Category Archives: Protection of Youth

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

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-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

teen sexting & custodia occulorum, “custody of the eyes”

Teens_lovers

“Christian, remember your dignity, and the price which was paid to purchase your salvation!” -cf Pope St Leo the GreatSermo 22 in nat. Dom., 3:PL 54,192C.

“Christian, recognize your dignity and, now that you share in God’s own nature, do not return to your former base condition by sinning. Remember Who is your head and of Whose body you are a member. Never forget that you have been rescued from the power of darkness and brought into the light of the Kingdom of God.” -CCC 1691, St. Leo the Great, Sermo 22 in nat. Dom., 3:PL 54,192C.

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-by Sam Guzman, “The Catholic Gentleman”, from http://www.catholicgentleman.net/2014/06/custody-of-the-eyes-what-it-is-and-how-to-practice-it/

“Oh! how many are lost by indulging their sight!  St. Alphonsus de Liguori

Mk 9:47-48, Lk 11:34-36

WHAT IS IT

At its most basic level, custody of the eyes simply means controlling what you allow yourself to see. It means guarding your sense of sight carefully, realizing that what you view will leave an indelible mark on your soul.

Many of the saints, in their zeal for purity, would never look anyone in the face. “To avoid the sight of dangerous objects, the saints were accustomed to keep their eyes almost continually fixed on the earth, and to abstain even from looking at innocent objects,” says St. Alphonsus de Liguori.

Now, staring at the floor at all times is a bit extreme for most of us, but it does demonstrate the seriousness with which the saints viewed the importance of purity. They teach us that is simply impossible to allow hundreds of immodest images into our minds, however innocently, and remain pure.

Of course, to the modern mind, this guarding of the eyes is rather quaint and even ridiculous. How prudish, many would think, to think that we should exercise any control over what we see. And yet, if we care about our souls, we have no other option.

HOW TO PRACTICE IT

The best place to begin practicing custody of the eyes is in the things which we can control, such as movies, magazines, or television shows. If your favorite TV show has a sex scene every 5 minutes, you need to cut it out of your life. It’s not worth the temptation. In short, don’t consume things that are occasions of sin. Carelessly putting yourself in spiritual danger in this way is a grave sin itself, so take it seriously.

It’s actually rather easy to edit what you consume. But what about the things we can’t control, such as the immodestly dressed person walking past you? This takes far more prayer-fueled discipline and practice. That said, here are some suggestions.

First, if you’re struggling with the way someone else is dressed, immediately look elsewhere, perhaps their face. I don’t care how beautiful anyone is, it is essentially impossible to lust after someone’s face. The face is the icon of each person’s humanity, and it is far easier to respect a person’s dignity when you’re looking at their face and not her body.

Second, it may just be appropriate to stare at the floor sometimes, especially if there’s no other way to avoid temptation. This doesn’t have to be the norm, but if the situation warrants it, it is foolish not to do so. (Ed. better to appear foolish, or daft, in the eyes of man, than guilty before the eyes of Jesus at our particular judgment.)

Third, avoid places you know are especially problematic for you. For most, the beach can be a problem. Dozens of people in tiny bikinis is just too much. If that’s the case for you, avoid the beach.

Finally, fast and pray. This should go without saying, and yet I am always amazed that people think they can control themselves without God’s help.  (Ed. Grace.  It’s ALL ABOUT GRACE!!!!  Jn 15:5)  It simply isn’t possible. (Ed.  PRAY!!!!  And it will be given to you!  I promise! Mt 7:7-8) We always need grace in the battle against concupiscence, and if we trust in ourselves and our own willpower, we will do nothing but fail.  (Ed.  We are powerless.  He is ALL-POWERFUL!!!)

CONCLUSION

Yes, temptation is everywhere, but we are not helpless victims. (Ed.  We have THE GREATEST ALLY in our battle with sin!!!  We do!!!  We do!!!  Praise Him, Church!!!  Praise Him!!!)  We must take the need for purity seriously, and that means guarding carefully what we allow ourselves to see. Through prayer, fasting, and practice, we can learn to take control of our eyes and avoid temptation. This isn’t quaint and archaic—it’s basic to spiritual survival.

Let us call upon our most pure Lady and her chaste husband St. Joseph, begging their intercession for our purity.”

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Male saints holding lilies symbolize their purity of life, St Joseph, Most Chaste Spouse, pray for us!!!!

