John Waring on Francis

 The original sin, as
it were, of the Catholic Church is clericalism, the belief among the ordained
that they are the Church. Thus the bishops bend over backwards to protect
members of the priestly caste, and ignore their Christian duty to protect the
young and vulnerable. I would like to remind the ordained, should any be
reading this thread, that one of the greatest saints in Christendom remained a
member of the laity. St. Francis of Assisi was never ordained. In the early
Church the honorific, Father, was unknown. The presbyter was called
"brother". The older I get the more drawn to Francis I become. The
idea that once you possess Jesus Christ you have everything and need little
else, and that therefore you can live as an itinerant beggar appeals to me more
and more. I think the hierarchy should don their penitential robes, go to
Assisi, and beg God for the charism of St. Francis. He and St. Dominic saved
the Medieval Church. He certainly can save the modern one. I would like to
correct the errant nonsense about celibacy that has crept into several
comments. As Brother Patrick Ellis, former president of La Salle University and
Catholic U famously said, you choose celibacy in order to be free. In his
opinion, to be celibate was to be utterly free. A rare gift from God, to be
sure, but a magnificent one nonetheless. If you can begin to understand St.
Francis you can begin to understand the idea of celibacy as freedom. Whatever the
twisted reasons for adult men and women to abuse the vulnerable under their
care, celibacy as the cause is completely beside the point. Only the incredibly
strong can truly embrace celibacy. In my opinion this whole mess is the result
of the failure to reform. One of the great documents of Vatican II is the one
on the role of the laity in the Church. The men in the Roman collars need to
dust that one off and take it seriously. It is past time to fundamentally
change the structure of authority and of pratice, that is, the goverance of the
Church. Truly bring in the people of God, plenty of Pope John's sunshine and
fresh air, and end the Church as clerical caste.   John Waring

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22 Responses to John Waring on Francis

  1. walrus says:

    The crypt at Assisi with the central pillar broken open and the coffin dimly illuminated, is the most moving place of worship I know of on earth. You can feel the goodness of the man.
    ..And I ain’t even Catholic.

  2. Mike Rush says:

    Your piece is superb; so much is being written about this catastrophe that a clear shot of the truth seems surprising.
    The crisis is deeper than most see: Benedict is an old man under great stress, his death or resignation would bring us to the abyss–choose another old bishop who has acted exactly as Benedict did or go a new way. We are close to that day.
    Mike Rush
    La Quinta, Ca.

  3. Mark Gaughan says:

    “I would like to correct the errant nonsense about celibacy that has crept into several comments.”
    It’s not errant nonsense. The problem for many priests is that they take that vow before they’re ready to live celibate lives. It doesn’t make them free. It makes them repressed. You see the results.

  4. Brien J Miller says:

    Sadly, the hierarchical catholic church has been fighting a vicious defense in depth against such advances ever since the close of Vatican II in 1965- in a sense, it is the church’s version of the Soviet reaction to the “Prague Spring,” only in slow motion. This church is deeply rooted in an ancient structure that began by embracing the presbyter role of the committed laity (the community) and vesting it in a roman-inspired structure that places order and hierarchy first among all else. Little more is need to understand this than the notion that there are two churches- the magisterium, the “teaching” church (read “the leaders”), and those who are not the magisterium; oft referred to as the learning church (read “the followers).
    For those unfamiliar: In the Catholic Church “Magisterium” refers to the teaching authority of the Church embodied in the episcopacy, which is comprised of it’s current bishops under the authority of the Bishop of Rome (the Pope). But this is not just the authority over “teaching” but ownership over the doctrine and Catholic doctrine is clear on this point, the Magisterium interprets the truths of the Faith, sometimes infallibly, and then teaches this to the laity. As it is noted “The task of interpreting the Word of God authentically has been entrusted solely to the Magisterium of the Church, that is, to the Pope and to the bishops in communion with him.”[ Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd ed. 1997, pt. 1, sect. 1, ch. 2, art. 2, III [#100]. Anything that threatens this structure will be doggedly fought- see how even today they circle the wagons at the merest probe of their outer defenses- to their detriment for sure, but their reaction is clear to see.
    While I wholly agree as to what is needed; I fear that great strides have been made by the church structure in defraying, delaying, and decaying the initiatives of Vatican II where those initiatives would cause to decline any aspect of the magisterium. While the real Prague Spring was crushed in relatively short order, it’s taken the conservatives in the hierarchy a longer time to denude the potencies of Vatican II, yet this they have done with perhaps even more telling effect than the tanks of 1968 had on Prague.
    Thus, perhaps only a dramatic revolution of a type not yet foreseen will shift this ancient fortress of dogma to the fundamentals of St. Francis. But I hold out little hope; this is, as noted prior, an ancient institution; it thinks long terms perhaps on the same scale as the Chinese; they see the troubles of their world as but a passing burden. They hope it will pass: Sic Transit molestiae mundi- deo volente.

