Tuesday, April 30, 2002

I'm working on another quick turn around project with Father Benedict Groeschel, a book that will address the current crisis in the church and lay out a call to reform the church. Look for it to hit the bookstores in June.
This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God. The previous are posted below among the other posts and last week's archives. Here is the twelth Step:

(12) Not to seek after pleasures.

This is not a popular counsel in our culture. We may be the most pleasure seeking culture that has ever existed. Indeed it may well be that of all the maxims that St. Benedict gives us, this is the hardest. I suspect some will find it nearly impossible to accept even intellectually.

St. Benedict here is not counseling and individual to reject pleasure when it is experienced but rather he is saying that one should now seek after it.

Most of us actively look forward to experiences that we believe will give us pleasure based on our past experiences. As a child we looked forward to Christmas each year, because at an early age when gifted with presents that we had not expect, we were filled with pleasure. But something strange happens, when we start expecting the pleasure and actively seeking after it, the reality never seems to live up to our expectation.

The gift that we beg for arrives and quickly is seen for what it is--"a false advertisement". The elusive relationship is finally gained but the reality never lives up to the fantasy.

The wise person learns this at an early age, but most of us become more creative in our explanations as to why our plans for pleasure are failing to pleasure us.When we seek after pleasure it become unattainable. Nothing ever lives up to our expectation. The act of seeking is a guarantee that we will not achieve the pleasure that we desire.

The longed after vacation, when it arrives, moves to quickly and is destroyed by the delays in travel, the lousy weather, etc.

If we are wise we will find that pleasure comes when we do not desire it but simply are present to the events of the present moment.

Our expectation is that God can come to us at any moment and this expectation will lead to pleasures and joy that we can not dream of.

The seeker lives in the past. He or she is trying to recreate the unplanned moment when everything seemed to be right. If only the moment could be recreated the pleasure would once again be experienced. But the reality is that that moment is past.

The reality is also that the future is ahead with all of its unexpectedness. “Seek first the Kingdom of God!” is the counsel of Jesus. Everything else is secondary. Everything else is illusion.

If I make it my goal to be totally present to the reality of the moment, rather than to be focused on some illusory happiness that lies in the future, I will find true joy right now.

The radical nature of this claim will find it’s confirmation when I am stuck in traffic or sitting in the waiting room of the doctor or dentist and I thank God for the extra time I have been given to relax, to read a magazine that I usually don’t have time for, to gently reflect on where God has led me in the past and how futile our my plans for anything without God’s co-operation.

“If the Lord does not build the house, in vain do the labors labor.” The future is ours only in so far as it is the Lord’s also. The pleasure seeker, seeks pleasure because they feel none in the present moment. In the seeking they suffer from their want.

Monday, April 29, 2002

Behind the news

The priest mentioned in this CNN story is a former classmate of mine. What they don't mention is that he is Carlos Santana's cousin:

The church is investigating whether Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, who died in 1963 after dedicating his life to the church, was responsible for curing a person of gangrene; another of diabetes, respiratory failure and heart failure; and a third of skin cancer, said priest Edward Santana, who is heading the investigations for the church.

The first two alleged miracles occurred in Rome's Plaza San Pedro immediately after Rodriguez's beatification a year ago Monday. The third, in Puerto Rico, allegedly occurred two months ago, said Santana, of the diocese in Caguas where Rodriguez was from.

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God. The previous are posted below among the other posts and last week's archives. Here is the eleventh Step:

(11) To chastise the body (cf 1 Cor 9:27).

I work out in a gym about five times a week usually on my way home for work. There are a few regulars who are always there, both when I arrive and still there when I leave. They push their bodies to the absolute limit and their bodies show the results. Most people envy them but few are willing to put their bodies through the rigors required for such results.

I begin with this example for obvious reasons. When it comes to spirituality most people react negatively to the thought of monks beating themselves with flagelants or wearing hair shirts and I think rightly so, but as often happens when we reject a faulty interpretation, we seldom replace it with a correct one.

About a year ago I was giving a tour of a Benedictine Monastery, where I had attended college almost twenty years ago, to some visitors. Being a curious soul I know the place inside and out. Among the visitors was an author that I had worked with and her friend, along with another Benedictine Nun, all who were attending a conference at a nearby convent.

In the course of our tour we came upon the Chapter room of the monastery. The walls and ceiling of the Chapter Room were illustrated beautifully by a Swiss monk who had lived at the monastery in the early mid-1900's. The ceiling contained the signs of the zodiac illustrating the whole of life, the walls illustrated some of the steps that St. Benedict mentions in his rule (the subject of this series).

He illustrated this step by showing several monks flogging themselves. I mentioned that this was from the rule and the Benedictine sister immediately said that it wasn't. I mildly protested but she insisted. Later when we arrived at the bookstore, I openned the Rule of St. Benedict to the page and pointed out to her where it was. She was undetered, "It's a poor translation."

She mentioned another translation, but here again the wording was the same. Finally, she said,"well who believes that anymore?"

"Bodybuilders," I answered.

Chastising our flesh is a way of mastering our bodies and our wills.

One of my favorite soon to be saints, Father Solanus Casey, jogged. I think I read somewhere that he did so to punish his flesh. Chastising the body can be a healthy enterprise.

A famous Franciscan friar, who is a little overweight and has had numerous heart problems, told me recently that he was finally taking care of his body since he saw hopeful signs in the church.

A recent country song perhaps gives us this point best in modern language, "She treats her body like a temple, I treat mine like a honky tonk." If we believe that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, then we will maintain it in a way that show that we treasure it.

Sunday, April 28, 2002

Amy made the front page of the local afternoon paper here in Fort Wayne on Friday. Neither of us knew anything about it until the Pastor of the parish we attend mentioned it in his announcements at the end of Mass today. You can read about it here:
A test of faith

Nancy Nall wrote it, you can read more from her here.
A seminarian, from a large midwestern seminary, responded to my query about the following items:

I noticed that you attend a seminary mentioned by Michael Rose in his book Goodbye, Good Men. Have you read or seen a copy of the book? Your seminary is one mentioned in the book and it claims that the formation team there is incredibly gay. Is that your experience?

I'd love to hear your comments on what your experiences are in there presently.

Are there a large number of homosexual seminarians?

How are you being formed to live celibately?

Do seminarians go out on weekends? Date?

Are most of the guys orthodox?

Here is his gracious answer:

First of all, let me say that I can't (and don't) speak for the seminary. I'm sending this to you to give you a quick impression that
differs markedly from the one you might have based on Goodbye, Good Men. I invite you and Michael Rose to come to visit if you want to investigate how things are here. I suspect that Michael Rose would be somewhat surprised by what he would find.

You asked if I had read the book. I have ordered it, but have yet to receive it. However, I borrowed a copy tonight in order to at least
read the chapter that speaks horrors referring to this seminary. I can't call the seminarian quoted in that section a liar because I don't know him, but I have been here for two years now, and I don't recognize the seminary of my experience in his descriptions.

There has been a tremendous turnover in formation faculty, so I can't speak of faculty members from the past. But today I would never describe the current formation faculty as "gay." Nor has that been the way men who have been here for five years speak. (They do say things are getting better and better on the formation front, but that seems mostly a matter of their active investment in their role as formators of seminarians, not their "orthodoxy" or "straightness".) I suspect that a few of the faculty members may be homosexual, but I have no suspicions that they are acting out or encouraging others to do so.

There is no tolerance for sexual acting out here, whether heterosexual or homosexual. The moral teachings of the Church are taught, and the expectations for students and faculty are that we will all live celibate, chaste lives. I have heard no rumors at all concerning
faculty acting out sexually with anyone, and no reports of faculty harassing students in any way.

As for the students, there are some who are effeminate, some I suspect may be homosexual, and some I hear are homosexual. But the sum of these impressions and reports does not add up to a large percentage. Those who are effeminate or who are assumed to be homosexual are not harassed, nor are heterosexuals harassed by them. To use common parlance, this seems neither a "homophobic" nor a "gay-friendly" place. No one speaks about changing Church teaching about homosexuality, even if there is an
acknowledgment by faculty and students that there are homosexuals as well as heterosexuals in formation here. In sum, I believe that the vast majority of men here are committed to living chaste, celibate lives.

There is no doubt that the current scandal in the Church has increased the explicitness with which we are attending to matters of sexual integration, human formation, and talking about pastoral responses to homosexuality. I count all of this as a benefit of the current situation.

The program of formation includes attention to matters of sexual integration, human formation, and other relevant topics, like the
ongoing challenge of celibacy. Teaching about celibacy is comprehensive, and focuses us on learning what it takes to live out our
"committed love" to Christ and the Church. It is not simply about ways to ensure continence and self-denial, but a holistic way for priests and religious to express their committed love.

You asked about "dating," and I simply don't hear about seminarians doing so. That is not to say that men don't do things socially with one other and with male and female acquaintances in the area, but "dating" is not an accurate description. It's what you might expect: friends doing things together, just as you would find in any social context.

I can't think of any seminarians who openly challenge Church teachings about faith and morals. And, to my mind, that makes them quite orthodox. Differences among seminarians are most conspicuous at the level of personal piety. The differences do not revolve around fidelity to the Magisterium.

I have never heard any faculty members say or teach anything that challenged or contradicted the Church's moral teaching. In fact, the academic faculty is exceptional. They provide both intellectual and spiritual nourishment in their classes. They are men and women (mostly priests and religious) of faith who know their subjects well and have great pedagogical skills. They teach from the standpoint of faith, with an eye to helping us become priests after the heart of Jesus Christ.

In sum, I am very glad that I am in formation here. It would be hard to imagine a better academic faculty at a Catholic seminary. And I see continued improvements in the attention that will be given here (and I suspect at every American seminary) to issues of human formation, celibacy, and sexual integration, among the other areas spelled out in Pastores Dabo Vobis.