“It is a common doctrine of the Saints that one of the principal means of leading a good and exemplary life is modesty and custody of the eyes. For, as there is nothing so adapted to preserve devotion in a soul, and to cause compunction and edification in others, as this modesty, so there is nothing which so much exposes a person to relaxation and scandals as its opposite.”—-St. Alphonsus Rodriguez

Love,
Matthew

Reducing Faith in Jesus Christ & His Church to a business transaction

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http://ncronline.org/news/accountability/cardinal-george-pell-s-trucking-company-analogy-outrages-sex-abuse-survivors

Cardinal George Pell, a member of Pope Francis’ advisory Council of Cardinals, former archbishop of Sydney, has an interesting perspective. Pell gave video testimony from the Vatican to an Australian government inquiry looking into responses to child sex abuse by the Catholic Church and other institutions.

Using a hypothetical example, Pell said the church was no more responsible for cases of child abuse carried out by church figures than a trucking company would be if it employed a driver who molested women.

“It would not be appropriate, because it’s contrary to the policy, for the ownership, leadership of that company to be held responsible,” Pell told the inquiry. “Similarly with the church and the head of any other organization.”

“It is, I think, not appropriate for legal culpability to be foisted on the authority figure.”

“He shows that he really has absolutely no conception of what is appropriate or inappropriate behavior and what are appropriate or inappropriate things to say to survivors,” said SNAP’s Nicky Davis, who attended the inquiry in Melbourne, Australia.

Victims were also outraged by the Vatican’s refusal to hand over files requested by the Australian inquiry since the pope has signaled a tougher approach to fighting clerical sexual abuse and established a Vatican committee that includes Irish abuse survivor Marie Collins.

Out-of-touch is too kind a description.

Prayer of a Survivor of Childhood Sexual Abuse

I just want to crawl into a hole and die….
but maybe if I just pray….
I’ll come out alive?
Its so hard to hold the child I was….
with her innocence lost.
Jesus, hold me for a while….
never let me go.
If I wasnt in so many pieces,
maybe Jesus could save me….
He could hold me and I wouldn’t crumble.

Love,
Matthew

SNAP Conference 2014 – Grandson of Billy Graham

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I have been involved with SNAP since 2007.  There are things in life we wish we could forget.  We wish we didn’t know.  That has been my experience with SNAP.  If anyone should, no one has, ask me how to get involved to support survivors of clerical sexual abuse, my first and only question would be, “How strong is your faith?”, never implying mine is.

And now I hear from survivors I am personal friends with that they are unwelcome, a more accurate term is “banned”, from worshiping in certain Catholic churches.  They have made no public statements in approaching these places of worship, they have merely been upfront with the pastor or diocese as to their identity, and been reticent in disclosing such to other than said pastor, and been told they are unwelcome.

Scandal within a scandal within a scandal.  WWJD?  1)  The sexual assault of children 2) The cover up and deception and endangerment of additional Catholic families 3) The un-Christian response of bishops and dioceses 4) The re-victimization of survivors by 2-3 and the above lack of Christian charity, welcome and hospitality.

I, too, have had my options limited of service to the Church in my faithfulness of support to survivors of abuse.  I am only too eager to join survivors in being banned from Catholic property.  I do, because I know that is where He will be, and I want to be with Him, no matter what.  His will be done.  His Kingdom come, on earth, as it is in Heaven.  And, it will.  I pray for the salvation of perpetrators and enablers as I do for my own.

Kelly and I are monthly contributors to SNAP.  Barbara Blaine, founder and survivor herself, and I are dear personal friends.  She blows me a kiss or gives me a hug when she sees me.

-delivered by Basyle “Boz” Tchividjian, founder & Executive Director of GRACE

(You may listen to the audio here.)

“Good morning.  I want to start off reading something that many of you may be familiar with.

‘A man fell victim to robbers as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho. They stripped and beat him and went off leaving him half-dead.

A priest happened to be going down that road, but when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side.

Likewise a Levite came to the place, and when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side.

But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him was moved with compassion at the sight.

He approached the victim, poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them. Then he lifted him up on his own animal, took him to an inn and cared for him.

The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper with the instruction, ‘Take care of him. If you spend more than what I have given you, I shall repay you on my way back.’
Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?’

