Category Archives: Protection of Youth

Mar 1 2017: Marie Collins, lone childhood clerical sexual abuse survivor on Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, resigns in frustration.

I heard Marie Collins speak and met her August 2 2014 at the SNAP Conference in Chicago, after her address. While I can never possibly claim to understand Marie’s level of frustration, if you want to be as happy and carefree, unscarred and unscathed a Catholic as possible, next best thing to totally disengaged, although I DO NOT believe that is a feasible, reasonable, or actual goal of being a Christian, look how the boss wound up, AND HE IS GOD!!!, NOT SO YOU & I, go to Mass, pay your tithes, shut up!, say your prayers, and NEVER DO ANYTHING ELSE!!!!!!!! You have been warned.

https://www.ncronline.org/news/accountability/lone-survivor-vatican-abuse-commission-resigns-frustration

https://www.ncronline.org/news/people/exclusive-survivor-explains-decision-leave-vaticans-abuse-commission

https://www.ncronline.org/news/accountability/cardinal-muller-responds-collins-and-defends-not-responding-survivors-letters

https://cruxnow.com/commentary/2017/03/05/problem-anti-abuse-panel-isnt-survivors-roman-curia/

https://www.ncronline.org/news/accountability/exclusive-marie-collins-responds-cardinal-mullers-allegations-about-abuse

Love, Lord have mercy!!!!,
Matthew

The Church hurts, justice, & the Holy Spirit


-by Mark Shea, former Baptist and now Catholic apologist

“The good news about the Catholic Church,” said a friend of mine “is that it’s like a big family.”

“The bad news about the Catholic Church,” he continued, “is that it’s like a big family.”

A basic fact of life is that the same Body of Christ that is the sacrament of salvation, the fountain of so many graces, the home of so many amazing and wonderful people, so much healing, so much beauty, and the glorious treasury of saints to whom we owe so much…that same Church is the scene of incredibly devastating hurts dealt out by traitors, perverts, scoundrels, monsters, selfish jerks, liars, grasping careerists, Pharisees, libertines, and fools.

Just about everyone has a story to tell: the scheming chancery functionary bent on inflicting economic harm on some struggling Catholic self-employed businessman; the priest who was an insulting, despair-inducing buffoon in the confessional; the sexually abusive cleric and the bishop who protected him; the Church Lady with her petty hurtful gossip; the jackass who poses as the uber-pious Catholic while he cheats on his wife; the nun who shamed and scarred the little girl in third grade; the crazy mom who destroyed her kids lives while yakking about God, dragging them from one quack visionary to the next and then running off with the priest; the liturgist who decided the mandate was not “Feed my sheep” but “Try experiments on my rats”; the Catholic schoolteacher who destroyed your shot at college because she was a vindictive psycho who hated males.

It is, in fact, a story as old as the New Testament. Jesus’ story is, after all, a story of betrayal. It’s easy to forget that Judas was, at one time, a friend of Jesus’. And so one of the great psalms of the Passion records the messianic sufferer lamenting, “Even my bosom friend in whom I trusted, who ate of my bread, has lifted his heel against me” (Psalm 41:9).

Nor did the other apostles always present a sterling example of loyal friendship. They fought amongst themselves about who was the greatest, even as Jesus was celebrating the Last Supper and warning of his betrayal (Luke 22:24). James and John elbowed each other for a coveted spot at Jesus’ left and right hands, and even sent their mom to run interference for them as they jockeyed for position (Matthew 20:20-24). Peter, who had massive failings of his own when it came to denying Jesus and chickening out in a pinch, was also frustrated by Simon Magus, a baptized Christian who saw Jesus as a potential source of super powers and who tried to buy Peter off (Acts 8:9-14).

Similarly, Paul has to write on a number of occasions to express his exasperation, not with persecuting pagans outside the Church, but with his own fellow Christians within it. “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and turning to a different gospel” he tells the Galatians, adding later (of those Judaizing Christians who were tempting the Galatians to abandon the gospel and return to salvation by circumcision): “I wish those who unsettle you would mutilate themselves!” (Galatians 5:12). (It’s been a while since a bishop blurted out in frustration that he wished members of his flock would castrate themselves.)

In various letters, Paul complains about Christians getting drunk at their agape meals, embarrassing the poor, having relations with their stepmother, rejecting the resurrection, getting puffed up with pride, refusing to work since Jesus was coming soon, and rejecting himself as an apostle since was not one of the original Twelve. Indeed, for all the abuse and beatings Paul got at the hands of both Jews and pagans, the greatest pain and frustration he felt was at the sheer ingratitude and hostility he received from fellow Christians, a fact easily verified from 2 Corinthians 10-13, in which the apostle “vents” (as they say these days) about the exasperation he feels at having to establish his bona fides as a “real” apostle to the spouting popinjays at the Church in Corinth who were simultaneously undermining all his hard work—work done at the cost of beatings, shipwreck, stoning and abuse—while leading the thankless Corinthians away from apostolic tradition. Paul practically pioneered the discovery of many a Catholic saint since that no good deed goes unpunished.

And all this sets the stage for a rich and colorful pageant of Catholic history in which Catholics drive each other crazy, hurt each other, lie to each other, cheat each other, make war on each other, rape each other, and kill each other. And by this, I mean Catholics from every walk of life. You can find everybody from Pope to dog catcher in the rogue’s gallery: clerical, lay, male, female, young, old, black, white, unlettered ruffian, cultured scholar, foreign, and domestic. No wonder Paul has to exhort us to bear with one another (Colossians 3:13) and Jesus tells us to forgive one another. It’s easy to forget that these instructions are not some platform for general social reform in which saintly Christians march out and show a barbarous world of buffoons the True Path.

Rather, the instructions to bear with and forgive one another are given to Christians first, because we need to hear them first. The New Testament documents are meant to be read in Christian assemblies of worship and are calculated to help Christians get along with each other. They were not written for classes on Civilizational Uplift to be taught by Holy Christians to a rabble of unwashed pagan thugs. Nor were they written for Christians to study in a class on “how to endure persecution from non-Christians” (though a few remarks here and there do, indeed, instruct Christians on how to cope with persecution from non-Christians).

On the contrary, the command to forgive—a command so crucial that it is the only part of the Our Father on which Jesus comments (warning “if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:15))—frankly presupposes that the Church is the rabble of sinners who hurt each other before it is the communion of saints that reaches heaven.

Because of all this it’s worth looking at some of the biblical principles by which the Church orders its life for when its member don’t act like saints. In a world of pain infliction like ours, it’s easy to leap to a variety of conclusions that can hurt rather than help our faith and our obedience to Jesus Christ. We can assume that the person who hurt us meant to hurt us. We can assume that the hurt is proof the person is not really a Christian and is bound for Hell. We can assume the sinner is acting with the power and the authority of the Church (a particularly easy assumption when the sinner is a cleric). We can assume the hurt is proof that we “had it coming”. We can assume the hurt is proof the entire Catholic faith is a fraud. We can assume the hurt is proof Jesus Christ is a fraud. We can assume the hurt is proof the existence of God is a fraud.

Because of our tendency to draw unwarranted conclusions from the pain Catholics cause each other as they bonk into each other in the hurly burly of life, it’s wise to think about such matters and plan ahead for the moment when (not if) somebody in the Church hurts you.

The Mark Twain Principle

The first and most sensible thing that Catholics can do is not borrow trouble by presuming the worst right off the bat. Mark Twain said we should never attribute to malice what can be sufficiently explained by stupidity. His humorous point, of course, is that while there certainly are deliberately hurtful acts, an awful lot of what we do to one another is caused by ignorance and can even have a good-hearted intention behind the misfire if we can get past our pain to see it. The child who tries his best to be nice to the neighbor lady and ends up saying, “Gee, for a fat lady you sure don’t sweat much!” may deeply hurt with his words, but he does, after all, mean well. So our tradition counsels us to always assume the best first. With each pain we encounter, we have to develop the habit of asking “Was this grave? Did the person who did it have freedom? Did they understand what they were doing?” This spells the difference between excusing and forgiving. A lot of evil done us doesn’t even rise to the level of a sin. So we excuse the person who steps on our toes, or the verbal klutz who means to compliment us but winds up saying “You’re a lot smarter than I thought you were.”

Cultivate a 70 X 7 Habit

Of course, not all evils are excusable. Sometimes people commit actual sins against us. They fail to render the love or justice we were properly owed. They cut in line. They steal our stuff. They cheat us. They cheat on us. They abuse us. Whether by action or by failure to act, they knowingly and willingly hurt us. What then?

The command of Jesus is famous—and scary: “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against any one; so that your Father also Who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses” (Mark 11:25) Peter, standing at the head of a long line of Christians who couldn’t even begin to imagine what Jesus really meant by that, summoned his magnanimity to its height and suggested that instead of the rabbinic custom of forgiving people three times, perhaps we should go all out and forgive them seven times. Jesus countered, “Not seven, but seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:22). How many times must we forgive? Infinity. As many times as we are sinned against. And that forgiveness is to be extended “if you have anything against any one”. No qualifications on whether or not they reciprocate or say they are sorry or show contrition.

The reason for this, of course, is for our good. Unforgiveness is, as has been famously observed, like drinking poison and expecting the other guy to die. To refuse to forgive is not to maintain power over our victimizer. It is to hand all power over to them and leave them in control of us for the rest of our lives and (if we let it destroy our souls with bitterness) possibly for the rest of eternity. In forgiveness, we hand the person who has sinned against us back to God, release them from our judgment and entrust them to the mercy of God. In doing so, we are set free from their power and can stand in the place of Christ the Beloved Son who likewise forgave and enjoyed—even on the cross—the love of God.