I am glad that the heat is being turned up on the entire Church, and that increased attention (in part because of Rose's book) will be paid to American Seminaries. I count that as a potential benefit of the tragedy. If a seminary were in fact the sort of place Rose describes in his book, radical changes would be in order. And there may well be such places, and they need to be
reformed. But this seminary is no longer among them, in my estimation. If there have been major changes, that makes me think that this Archbishop and this Rector "get it." May God be pleased that the situation will be similar across all the dioceses and seminaries in our land!

p.s. I am admittedly a bit troubled by the salacious tone of Rose's book. After thumbing through it, I wondered if the book isn't a bit too sensationalist for its own good. The men who are informants seem, to a man, to have axes to grind.

p.p.s. FWIW, I think there are some men who are too rigid in their embrace of ORTHODOXY to have any sense of mercy in their role as priests. I know some men back home who are immature in their orthodoxy. They are unable to tolerate sinners (and differences of
opinion), and therefore would be ineffective in the work of evangelism and ministry. All of that to say that "kicking someone out" for being "too orthodox" may not always be as bad as Rose seems to think.

Those who have been here (especially those who have been here longer than I) and are aware of this book are angry about its contents. They feel (justifiably, I think) rather defensive. However, I trust that even this off-balance book will help us all in the long-run, even if I am troubled by his method, tone, and assumptions.

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God. The previous are posted below among the other posts and last week's archives. Here is the tenth Step:

(10) To deny one's self in order to follow Christ (cf Mt 16:24; Lk 9:23).

Denial has come to mean, not facing reality. This is not the type of "denial" that St. Benedict is promoting. Rather it is just the opposite, it is to deny the falsehood of the self that always feels threatened. This false "self" does not exist but is the result of Original Sin and we all struggle with it throughout our lives.

There is a part of us that feels that we must always be vigilant unless someone get one up on us. It is the part of our personality that puts up walls, that is afraid to be our true selves. Simply it is that part of us that fears being embarrassed, thought ill of or that we secretly fear is the definition of who we really are and we work tirelessly to keep everyone from learning the truth.

Of course, the truth is that this is not who we really are at all.

We are just the opposite of the Son of God. Jesus was God but as St. Paul says in Philippians, "did not deem equality with God." Jesus ate and drank with sinners, he associated with some very ungodly people.

None of us has to battle such odds. We are not God, but as the fruit of original sin we have all inherited the notion that we are supposed to be God. So most of us spend our lives not exercising the talents and gifts that God has blessed us with because we fear that we will fail to use them perfectly.

I wonder how many there are who have been graced with the gift of healing the sick but who never reach out to the sick because they fear the embarrassment that might come their way? Or how many talented leaders stand idly by while those not gifted lead?

Denying oneself means letting go of the fears that we do not possess abilities of god proportions and stepping out in faith knowing that God will provide what is lacking to our talents as we exercise them for the good of humanity.

Perhaps the most commonly told parable by Jesus about the Kingdom of God is that of the King or landowner who passes out talents before taking a trip. Those who invest in their talents are praised upon the Master's return whereas the one who buries his talents is condemned.

Why did the servant bury his talents? Because he was afraid.

Why does Jesus tell the parable? So his followers will not fall into the same predicament. Yet how many Christians will hear the words, deny yourself and immediately interpret the Lord's words as though he were advocating burying one's talents? Unbelievable!

Deny the fear of making a mistake, taking a risk of what might happen if you follow Our Lord to Jerusalem. The disciples told Jesus that if they went to Jerusalem he certainly would be killed, did he not fear for his life? Thomas often cast as the doubter but in fact probably the supreme believer says, "let us go to die with him!"

When we let go of the fear of what others think about us when it comes to using the talents and abilities that God has given us then we will truly build the Kingdom of God. Denying that part of ourselves that would bury our talents our of fear is true humility.

Saturday, April 27, 2002

Several readers have written to say that I should have included a link to the First Things defense of Father Maciel (see next entry). I have already written and linked to this some week ago and you can read about it here. It is the Friday, March 29th entry.
Nothing new here, but a rehash (and slap on the hand by Cardinal Ratzinger) on ABC's 20/20 last night--Sexual Abuse Allegations Covered-Up by Vatican:

The alleged victims say the Vatican knew of the allegations against Father Marcial Maciel and chose not to pursue them.
In fact, the pope has continued to praise 82-year-old Maciel, a Mexico native, as an effective leader of Catholic youth, despite detailed allegations sent to the Vatican four years ago saying the man was also a long-time pedophile.

Maciel denies the charges and said the men made them up only after leaving the Legion of Christ.

Maciel is the founder of the little-known but well-connected and well-financed Legion of Christ which has raised millions of dollars for the Church. Operating in the United States and 19 other countries, the Legion of Christ recruits boys as young as 10 years old to leave their families and follow a rigorous course of study to become priests.


Vaca is not alone. He is one of eight former students, now all in their 60s, who have signed sworn affidavits submitted to the Vatican that they were abused by Maciel.

When they were members of the Legion, the accusers were devout followers of Marciel. But for the last eight years, they have been trying to get the Vatican to listen or even acknowledge their detailed allegations of sexual abuse at the hands of Father Maciel. They say they have not heard a response from the Vatican.

If nothing else, I think this case shows a reluctance on the part of the Vatican (which other bishops are merely following) to pursue these type of cases. If true, who knows how many victims there could be who are still in the order.

Spiritual Reflection by Michael Dubruiel

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God. The previous are posted below among the other posts and last week's archives. Here is the ninth Step:

(9) And what one would not have done to himself, not to do to another (cf Tob 4:16; Mt 7:12; Lk 6:31).

The Golden Rule is well known across cultures. At an early age we are taught to treat others in the same way that we wish to be treated. Has this rule fallen on deaf ears though in our time?

Could it be that we no longer think about others or care about them? What is it that has desensitized us from the needs of others?

Forty years ago people marched upon the towns and villages of the south to protest the way people of color were still being treated; almost a century since the cessation of slavery. Something of the Golden Rule motivated those marches and when television cameras broadcast those images to the rest of the nation soon others changed their opinions too.

But forty years later it seems that the multiplicity of those images along with the dramatization of similar images has lessened the impact of reality. Like a collective hypnosis we seem not to be affected by the plight of our fellow human anymore. Like a callous that develops from constant friction, the flood of images of suffering and hurting individuals has dampened our ability to care.

I suppose that recognizing this, is the first step to diagnosing it as a problem that is destroying us as a society. St. Benedict’s maxim can serve as a corrective. The first step is to really feel, what it is that I feel.

How do I feel when someone smiles at me? It feels good, I feel important or at least that this person is well disposed toward me which is also a good feeling. If this is so I should offer a smile to those who life cast in my path today.

How do I feel when someone treats me in a manner that makes me feel that my existence is inconsequential to them? Probably not very good, then I need to even in a small way acknowledge everyone as an important part of God’s plan for me today.

We tend to be a society in touch with their feelings. It is a small step to return back to a more civil manner of existence where I believe that there is not just “me” but us on this planet. Everyone is important in God’s plan. My feelings are the key to defining how I should treat others in the way that God wants me to do.

A reader writes concerning so called Catholic Hospitals:

St. Francis Hospital in Trenton, NJ is giving the "Spirit of St. Francis" award to the state Democratic Chair, abortion extremist,
planed parenthood funded and supported, Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman....2 times she voted against Parental Notification. She is the chairperson for appropriations money. St. Francis "sold the farm and the mission."

They no longer have a maternity wing.

Actually a 'blog" could help us with a phone campaign. The Bishop is silent (now there's a surprise) . He has not responded to any letters.

Irony....the gala affair where the award will be given is Mother's day weekend

One wonders why the bishops don't step in and strip both hospitals and universities of the "Catholic" title? I know of a bishop who himself is under fire in Florida who has threatened small Catholic bookstores in this regard, but wouldn' t dare to do the same to a hospital or university.

Friday, April 26, 2002

Emily Stimpson has quoted the same reader as I have (he must have emailed all of the Catholic blogs he could find) and has written a number of entries that follow along the same theme. While I admire the motivation behind her point--that the Church is the Body of Christ, I think she is missing the point... in the same way that she feels my wife Amy is missing the point.

The notion of the Church as the Body of Christ originates with Saint Paul. The same Saint Paul said:

You have become news with a case of immorality, and such a case that is not even found among the pagans...(referring to the man who had taken his stepmother as a wife)...

And you feel proud! Should you not be in mourning instead and expel the sinner. For my part, although I am physically absent, my spirit is with you, as if present. I have already passed sentence on the man who committed such a sin. Let us meet together, you and my spirit, and in the name of our Lord Jesus and with his power, you shall deliver him to Satan, so that he loses everything and his life, but his spirit be saved on the day of Judgment. (1 Cor. 5:1,2-5)

Elsewhere, Our Lord also using the image of the body said:

If your hand makes you fall into sin, cut it off! It is better to enter life without a hand than with two hands to go to hell, to the fire that never goes out. And if your foot makes you fall into sin, cut it off! It is better for you to enter life without a foot than with both feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye makes you fall into sin tear it out! It is better to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than, keeping both eyes to be thrown into hell where the worms that eat them never die, and fire never goes out. (Mark 9:43-48)

This passage follows the one most quoted during the current crisis:

If anyone should cause one of these little ones who believe in me to stumble and sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a great millstone around his neck. (Mark 9:42)

What bothers most people about this issue is that this surgery on the Body of Christ has yet to be done.

Granted patience is necessary, but there comes a point where some still are way too "proud," even though they have sanctioned and facilitated certian members of the clergy in their commission of the most unspeakable acts. God speaks to us in the Holy Scriptures about what is necessary.

Good people are people of prayer. They do not need to be called to prayer and repentance--they already are praying. I attend Mass daily, recite the rosary daily, pray the liturgy of the hours daily and do spiritual reading daily.

