Wednesday, March 31, 2010

WWII and the Church

A recent comment left with me has fired a few shots at the record of the Church's activities (or inactivities, according to the writer) during WWII.

He maintains that even opening up the archives to many more documents will not change the record of the Church, which he maintains was "largely inactive in the face of genocide"

I'm not certain, Mr. Wilensky, which inactivity you are referring to.

In 1937, Pope Pius XI issued a statement in German (almost unheard of to this day.  The Pope really was doing his best to make sure that his target audience heard him) called Mit Brennender Sorge which came down very hard on the Nazi Party.

The man who became Pope XII on the death of Pope Pius XI had already been speaking out against the Nazis in word and in print, as evidenced in the archives of Osservatore Romano, since the mid-1930s.

Some Jews were hidden in the Vatican itself.  Others were hidden in other Church buildings, such as Castel Gandolfo, and convents and monasteries.

"The final number of Jewish lives in whose rescue the Catholic Church had been the instrument is thus at least 700,000 souls, but in all probability it is much closer to ... 860,000." (Pinchas E. Lapide, 'Three Popes and the Jews', pp 227-228).

Rabbi Israel Anton Zolli, Chief Rabbi of Rome converted to Catholicism after the war and took the baptismal name of Eugenio,  name of Pius XII.  While his conversion may have been 'encouraged' by other events, he did express his deep appreciation for Pius XII in his memoirs.

I am, for now (as Holy Week events are picking up speed, and I have much to do) going to leave you with this interview which spells out quite a bit and refers to a book you may be interested in. 

I have no fear at all with the opening of the archives.  Heck, if contemporary New York Times could sing PXII's praises over his war efforts, and if can be declared a 'Righteous Gentile" then I'm sure it's all good.

But the Truth will bear out. 

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

More on Father Lawrence Murphy

Borrowing from Catholic

Canadian bishop defends Pope, criticizes Archbishop Weakland, New York TimesRSSFacebookMarch 30, 2010

Denouncing “attempts to personally embroil Benedict XVI in the sex abuse scandals,” Bishop Fred Henry of Calgary has written a pastoral letter in which he criticizes the inaccurate reporting of The New York Times and notes that retired Archbishop Rembert Weakland of Milwaukee “did nothing” about the notorious Father Lawrence Murphy between 1977 and 1996.
The New York Times on March 25, and parroted by other newspapers, accused Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of intervening to prevent a Wisconsin priest, Father Lawrence Murphy, from facing penalties for cases of sexual abuse of minors. The story is not even supported by the evidence of the Times,” Bishop Henry writes.
He continues:
Cardinal Ratzinger does not appear in the record as taking any decision. His office, in the person of his deputy, Archbishop (Tarcisio) Bertone, agreed that there should be a full canonical trial. When it became apparent that Father Murphy was in failing health, Archbishop Bertone suggested more expeditious means of removing him from any ministry.

Furthermore, under canon law at the time, the principal responsibility for sexual abuse cases lay with the local bishop. Archbishop (Rembert) Weakland had from 1977 onward the responsibility of administering penalties to Father Murphy. He did nothing until 1996. It was at that point that Cardinal Ratzinger's office became involved, and it subsequently did nothing to impede the local process.

In August 1998, Archbishop Weakland writes that he has halted the canonical trial and penal process against Father Murphy and has immediately begun the process to remove him from ministry. That same month, Father Murphy dies.

The New York Times flatly got the story wrong. Readers may want to speculate on why.
Source(s): these links will take you to other sites, in a new window.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Days of Darkness

Hi Folks

As I was trying to fall asleep last night, I was reflecting on current 'events' in the Church.  Maybe not so current...and maybe not really events.  Depends on who you talk to, I think.

There is another newscast, this one from Rome (as if that lends it some sort of legitimacy.  No one from Vatican 'officialdom' had any part in the clip).  More on Benedict's involvement (so they say) in the abuse scandals.  "People" are demanding transparency from the Pope.