Don’t Blame Yourself

The Christian tradition has a healthy habit of self-criticism enshrined in the Confiteor. We are sinners, it is true. At the same time, there can be a certain pathology in which we can blame ourselves for sins committed against us. The child blames himself because his uncle beat him. The abused woman says it’s her fault that her husband gave her a black eye. The victim of priest abuse believes (and in some cases was shamefully told by ecclesial authority) that the abuse was their fault because they “asked for it”. The Church’s actual moral tradition, however, stands against this: the sinner is responsible for his sin, not somebody else. The victim of abuse needs to lay hold of Christ, the innocent sufferer, who did not say, “Maybe I had it coming”. He knew he was innocent. But neither did he allow the injustice done him to conquer him with bitterness. He showed the way between self-blame and hatred of his victimizers: the way of love rooted in the knowledge that he was the beloved Son of God. You are likewise a beloved child of God and the sin committed against you is not a sign that you had it coming or that God is angry at you. It is a sign only of the fact that we live in a fallen world. United with Christ crucified, your suffering can even help in the redemption of the evil done you, and can be a way that God will defeat Satan’s attack on you with a good that conquers and overwhelmingly triumphs.

Forgiveness Does not Mean Inaction

One great fear that can seize people is the mistaken notion that the command to forgive is a command to be passive—as though forgiveness means sitting on your hands while somebody gets away with fleecing you blind or beating you up because to oppose them would be “judgmental”. In fact, however, the New Testament knew as well as we do that sometimes sins require action:

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. (Matthew 18:15-17)

Clearly, what Jesus has in view here is the twofold reality that sins and conflicts are going to arise within the Church and that his disciples need to find a way to deal with them effectively. For much of our day-to-day life, these problems are the equivalent of pin pricks and paper cuts in the body of Christ. Somebody sins. You show them their fault with mercy and charity. They repent. All’s forgiven. You don’t call your pastor because your husband left the toilet seat up. The bishop is not on speed dial to adjudicate how the monies from the parish bake sale will be distributed. Subsidiarity means that the people closest to the problem will, nine times out of ten, be competent to deal with the problem.

However, sometimes a bit more is required. So you call in a second opinion when your son is blowing off his schoolwork, making you and your spouse the united front who forbid the hike or the video games till the sin is remedied. Other times, the two or three witnesses may point out that there is blame to go around on all sides. On occasion, it may be necessary to bring a conflict to a pastor, such as with marriage issues, parenting issues, or some sort of struggle with how the school, or the finance committee are doing. A huge amount of our daily life never goes further than these levels of conflict and arbitration because most of us do not live epic lives of conflict that rocks the Church.

That said, of course, there are moments when some sin is so grave that ecclesial and even civil authority must be called in. A good rule of thumb is that ecclesial authority is necessary for ecclesial issues and civil authority should be contacted for issues in which the common good is threatened. So if your parish or Catholic educational institution is, for instance, fomenting rank heresy or open contempt for the faith, it may be time to contact the bishop. The trick, of course, is that very often the people most eager to make such calls are the people least qualified to do so. Every diocese has its wannabe Inquisitors who contact the chancery on a weekly or daily basis to complain that their parish sings hymns they don’t like, or the priest does not elevate the Host as high as the Inquisitor thinks proper, or women are not wearing veils as they should or what have you. Bishops have a lot on their minds, so a good rule of thumb is to ask whether the thing I think of such burning importance seems to be of burning importance to other good and holy folk I know in the diocese. If they do not think it worth going to the mat for, say, having to sing the umpteenth chorus of “Anthem” at the family Mass, probably this is not the battle that needs to be fought right now. On the other hand, if there are really serious theological and liturgical abuses, the bishop needs to know.

With matters of civil law such as theft, sexual abuse and such like, the proper place to go is to the cops. As Paul says,

“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore he who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of him who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain; he is the servant of God to execute his wrath on the wrongdoer.” (Romans 13:1-4)

So, for instance, to draw from the very stark and disastrous example of the priest abuse scandal, if a layperson has evidence that a priest has been harming a child, this is not a matter for internal discipline in the diocese. This is a criminal matter and the police should be contacted. It is not “unforgiving” to do so. It is an act of justice to the victim, an act of charity and protection for potential victims, and a work of mercy to the Body of Christ.

One temptation that faces us when a member of the Church sins against us is to conclude that the sinner is “not really a Christian” or that the whole thing—Church, Jesus, God—is a sham. As to the question of whether somebody who sins is “really a Christian”, C.S. Lewis gives us a good perspective via his demonic correspondent Uncle Screwtape, who advises his nephew, the junior tempter Wormwood, on how to help sow the seeds of bitterness and pride in his human “patient” when he discovers his fellow Christians are all quite capable of sin:

All you then have to do is to keep out of his mind the question ‘If I, being what I am, can consider that I am in some sense a Christian, why should the different vices of those people in the next pew prove that their religion is mere hypocrisy and convention?’ You may ask whether it is possible to keep such an obvious thought from occurring even to a human mind. It is, Wormwood, it is! Handle him properly and it simply won’t come into his head. He has not been anything like long enough with the Enemy(God) to have any real humility yet. What he says, even on his knees, about his own sinfulness is all parrot talk. At bottom, he still believes he has run up a very favourable credit-balance in the Enemy’s ledger by allowing himself to be converted, and thinks that he is showing great humility and condescension in going to church with these ‘smug,’ commonplace neighbours at all. Keep him in that state of mind as long as you can.

Remember Why the Church is Called “Holy”

It will be noticed that throughout this article I have not confined the discussion to what the press typically means by “the Church”: namely, the hierarchy and the ordained office. That’s because, of course, the Church is all the baptized. When we speak of “the Church” hurting us and think only of the clergy we are taking a radically impoverished view of the Church. And this is of a piece with a general tendency to think of “the Church” merely as a sort of institutional structure. It’s not. The Church is the Body of Christ. But what makes it the Body of Christ is not the Pope, bishops or priests. It’s not the saints. It’s not radical empowered laity full of progressive fervor bringing an antiquated institution into The Future. It’s not properly observed liturgical rubrics. What makes the Church the Body of Christ is the Holy Spirit, Who is the soul of the Church. We say the Church is holy not because we are stone blind Kool-Aid drinkers who imagine Catholics never sin despite two thousand years of evidence to the contrary, but because, through thick and thin, the Holy Spirit continues to make it possible to forgive, heal, and be reconciled despite the worst wounds—the wounds we receive in the house of our friends (Zechariah 13:6).”

Lord, strengthen me against my own hypocrisy, which is daily.
Love,
Matthew

Sexual orientation & gender identity: what does the science say?

real-love

“Washington D.C., Aug 27, 2016 / 07:09 am (CNA/EWTN News).- For most young people who experience feelings of gender dysphoria, the experience is in fact temporary, and a non-heterosexual orientation is not as fixed as sometimes claimed, a new overview of the relevant research says.

“Only a minority of children who experience cross-gender identification will continue to do so into adolescence or adulthood,” said the report, published in The New Atlantis Journal.

As many as 80 percent of men who reported same-sex attraction as adolescents no longer do so as adults. There were “similar but less striking” results for women. The idea of innate sexual orientation is “not supported by scientific evidence,” the report said.

Titled “Sexuality and Gender: Findings from the Biological, Psychological, and Social Sciences,” the report reviews various research studies to examine claims about sexuality and gender.

It was authored by Dr. Lawrence S. Mayer, Ph.D., a biostatistician and epidemiologist now a scholar in residence at Johns Hopkins University; and by Dr. Paul R. McHugh, M.D., a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins University.
The report considers various claims like the basis and permanence of gender identity and sexual orientation.

It found there is a lack of scientific evidence for claims that gender identity is an innate property “independent of biological sex.” Scientific evidence also does not support claims that a person might be “a man trapped in a woman’s body.”

Gender identity problems can arise for someone with Intersex conditions, where a person has ambiguous biological sex due to genetic abnormalities.

However, brain structure comparison of transgender and non-transgender individuals show only “weak correlations” between brain structure and cross-gender identification. These correlations are not evidence that this identity has a basis in the biology of the brain.

Similarly, sexual orientation’s neurological basis can be overstated. Against the “born that way” claim, the report authors write: “While there is evidence that biological factors such as genes and hormones are associated with sexual behaviors and attractions, there are no compelling causal biological explanations for human sexual orientation.”

The report also considered sexuality, mental health, and social factors.

Non-heterosexuals are two to three times as likely to have experienced childhood sexual abuse.

The authors weighed the evidence that non-heterosexual attractions, desires and behaviors may increase the risk of suffering sex abuse, or that sexual abuse may cause non-heterosexual attractions, desires and behaviors. They said that more research is needed before claiming a link between sex abuse and non-heterosexual attractions.

Non-heterosexuals do face elevated risk of adverse health and mental health outcomes. They are estimated to have a 1.5 times higher risk of anxiety and substance abuse than the heterosexual population. They face double the risk of depression and 2.5 times higher risk of suicide.

The transgender population, recently estimated to make up 0.6 percent of the total population, suffers a lifetime suicide attempt rate of 41 percent, compared to 5 percent of the overall population.
There is “limited, inconsistent and incomplete” evidence that social stressors like discrimination and stigma “contribute to the elevated risk of poor mental health outcomes for non-heterosexual and transgender populations.”

The report said clinicians and policymakers should not assume that models focused on social stressors offer a complete explanation for these health differences.

“Just as it does a disservice to non-heterosexual subpopulations to ignore or downplay the statistically higher risks of negative mental health outcomes they face, so it does them a disservice to misattribute the causes of these elevated risks, or to ignore other potential factors that may be at work.”

