Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Easter 2010

Scripture scholars believe that the first Gospel to have been written was the Gospel according to Saint Mark. They date that Gospel at 65 A.D. That Gospel was supposedly written for a Roman audience. Another peculiarity of the Gospel of Mark is that it has multiple endings. A “shorter ending” that ends with Mark 16: 8 and the longer more familiar ending Mark 16: 9-19. The longer ending contains all of Jesus’ post resurrection appearances and is regarded as canonical by Catholics, as a result of the Tridentine decree on the Canon. Scripture scholars; however regard the longer ending as non-Marcan (on the basis of different style, vocabulary, and subject matter). One can sympathize with the Council of Trent, after all the “shorter ending” is anti-climatic at best, and leaves the reader with a host of troubling and annoying questions.

In the shorter ending, the women come to the tomb of Jesus early on Easter morning to perform all of the preparations for burial that they could not perform on Good Friday, because the Sabbath was about to begin. They discover that the stone that sealed the tomb has been removed and that the tomb is empty. They encounter a young man at the tomb who informs them that Jesus is not to be found here. The young man instructs the women to “tell the disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee: there you will see him, as he told you.” The women’s reaction is to flee the tomb and the shorter ending concludes with the words: “and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”

Mark leaves us with an empty tomb on Easter. He does not “tie everything up” for us and present us with “the Glory of Easter.” The most striking thing about Mark’s “shorter ending” is how brutally true to life it is. What were the women and the other disciples left with on that first Easter morning? What are any of us left with after the death of someone we loved?

We are left with our memories. We are left with the echoes of laughter, we find ourselves among intimate friends; repeating very old jokes, as if we are telling them for the very first time. Places that we once knew and revisit, seem both cruelly familiar and like the tomb in Mark’s Gospel, painfully empty. Like the women, we are left speechless. We are, however, left also with our memories. A truth that a professor taught us, or that we discovered with friends. Sometimes with a truth that life has forcefully taught us.

Pontius Pilate is irritated and asks, “What is truth” (John 18: 38). Contemporary people share Pilate’s frustration. There are so many contending “faiths” so many different opinions, each presenting themselves as “the truth.” What is the truth? Jesus remained silent in the face of Pilate’s question. God/life does not give us “the answer,” religious leaders eagerly do that. God/life simply is. The truth is not an intellectual abstraction, nor is it merely a proposition. The truth simply is. As Moses was told: I AM. As a psychology professor of mine once put it, it is “reality therapy.” It simply is.

The women at the tomb had good reason to be afraid. They had just been the victims of hatred. They had seen the justice system that was supposed to protect them, produce injustice. They said nothing to anyone, because of a lifetime of having been dismissed. After all, they were “just” women. This dead Rabbi was different. He taught them to see the divine spark within themselves. He actually listened to them. He considered them. He valued them and taught them to appreciate and value themselves. Now he was gone and all that was left was the world with all of its cruelty, with all of its countless injustices, with all of its selfish and cynical manipulations.

This “rings true” with many people. How could God permit this? How could God let this happen (to me)? Mark’s empty tomb is the angst of every person. We are left with cold, hard realities. We have the faint, the fleeting wisps of noble thoughts, of values illustrated by people who loved us. People worthy of love. People who inspire love and who inspire the most noble within us. These precious truths give us the vision and the strength to walk against the torrents of injustice, hatred and evil that each of us must confront in our daily lives.

God does not give us all of the answers. God does not dot all of the “i’s” and bar all of the “t’s” Our plaintive “why?” is met with silence. A good teacher, after all, does not give the answer to the student. A good teacher teaches the student how to discover the answer. A great teacher teaches the student how to compose the question. Why? God/life is a great teacher. Simply providing the answer would leave us dependent and subject to manipulation by others. “The truth” would remain external to our self. Empowering us to be able to discover the answer and ultimately to compose the questions, this both transforms us and makes each of us a force for transformation, a force for good.