Sure.  They will likely get it.  As a matter of fact, if they read Church sources instead of what's in the media, the light might already be dawning.  Transparency will not help.  People will not believe what does not fit into their pre-conceived least not without some sort of revelation.

One need only look at the 'case' (so they say) surrounding Pius XII's supposed non-aid toward the Jews.  SO much of what was done by the Vatican is part of the public record, and has been for years, if one really wanted to find it.  Now, the Vatican has released a pile more of their documents surrounding the time of WWII.  I will be very surprised if this quiets the chattering classes.  I will be grateful...but surprised.  There really was enough evidence already available to show the good works of Pius XII.

Jesus had the same problem.  People asked Him for miracles to prove that he was the Messiah.  They'd had plenty.  Jesus recognized that more miracles would not change their minds.

The Pope is under attack.  No question.  He needs our prayers.  Even if you're not convinced of his lack of involvement in alleged scandal cover-ups, please pray that the Truth will be borne out...and that we'll all listen.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Ecology of Salvation

Hi Folks

As today is the day during which the ecology types would have us turn off our lights for an hour and think we're doing something useful, I got thinking of something...

First, something important. Today is also the day in which Christians commemorate the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.  It is the only day in the liturgical calendar in which there are two gospels.

In the first gospel, we hear of the triumphant entrance.  The second gospel is a reading of the passion and death of Jesus.  We call this Palm, or Passion Sunday.

Why two gospels?

Catholics do not have an obligation to attend Mass where there isn't one.  On Good Friday, nowhere in the world is a Mass celebrated, yet this is the liturgy where the passion and death of Jesus is traditionally read.  For all the people who cannot attend the Good Friday liturgy, we have a reading of the passion on the preceding, obligatory Sunday.

There is a term in the Catholic world...Economy of Salvation.  Try as I might, I cannot get my head around that term.  When I hear economy, I think of money.  I'll try another run at understanding it another day.  Please do not ask me to explain!

I have invented a phrase of my own.  The Ecology of Salvation.

There is a lot of yakking going on about the environment.  Much of it makes no sense if you think about it for a minute or two.  People are, however, making a really big deal about our need to 'save the Earth'.  I probably didn't need to tell you this.

It is rare that you hear anyone talk of the need to save ourselves.  That is, to do our best to ensure that we and those we love, make it to heaven, through the grace of God.

The environment in which we subsist, here in the First World, is not really conducive to sainthood.  I probably don't need to tell you that, either.

We need to have a movement to rouse environmental awareness of those things that endanger our souls.  We need to fight soul pollution.

Let our pulpits ring!  Shout it from the rooftops!  Do not worship the Earth or the 'environment' (where that means exclusively the land on which we live, and the air that we breath).

And for Earth Hour, we must remember that instead of living in darkness, we must be children of Light.

Coming into Holy Week, I just this second thought of something else.  When was the last time you heard of fasting as a cause for good?  It makes at least as much sense as turning out the lights for an hour!

Fasting is a regular and required part of the Catholic liturgical calendar.  WE do it as a small way of reminding ourselves of Christ's sacrifice for us.

May be the green-types could take it up as a way of reducing their ecological foot print.  Yeah.  I won't hold my breath.

Jesus is the Light of the World!  Have a blessed Holy Week!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Keeping the record straight on Benedict and the crisis

Today I'm borrowing someone else's work.

I will pose a rhetorical question of my own, though.  If people are really concerned about the welfare of the victims, why is it that only the Catholic Church comes under this much scrutiny?

Have a blessed Holy Week.

Keeping the record straight on Benedict and the crisis
By John L Allen Jr

Mar 26, 2010

Intense scrutiny is being devoted these days to Pope Benedict XVI's history on the sex abuse crisis. Revelations from Germany have put his five years as a diocesan bishop under a spotlight, and a piece on Thursday in The New York Times, on the case of Fr. Lawrence Murphy of Milwaukee, also called into question his Vatican years as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Despite complaints in some quarters that all this is about wounding the pope and/or the church, raising these questions is entirely legitimate. Anyone involved in church leadership at the most senior levels for as long as Benedict XVI inevitably bears some responsibility for the present mess. My newspaper, the National Catholic Reporter, today called editorially for full disclosure [1] about the pope's record, and it now seems abundantly clear that only such transparency can resolve the hard questions facing Benedict.

