Monday, July 21, 2003
FROM DEEP IN PENNSYLVANIA . . . Driving through Pennsylvania, I suggested to the lady of our house that the state is too long and should be cut in half, north to south. Takes too long to get through it. Am writing my congress person.
CHURCH GONE TO . . . The RC pastor-preacher came across quite lugubrious, even as he urged compassion. “If this is not a compassionate church, what is it?” he said, pausing for effect. One felt it would not be wise to argue the point with him, or any other points he might make from the pulpit.
But after mass he lifted a small child in the air in a gesture of Everyman’s father, a good shepherd indeed, while parents watched admiringly and yet another child waited eagerly to be lofted. But do parents or priest want to encourage such trust by child in priest these days? A bit more distance is in order?
SAYING HI WHILE RECEIVING COMMUNION . . . New rules from Rome call for new emphasis on head-bowing while receiving communion. But what about exchanging holy words and phrases – “Body of Christ,” “Amen,” etc. – and of course friendly glances with the one giving it? Just at a moment of peak communion with the Almighty. Distracting, or not?
// posted by Jim @ 10:00 AM
The Blithe Spirit author (me) "reacts with his self-described neo-Conservative Catholic mind [oh?] with issues being debated in the US, currently the Iraq war," says CathNews. "His commentaries are not likely to resonate well with readers outside the US, but they provide a window on the style of debate going on in the US. The site will interest Australians who watch the US FoxNews on local pay TV in what amounts to a cult following," says CathNews.
If the prayer is to see oneself as others see you, mine has been answered.
NEW CATHOLICS . . .
As for Just Good Company
, the book review is of The New Faithful: Why Young Adults are Embracing Christian Orthodoxy
, by Colleen Carroll (Loyola Press, Chicago). I mostly praised the book, though at times half-heartedly, as a textbook sample of newspaper-feature journalism, and took seriously and respectfully the writer's serious and respectful attitude toward new young Christians.
The Just Good Company editor had misgivings about such young people, however, and found the book troubling, "not because it celebrates the moves of some young Catholics 'back to orthodoxy,' but because the kind of orthodoxy they are moving toward verges on an idolatry that took us years to exorcise in ourselves."
He refers, I am sure, to these new Christians' (mostly new Catholics') devotion to the Blessed Sacrament -- as consecrated hosts preserved outside of Mass for adoration. I see where he's coming from, to speak in au courant fashion, namely a disaffection with pre-Vatican Council II practices. But "idolatry" seems a bit much.
TRUSTING PRIESTS . . . . Reading about traumatic experiences of the sexually used by priests, one is tempted to urge that parents tell their children not to trust priests. This is a far cry from my friend Esther Emerson's happiness at seeing her young son talking to a priest outside their high-rise public housing building on Chicago's Near West Side in the mid-60s. She would not have been happy to see him talking to some, but a priest was fine. Esther, a single mother of several children who worked regularly and was a level-headed person, was not Catholic but knew the difference here.
This trustfulness does not reflect how Italian mothers reacted to a priest stopping to talk to children in the same period, as reported by the Jesuit John Powell to several of us in the Jesuit seminary. John was full of life, talented and outgoing. He told of stopping to talk to kids in his ebullient manner and having a mother come charging out of the house to whisk her kid inside, such was her suspicion of priests. This was apparently the Euro experience long before our dreadful situation became known.
YES INDEED, THE SPIRIT MOVES YOU: ST. SABINA, FATHER PFLEGER, AND AL SHARPTON . . . The first thing to remember about St. Sabina Catholic Church is that last Sunday its collection was $36,000. The second is to realize that its pastor, Rev. Michael Pfleger, glories in media attention while his supposed opponent in church warfare, Cardinal Francis George, is a media fussbudget, without interest in waging battle, or undergoing trial, by media. (He once told reporters to stop taking notes on his sermon; it's the last thing Pfleger would say.)
This Sunday, 2/9/03, Pfleger brazened out the cardinal's non-acquiescence in his inviting Rev. Al Sharpton to his pulpit. It would have been "futile" to try to stop Pfleger from hosting Sharpton, a Democrat and therefore pro-choice presidential candidate, the cardinal said, admitting his inability, at least short-term, to rein Pfleger in.
So Sharpton was part of Pfleger's three-hour service, slipping in a few verses from Joshua in the middle of his 35-minute sermon but using the rest of it for politicking: The first Bush "loved the troops until they came home," but then they found "bad schools," etc. Now "another Bush" is doing the same thing. Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction; how do we know? Colin Powell (merely) showed "some pictures." Why go to Iraq to find weapons of mass destruction when we know North Korea has them?
He offered pure candidate-talk. "Bush says you are with us or against us. Who is us?" Millions go for missile defense which we don't even know will work. There are "tax cuts for the rich," with rise in property and sales tax. There's the attack on affirmative action at U. of Michigan, but Bush applied to the University of Texas and couldn't get in [sic]. Then got into Yale even though his grades were too low. He's against "set-asides," but he "set aside a whole election to be president." We sent LBJ back to Texas 20 years ago, "we should send Bush back to Texas too."