Adults who undergo sex reassignment surgeries continue to show a high risk in mental health, being about 5 times more likely to attempt suicide and 19 times more likely to die by suicide compared to a control group.

Regarding therapies for children that delay puberty or modify sex characteristics of adolescents, there is “little scientific evidence” for their therapeutic value, the report said.

At the same time, “some children may have improved psychological well-being if they are encouraged and supported in their cross-gender identification.”

“There is no evidence that all children who express gender-atypical thoughts or behavior should be encouraged to become transgender,” the report added.”

Love & truth,
Matthew

Whither Shame?: Catechesis & Narcissism/MTD

john-w-kelley-greek-mythology-now-narcissus-i

In Greek mythology, Narcissus, was the son of the river god Cephisus and nymph Lyriope. He was known for his beauty and he was loved by the god Apollo due to his extraordinary physique. Narcissus was so beautiful, he could only love himself and no one else.

Aminias, a young man fell in love with Narcissus, who had already spurned his other male suitors. Aminias was also spurned by Narcissus who gave the unfortunate young man a sword. Aminias killed himself at Narcissus’ doorstep praying to the gods to give Narcissus a lesson for all the pain he had provoked. The gods heard Aminias’ prayer and answered.

Narcissus was walking through the woods when the Nymph Echo saw him and felt madly in love with him. She started following him and Narcissus asked “who’s there”, feeling someone after him. Echo responded “who’s there” and that went on for some time until Echo decided to show herself.

She tried to embrace the boy who stepped away from Echo, telling her to leave him alone. Echo was left heartbroken and spent the rest of her life pining after Narcissus; until nothing but an echo sound remained of her.

Narcissus walked by a lake or river and decided to drink some water; he saw his reflection in the water and was surprised by the beauty he saw; he became entranced by the reflection of himself. He could not obtain the object of his desire though, nor could he part from it for any reason, and he died at the banks of the river or lake from his sorrow.

According to the myth Narcissus is still admiring himself in the Underworld, looking at the waters of the Styx.

Jonathan-B.-Coe
-by Jonathan B. Coe, is a graduate of Bethel Theological Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. Before being received into the Catholic Church in 2004, he served in pastoral ministry in Anchor Point, Alaska, and in campus ministry at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. He is the author of Letters from Fawn Creek, a volume of spiritual direction, and is currently at work on a novel.

“Millennials—whom most researchers and commentators identify as that generation born from the early 1980s to 2000—may grow weary of hearing their parents and grandparents say, “Young people today seem more self-centered than in my day,” but their forebears are right. Their narcissism, in comparison to past generations, has been empirically verified in the work of San Diego State University psychology professor, Jean Twenge, and is confirmed in another study by the National Institutes of Health that was published in 2008. I can almost hear someone’s feisty Catholic grandmother or grandfather saying, “I don’t need a study to tell me what I see with my own two eyes and hear with my own two ears.”

man-liking-himself-in-mirror

Of particular interest to the Church is the work of Notre Dame sociologist Christian Smith, and Melinda Lundquist Denton, in the early 2000s, that foreshadows the aforementioned studies and provides an illuminating window into the spiritual and religious lives of American teenagers and, undoubtedly, many of their parents.

The results revealed that the typical teenager in the U.S. believed that each individual is uniquely distinct from all others and deserves a faith that fits her or his singular self; that individuals must freely choose their own religion; that the individual is the authority over religion and not vice-versa; that religion need not be practiced by a community; that no person may exercise judgments about or attempt to change the faith of other people; and that religious beliefs are ultimately interchangeable insofar as what matters is not the integrity of the belief system but the comfortability of the individual holding specific religious beliefs. (wtf????really? Really.)

Smith and Denton called the dominant religion of American teenagers in the early twenty-first century “Moral Therapeutic Deism,” whose primary agenda is to make one “feel good and happy about oneself and one’s life.” God is “something like a Divine Butler and Cosmic Therapist: He is always on call, takes care of any problems that arise, professionally helps people to feel better about themselves, and does not become personally involved in the process.” The results of these studies spotlight the narcissism of the Millennials but it’s easy to forget that they are often the offspring of the Baby Boomer generation who gave us the foolish saying, “If it feels good, do it.”

These trends were remarkably predicted six decades ago in the landmark book, Triumph of the Therapeutic, by Philip Rieff, who recognized that, in the West, the religious world-view that is concerned with personal salvation in God had been eclipsed by the therapeutic culture whose primary goal is for the individual to feel good because there is “nothing at stake beyond a manipulatable sense of well-being.”

Eminent moral philosopher and Catholic convert, Alisdair MacIntyre, laments the corrosive effects of the therapeutic agenda on ethics in the West that reduces right and wrong to something that is entirely subjective and feeling-based: “whatever makes you happy as long as you don’t hurt anybody.” Erudite author and radio talk-show host Dennis Prager interviewed a 26-year-old Swedish woman and graduate student and discussed some of the more controversial religious and moral issues of the day with her. Prager, whose religious faith is deeply rooted in Judaism, told her that he got his values from the Torah and asked her where she got her values. She said, “ From my heart.” (Ed.  being young, they are pretty, as all generations before in youth, but boy are they dumb!! :/  “Fame is fleeting, Beauty fades, Dumb is 4evah!!! – a t-shirt I created, mea culpa.)

It’s not an exaggeration to assert that many American Catholics have been colonized by the Therapeutic. How else can we account for the fact that, according to a recent Pew Research Center study, 58 percent of them who attend Mass weekly believe that divorced and remarried parishioners, who have not been through the annulment process, should be allowed to receive Communion; 42 percent think that co-habiting couples should be able to partake of the Eucharist, and only 46 percent think that pre-marital sex is a sin?

It’s difficult to believe that a weekly attender of Mass would be ignorant of the Church’s teaching on these issues. It’s more likely that a large percentage of the people are aware of the teaching, have chosen to reject it, and are appealing to the authority of the feelings of their autonomous self. Like the Swedish grad student, they are following their heart. MacIntyre calls this way of doing morality “emotivism.”

The therapeutic sensibility often comes out of hiding when there is controversy among Christians and the issue of authority comes to the foreground. Over the years, when I’ve had arguments with other Christians about the homosexual lifestyle, I’ve encountered the therapeutic world-view: “I like Bob and Bill. I know them. They’re great people. They didn’t choose their sexuality. They’re good neighbors, hard-working, and law-abiding citizens.” This all may be true but notice the source of authority here is how the person feels about Bob and Bill.

A co-worker I knew who was a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America had these sentiments until we discussed the witness of Scripture concerning homosexual behavior. He then changed his mind and embraced the orthodox view. The results weren’t so good in discussing the same issue with a middle-aged Catholic man in an Adult Christian Education class I co-taught in the mid-2000s. On the one hand he was aware of the witness of Scripture (Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Romans 1:26; Matthew 19:1-12) that was buttressed by over 2,000 years of Church Tradition and the teaching of the Magisterium. On the other hand were his own feelings about the issue that were greatly influenced by a close friend who had a gay son. He went with his feelings.

The good news in these two stories is that minds and hearts can change if you have some common ground in the area of authority. However, catechesis in a therapeutic age can feel overwhelming at times and calls to mind Hercules fighting the Hydra: with the serpent having so many heads, where do you start? The deleterious effects of the Therapeutic on ethics is just one head. The Church should strap in for a long, hard struggle and needs to have an “all hands on deck” approach with both the lay priesthood and ordained priesthood fully engaged in the battle.  AMEN!!!

It’s a conflict whose spiritual and moral lineage can be traced back to the Garden of Eden and the seduction that took place there. The serpent undermined divine authority, Eve consulted her subjective feelings and disobeyed, Adam followed suit, and we’ve been living with the consequences ever since. Perhaps a good starting point for catechesis in a therapeutic age is to present sharp contrasts—bold colors, not faded pastels—between the Therapeutic and the Orthodox—i.e. Christian traditions rooted in orthodoxy—with the hope that the parishioner will choose the latter and leaven the culture with that faith. A small beginning of that instruction might read as follows:

  • The orthodox Christian believes the purpose of their existence is to know, love, honor, and glorify God.
  • Their raison d’etre is to serve God; for the Therapeutic, the purpose of God’s existence is to serve them.
  • For the orthodox Christian, their relationship with God is an end-in-itself: their highest goal is to love God; their greatest possession is an intimate relationship with Him.
  • For the Therapeutic, their relationship to God is a means to an end; it is utilitarian in nature. Their highest goal is for the Deity to provide them with feelings of well-being; their greatest possession is to have a life that is a journey of self-discovery and self-fulfillment.
  • The orthodox Christian seeks a pilgrimage that imitates the Passion in self-giving love.
  • The mission of the Catholic is to incarnate what has been re-presented in the Mass—the self-donating love of the Crucified God—and be sent forth as the anti-therapeutic in a therapeutic culture.
  • As important as catechesis is, the spirit of the anti-therapeutic is caught more often than it is taught. This explains Malcolm Muggeridge’s conversion to Catholicism late in life. It wasn’t Mother Teresa’s erudition that moved him but her example of self-giving love.

The orthodox Christian knows it is the Father’s good pleasure to give them subjective feelings of happiness. Scripture commends the enjoyment of life (Ecclesiastes 8:15); their Lord performed his first miracle at a wedding feast turning the water into wine. Many Catholics would call this “good Catholic fun.”  (Ed.  Saints have a Sense of Humor!!  JOY!!! is the definitive mark of the Christian!!!)  However, whereas the Therapeutic see feeling good as a right, the orthodox Christian sees it as a gift that is not guaranteed. Catholics hearken back to the words of the Mother of God to St. Bernadette of Soubirous: “I do not promise to make you happy in this life, but in the next.”