The people who need to "repent" are the people who are heading in the wrong direction. Some of these are not interested in turning back to Christ who is the Truth, but rather they are interested in protecting their "place" as I have written about in other places on this blog, which of course is a reference to the High Priest in John's Gospel:

What are we to do? For this man keeps on giving miraculous signs. If we let him go on like this, all the people will believe in him and, as a result of this, the Romans will come and sweep away our Holy Place and our nation. (John 11:47,48)

The man is Jesus Christ--the TRUTH, and you can replace the "Roman" with the "press or media." A day of prayer of healing for all those who have suffered at the hands of evil men is a good idea, after the evil men have been excised from the Body of Christ--let them retire to a monastery, let them join the faithful in prayer but not as leaders but as penitents.

From a writer to this blog:

I'd like to make a suggestion, though I have no forum for doing so: We should have a national collection to pay monetary restitution for the claims that have and will arise from the current scandal. For if we don't, how many fine institutions will be hurt? The money has to come from somewhere - do we want to see schools close, programs be cut back, already-strained retirement funds tapped?

I would also like to make a suggestion, something that could set the mood for a national day of penance:

Sell all the Catholic Hospitals in the United States. They are no longer "Catholic," they no longer serve the poor, and they perform medical procedures that are at odds with the teaching of the Church. Remove the name of whatever saint is associated with the hospital and let them continue to exist as private hospitals for the wealthy. The religious orders who run them now, can be freed from the responsibility and use the money to take care of their elderly sisters or brothers.

Sell all Cardinal's residences. Let the Cardinals live in public housing if they do not want to live in a rectory like other priests. All the proceeds from the sale of these mansions should go to victims of abuse. Along with the sale of these mansions, should be the selling of anything of wealth that the Cardinals have personally acquired over the years. We need leaders who resemble Christ not Queen Elizabeth.

All Archbishops and Bishops should hold a convocation in their dioceses of victims where victims are allowed to voice their concerns publicly to the bishops who will adopt a penitential stance toward this. I'm not advocating a public stoning, but I am advocating a public humiliation of the bishops hearing a list of the abuse that people have suffered because they have not acted in their role as shepherds who should protect their charges from wolves, rather than moving the wolves around to prey on more sheep.

What about the rest of us? Should we finance abuse settlements?


Let the riches of the Church be sold, they are a scandal in and of themselves. Let bishop's divest themselves of mitres and vestments that separate that are holdovers from the days when princes occupied episcopal sees...let us return to the Church where the Church imitates it's founder and the simple Galilean fishermen who were the first bishops!
Michael S. Rose has created a new site CRUX NEWS.COM. Currently the site has a variety of posts related to current scandals in the Church. The site which is free now has information saying that it won't debut until August and then will be a pay site.
Thanks to E.L. Core of The View from the Core for this link to CNS which gives the details of the 1961 directive alluded to below:

Archbishop Bertone said that while the homosexual inclination is not sinful in itself, it "evokes moral concern" because it is a strong temptation to actions that "are always in themselves evil."

He defined the homosexual inclination as "a temptation that, for whatever reason, has become so predominant in a person's life as to become a force shaping the entire outlook of the person."

"Persons with a homosexual inclination should not be admitted to the seminary," Archbishop Bertone said.

In 1961, a Vatican document on the selection of candidates to the priesthood said much the same thing. The instruction was issued by the then-Sacred Congregation for Religious and concerned those entering religious orders.

"Those affected by the perverse inclination to homosexuality or pederasty should be excluded from religious vows and ordination," it said. It said the community life and priestly ministry would constitute a "grave danger" or temptation for these people.

The document recommended that any person with serious unresolved sexual problems be screened out, saying that the chastity and celibacy required by religious and priestly life would constitute for them a "continuous heroic act and a painful martyrdom."

The 1961 document has never been abrogated, so is still technically valid, officials said. But now, the Vatican is considering a reformulation of these principles, so that the message gets through more clearly to local churches.
Another arrow pointing in the same direction, from Zenit:

In the wake of the meeting of U.S. cardinals and bishops here, the sex abuse scandals involving priests calls for a thorough reform in seminaries, the priesthood and the hierarchy, says Vatican Radio
If you read between the lines, and read what I was told below, I think you'll see that action is being taken on the seminary front already. Now whether the real problem is being addressed or exactly how it is going to be addressed is another issue entirely.
From the Detroit Free Press:

The cardinals return to the United States with plans for Catholic leaders to immediately begin visiting seminaries to assess the suitability of priests-in-training.

The cardinals' final communique from the summit called for Vatican representatives to conduct special reviews of U.S. seminaries immediately. They are to assess whether Catholic teachings and principles, such as celibacy, are strictly followed. And they will review the criteria for judging candidates for the priesthood.

The editor of America, Father Thomas Reese, comments on this:

Some church leaders and others appear to think that homosexuals cannot be celibate, he said, though others say most gay priests are celibate

Fried foods cause cancer!

Plus they make you fat, but you knew that already! I wonder if cartons of french fries will soon carry the surgeon general's warning on them. From the Tampa Tribune:A new Swedish study announced Wednesday claims french fries, potato chips, bread, rice and other fried or baked high-carbohydrate foods may cause cancer.

The culprit may be acrylamide, ``a probable human carcinogen'' formed when potatoes are fried and breads are baked, according to Sweden's National Food Administration, which did the preliminary research.

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God. The previous are posted below among the other posts and last week's archives. Here is the Seventh Step:

8- To honor all men (cf 1 Pt 2:17).

Often honor is confused with adoring or worshiping someone. For example when the commandment to honor one’s parents is rejected, what is usually rejected is the concept that I have to worship my parents, but that is not what honor means.

To honor someone is to respect them as an individual who is part of the whole. I honor you if I acknowledge the uniqueness that you bring to the human race. I honor you as a fellow human being, giving you all of the rights and respect that every human deserves. Added to this, is a deep respect for your person, your individuality.

Too often our problems with other people is rooted in our inability to see them and accept them as different from ourselves. The other is more introverted or extroverted—we want them to be like us. The other is too right brained or left brained—we want them to be like us.

Honoring an individual means first and foremost that we accept them as the unique individual that God has created them to be.

One would think that monks in a monastery would have little individuality. But in reality the monks I have been privileged to know in my life have exhibited the greatest individuality of any people that I have known. They all dress alike, their lives follow a similar ritual everyday, but their personalities and who God has created them to be shines forth.

The “true self” as Thomas Merton termed the individual who is not trying to live up to the expectations imposed outside of the self can only be freed up by a deep trust in God. We can nurture the "true self" in others by honoring them as unique individuals with a mission from God.

Thursday, April 25, 2002


Since I posted the original message (see below) I had lunch with a priest friend. I mentioned the letter to him and lo and behold he told me that a priest friend who was at the same meeting had called and told him about it also. He said that originally the priest was going to fax him a copy of the letter, but then got cold feet and read part of it over the phone to him. The part he read, and the part that my source (a Bishop) mentioned to me was that the seminary was to enforce a missive that originally had been sent out in 1960. None of the parties that have heard this know what missive from 1960 is being referred to, but it could be this document that Rod Dreher refers to in his Monday column:.

Rome has explicitly discouraged the ordination of homosexuals since at least 1961. For the past decade, the Vatican has been ratcheting up the pressure against gay ordination — to little avail in most U.S. dioceses.

My priest friend seemed to think that the letter was sent just to the seminary that both sources say received it, but my source told me that he thought that it had been sent to every seminary in the US.

Again, the reason the letter (which supposedly was secret--but you see how well secrets are kept in clerical circles) was shared at the meeting was because the Rector evidently had no idea of how it was supposed to be practically enforced.

From my sources:

A secret missive was sent to all seminary rectors in the United States last week, from the Vatican, ordering them to purge their schools of homosexual candidates for the priesthood.

My source told me that those in charge with carrying out this order have no clue how they are to carry out this command.

Do you throw out people who look like homosexuals (who may be heterosexuals who just are effeminate), do you throw out people that defend the rights of homosexuals (who may be heterosexuals who are interested in the rights of all people), or do you throw out someone caught in the act (most seminaries would do this already--so there really isn't a change if that's the case).

When I mentioned to my source (someone in a position of the Church's authority), that seminaries should throw out anyone who is not chaste/celibate whether they be homosexual or heterosexual, he did not agree with me. I have problems with this, and I think this points to (as well as Cardinal George's comments that sex between a priest and 17 year old girl is not all that bad) that celibacy is the problem because the bishops know that if they truly ordain men committed to a chaste celibate lifestyle that the numbers would quickly be reduced by at least fifty percent. But this is honest and true.

As to purging seminaries of homosexuals, you may wish to read my missive on the problems that exist in seminaries with regard to the faculty knowing the truth about those they are charged with evaluating, you'll see I think that it is simplistic to think that this is an easy task.
Things that haven't changed as a result of the Vatican gathering:

The bishops still think they know best how to handle these situations, which if you read between the lines is not a lot different from how they have been handling them in the past. So expect the same in the future.

Secrecy is still the order of the day, (more on this above), for all of the talk about treating people with dignity--there is still the belief that lay people can't "handle the truth."

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God. The previous are posted below among the other posts and last week's archives. Here is the Seventh Step:

7. Not to bear false witness (cf Mt 19:18; Mk 10:19; Lk 18:20).

Lying about what we witness in life, is one of those sins that always has the appearance of not being all that serious, until it continues to escalate like a snowball growing bigger and bigger; until we are no longer sure of what the truth is. It is not in our interest or anyone else’s to not tell the truth.

Jesus identified himself with the Truth. If we are in communion with Jesus then we too will be fountains of the truth. But the temptation to choose other than the truth is a large one and it almost always has as an underpinning the sense that to do so is in our best interest.

It is not.

Many times our inability to tell the truth reveals a deep spiritual void within. We bear false witness because somehow it will make us appear better, which at it’s heart means that we feel that there is something wrong with us to begin with. The temptation to bear false witness about another or an event I have witnessed is an invitation for me to ask, “What do I feel is wrong with myself?”

Why do I feel the need to speak about an event or a person in an untruthful way? The answer is more self-revelatory than illustrative of any real happening outside of myself? My answer allows me to peer into the hole within my soul.

Oh God help me to see myself as a valuable part of your creation. Allow me to see that the life I experience is alive with your presence and that others will always benefit from it.