The “empty tomb” is the world. Each of us, like the women in Mark, must face our own personal “greatest fears.” Each of us, like the women in Mark, has attempted to run away from our fears. Like the women, fear has paralyzed us into silence. God/life will continually place those fear directly in our path, again and again. Not to be cruel, but because, only by confronting our fears can we overcome them and move forward. We can’t run away from ourselves, and there is really where the fear resides and where it must be met. Until we confront our deepest fears, we will be enslaved by them and be condemned to live a “half life.” The young Rabbi from Nazareth taught us: “fear is useless, what is needed is trust” (Luke 8: 50).

Trusting God is easy, after all, God is GAWD!! Trusting our self is entirely another matter. We are small, limited, weak and all too prone to make mistakes and succumb to temptation. Those who would be God’s professional spokespeople are all to eager to emphasize and exploit our fears. They will be the arbiters of what is “right” of what is “true.” “You,” they tell us, cannot be trusted with such great matters. Yet, those “great matters” are at the very core of what it is to be truly human. Each of us must wrestle personally with those great matters in our lives. The choices we make both shape and ultimately define us. An attempt to abdicate personal responsibility by delegating it to some other person, or organization will fail morally. As those who stated that they were “just following orders” at the Nuremberg Trials discovered. More importantly, such an attempt will make us slaves and leave us at “square one” of personal and spiritual development.

Mark presents us with an empty space on Easter morning; we can view it as a place that claims life, or as a starting point for new life. Each of us lives in a seemingly all too cold and uncaring world. The truth will not be found “there,” however the world forces us to face our fears, by continuously confronting us with those fears. Each of us must chose to either master those fears, or permit our fears to become our master.

Becoming spiritually whole is not about attaining the self-satisfaction of imagined peace and happiness; it is about achieving integrity and honesty in one’s relationship with God, oneself and others. Peace and happiness are the consequences that flow out of that spiritual wholeness, both for the true self and others. Through this process, love is expanded in the world. The empty tomb (the world), like the women, is transformed from a place of death/decomposition to a place of life/integration. Rather than being an end to life, it becomes a transformation and renewal of life.

Mark does not conclude his Gospel with a “neat and unquestionably certain set of answers,” because God/life does not present us with such a package. God/life requires each of us to discover those answers and compose those questions for ourselves. In doing this, we are transformed and become agents for transformation. We discover authentic love and expand it in the world.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Pope’s apology offers little hope for a real change

Benedict XVI issued an apology to the people of Ireland on Saturday. Reaction to his letter has come from both Ireland other countries.

From Ireland, these statements:

The letter also remained tightly focused on Ireland — to the dismay of many victims’ groups around the world — even as the crisis has widened to include Catholics in Austria, the Netherlands and Germany.

“I find that deceitful because we know that this is a global and systemic problem in the global church,” said Colm O’Gorman, the co-founder of a victims’ group who said he was sexually abused by a priest as a teenager in Ireland in the early ’80s. “It’s all about protecting the institution and, above all, its wealth.”

“The greatest contribution the pope could have made was to stop the abuse of victims, and he’s not even done that,” he added.

While many Irish Catholics were hoping for concrete measures after the government reports that criticized Vatican norms for dealing with the abuse, Benedict instead offered a prescription for how to renew their faith. He urged all Irish clergy to go on a spiritual retreat and suggested that dioceses set aside special chapels where Catholics could pray for “healing and renewal.”

“There’s a strong tendency to approach this as a problem of faith, when it is a problem of church management and a lack of accountability,” said Terrence McKiernan, founder and president of BishopAccountability.org, which tracks church records on abuse cases.

From Germany, this reaction The New York Times reports on March 23, 2010


Conservative Catholic bishops go further, saying that the sexual abuse committed by their priests is a general social problem, traceable not to the church but to the sexualization of society, to the zeitgeist, to the sins of the 1968 generation. The truth, they suggest, was that the evil had struck in all sectors of society. Others have warned of the dangers of a witch hunt, and some have even highlighted a new form of political correctness.

But the figures available so far show that the problem is especially severe in the Catholic Church. Alois Glück, president of the Central Committee of German Catholics, has urged consideration of the “church-specific conditions that favor sexual abuse,” which many have taken as a call for the church to reconsider the matter of its priests’ celibacy.