Yet as always, the first casualty of any crisis is perspective. There are at least three aspects of Benedict's record on the sexual abuse crisis which are being misconstrued, or at least sloppily characterized, in today's discussion. Bringing clarity to these points is not a matter of excusing the pope, but rather of trying to understand accurately how we got where we are.

The following, therefore, are three footnotes to understanding Benedict's record on the sexual abuse crisis.

. Not the 'Point Man'

First, some media reports have suggested that then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger presided over the Vatican office with responsibility for the sex abuse crisis for almost a quarter-century, from 1981 until his election to the papacy in April 2005, and therefore that he's responsible for whatever the Vatican did or didn't do during that entire stretch of time. That's not correct.

In truth, Ratzinger did not have any direct responsibility for managing the overall Vatican response to the crisis until 2001, four years before he became pope.

Bishops were not required to send cases of priests accused of sexual abuse to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith until 2001, when they were directed to do so by Pope John Paul II's motu proprio titled Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela. Prior to that, most cases involving sex abuse never got to Rome. In the rare instance when a bishop wanted to laicize an abuser priest against his will, the canonical process involved would be handled by one of the Vatican courts, not by Ratzinger's office.

Prior to 2001, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith got involved only in the exceedingly rare instances when the sex abuse occurred in the context of the confessional, since a canonical tribunal within the congregation handled cases involving abuse of the sacrament of penance. That, for example, is how the case of Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, the founder of the Legionaries of Christ, ended up in the congregation, and it's also why officials in the Milwaukee archdiocese directed the case of Fr. Lawrence Murphy there.

One certainly can question how Ratzinger's office handled those exceptional cases, and the record seems painfully slow and ambivalent in comparison with how similar accusations would be dealt with today. Moreover, Ratzinger was a senior Vatican official from 1981 forward, and therefore he shares in the corporate failure in Rome to appreciate the magnitude of the crisis until terribly late in the game.

To suggest, however, that Ratzinger was the Vatican's "point man" on sex abuse for almost twenty-five years, and to fault him for the mishandling of every case that arose between 1981 and 2001, is misleading. Prior to 2001, Ratzinger had nothing personally to do with the vast majority of sex abuse cases, even the small percentage which wound up in Rome.

The 2001 letter
In some reporting and commentary, a May 2001 letter from Ratzinger to the bishops of the world, titled De delictis gravioribus, is being touted as a "smoking gun" proving that Ratzinger attempted to thwart reporting priestly sex abuse to the police or other civil authorities by ordering the bishops to keep it secret.

That letter indicates that certain grave crimes, including the sexual abuse of a minor, are to be referred to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and that they are "subject to the pontifical secret." The Vatican insists, however, that this secrecy applied only to the church's internal disciplinary procedures, and was not intended to prevent anyone from also reporting these cases to the police or other civil authorities. Technically they're correct, since nowhere in the 2001 letter is there any prohibition on reporting sex abuse to police or civil prosecutors.

In reality, few bishops needed a legal edict from Rome ordering them not to talk publicly about sexual abuse. That was simply the culture of the church at the time, which makes the hunt for a "smoking gun" something of a red herring right out of the gate. Fixing a culture -- one in which the Vatican, to be sure, was as complicit as anyone else, but one which was widespread and deeply rooted well beyond Rome -- is never as simple as abrogating one law and issuing another.