But what about the other reasons, like, I don’t want to hurt someone?

Does the truth ever hurt? The answer is a loud and thunderous, yes it can hurt terribly. But is that bad?

Pain is a fact of life and to try to avoid it only delays the pain. Confronting it and accepting it leads to resurrection. The cross is a daily visitor to everyone. The choice is often whether we love people enough to be honest with them not hurt them but to help them to face reality in life.

Perhaps there is nothing more definitive about salvation than the one word--reality. A person who experiences the saving grace of God lives in reality, the world as it is.

The unsaved person lives a lie, perhaps it is a world of their creation. It is their fiction. It is impossible for others to be invited into this world of theirs because it is a non-existent place that they themselves do not even exist in. There is nothing sadder then to experience this firsthand, but it is the lot of those who refuse to accept the pain of daily life.

There is the obvious consequence of bearing false witness that I have purposely left to the end. Consequences are of little matter here, but for many they are the guiding force of their daily actions. St. Benedict did not counsel in his maxim—“consider the end when giving a witness.” He did not do so because he has already laid out for us what the end-(the consequence of every action is)—it is God.

God is the consequence for anyone who sets out on this path. My concern is for doing what God commands. True compassion results.

All of our excuses and reasons for not doing so—usually rationalized from a concern for consequences, are derived from a lack of respect for others (Benedict’s second maxim). We do not believe in our neighbor’s right to “handle” the truth. This is very sad.

Wednesday, April 24, 2002

How to handle a "scandal." I have personally witnessed two potential scandals and two different ways of dealing with it. One involved a seminary rector and a number of bishops were involved (they covered it up for as long as they could --several years and then all hell broke loose), the other involved a principal at a Jesuit school (more on this below) where the Jesuit President of the school gathered the entire student body with teachers and we all found out about the allegation at the same time (hell never broke out--the students who were not noteworthy for comportment handled it like men). Cover-up I have found only leads to a bigger scandal, truth extinguishes scandal.

There is a news story today of another incident being handled by the same school I once taught at and if you read the story you'll see the Jesuits are still doing it the same way (at least in the New Orleans province):

The announcement was met by stunned silence.
My take on the Karen Hughes departure:

She says it is for "her family" and if reports of terrorist threats against Washington, D.C. are true, who can blame her?
Report from the Seminary Today

Currently I am at seminary in the midwest. Since I am good friends with a Bishop who is on the Board of Trustees here, I have access to both the seminary and the seminarians that the press is not allowed. In fact, if I took out my wallet and flashed my PRESS pass, I am sure that I would be quickly ushered out the door. I may try that later today, when I'm actually leaving anyway, but now on to report my experiences yesterday.

I arrived at the seminary in the early afternoon. There were a number of television trucks parked near the entrance. One local news agency was setting up to do a live remote broadcast. When I came into the front entrance I was stopped, and asked why I had come. I responded to meet with one of the faculty members (an OSV author who I had an appointment with later in the day). She told me to have a seat. I asked if I might visit the chapel (to pray). She said someone would have to accompany me.

Now, I haven't had the experience of "being accompanied" anywhere since I was a child and so I asked why this was the case. She explained that many of the priests and seminarians rooms were right outside the chapel and I would be invading their "privacy." This explanation went on for some time as I raised a number of questions. Finally, a seminarian arrived, who had been summoned somehow (perhaps a secret button, like a bank teller might have?). He was to be my accompanier. I declined his invitation and asked the receptionist if my friend (the bishop) was out of his meeting.

All of a sudden she started apologizing. She didn't know who I was, they had to be careful, they had some incidents (no explanation as to what these were), etc. She rang the bishop, he came down and for the rest of the day I had free reign of the place.

I was impressed. The main chapel had undergone the usual deconstruction but another chapel remained untarnished. In the untouched chapel, their were seminarians at prayer (a fair number), and preparations were being made for Eucharistic Adoration. There were students in cassocks, clerics and jeans. I'm guessing that each vesture represented an idealogy. It struck me later when attending Vespers (evening prayer) that they were evenly divided.

It was just before Vespers that I viewed the whole ensemble. They actually seemed to be the same mix of men you would have seen twenty years earlier. They came in all sizes and shapes, as well as ages. Most were young, though their faces bore more stress than one would expect--no doubt due to the approaching final exams and for some ordination.

No shocks, very quiet atmosphere, prayerful. No overtly effeminate men. I am impressed.

More later...
This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God. The previous are posted below among the other posts and last week's archives. Here is the Sixth Step:

6. Not to covet (cf Rom 13:9).

St. Benedict attaches a scripture passage to this maxim which in many ways points to where he has obtained the previous four. In Romans 13:9 the Apostle wrote, “The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself, (Romans 13:9, NIV).”

The simple rendering not to covet is intriguing. We probably are used to the formulation that we should not covet our neighbor’s goods or our neighbor’s wife, but here there is just the simple injunction not to covet. There is nothing more difficult in the culture that we live in than to rid ourselves of desire.

Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha (enlightened one), based an entire religion on ridding ourselves of what he discovered was the source of all ill. In his four noble truths he stated, that all life is suffering, the cause of suffering is desire, the way to rid the world of suffering is to extinguish desire, that experience is Nirvana.

I remember teaching basically the same truth to teen boys in high school, and receiving a predictable response—“if you rid yourself of desire you wouldn’t move—you would just lie on the couch.” They, mirroring the culture that we live in, saw desire or coveting as a good thing. It is the very fuel that propels one to have great goals and to achieve great success.

But is it?

Doesn’t our desire or coveting rather blind us to achieving our goals, creating a false sense of what is needed to make us happy? What if we were to live each day with a sense of purpose but instead of being concerned about our plan we primarily were focused on God’s will for us.

This may seem too idealistic and we might retort, “How can I know God’s will for me today?” The spiritual writer Jean-Pierre De Caussade in his great spiritual work Abandonment to Divine Providence gave a simple guide to answering the question. The will of God can best be discerned by a simple acceptance of whatever the day brings and to a focus on that.

My spiritual director Benedictine Father Lambert Reilley once mirrored this thought when I complained about all the distractions that I was suffering from. “People keep showing up and interupting the work that I am trying to get done.”

“Why look at them as distractions?” Father Lambert asked me. “Instead see them as people that God is sending to you.” What Father Lambert (who now is Archabbot Lambert) was saying to me was mirrored in the Rule of Saint Benedict’s injunction that the monks were to welcome the stranger as though Christ himself were arriving at the monastery.

So this notion of coveting, covers not only material things and the relationships that others have, it also covers are very time and the way we view it. Time is the biggest culprit in the whole business of ridding ourselves of coveting. We want and desire to have _______________(fiill in the blank) right now rather than waiting until it comes our way.

If it is our health, we want to feel better now, so we take drugs that in the long run ruin our immune system. If we are trying to lose weight, we want it now so we may injure our health seeking a quick solution. If we want material items why wait, put it on credit. All in all, coveting is a rejection of the world that we live in as it is, and the message of the Gospel is just the opposite, the world is not changed by wishing it to be otherwise, but rather by confronting the world as it is and dealing with it.

Why would we not sit around on the couch, if we rid ourselves of desiring? Because we would realize that we have work to do and it needs to be done now! The very act of coveting if we conceptualize it is that of a dreamer, not someone who is immersed in reality.

The opposite of coveting is acceptance.

Tuesday, April 23, 2002

Step # 5 of the 73

5. Not to steal...

It may seem strange that stealing is so high on St. Benedict’s list, but there is nothing more destructive in communal living than mistrust and there is nothing that can destroy trust like living with thievery. Once something no matter how insignificant is stolen everyone around becomes the potential thief.

There is a story I have heard so many times and so many versions of that I am not even sure where it is originally from but it goes something like this: An abbot of a monastery had become very disenchanted with the way the monks in his monastery treated one another. He ventured off to seek out the advice of an holy monk who lived as a hermit deep in the woods.

After the holy monk had listened to the abbot’s concern, he raised his hand and asked the abbot to wait while he prayed about this situation. Several hours passed and finally the hermit reappeared in the cell and made his solemn announcement to the abbot. “When you go back to the monastery tonight gather all of the monks into chapter and then announce to them what I have to tell you.” He then revealed what he had learned in prayer to the abbot.

That night the abbot did as the holy man had instructed, when the last of the monks had taken their place in the room, the abbot arose and announced to the gathered assembly, “The holy hermit has announced to me and asked me to inform you that God has revealed to him that the messiah is in our midst.” Afterwards the monks treated each other with great respect, wondering and not knowing if the monk they were dealing with might be the messiah.

The way we treat others and their property is largely based on how much we respect and hold them in awe. If we had a deep sense of love, respect and awe of each and every person we would never take anything from them. But too often we lack this basic sense of dignity that others deserve from us.

We reason that someone is wealthy and they won’t miss this or that item so we take it as though our attitude about someone else is reality. We reason that we have paid a just fee and that entitles us to more than what we know it does. All of our reasons are aimed at justifying something that we know is wrong and the very act of trying to rationalize our behavior makes us less not in God’s eyes but in our view of ourselves.

It is useful to remember that the men nailed next to Jesus on the cross are often referred to as thieves. The so-called good thief acknowledges that his sin has merited so horrible a death. There was something of the presence of Jesus that made him realize that. If we put ourselves into the presence of God we will come to the same conclusion that taking what does not belong to us is wrong.

Monday, April 22, 2002

The irony of the title and scripture quote (see the right column) of this page is how well it fits both my own life but also the current crisis facing the Catholic Church. We both have imitated Zechariah more than Mary in the way we handle the grace and angelic visitations we have been blessed with...
A big THANK YOU to whoever bought the ad off of this page...
The story that won't die. Riches Of The Kingdom: From The Tampa Tribune:

A Nikon camera, a Bose radio, Nordstrom designer shirts, shoes, watches, sportswear: Bill Urbanski says Bishop Robert Lynch showered him with personal gifts during their unusual 4 1/2-year relationship.
``I looked at my wife once and said, `What am I wearing that the bishop didn't buy me?' '' Urbanski recalls today.