This is yet another difference between the Irish and American scandals and our own. Ireland and America are deeply religious places; if priestly celibacy is not as well understood there as it once was, it is nevertheless respected.

Germany is not only a secular country, but a sexually liberated one as well. Many Germans find the Vatican’s demand of priestly celibacy completely alien, and we recognize it as a historical, rather than holy, tradition, going back to a decree by Pope Benedict VIII in 1022. Indeed, in a poll conducted last week, 87 percent of Germans said that celibacy is no longer appropriate.

It’s not hard, then, for us to draw the conclusion — fair or not — that the church’s problems are rooted in celibacy. Much more so than in the United States, the German debate is about the fundamental structure of the Catholic church: Must a person be chaste to exercise the office of a priest? Does this condition not attract sexually disturbed and pedophiliac men, who count on cover and understanding in the bosom of the church?

How Benedict handles the issue in the coming weeks will determine not only how well the German church endures, but whether it can survive in its current form at all. None of the victims has yet sought reparations, but sooner or later, the church will have to offer compensation. The American church has paid $2 billion to abuse victims since 1992; can the German church afford the same?

Peter Schneider is the author of “Eduard’s Homecoming.” This essay was translated by John Cullen from the German.

The very sad tragedy here is the countless lives that have been damaged, or in some cases destroyed. This evil was visited on innocent children by those entrusted with their care. The fact that the scope of this outrage is international suggests that there are systemic issues that need to be reviewed and changed.

Some of these issues include:

· Mandatory celibacy for priestly ordination.

· Firm standards and accountability in personnel matters.

· Accountability of bishops and religious superiors.

· A voice for laity in diocesan governance and personnel decisions.

The pope’s decision to limit his focus to Ireland is the first clue that his reaction is more about containment than about authentic reform. Adding insult to injury, the pope goes on to encourage the laity to perform acts of piety/penance. Ask pedophiles to voluntarily turn themselves in and assumes an understanding/conciliatory tone towards the bishops/superiors who had knowledge of these pedophiles.

When Benedict XVI was elected pope in 2005 he said he wanted a “smaller and purer church.” His reaction in Ireland will most probably ensure the former, but not the latter. Benedict also set as a goal of his pontificate the re-evangelization of Europe. Judging from these reactions five years later, it seems he is leading us in the opposite direction.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Hierarchy’s Pedophilia Cover-Up Scandal

Anonymous said...

The Pope and Bishops see the crisis as one of lapsed vows and sin. They should treat this as an abuse of authority and law. Covering up a scandal just creates two scandals.

I invite everyone to read this re-read the foregoing comment from Anonymous. Let's begin by focusing on a Victim and Her Family

The comment by “Anonymous” portrays the problem as “lapsed vows and sins [of pedophile priests].” This skewed portrayal reflects a subtle attempt to side-step responsibility by the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church. Note the comment by Bishop Joseph Duffy Cloghe in the preceding news clip. He states “the church as been seriously wounded.” Incredible! “The church [i.e. hierarchy] has been wounded” what about the victims?!?

In attempting to lay all responsibility with the pedophiles exclusively, the hierarchy is seeking to free themselves of all responsibility for their failure as supervisors. The hierarchy’s failure to act upon their knowledge, report the abuse and thereby prevent future victimization of children. It is plainly evident that pedophiles committed heinous and inexcusable crimes against innocent minors; however, the fact that the hierarchy knew that these crimes were taking place and failed to report the offenders to the police is much more than a grotesque obstruction of justice. This cover-up by the hierarchy actually facilitated new cases of pedophilia and constitutes a separate and even greater crime.

Cardinal Seán Brady, the head of the Catholic church in Ireland, was involved in an alleged cover-up of child sexual abuse complaints against Brendan Smyth, Ireland’s most notorious pedophile priest.

Brady, the archbishop of Armagh and primate of All Ireland, has confirmed to The Sunday Times that he attended a secret canonical tribunal, or internal church hearing, in 1975 at which two of Smyth’s young victims were required to sign an undertaking on oath that they would not discuss what happened with anybody other than an approved priest.