He answered, ‘The one who treated him with mercy.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’ -Lk 10:30-37

As most of you in this room know, this morning, there’s a very dark and desolate place in this world. A place where a multitude of hurting and traumatized souls lay on the side of the road alone, a few still holding out hope that someone, anyone will stop. While most others have long since given up. See, this is a side of the road where precious children wake up each morning fearing that they will be once again sexually violated by an adult they have been taught to trust and obey, an adult that is supposed to love and protect them. This is the side of the road where children live in fear each night about what will happen when the lights go off.

This is the side of the road where the lives and souls of children are eviscerated by those in power who profess Jesus, as they betray and violate his little ones. This is a side of the road where the church ignores the painful cries of these victims while embracing their perpetrators as trusted leaders and model Christians. This is the side of the road where adult survivors are marginalized and allowed to drown in their hopelessness by the very church that is called to pursue and embrace them in love and charity. This is the side of the road where the unique and beautiful lives of those who are made in image of God are left to die.

See this dark and desolate place is inside the church and many may even say is the church. When I say church this morning I come to you as a Presbyterian. So when I say church this morning I mean Christendom, and I can tell you from somebody who’s grown up as a Protestant, child sexual abuse within the Protestant church is rampant, and largely to this day unrecognized, but that is changing, and I’m grateful for that. You see, this is a church, a place that all too often betrays and abuses children while telling the world how much it values and love God’s little ones.

It’s a church that shames survivors into deathly silence as it walks by making pious excuses for not crossing the road to welcome and care for those who’ve been left alone. It’s a place that exploits power and authority to silence the hurting.  It’s a place that claims to be the bride of Jesus, but doesn’t even know what He looks like. I’ve met some of these amazing souls and have the distinct honor of calling many of you my friends.

You’ve shared with me the horrors of being violated by those you trusted and the deep indescribable pains of living alone on the side of the road as you are marginalized, shamed, and ignored by family, friends and the very faith community that have eviscerated your body and your soul.

See, I grew up thinking that the purpose of the church is to reflect hope, joy, self-worth, peace, love, life; that’s what I learned. I’m the grandson of Billy Graham and that’s the world from which I come, and to his credit that is the church he showed to me.

But instead what I’ve learned is that it’s a place that has brutally robbed so many of those very treasures. Instead of reflecting Jesus, the church is too often reflected nothing but a cold, dark abyss.

Some amazing survivors have shared with me things like this and many of which would be very similar to some of the amazing people in this room this morning. One told me:  “Because of my abuse on the mission field, I absolutely despise anyone who calls themselves a Christian.”

Another told me:  “At age 13, I was so disillusioned with Christianity that I preferred to be in hell, I was committed to following Satan. I saw the native people worshiping the devil, and they were getting what they needed from their religion.” Most recently, somebody wrote me and said, “So I don’t understand how he, the perpetrator, is so righteous and how everyone is standing strongly with him to defend him, to defend his ministry. They see him as under attack, just because I finally spoke.  He is righteous and I’m tainted, they see me as evil, I’m scared mostly because I’m not always sure what is true. Does God see me the way they do? Is God against me? Is he angry that I can’t forget? Is he angry that I haven’t forgiven in some ways that hasn’t allowed me to forget? I don’t want to be broken anymore.”

Any institution that is responsible for such horrors and then fails to accept its complete responsibility, grieve at the indescribable pain it has caused, and then demonstrate authentic repentance; demonstrate, not just by empty words, is rotting at the core.

I have a friend of mine who is a Christian and he writes these…I guess he calls them poems. I’m not sure if they’re really poems, but they are pretty good, and he…I took a part of his poem out the other night that says, this, and it is so true, he says, “Like let’s dress up the outside make it look nice and neat.  But it’s funny, that’s what they do – that’s what they used to do to mummies while the corpse’s rot underneath.”

See, I grieve that much of the church is asleep, and doesn’t even realize it.  I grieve that it’s so far – hard to find Jesus in the midst of all of this.  For too many people inside the church it is always Winter, but never Christmas. As a follower of Jesus, I have struggled with how to understand and respond to this appalling darkness and pain, perpetrated by individuals and institutions that profess to love and follow the same Jesus that I do? How do I respond? How do I respond to the beautiful individuals who have been so broken by those who profess Jesus? How do I respond to survivors who get up each day, struggling with trauma, shame, self-worth, abandonment, and a lifetime of processing abuse?