It is interesting to note that in his last published writing, C.S. Lewis wrote, in contradistinction to the Declaration of Independence, a piece called “We Have No ‘Right To Happiness.’” He averred that we should not be pursuing feelings of happiness but the “happiness” that Aristotle called eudaimonia that has nothing to do with feeling good, but has everything to do with spiritual health: a moral quality of life that Aristotle described as “an activity of the soul expressing virtue.” The Therapeutic want to feel good; the orthodox Christian wants to be good.

The orthodox Christian also knows that there is an undeniable measure of disappointment built into the ancient faith. This is summarized cogently by Simon Tugwell, O.P.: “Christianity has to be disappointing, precisely because it is not a mechanism for accomplishing all our human ambitions and aspirations; it is a mechanism for subjecting all things to the will of God.” For the orthodox Christian these disappointments become a doorway to humility and self-knowledge; for the Therapeutic they become a cause for offense and a reason to move on and explore other “spiritualities” or churches that will help them “find themselves.”

Despite disappointment being built into the Christian faith, multiple studies indicate that orthodox Christians, in general, do experience subjective feelings of well-being more consistently than the Therapeutic. But since the pursuit of feeling good is not front and center in their lives, they often experience feelings of well-being as a result of putting other things first (e.g., faith, serving others, charitable giving, family, friendships, etc.). While the Therapeutic put feeling good at the top of their agenda, many of them will experience the law of diminishing returns: the more they chase subjective feelings of well-being, the less they will experience them, like a drug addict who has the initial cocaine high then spends twenty years trying to recapture the original experience.

The Therapeutic will often say, “I’m not religious; I’m spiritual.” Devout Catholics will often say, “I’m not spiritual; I’m religious.” For the therapeutic personality, the “spiritual” is defined as those experiences that increase good feelings while “religious” experiences decrease them or are neutral. Thus the Mass can be deemed spiritual or religious based on the particular mood of the therapeutic parishioner. If Christian leadership accommodates the therapeutic Zeitgeist, they will be consigned to emerge every Sunday morning as the “Therapist-in-Chief” with their homiletical grab bag of affirmations and happy talk—Deepak Chopra in religious garb—in an effort to facilitate a plentitude of endorphins among the gathered assembly. This is what the apostle Paul called “preaching another gospel.” Instead, both the ordained priesthood and the lay priesthood need to stand firm in the faith once delivered to the saints, imitate the self- sacrifice of the Passion, and extend the tender mercies of God to those who have been bewitched by the Therapeutic.”

Love,
Matthew

Be merciful to me, O Lord, for I am a sinful man

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-by Rev Timothy Norris, pastor of St. Paul in Ham Lake, MN, delivered at Sunday Mass, Oct. 27, 2013

“O God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” In my homily today I would like to talk to you about the very difficult and painful subject of the clergy sexual abuse scandal which is once again very much in the news here locally as a result of the recent investigative reports conducted by Minnesota Public Radio news into some recent cases of actual and alleged sexual misconduct by some priests of our archdiocese, and allegations of how archdiocesan officials may have mishandled their response to these events.

I hope that what I say here does not add to the pain or alienation that anyone here may be feeling; rather, my aim is to search for hope and healing, as difficult as that may seem given the present circumstances.

First and foremost, I want to apologize to all victims of sexual misconduct by priests or other members of the clergy, and to their families and loved ones.

I know the shame and anguish I feel as a member of the Church and of the clergy that you have been subjected to such a horrific betrayal of trust, and I can only imagine the depths of your suffering. I want to apologize also for the many failures of our Church leadership and others who have left you feeling doubly victimized by their failure to prevent the abuse or to acknowledge their mistakes and to seek to make amends.

I hope and pray that you can find healing. And, if there is any way that I can be of assistance in that healing, I would be glad to help you to the extent that I am able.

We are all sinners

Secondly, I must acknowledge and confess that I, too, am a sinner, and that I am very sorry for all of the ways that I have failed in thought, word and deed to reflect the purity and love of our Lord Jesus Christ in my priestly ministry and life. I ask forgiveness from God and from all of you. “O God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”

Pope Francis was asked in a recent interview that received much publicity, “Who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?” And, his response was, “I am a sinner . . . . I am a sinner whom the Lord has looked upon.”

He then goes on to explain using the image of a famous painting known as the calling of St. Matthew by Caravaggio (above): “That finger of Jesus pointing at Matthew. That’s me. I feel like him. Like Matthew. It is the gesture of Matthew that strikes me: he holds on to his money as if to say, ‘No, not me! No, this money is mine.’ Here, this is me, a sinner on whom the Lord has turned his gaze. And this is what I said when they asked me if I would accept my election as pontiff. I am a sinner, but I trust in the infinite mercy and patience of our Lord Jesus Christ, and I accept in a spirit of penance.”

St. Matthew was a publican, a tax collector. In the Gospel reading today, Jesus uses the simple prayer of another publican, “O God, have mercy on me, a sinner,” to point out an awful truth: That no matter how self-righteous and holy we think we might be, we are all just sinners.

Archbishop Nienstedt in his column this week in The Catholic Spirit acknowledges that, in regard to the efforts to prevent and address clergy misconduct during this past decade, “serious mistakes have been made. . . . There is reason to question whether or not the policies and procedures were uniformly followed. There is also a question as to the prudence of the judgments that have been made.”

Now, we who look at those failures from the outside may be tempted to scoff and judge like the Pharisee: “Thank God I am not like those jerks — more interested in their own reputations and protecting the image of the Church and pedophile priests than they are in protecting children.”

But, in all honesty, have we ever tried to put ourselves in their place? Hindsight is always 20/20. But are we really so certain that we might not make the same mistakes or misjudgments, whether out of ignorance, fear and cowardice, pride or ambition?

We might think, “Thank God I am not like those pedophile priests.” But how many of us struggle with lustful inclinations, viewing adult pornography, masturbation, pre-marital sex, infidelity, etc.? Do those things make us a danger to be around children?

We think, ‘But I would never harm a child.’ Yet, how many of us have ever come close, losing our temper with the kids perhaps? Our society is rightly intolerant of child sexual abuse, but why do so many in our society champion the right for a child’s life to be extinguished before it has even been born?

I mention these things not to make excuses for or downplay the gravity of the offenses of pedophile clergy, or Church leaders who fail to protect the young and vulner­able. Those offenses are rightly to be condemned, and they need to be corrected.

Rather, the thing that I want to point out is that there, but for the grace of God, go I. Sin is a universal human condition. Nobody can say, “Thank God I am not like the rest of humanity,’’ because we are all sinners.

I am a sinner. Archbishop Nienstedt is a sinner. Pope Francis is a sinner. We are all sinners. And, we come to the Church as sinners in search of mercy and redemption. The scandal of clergy sexual abuse is the problem of how the Church is at the same time holy and yet sinful in its members. It is a problem that has existed ever since the Church began.

Difficult questions

Now, I have spent much time in prayer and reflection this week agonizing over this problem, at times almost to the point of despair. The contradiction between the holiness of the priest who is called to serve and love the Church in the image of Christ the Good Shepherd, and the priest who betrays that trust by abusing a child is so great that it boggles the mind.

How is this possible?

Why can this happen?

Why doesn’t anybody stop it?

It has been announced that next year Pope John Paul II will be canonized a saint. Some critics claim that Pope John Paul II should not be canonized because they think he did not do enough to address the problem of clergy sexual abuse. But let me suggest for a moment that I think the scandal goes even higher up than the pope.

Well, who is higher up than the pope? Let me suggest that the scandal started with Jesus. It sounds blasphemous. But hear me out.

Who after all was responsible for appointing the first pope and bishops in the Church? Was it not Jesus when he chose the Twelve Apostles?

Why did he choose men like Peter, who tried to turn down the job by saying, “Leave me Lord, I am a sinful man,” or like doubting Thomas, or Matthew the greedy tax collector — men he knew would all deny and abandon him like cowards in his hour of need?

True, all men are weak and sinful. Jesus had to choose somebody, but were these really the best men he could find?

Most scandalous of all, why did he choose Judas Iscariot, who he knew full well would betray him and, unlike the others, would despair and take his own life, and not turn back in faith? At least the pope and bishops are mere human beings, who may not know if a priest they are about to ordain will turn out to be a pedophile or not. But we believe that Jesus is the all-powerful, all-knowing God, and yet he knew Judas would betray him. Why did He do nothing to stop it?

After all, we believe that God gave special grace to the Blessed Virgin Mary to preserve her from all stain of sin, so that she could be the mother of his son. If Jesus is truly the head of his Church, then why doesn’t he give special grace to his priests to keep them from sin?

Or, at the very least, why doesn’t he prevent the pedophiles from becoming priests in the first place? How can God let innocent children suffer such abuse? Doesn’t he care? Is he punishing us? Doesn’t he love us? Does he even exist?

The question has been asked so many times before. Why does God let bad things happen to good people? Why doesn’t God put an end to war, crime, poverty, and injustice? Why does God allow rapists, and murderers and pedophiles to run rampant in our streets? Why does God allow the weeds to grow with the wheat? Why, oh why, oh why must these evils exist in our world?

The scandal of clergy sexual abuse of minors is the very face of evil glaring at us, mocking our faith and hope in a loving, caring God, challenging us to deny that such a God exists, and daring us to leave the Church behind as just a bunch of deluded, hypocritical fools.

Of course, abandoning faith in God and the Church won’t really change the sorry lot of humanity. One will still have to resign oneself to living in a risky world, full of pedophiles and predators and evil lurking around every corner with little hope that things might get any better. Is there any alternative to just simple resignation, or even worse, giving up on it all in despair?