Lynch's lavish spending on the bishop's former spokesman and near-constant companion knew few limits, Urbanski says. As they drove from a parish north of Tampa one day, the bishop's wallet opened again.

``I was like, `I really wish I had a CD player in my car,' '' Urbanski says. ``Boom! We were in Circuit City, and he said, `I've wanted to buy you something. Pick it out.' ''

I'm trying to think of Jesus leading his apostles through the Temple and rather than turning over the tables, buying them whatever they wanted. If nothing else, one wonders what the leaders of the Church really believe in? Are they of the world or against it?

Celibacy is supposed to point toward the Kingdom where they are neither given nor taken in marriage. That is the ideal, but how is it being lived out in fact?

One of the outcomes of the Vatican Sex Abuse summit may be the resignation of Cardinal Law, according to this piece in the Orlando Sentinel today that claims at least one American Cardinal holds this opinion going into the meeting:

The cardinal, who asked to remain anonymous, said Sunday that he had been "commissioned" by other senior prelates to take their case against Law directly to Pope John Paul II's inner circle. He said he, as well as others, would do so today during private meetings at the Vatican. Today's meetings come a day before two days of talks between America's cardinals and Vatican leaders on the abuse scandal.

"If the Holy See wants to send a strong signal of quality and standards of leadership," the cardinal told The Times, Law "will have to be replaced. This cannot be a phaseout." The cardinal said he did not want to undermine his efforts by publicly disclosing his name before speaking to the Vatican.

The bishop, also speaking on a confidential basis, told The Times, "Many bishops are of the mind that the healing process really can't begin until there's a change of leadership in Boston."
Amy's blog is mentioned in Howard Kurtz's column Media Notes today in the Washington Post.
Step 4 of "73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God"

4. Not to commit adultery...

Sex and worship are bedfellows. It is not without reason that those concerned about the spiritual life are the same people who seem to struggle the most with sins of the flesh. Both are fueled by passion and the goal of the spiritual life is to channel that energy in the right direction. Every thing has it's rightful place in life.

The first question that arises in regard to this injunction, is why would St. Benedict feel a monk needed to hear this? The answer of course, is that no one is beyond the realm of the temptation of any sin. In this case a monk who left the monastery to be with another was committing adultery.

But a wider application of this maxim is that at the heart of adultery is a search for something that no human being can offer us, that sense of deep satisfaction that we truly belong.

The desire that we all feel to be loved and to belong is something that we will live with our entire lives. The connection that we feel with another human being or community is capable of giving a foretaste to the communion that we seek, but incomplete at the same time. A person who confuses the incompleteness of this sought after communion, and believes that it could be gained by going off in search for it somewhere else, is deceived.

The effect of this sin is all too evident, if we but reflect on it. Jesus said that a person who “lusts in his heart after another” has already committed adultery. It has been said that given that definition, that we all have sinned in this regard. So how then is it possible to put this maxim into practice?

The truth that underlies this injunction is perhaps best illustrated by the story in John’s Gospel of the Woman at the well. Jesus who finds himself alone at the well asks the woman for a drink. The conversation that ensues ultimately comes down to a question of satisfying the thirsts that we experience in life.

The woman had been married five times and was living with a sixth man at the time she spoke with Jesus. He points this out to her and if fits into the context of the “I thirst” and Jesus’ claim to be the source of water that will satisfy that thirst. There is something about this encounter with Jesus at the well that leads the woman to go into her village and to evangelize leading many others to Christ.
Examine her motive for setting out to bring others to Jesus, she says, “He told me everything I ever did.”

There is something in Jesus pointing out all the empty wells, that she has sought out in her life to satisfy her thirst, that leads her to accept that he is the living water that she truly seeks.

Adultery is wrong above all because it is based on a lie which is, “The reason I am not happy or fulfilled right now is because of my situation and if I was with X or Y that would change.”

We can get so caught up in the rush of excitement that new relationships promise that we can lose all objectivity when facing temptations in life. Unfortunately we may fall into the same trap and learn the lessons over and over that what we desire is not a human connection but something that every human relationship is but a foretaste.

We have no idea what happened to the Samaritan woman after her encounter with Jesus at the well. Did she marry number six? Were there more men that followed?

My hunch is that she married number six and found in him a mate who was a helper to her and that she no longer confused the lust for more as something that anyone who was a mere human could fulfill. We too, will experience a quench to that unquechable thirst when we turn to God with all our hearts.

Sunday, April 21, 2002

After a week of summer-like weather, in the 80's everyday, this morning it is 39 and raining. It is suppose to reach 45 today for a high.

Saturday, April 20, 2002

The next step of the 73 will appear on Monday.
Note to my fellow New England natives, get out before it breaks off and falls into the Atlantic.Yahoo! News - 5.1 Earthquake Rattles Northeast
Story is that Geoff Bodine's fiance (of six years?) died last week. His ex-wife died earlier this year in Florida. For those who don't know him, Geoff Bodine is a NASCAR driver who won the Daytona 500 in 1986. Over the past 10 years he has had incredibly bad luck(making one think of a curse), but he did survive a horrific crash at Daytona two years ago--so personally he has something going for him. He finished third in the Daytona 500 this year and is racing at Talladega this Sunday. The story about his fiance appears on one of the original blogs, Jayski.com, a site dedicated to Winston Cup Racing rumors:

Sad News: during an interview on FX's tape delayed qualifying show from Talladega, Dr. Dick Derggren interviewed Geoffrey Bodine, driver of the #09 Miccosukee Indian Gaming Ford (qualified 23rd) who said (paraphrasing as best as I can) - "This is really a tough time for me Dick. I had a birthday yesterday, but I also had a tragedy in my life, my fiancée of 6 years died last week. So I'm.standing here with mixed emotions, such a good car, and a good run and a lot of opportunity here, but my heart's really hurting right now, but we will get through the weekend. Angela would want me to be here, so we're here. But, we're gonna miss her. Going to be hard to get through this, but we will."
A piece on Cardinal Mahoney's qualifications as a reformer for the upcoming Vatican summit is found today in The AmericanProwler:

The cardinal also said that he wants a victim of sexual molestation to sit on the abuse panel. Stammer (and co-author of the article Beth Shuster) found a colleague of Mahony's -- Bishop William S. Skystad, vice president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops -- to praise Mahony's proposal as "far-reaching." "I'm very impressed," Skylstad said.

Perhaps Mahony can use Nancy Sloan as the representative on this impressive panel for sex abuse victims. Sloan was abused by a molesting priest that Mahony later reassigned to a parish in Stockton, California, where Mahony served as bishop in the early 1980s

Friday, April 19, 2002

I have friends, in high places--see my homepage. My wife Amy is trying to organize a fax sending campaign but can't find the fax number. She hasn't asked me and I have it. Here it is:

+39 011390669882122

In your message send it to: Bishop Stanislaw Dziwisz

Bishop Dziwisz is Pope John Paul II's personal secretary. He once referred to my insights, relayed to him by a close Jewish friend, saying "who is this man, he is genius."

Rumors that I am a secret Vatican spy are unfounded by the way, but see if you can get the Pope to autograph anything.
Peggy Noonan's description of the Pope in this paragraph should win her an award:

The pope is an old man, gravely ill, exhausted by his ascesticism. He is unable to show feeling or emotion through the Parkinsonian mask that freezes his features. When I saw him walk into a room two years ago--bent, moving slowly, his left eye drooping and rimmed red--his face seemed that of a half-submerged whale looking silently at the world, a great mammal risen from the deep.

She is so..o..o..o right about this too:

The pope has no doubt been told, repeatedly, that this is a media-driven scandal. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick this week told the Washington Post, his parish paper, that journalists are having "a heyday." The cardinal no doubt believes this to be true, but it is not.

Has anyone who repeats this line, that this is a "media driven" crisis, (and I hear it constantly in the Catholic environment that I am in), ever taken note of who is reporting the stories (Catholic journalist of all ilks--conservative and liberal)? Or have they taken note of the fact that most of the story is not even being reported, (Bishops are doing their best to remove accused priests without anyone knowing it--especially the press)? I know of a priest who was removed for having abused a 12 year old girl a month ago, and no newspaper had reported it yet. I also know that the priest has been arrested, why not?

This is so true, when Amy and I visited Saint Joseph University in Philadelphia a few weeks ago, we saw the Cardinal's residence (from a distance), it was like viewing the White House, but only one man is the resident:

The pope should know that many of the cardinals he will speak to have grown detached from life as it is suffered through by ordinary people. The princes of the church live as princes of the world. They live in great mansions in the heart of great cities, dine with senators and editors, and have grown worldly not in the best sense, in real sophistication and knowledge, but in the worst. They are surrounded by staff who serve them, drive them, answer their call. They are used to being obeyed. We all suffer from some degree of arrogance. But I have never seen star treatment ennoble the object of that treatment.

If I had my druthers, the Pope wouldn't remove any of them. Rather he would declare them penitents, and impose the following penance:

Have them walk around in rags, live in a public housing project and suffer eviction at least a couple of times, make them walk everywhere they need to go (no more jetting around the country), no housekeepers or servants--in fact they should be employed as night janitors or some other task. Actually this is no penance but rather a description of the Son of Man's life, "who had no place to lay his head."

Most of the Catholic Cardinals are no different then the televangelists who appear with their heavily made-up, Dolly Parton wigged wives on television. Most of their apologies have not come anywhere close to a tearful Jimmy Swaggart's "I have sinned against you!" Rather, they read just another statement that is aloof and leaves most yawning like their other statements. There is no passion, not about any of this anyway.

A radical reform, instituted by the Pope would address these issues and the Cardinals would be spending their days with the poor, like a Mother Teresa.

