs go - the lyrics and the melody are pretty good, but at various points this guy sings

Give your all to me
I'll give my all to you
You're my end and my beginning
Even when I lose I'm winning
'Cause I give you all of me
And you give me all of you, ohoh

and throws himself into a funky falsetto that, frankly, makes me want to vomit.  The falsetto somehow emphasizes the dishonesty in the teen-aged girl sentiment the song conveys.

And that dishonesty, despite the romance that's also in the song and that seems more genuine, is turning "all of me" or self-surrender, into something much more self-indulgent, at least from the point of view of the girls who must like this gooey stuff.  

Total mutual self-surrender is less about a guy singing in a falsetto dying to have sex and more about putting up with the little frustrations of daily life side-by-side for 25 years, changing diapers and paying mortgages.  Legend's "All of Me" seems to be "all-about-me" and that biological longing that I'm spiritualizing, while the classing song "All of Me" by Ruth Etting (here sung by Willie Nelson) is much more about a lover's humble attempt truly to serve his beloved.

Legend's version of total self-giving focuses on a kind of pre-climactic titillation that isn't humble self-surrender at all.  Legend's "All of Me" is to the classic "All of Me" what Christopher West's giddy hyper-sexual Pop-Theology-of-the-Body is to the St. John Paul II's real one.

Here's a man who would never sing falsetto.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Be Careful What You Wish For

If the Vatican's Abuse Commission was established merely for show, the members thereof do not think so.  If Francis really wants the laity involved in cleaning up the Scandal, he's getting what he asked for - and I'd wager he doesn't like it.

Here's an ABC News story on the situation in Chile that quotes a number of lay members of the Abuse Commission who are attempting to hold Pope Francis accountable for serious reform.  It is ironic that the liberalists in the Church, for all their errors, are right about one thing in particular - the laity are members of the Church as much as the clergy are.  Vatican II was adamant about that, and maybe that will begin to sink in.

Several members of Pope Francis' sex abuse advisory board are expressing concern and incredulity over his decision to appoint a Chilean bishop to a diocese despite allegations from victims that he covered up for Chile's most notorious pedophile.
In interviews and emails with The Associated Press, the experts have questioned Francis' pledge to hold bishops accountable, listen to victims and keep children safe, given the record of Bishop Juan Barros in the case of the Rev. Fernando Karadima.

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Catholics: Don't Believe CNA's Spin on Bishop Barros and the Situation in Chile

A scene from the Riot in the Cathedral, where protesters attempted to stop the appointment of Juan Barros as bishop of Osorno.

Conservatives are rightly angry at liberal bias in the media.  There's a lot of it.

But the game works both ways.  There's a huge conservative bias as well, and it follows a pattern.

The pattern is typically this.  Someone in the Church does something horrifically awful and outrageously embarrassing, something that can't possibly be defending or excused.  For several days the truth is out there and none of my DC (Defensive Catholic) friends comment on it either here or on Facebook or elsewhere.  An awkward silence falls and the truth is simply ignored.

Then (typically) the Catholic Defense League or an organization like Catholic News Agency pipes up with a defense of the situation that is a real stretch of the imagination, but that provides a handy template for the reactionaries to use, and suddenly comboxes are filled everywhere with the rank and file DCs who have swallowed the template whole, who run with it and who don't look back.

With Bishop Finn, the lie that was being promulgated was that the priest's crime at the center of the scandal was not child pornography at all, that the priest in question was utterly innocent, and that Finn did all he could in the situation, that he was being persecuted for being a vocally orthodox bishop who was firm on pro life issues, and that this is why folks in Kansas City were out to crucify him, the whole case against Finn being trumped up.

But the truth was just the opposite.  In fact, not only (in that case) were the pictures in question child porn, but the perpetrator priest was sentenced to fifty years in prison for producing the hundreds of images, using his own parishioners as victims, some under the age of three. And for years prior, Finn not only refused to look into or even acknowledge any of the many complaints about this priest's behavior, some of which came directly from the principal of the school that most of the victims attended, he also stonewalled once the child porn came to light, failed to inform or warn any of the families of the victims, gave the priest continued access to children, was complicit in the destruction of evidence, spent $1.4 million of diocesan money defending himself against two misdemeanor charges in court, only alerted the police when forced to, and, in short, put children at risk and failed to get the offending priest any serious help or counseling.

The Defensive Template bore no relation at all to the real situation.

And now we have Catholic News Agency doing the same thing, albeit with more subtlety, but in a way that's just as clumsy and heavy handed.  Several days after the original reports of the Riot in the Cathedral in Osorno, Chile surfaced - several days after right wing Catholics have been studiously ignoring them - a template has been handed down.  And now this is what the DCs (Defensive Catholics) will use to defend the episcopacy and to see-no-evil, hear-no-evil.

So, since that is bound to happen, let me address the CNA "report" and counter its most egregious errors.