How do I respond when the vulnerable have been overwhelmed by the darkness and kicked to the side of the road? How do I respond when the church is often the one doing the kicking? Interestingly enough, the parable of the Good Samaritan is beginning to help me process these painful questions with a little bit of hope. See it’s a parable about the most unlikely persons who move towards the hurting in order to get down into the dirt with them and bring hope by helping to lift him up and begin healing.

It’s about authentic compassion.  A compassion, whereby we are so moved and overwhelmed by the distress of another that their distress and pain is as if it is our very own. It is about a compassion that overrides all fear and risk and is fueled by love, time and time again, the story points me to God.  Not the God of the self-righteous and the self-important, nor the God of those who use his name to exploit and destroyed vulnerable in order to seize and protect power. And not the God of those in the church who are so busy doing religious stuff that they don’t even have time for those who are lying on the side of the road.

No, that’s not the God I’m talking about. This parable and God’s kindness, this parable has pointed me to a much different God. A God whose very character helps me as I spend my days and nights swimming in Christian cesspools, confronting abuse and searching for those who are drowning.

Let me give you an example. Just a few examples of what I mean. The parable is helping me to get to know a God that is not silent, a God who is not silent when confronted by evil regardless of the un-ultimate consequence.

I cannot be silent when I am confronted by the evil of child abuse, (Ed: me either!) regardless of where it happens, who commits it or the consequences that I may face when I confront it. I’m getting to know a God that pursues hurting people. This beautiful truth encourages me to pursue those around me who are hurting and have lost all hope, as a result of the abuse they have suffered inside and outside of the church. See, as you well know too many survivors lying on the side of the road has never even been noticed, let alone pursued by the church.

I’m getting to know a God, who is safe, not only does He pursue us, but He’s approachable because He’s safe. Oh His people so often times, or at least those who profess to be his people, are not safe. But the God that I’m getting to know is – don’t we see this in the life of Jesus? Remember the story in the gospel where the little children want to come and talk to Jesus and Jesus, he’s preaching. The God of the universe is preaching and these kids wanna come up and talk and sit around and probably goof off and probably don’t really care about what He’s saying.

And who was it that pushed the children away? It was those who’ve spent their days and nights with Jesus. It was the holy guys, the guys who were with Jesus all of the time. They were the ones that push the kids away and who spoke up about this travesty, nobody except Jesus. There was a silence and Jesus when he spoke up – I have some friends who would know a lot more translation than I do. What they said He, you know, in a very crossway Jesus really was pissed off. I mean like the words in the Bible don’t really explain it, that well, but He was just pissed.

Now think about this – think about this at that time in history children were valued just a bit over a slave and Jesus is pissed at His disciples because they’re getting in the way. Because Jesus was speaking great truths and they all wanted to listen and these little precious ones made in the image of God simply wanted to be with Him. See that is an approachable God. That is a God that I’m getting to know who is safe. So many of our faith communities are not safe places for survivors.

Many survivors are forced into silence because they don’t feel safe with those who may be closest to them. You know that more than I do.  Responses such as why can’t you just forgive and move on? Are often no less traumatizing than the very abuse itself. See unsafe churches are abusive churches. I’m getting to know a God who treasures transparency and healthy vulnerability. You see, as a Christian I believe that God did his most powerful work when he was vulnerable and transparent.

He was lying naked – hanging naked on a cross. The God of the universe that doesn’t make sense to me to be honest with you, it’s so upside down. It’s so not the way we think, is it? The God of the universe would expose himself and be vulnerable to the point of death. But that’s what changed, in my belief, the course of history. See this truth frees me to be transparent and vulnerable with those who have lost all hope. It frees me to weep with those who weep. To get angry and pissed off with those who are angry and pissed off.

But I’m afraid not many churches and Christian institutions understand this fundamental truth because what all too often happens with an institution, as you all well know, instead of embracing transparency and for vulnerability, which is the character of the very God in which they claim to worship. They protect themselves; they protect themselves by sacrificing individuals. That’s exactly the opposite of what God did because God sacrificed Himself for individual souls.

But too often today our institutions are sacrificing individual’s souls themselves. It’s backward people. It’s not – it is not Christianity. It is not. I’m also getting to know a God who doesn’t let go. His love for each of us is forever. He doesn’t let go. Even when I don’t even think He’s around He’s still holding onto me. And this may be difficult for some of you to hear, but I’ll be just brave enough to say he’s still holding onto you. You may wonder where He is. I wonder that often, but He is.

