Tuesday, December 27, 2016

In this Cristmas season, an infant is found in a Walmart trash can: "Where ox and ass are feeding"


Why lies He in such mean estate,
Where ox and ass are feeding?



William C. Dix
What Child Is This?

On the Friday before Christmas--the eve of Christmas eve--an infant was found in a Walmart restroom trash can in the town of New Roads, Louisiana. Kyandrea Thomas was arrested, and she faces charges of attempted second degree murder. Police say Thomas gave birth to the child in a Walmart bathroom and deposited the baby in a trash can.

A local district attorney believes Thomas is the same woman who pled guilty to negligent homicide in 2011 for the death of a three-year old who was left in a day-care center van for nearly six hours in "scorching heat." 

In this Christmas season, it is hard not to compare the birth of a baby in a Walmart restroom to the birth of Christ more than two millennia ago. Surely a Walmart trash can is the modern day equivalent of a stable where ox and ass were feeding. Surely a child born in a Walmart restroom lies in mean estate equivalent to the manger of the Christ.

"Long lay the world in sin and error pining. Til he appeared and the soul felts its worth."

I embraced Catholicism more than 20 years ago. I was attracted by its beauty, its rigor, and the glorious witness of the saints. I see it now in simpler terms. 

When all the bishops and priests, cathedrals and theological tomes are set aside, my Catholic faith is simply this: God entered the world in the form of a child and affirmed the dignity of humankind. That child is the Christ, who continues to be present to us in the sacraments.

Our politicians and pundits assure us we live in "the best of all possible worlds," a world of rising prosperity and increased devotion to human rights. After all, transgender people can urinate in the restroom of their choice. Isn't that a sign that the trajectory of secular humanism will bring us to the Promised Land?

Indeed, some us do live in a kind of ersatz Promised Land. The people who read the New York Times and buy the luxury goods the Times advertises may think they live in the best of all possible worlds. 

But less than a week ago, an infant was found in a trash can in a small-town Walmart restroom. And this child, unlike Jesus, did not have Mary to nurse her, did not have Joseph to protect her and keep her safe.

Surely this is still a world where the soul does not yet feels its worth. 


References

Newborn found in trash at New Roads Wal-Mart in stable condition Monday. The (Baton Rouge) Advocate, December 27, 2016, p. 1B.






Thursday, December 15, 2016

Which sin is worse--divorce or child rape? Let's ask Monsignor Richard Mouton

Awhile back I posted a letter I had written to Bishop J. Douglas Deshotel, reporting that I been treated rudely by Monsignor Richard Mouton in the confession booth. After asking several shocking sexual questions, Monsignor Mouton refused to confess me because I was divorced.

I delivered the letter to Bishop Deshotel on September 14, 2016. It is now December, and I have yet to receive Bishop Deshotel's response. I don't expect one.

Since that experience, I have learned that Monsignor Mouton was one of the priests in the Lafayette Diocese who figured in the the sexual abuse scandal involving Father Gilbert Gauthe, who was eventually convicted of sexually abusing children. In 1984, the Lafayette Diocese settled claims by nine child victims for more than $4 million, with the children's attorneys getting about a third.

Father Gauthe's hellish behavior, which included anal intercourse and oral sex with children, first became public in 1983, but it came to light in the course of litigation that Monsignor Richard Mouton had received reports from parents in 1976 that Father Gauthe had kissed two boys.

Monsignor Mouton was the pastor of the Catholic church in Abbeville at the time, and Father Gauthe was the assistant pastor. According to reporter Jason Berry, who wrote a book about the Gauthe tragedy, Monsignor Mouton responded to this news by "ordering [Gauthe] to move to an upstairs bedroom in the rectory."

Seven years later, Gauthe's sexual predations came to light; and parents of some of the victims contacted  a lawyer.

