27 April, 2010

Sex Abuse Questions: How would you answer them?

On Easter Sunday our pastor preached on the sex abuse scandal in the context of 5 people who were joining the Church. Our pastor is one of the most respected priests in the diocese. He was called out of retirement to become pastor of the parish after some serious difficulties the parish had been through recently. On April 11th he wrote a piece in the parish bulletin  (Scroll down to page 4) asking the following questions of himself, of us, and the Church itself. Here they are. See how you would answer them:

 I. The Problems of today [in the Church] were not handled as well as they could have been. The structure of the Church as begun by the Lord, handled problems differently than we might expect. Perhaps, some of the approaches to problems are archaic in our personal estimation. [Yes, No]

II. The following are general statements and do not necessarily apply to all circumstances (I put them in the form of questions for all to come to their own conclusions). .....

  1. Is there [currently] an archaic understanding of humanity and the human condition, especially mind and body ???
  2. Is there [currently] a misunderstanding of some maxims of theology; namely, as to the grace of God and the potentially terrible aspects of human beings???? [That] some people cannot be adequately and properly rehabilitated in spite of the grace of God. (Grace builds on nature).
  3. Is there an unfortunate disregard for the importance of civil law ????
  4. Is there a distorted understanding of the purpose of authority, leadership and accountability in the Church ????
  5. Is there a lack of proper care or concern for those affected by the changeable nature of humanity [human "nature?"] ????
  6. Is there a lack of courage to look at the fully human needs and aspects of human beings ????
  7. Is there an inordinate attempt to control information ???? [In other words], Is there an attitude of secrecy to protect the Church and Church personnel and at the same time a lack of proper concern for the victims of the distortion of human beings ????
Father made three statements after listing the questions. Briefly,
  • That in spite of these events and terrible revelation, that the Church will survive.
  • The Church must learn from this terrible chapter in its history. Never again should a situation like this be handled as it was.Justice and mercy must be properly balanced and properly imposed.
  • Our God looks down on the Church and asks, "What have they done to my people?" "How dumb could they be?" "How uncaring for all in the Church."
  • Father then expresses his faith and hope in the Church.
How will you answer Father's questions? Are they fair questions? What other questions could / should be asked?

Please use the "comments" page to answer the questions and/or estimate how Father or I have answered them.

I will post his and my answers in a couple of days !!!!

NOTE: (words in parentheses in the original)  [words in brackets were added by me for clarification]

25 April, 2010

So Who's Doing the Praying?

President  Obama still plans to declare 6 May as a "National Day of Prayer in spite of the the ruling of Federal District Court in Wisconsin that a National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional (That ruling is being appealed).

So, whether or not the 1952 Congressionaly established National Day of Prayer is or is not Constitutional, how many Americans actually "pray?" And might this mean national days of prayer or national prayer breakfasts?

A recent report based on the Pew study, " U.S. Religious Landscape Survey," asked the question, "People practice their religion in different ways. Outside of attending religious services, do you pray several times a day, once a day, once a week, a few times a month, seldom, or never?"

Fifty-Eight percent of of all Americans say they pray at least once a day. What it really means to individuals "to pray" is not determined.

Women (66%) are more likely to pray than are men (49%).

There is a negative correlation between Income and Prayer: Those earning less than $30,000 a year are most likely to pray at least once a day (64%). As income increases, the percentage who pray decreases to a low of 48% for those earning $100,000 or more.

Categorized by religious identity, the percent who pray at least once a day ranges from 89% to a low of 22%.

About three-quarters or more of the following categories pray daily: Jehovah's Witnesses (89%), Mormons (82%), members of Historically Black Protestants (80%), Evangelical Protestants [mostly white] (78%), and Muslims (71%).

About forty to seventy percent of the following categories pray every day, including: Hindus (62%), Orthodox (E.g Greek, Russian) Christians (60%) [all  above the national average of 58%], Catholics (58%), and Mainline Protestants (53%).

Those least likely to pray at least once a day include:  Black Protestants (45%), Jews (26%) and Unaffiliated (22%).

This distribution is not very surprising. By and large all of the findings are pretty typical of sociological survey and polling data. Those who are aligned with conservative groups are the most likely to pray once a day or more often. Also, it is not a great surprise that the national average and the Catholic data are both 58% because Catholics are the single largest religious denomination in the U.S. at 23-26% of the entire U.S. population.

That twenty-two percent of the "Unaffiliated" pray is not surprising because a large percentage of them identify as "religious" but not Christian and even some Agnostics and Atheists pray.

It seems that U.S. citizens, by and large, will have no trouble with a "National Day of Prayer" or a "National Prayer Breakfast" along as appeal is made to a "generic God" or "Higher Power" rather than to  a specific deity, such as "Jesus," "Allah," "Shiva," etc.

What do think? Is this really a non-issue? Or are there "issues" and implications?  Leave a comment.

15 April, 2010

Same-sex Visitation rights and "Christians?"

Tonight the Washington Post reported that President Obama will issue an executive order to HHS to require all hospitals receiving Medicare and/or Medicaid to accept gay partners whose partner is hospitalized to grant them visitation rights the same as for family members. Hospitals must also accept partners with power of attorney on behalf of partners who have granted that power to them.

In the comments by readers there is much moaning and complaining about the "power of government" taking away the prerogatives of Congress, "telling" or "ordering" hospitals to do this instead of merely "allowing" hospitals to do this. It seems to me that this is just another example of the increasing anti-government malaise in the country at this time. It's another example of expressive individualism gone wild and a loss of a sense of the "common-weal"  or "common good."