  5. Bart says:

    “Whatever the twisted reasons for adult men and women to abuse the vulnerable under their care, celibacy as the cause is completely beside the point. Only the incredibly strong can truly embrace celibacy.”
    I sense a contradiction in there.

  6. JLCG says:

    Saint Francis is a good example of Christianity but his foundation the Friar Minor rapidly sank into the affairs of the world. Check the number of reformed Franciscans,even the Benedictines sink regularly into arrogance, wealth display. Check on the number of reformed Benedictines. The remote and fundamental problem of the Church is Original Sin the proximate is the opening of the windows to the world where the miasmas were thicker than within. When the NYTimes was cheering for the progressive Council you knew that nothing good would come out of it. Xavier Rynne in jesuitical form derided sub rosa the traditions of the Catholic Church and he was cheered. The Church, that is through homilies, practically eliminated the notion of sin, Everything became a disease for whose cure there was a psychologist at hand. God was transformed into an empty Love, lacking any content. Nobody seemed to remember the epigraph in Anna Karenina “justice is mine I shall repay”. Now we are repaying the Jacobin absurdities that flowed from Vatican II. Do you remember when the French bishops declared that birth control was simply a disorder against what Paul VI had recently declared? The Church has existed and will continue to exist because Christ said that the gates of hell will not prevail. Is a new corporate reorganization the solution to the desires of people? Amor meus pondus meum. We are carried away by our desires. Isn’t this humiliation we feel a measure of our pride, the pride of belonging to a superior organization? Through suffering there is redemption.
    In the first canto of Purgatorio Dante walks towards the edge of the sea and plucks the reed of humility that he ties around his waist. The reed grows back immediately because there is no destruction possible nor defeat for humility.

  7. frank durkee says:

    I think this applies to denominations other than the Romans, my own, Episcopalians, included. the single most vibrant congregation I have ever been in was one in which the then rector set himself and staff aside and opened up the situation to lay creativity. We were not as Holy as Francis but it was frequently, to quote a friend, “…like living in the tension of a Gospel Parable.” It was messey but it was lively and faith affirmming.

  8. ex-PFC Chuck says:

    Per Mark G:

    It’s not errant nonsense. The problem for many priests is that they take that vow before they’re ready to live celibate lives. It doesn’t make them free. It makes them repressed. You see the results.

    I agree with Mark. Christianity has had deeply ambiguous attitudes toward sexuality since at least the days of Paul of Tarsus, and the eventual enshrinement of celibacy as dogma for the clergy of most of the traditions that came to recognize the leadership of Bishop of Rome is a reflection thereof. As I recall (although I can’t locate a reference at the moment) the Jesuit sociologist Andrew Greeley’s research showed that the American men entering the Catholic priesthood from the late sixties on through most of the rest of that century included a far higher percentage of homosexuals than did the population at large. It’s reasonable to infer that many of them sought the celibacy of the priesthood thinking it would help them cope with their “socially unacceptable” desires. For some it no doubt worked. For others, however, it did not and the boys and young men looking up to them were low hanging fruit, and the hierarchy’s compulsion to sweep it all under the rug enabled it to go on for decades. I don’t know if Greeley or anyone else has done similar surveys of the European or Latin American clergies, but it certainly would be informative if such data is available.