I'll quote from CNA's biased spin on the story with my own comments (in red, a la Father Z), which are closer to the truth ...


1.    Who is Fernando Karadima Farina?

Fr. Karadima fostered the vocation of some 40 priests (What CNA leaves out: Fr. Karadima sexually abused altar boys for fifty years - according to court documents.  He led a kind of cult-within-the-church, feeding his own lust while appealing to wealthy right-wing Catholics with his ostensible orthodoxy, after the pattern of Fr. Maciel of the Legion of Christ), including Bishop Juan Barros, who decades ago belonged to Karadima’s closest circle of friends (and was, according to some, Karadima's gay lover - which, I suppose counts as belonging to Karadima's "closest circle of friends".) When reports of sexual abuse and other scandal surrounding Karadima surfaced, Bishop Barros, like a number of other prelates, at first did not believe the accusations. (Not only did they not believe them, they stonewalled and prevented the allegations from being seriously considered.  Against their own diocesan policies regarding the protection of children, allegations against Karadima were never presented to any committee.  Barros himself is said to have angrily torn up a letter to the bishop by one of Karadima's victims.)

The judge in the civil case dismissed the charges because the alleged abuse was too far in the past. (It was not alleged abuse, it was actual abuse, as the judge acknowledged in her ruling, and as the Vatican eventually confirmed.  It was not "too far in the past", it was simply not covered by the statute of limitations.  The phrasing of this sentence alone tells you all you need to know about CNA's agenda in this bit of "reporting".)  Nevertheless, in February 2011, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican completed its own investigation and declared 84-year-old Karadima guilty. He was sent to a life of solitude and prayer (a sentence he is reportedly flouting).

The news of the sentence surprised bishops, priests and lay people who viewed the priest as a role model and considered the initial accusations as an attack on the Church (and therefore refused seriously to consider them - EVEN THOUGH THEY WERE TRUE ALL ALONG).

2.    Juan Carolos Cruz and the accusers

Three of Karadima’s reported victims are accusing Bishop Barros of covering up the priest’s abuses. The accusations do not agree with the investigation carried out by the Vatican.  (Here we have a simple lie at worst, and an utterly strange assertion at best.  All we know of the Vatican's investigation is the upshot, the sentence.  The accusations were part of the evidence the Vatican considered.  If the accusations led to the sentence - which was guilty - how can CNA claim that the accusations "do not agree" with the "investigation carried out by the Vatican"?  This assertion crosses the line from biased reporting with a pro-episcopal slant to simple falsehood).  Juan Carlos Cruz is the most well known of the accusers. He lives in the United States and is often asked by national and international news media for comments on what is happening in the Chilean Church.

After Bishop Juan Barros was appointed as Bishop of Orsono, Cruz told CNN Chile that the Chilean Episcopal Conference and Pope Francis were giving Karadima’s victims “a slap in the face.” This has created international media attention.  (CNA is deliberately leaving out a crucial fact.  Cruz and the other accusers are claiming that Barros both protected Karadima and participated in the abuse by watching it take place as a voyeur.  If that's true, isn't Barros' appointment a "slap in the face"?  And even if it's not true, is not Pope Francis' appointment of a bishop who was part of the inner-inner circle of a cannonically convicted abuser a "slap in the face"?  Is it wrong that this phrase has generated media attention, as CNA implies?)

3.    Bishop Barros’ Defense

Bishop Juan Barros and three other bishops close to Karadima supported the decision of the Holy See in April of 2011 and denied having known about his double life. They declared in a statement that “with great sorrow we have accepted the sentence declaring him guilty of serious offences condemned by the Church. Like so many, we learned about this situation and its diverse and multiple effects with deep astonishment and pain.”

In a letter addressed to the faithful of the Osorno diocese days before his installation, Bishop Barros reiterated that “I never had any knowledge of any accusation concerning Father Karadima when I was the Secretary for Cardinal Juan Francisco Fresno and I never had any knowledge nor did I even imagine such grave abuses as this priest committed against his victims. I neither approved nor participated in those actions.”

“The deep pain that continues to affect the victims for long years profoundly hurts me. And I reiterate along with the whole Church that there is no place in the priesthood for those that commit those abuses,” he added.

Before taking up his responsibility as the Bishop of Osorno on March 21, 2015, the prelate reiterated that he was not linked to the priest’s abuses.

“I am telling you, before God who is listening to us, it did not cross my mind that these things were going on. I would not have accepted it for any reason, and I am not a friend of Fernando Karadima,” he stated.  (As Bill Clinton would say, "That depends on what the definition of 'am' is."  While Barros says "I am not a friend of Fernando Karadima," he certainly was.  Read on.)

He added that before the Vatican convicted him in 2011, “I was already becoming distant from him. Of course I had been close, but I was already becoming distant from him, not because I knew about these questions of the accusations but because he became ill tempered.  I never knew about these very tragic things. The pain of the victims hurts me enormously, I pray for those that carry this pain with them today.”  (So Barros was indeed at one time "close" to Karadima, which is glossed over in his denials and in CNA's reporting.  