 Monsignor Mouton, apparently hoping to quiet things down, invited Roy Robichaux, father of three of Gauthe's victims, to come to the rectory for a little chat. Robichaux told Monsignor Mouton that he was notifying other parents whose children might also have been victimized by Gauthe.

According to reporter Berry's account, Monsignor did not approve. "Should anyone get hurt, Mouton admonished, the guilt would rest on Roy [Robichaux] for making it public."

Monsignor Mouton then said something that shocked Mr. Robichaux profoundly: "Think how Gauthe's mother would feel."

Robichaux responded as any good Cajun father would under the circumstances. "How in the fuck do you think the mothers of these kids feel?"

But Mouton continued to downplay what happened to Robichaux's three children. "The boys were young, Mouton said gently. They would bounce back and get over these things."

Later, Mouton telephone Robichaux and offered to hear the three children's confessions. Robichaux reportedly said no. "My sons do not need confession! They did nothing wrong."

So here's a theological question. In the eyes of God,who is the worst sinner--a priest who puts his penis in a child's rectum  or a divorced Catholic who seeks the consolation of the sacraments?

I'll ask Monsignor Mouton that question the next time I see him, but I think I already know his answer.

Father Gilbert Gauthe


References

Jason Berry. Lead Us Not Into Temptation: Catholic Priests and the Sexual Abuse of Children. New York; Doubleday, 1992.

Jason Berry. The Tragedy of Gilbert Gauthe (Part 1). Times of Acadiana, May 23, 1985.

Mary Gail Frawley O'Dea. Perversion of Power: Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 2007.




Monday, November 14, 2016

Open Letter to Bishop J. Douglas Deshotel and complaint about Msgr. Richard Mouton of the Lafayette Diocese: The Jubilee of Mercy

202 LSU Avenue
Baton Rouge, LA 70808


Bishop J. Douglas Deshotel
Lafayette Diocese
Lafayette, Louisiana

HAND DELIVERED

Re: Complaint about Msgr. Richard Mouton

Dear Your Excellency:

Today I went to confession at the Cathedral, where I met Msgr. Richard Mouton, who refused to confess me. I am not complaining about being refused confession. Rather I am complaining about Msgr. Mouton’s rudeness.  When I left him, I felt as if I had been stripped of all my human dignity.

I returned on Monday from a 12 day pilgrimage to Rome, where I attended the canonization Mass for Mother Teresa and visited many of the great holy sites of Italy. This trip was sponsored by the Catholic Press Association; I am a member of CPA through my editorship of a Catholic history journal.

This is the Year of Mercy, and I walked through several Holy Doors and received instruction about how to apply for a plenary indulgence. Archbishop John Wester of Santa Fe accompanied our pilgrims group, and I attended Mass almost every day of our journey.

By the end of my pilgrimage, I had collected 5 plenary indulgences, and I resolved to give them to five people who had injured me many years ago when I was young. I realized of course that I needed to go to confession in order to receive a plenary indulgence and I needed to do this quickly.  Although I live in Baton Rouge, I work in Lafayette, and I decided to go to confession at the Cathedral today.

I became a Catholic almost 20 years ago after I married my present wife.  Against many obstacles, we managed to raise and educate four children. All are now in their 30s, all are married, and all are working and own their own homes. We have six grandchildren.

I entered the Catholic Church in a rural parish in Louisiana and was told by my parish priest that there was a “local solution” regarding my divorce.  It wasn’t until later that I learned that many priests believe my parish priest was wrong on that issue and that I am not entitled to go to confession or communion or even to call myself a Catholic.  I attempted to get an annulment but abandoned that process on the advice of my spiritual adviser, a devout Sister.

I disclosed my divorced status to Father Mouton. He refused to confess me and harshly told me not to go to communion until I got my status straightened out by my parish priest in Baton Rouge. Before he did this, however, he questioned me closely about sex.

I left the confession booth feeling stripped of my dignity. My Catholic faith has been deeply shaken, and I do not know whether I can even call myself a Catholic.