The revelation that the country’s most senior churchman is accused of helping to keep child sex abuse complaints a secret comes as the Catholic church struggles with sex scandals in Germany, the Netherlands and the Vatican. Pope Benedict has been caught in a scandal over moving deviant priests from parish to parish in his native Germany.

Read the full story in the Times.

Asking children who were victims of pedophilia to sign documents that they would not tell anyone outside of the Church about the crimes, is itself a grotesquely immoral and criminal act. It constitutes a second crime against the child victim that reinforces the victim’s feelings of a shared culpability and shame for the pedophilia that was visited upon them. What emerges is a picture of a hierarchy that values the image/power of the Church and its wealth, more than those whom they have been called to serve. A hierarchy, which is more than ready to sacrifice individuals and justice for the sake of their power and status.

What motive(s) would the hierarchy have for denying their responsibility in the Cover-Up Scandal?

The victim in the opening CNN video clip states:

“They have become hardened. They have lost their sense about them, that empathy, that compassion. They’re just hoping that we go away, we die off, and there are many of us who haven’t survived, like my sister. And that they [the hierarchy] can contain the problem and protect the institution of the church.”

A New York Times report gives a supporting insight to Helen’s claim:

“What is at stake, and at great risk, is Benedict’s central project for the ‘re-Christianization’ of Christendom, his desire to have Europe return to its Christian roots,” said David Gibson, the author of a biography of Benedict and a religion commentator for Politicsdaily.com. “But if the root itself is seen as rotten, then his influence will be badly compromised.”

When a sex abuse scandal broke in Boston church in 2002, Pope Benedict — then Cardinal Ratzinger — was among the Vatican officials who made statements that minimized the problem and accused the news media of blowing it out of proportion.

But as the abuse case files landed on his desk at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, his colleagues said he was deeply disturbed by what he learned. On his first visit to the United States as pope, Benedict met with abuse victims from Boston and said he was “deeply ashamed” by priests who had harmed children.

But victims’ advocates accuse the pope of doing little to discipline the bishops who permitted abusers to continue serving in ministry. The case in Munich, which was brought to the attention of the diocese by the daily newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, was a result of “serious mistakes,” the archdiocese said in its statement.

View Cardinal Sean Brady reading Benedict XVI's letter on the Sex Abuse Cover-Up Scandal.

The Huffington Post reports the following:

He also appealed to priests still harboring sins of child molestation to confess.

"Openly acknowledge your guilt, submit yourselves to the demands of justice, but do not despair of God's mercy," he wrote.

But Benedict offered no endorsement of three official Irish investigations that found the church leadership to blame for the scale and longevity of abuse heaped on Irish children throughout the 20th century.

The Vatican refused to cooperate with those 2001-09 probes into the Dublin Archdiocese, the rural Ferns diocese and Ireland's defunct network of workhouse-style dormitory schools for the Irish poor.

The investigations, directed by senior Irish judges and lawyers, ruled that Catholic leaders protected the church's reputation from scandal at the expense of children – and began passing their first abuse reports to police in 1996 only after victims began to sue the church.

Nor did Benedict's letter mention recent revelations of abuse cover-ups in a growing list of European nations, particularly his German homeland, where more than 300 claimants this year have alleged abuse in Catholic schools and a choir long run by the pope's brother.

What can be done now? Helen (in the first CNN video clip) explains what she wants from the church:

“What she wants most of all from the church is an apology for destroying her family, and an acknowledgement that the church KNOWINGLY placed a pedophile into her parish. So far, she says, she has received neither.”

I fear that Benedict XVI’s failure to accept due responsibility in the Pedophilia Cover-Up Scandal of the Hierarchy will merely further wound both the victims and their families. Ultimately the next conclave (body which will elect the next pope), and perhaps Vatican III (?), will have to effectively reform the hierarchy and offer healing to victims, their families and the church. Some necessary elements of an effective reform would include a voice for the laity in the governance of the church, along with both transparency and accountability of bishops, and eliminating mandatory celibacy as a requirement for the priesthood.