See one of the great tragedies of the church is that it’s always letting go, especially those who are hurting the most. That’s not Jesus. Yes, the God I’m getting to know treasures the rejected, the marginalized and the ignored. He crosses the road and gets down into the dirt with the hurting and brutalized. The God that I’m getting to know is so overwhelmed by the distress of others that their pain becomes His own. He’s a God whose very essence is light. In the Bible there is a verse that says, “The light shines in darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” -Jn 1:5

As a Christian I hold tightly to that verse. So where is this God of light? There many days I wake up, and think, “Where are You? You say you’re a God of light, where are You?” And then He gently and sometimes not so gently lets me know that the God that I’m getting to know is reflected in the faces of so many who are sitting here today and outside of this room who are spending their lives crossing roads and getting into the dirt with those who can’t move and have given up hope. Whether you realize it or not, each time you cross the road you’re carrying light into darkness.  A darkness that is slowly being defeated.

Aren’t we witnessing this beautiful light as we hear the voices of so many amazing everyday people stepping forward, refusing to be silent any longer? Aren’t we witnessing this beautiful light through the lives of those who are speaking on behalf of survivors whose voices are simply tired? Aren’t we witnessing this beautiful light as more and more brave souls are calling Christian leaders to repentance and demanding them to turn down the volume of their own voices? So they can hear the suffering cries of others. Aren’t we witnessing this beautiful light in organizations like this who helped shine light into the very dark places?

I believe this person was Catholic, but I’m not sure Knuin? – Knowen?, no one ever heard of him – okay and I don’t know really much about him, so if – so he may be somebody that none of us will like. But I – but I don’t know, but I do like this quote, he says, “Though do not deny the darkness they choose not to live in it. They claim that the light that shines in the darkness can be trusted more than the darkness itself, and that a little bit of light can dispel a lot of darkness. They point each other to flashes of light here and there and remind each other that they reveal the hidden but real presence of God”

See, I realize that we’re all on a long journey as the death of darkness is very slow. I also realize that many of us are simply tired. On those days I simply want to quit, I’m reminded that I’m not alone in this journey. In fact I walk this journey alongside some of those most amazing heroes ever to walk the face of the earth. Heroes, who cross the road and get down into the dirt and lift me up to press forward for another day. On one of those days when I simply couldn’t go any further I received a precious thought from one of these heroes. One of these flashes of light, who said thank you from all of us who have been languished by the road, bloody, beaten and robbed and watched the Levi’s and the Pharisees just walk on by.

Each of you in this room are a beautiful flash of light, who reveal the hidden but real presence of God. A God who does deeply care and He will never give up. Such a God, quite frankly, for me, gives me great hope that one day the darkness will die and our long journey will come to an end. But until that day I have the privilege, I have the great privilege of pressing forward alongside each one of you carrying light as we search for roads to cross. Thank you very much.

Not many in the Protestant world, and this is not a very accurate statement, but – but you know, I think we’re like 20 years behind the Catholic world in dealing with this issue.”

Love,
Matthew

Jul 7, 2014 – Pope Francis Begs Forgiveness for Church, Calls Abuse “Satanic”

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by CLAUDIO LAVANGA & CASSANDRA VINOGRAD

ROME – Pope Francis begged forgiveness for the Church on Monday and cited the need for “reparation” as he met with victims who had suffered at the hands of Roman Catholic priests.

The pontiff invited six victims of abuse from Ireland, Germany and Britain to attend an early-morning private Mass at the Domus Sanctae Marthae, the residence next to St. Peter’s Basilica where he lives.

Francis called the abuse a “grave sin” decrying how it was hidden for “so much time” and “camouflaged with a complicity that cannot be explained.”

“I ask for the grace to weep, the grace for the Church to weep and make reparation for her sons and daughters who betrayed their mission, who abused innocent persons,” the pope said in his homily. “I beg your forgiveness, too, for the sins of omission on the part of Church leaders who did not respond adequately to reports of abuse.”

“Sins of clerical sexual abuse against minors have a toxic effect on faith and hope in God”

He said abusive priests’ actions “profane the very image of God” and are “more than despicable.”