Many of these people also need to study civics. The federal government in various ways, through Congress and the executive branch do have authority over the purse strings. Back in the 70s the federal government didn't order states to reduce speed limits to 55mph (to save gasoline). It merely said that if states wanted continued federal dollars, then they needed to reduce speed limits ("he who pays the fiddler, calls the tune."). Conservatives want government to restrict federal dollars if states or hospitals choose to perform abortions. That is their right . But why call the same procedure "unfair" in this case?

But more to the point of this post and the reason that "Christians?" is in the title. Every U.S. citizen has the right to favor or oppose this executive order. Period. However if anyone reads the reader "Comments" following the article one will discover that the majority of comments made (at the time I read them) were from so-called "Christians."  I say from so-called Christians because the comments were so vitriolic and hate filled. It was as if these people's "God"  was only a God of vengeance and that they were sent by God to separate the "sheep from the goats."

No Christian, even those who do not accept homosexuality or same-sex behavior, has the right to speak so hatefully as they have in the comments to this article. Yes to those conservatives, God is a God of Justice. But God is just as much a God of mercy, compassion and love!!!

I believe that I am a reasonably good Christian (I'll leave that judgment to God), but I strongly believe (as a Christian) that some same-sex relationships and same-sex sexual behavior are moral, just as I believe some heterosexual relationships and sexual behavior are moral.

My plea and hope is that more and more Christians will come to believe that "God is love," and will treat all "others" with love, compassion, and mercy, because what God has created is good  and all are the Children of God.

Having read the comments by "Christians," is it any wonder that so many people (and especially here, gay people) distrust, blow off and hate the Christian message in light of how "Christianity" and "Christians have treated them?

Think about it. Comments are welcome!

02 April, 2010

Sex Abuse and both/and ?

Can there be a middle ground in the ever widening sex-abuse scandal engulfing the Catholic Church? John Allen of the NCR asked this question yesterday and provided his judgment on that issue

I consider myself a Vatican II Progressive Catholic, but deeply impressed into my being is an appreciation of and commitment to the "both/and" characteristic (sacramentalism, analogical imagination) of Catholicism. I understand, but appreciate less, the "either/or" view of life. The world always appears in terms of gray, thus the both/and view is essential. However, we are sometimes (often?) called upon the make specific and clear choices.

The sex-abuse scandal is a complex situation and the issue of Benedict's action makes it more so. Those who have read my previous posts should know that I believe:

  •  That the primary response of individuals and "the Church" must be compassion and assistance to the victims of abuse.
  • That prevention of further abuse must occur even if that calls for dramatic or major changes in Church administration, internal procedures, and practices (E.g. optional celibacy, Married priests secrecy,).
  • That abusers should also be treated with compassion, but should always be prosecuted to the full extent of Civil and Canon law. The goal must be the protection of the community (society) and not revenge. 
  • That we must stop talking about "mistakes." Call things what they are: "illness" or "moral" evil as the case may be. In both civil life and the Church no one ever seem to do anything "wrong" these days. Everyone seems to only "make mistakes." Abusers my be ill; they make bad or sinful decisions. An adult doesn't just mistakenly abuse a child or anyone subject to his influence, authority or power.
  • What has been said of abusers applies even more so to priests, bishops, and a system that neglects, covers up or "makes mistakes" about sex abuse. I have experienced the culture in which deviant behaviors (E.g. alcoholism, sexual behaviors)  were interpreted only as moral/spiritual problems. That is the culture that many Church leaders grew up in. However that day must pass.
I long for and struggle to discover the kind of both/and view and decisions that will move us forward. I must admit it's a difficult. Any of, you, my readers, have any insights or suggestions? Send a comment!!!

When it comes to the current crisis, especially regarding the Holy Father, John Allen asks whether there is a middle ground.  Based on his extensive knowledge and experience, he makes two points.

The two cases from Pope Benedict's past that have recently come to light, one in Munich and one from his years at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, raise important questions, and the pope needs to answer them in order to move ahead. (Emphasis added)
 We live in a new age, a time that requires, demands, transparency. Look at our political life. Think of Richard Nixon and Watergate, Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky affair, the whole debate about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, or recent accusations of "back room politics" and health care reform. People can no longer, and will never, accept "cover-ups, appeals to secrecy, etc.

People want, increasingly demand, the "truth" and admission of wrong doing from their leaders. Whether or not Benedict has told the "truth" or allowed or participated "cover ups," it will eventually become necessary to provide a credible explanation and, if necessary admission of wrong doing by commission or omission.

Allen's second point is that:

Those questions, however, have to be seen in the context of his overall record on the crisis, and particularly since 2001, when John Paul II put then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in charge of reviewing the case files, there's a lot to be said for that record.
I believe any objective observer will agree that some positive change has occurred since 2001. The question is whether there has been enough "positive changes" and if they are the correct changes in the right places.
If you have an opinion leave a comment.

Sadly, Allen reports that response his article(s) has been divided between the two extremes: those who claim that he's part of the extreme Left and doing a "hatchet job" on the Church. At the opposite extreme, commentors  say things like, "Don't you ever get tired of being an apologist for the Vatican?"

John  ends by asking, about very controversial issues, "Is there room for a middle ground?"

My answer right now is "I don't know, but I hope so."

What about you, my readers? Do you have an opinion?