All of these reforms would have to begin with an independent and thorough investigation of the Hierarchy’s Pedophilia Cover-Up Scandal. In the meantime, it will most probably be secular governments and their judicial systems, spurred by an outraged public that will drive the hierarchy to reform.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Pope, Vatican, Pedophilia and Deception

The first and most important point that must be kept in mind here is that pedophilia is a horrible crime that cripples its victims for decades, and sadly sometimes for life. When most people think of pedophilia, they think of a physical violation of a child by an adult. Sadly, that is only the tip of the iceberg. Pedophilia radically changes how the victim views him/herself, sex, intimacy, and their family. It can seriously damage the victim’s ability to enter into and sustain a healthy and happy intimate relationship later in life.

Most cases of pedophilia are incestuous. They happen within the family and most often the pedophile is a parent, sibling, or close relative of their victim. Pedophiles are drawn to careers that afford them access to children/minors. Positions of trust (e.g. teachers, coaches, clergy, child care providers, etc.) provide pedophiles ongoing access to children/minors.

Most instances of pedophilia are heterosexual (cf page 11-12, "Adult sexual orientation of men who molest boys); however, it is important to remember here that sexual orientation, as it is commonly understood (i.e. heterosexual, homosexual) is irrelevant when discussing pedophilia. The pedophile is an adult who seeks out sexual relations with a child because his/her own psychosexual development has been arrested at his/her victim’s current stage of development. Secrecy, guilt and shame are the tools upon which a pedophile relies in order to cover up past crimes and be able to act out new crimes.

It is CRITICAL to keep all of these truths CLEARLY in mind when discussing pedophilia in general and when specifically discussing pedophilia within the Catholic Church. The latest “bombshell” in the sex abuse/cover-up scandal in the Catholic Church directly involves the Pope. The Associated Press reports that while he was Archbishop of Munich, Germany, Pope Benedict XVI transferred a known pedophile priest from one assignment to another, thereby exposing innocent children to pedophilia.

The Associated Press reported the Munich archdiocese admitted that it had allowed a priest suspected of having abused a child to return to pastoral work in the 1980s, while Benedict was archbishop. It stressed that the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger didn't know about the transfer and that it had been decided by a lower-ranking official.

When I read this, I instantly recalled a class I took at Officer Training School at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. Captain Shaw who was our instructor was speaking about “Authority.” As an officer you have authority over your subordinates, he went on to explain that “authority” is composed of two elements. First the “Power” to act and secondly, “Responsibility.” Captain Shaw told our class of young officers: “You may always delegate your power to a subordinate; however, you can never delegate your responsibility to anyone.” You are responsible for how your subordinate uses/abuse the power that you delegate to him/her.

With that in mind, read this quote from the Associate Press article. “The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, issued a statement late Friday noting that the Munich vicar-general who approved the priest's transfer had taken "full responsibility" for the decision, seeking to remove any question about the pontiff's potential responsibility as archbishop at the time.” No, the buck stops at the desk of the person who delegates the power to make such decisions, not at the desk of a subordinate, or of the secretary who types up the transfer letter, or the postal official who delivers the letter.

In any diocese, the bishop is responsible for the actions of those to whom he has delegate pastoral power and this is as old as the First Letter of Paul to Timothy 5:22 That Archbishop Ratzinger delegated his Episcopal power to a vicar does not lift from his shoulders the responsibility for how that power was very poorly exercised by his subordinate.

At this point, I recall one of our annual priest retreats. Our bishop, John Steinbock, stood before the clergy of our diocese and said: “We didn’t know better at the time, we did the best we could.” At the time he said this to us, I was actually moved and believed him. After all, in the 1960’s and 70’s the recidivist nature of pedophilia was unknown and psychologist believed that a pedophile could be treated and “cured.” By the 1980’s this was no longer the case. There was something else that I discovered later, it was this news story that was sent to me in the aftermath my being suspended as a priest for speaking out against “yes on Prop 8.”

The real problem of the hierarchy is that they have a divided loyalty. On the one hand, they have a pastoral responsibility for their flock imposed by Jesus and the Gospel. On the other hand, they are the stewards of vast temporal (material) wealth and social/political influence/power. These are not intrinsically evil and can be tools for great good; however, if these are seen as “essential” or “primary” they can corrupt and undermine the life of the Church.