“It is like a sacrilegious cult, because these boys and girls had been entrusted to the priestly charism in order to be brought to God,” the pontiff added.

Francis strongly praised the victims’ courage in speaking up and shedding “light on a terrible darkness,” telling the mass he is deeply aware of their deep and unrelenting pain.

“Sins of clerical sexual abuse against minors have a toxic effect on faith and hope in God,” he said, adding that the victims’ willingness to come to the Vatican “speaks of the miracle of hope, which prevails against the deepest darkness.”

The pope gave his strongest response yet, saying “sexual abuse is such an ugly crime … it is like a satanic mass”, and calling for “zero tolerance” for anyone in the Church who abused children, including bishops.

The pope then met privately with the victims, spending at least half an hour with each. While Francis’ predecessor met with abuse victims several times during his pontificate, this was the first time a pope had received victims inside the Vatican.

The meeting was first announced by the pope on his flight back from a visit to the Holy Land, when Francis noted called child sex abuse “very serious” and “like celebrating a satanic mass.”

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi defended the pope, saying critics don’t understand the pontiff’s “positive intentions.”

“If you look at the time the pope dedicated to them, and their emotional reaction, it’s clear this was not a public relations event. It was a profound encounter between a pastor and a person he loves and tries to understand deeply,” Lombardi said. “I witnessed the profound gratitude they expressed to the Holy Father for the chance he gave them to speak about their experience.”

Since his election last year, the pope has pledged that the Vatican – accused of not doing enough to bring abusers to justice and to protect victims – will introduce a “zero tolerance” policy against crimes against children of a sexual nature.

At the end of 2013, he overhauled Vatican law and broadened the definition on child abuse to include sexual acts with children, child prostitution and child pornography, making them punishable by up to 12 years in prison.

Shortly after, he set up a panel of experts to advise him on ways to better tackle the widespread problem. Among them, the Irish abuse victim Marie Collins, and U.S. Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston, who has a lengthy track record of cleaning up dioceses shattered by child sex abuse.

He reiterated his pledge to stamp out the scourge on Monday, saying that all bishops must carry out their ministry with “the utmost care” to protect minors.

“They will be held accountable,” he added.

Letter from a Survivor of Clergy Sexual Abuse

March 30, 2009

(handwritten)
Dear Matt,

Thank you so much for your words of encouragement, and for the beautiful crucifix. The crucifix is just the right size to fit in the palm of my hand and that’s how I fall asleep at night, holding on tight to it.

And, congratulations on your (new) daughter. I didn’t even know you were expecting a baby. It warms my heart to know that your new baby girl has parents who will not only love and provide for her, but will also teach her the things she needs to know to keep herself safe from sexual predators.

You truly are a leader and a warrior in God’s army. I saw that in the first VOTF meeting I attended. Keeping kids safe from sexual predators is a fight, but it’s a GOOD fight! As in 1 Tim 6:12, “Fight the good fight of faith!”

When I am well again (Ed: this person suffers from debilitating, chronic, clinical depression, and this often causes absences for periods time) I will be rejoining in that fight. My depression is just part of the collateral damage of what was done to me as a kid. But, I’ll come out of it. I always do.

Finally, I want to thank you for keeping keeping me in your prayers. That means MORE to me than you know. In my state of mind, it is REALLY hard to pray, so to know that you have me “covered” in prayer really helps.

All the best to your wife and your precious baby girl. And know that when I CAN pray, I’ll be keeping you in the MY prayers.

In His Love,
(A Survivor of Clergy Sexual Abuse)

Jan 22 – Bl Laura Vicuna, (1891-1904), Martyr, Patronness Against Incest & Sexual Abuse

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Laura was the first child born on April 5, 1891 to Senora Mercedes Pino and Jose Domingo Vicuna, a soldier who belonged to a noble Chilean family. A civil war broke out and Senor Vicuna had to flee his country. A few days after the birth of the second child Julia Amanda, Senor Vicuna, worn out physically and mentally, died, leaving his wife and children alone.

