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DIAGNOSIS

By Fr. Wilson (articles ) | Dec 18, 2003

If wishful thinking had the power to transform reality into something more palatable than it often is, I suppose we'd all be grateful, Diogenes. But it doesn't.

Some months ago, I recall a "parishioner of St Blogs" recounting how he had just returned from a church convocation. It was large, boisterous, festive, and embraced not just a diocese but a province, if I recall correctly; lots of enthusiasm and positive looking-forward, and the fellow recalled ruminating on his way home that the Church in his state, his province certainly seemed in great shape. All of this within the context of his dour reflections on the doomsday content of OTR.

All very fine indeed, and one wouldn't want to deny the good where it's happening by any means. Yet I was conscious, as I was reading his remarks, of a sense of unreality. The Metropolitan of the same province had made it a practice, for years, to welcome priests and seminarians from South of the border with troubled backgrounds - correspondence seems to show that he even did this knowingly, and with disastrous results. Last September, brought into court and deposed on the subject of the archdiocesan dealings with troubled priests, the Archbishop could not have been more hostile to his interrogators, at one point denying that he had read any of the letters from victims of sexual abuse he had received, at another point snapping that he might get to them "after my retirement."

I'm doubtful that reports of boisterous, energetic Church jambourees are consoling to victims reading transcripts of that kind of testimony.

And this is not just the metropolitan see; other dioceses of that province have had the same problems. Parishioners are assured that demanding Church policies are now in place which have addressed the problems which led to the scandal. Yet Gov. Frank Keating was not the only person on the National Review Board frustrated by the lack of cooperation of bishops - no one on that board, to my knowledge, has said that the bishops were enthusiastically cooperative - and it is undeniable that dioceses continue to be misgoverned by prelates who were responsible for parts of the scandal. It is unbelievable to me that the situation is acceptable in the Church where priests, deacons, lay employees and volunteeers are held accountable under a set of standards implemented by a body of bishops who are not themselves accountable.

I wish that I could tell you that I did not receive, last week, a phone call from a young man who told me that he was resigning from a seminary because he had simply decided he would no longer live in a place where homosexuality was practiced and where he himself had been sexually approached. I also wish that I could say, "And, you, know, Diogenes, it is NOT true that lots of people in the Church would just prefer to pretend that these things were not still going on." But neither of those statements would be true.

If wishful thinking had the power to transform reality into something more palatable than it often is, I suppose we'd all be grateful, Diogenes. But it doesn't. And Optimism just doesn't cut it; optimism is NOT a Christian virtue.

Once again, I am reminded of the lay theologian I quoted in the foreword to Paul Likoudis' book, AMCHURCH COMES OUT, a book which everyone should read as an antidote to the denial of reality. The theologian said:

"Years of watching the situation carefully have convinced me that it really IS all about sexual autonomy. People don't turn institutions upside down because they'd rather hear the Mass in English. You can do that without destroying buildings and the structure of religious life, and catechesis. You turn institutions upside down to support a 'complete change in teleological purpose' in your life -- and eliminate unpleasant reminders that maybe your new purpose, sexual autonomy, isn't such a great idea."

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Show 3 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: Fatimabeliever - Dec. 21, 2003 3:58 PM ET USA

    BenBernie: Your statement, "put yourself in the hands of God" is all we can do now. I remember back in the 50's there was talk of an American Catholic Church and the young priests and Mercy nuns at my parish wanted it. My mom was struck with horror when she heard it that my younger sisters were hearing it in school. You see, my mom and I realize then that if they did that America would be struck with some kind of chastisement. Didn't anyone learn from 9/11?

  • Posted by: - Dec. 19, 2003 8:47 PM ET USA

    In many commiserating conversations with my elderly parish priest after Mass, 20+ years ago, he repeated many times "The problem (with the clergy and Religious) is all about sex." I didn't understand. The Reformation ended all that, I thought. He was a very holy man from a very holy family. I miss him deeply but I am glad he is working for our poor Church from heaven. How bad is it? Follow the advice of Capt Smith of the Titanic, "Put yourself in the hands of God." Humor aside, what else?

  • Posted by: - Dec. 18, 2003 10:59 AM ET USA

    And to carry the allegory/metaphor a little further -- a lesson learned from the Turks during the Crusades -- good nutrition AND surgery are both required for the full recovery of the patient.

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