That aside, here's the key point about Ratzinger's 2001 letter: Far from being seen as part of the problem, at the time it was widely hailed as a watershed moment towards a solution. It marked recognition in Rome, really for the first time, of how serious the problem of sex abuse really is, and it committed the Vatican to getting directly involved. Prior to that 2001 motu proprio and Ratzinger's letter, it wasn't clear that anyone in Rome acknowledged responsibility for managing the crisis; from that moment forward, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith would play the lead role.

Beginning in 2001, Ratzinger was forced to review all the files on every priest credibly accused of sexual abuse anywhere in the world, giving him a sense of the contours of the problem that virtually no one else in the Catholic church can claim. In a recent article, I outlined the "conversion experience" Ratzinger and his staff went through after 2001. Beforehand, he came off as just another Roman cardinal in denial; after his experience of reviewing the files, he began to talk openly about the "filth" in the church, and his staff became far more energetic about prosecuting abusers.

For those who have followed the church's response to the crisis, Ratzinger's 2001 letter is therefore seen as a long overdue assumption of responsibility by the Vatican, and the beginning of a far more aggressive response. Whether that response is sufficient is, of course, a matter for fair debate, but to construe Ratzinger's 2001 letter as no more than the last gasp of old attempts at denial and cover-up misreads the record.

Canonical Trials
Ratzinger's top deputy at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on sex abuse cases, Maltese Monsignor Charles Scicluna, recently gave an interview to an Italian Catholic paper in which he said that of the more than 3,000 cases eventually referred to Rome, only 20 percent were subjected to a full canonical trial. In some reporting, including the Thursday piece in The New York Times, this figure has been cited as evidence of Vatican "inaction."

Once again, however, those who have followed the story closely have almost exactly the opposite impression.

Back in June 2002, when the American bishops first proposed a set of new canonical norms to Rome, the heart of which was the "one strike and you're out" policy, they initially wanted to avoid canonical trials altogether. Instead, they wanted to rely on a bishop's administrative power to permanently remove a priest from ministry. That's because their experience of Roman tribunals over the years was that they were often slow, cumbersome, and the outcome was rarely certain.

Most famously, bishops and experts would point to the case of Fr. Anthony Cipolla in Pittsburgh, during the time that Donald Wuerl, now the Archbishop of Washington, was the local bishop. Wuerl had removed Cipolla from ministry in 1988 following allegations of sexual abuse. Cipolla appealed to Rome, where the Apostolic Signatura, in effect the Vatican's supreme court, ordered him reinstated. Wuerl then took the case to Rome himself, and eventually prevailed. The experience left many American bishops, however, with the impression that lengthy canonical trials were not the way to handle these cases.

When the new American norms reached Rome, they ran into opposition precisely on the grounds that everyone deserves their day in court -- another instance, in the eyes of critics, of the Vatican being more concerned about the rights of abuser priests than victims. A special commission of American bishops and senior Vatican officials brokered a compromise, in which the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith would sort through the cases one-by-one and decide which ones would be sent back for full trials.

The fear at the time was that the congregation would insist on trials in almost every case, thereby dragging out the administration of justice, and closure for the victims, almost indefinitely. In the end, however, only 20 percent were sent back for trials, while for the bulk of the cases, 60 percent, bishops were authorized to take immediate administrative action, because the proof was held to be overwhelming.

The fact that only 20 percent of the cases were subjected to full canonical trial has been hailed as a belated grasp in Rome of the need for swift and sure justice, and a victory for the more aggressive American approach to the crisis. It should be noted, too, that bypassing trials has been roundly criticized by some canon lawyers and Vatican officials as a betrayal of the due process safeguards in church law.

Hence to describe that 20 percent figure as a sign of "inaction" cannot help but seem, to anyone who's been paying attention, rather ironic. In truth, handling 60 percent of the cases through the stroke of a bishop's pen has, up to now, more often been cited as evidence of exaggerated and draconian action by Ratzinger and his deputies.

Obviously, none of this is to suggest that Benedict's handling of the crisis -- in Munich, at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, or as pope -- is somehow exemplary. An accounting needs to be offered if this pope, and the church he leads, hopes to move forward. For that analysis to be constructive, however, as opposed to fueling polarization and confusion, it's important to keep the record straight.