  9. Sidney O. Smith III says:

    John Waring:
    Very heartfelt writing, poignant, and courageous. Many thanks.
    And, good gracious, don’t forget Sister Wendy and her ability to make art come alive. That Oxford educated woman is as smart as Habakkuk and celibate too.
    Frank Durkee — the resident Episcopalian. Hold your head high. If it helps at all, I come from a long line of Episcopalians on my mother’s side. And my mother (very Irish by the way) died Episcopalian, so how can I not love the Episcopal Church? She was a member of the altar guild for more than half a century. Of course, she became somewhat fed up with all the shenanigans. But like you say, what church does not have problems?
    You guys still displaying the labyrinth found at Chartres Cathedral? I know that the labyrinth was making the rounds in the Episcopal world a few years ago. Fascinating.

  10. optimax says:

    Most child abuse takes place within the family, many times from a second or third husband, or a live-in boyfriend. These men aren’t repressed, on the contrary they are sexually active and still have no self-control.

  11. This thread is rather far from my foreign affairs interest but as the Vatican has curiously come under attack precisely at Easter (no coincidence there we suppose):
    1. What does medical science have to say? For example,
    “Now another theologian, Manfred Luetz, psychiatrist, author and organiser of a 2003 Vatican congress about the abuse of children, has been defending the Church’s stance, resisting any link between celibacy and paedophilia.
    “I do not think that the Vatican is trying to prevent any debate about celibacy,” he said, speaking in his office at Cologne’s Alexianer Hospital, where he is director.
    “Catholics are free to talk about it. Celibacy is no dogma. But I think when we have a discussion about abuse, then this is not the moment to discuss celibacy, because then we make the same strategies as the offenders do.
    “The offenders always say ‘we are not the guilty ones; society is guilty, the church is guilty, celibacy is the problem, not us’. And I do not want to be an accomplice to such escape strategies”.
    Dr Luetz dismisses any suggestion of a scientific correlation between celibacy and abuse.
    “The father of a family”, he says, “is 36 times more likely to abuse than a celibate priest. So it is not good to discuss celibacy in this context.
    “Instead, we have to discuss how to prevent other abuses, we have to speak about the victims and we have to speak about the way we approach these topics with transparency.”
    2. What do Catholic priests who have worked on treating paedophile priests say?
    I saw on the web somewhere this week an old letter to the Vatican from the 1960s by Father Fitzgerald who led a clinic to treat paedophile priests. If I recall correctly, the letter advised removing such priests from the priesthood as recidivism was very high. This was during Montini’s time and nothing much seems to have been done per Fitgerald’s recommendations.
    3. What do Catholic priests with some authority have to say about celibacy?
    The late Father John Hardon, SJ wrote per celibacy:
    “This is not to say there will not be a struggle, or that nature is easily tamed. It does mean, however, that we look in the right place for the power to tame our rebellious nature and that we use the appropriate means. The power needed to remain faithful to the chaste Christ must ultimately come from Christ, as He Himself foretold. “Not everyone,” He declared, “can accept what I have said, but only those to whom it is granted” (Matthew 19:11).”
    4. I read something in the London Telegraph the other day which claims that paedophilia is a problem in the Anglican clergy…but covered up. As far as I know, there is no celibacy rule in the Anglican communion for priests (??).

  12. Nancy K says:

    Many of the early disciples were married and Paul himself said it is better to marry than to burn.
    Why should a man have to give up his desire to have a wife and children and be forced to give up such an important aspect of his being, his sexuality.
    Jesus was Jewish not Christian, something many Christians seem to forget.
    It was common practice that the Rabbis were married.
    I’m not sure where all of this celebacy nonsence started, but I think I read that there was a fear that the popes could become too powerful and if they had children could pass the position down to their sons, and thus a dynasty would develop.
    It has nothing to do with religion but with controlling power.
    My suggestion is open up the priesthood to women and to married men also. Those that want to remain celibate can.