Seeing that she could not survive, Mercedes decided to leave the country.  She finally found work at a large “hacienda” owned by Senor Manuel Mora.  He was a typical Argentine “gaucho”, a dreamy Latin lover and a shady character.  Senora Mercedes let herself be won over by his promises of help, and accepted his protection.  His financial support would allow her to enroll her two girls as pupils in the Salesian Sisters’ school in Junin, but at what price!Laura was very happy living under the serene guidance of the young missionary Sisters.  She discovered God, His love, and allowed herself to be surrounded by it.  God’s love stimulated her to love in return.  Thus Laura made herself all to all, helping them in any way she could.  She was a leader and everyone’s friend.Laura accepted God’s love.  Laura was fascinated by the ideal of the Sisters and secretly hoped to consecrate herself to God in the service of her brothers and sisters. “I wish Mamma would know you better and be happy”, she often prayed before the tabernacle.Laura was distressed about her mother’s situation with Senor Mora; her mother was indeed far away from God and Senor Mora was the cause.The struggle for living and providing for her daughters had wearied her. In a moment of stress and discouragement, she had given in to his sexual demands.Twice, while home from school, Mora had beaten Laura.  She had fend off his sexual advances toward her, too. Once Mora caught her and beat her unconscious.  She was finally forced to flee the house to avoid him.  She was only just over ten.  He stopped paying for her school, but the Salesian sisters stepped in and gave her a scholarship.  Laura would do her best to give her mamma God’s friendship once again.Love is stronger than death, love creates and maintains life.  Deeply believing this, Laura said to the Lord: “I offer you my life for that of my mother”.

The winter of 1903 at Junin was extremely severe, with persistent rain and dampness. Laura became weaker with each passing day; she was wasting away with pulmonary tuberculosis. Although her mother took her home to Quilquihue where the climate was more pleasant and helpful, there was no improvement in her health.Laura knew she would not recover.  God had accepted her offering-her self-immolation.  Senora Mercedes remained day and night at her bedside, surrounding her with every care and attention.  Laura kept looking at her tenderly.  Now it was time to reveal her secret. “Mamma, I’m dying, but I’m happy to offer my life for you. I asked Our Lord for this”. Senora Mercedes was appalled.  She fell on her knees sobbing.  She understood everything in a flash. “Laura, my daughter, please forgive me…O dear God, please forgive my life of sin… Yes, I will start again.”

Blessed Laura Vicuna 1
“Suffer silently, and smile always!” –Bl Laura Vicuna

Blessed Laura Vicuna, pray for us.
Pray for those most abandoned and alone.
Pray especially for those children who are victims of sexual abuse, violence, and neglect.
Pray for those survivors who continue to suffer and mourn.  Amen.

Love,
Matthew

St Joseph, Terror of Demons, pray for us!

Cuzco School St Joseph

-Cuzco School, Peru, “Saint Joseph and the Christ Child”, late 17th-18th century. Oil on canvas, 43 x 32 1/8in. (109.2 x 81.6cm), Brooklyn Museum

In the Litany of St Joseph, one the titles of honor given to him is Terror of Demons.  Due to his unshakeable faith, his assiduous perseverance, his admirable purity and his exceptional humility, and given the nobility and grandeur of his vocation – the protection, sustenance and care of the Blessed Mother and Our Lord Jesus Christ, as head of the Holy Family – we can expect that God also endowed him with an equally proportional grace to carry out such a lofty mission in life. And certainly we can picture him as a sublime icon of manliness and a pillar of strength that would sow terrible fear among the powers of darkness given his noble task.  Would God allow/accept anything less for the earthly foster-father of His Son?

In Catholic iconography, St Joseph is pictured holding a staff from which a white lily grows.  This is due to Catholic hagiography which states from reliable, albeit non-scriptural, sources near to the period, when the holy priest Simeon gathered all the young men of Jerusalem from the house of David at the temple to choose who would be the rightful spouse of Our Lady, he was inspired by God to give each man a dry rod. After a period of prayer asking for the manifestation of the Divine Will, pure white lilies – the symbol of purity – blossomed from St. Joseph’s staff and a white dove, most pure and brilliant, hovered over his head giving Simeon the sign that he was the chosen one.

Hence, St. Joseph is the epitome of a pure man: pure in thought, pure in heart; pure in body and soul – destined to be the most chaste spouse of Mary Most Holy conceived without sin. In face of such sublime purity and holiness, it would not be farfetched to believe that the ugly, filthy infernal spirits would cower in petrified fear in his presence.

I have a special intention I am entrusting to St Joseph, in addition to so much I have already entrusted to him.  Pray for me!  St Joseph, Terror of Demons, pray for us!

Love,
Matthew