[John Allen is NCR senior correspondent. His e-mail address is]

Friday, March 19, 2010

Approaching the Media Critically...VERY Critically

I am sharing with you this article which appeared on the Ignatius Scoop weblog.

It gives a good perspective on the current sexual scandals within the Church as well as being a lesson about critically reading (viewing, listening to) the mainstream media.

A long time ago, I developed a habit which has never steered me badly.  When I first hear something shocking in the news, particularly where it involves the Church, I completely ignore the first report.  It is rarely accurate.

Actually I cannot recall an instance where a first report about something to do with the Church has been accurate.

If what they are saying is not outright incorrect, it is only partially incorrect, or has weasel words incorporated to make the 'news' appear to say something quite different than the actual events.  Sometimes it is just that religious terminology is not understood, and no effort has been made to understand on the part of the reporter.  An example of this would be the references to "immaculate conception" that sometimes appears in media.  These references nearly always refer, usually with an implied sneer, to virgin births; like "That was no immaculate conception!".  In fact, the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception refers to the conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary...who was conceived in the usual human fashion...but the result of that conception was a being who was sinless from the very beginning of her existence.

So, here you are! Click on the Blog entry title to read the article.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Roots of Christianity

Over the past couple of months, I have been receiving emails explaining the Parsha which I understand is the weekly Sabbath reading for the Jews.

Aside from giving me more knowledge of  the Torah (the Pentateuch, the first five books in the Old Testament, often referred to in Scripture simply as "Moses"), I am being introduced to the Talmud, for which I don't think a Christian counterpart exists.  Maybe the Catholic Catechism and the Code of Canon Law, but don't quote me on that!

It is very interesting.

What is most evident to me is just how rooted in history are the liturgical practices of Christianity, at least as found in Catholicism (of which I have the most experience).  Communal study of Scripture on the Sabbath is to be made available to Jewish communities.  They are restricted from many activities. Catholics are reasonably required to attend Mass (which is a type of Scripture so much more!) on all Sundays and Days of Obligation.  They are also to refrain from unnecessary labour.  Jews have restrictions on what they may or may not eat.  Catholics are asked to fast and abstain from time to time, and the elements that go into the confection of the Eucharist, are very clearly defined.

From another source I learn that the materials to be used in Jewish worship, such as the garments the rabbi wears, are to be of the best materials.  A similar admonishment is found in Catholic liturgical documentation, as well, with regards to the materials used in the Sanctuary and during Mass

It amazes me that some are so quick to dismiss some practices of Catholicism as being wasteful, elitist, imperialistic, impractical, extravagant etc. when there is such base for these practices in Judaism, from which we sprout.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Spiritual Irresponsibility

A fellow blogger said something which inspired this entry. I am not sure if she'll recognize the relationship!

I have done a lot of work with adults in the parishes where I have attended Mass over the years. I have met some interesting and challenging (sometimes in the same person) people.

I've noticed that the Holy Spirit's name is often invoked, but not given much legitimate credit. Or I've seen enough to make me a bit suspicious when I hear someone frequently speak of the Holy Spirit.

I worked with an adult choir that nearly brought me to a nervous breakdown. The musicians (guitarists) were not well trained in music, never mind liturgy. And I don't think most of the vocalists knew what liturgical ministry was about. Or for that matter, what being in a choir was about. And some made it abundantly clear that they didn't really wish to learn.

In this group, there were some lovely people I really enjoyed working with most of the time. And there were a few who I enjoyed working with very little of the time. It was sad and scary. But it was one of the most prayerful times of my life.

In this context, I often heard that we (and usually the speaker meant ME) needed to let the Holy Spirit be in charge.