  13. Cloned Poster says:

    Being uniquely Irish, my father had three brothers, all three became priests because that was the scholarship route that was there in the 40/50’s in Ireland. Two of the brothers joined orders that took them to faraway places like Japan, Delhi, Mass, and the Bahamas to name a few. They were dedicated, the brother that went to Boston, Mass, left and married a Greek girl, and worked in the UN, the brother that went to Japan, was thrown out of India and went to Jamacia and died at the altar of a massive heart attack.
    Last Brother was a Fransican, a gentleman who loved sports and reading, he worked in Rome but always espoused the teaching of St Francis, your post reminded me of him, thanks.

  14. augustin l says:

    How america fights it’s wars of liberation in our name.
    Must watch!!

  15. Mark Gaughan says:

    “Most child abuse takes place within the family, many times from a second or third husband, or a live-in boyfriend.”
    Clifford Kirakofe:
    “Dr Luetz dismisses any suggestion of a scientific correlation between celibacy and abuse.
    “The father of a family”, he says, “is 36 times more likely to abuse than a celibate priest. So it is not good to discuss celibacy in this context.”
    Does anyone think that these statistics (If “36 times more likely” is even factual.), are correlated to the proximity of the child to the parent and the amount of time they are alone together?

  16. MG,
    As I indicated, this is very far from my field of study and interest.
    However, from a foreign affairs perspective the attack on the Vatican, and on the person of the Pope, is of interest to me as it is a major international institution and there are significant issues here.
    I raised the issue of medical science and presented Dr. Luetz’s view as a starting point reflecting a perspective of someone close to the Vatican.
    A brief Wiki on the medical issue etc:
    1. Again, just what is the medical science here from all sides of the issue?
    2. Also, what is the forensic perspective? That is, how do specialists such as forensic psychiatrists dealing with paedophile criminals assess the matter?
    3. The response of the Swiss bishops last week seems to the point. They said abuse cases should be brought to civil authorities.
    It is logical that paedophile priests be tried in a civil court just like anyone else if there has been a crime and jailed if convicted. It is also logical that they be removed permanently from the priesthood.
    4. And what about female paedophiles?
    “The causes of pedophilia are not known; research is ongoing.[17] Most pedophiles are men, though there are also women who are pedophiles.[11][18][19] Due to the stereotype that pedophiles are always male, it has been difficult to determine the prevalence of female pedophiles; however, studies in the UK and USA suggest that a range of 5% to 20% of child sexual abuse offenses are perpetrated by women.[20]”
    Wiki above.

  17. Patrick Lang says:

    What matters in the church scandal is that 80% of the victims are not children in that sense. They are boys old enough to be interesting to a pederast. pl

  18. Mark Gaughan says:

    You have good points, as you usually do, and raise some interesting questions. Googling around a bit, it seems medical science hasn’t yet come up with a definitive answer as to what causes paedophiles to behave the way they do.
    I did find this information:

  19. frank durkee says:

    The problem is one of those with ‘power’ taking advantage of those with less power, in all permutations of sexual contact between clergy and laity, as understood in the Americaan Episcopal Church. We have extensive training as well as relatively good intake training. People still slip through and ‘things’ still happen. The pressure to conform to thes ‘goood’ practices is reenforced by our insurance carrier. The Canadien and Australian Anglican Churches have had extensive suits in connection with their boarding schools for local indigineous children. the Anglican churches have haad significant numbers of Gays in the past, particularly in their more Anglo-Catholic groupings. what this set of disclosures is neglecting is the rate of heterosexual misbehaviour among clergy in the denominations that allow married clergy. Some of this is with females below the age of consent. though most of it is with those above the age of consent. Marriage does not solve all the problems. Mostly it just re-arranges them. The core of the problem is the human capacity to fail our best and engage in our worsta cross the full spectrum of human capacities.
    From which two thoughts emerge: Sin in its deepest and broadest sense is ubiquitious. And “…let the one who is without sin cast the first stone.” I think rome screwed up, so did we, so do all the others in the religion business as well as thouse outside it. Act to protect the vulnerable, take clear and swift action when things go wrong, and recognize that the human heart is a complex, wonderful, treacherous, and mysterious organ within each of us.
    what we need are more Rothko’s.