Then the politicians would really have something to fear from the Catholic Church because you would have men renowned for holiness calling the rest of us to imitate them as they imitate Christ.
Amy has posted some great pictures of Joseph, our son, here.
The Third Step of the 73:

3. Then, not to kill...

I still remember vividly an incident that happened when I was a child and my family was on vacation in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. On a particular day we had just arrived at the summit of the mountain where the “Old Man of the Mountains,” a natural rock formation is located (it is on the New Hampshire quarter). We were sitting on some rocks and nearby was a long haired bearded guy—a hippie.

There were plenty of hippies in New England in the 1960’s, so there was nothing novel about that, but the action of this one was very memorable. He kept brushing away flies that were surrounding him. The more they continued to land on him, the more he would gently urge them to find another place to alight. His gentle tone and the words he spoke to the pests made it clear that he did not want to harm them.

My mother bent down to say that she had figured out that he felt that it was wrong to kill even a fly. Later I would read about people of various Eastern religions that shared this belief, “that all life was sacred," which of course is what we believe too--but we usually make endless distinctions.

St. Benedict’s counsel is simple. He does not elaborate about who or what we are not to kill. He keeps it simple and allows us the simple injunction to simple “not kill.”

This counsel follows after the first two; love God and love your neighbor. Now we are told not to kill. God is the source of all life and the Scriptures make it clear from the first pages of Genesis that to take back the spirit of Life is the domain of God and that blood spilt cries out to heaven.

It is also clear that in the first pages of Genesis that our neighbor is not only the people that surround us but every being in creation. We should respect all of creation in the same manner.

The hippie who allowed the fly to live on that vacation day in New Hampshire does not remain in my memory as some nut but rather as a prototype of a holy man who understands this fundamental truth. If you and I want to grow in holiness then we must reverence the life force that God has placed in all of creation.

“Not to kill” also extends beyond physical murder. We are to be a life force in God’s creation. Building up rather than tearing down. Uplifting rather than destroying.

I remember a friend in school who was fond of bringing up in the midst of conversations that were less than charitable about others a simple question, “How is this building up the body of Christ?” It really ticked off everyone at the table but like the hippie with the fly it has remained in my memory whereas the topics of our table conversations have long passed on into obscurity.

There are many ways to kill without actually taking someone’s physical life. Unfortunately there are too many walking dead in our midst who have had their spirit killed by those who were not careful in their speech or their judgments.

Lifting up these poor souls, reversing the damage done is a way to positively live out this injunction. It is not simply a matter of what not to do but to have an attitude of doing the opposite. The person who puts God first will carry with them an imitation of God who “breathes life” into inanimate clay.

What will this day be like if in every instance I put God first, treat all those who inhabit my environment with the attitude that I want to be a life giving force, a person of affirmation? Without God this is impossible and that is why prayer is something that is a 24/7 activity. We need to constantly turn to God, at every moment, in every encounter; to be silent until God is brought into the moment and then to be life giving as God is.

Thursday, April 18, 2002

The Second Step of the 73:

2. Love one's neighbor as one's self (cf Mt 22:37-39; Mk 12:30-31; Lk 10:27).

It is ironic but the way we treat our neighbor in many ways reveals what we think about ourselves. Whenever I run into a parent berating the child I always find myself equally feeling as sorry for the parent as the child. Negative views of oneself often lead to a negative view of others. This maxim follows the first that we love God above all things. It is from that maxim that a true sense of ourselves flows.

If I believe that God has a mission for me, then it is only a short distance of thought to believe that he has a mission for everyone else on the planet.

Daily we encounter opportunities to love our neighbor as ourselves.

The other day a woman carrying a bag of groceries bumped into me rushing to her car. She apologized and I immediately had the uncharitable thought of what in the hell is your hurry? But then I started to list the reasons for why she might have been in a hurry in my mind. Perhaps she was late for an important appointment or there was someone in dire need of something that she had just purchased at the store. In other words I strove to think of why I might be in a hurry and to afford her the same privilege.

Love our neighbor as ourselves ultimately means wishing them success. Success in their mission in life means success for us all. In the same way that loving God is foundational to the Spiritual life, so too is the love of neighbor. They all are pieces that fit into the same puzzle.

What of the most despicable people on the earth, how can we love them? What about those who ________ and __________(fill in the blanks with your favorite unforgivable sins)?

The answer is simple, we love them in the same way as we would if they were are own child.

I remember when the serial murderer Theodore Bundy was being executed in the State of Florida that his mother was interviewed. She was asked the question, “Do you still love your son?”

She answered, “Yes, I don’t like what he has done, but I still love him.”

I think it is easy to understand why she would. No matter what anyone of us do in our lifetime there is a part of us that is deeply lovable. No matter how hateful we are or what terrible things we do for whatever God known reason, there is a part of us that God has created and that is good, call it the “true self.”

The true self might be likened to that part of us that is the plan of God for each of us. It is that true self that we love in our neighbors and ourselves, because it is most truly who we are.

I remember a man who had undergone a conversion experience telling me in front of his family that he had never been that bad of a guy even before his conversion.

His daughters disagreed, as they in unison cried out, “yes your were dad, you were horrible!”

He then went on to explain how before his conversion he had “acted” in a way that he thought he had to, to be accepted; since his conversion he was truly himself.

I can think of no finer testimony of what life immersed in God’s love is like. We no longer “act” but we are who we are. It’s as simple as that.

Loving others can be difficult but doing so teaches us a lot about ourselves and who we truly worship as God.

From the New York Times today:

In Boston, church documents released in the cases of the Rev. John J. Geoghan and the Rev. Paul R. Shanley include only one indication that any of Cardinal Law's top aides had voiced objections to a known sexual abuser being allowed to continue as a parish priest.

That bishop was John M. D'Arcy, who wrote to Cardinal Law in 1984, just after Father Geoghan was assigned to a new parish. Bishop D'Arcy raised concerns that Father Geoghan might cause more scandal in light of his "history of homosexual involvement with young boys."

Bishop D'Arcy, who leads the Diocese of Fort Wayne/South Bend in Indiana, declined to discuss his time in Boston.

The documents portray other senior officials as compassionate and sometimes clubby toward priests and concerned about avoiding scandal and preserving secrecy.

Bishop D'Arcy is the bishop here.

Wednesday, April 17, 2002

I lied. I mentioned below, that I was sick of writing about the scandals, but as I'm reading the script for the Padre Pio audio book that we are doing, I come across the following information:

Archbishop Gagliardi made wider accusations, "Padre Pio is demon-possessed," he declared. "I declare to you that he has a devil and the friars of San Giovanni Rotundo are a band of theives. With my own eyes I saw Padre Pio perfume himself and put makeup on his face. All this I swear on my pectoral cross!" He went on to make the lurid charge that Padre Pio frequently slept in the friary's guest room with attractive young women. His Capuchin brethren, living in "unspeakable luxury," had been paying newsmen to write sensational accounts of non-existent miracles and conversions in order to generate revenue for the friary of Our Lady of Grace.

Here we have it all, accusing the media of making the whole thing up, the saint sleeping with women and Franciscan's living in luxury. Calls to mind, Fr. Greeley's recent column...

But as Paul Harvey would say, now it's time for the rest of the story...

For what you don't know about Archbishop Galiardi, appointed Archbishop at the age of 37 in 1897, yes--1897 is the following:

Gagliardi had been repeatedly accused of sexual misconduct. There were constant complaints that he protected and even showed preference preference for priests who were homosexual or pedophiles, and accepted gifts from unsavory clerics. Gagliardi was personally so unpopular in his archdiocese that a riot broke out during a visit in the town of Vieste. The archbishop, celebrating Mass, had been attacked by a mob of 600 men and women, who pelted him with stones and bricks, charged the altar, threw his missal at him, knocked him to the floor and began to punch and kick him, until several priests dragged him into an adjoining room and slammed the door, but soon a mob overcame the constables, and tore off the archbishop's vestments. As the men chanted obscenities, several women bared knives to castrate him, before more police came to rescue him intact.

I guess the moral of the story is beware of who is making the accusations. The accused will be declared a Saint in May, but the accuser will soon be forgotten.
An episode of COPS (the real thing not television) is taking place right outside my window. Nine cruisers, (I didn't know there were that many in all of Huntington), have pulled over a single car, arrested the two occupants (a man and a woman both heavily tatooed), stripped the car of its contents and have a dog sniffing the ditches. Now they are doing the perunctory interviewing of the suspects. It's better on television where you can hear what's being said.
I'm working on a Padre Pio audio book that we are releasing in June in time for Padre Pio's canonization. I'm currently reading the text and this line struck me:

Demons appeared to him, he reported, in the form of friends, colleagues, his superiors, Pope Pius X, Jesus, Mary and his guardian angel. He could always discern the diabolic character of these visions through a certain feeling of disgust and by his insistence that the supernatural visitors declare, "Praise Jesus!" If they refused to praise Jesus, he was convinced that they were of the devil.

Next time someone fills you with a certain feeling of disgust, no matter who they are, ask them to "praise Jesus" and who knows maybe they'll vanish.
I'm tired of talking about scandals and skeptical that anything meaningful will be done institutionally. My concern is that the Church not lose the ability to bring people to Christ. That is why I think true reform is necessary. There are those who have made the Church anything but a house of God or meeting place of believers; they are eople who are enemies of true prayer and worship. As a result many of us are filled with anger, rather than peace; division is sown rather than God's healing power. What I desire are holy priests who point me toward God.

Here is the first posting of a series that I am entitling 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God. These steps are drawn from Saint Benedict's Rule, the reflections are my own.

This is step one:

(1) In the first place to love the Lord God with the whole heart, the whole soul, the whole strength...

Benedict begins what will be a list of simple practices with one that is above all others, the practice of a complete love of God. A love that is one that desires only God, symbolized by the heart; a love that meditates only on God symbolized by the soul; and a love that focuses all of its energy on exhibiting this love of God symbolized by my strength.

If we are honest, this is exactly what we all fear the most, an unconditional surrender of all to God.