Now I would like to make a couple of points. First, I have considered myself a deeply committed Catholic—although certainly imperfect. I served seven years on the Texas Catholic Conference Accreditation Commission, the body charged with accrediting Catholic schools in Texas; and I was president of the Commission for three years. I am Editor of Catholic Southwest, a regional Catholic history journal that has won several awards for excellence from the Catholic Press Association. My wife and I were chaperones for a group of Catholic young people at Catholic World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany; and I participated in a five-week Catholic mission to Tanzania in 2004.

In addition, I have served as a formal RCIA sponsor for eight people who came into the Catholic Church as adults, and I volunteered at a Catholic Worker Hospitality House in Houston when I was living in Houston years ago. For ten years, I have sent monthly contributions to two Tanzanian Catholic priests—sending them a total of more than $10,000 to assist them in their ministry.

I do not tell you this to say I am a good person. I am not. I am deeply flawed.  And this brings me to the final point I wish to make.

I grew up in a Protestant household in southwestern Oklahoma under conditions of extreme physical and psychological abuse. My father suffered from PTSD due to his experience as a prisoner of war in a Japanese concentration camp. He was in fact a survivor of the Bataan Death March. My mother had severe psychological problems for which she received no treatment.  I was repeatedly beaten quite severely by both my mother and my father when I was a child and experienced psychological abuse as well. 

For a host of reasons—including my own sinful nature and my parents’ pathologies—I did not understand the Catholic view of marriage as a young person. I am a divorced person. Through the grace of God, my wife and her family, and my Catholic faith, I have gradually healed over the years, although I am still a deeply flawed man.

I have accomplished a few things in life; I have a law degree from the University of Texas and a doctorate in education policy from Harvard University.  But the center of my life is my devotion to the Catholic faith and to my family—my wife, her parents and siblings, my children, my stepchildren, and my grandchildren.

Over the past 20 years, I have taken communion over a thousand times in Catholic churches on four continents.  If I have committed a mortal sin by receiving communion, which Father Mouton may believe, then I am surely damned.

So I am registering this protest and complaint against Msgr. Mouton. Msgr. Mouton brutally disregarded my dignity. In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, he showed me no compassion, no mercy.

I would like you to tell me whether Msgr. Mouton's treatment of me accords with these words of Pope Francis, which I found posted outside the door of the Shrine to Saint Rita of Cascia in Italy:
In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, God forgives sins, which are really removed; yet there remains the negative imprint that sins have left in our behavior and in our thoughts. 
The Mercy of God, however, is even stronger than this! It becomes indulgence on the part of the Father who, through the Bride of Christ, his Church, reaches pardoned sinners and frees them from every residue left by the consequences of sin, enabling them to act with charity, to grow in love, rather than to fall back into sin.
Can Msgr. Mouton’s judgmental assessment of me really be the view of the Catholic Church? And if it is, please tell me how this view can be reconciled with Pope Francis’s papal exhortation, Amore Laetitia (which I have read).

In closing, I will say that I may take my status up with my parish priest in Baton Rouge as Father Mouton directed, or I may not. I do not wish to be stripped of my dignity again as I was by Father Mouton—even if I am required to do so to become fully reconciled to my Church.

Sincerely,



Richard Fossey, J.D., Ed.D.,
Paul Burdin Endowed Professor of Education
University of Louisiana at Lafayette



Note to Blog readers: This letter is slightly modified from the letter I hand delivered to Bishop Deshotel last September. I added the passage from Pope Francis that I found outside the Shrine to Saint Rita of Cascia. I have received no response from Bishop Deshotel.