Sharpton hearkened to the days of Adam Clayton Powell in Harlem, to whom he has elsewhere likened himself, and how Powell, who left Congress in disgrace, would say, "Keep the faith."
For each of these assertions or recollections and many more, he got standing ovations, people shouting and waving the right hand and clapping. Pfleger sitting behind periodically stood and raised his hand as he saw an applause point coming, sometimes anticipating the general excitement, sometimes coming on its heels.
He and Pfleger differ on the pro-life, pro-choice spectrum, he said, but they agree on another point, the need to protect children after they are born.
Earlier, introducing Sharpton, Pfleger had said he welcomed pro-life demonstrators in front of his church (protesting Sharpton) and was glad they were there but would like to have seen them sooner. He ticked off several of his causes where he would have liked their support, including St. Sabina's exclusion from a Catholic grade-school basketball league 18 months ago on grounds of its being unsafe for their women and children to go "where the demonstrators were" right then!
(Not quite. You had van and car loads driving through tough neighborhoods. But Pfleger had a point anyhow. His church is in no slum.
(Pfleger called himself pro-life but by inviting Sharpton has gone out of his way to minimize the abortion issue. One can imagine pro-life demonstrators wondering where Pfleger, an activist of the first water, has been when they needed him. He has demonstrated and generally raised Cain about several other issues but never abortion. Moreover, his recent hosting of Harry Belafonte in the same pulpit means he cares not a whit if he helps promote abortion: Belafonte made the point specifically. Would Sharpton also have made the point if Cardinal George, moved by a mountain of protest, hadn't signified his displeasure?
(On this Sharpton had a comment about one's "rank in church" not qualifying someone. He commended Pfleger, who had "refused to bow," as if he, Sharpton did not have a stake in the matter: this was an excellent ready-made audience for him on his campaign trail.)
MASS APPEAL . . . The St. Sabina service -- it's not billed as a mass -- is a study in group psychology. Both Pfleger and Sharpton started in well modulated tones but ended shouting, so that a moviegoer of the 40s might have thought of Hitler-mocking Charley Chaplin in "The Great Dictator," stopping in the middle of a tirade to pour water from a pitcher not into a glass for drinking but down his pants, which he unloosened for the purpose.
Indeed, it was decibel heaven this morning and early afternoon, and a good time was had by all. The music, by pinpoint-accuracy, near-military choir and 4-man combo of trumpet, flute, keyboard with awe-inspiring volume capability (he appealed to our bass instincts, you might say), and full set of drums plus marimba-shaker, was something to wake the dead with. This white man had to hold finger to ears a few times. Not kidding.
The preaching was by slogan, often shouted. No argument need apply here, just repetition of things already well digested by the audience, which was overjoyed to hear them for the umpteenth time and responded regularly with single right hand raised in air, two hands clapping, swinging, swaying, and/or shouting assent.
"When the spirit moves you, you'll shout hallelujah, yes indeed," went the old Tommy Dorsey number. "When it hits you, you'll holler. Yes indeed."
They hollered at St. Sabina. Not all. For many, mostly men, it seemed enough to hear the word and take it in, though no other fingers went to ears as far as I could see.
Not all the time either. The thing about shouting, when you lower your voice, assuming you have the mike, everything becomes quiet, and there were moments of meditative pauses, though even then it was usually with Pfleger as prayer leader muttering into the mike -- like the "aspirations" or "ejaculations" (short prayers) which we students of the Sisters of Mercy were taught in the 40s.
At St. Sabina these generally took the form of riff (jazz for refrain, from the 30s), however. Sharpton riffed rhythmically at the end of his sermon (in Pentecostal style maybe, that's his brand of Protestantism, which he reportedly betrays by his pro-choice-ism, by the way). The music was at the ready for him, amazingly. Had he scripted this with the keyboardist, or were both of them working off semi-eternal scripts deriving from black Christian culture?
That's the third thing to remember about St. Sabina's: it's a very black thing, even as it's very genteel. One might have been in the St. Giles-Oak Park parking lot, to judge by the cars and fur coats. That $36,000 didn't come from nowhere last week. This is a very attractive congregation, upscale in appearance and friendly to the white stranger. The climate was cheery and friendly. Very warm. Seductively so.
At the same time, the people embrace a virtually nonsensical worship service, full of loud music, and emotive display. Joy reigns, though a dance and choral presentation at the end featured maybe 20 black-clad young people and a white-clad dancer in a "slave song" performance whose whole purpose was to raise for loving embrace the memory of being a slave, or of holding up under the dreadful experience. It was a daunting, depressing show that apparently met deep yearnings of the congregation, which apparently wants to be reminded of and dwell upon the horrors of old. Lest they forget.