I remember when I taught high school theology at a Jesuit School the response that I would always receive from my students whenever I would present to them Saint Ignatius’ First Principle and Foundation which teaches that the purpose of our lives is to know, love and serve God and that everything else is secondary and is here to help us attain that purpose. Most of the Catholic students would become outraged, usually a few non-Catholic students in some cases nonbelievers would say it made perfect sense to them.
The issue of acceptance of this foundational attitude in spirituality is one of trust. Do we trust that God wants what is best for us. In our fears is an agenda that thinks that God will only get in the way of our happiness. Unfortunately it takes a long time for most of us to realize that what we think we want changes almost hourly.

We need direction in our lives. Our lives need to be oriented in some direction. The question is where will we seek that guidance?
The map pocket of my car is full of maps. The maps are only helpful to me if I know what my ultimate destination is and if I know where I am at the present moment. Recently while driving in a strange city with the map opened to that city, I knew where I wanted to go but had no idea where I was. Someone in the neighborhood I was in had torn down all of the street signs. I continued to travel up the street until finally I was able to locate a street sign.

Our lives can be the same confused mess that I felt on that day driving aimlessly up and down a city street. Who are we? Why are we here?

The Baltimore Catechism gave us a simple answer. We are here because God loves us. That is the starting point of the spiritual quest is to believe wholeheartedly that we are loved. A subtle but key ingredient to the fear that we feel in surrendering to God is that we do not believe that we are loved but fear that we are hated.

I remember as a child whenever I would be on my way to confession on a Saturday afternoon secretly fearing that God would try to see to it that I was killed before I arrived there. Where this fear came from I do not know, but it was real and it was only much later that I finally realized that God was the redeemer not the enemy.

The attitude we have toward God is all-important if we are to love God with our whole being. We must believe that God loves us first and want what is best for us. It is hard to do anything but love God with our whole being if we believe that God loves us. In an older translation of the New American Bible the words of Jesus are applicable here, “Fear is useless, what is needed is trust.” The words of the supplicant must be our words also, “I believe Lord, help my unbelief.”

It may seem obvious that the first step that anyone would make toward perfect communion with God is to place God at the very center, but how many times we look everywhere else for the way? If we wish to have communion with God we must enter into God’s presence and offer our entire being to God.

Most of us have given the allegiance of part of our being to God but not the whole. I can say that intellectually I have always believed in God and placed my soul in varying degrees to the love of God, but my heart well that is another story. There have been countless times that what my heart has desired has been anything but God. I have thought that this or that would make me truly happy and I have gone down many paths ignoring God in the process.

If I believe that God has created me and knows me best and what is in my ultimate interest, I will seek God above all things.
I still remember the first time I encountered the simple engraving over the entrance of the Monastery of Our Lady of Gethsemane in Kentucky. I stood there for some time looking at the simple words etched in stone that seemed bigger than life, “GOD ALONE.” There was something shocking about the simplicity of the statement, but at the same time a truth that touched me deeply.

In the end when our life is failing nothing else will matter. If we can acknowledge that at this point why not see the wisdom of putting God first in everything today? The message of Benedict’s first step is to put God first in all things and to do so lovingly.

A new and interesting web zine called, The View from the Core - America's Small-Town Webzine is well worth a visit.

Tuesday, April 16, 2002

Answers to several readers inquiries:

Yes, that is Pope John Paul II's autograph on my homepage. A very close friend, both of the Pope and myself, was invited by the Pontiff to attend the Assisi conference in January. In a private audience with the Pope afterwards, she presented the book that I had worked on and written a Preface to called Latin Sayings for Spiritual Growth. John Paul II, underlined my name and wrote, with blessings, John Paul II, 29 January 2002.

The name of the book, that I made reference to below is: Guiding Your Catholic Preschooler by Kathy Pierce and Lori Rowland. It is an excellent book, filled with ideas of how to pass on your Catholic Faith to your preschool children. It would also make an excellent gift to give to parents of a newborn or for a baptism.
From Spirit Daily today:

Other messages addressing the Church have also occurred in partially Church-approved places like Akita, Japan -- where the Virgin told a nun named Sister Agnes Sasagawa on October 13, 1973, that "the work of the devil will infiltrate even into the Church in such a way that one will see cardinals opposing cardinals, bishops against other bishops. The priests who venerate me will be scorned and opposed by their confreres... churches and altars sacked; the Church will be full of those who accept compromises."


At Fatima, the famous third secret included an image of "a Bishop dressed in white" (the seer said it was her impression this was the Holy Father) and "other bishops, priests, men, and women religious going up a steep mountain," at the top of which was a large cross. As he went up it, said the seer, the Holy Father, "half trembling with halting step, afflicted with pain and sorrow," passed through a big city half in ruins and the corpses of many bishops, priests, and religious.

While the Vatican has interpreted that as representing the many who died during persecutions in the 20th century (especially due to Communism), and the wound the Pope suffered in the vision as from the assassination attempt in 1981, there are those who have interpreted his current pain as part of the premonition. Just before Fatima, Pope Pius X apparently had his own precognition when he expressed fear that enemies of the Church were seizing professorships in the seminaries and colleges, turning them into what the pontiff feared would become "chairs of pestilence."

Monday, April 15, 2002

Fort Wayne has the largest population of Burmese living in the United States. News Sentinel | 04/15/2002 | This News Sentinel story recounts their festivities over the weekend at Taylor University, literally in our backyard (or more accurately in our front yard. I guess they are quiet because I didn't see or hear anything.
According to the Catholic World News Service, Pope John Paul II has summoned to Rome all living U.S. Cardinals for a special meeting.

Pope John Paul II has summoned to Rome all living American cardinals, including the retired Cardinal James Hickey, for special meetings, sources have told CWN
Seminary Experiences Part II

This is a continuation of a post that I started a week ago.

After graduating from Saint Meinrad College, I was enrolled in a Major Seminary in the southern part of the United States. This seminary, unlike St. Meinrad, had the reputation of being "conservative." The criteria for this was essentially that there was a dress code and you were expected to be at every seminary function. My experiences at this school were mostly positive.

I was approached early on by one gay seminarian, who also boasted that he had paid for the abortion of a woman who worked for his father in the diocesan pro life office. This man was kicked out eventually and died of AIDS a few years ago. After that no one bothered me at the school and in contrast to the other seminary it seemed that there were no gay students. But of course later on, I found out that there actually had been a number of students who were, yet due to the nature of the place it was more hidden at this school.

A problem that did exist and it amazed me then and as I think back it amazes me even more today. Is the lack of faith that was often exhibited in the classrooms. I will tell a story, one that I wrote some years ago and originally was published in the New Oxford Review. Here it is:

Tom showed up at the seminary wearing a T-shirt, a pair of jeans and the two sandals that were on his feet. The first time I saw him, I remember asking him why he wasn't dressed in the seminary's required black pants and white shirt. His reply was that what he had on was all he now owned.
Tom was 33, and had worked for most of his life in construction. He had owned a decent plot of land, on which he had lived in a home that also was his. He lived a normal bachelor's life until one day he had an experience that changed his life. The Gospel became alive for him. Suddenly he understood the urgency of the call of Jesus in a way that he never had before.
At that moment, unlike the rich young man in the gospel, he answered the invitation of Jesus and sold everything giving the money to his widowed mother, and to various brothers and sisters who he felt needed the money more than he. Now he was entering the seminary with only one pair of clothes, and his deep desire to follow Christ.
From the start he was on a collision course; his strong belief in the gospel, a belief he had acted on challenged everyone who met him.
Seminaries attract all kinds of men, and Tom couldn't belief the lack of belief he encountered in some of them. They would question him as to how he could give up everything for the gospel, didn't he know that these stories weren't to be taken that seriously?
At first Tom stood up to them when they belittled his faith. He would challenge them, asking: "how can you give up a normal married life?" They would answer with a flippant response, something to the effect that they doubted they would marry even if they were not ordained a priest. In other words they didn't see the gospel message as something that required you to "give something up."
As time went on, I noticed a change in Tom. He started doubting his own conversion experience. He wondered what had made him take the gospel so seriously. He started referring to himself as a fool. That is what the others were saying about him; they must be right.
His responses to their attacks became less enthusiastic, in fact he started to doubt the whole thing. Confronted with the mixed motivations of the other seminarians that he encountered, he started wondering what had motivated him to come to his decision to leave everything and follow Christ.
This happened at the same time that everything he believed in the Scriptures seemed to be called into question. Suddenly he was being told that the Red Sea was probably a swamp called the "reed sea", that most of the miracles in the Bible had a natural explanation and could teach us something if we could get over trying to prove them as acts that were supernatural.
The last straw for Tom in all of this was reached one day in a Scripture class. The discussion that day focused on the miracle of Jesus walking on the water. The professor speaking on the passage spoke of the symbolic meaning of Jesus walking on the water was that he had overcome death, (something of a miracle in and of itself, I would say).
Tom raised his hand. "Yes, Tom," the professor said.
"Do you mean that Jesus didn't really walk on water?" he asked.
"Probably not," the professor replied.
Tom got up and yelled, "run away," and walked out the door. Some laughed and others looked worried. The professor went on with class.
I spoke with Tom after the class. "Its all a lie," he said.
"Tom, he didn't say that it didn't happen, he said the necessary part of the story wasn't whether Jesus really walked on water or not, but that the passage teaches us that Jesus was victorious over death," I said.
"I've been a fool, to believe all this stuff," not really hearing what I had said, he replied looking off in the distance.
From that day on, he sought to learn all that he could about these new interpretations of the Scriptures. He would sit at the entrance of the library and engage anyone who entered with conversation of his latest find. "Hey, it says here that the mystery religions were doing what Christianity supposedly discovered, centuries before."
"Your finally getting it, Moses (Tom's nickname)," they would reply.
It was sad. This modern day St. Francis was being swayed, not so much by the seminary, as the evil that lies within all of us that doesn't like to see someone answering the call of Jesus better than we.
The day came when he told me, what I already had suspected, he had decided that he was going to leave the seminary. The idea of being a priest no longer interested him; his faith now in shambles.
"What are you going to do?" I asked.
"I'll go back to construction work, I talked with my brother and he says he can get me a job."
Before he left, there was one more ritual that he wanted to do. He planned it with great ceremony. On the day that he left the seminary he was going to go down to a pond that was located on the seminary property, take off his sandals and throw them out to the middle of the pond. "It will be a kind of shaking off the dust of this place and drowning it," he said.
The day came for this ceremony and about five of Tom's friends gathered around him. He stood facing us, with his back to the pond, sandals on his feet.
"I came here because I believed," he started. "Now I don't," he reached down grabbed his sandals and flung them like Frisbees across the pond out into the center. He walked away from the pond barefoot.
I missed Tom the next year at the seminary. He always offered a concrete challenge to speculations, that are often taught as fact. But his presence was felt even though he was long gone.
I fished in the seminary pond almost every day, and as I would cast my line out into the water, my eyes would catch sight of something moving in the middle of the pond. There they were, Tom's sandals floating upright side by side. They were there for everyone to see. It was like some man, hidden from our view, wore them as he walked on water.