Msgr. Richard Mouton, Lafayette Diocese


Sunday, November 13, 2016

Divorced Catholics in the Jubilee Year of Mercy: No Mercy for Catholic Survivors of Broken Marriages

I came across this lovely quote from Pope Francis last September while visiting the Shrine of St. Rita of Cascia in Italy.  Appearing on a large poster were these words:
In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, God forgives sins, which are really removed; yet there remains the negative imprint that sins have left in our behavior and in our thoughts. 
The Mercy of God, however, is even stronger than this! It becomes indulgence on the part of the Father, who, through the Bride of Christ, his Church, reaches pardoned sinners and frees them from every residue left by the consequences of sin, enabling them to act with charity, to grow in love rather than to fall back into sin.
Did Pope Francis intend for these powerfully reassuring words to apply to divorced Catholics? To divorced people who wish to become Catholic?

I believe he did. As the Pope said in Amoris Laetitia, his recent Apostolic Exhortation, "No one can be condemned for ever, because that is not the logic of the Gospel!"

As Pope Francis pointed out in Amoris Laetitia, the Synod Fathers have reached a general consensus with regard to people living in irregular situations, which he quoted:
In considering a pastoral approach towards people who have contracted a civil marriage, who are divorced and remarried, or simply living together, the Church has the responsibility of helping them understand the divine pedagogy of grace in their lives and offering them assistance so they can reach the fullness of God's plan for them.
This was possible, Pope Francis added "by the power of the Holy Spirit."

Of utmost importance to divorced Catholics, Pope Francis wrote that divorced and remarried Catholics "need to be fully integrated into Christian communities in the variety of ways possible, while avoiding any occasion of scandal." Indeed, Pope Francis emphasized:
Such persons need to feel not as excommunicated members of the Church, but instead as living members, able to live and grow in the Church and experience her as a mother who welcomes them always, who takes care of them with affection and encourages them along the path of life and the Gospel. This integration is also needed in the care and Christian upbringing of their children, who ought to be considered most important.
Tragically, these powerful and holy words, written by Pope Francis during the Jubilee Year of Mercy, have been explicitly rejected by many Catholic priests and bishops.

How ironic. The Catholic Church's sexual abuse scandal--this catastrophic episode in the life of the American Church--is a stain on the Bride of Christ that may never be wiped away. Certainly, the priests and bishops who participated in this scandal or who covered it up are in urgent need of mercy.

And yet so many of our priests and bishops offer no mercy whatsoever to divorced Catholics, even in this, the Jubilee Year of Mercy.

Msgr. Richard Mouton, Lafayette Diocese


References

Pope Francis. Amoris Laetitia--The Joy of Love. (2016)


Thursday, November 10, 2016

The student loan crisis in the first 100 days: Please, President Trump, provide bankruptcy relief for distressed student-loan debtors

Hillary Clinton lost the presidential election, and we can throw her promise of a tuition-free college education in the ashcan. Meanwhile, the student loan crisis grows worse with each passing month.

Eleven million people have either defaulted on their loans or are delinquent in their payments. More than 5 million student-loan debtors are in long-term income based repayment plans that will never lead to loan payoffs.Several million student borrowers have loans in deferment or forbearance while interest continues to accrue on their loan balances.

Soon we will have a new president, and an exciting opportunity to look at the federal student loan program from a fresh perspective. What can President Trump do to bring relief to distressed college-loan debtors. Here are some ideas--respectfully submitted:

FIRST, TREAT THE WOUNDED.

President Trump can do several things quickly to alleviate the suffering.

Stop garnishing Social Security checks of loan defaulters. More than 150,000 elderly student-loan defaulters are seeing their Social Security checks garnished. President Trump could stop that practice on a dime. Admittedly, this would be a very small gesture; the number of garnishees is minuscule compared to the 43 million people who have outstanding student loans. But this symbolic act would signal that our government is not heartless.

Streamline the loan-forgiveness process for people who were defrauded by the for-profit colleges. DOE already has a procedure in place for forgiving student loans taken out by people who were defrauded by a for-profit college, but the administrative process is slow and cumbersome. For example, Corinthian Colleges and ITT both filed for bankruptcy, and many of their former students have valid fraud claims. So far, few of these victims have obtained relief from the Department of Education.