  20. optimax says:

    The studies I’ve seen concern prepubescent children and, therfore, wouldn’t really apply to the Church scandal. The wiki article says one study states pedophilic men have greater rates of non-right-handedness, which is about as relevant to understanding the causes of pedophelia as the space-time continuum.
    Like CK I wonder why the RCC, and I’ll add Boy Scouts, recieves more attention from the press than say public school teachers, the rate of abuse being about the same.

  21. PL and MG,
    1. The Wiki piece on paedophilia and the Mayo piece indicate the complexity of the issue.
    It appears that medical and forensic specialists assess paedophilia with respect to age groupings and have a separate category for molestation of infants. I would imagine that after a certain age of the victim the category would shift out of paedophilia as a subset of homosexual activity to homosexual rape of a “minor” or whatever depending upon the civil law in the country in which the crime took place.
    In any of these cases there would be violation of civil law and the perpetrator should be subject to criminal prosecution.
    2. One does note the matter of recidivism and the general opinion that this “mental disorder” is not generally curable.
    3. What interests me is the institutional situation within the global RC church and the question of how to purify it of this (among others) severe problem. Of course, this issue turns up in other churches, Anglican, Episcopalian, Lutheran and etc. But recent news coverage seems to systematically target the Pope and the RC church without any context to other church situations.
    News reporting that I have seen indicate that the present Pope indeed in the past tried to rectify matters where he could once he became aware of the scope of the problem. As I understand it, the present Pope in his career has been regarded as a “conservative.” Thus, all the more reason to think that he truly wants to do something effective about the problem.
    But there seem to have been and seem to be strong forces within the hierarchy who appear to cover up and protect such behavior. So who are these forces? Homosexual bishops and cardinals or other Curia types, non-homosexuals who are “Liberal”, or just what?
    The church politics of this matter are indeed interesting.
    Noting that Fr. Fitzgerald’s requests to the Vatican in the 1960s went for nothing during the Montini period, one might raise the issue of whether the “permissive” atmosphere engendered by the “Liberal” Montini had an adverse impact on dealing with this issue within the church.
    One wonders just what the institutional-organizational-church politics roadblocks presently exist within the Curia and etc. which the Pope must deal with.
    The present situation it would seem to me would offer the Pope opportunities for firmer action than may have been possible in the past. One would hope so.
    4. And again the issue of lesbian paedophilism etc. should get attention.

  22. “A “very rough” computer translation of a memo recounting a key Vatican meeting about a Milwaukee priest who abused deaf children appears to have skewed media attempts to implicate Pope Benedict. Contradicting the New York Times and the Associated Press, the memo shows that the Vatican never ruled out defrocking the cleric.
    An expert translation of that document provides evidence that appears to exonerate Vatican officials accused of wrongdoing in the case.”
    So are we in the realm of disinformation and agit-prop in the attack on the Vatican and the Pope?
    The newsmedia relying on a very faulty “computer translation” of a document abuot a Milwaukee priest without checking the original of the document? Just a little sloppy or…
    And the timing at Easter Week is more than just interesting.
    Is it the “pro-Israel” newsmedia with some ax to grind against the Pope and Church? Is it some network of mysterious subterranean lodges run by the Grand Orient etal that might appear in a fictional novel? What’s up here?
    It would be interesting to run a careful analysis tracking and analyzing the various stories: newspapers, journalists, editors, timing, etc. Don’t suppose any US journalism schools will jump on it…

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