The above story is true. I recall the first time I spotted the sandals I was with some friends fishing and we saw something moving in the water. It took awhile, before anyone figured out that they were the sandals that Tom had flung out their the year before.

I went back to teach at the seminary for a few years. While there I wrote an article that was published in The Priest magazine. When I reread it a few days ago (almost ten years after it was published) it confirmed my memories that what we read about now in the papers is something that has been known about and ignored for the most part for many years. Here is the article:

Few are Chosen

The condom lying on the shower grate disturbed the seminarian. He was walking in to use the shower on a Monday morning and he noticed it lying there, in one of the public showers shared by the seminarians at the seminary. He wasn't sure what it signified. Had another seminarian had sex with someone in this shower or had someone used the condom in some act of autoerotism? Who had left it there and why? Was it left there as an act of defiance or was it a cry for help, to be delivered from a way of life the individual did not feel authentically called to?
I could answer none of the seminarian's speculations, but could only face with him the difficulty of making sense of someone else's struggle. Why would someone who obviously was struggling with the idea of celibacy not come forth openly and perhaps discern that God was calling him to give service to the Church in some other fashion?
Pope John Paul II in speaking to the Bishops of the United States making their Ad Limina visit to Rome in 1993 said with regard to the formation of priests: "The failures of a small number of clerics make it all the more important that seminary formation discern scrupulously the charism of celibacy among candidates for the priesthood."
I think anyone who has worked in formation work would readily agree that this is both necessary and needed. Over the past two years I have worked in seminary formation. I am proud of what we have tried to accomplish here, yet would be the first to admit that this type of work is difficult. There are real problems that one encounters in trying to facilitate discernment among those who feel called by God to serve the church as ordained celibate priests.
The first problem one encounters is that many candidates feel that the process of discernment is finished on the day they are accepted by a diocese and enter a seminary. Their view of discernment is entirely external. They reason, "If God wants me to be a priest, they (the institutional church) will accept me." This method of discernment fails, in that it does not take into account the inner life of the seminarian. Does he fit into the institution? Can he live a celibate life?
Candidates who approach their formation in this way live two lives. They act and speak in the way they feel they should when they are under the watchful eye of their vocation director or seminary formation team. In the modern situation this comes to include using the current glib phrases.
I have sat in admissions interviews with candidates who when asked simple questions answer them like politicians. They speak of collaboration, the need to use inclusive language, and whatever else happens to be in vogue in seminary circles at the time. What is troublesome about this is that it is clearly said not out of any heartfelt commitment, but rather out of the same rote memorization that allowed a generation of Catholics trained in the Baltimore Catechism to give the right answers, regardless if they understood what they meant.
There is no area that one encounters this mechanical routine of someone rattling off the supposed required answers, then when the candidate is questioned about his ability to live a chaste celibate life. You would think that the candidates, regardless of their age, have never had an unchaste thought for their entire life. It gets to the point that when someone actually answers the questions honestly, they appear to be somewhat perverted.
The seminary and consequently the church is presented with inauthentic individuals, who sufficiently pass all of the required tests and are ordained after a period of preparation. The individuals who leave discernment of their vocation to the institutional church either continue to live a double life, or find that they have lost their true identity and give the appearance to the people they serve of being emotionally dead.
The second problem is that the clerical environment is like a club or a fraternity to which prospective priests will do anything to join. They tend to form into subgroups that protect them and support them in whatever might exclude them if they were found out. So one finds subgroups within the seminary environment of practicing homosexuals and heterosexuals. If someone in the group is caught, the rest of the group quickly closes in and turns on the individual claiming that the person was acting out alone. This leads to the formation of clerics that are not only leading a double life but also are quite accustomed to lying.
These subgroups not only involve sexuality, but also form according to ideology. So there are groups who wish that the Church would revert back to Latin, and there are groups that will not be satisfied until every member of the body of Christ is ordained.
Seminarians usually learn this behavior from members of the ordained clergy who they have befriended according to their personal situation. A student entering the seminary coming from a conservative background is warned by conservative priests not to let them know what you really think. The problem with this is that after a while the student no longer knows what he believes. Seminarians who are struggling with a homosexual lifestyle, have been warned by actively homosexual priests not to let anyone in the seminary system know of their orientation.
One might wonder about the spiritual life of such seminarians. Their clerical relationships usually began under the guise of spiritual direction, and no doubt have been told by such priests that their inauthentic lifestyle is okay with God, regardless of what the Church teaches. The result of course is a very confused individual, who after ordination has to answer for a church that teaches doctrine that the individual himself has long since stopped believing in, if in fact he ever believed it at all.
A third problem is that vocation directors and formation directors are concerned more with declining numbers than they are about the individuals who come to them for discernment. There are exceptions and they tend to be those who do vocation or formation work full time rather than as another job added to their already overloaded job description.
Seminarian's know the situation for what it is, and when a seminarian is dropped by a diocese that takes discernment seriously, they immediately gravitate to a diocese known to accept anyone. Bishop's fall into this trap when they believe that a candidate has been dropped either because they were too conservative or too liberal, which is almost never the case.
I know of a situation where a seminarian was dropped by his diocese when a woman came forward to the seminary claiming to have been sexually active with the man on weekends during his time at that institution. He left the seminary believing that an injustice had been done to him, never seeing the incompatibility of being sexually active and preparing to live a celibate life.
The Bishop of this young man was shocked to meet him at a liturgical function in another diocese within six months after he had been dismissed from the seminary. He was now a seminarian for that diocese. The new sponsoring diocese had never contacted their new seminarian's previous seminary or his former diocese. They had no idea why he was dropped from the formation program other than what he chose to tell them, which was that the seminary had dropped him because he was too conservative.
The screening of candidates for the ordained priesthood is very much at the discretion of the people that have been given that mission within a particular diocese. It would be wrong to blame the Holy Spirit on the haphazard fashion in which this is carried out. Some dioceses have groups made up of both clergy and lay people; others have one priest making all the decisions.
Bishops who experience great problems in their diocese, with regard to the discipline of priestly celibacy, need to look no further than the vocation office and the seminary in which the priest was trained. Vocation directors need to be less concerned about numbers and more concerned about the quality of the candidates they send to the seminary. Formation teams need to be more scrupulous in discerning whether someone has the charism of celibacy, and less forgiving when candidates clearly do not..
I have a friend who recently left the active priesthood. The seminary that he went to was aware that he was a marginal candidate because of a difficult childhood. They sent him to a psychologist who administered a variety of tests. At the conclusion of the tests the psychologist who happened to be Jewish, told the seminarian, "These tests make it appear that you are going to have a very difficult time living a celibate life." He advised my friend to leave the seminary.
The reaction of the seminary that had sent him in the first place, was to question the motives of the psychologist in coming up with his evidently unwelcome comments to my friend. The rector of the seminary questioned the veracity of the results because the psychologist was a "non-Christian" and did not share our values. The rector wanted to give my friend a chance, and my friend under the dream like state of desiring ordination took that chance.
He went on to be ordained, because he believed those in charge of his formation were able to discern something that the tests of the psychologist could not measure. But the insight of the psychologist proved to be prophetic, my friend had problems with celibacy throughout his life as an ordained priest, until finally he left. He now is happily married. But had the screening process been allowed to function, much scandal could have been avoided.
I have been struck at times how unwilling the church represented by those entrusted with this mission are reluctant to do what the Pope John Paul II is calling for: the scrupulous screening and discerning of candidates who have the charism of celibacy to do their job faithfully. Rather many seem bent on preparing candidates for a church that does not exist, however it is hard to blame them, for many of them were prepared for a church that itself no longer exists.
I remember some years ago while I was a student myself at a seminary; there was grave concern over the rampant active homosexual activity going on at the campus. The concern came not from the clerical staff, but from the student body. A friend of mine went to one of the priest faculty members and told him of his concern. The priest's response was to tell my friend, "You and the bishops will have to get used to an actively homosexual priesthood." My friend, unwilling to accept that proposition left the seminary and married several years later.
It is time for those entrusted with formation of priestly candidates to take a strong stand in favor of celibacy, and stop wishing for something other than what the church is currently practicing. The seminary as it now exists will have to change its attitude toward those who come to discern a vocation from God.
Some way must be found that will allow for individuals to discern the charism of celibacy in their lives in a non-clerical environment. A formation that allows the individual to be authentically who he is. Many, if not most, will find that they do not have the charism to live a celibate life, when they are freed from the pressures of their friends to go ahead anyway awaiting a new church that does not exist in the present.
This will mean a drastic drop in enrollment in seminaries. Fewer men will be ordained. Yet the situation will be more realistic. Those ordained will have truly discerned that they have been blessed with the charism to live a chaste celibate life, and will bless the church with their service. What would change, is that there would be no illusion of a large presbyterate made up of healthy celibates, something that does not exist now.
I have no doubt that most of the people who come to a vocation director in any given diocese truly feel called by God to be a priest. "Many are called, but few are chosen," Our Lord said. At this time the Roman Catholic Church has decided to choose only celibate males, the others who are called will have to wait, until the church decides to choose others.