This meant: 1) That we didn't really need to practice much, as the Holy Spirit would take us through.
2) That musical training (ie. reading music) wasn't really important because it made the music less spirit-led. This translated into "We don't like your insistance on following the timing, key, etc. in which the song was written. Sometimes this even sanctioned lyric changes! It was made clear that reading music was actually a handicap to Spirit-led music.
3) That planning was unnecessary. I was called to task by someone who I know tried hard to live by the Spirit, but who was, I think, hampered by pride (and I say this without malice as pride is also my greatest challenge). I was told that I should not be scheduling music 6 weeks ahead (as was my practice, but I was never intransigent on choices) but should allow the Holy Spirit to make the choices. To this I replied that I prayed a lot over my music choices, and was the Holy Spirit incapable of working 6 weeks ahead?

The criticism was not pursued.

It irritates me greatly when people use one of our manifestations of God as an excuse for laziness, sloppiness, and poor planning!

This is not to say that the Holy Spirit cannot step in and call a change at short notice. I also know that the Holy Spirit can work far ahead of our finite knowledge.

Again in the context of choir...

Occasionally, as I sat planning the music, I would be called on to choose a piece that did not seem to have any connection with the readings or Gospel of a particular Sunday. Or a selection for one of the hymns needed would simply not come to me. Invariably, the odd choice for a given week would end up being very appropriate in that it responded to an event that had just occurred and for which I had no prior knowledge, or that it responded to something Father said or quoted in his homily.

The missing hymn also frequently allowed for a choice needed for a particular occurrence. Or it would provide the choir members a chance to choose something they wanted.

During this prayerful and challenging time, I eventually heard loud and clear that I was no longer to lead this group. It was like someone lifted a window-blind and let the light in. I do believe that the 'someone' was the Holy Spirit.

I acted immediately. It was so strange. Lent had already begun. We were planning for a Chrism Mass. It was not like me to 'just stop' doing anything. People noticed. I was sent flowers. I friend from the choir (who was well aware of what I'd been dealing with) stopped by that evening to see if I was okay. People phoned. It was as if someone had died.

But it was the right decision. Many lessons were learned. I learned that the parish did not need me quite as much as I seemed to think they did (Did I say I had pride issues?), but others learned how much I did in the parish. Over all, life went on. I had a quiet and prayerful Lent. More ora and less labora. I needed that.

I rested for a year.  Almost to the day, a year later, the same friend who knew what I'd been dealing with, and who was now in charge of liturgy preparation, called and asked if I'd form a children's choir.  I did, in fact, pray about it.  And I did it.  It was wonderful.

When we speak of following the Holy Spirit, we must make sure it is, in fact, the Holy Spirit we're listening to, and not a baser or even evil source for our "inspiration"

Friday, March 05, 2010


Hi Folks

I haven't been around much. I see it was St. Valentine's feast last time I wrote. So much has happened.

I do not know if God sees me as dissolute or what, but every Lent seems to come as a kit...ready made with Lenten sacrifices.

This year, a large part of my sacrifice seems to be driving. I don't really like driving, and as I deal with Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue I find driving very tiring...even when I'm a passenger. As the driver, it's worse. Especially at night.

In some ways I'm better than I used to be. Larger centres no longer terrify me, although driving through Montreal or Toronto is not anything I would look forward to. Having a newer car has really helped my confidence.

Confidence is a good thing. I never thought I would be driving so much. And the rush started on Ash Wednesday, wouldn't you know!

I have made so many trips into our nearest Big City in the past three weeks. For family's health issues... And it's not over yet. I even have one day where two people have appointments in two different cities! And the appointments can't really be changed due to the nature of the conditions. Fortunately, the timings are such that meeting both appointments is physically possible...but what a day it will be!

It doesn't look like it's going to settle down until...well...just before Palm Sunday. Imagine that.

In the midst of this, God has chosen to answer a heartfelt prayer I've been working on for months. A very good thing, but change is stressful...and I don't 'do' stress well. I keep trying...

So, offering all this up seems like a natural thing to do. But I can't really say I CHOSE it!

If you can send up a prayer for us, I'd really appreciate it!