But even Sharpton had room in his talk for shooting down the acting-white accusation leveled by home boys and girls at academic achievers, this too to the delight and approval of his listeners. (So much for denial of such anti-achievement attitudes by Oak Park High parents a few years back. Sharpton had only to bring it up, and they applauded, knowing what he meant.)
Finally, let it be said that for those who stayed the whole three hours Sharpton was a sideshow. The "Yes indeed" experience was the thing, with Pfleger at the center of it -- but not -- surprisingly in view of his headline-grabbing proclivities, as distraction. He fit in, part of a seamless garment of devotional fury.
Pastor since 1981, Pfleger has achieved a lot. The church is magnificent, in excellent shape, down to cushioned pews and center-of-nave glorious baptismal font. Ushers in black suits wear white gloves. They and ladies in colorful dresses, some Afro-style, some not, hand out programs and meet you as you enter. If you ask for the weekly bulletin, you are told politely that they are given out as you leave church, which they were.
The basement hall, named after Pfleger's much loved and respected predecessor, Msgr. John McMahon, is full and bustle before and after the 11:15 service. Kids and adults sit over nachos gotten at a cafeteria counter with tickets bought in the next room by people standing in line to buy them. Clothing and other items are sold at various stalls. The room, the wash rooms are clean and adequate. (Churches are not always good about that.)
On 79th Street a block away is a senior citizens residence with St. Sabina's name on it, and Catholic Charities'. Parish-sponsored programs range from how to buy a house -- "Property is power," Pfleger said Sunday -- to movies for engaged and newlyweds. The vitality is palpable. In short, Pfleger has a going operation that packs them in on Sunday and pays its own way. "Twinning" was and maybe still is an archdiocesan program of joining of rich and poor parishes, to the supposed benefit of both. Does St. Sabina twin with a Cicero parish that needs some help?
That's a bad joke. Point is, there's not a priest or bishop that wouldn't take his hat off to Pfleger for the St. Sabina success story (parish school and all). If he has over-identified with his people, he's not the first. If Cardinal George were to put clamps on him for his flouting of church laws and regulations, for his brazen embrace of his community's prejudices, he would probably find it more trouble than it's worth, because while building his community of faith, Pfleger has built himself a fortress beyond which the Gentiles may rage but to no avail. (2003-02-09)
PFLEGER'S SABINA & BELAFONTE . . . 2003-01-25 -- My friend Jake (not his real name) found himself flustered, flapped, and in general quite irritated to read about Father Michael Pfleger's handing over the St. Sabina pulpit to rabble-rouser Harry Belafonte last Sunday, 1/20. 90 minutes, in a veritable act of prostitution by the Rev. P. Was it before or after the consecration of the mass, or did they bother with mass that day? Jake asks plaintively.
Fr. P. introduced Belafonte as "a voice for freedom and a voice for justice," Jake read in Chi Trib.
A Belafonte sample:
* Bush has proven he's "not our friend." How? His administration will try to wipe away affirmative action, eliminate a woman's right to choose abortion and pursue a war with Iraq "that makes absolutely no sense." Jake: This plea for legal abortion from a Catholic pulpit? What's going on here?
* "While we are wondering what to do about [black youth], Bush and others have found out what to do. We have the largest prison population on earth. We are building more prisons than schools."
* Colin Powell is not only a house slave and sellout to the white master, but he and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice in an act of "villainy" are serving those who "design our oppression."
* 9/11 was our fault: "Bin Laden . . . came from somewhere, and if you look where ... you'll see America's hand of villainy."
The church was packed. Among the cheerers was Illinois' new attorney general, Chicago Latin School alum Lisa Madigan, probably the state's most outspoken elected-official abortion proponent. Jake is fit to be tied.
AL SHARPTON MOUNTS CATHOLIC PULPIT, TO HELP CATHOLICS THINK OUT OF BOX . . .
Rev. Michael Pfleger has scheduled Rev. Al Sharpton to preach at St. Sabina Church Sunday, says Kup 2/4
religion writer Cathleen Falsani 2/5
Sharpton -- presidential candidate and Pentecostal minister ordained at age 10 in 1964 -- and Marxist, black-focused academic Cornel West, who speaks at St. Sabina Friday night, are not expected "to contradict [parishioners'] beliefs as Christians," Fr. Pfleger told Falsani. Rather, they are to "cause [them] to think out of the box, ask the difficult questions and wrestle with the answers."
The two were invited to publicize "poverty and homelessness and racism and health care," which are "on the backburner [and are] not even being addressed" because Americans are "obsessed with . . . overseas terrorism [and have] ignored the terrorisms we had here long before Sept. 11."
Sharpton, who supports the right to abort a baby, has a checkered past. He gained national fame when he vigorously espoused the cause of a New York woman who falsely claimed that some policemen had raped her and has never admitted he was wrong. He told Falsani this was his first time preaching in a Catholic church. "The comfort," however, "is that Father Pfleger is a different kind of a Catholic priest," he said.