Why not simply forgive the student loans of everyone who took out a federal loan to attend these two institutions and others that closed while under investigation for fraudulent practices?

Force for-profit colleges to delete mandatory arbitration clauses from student enrollment documents. The Obama administration criticized mandatory arbitration clauses, but it didn't eliminate them. President Trump could sign an Executive Order banning all for-profit colleges from putting mandatory arbitration clauses in their student-enrollment documents.

Banning mandatory arbitration clauses would allow fraud victims to sue for-profit colleges and to bring class action suits. And by taking this step, President Trump would only be implementing a policy that President Obama endorsed but didn't get around to implementing.

Abolish unfair penalties and fees. Student borrowers who default on their loans are assessed enormous penalties by the debt collectors--18 percent and even more. President Trump's Department of Education could ban that practice or at least reduce the penalties to a more reasonable amount.

REASONABLE BANKRUPTCY RELIEF FOR DISTRESSED STUDENT-LOAN DEBTORS

The reforms I outlined are minor, although they could be implemented quickly through executive orders or the regulatory process. But the most important reform--reasonable access to the bankruptcy courts--will require a change in the Bankruptcy Code.

Please, President Trump, prevail on Congress to abolish 11 U.S.C. 523(a)(8) from the Bankruptcy Code--the provision that requires student-loan debtors to show undue hardship as a condition for discharging student loans in bankruptcy.

Millions of people borrowed too much money to get a college education, and they can't pay it back. Some were defrauded by for-profit colleges, some chose the wrong academic major, some did not complete their studies, and some paid far too much to get a liberal arts degree from an elite private college. More than a few fell off the economic ladder due to divorce or illness, including mental illness.

Regardless of the reason, most people took out student loans in good faith and millions of people can't pay them back. Surely a fair and humane justice system should allow these distressed debtors  reasonable access to the bankruptcy courts.

President Trump can address this problem in two ways:

  • First, the President could direct the Department of Education and the loan guaranty agencies (the debt collectors) not to oppose bankruptcy relief for honest but unfortunate debtors--and that's most of the people who took out student loans and can't repay them.
  • Second, the President could encourage Congress to repeal the "undue hardship" provision from the Bankruptcy Code.
Critics will say that bankruptcy relief gives deadbeat debtors a free ride, but in fact, most people who defaulted on their loans have suffered enough.from the penalties that have rained down on their heads.

More importantly, our nation's heartless attitude about student-loan default has discouraged millions of Americans and helped drive them out of the economy. President Trump has given middle-class and working-class Americans an opportunity for a fresh start. Let's make sure that overburdened student-loan debtors get a fresh start too.

References

Natalie Kitroeff. Loan Monitor is Accused of Ruthless Tactics on Student Debt. New York Times, January 1. 2014. Accessible at http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/02/us/loan-monitor-is-accused-of-ruthless-tactics-on-student-debt.html?_r=0

Stephen Burd. Signing Away Rights. Inside Higher Ed, December 17, 2013. Available at https://www.insidehighered.com/views/2013/12/17/essay-questions-mandatory-arbitration-clauses-students-profit-higher-education

Andrew Kreighbaum, Warren: Education Dept. Failing Corinthian StudentsInside Higher Ed, September 30, 2016. Accessible at https://www.insidehighered.com/quicktakes/2016/09/30/warren-education-dept-failing-corinthian-students

Senator Elizabeth Warren to Secretary of Education John B. King, Jr., letter dated September 29, 2016. Accessible at https://www.warren.senate.gov/files/documents/2016-9-29_Letter_to_ED_re_Corinthian_data.pdf

Ashley A. Smith. U.S. Urged to Deny Aid to For-Profits That Force Arbitration. Inside Higher Ed, February 24, 2016. Available at: https://www.insidehighered.com/quicktakes/2016/02/24/us-urged-deny-aid-profits-force-arbitration?utm_source=Inside+Higher+Ed&utm_campaign=183bc9e3a3-DNU20160224&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_1fcbc04421-183bc9e3a3-198565653