Part of a just restitution to the victims of the Church sex abuse/cover-up scandal, will be to make systemic changes which will safe guard against future abuse. Bishops need to be held responsible for the actions of their subordinates. Canon (Church) Law already provides for an annual convocation in every diocese on earth. The purpose of these convocations is for the diocesan bishop and his pastors to collaborate in the governance of the diocese. To discuss issues theological and temporal which have impact on the lives of the people in their care. Perhaps it would be healthy and helpful to include lay delegates to the annual convocation in every diocese. Convocations should produce a published diocesan pastoral plan. A term of office of no more than 10 years for a bishop, after which a bishop may be made an Archbishop (also with a 10 year term limit), or retire should be universally mandated.

My personal experience, having attended twenty-two such annual meetings, is that these events tend to be pre-scripted by the bishop and that there is very little, if any, substantive dialogue or collaboration which takes place. The tragic result is a hierarchy that is highly disconnected from the lives of their pastors and laity. The result is the current sex abuse scandal/cover-up with its huge financial pay- outs (of monies donated by the faithful for charitable endeavors). The result is a hierarchy that seems to be far more interested in its PR image and temporal goods than in the pastoral responsibility and mission given to the Church by Jesus of Nazareth.

A concern here is that these much needed and long delayed systemic changes will not be made. For example, the elimination of mandatory celibacy for priests, a serious reconsideration of the role of women in the life of the Church, the role of the papacy vis a vis bishops, the radical restructuring/downsizing of the Roman Curia (Church bureaucracy) all need to be openly discussed. A transparent, inclusive and participatory Church will not only minimize future scandals, it will be a more effective and compassionate instrument of authentic evangelization.

Instead of doing this “hard” and much needed work the Vatican and hierarchy seems to be trying to place responsibility for the sex abuse/cover-up scandal on scapegoats. Those scapegoats seem to be subordinates and LGBT people, more on that in my next post.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Catholics for Marriage Equality

The Catholics for Marriage Equality Declaration

As faithful Roman Catholics we believe that the constitutional right to practice freedom of religion is based on respect for the dignity of each individual. We must guard against, not promote, the domination of one religious tradition over others in our civic life. Making respect for the dignity of all people not only an ideal but a living truth, we affirm civil marriage for same-sex couples throughout the United States. Our declaration of conscience is based on the following:

  • The American principle of the separation of Church and State was enshrined in the Constitution to ensure that no particular religious perspective would be imposed on our pluralistic society.
  • Catholic teaching on social justice has been central to the building of a just society, creating awareness of diversity in the human family, calling us to lives of respect, not simply tolerance, for one another.
  • We remember that Roman Catholics were once denied civil rights, treated with suspicion, ridiculed because of our sacred rituals, and questioned as to our allegiance to “foreign authorities.” Memory challenges us to remain vigilant whenever bigotry and injustice enters into public discourse.
  • Same-sex civil marriage does not in any way coerce any religious faith or tradition to change its beliefs or doctrine or alter its traditional marriage practices.

We know that God is a most gracious and wonderful Creator. Many of us have gay and lesbian relatives and friends. We value the love and commitment we witness in their relationships; their devotion to each other and their children. Civil marriage bestows the dignity and equality called for in our nation’s highest ideals, “the inherent natural rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

As Roman Catholics, we differentiate between sacramental marriage and civil marriage.Therefore, we perceive that same-sex civil marriage poses no threat to our Church. While we respect the authority and integrity of the Church in matters of faith, our prayers and discernment have brought us to a new openness on this issue. We do not ask the Church to perform same-sex marriages. We do implore the Church to honor the States’ prerogative to authorize civil marriages for our gay and lesbian family and friends. Grateful for the gift of our faith and the ways that we have been nourished by faith throughout our lives, and also grateful for our citizenship in America and in our particular state, we sign this statement as Roman Catholic citizens of the United States of America.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Double Standards and Double Lives, banning same sex marriage

A Jesuit priest spoke at our annual Diocesan Convocation of clergy a few years ago. He retold part of a lecture he delivered on the sack of Rome by the Emperor Charles V in the sixteenth century. The Jesuit said: Nuns were being ravaged in the Piazzas and men were being murdered in the streets of Rome. It was so bad, that even the Cardinals and Bishops turned to Christ! Given what I’ve read and seen, I was not that surprised when I read today’s reports of a Vatican gay sex scandal. Heck, I’ve even seen the calendar; you can read about it here.