Falsani notes that Pfleger has given his pulpit to other controverted speakers, including singer Harry Belafonte -- Sunday 1/20, when Belafonte tore into Bush for seeking to eliminate a woman's right to an abortion and promoting war. Pfleger has also several times hosted Black muslim firebrand Louis Farrakhan, ridiculer of the Pope and castigator of Judaism as "a gutter religion."
There will be none of that this time, apparently, from Sharpton, who told Falsani, in her words, that "he intends to put current events in historical and spiritual perspective during his Sunday sermon." (2003-02-05)
PFLEGER-BELAFONTE-SABINA REVISITED, 2003-01-28 . . . A non-Chicago reader asks about Fr. Pfleger's hosting Harry Belafonte at St. Sabina: "Does anyone bring this sort of thing to the attention of the archdiocese? Does anyone there care? Or are they hypocrites on abortion too?" I asked my friend Jake, still irritated but shrewdly analytical, who said:
Very interesting dynamic here. Cardinal George is shown most recently smiling gleefully at having his three picks for auxiliary bishop approved by the Vatican -- Spanish-speaking, Polish-speaking, Other. But he has put the Pfleger problem on hold. He floated the notion a few months ago that P's time is up at St. Sabina, which admittedly Fr. P. has brought from nowhere to thriving operation.
He said that also about the Mayor's pastor (Old St. Pat's, Irish-heritage up to its ears), who also took a parish from nowhere to thriving, and has that on hold also.
He did move the time-expired Rev. R. McLaughlin from the cathedral, where incidentally an issue has been general absolution, on which McL expatiated in a recent Commonweal (12/6/02: "FORGIVE US OUR SINS -- General absolution is popular & needed"). McL leaked his impending removal to friends in the Noose Papers and got his moment in the glare, to no avail. This was months ago; McL has been ensconced in an excellent suburban parish for a while now.
Back to Pfleger: It's interesting how he plays the media, making friends of the mammon of iniquity towards the day when C. George makes his move. George is not a slouch at explaining himself, but he might have measured the fallout from landing on Pfleger (and the Irish guy too, for that matter) and decided it's better for now to rejoice in his new auxiliaries. Getting his team in place, you know.
That's Jake on the subject. I know I speak for all our readers when I express gratitude for the time and effort he expends on his shrewd analysis. (2003-01-28)
THE PRIEST AND THE SCHOOLBOY . . . Page 16 of 1/14/03 Sun-Times has 150 words -- "Abuse charge ruled credible" by its energetic religion reporter, Cathleen Falsani, http://www.suntimes.com/output/news/cst-nws-abuse14.html; link is good for a week -- about Fr. Jim Hagan, who was one of our priests at St. Catherine-St. Lucy parish, Oak Park & Chicago, straddling the Austin Blvd. boundary, in the 70s.
The charge hits home: it's that he sexually abused a St. Catherine-St. Lucy schoolboy in the '70s. Our kids might have attended that school. (I did, graduating 1945.) We chose (integrated) public school instead, when it was still integrated, on grounds of overall educational opportunity. So eventually did the other white parishioners, and this in a very parishioner-active parish. The Sunday-school CCD classes were very well attended.
Like probably all the other parents, we never dreamed of wondering or worrying about sexual abuse by a priest. The S-T story says the archdiocese has ruled the accusation credible, quoting the victim, Robinson, who wants Cardinal George to visit St. Catherine and the other parish where Hagan was similarly charged and to produce a list of all accused priest-abusers. The archdiocese says no list.
Because of the earlier accusation, also apparently credible, Hagan was removed as pastor of St. Denis parish on the SW Side in 1996 and left the priesthood in 1997, S-T reported. The name of this accuser, Donald Robinson, is not familiar to me. He might have been not a parishioner at all.
The school was at least on its way by then to becoming all black and all-Chicago-resident, with enrollment limited to kids from the Chicago side of Austin. The idea was to provide them an alternative to badly performing, less safe Chicago public schools.
At least one Oak Park mother, a black woman with black children, not Catholic but eager for a religious school environment, lived a block from St. Catherine-St Lucy school but could not get her kids into it. They would have to get in line behind the Chicago kids, she was told. The school still thrives, by the way, and with a little luck won't be harmed by this Hagan report.
CARDINAL GEORGE OF CHICAGO ON BEING CATHOLIC IN AMERICA
THE U.S. AS ENEMY . . . . Church leaders could one day be prosecuted for refusing to ordain women and bless homosexual unions, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago told 200 or so lawyers and judges Sept. 5 at a Union League Club luncheon. He added that he hoped his audience would be with him when he went to jail.
The comment was part of a critique of U.S. culture, itself part of an hour-long lecture on "Law and the Formation of American Values" co-sponsored by U. of Chicago-based Lumen Christi Institute and the Catholic Lawyers Guild.
The going-to-jail scenario is something he could not have imagined two years ago, he said. He did not say what changed his mind, except to identify it with a pattern of expanding domestic "police power."