At this point I want to cry out like Job, “I have spoken but did not understand; things too marvelous for me, which I did not know. Therefore I disown what I have said, and repent in dust and ashes.”

And all that I am left with is the disturbing image of Jesus suffering and dying on the cross, with his mother Mary crying in anguish beneath him.

What terrible suffering Mary must have felt at that moment knowing that Jesus had been betrayed and abandoned by his closest friends — the same sort of suffering I imagine a parent must feel when their child has been abused by a priest. “How could you do such a thing to my son?”

Why did Jesus allow his innocent mother Mary to experience such pain? She had done no wrong. She did not need to be punished for anything. And, yet, he allowed it. Seeing his mother suffer must only have added so much more to his own pain and humiliation, and yet he accepted it.

Our faith teaches us that he accepted it as the price that needed to be paid for our salvation from sin — the mystery of Christ crucified, “a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.” The absurdity that we dare to believe is that the cross, that suffering, and that all the evils that exist in our world, including the devastating scandal and pain of clergy sexual abuse, can be instruments of redemption, if we, by faith in the grace of God, do not let the power of such evils to overcome our ability to love.

That is what Jesus showed us by pardoning his persecutors from the cross. “Father, forgive them, they know not what they are doing.” That is what he showed us when he gathered Peter and the other disciples together again after his resurrection, that he still wanted to be their friend, despite how they had hurt him with their denials and abandonment.

That is the grace that he must have given to his mother Mary for her, too, to be able to forgive and gather together again as friends with the disciples in the upper room when they all received the Holy Spirit.

In this moment, Jesus is inviting us to not lose faith and hope in the power of his love to overcome and heal the wounds of sin. Jesus says to each one of us, “I have forgiven you for all of the pain and sorrow you have caused me by your sins. So do not let your hearts be hardened by the pain and suffering that others’ sins have caused to you, even the terrible betrayal of clergy sexual abuse. I know its hurts; I know it is hard, but do not let the pain overcome your ability to love and to forgive. Forgive even if those who have hurt you do not acknowledge their sins or change their ways. Forgive 70 times seven times. Trust in the power of my grace and love, to help you carry your heavy burden, to heal your broken heart, and to live once again in love, compassion and peace.”

Working to do better

As a member of the clergy I do acknowledge that many of my brothers in the clergy have sinned against you, that many in our Church leadership have sinned against you, that I have sinned against you.

While I may not be personally responsible for all the acts of sexual abuse, and negligent in preventing those abuses that have occurred, I cannot, of course, ask for your forgiveness of these sins without expressing true contrition and a resolve to make amends.

I hope you know by now how truly sorry I am for the pain that so many children and families have had to endure because of the evil of clergy sexual abuse.

I know that many people are rightly angry and frustrated with our Church leadership for not doing more to acknowledge our failures and to correct them. While I cannot speak directly for them, I believe that Archbishop Nienstedt and the others in our Church leadership responsible for supervising our clergy are indeed sorrowful as well, and regret very much the pain that has been caused to people because of the abuse.

I think that they are imperfect human persons, like myself, who, given a very tough job and responsibility, have tried to do what they thought was best at the time, but nevertheless have made mistakes and questionable judgments, as the archbishop admits in his column [Oct. 24] in The Catholic Spirit.

Out of love and justice for those who have been victimized by clergy sexual abuse, I know there is so much more that we need to do to make amends for our past failures, and to change our ways and correct our faults, so that we can do better at protecting our children and the vulnerable from further abuse in the future.

To this end, Archbishop Nien­stedt in his column has spelled out some initial steps that the archdiocese will implement, including a special independent task force to investigate all matters related to sexual misconduct by clergy and to recommend further changes and improvements for preventing abuse in the future.

The archbishop has also ordered a review of all clergy personnel files by an outside firm to evaluate whether anyone who is currently serving in active ministry might be a risk to public safety.

For my part, as your pastor, I promise to do all that I can here at the Church of St. Paul or in other spheres where I might have influence, to make sure that our policies and procedures for the protection of the vulnerable and young are being implemented and followed and improved as needed.

If you or someone you know has been victimized by clergy or others and you are in need of help, don’t be afraid to seek it. There is help available from trained civil authorities in government child protection, social services and law enforcement agencies.

With the exception of what I hear in the confessional, I, as a member of the clergy, as well as teachers, and other counselors, are required by Minnesota law to report any suspected abuse of a minor or vulnerable adult to these same civil authorities. However, if there is any way I can be assistance to anyone struggling with these problems, I offer to do what I can to help. Our archdiocese also offers victim advocacy and assistance services.

It is an unrealistic and impos­sible expectation that we will ever be able to completely eliminate all risk of clergy sexual misconduct and abuse from our Church, no matter how hard we try. But that is no reason for not trying and doing all that we can to do better.

Ultimately, however, as weak, imperfect, sinful human people, we must rely on God´s grace and mercy to sustain us and help us in all of our efforts to heal, to reconcile and to protect each other from harm.

O God, be merciful to us sinners.”

Love,
Matthew, a sinner

grave sin, some truth & precious little justice

“You may criticize something, if you love it.”
– cf St Catherine of Siena, OP

Pope Pius VII ran afoul of Napoleon Bonaparte who invaded Italy in 1809 and took the Pope prisoner. Napoleon announced to the Pope that he was going to destroy the Church, to which Pius VII responded, “Oh my little man, you think you’re going to succeed in accomplishing what centuries of priests and bishops have tried and failed to do!”

father-thomas-doyle

-by Rev Tom Doyle, OP, JCD (I met Tom on several occasions.)

“A letter sent by the vicar general of the diocese of Lafayette, La., to the papal nuncio in June 1984 was the trigger that set in motion a series of events that has changed the fate of the victims of child sexual abuse by Catholic clergy and clergy of all denominations.

The letter informed the nuncio that the Gastal family had decided to withdraw from a confidential monetary settlement with the diocese. It went on to say the family had obtained the services of an attorney and planned to sue the diocese.

This began a long process that has had a direct impact on much more than the fate of victims and the security of innocent children and vulnerable persons of any age. It has altered the image and role of the institutional Catholic church in Western society to such an extent that the tectonic plates upon which this church rests have shifted in a way never expected or dreamed of 30 years ago.

I cannot find language that can adequately communicate the full import of this monstrous phenomenon. The image of a Christian church that enabled the sexual and spiritual violation of its most vulnerable members and, when confronted, responded with institutionalized mendacity and utter disregard for the victims cannot be adequately described as a “problem,” a “crisis” or a “scandal.” The widespread sexual violation of children and adults by clergy and the horrific response of the leadership, especially the bishops, is the present-day manifestation of a very dark and toxic dimension of the institutional church.

This dark side has always existed. In our era, it has served as the catalyst for a complex and deeply rooted process that can be best described as a paradigm shift. The paradigm for responding to sexual abuse by clergy has shifted at its foundation.

The paradigm for society’s understanding of and response to child sexual abuse had begun to shift with the advent of the feminist movement in the early 1970s, but was significantly accelerated by the mid-’80s.

The paradigm of the institutional church interacting in society has shifted and continues to do so as the forces demanding justice, honesty and accountability of the hierarchy continue their relentless pressure. The Catholic monolith, once accepted by friend and foe alike as a rock-solid monarchy, is crumbling.

The single most influential and forceful element in this complex historical process has not been the Second Vatican Council. It has been the action of the victims of sexual abuse.

There are a few of us still standing who have been in the midst of this mind- and soul-boggling phenomenon from the beginning of the present era. We have been caught up and driven by the seemingly never-ending chain of events, revelations and explosions that have marked it from the very beginning and will continue to mark it into the future.

It has had a profound impact on the belief systems and the spirituality of many directly and indirectly involved. My own confidence and trust in the institutional church has been shattered. I have spent years trying to process what has been happening to the spiritual dimension of my life.

The vast enormity of a deeply engrained clerical culture that allowed the sexual violation of the innocent and most vulnerable has overshadowed the theological, historical and cultural supports upon which the institutional church has based its claim to divinely favored status. All of the theological and canonical truths I had depended upon have been dissipated to meaninglessness.

Some of us who have supported victims have been accused of being dissenters from official church teachings. We have been accused of being anti-Catholic, using the sexual abuse issue to promote active disagreement with church positions on various sexual issues.

These accusations are complete nonsense. This is not a matter of dissent or agreement with church teachings. It is about the sexual violation of countless victims by trusted church members. It is not a matter of anti-Catholic propaganda.

It is, however, direct opposition to church leaders, policies or practices that enable the perpetrators of sexual abuse and demonize the victims. It is not a matter of defaming the church’s image. No one has done a better job of that than the bishops themselves.

For some of us, the very concept of a personal or anthropocentric God has also been destroyed, in great part by an unanswerable question: “If there is a loving God watching over us, why does he allow his priests and bishops to violate the bodies and destroy the souls of so many innocent children?”

Much to the chagrin of the hard-core cheerleaders for the institutional church, there is no question that the victims and survivors of the church’s sexual abuse and spiritual treachery have set in motion a process that has changed and will continue to change the history of Catholicism. The Catholic experience has prompted members of other denominations to acknowledge sexual abuse in their midst and demand accountability. It has also forever altered the response of secular society to the once untouchable churches.

The default response

For much of church history, the default response to a report of child, adolescent or adult sexual abuse was first to deny it and, when denial failed, to enshroud it in an impenetrable blanket of secrecy.

The perpetrator was shifted to another assignment. The victim was intimidated into silence. The media knew nothing and if law enforcement or civil officials were involved, they deferred to the bishop “for the good of the church.”