In his book “Freeing Celibacy” Father Donald Cozzens, PhD, a priest, psychologist and former President (Rector) of St. Mary’s Seminary in Ohio states the following on pages 49-50:

With notable exceptions, most of the calls for optional celibacy today come from Northern Europe, North America, Australia, Southwest Asia, Ireland, and England. Perhaps this reality manifests, although imperfectly, the kernel of truth contained in the over-generalized yet helpful distinction between Anglo-Saxon law and Latin or Mediterranean law. A law shaped by the Anglo-Saxon tradition understands compliance as the minimum. From a Latin or Mediterranean perspective, law is commonly understood as the ideal to which all should strive.

From the Anglo-Saxon perspective, minimal compliance with the law of celibacy is complete sexual continence in the state of consecrated singleness for the sake of the Kingdom. Lapses inevitable occur, but the law is understood as more than an ideal that may ultimately be beyond the reach of the priest. Compliance is expected.

The Latin approach, on the other hand, may see the law of celibacy from a more relaxed, easygoing perspective. The reasoning goes something like this: Of course church law calls priests to be celibate, but this is the ideal. The urges of the body and the longings of the heart place this ideal out of reach, at least for many priests. Try to be celibate, but don’t be fanatical about it. The latter understanding of the law may explain why there are fewer calls for a change in mandated celibacy from priests in Spain, and Italy than from priests in Northern Europe and North America.

When I studied Spanish Literature as an undergraduate, I recall the professor pointing out that the Spanish surname “Braganza” was reserved for the illegitimate children of Spanish priests. The priest was their “uncle” and raised them with the help of his “housekeeper.”

While all of this is certainly of cultural interest and provides a human insight into the institutional Catholic Church, it remains very disturbing on a deeper level. Anglo-Saxon and Latin notions of “Law” aside, it seems that the heart of the spiritual life is to become whole. To seek integrity, before God, before others and within one’s own self.

That is precisely what Same Sex Marriage Equality is all about. In attempting to ban same sex marriage, the current Mormon leadership, Catholic hierarchy and their partner, the National Organization for Marriage, are attempting to redefine Civil marriage laws according to their very narrow theological views. Furthermore, they are attempting to impose their theological views on all Americans. They are ignoring the Separation of Church and State clause of the Constitution and attempting to redefine civil marriage law for all Americans according to their religious views.

Father Cozzens says of celibacy “The urges of the body and the longings of the heart place this ideal out of reach.. Try to be celibate, but don’t be fanatical about it.” The historical truth is that this approach has not worked within the Catholic priesthood. It has led to double lives, emotionally wounded and psychosexually dysfunctional priests, bishops, cardinals and yes, popes. These people now wish to impose this model on LGBT people by manipulating voters through fear.

Banning same sex marriage is simply an attempt, by the hierarchy of the Catholic Church to redefine Civil Marriage in America. They wish to impose their dysfunctional mode of life on Americans. They wish to require gays and lesbians to be celibate. Oh, but, wink, wink, don’t be fanatical about it, you can still have sex, just be discrete. As Maggie Gallagher of NOM says, “Gays and Lesbians have a right to live as they choose” she just wants to ban same sex marriage. Ironically, she thereby promotes the very promiscuity which she condemns and employs in her propaganda to ban same sex marriage.

The Vatican has targeted same sex couples that want to live their lives openly and honestly. Today, the Italian police have revealed the double standards, which the hierarchy practices daily. Tomorrow, it may be a waiter at a four star restaurant who reveals that an American bishop, who fights to ban same sex marriage, dines regularly at the restaurant with his secret gay lover. If Father Cozzens' cultural assessment is correct, Americans will be far less tolerant than their Italian counterparts.