Overseas, things are no better, according to his account of 12 years as a Rome-based world traveller for his religious congregation, the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. On these journeys, he said, he felt welcome as a Catholic, except in communist countries, but suspect as an American. In the U.S. he found the opposite was true. Indeed, he finds it "hard sometime to be both Catholic and American," he said.
Americans' "cultural blindness" to the resentment others feel will destroy us "as a nation," he said. Other nations resent us because we "oppress them," he said, or they think we do after "50 years of intense communist propaganda."
Be that as it may, "we can't impose our way of life" on others, he said, and "we live in a fool's paradise if we don't realize" that. He did not specify how we impose our way of life.
THE BISHOPS' DALLAS MISTAKE . . . . Cardinal George also criticized the Catholic bishops' zero-tolerance prescription for quelling clergy sex abuse, adopted in Dallas in June, as "flawed and very dicey" and "illegal" according to church law. But the bishops had no choice in the matter, he explained, because they faced a "pastoral moment" that demanded it.
He himself was committed before the Dallas meeting to a more "nuanced" approach but changed his mind after listening to tapes of 19 gatherings of lay people throughout the Chicago archdiocese. These "fora," as he called them, meaning forums but using the Latin plural, convinced him that a less absolutist approach was not "pastorally" indicated.
Advising the lawyers and judges on how to stay true to Catholic principles while fulfilling their professional duties, he rejected the "privatized faith" which he said was espoused by John F. Kennedy when running for president in 1960. Such a faith "can't remain faith," he said.
THE TALK'S DIMENSIONS . . . . His talk took an hour -- 15 minutes past his allocated time. He read it at a brisk clip, as one would a lecture at a scholarly meeting. A photographer trying for a head shot had to get it when his head rose.
He used some words that called attention to themselves. "Fora" (for forums) has been noted. He also spoke of the "epiphenomena" of a culture -- "a secondary phenomenon that results from and accompanies another," says American Heritage Dictionary, citing Harper's magazine: "Exploitation of one social class or ethnic group by another [is] an epiphenomenon of real differences in power between social groups."
He spoke fast even when improvising: his mind apparently moves at a pace he can hardly keep up with. His talk was a well researched and tightly constructed disquisition on law and morality, which made his obiter dicta -- asides, not strictly part of his argument and not demonstrating similar research -- jarring.
These had something of the tone of his June 16 comment likening reporters taking notes in an Oak Park church to communist spies. They seem related also to what he reportedly told the beleaguered Fr. John Smyth, director of Maryville, a multi-campus home for troubled children under investigation, as related by Smyth in a Sept. 8 sermon, "This is the time, this is the season, for picking on Catholics."
Two Cardinal Georges were in evidence at the Union League Club, one with the steel-trap mind who moves with ease through legal complexities, another whose brilliance and high station seem to have made him feel expert in fields beyond his own.
BY GEORGE, HE SAID IT (11/12/02). . . Cardinal Francis George of Chicago said he was not surprised by priest-abuse victims' criticism of the Vatican's rejection of bishops' zero-tolerance policy last month.
"I think it is scripted," he told Chi Trib 10/19, referring to victims' groups criticism. "It is said again and again. No matter what the Vatican and the bishops do."
This is George the Impatient, but it's also George repeating himself, I think. This 10/19 story has "scripted," which chances are he used.
But that's not what Sun-Times had in June, which has him in similar context saying "prescripted," a neologism at best. Things aren't prescripted, but prescribed, which is how they end up in prescriptions. Ask any pharmacist.
On this earlier occasion, George was sounding off on critics' responses outside a church where he had ordered photographers and reporters to put away cameras and pencils while he preached -- a prescription already here noted as unseemly at best.
Sun-Times got it wrong, I think, which is understandable in the rush to report, though a copy editor might give given George more credit, if not for patience, at least for using the language better than that.
Unless he really did say "prescripted," which I doubt.
THE ABUSED 9/14/02 . . . . Jesuit-run America Mag for 9/16/02 has three tough essay articles by clerical sex abuse victims. The pseudonymous Charles Christopher, "a Catholic journalist," tells of entering a small religious community in 1976 to become a priest. Recruits were "getting in touch with their sexuality," he recalls.
One of the "brother" seminarians, a member of the recruiting team, violated him by subterfuge aided by some very bad counseling and religious-community practices. These included "trust-building exercises" -- telling all in group sessions, rappelling and the like, where "Trust the Brother" was the byword.
The predator-rapist got Christopher to trust him, having "groomed" him for that sex-partner role over three years of getting to know the community and vice versa. One older recruit called the trust sessions the manipulative instruments they were and got out. The others thought him paranoid.
Another writer, who teaches theology in Dominican High School in New Orleans, Mona H. Villarrubia, was sexually molested biweekly over several years by a priest beginning at age four (!). She says she's on the way to forgiving him, but it isn't easy. She never talked about it until she began seven years of therapy at age 32, never told her bishop about it until her 40s. Even today she fears becoming an abuser and molester of her own children.