Barros may be telling the truth here.  He may be innocent of any cover-up of Karadima's actions, of any collusion with Karadima's bishop who covered for him, of any sexual contact with Karadima and with any vicarious participation in the abuse.

But here's what makes me skeptical.  

1. The three public accusers of Barros are three of the victims of Karadima.  They were not believed for many years.  They were ostracized and criticized and belittled.  But they were telling the truth.  Both a judge in Chile and the Vatican admit that, all along, they were telling the truth about Karadima.  So why are they now, all of a sudden, beginning to lie about one of Karadima's intimates?  Why stop telling the truth about how they were abused - a truth that was never believed - and start lying at this point?

2. If these accusers are lying, if they are trying to destroy Barros, why are they not accusing him of sexual abuse?  Why are they adamant that Barros did not directly abuse them, that he merely "watched" as they were abused, engaged in sexual contact with Karadima, and ran interference for him, preventing their eventual complaints from being heard?  Why are these accusers deliberately limiting their accusations against Barros if they're lying and if their goal is to destroy him?)

Before being the bishop of Osorno, Bishop Barros was the bishop for the Chilean military for almost 11 years, Bishop of Iquique for four years and Auxiliary Bishop of Valparaiso for five years. During all this time, his ministry had not been questioned. (This riot was caused not by Barros' previous episcopal positions, but by his being appointed by Francis as bishop of Osorno, the first appointment of Barros since his mentor Karadima was convicted.  It's obvious why this appointment caused a furor, while Barros's appointment as bishop of the military a decade ago was not on anyone's radar.  To imply that this indicates some sort of shadowy agenda on the part of the rioters is typical of this whole article, which reads more like a pro-Barros press release than a news report.)

4.    The Protests in Osorno

On the day Bishop Barros was installed, dozens of people (no, hundreds of people inside the cathedral and about 4,000 outside the cathedral), including non-Catholics, (what evidence does CNA have that non-Catholics were involved in the protests?  What difference would it make even if they were?  Are non-Catholics not allowed to enter a cathedral?  Are non-Catholics not allowed to protest?) entered the Cathedral of Osorno with banners and black balloons to protest against the prelate. Large groups inside the church held white balloons and banners in support of the bishop.

The media has publicized a letter signed by priests and deacons, as well as a letter from the Congregation of the Sacred Heart signed by their provincial Father Alex Vigueras, demanding the resignation of the prelate.

In response, the Permanent Committee of the Chilean Episcopal Conference issued a March 18 statement expressing their “support, in a spirit of faith and obedience, for Pope Francis who has nominated Bishop Barros as bishop of the Diocese of Osorno.”

5 . Other interests?

The media coverage on Bishop Barros’ appointment as Bishop of Oserno is taking place in the midst of the debate on legalizing abortion as well as bills on euthanasia and homosexual unions in Chile. The Church is one of the few voices that is speaking out against these proposals.

In this context, 51 congressional representatives sent a letter to the Vatican questioning the appointment, some of whom are close to Cruz. This has led to some speculation that those advocating legal and social changes are using the Karadima case and his former friendship with Bishop Barro to discredit the Church in this debate.

(Is it possible that the protests against Barros are politically motivated, and that the pro-abortion / pro-"gay marriage" crowd is trying to capitalize on this situation?  Certainly!  In fact, I can't imagine that those with a liberal political agenda are not trying to capitalize on this.

But that's not the point.  

Fellow Catholics, we are not always persecuted because of our beliefs.  We are not always persecuted because we're trying to do good.  

In fact, when it comes to the Abuse Scandal, we are criticized and persecuted because of the evil the bishops have condoned and facilitated.  

And until we acknowledge that, and as long as we buy the PR-spin that organizations like CNA pass off as "reporting", we'll never make progress on issues like abortion and marriage.  In buying the Great Lie that CNA is selling here, we become anti-evangelists, witnessing against truth and goodness, witnessing against Our Lord Himself.)


ADDENDUM - There are reports that the Chilean Bishops' Conference forced Barros and three other bishops publicly to apologize for supporting Karadima.  Barros is not the "aw, shucks, what did I know?" former pal of Karadima that he claims to be.  He was his protege and one of his most adamant supporters (at the very least).  And remember, Karadima sexually abused altar boys for over fifty years, with bishops stonewalling and covering up for him during that time.

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Shock of the Incarnation

I just wrote to a friend of mine ...

The Incarnation is still shocking.  God-become-Reality.  Still shocking.

Tomorrow, March 25, is the Solemnity of the Annunciation, when we celebrate the moment the Word Became Flesh and Dwelt Among Us.

But if there's one thing most Christians CAN'T STAND it's God-become-Reality.