A small number of perpetrators were sent to special church-run institutions that treated them in secrecy and in many instances, released them to re-enter ministry. The founder of the most influential of these, Paraclete Fr. Gerald Fitzgerald, firmly believed that no priest who had violated a child or minor should ever be allowed back in ministry and should be dismissed from the priesthood.

He made his unequivocal beliefs known to bishops, to the prefect of the Holy Office (1962) and to Pope Paul VI in a private audience in 1963. He was ignored.

The Lafayette case involving Gilbert Gauthe was the beginning of the end of the default template.

I suspect that none of the major players in the case had any idea of the magnitude of what they were involved in. I was one of them and I certainly could never have imagined how this would all play out. The case sparked attention because of the systemic cover-up that had gone on from before Gauthe was ordained and continued past his conviction and imprisonment.

Jason Berry was singlehandedly responsible for opening up the full extent of the ecclesiastical treachery to the public. The story was picked up by the national media. Before long, other reports of sexual abuse by priests were coming in from parishes and dioceses not only in the Deep South but in other parts of the country.

In 1985, Ray Mouton, Fr. Mike Peterson and I, believing that the bishops were looking for guidance on how to proceed when faced with actual cases of sexual violation and rape by priests, authored a report or manual that outlined a clear response.

Many of the bishops I spoke to at the time admitted they were bewildered about what to do. None expected the series of explosions that were waiting just over the horizon. Some of the bishops I consulted with were men I had grown to respect and trust. I believed they would support whatever efforts we suggested to deal with the developing situation.

Peterson, Mouton and I did not see it as an isolated, one-time “problem.” Rather, we saw it is as a highly toxic practice of the clerical culture that needed to be recognized and rectified.

Some of the men I consulted with and to whom I turned for support and guidance became, in time, major players in the national nightmare. The two most prominent were Cardinals Bernard Law of Boston and Anthony Bevilacqua of Philadelphia. Both men I once counted as friends.

It was not long before I realized that the major force of opposition was the central leadership of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and the General Secretariat in particular.

We had initially hoped the bishops’ conference would look at the manual and consider the action proposals that accompanied it. Our realization that the reactionary attitude would be more extensive began when the bishops, through the office of the general council, publicly accused Mouton, Peterson and me of creating the manual as a potential source of profit, with the hope of selling our services to the various dioceses.

At this point, the three of us had to accept the painful reality that episcopal leadership was far more interested in their own image and power than in the welfare of the victims.

At the 2014 Vatican celebrations canonizing Popes John XXIII and John Paul II, George Weigel, conservative Catholic commentator, and Joaquín Navarro-Valls, John Paul’s press secretary, created an outrageous fantasy about the role of John Paul, claiming that he knew nothing until after the 2002 Boston debacle.

This was patently and provably false. John Paul was given a 42-page detailed report on the sex abuse and cover-up in Lafayette, La., in February 1985. It was sent as justification for the request from the papal nuncio that a bishop be appointed to go to Lafayette to try to find out exactly what was going on. Cardinal John Krol of Philadelphia carried the report to Rome precisely because the nuncio wanted it to go directly to the pope and not be sidetracked by lower-level functionaries.

The pope read the report, and within four days the requested appointment came through. The bishop appointed, A.J. Quinn, auxiliary of Cleveland, turned out to be a big part of the problem rather than a part of the solution.

Quinn visited Lafayette twice and accomplished nothing. Mouton, Peterson and I were suspicious of his intentions by the end of 1985 and quite certain by 1986.

In 1990, Quinn addressed the Canon Law Society of America and advised that if bishops found information in priests’ files they did not want seen, they should send the files to the papal nuncio to be shielded by diplomatic immunity. Quinn, a civil lawyer as well as a canon lawyer, was then subjected to disbarment proceedings as a result of his unethical suggestion.

Cardinal Pio Laghi, papal nuncio to the U.S. from 1980 to 1990, was supportive of our efforts and was in regular telephone contact with the Vatican. Cardinal Silvio Oddi, then the prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, visited the nunciature in June 1985 and asked to be briefed. I was deputed for the task.

By then, we had more information on the rapidly growing number of cases in all parts of the country. I recall that by that time we were aware of 42 cases, which I naively thought was a significant number. I prepared a lengthy report that was not only detailed but also graphic in its content.

I read the report to the cardinal and responded to his many questions. At the end of the meeting, at which only he and I were present, he announced that he would take this information back to the Holy Father. “Then there will be a meeting of the heads of all the dicasteries [Vatican congregations] and we will issue a decree.”

I understand that he did take the information to the pope, but there never was a meeting of the dicasteries and no decree ever came forth.

Our efforts to get the U.S. bishops’ conference to even consider the issues we set forth in our manual, much less take decisive action, were a total failure. Looking back from the perspective of 30 years of direct experience, I believe they acted in the only way they knew how — which was completely self-serving, with scandalous lack of sympathy for the victims and their families.

There were individual bishops who were open to exploring the right way to proceed, but the conference, which represented all of the bishops, was interested in controlling the fallout and preserving their stature and their power. The culprits were, in the pope’s eyes, secular materialism, media sensationalism and sinful priests. He never even acknowledged, much less responded to, the thousands of requests from individual victims.

We sent individual copies of the manual to every bishop in the U.S. on Dec. 8, 1985. We still had hope that perhaps someone would read it and stand up at the conference meetings and call the bishops’ attention to what we had insisted was the most important element, namely the compassionate care of the victims.

In 1986, Peterson arranged for a hospitality suite at the hotel where the bishops were having their annual November meeting. He invited every bishop present — more than 300 — to come and discuss the matter of sexual abuse of minors by the clergy. Eight showed up.

The bishops’ approach in the U.S. and elsewhere followed a standard evolutionary process: denial, minimization, blame-shifting, and devaluation of challengers. The bishops’ carefully scripted apologies expressed their regret for the pain suffered. Never once did they apologize for what they had done to harm the victims.

Likewise, there was never any concern voiced by the Vatican or the bishops’ conference about the spiritual and emotional damage done to the victims by the abuse itself and by the betrayal by the hierarchy.

It became clear by the end of the ’90s that the problem was not simply recalcitrant bishops. It was much more fundamental. The barrier to doing the right thing was deeply embedded in the clerical culture itself.

The Boston revelations in January 2002 had an immediate and lasting impact that surprised even the most cynical. The continuous stream of media stories of what the bishops had been doing in Boston and elsewhere provoked widespread public outrage. The number of lawsuits dramatically increased and the protective deference on the part of law enforcement and civil officials, once counted on by the clerical leadership, was rapidly eroding.

Grand jury investigations were launched in three jurisdictions within two months, with several more to follow. It was all too much for the bishops to handle.

The most visible result of the many-sided pressure on the hierarchy was the Dallas meeting. This was not a proactive, pastorally sensitive gesture on the part of the bishops. It was defensive damage control, choreographed by the public relations firm of R.F. Binder.

The tangible result of the meeting was the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, and the Essential Norms. The impact of the charter and the norms has clearly been mixed. The lofty rhetoric of the bishops in the charter has not been followed up with action, to no one’s surprise.

The Essential Norms have not been uniformly and consistently followed. As proof, we can look to the steady number of exceptions from 2002, whereby known perpetrators either are allowed to remain in ministry or are put back in ministry.

The National Review Board showed promise at the beginning, especially after the publication of its extensive report in 2004. This promise sputtered and died as the truly effective members of the board left when they realized the bishops weren’t serious.

Those very few bishops who have publicly sided with the survivors have been marginalized and punished.

The general response has been limited to the well-tuned rhetoric of public statements, sponsorship of a variety of child safety programs, constant promises of change and enlightenment, and, above all, the investment of hundreds of millions of dollars in attorneys who have used every tactic imaginable and many that are not imaginable to defeat and discredit victims and to prevent the hierarchy from being held accountable.

While the institutional church has essentially remained in neutral, various segments of civil society have reacted decisively.

Between 1971 and 2013, there have been at least 72 major reports issued about sexual abuse in the Catholic church. Some of these have been commissioned by official bodies and are the result of extensive investigations, such as the U.S. grand jury reports, the Belgian parliamentary report and the Irish investigation commission reports. They come from several countries in North America and Europe. A study of the sections on causality has shown a common denominator: the deliberately inadequate and counterproductive responses and actions of the bishops.

John Paul attempted to persuade the world that sexual abuse by clergy was an American problem, caused primarily by media exaggerations, materialism and failure to pray. At the conclusion of his first public statement on sexual abuse, a 1993 letter to the U.S. bishops, he said, “Yes, dear Brothers, America needs much prayer — lest it lose its soul.”

By 2014, there was no doubt anywhere that geographic boundaries are irrelevant. This highly toxic dimension of the institutional church and its clerical subculture has been exposed in country after country on every continent.

The focus has finally shifted to the Vatican. In September 2011, the Center for Constitutional Rights assisted in the filing of a case before the International Criminal Court in The Hague. In January 2014, the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child delivered a blistering criticism of the Vatican’s response to sexual abuse by clerics. In May 2014, the U.N. Committee Against Torture issued a report equally critical of the Vatican’s handling of sexual abuse claims and its opposition to U.N. policies.

This is truly momentous. The world’s largest religious denomination has been called to account by the community of nations.

Thirty years on

Any conclusions at this point, 30 years later, are obviously temporary, since this is not the end of the issue but simply a milestone along the way.

In spite of all that has happened, I do not believe there has been any fundamental change in the hierarchy. It may be true that individual bishops have either changed or been compassionately supportive all along, but in general the hierarchy is behaving today just as it did in 1985. The dramatic events in St. Paul-Minneapolis and the ongoing scandalous bankruptcy process in Milwaukee are the latest examples of this intransigence.