Did the bishops go too far in Dallas, as some have said (including Cardinal George at the Union League Club 9/5)? She thinks not far enough: The offender should be dismissed from the priesthood, not just removed from ministry. Why? Because "he remains a risk, and his history should be made known."
CARDINALS ON WING . . . . Mayordaley II is not about to be buffaloed by the cloth, any more than his father was. The father, a daily mass-goer -- explain it, challenged Mike Royko in his autographing of my copy of Boss -- knew a loser when he saw one (Card. Cody) and in general considered his realm (the practical, the political, the scheming, the bullying, in general the wielding of power as done in Chicago and other cities) out of bounds for a church leader including a cardinal.
Now Daley II congratulates Card. George for getting with the affordable-housing issue (late in the game). 7/26 papers have Daley speaking up for the market as liable to frustration by laws. (What do you know about that?) Incentives (for builders to include low-cost units) yes, coercion (by laws) no, he says, swiping at C. George for getting up at a church and announcing that economic segregation is "not good" and calling on Daley to require economic diversity in developments.
Doesn't work, said Daley of the cardinal-endorsed coercion, without asking the obvious question, What is C. George doing in the political business (calling for legislation, i.e. governmental edict) when he should be working almost full-time to get his church house in order?
It's a matter of C. George's staying with what he presumably knows without dabbling in politics and the housing industry. Cardinals do that. It's like the dictator who starts a war to get his people's minds off their own bad situation. C. Bernardin, who never met a payroll based on sales, unless you count fund-raising, had lots to say about reform of the U.S. economy when he headed the bishops' conference. He had lots to recommend to business and government but mostly government, in which he showed himself a fervent believer. (Competition was only half word for him, the other half was unbridled.) As top bishop he made the cover of Time while pushing one left-wing cause, nuclear disarmament, but got nowhere with another, increased governmental control of business.
What is it with cardinals? Do they get itchy with nothing but a church to run and want to branch out?
SORRY ABOUT THAT . . . English and Irish Catholics were told in 1800 in the hierarchy-approved Keenan's Cathechism that papal infallibility was "the invention of Protestant calumniators," a canard, something they claim we claim when we don't.
Ha! A short 70 years later, in Vatican Council I, we claimed it, handing calumniators their issue!
FATHER FESSIO AT THE CAA (9/13/02)
MAN ON MISSION . . . A woman told Fr. Joseph Fessio SJ it would be good to publicize how bad contraception (the pill) is for a woman's health. That way they might discourage more from using it. What a woman has to worry about, he shot back, "is going to hell." Fr. Fessio takes no prisoners in his pursuit of God's will.
He's a California Jesuit who was bounced some months back from the U. of San Francisco faculty, assigned to a hospital chaplaincy. His tradition-oriented Ignatius Institute was closed down, his big-city university work ground to a halt. But he bounced back to become chancellor of Domino's pizza king Tom Monaghan's new Ave Maria University, now in Ypsilanti, Michigan, soon to be relocated to southwest Florida. He spoke 9/13 at a luncheon meeting of the Catholic Citizens of Illinois.
Tom Roeser, the former Quaker Oats public affairs man turned Sun-Times Saturday columnist, introduced him in glowing terms as a Catholic leader, tossing in a recent accomplishment -- bicycling from Chicago to San Francisco in 27 days. Fr. F. is tall, dark, and handsome. He talked for a half hour or so on the church and what to do about its current crisis, then answered questions. He did so after an excellent $20 salmon lunch at the Chicago Athletic Assn.
THE ROOT OF EVIL . . . . The church's problem, as dramatically exemplified by the priest sex abuse issue, comes down to homosexuality, he said, noting (with others) that most of the victims were young men. Homosexuality is an issue because the church's teaching on sexuality has been generally rejected, specifically as regards contraception in marriage. Once sexuality was separated from procreation, it was Paddy bar the door for everyone's libido, including priests'.
This is Fr. Fessio's domino theory. "A bulwark" was removed. Pope Paul VI did not want trouble, however; so he named "manager" bishops who would keep a lid on, being careful not to proclaim church teachings too loudly. It was important they not be perceived as "conservative," the apostolic (papal) delegate told a group of priests in the 1970s. Where bishops were concerned, no prophets need apply.
Among the audience of 100 or so, lay men and women and a scattering of priests, heads nodded in grim appreciation of Fessio's point. He had anecdotes. In one diocese of 300 priests, the bishop had names of 30 priests who were active homosexuals and did nothing about it. In another, headed by a cardinal, two priests were known to be living in homosexual concubinage with a third man ("a doctor"), and nothing was done. In one "house of studies" of 100 seminarians, more than 70% denied church teaching on important matters, and 30% were homosexually active. Nothing was done here either. Bishops in each case were asleep at the switch.