The institutional church’s abject failure has revealed fundamental deficiencies in essential areas, all of which have been instrumental in perpetrating and sustaining the tragic culture of abuse:

  • The erroneous belief that the monarchical governmental structure of the church was intended by God and justifies the sacrifice of innocent victims;
  • The belief that priests and bishops are superior to laypersons, entitled to power and deference because they are ontologically different and uniquely joined to Christ;
  • A lay spirituality that is dependent on the clergy and gauged by the degree of submission to them and unquestioned obedience to all church laws and authority figures;
  • An obsession with doctrinal orthodoxy and theological formulations that bypasses the realities of human life and replaces mercy and charity as central Catholic values;
  • An understanding of human sexuality that is not grounded in the reality of the human person but in a bizarre theological tradition that originated with the pre-Christian stoics and was originally formulated by celibate males of questionable psychological stability;
  • The clerical subculture that has propagated the virus of clericalism, which has perpetuated a severely distorted value system that has influenced clergy and laity alike.

Has Pope Francis brought a new ray of hope? He is a significantly different kind of pope, but he is still a product of the monarchical system and he is still surrounded by a bureaucracy that could hinder or destroy any hopes for the radical change that is needed if the institutional church is to rise above the sex abuse nightmare and become what it is supposed to be, the people of God.

The victims and indeed the entire church are tired of the endless stream of empty statements and unfulfilled promises. The time for apologies, expressions of regret, and assurances of change is long gone. Action is needed, and without it, the pope and bishops today will simply be more names in the long line of hierarchs who have failed the victims and failed the church.

A few recent actions give some hope that Francis will supply more than words to the church’s efforts. He laicized Jozef Wesolowski, the former nuncio to the Dominican Republic, and placed him on trial for numerous charges of sexual abuse of children. Prior to that, he laicized Bishop Gabino Miranda, auxiliary of Ayachuca, Peru in July 2013 for sexually abusing a young girl.

Additionally, he has instituted a new tribunal to hold bishops accountable. This was urged by his own abuse commission, which indicates he is listening to it. In a period of less than two months, he has forced the resignations of three U.S. bishops who failed in handling sex abuse cases: Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo.; and Archbishop John Nienstedt, and his auxiliary, Bishop Lee Piché, of St. Paul-Minneapolis.

I believe there is reason to hope, not because of Francis’ engaging personality. This pope’s overtures to victims are grounded on three decades of courageous efforts by survivors. Without these efforts, nothing would have changed.

Survivors have changed the course of history for the church and have accelerated the paradigm shift. If the Catholic church is to be known not as a gilded monarchy of increasing irrelevance but as the people of God, the change in direction hinted at by the new pope’s words and actions are crucial. If he does lead the way to a new image of the body of Christ, it will be due in great part because the survivors have led the way for him.”

Please pray for all victims of sexual abuse and betrayal.

Lord!  Save us!  From ourselves, most of all!   Lk 22:62 Mt 27:5
St Catherine of Siena, pray for us!

Love,
Matthew

Marie Collins, Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors

I wish I could tell you, over the past eight years, Marie’s story is unique.  It is not.  It is all too, too tragically familiar.  Dealing with evil is difficult.  But, as disciples, it is required.  The Catholic Church is an institution with a 400 year cycle time.

http://www.mariecollinsfoundation.org.uk/who-we-are/board-of-trustees/marie-collins

kreeft21

-by Peter Kreeft, PhD

“The problem of evil is the most serious problem in the world. It is also the one serious objection to the existence of God. No sane person wants hell to exist.

When Saint Thomas Aquinas wrote his great Summa Theologica, he could find only two objections to the existence of God, even though he tried to list at least three objections to every one of the thousands of theses he tried to prove in that great work. One of the two objections is the apparent ability of natural science to explain everything in our experience without God; and the other is the problem of evil.

More people have abandoned their faith because of the problem of evil than for any other reason. It is certainly the greatest test of faith, the greatest temptation to unbelief. And it’s not just an intellectual objection. We feel it. We live it. That’s why the Book of Job is so arresting.

The problem can be stated very simply: If God is so good, why is His world so bad? If an all-good, all-wise, all-loving, all-just, and all-powerful God is running the show, why does He seem to be doing such a miserable job of it? Why do bad things happen to good people?…

If God is the Creator of all things and evil is a thing, then God is the Creator of evil, and He is to blame for its existence. No, evil is not a thing but a wrong choice, or the damage done by a wrong choice. Evil is no more a positive thing than blindness is. But it is just as real. It is not a thing, but it is not an illusion..

Second, the origin of evil is not the Creator but the creature’s freely choosing sin and selfishness. Take away all sin and selfishness and you would have heaven on earth. Even the remaining physical evils would no longer rankle and embitter us. Saints endure and even embrace suffering and death as lovers embrace heroic challenges. But they do not embrace sin.

…The cause of suffering is sin. …

We are single creatures, not double: we are not even body and soul as much as we are embodied soul, or ensouled body. So the body must share in the soul’s inevitable punishment, a punishment as natural and unavoidable as broken bones from jumping off a cliff or a sick stomach from eating rotten food rather than a punishment as artificial and external as a grade for a course or a slap on the hands for taking the cookies…

If the origin of evil is free will, and God is the origin of free will, isn’t God then the origin of evil? Only as parents are the origin of the misdeeds their children commit by being the origin of their children. The all-powerful God gave us a share in his power to choose freely. Would we prefer he had not and had made us robots rather than human beings?…

The worst aspect of the problem of evil is eternal evil, hell. Does hell not contradict a loving and omnipotent God? No, for hell is the consequence of free will. We freely choose hell for ourselves; God does not cast anyone into hell against his will. If a creature is really free to say yes or no to the Creator’s offer of love and spiritual marriage, then it must be possible for the creature to say no. And that is what hell is, essentially. Free will, in turn, was created out of God’s love. Therefore hell is a result of God’s love. Everything is.

No sane person wants hell to exist. No sane person wants evil to exist. But hell is just evil eternalized. If there is evil and if there is eternity, there can be hell. If it is intellectually dishonest to disbelieve in evil just because it is shocking and uncomfortable, it is the same with hell. Reality has hard corners, surprises, and terrible dangers in it. We desperately need a true road map, not nice feelings, if we are to get home. It is true, as people often say, that hell just feels unreal, impossible. Yes. So does Auschwitz. So does Calvary.”

Please pray and ACT for the safety of ALL children!!!! Lord, be merciful to us ALL!!!!  Our Lady of Knock, Queen of Ireland, Mother of the Church, Mother of Christian Families, pray for us!!!

“…He shall come to judge the living and the dead…”

Love,
Matthew

Sin is communal…only in extreme emergencies, confession.

Reconciliation_Pope-Francis (1)

“If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His word is not in us.” -1 Jn 1:10

I had the…displeasure, you might say, of witnessing a communal penance service during a Catholic Mass in my life.  Mass was going on in a large auditorium in the Chicago suburbs.  The celebrant said some prayers, and then asked people to stand up when they felt forgiven.  One-by-one the entire congregation, or the majority, stood.  I did not.  I was in too much shock.  I don’t “think” I’m a wet towel?  I like to think I try to keep it real?  Hip?  As much as I can at 49?  Externally, I was in physical control.  Internally, I needed to be sedated.  I did finish Mass, though.  Yeah.  🙂

I realize Penitential Rite III of Vatican II, in very extreme circumstances, allows something along this vein.  None of these extenuating circumstances were present in this regular Sunday Mass, whatsoever.  I am not the Sunday Mass police, whatsoever, however, as an amateur Catholic wonk, I did drop a dime to the chancery, such was the scandal I personally encountered and felt.  🙁

IMPORTANT NOTE REGARDING THE COMMUNAL CONFESSION:

A Communal confession is valid only for emergency or unusual circumstances such as for those who live in remote areas or in a situation where there are insufficient priests available to hear everyone’s confesssion prior to attendance at the Holy Mass. (We are to be in the “state of grace”, absolved of all guilt due to mortal sin through the Sacrament, right?  Prior to receiving communion?  Remember that part?  I know you do, gentle reader.  I know you do.  I have faith, and trust, and confidence in you.  I do.  Pray for me, when I receive the Sacrament, and my examen is “fuzzy”.  Please, pray for me.  Please.)  Under ordinary circumstances it cannot replace individual confession (Catechism of the Catholic Church # 1483 and Code of Canon Law # 961 and # 962).

However, sin is communal.  No sin is EVER a strictly personal matter.

3/12/2009, -by Justin Cardinal Rigali, Archbishop of Philadelphia (retired)

“In a book which he wrote about his famous father, Enrico Caruso, Jr. described the atmosphere in the villa where Caruso lived and worked. The mood of the place was always determined by what the great tenor was doing. If he was sleeping, everyone was quiet. When he awoke, his enthusiasm for life was infectious and everyone seemed to rejoice with him. If his southern personality was expressed in anger, everyone in the villa trembled!

We don’t have to live with Enrico Caruso to know how the mood, words and actions of one person can affect an entire home. This can likewise be true of a place of business. One person can affect the entire atmosphere of a place and either raise it up with joy and enthusiasm or lower it with tension and anger.

This is also true of the community or family which we know as the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ. The actions of one member can either build up the Church of Christ through virtue and fidelity or weaken it by sin. It is mysterious how the actions of a human person can affect Christ’s Mystical Body but such is the power of human freedom that God not only allows us to make free choices but also allows our choices to build up or weaken the Church he has founded. This is why we can say that sin has both a personal and social aspect.