Liturgically, things also went to hell. Construing the mass as meal not sacrifice was like taking love out of marriage. He admitted this one was not easy to understand.
The answer, he said, lies in a statement signed last April by eight U.S. cardinals calling for "public reprimands" of dissenters. Was Cardinal George one of the signers? Roeser asked later. He was.
TESTING, ONE, TWO . . . Fessio gave his own down-and-dirty litmus test for seminary admission, ordination, and promotion. It was signing on to just three items in the official Catholic Catechism -- #1577, limiting ordination to men; #2357, rejecting homosexual activity; and #2366, calling for each "nuptial act" to be open to conception. These three, rejected by "most theologians," are "the issues of our time," he said.
He saved his best for almost last. One of the last questions asked was by a man who wanted to know what advice Fessio had for a young man entering the Jesuits. Fessio said he would make "no public statement" on this but would talk to the man privately. Then he slipped and slipped this in: "Tell him to keep his pants on."
Then the woman mentioned above pressed him on how to counter tendencies to birth control. The give and take stopped momentarily. It was Fessio's turn to respond, but the air went dead. He was pulling himself together. Finally he responded, choked with emotion. "Contraception destroys marriages," he said, in cracked tones. This is when the woman suggested doing more to publicize the dangers to a woman's health -- increased risk of cervical cancer, for instance -- from using the pill. And this is when Fessio responded that her big problem was the danger of going to hell.
Pay no attention!. . . . #305, 8/18/2002
. . . Did you hear the one about the preacher who didn't want to be quoted? Cardinal George of Chicago at St. Giles, Oak Park, Sunday 6/16. All you reporters out there so interested in my sermon, he said, stop taking notes! Photographers get out too, he said, and after mass stayed with it, saying in effect, Pilate-like, "What I said, I said."
Can you imagine? Most preachers delight in listeners' hanging on every word, cherishing them so much as to save them for future reference. Just what was C. George going to tell them that he didn't want them to remember, or remember well?
He didn't get away with it, of course. He was quoted apparently verbatim, and we read about in the newspaper, tsk, tsk.
Was it a bad day in Oak Park, and nothing more? Or is this a matter of getting to know a cardinal? C. George's predecessor C. Bernardin told me once to turn off the tape recorder -- for the whole interview. Apparently didn't trust himself to say something he couldn't deny.
Billy Graham had no problem with a recorder; we sat in a restaurant booth and went at it. Can you imagine sitting in a restaurant booth with a cardinal, I mean one that also had a counter? Not Rosebud on Rush or Spiaggi or anything like it?
People say turn the recorder off when they want something off the record. Fine. But whole interviews, for a magazine article?
Two things here. One is a misplaced sense of majesty. England's George V did not like "newspaper boys" taking his words down. The other is a working ignorance of how open societies work. Cardinals should know better, but refuse to, probably because of the misplaced sense of m. just mentioned.
The camera people left. What if they hadn't? Would the Forest Preserve police have been called to haul them out? No, because no one confiscated pens or recorders. But hey, we WANT people to come to mass at St. Giles. We WANT them to listen up when the preacher speaks. We want them to pay close attention. Must they put away their ballpoints?
PLAYING IN PEORIA . . . Chi Trib, 6/2/02, had a page-1 story about John Myers, late of Peoria, now archbishop of Newark and member of the eight-bishop committee which decides how to handle abuse issues. As head man in Peoria, Myers sloughed off abuse matters, accusers say. In the 10 months he'd been gone from Peoria, seven priests had been dumped -- eight, said MSNBC 6/14.
Myers said that was based on info he didn't have. But the story is about info he did have. It catches him in an ecclesiastical fib, of which there have been far too many lately.
He's an Opus Dei member, by the way, as are the people he chose to help him run Peoria in 1990. His name is not French, but his cuffs are or were.
ERROR . . . Msgr. George Higgins died recently. He was a Chicago priest who wrote a column on labor relations for many years and appeared always to be on the side of the working man and woman. He was a George Meany-type liberal and a levelheaded fellow. But When Time Mag writer Robert Blair Kaiser was trying to get his wife back from a seductive, not say predatory, Irish Jesuit, Malachi Martin, in the mid-60s in Rome during Vatican Council 2, Higgins said something quite revealing to Kaiser, as the latter reports in his new book, Clerical Error: A True Story (Continuum).
Kaiser was asking everyone he knew for help in locating Martin and his wife in frantic efforts to get her back. But in dinner conversation about it, Higgins seemed more worried about Martin as a wayward priest than about Kaiser's spoiled marriage. "I'm trying to get my wife back and put my marriage together," he told Higgins. "That's your problem," said Higgins, demonstrating clerical inability to see beyond one's priestly circle.
ECCLESIASTICAL DEATH CAME FOR THE ARCHBISHOP . . . Archbishop Rembert Weakland of Milwaukee is the Oscar Wilde, Nellie Forbush, and Frankie (female, goes with Johnny) of his generation and state in life: he fell in love with a wonderful guy who done him wrong.
At 50 he wooed or was wooed by a man 20 years younger who hit him up for money to fund a pet project. By Aug. 25, 1980, a year or more into their affair or at least particular friendship as we said in the Jesuits in the 50s, Weakland had given him $14,000, all that was left of what the Benedictines had given him when he had become an archbishop. The man's project, a reportedly Christian video he called "Christodrama," was Benedictines-funded, but the Benedictines didn't know it.
Weakland -- "the poor son of a bitch," as a man wearing "owl-eyed glasses" called Jay Gatsby at his funeral and as Dorothy Thompson reportedly said of author F. Scott Fitzgerald at his -- warned his supposed friend in his 1980 letter that he could give him no more money, "not because I don't love you" but because "church money is sacred money" for which he "must be accountable." (Later he ponied up much more sacred money, to his shame)
Weakland also did the difficult thing, the right thing, breaking off the relationship while feeling, as he said, the pain "of deep love." He had been "tense, pensive, without much joy" in the preceding months and "couldn't pray at all." He felt he was "fleeing" from God, he felt hypocritical. "I was letting your conscience take over for me and I couldn't live with it."
He had rediscovered celibacy as central to his life, "not just a physical celibacy but the freedom the celibate commitment gives."
His work as archbishop had become "almost unbearable." He was "at a crossroads." He "had to get the courage to decide."
He had to fend off the other man's "ridicule" and his accusation of "seeking escapes," apparently from emotional entanglement. (This would be the gotta-be-me that goes with our age's rampant personalism.) "But I must be me," Weakland said, adding something considerably more substantive, that he had to be "free and unencumbered" to give "total service" to the church. He could not give this man "the kind of friendship [he seemed] to need."
Weakland wept as he wrote it. He was making "the greatest renunciations" God has asked of him "for His Kingdom." Again he asked the man "not to ridicule."
He also had to get a few things off his chest. Paul (the other guy) had not been "totally honest" with him about "Don," another or the other man. (Frankie and Johnny again.) He was "still . .. a bit angry and perplexed at the whole money question." Paul had "seemed to quit work too soon" and had apparently blown some of the (Benedictine) money on "Don, Vicki, etc."
"I guess I began to wonder what I was helping," said Weakland. (He guessed.) It had been a bad week, apparently in Boston, in any case away from Wisconsin. He felt "humiliated, manipulated, a total complete failure on all counts." He had failed Paul and himself, he said, "as a friend . . . as priest." He had "collapsed," had done "nothing but cry and try to pray," asking for "some light of the Lord."
Paul had administered "cruel punishment" which he had "deserved." (Why?) He prayed only for help for Paul in his "moment of distress," that "it would all be purifying and bring me -- mostly you -- to a new level of existence." He "begged for forgiveness for having failed [Paul] and for the grace of standing up again and trying to be -- not a bishop -- just a Christian."
OUT-AND-OUT COMMENTARY . . . . If Weakland is a saint for all that -- and the language meets the requirements -- he is one for our time and not for the ages. The I've-got-to-be-me part reflects his conversations with Paul, who released the letter, betraying Weakland as surely as Lord Douglas (son of the Marquess of Queensbury!) betrayed Oscar Wilde. Can we imagine the 16th-century Jesuit Edmund Campion, on his way to England and probable capture and execution, saying he had to be himself?
What Weakland has going for him is his renunciation of Paul, and this wholly on his own, without benefit of clergy or others -- a wife, for instance, who might have helped shore up his resolve. He had taken on the Milwaukee job at Pope Paul VI's request, leaving Rome, his base as international top dog of the Benedictines, to live in Brookfield, in the archbishop's residence, lonely as hell, cosmopolitan turned cheesehead. Along came Paul and the letter here quoted (from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
) and years later the entirely ill-advised payoff in (fungible) archdiocesan real estate sales funds (who else was in on that decision?) and a few years after that exposure and disgrace.
The wonderful-guy part is what Nellie sang in "South Pacific." (And Weakland washed that man out of his hair.) The Oscar Wilde part is apt on its face: infatuation, betrayal (after Paul got the money), disgrace. The Frankie-and-Johnny part is only half right: Frankie caught Johnny in flagrante delicto (Paul done him wrong) and plugged him, after which they put her in jail and threw away the key. But Weakland plugged no one, figuratively or otherwise, and that was his nerviest performance.
DOMINO'S VOBISCUM . . . You heard it here first: Ex-pizza king Thomas Monaghan is starting a new university in Florida. it was announced 11/20 but appeared in 9/13/02 Blithe Spirit #308 coverage of Fr. Joseph Fessio SJ's talk to Catholic Citizens of Illinois (date?), when he said Ave Maria University, now in Ypsilanti, Michigan, would soon be relocated to southwest Florida.
The news in the 11/29 S-T is that Monaghan, founder of Domino's, would build on 750 acres near Naples. The Catholics are coming, the Catholics are coming!