In the Exhortation, which followed the Synod of Bishops that had discussed the Sacrament of Penance, Pope John Paul II wrote: “By virtue of a human solidarity which is as mysterious and intangible as it is real and concrete, each individual’s sin in some way affects others. There is no sin, not even the most intimate and secret one, the most strictly individual one, that exclusively concerns the person committing it. With greater or lesser harm, every sin has repercussions on the ecclesial body and the whole human family. In this sense every sin can be considered a social sin” (Reconciliation and Penance, 2 [December 1984]).

The Sacrament of Penance

The Sacrament of Penance is always a vital part of our Christian lives but we highlight it in a special way during this Lenten season. This great Sacrament of God’s mercy has always manifested both the personal and communal aspects of sin and forgiveness. However, it has done this in different ways down through the centuries.

In the early centuries of the Church, there was a role given to what is called public penance. This was a penance performed in the midst of the community to highlight the truth which we have been discussing, namely the social as well as the personal aspect of sin. Public penance was not imposed upon everyone and it depended on the nature of the sin.

Saint Augustine wrote, concerning public penance: “If the sin is not only grievous in itself but involves scandal given to others, and if the bishop judges that it will be useful to the Church, let not the sinner refuse to do penance in the sight of many or even of the people at large, let the sinner not resist, nor through shame add to the mortal wound a greater evil” (Sermon 151, n. 3).

It was the confessor who would determine the necessity and the extent of the public penance imposed upon a penitent. This was done not to cause shame to the penitent but to highlight the communal nature of sin and the weakening of the Body of Christ caused by it. These periods of public penance often took place during the Lenten season, with the penance beginning on Ash Wednesday and ending with a formal ceremony of reconciliation on Holy Thursday. This practice of public penance gradually changed.

Although public penance was once a part of the celebration of the Sacrament, we must not confuse the manner of celebrating the Sacrament of Penance with the Sacrament itself. Penance is the Sacrament which Christ established to bring about the forgiveness of sins committed after Baptism. The Church is given the power to dispense the mercy of Jesus in this Sacrament. The priest, who acts in the person of Jesus, forgives sins in the name of the Church.

In this way, the public nature of forgiveness continues to be represented when this Sacrament is celebrated. It is the priest who, as the minister of the Sacrament in the name of the Church, also represents the public life of the Church. In this very private and intimate Sacrament, in which individual sin is confessed and forgiven, there is still a public role exercised through the ministry of the priest, who represents the entire Church.

In his Encyclical on the Mystical Body of Christ, Pope Pius XII beautifully expressed this mystery. He wrote: “As Jesus hung on the Cross, he not only satisfied the justice of the Eternal Father, but he also won for us, his brothers and sisters, an unending flow of graces. It was possible for Him personally, immediately, to impart these graces but He wished to do so only through a visible Church that would be formed by the union of people, and thus, through the Church, every inspanidual would perform a work of collaboration with Him in dispensing the graces of Redemption. The Word of God willed to make use of our nature, when in excruciating agony, He would redeem mankind. In much the same way, throughout the centuries, He makes use of the Church that the work begun might endure.

“Jesus Christ wishes to be helped by the members of His Body. This is not because he is indigent and weak, but rather because He has so willed it for the greater glory of His unspotted Spouse.

“Dying on the Cross, Christ left to the Church the immense treasury of the Redemption. Toward this she contributed nothing. But, when those graces come to be distributed, not only does Christ share this task of sanctification with His Church, but He wants it, in a way, to be due to her action” (Mystici Corporis, 44).

A life beyond

We have all heard the word “supernatural.” This means something which goes beyond or above the natural. In our natural understanding of what is public and what is private or personal, we tend to think in physical or visible terms. If we can see something, it is public. If something is hidden or known to us alone, it is personal. The Christian life, however, is a great reality which is real while not always being physical.

In the Sacrament of Penance, we may see just the priest and the penitent. However, because we are dealing with an action of God’s grace, given through the Church, we are actually dealing with something public and communal.

The sin of the inspanidual, which may be known to that person alone, has an effect on the entire community, thereby giving it a communal aspect. The forgiveness of God transmitted by the priest in Confession is an action involving the Church. It is through the ministry of the Church that the inspanidual sinner is reconciled to God and the family of believers.

Once this reconciliation has taken place, the inspanidual is able to go out once again and fulfill his or her communal role in building up the Church of Christ.

In speaking to the Bishops of the United States on their ad limina visit to the See of Peter, Pope John Paul II described this unity this way: “Only when the faithful recognize sin in their own lives are they ready to understand reconciliation and to open their hearts to penance and personal conversion. Only then are they able to contribute to the renewal of society, since personal conversion is also the only way that leads to the lasting renewal of society. This personal conversion, by spanine precept, is intimately linked to the Sacrament of Penance” (Address, 15 April 1983).

Jesus wishes us to have a relationship with Him which is real and living. He has given us dramatic signs of His love. However, in order to live that life fully, we must go beyond what is natural and visible. We live that life in union with the community of the Church which He founded and which, according to His plan, is the dispenser of that life.

When we sin, we weaken the entire Body of the Church and when we are sorry and ask forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we receive forgiveness from Christ but through that same Church. This is the wonderful plan that God has designed for our salvation.”

I am not only a teacher of youth, but an activist for their protection.

http://www.wsj.com/articles/william-bennett-and-robert-white-legal-pot-is-a-public-health-menace-1407970966

8/13/14

Legal Pot Is a Public Health Menace

-by William J. Bennett and Robert A. White

“The great irony, or misfortune, of the national debate over marijuana is that while almost all the science and research is going in one direction—pointing out the dangers of marijuana use—public opinion seems to be going in favor of broad legalization.

For example, last week a new study in the journal Current Addiction Reports found that regular pot use (defined as once a week) among teenagers and young adults led to cognitive decline, poor attention and memory, and decreased IQ. On Aug. 9, the American Psychological Association reported that at its annual convention the ramifications of marijuana legalization was much discussed, with Krista Lisdahl, director of the imaging and neuropsychology lab at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, saying: “It needs to be emphasized that regular cannabis use, which we consider once a week, is not safe and may result in addiction and neurocognitive damage, especially in youth.”

Since few marijuana users limit themselves to use once a week, the actual harm is much worse for developing brains. The APA noted that young people who become addicted to marijuana lose an average of six IQ points by adulthood. A long line of studies have found similar results—in 2012, a decades-long study of more than 1,000 New Zealanders who frequently smoked pot in adolescence pegged the IQ loss at eight points.

Yet in recent weeks and months, much media coverage of the marijuana issue has either tacitly or explicitly supported legalization. A CCN/ORC International survey in January found that a record 55% of Americans support marijuana legalization.

The disconnect between science and public opinion is so great that in a March WSJ/NBC News poll, Americans ranked sugar as more harmful than marijuana. The misinformation campaign appears to be succeeding.

Here’s the truth. The marijuana of today is simply not the same drug it was in the 1960s, ’70s, or ’80s, much less the 1930s. It is often at least five times stronger, with the levels of the psychoactive ingredient tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, averaging about 15% in the marijuana at dispensaries found in the states that have legalized pot for “medicinal” or, in the case of Colorado, recreational use. Often the THC level is 20% or higher.

With increased THC levels come increased health risks. Since Colorado legalized recreational use earlier this year, two deaths in the state have already been linked to marijuana. In both cases it was consumed in edible form, which can result in the user taking in even more THC than when smoking pot. “One man jumped to his death after consuming a large amount of marijuana contained in a cookie,” the Associated Press reported in April, “and in the other case, a man allegedly shot and killed his wife after eating marijuana candy.” Reports are coming out of Colorado in what amounts to a parade of horribles from more intoxicated driving to more emergency hospital admissions due to marijuana exposure and overdose.

Over the past 10 years, study after study has shown the damaging effect of marijuana on the teenage brain. Northwestern School of Medicine researchers reported in the Schizophrenia Bulletin in December that teens who smoked marijuana daily for about three years showed abnormal brain-structure changes. Marijuana use has clearly been linked to teen psychosis as well as decreases in IQ and permanent brain damage.

The response of those who support legalization: Teenagers can be kept away from marijuana. Yet given the dismal record regarding age-restricted use of tobacco and alcohol, success with barring teens from using legalized marijuana would be a first.

The reason such a large number of teens use alcohol and tobacco is precisely because those are legal products. The reason more are now using marijuana is because of its changing legal status—from something that was dangerous and forbidden to a product that is now considered “medicinal,” and in the states of Colorado and Washington recreational. Until recently, the illegality of marijuana, and the stigma of lawbreaking, had kept its use below that of tobacco and alcohol.

Legality is the mother of availability, and availability, as former Health, Education and Welfare Secretary Joseph A. Califano Jr. put it in his 2008 book on substance abuse, “High Society,” is the mother of use. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, currently 2.7 million Americans age 12 and older meet the clinical criteria for marijuana dependence, or addiction.

Mark A.R. Kleiman, a professor of public policy at the University of California, Los Angeles, has estimated that legalization can be expected to increase marijuana consumption by four to six times. Today’s 2.7 million marijuana dependents (addicts) would thus expand to as many as 16.2 million with nationwide legalization. That should alarm any parent, teacher or policy maker.

There are two conversations about marijuana taking place in this country: One, we fear, is based on an obsolete perception of marijuana as a relatively harmless, low-THC product. The other takes seriously the science of the new marijuana and its effect on teens, whose adulthood will be marred by the irreversible damage to their brains when young.

Supporters of marijuana legalization insist that times are changing and policy should too. But they are the ones stuck in the past—and charting a dangerous future for too many Americans.”

Pray for our young people.  Pray for Mara, please.  They are in such need of our prayers and active protection.  We will be judged by Him on how we defended the most vulnerable, I firmly believe, and the Gospel says.

Love,
Matthew