U.S. Department of Education. U.S. Department of Education Takes Further Steps to Protect Students from Predatory Higher Education Institutions. March 11, 2016. Accessible at http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/us-department-education-takes-further-steps-protect-students-predatory-higher-education-institutions?utm_content=&utm_medium=email&utm_name=&utm_source=govdelivery&utm_term=

U.S. General Accounting Office. Older Americans: Inability to Repay Student Loans May Affect Financial Security of a Small Percentage of Borrowers. GAO-14-866T. Washington, DC: General Accounting Office. http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-866T

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Hungarians vote to reject the European Union's quota for Muslim refugees, and get scolded by the New York Times: Is Christian civilization worth saving?

The New York Times Editorial Board is displeased with the Hungarians, which must distress them greatly. Last week, Hungarian voters overwhelmingly rejected the European Union's directive for Hungary to accept 160,000 mostly Muslim refugees. The vote was not close; 98 percent of the voters cast their ballots against EU's migrant quotas.

The Times Editorial Board blamed Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban for the election results. Orban had urged voters to reject the EU's dictate on Muslim refugees, framing the referendum  as an attempt to defend Europe's "Christian values." 

The quotation marks around "Christian values," by the way, were inserted by the Times, no doubt to suggest Orban's argument was bogus or insincere.   Of course the Times, unencumbered by any regard for Christian values, wants Hungary to accept Muslim refugees.  Indeed, the Times pooh-poohed any concerns about the security risks that Muslim refugees present, not to mention the threat to an ancient Christian culture.

The Times editorial professed to be knowledgeable about Hungarian history, noting that Western nations accepted roughly 200,000 Hungarian refugees who fled their country after the failed uprising against the Russians in 1956.

But history shows that the Hungarians have won the right to protect their Christian values. Hungarians and their European allies drove the Turks out of Buda in 1686, stopping the advance of the Ottoman Empire into Europe..

Robert Royal, author of a brilliant book on the Catholic martyrs of the twentieth century, had this to say about Catholicism in Hungary under Russian rule.
The fate of the [Catholic] Church in Hungary exhibits a regrettable soft tragedy. Historically, the Church there has always been close to the government. When the Communists came to power after the Second World War, many within the Church thought it prudent to continue the traditional pattern Only the Hungarian Primate, Cardinal Joszef Mindszenty, archbishop of Esztergom, resisted vigorously. . . . As a result of his heroic and lonely stand, he was tortured for forty days straight and then, weak and unable to resist any longer, forced to make public statements supportive of the regime. Six hundred priests went to prison with him. All were threatened with deportation and forced labor in Siberia. With their confinement, virtually all heroism in the Hungarian Church disappeared . . . 
Today, as Royal noted, Hungarian Catholicism is not robust. My wife and I attended Mass at St. Stephen's Basilica in Budapest last year, and we were surrounded by mostly old people, some of whom seemed surprised to see a couple of Americans show up to celebrate Mass in  the Magyar language.

Nevertheless, the Hungarians should be commended for saying no to an influx of Muslim migrants who will only further weaken Hungary's historic Christian culture and who may well pose a significant security threat.

Of course, the Times has no regard for Christian culture and little concern about Islamic terrorism. The Times Editorial Board members, after all, are surrounded by tight security both at home and at work. I doubt they lost any sleep about the rubes who died at the hands of Islamic terrorists in San Bernardino and Orlando.

But I, for one,  am sympathetic to the Hungarians. Millions of Central Europeans have died for their Christian faith over the last hundred years--victims of Communism and the Nazis. They are entitled to reject the dictates of EU bureaucrats regarding the alarming influx of Muslim refugees--driven out of their countries unfortunately by the consequences of the feckless and vacillating policies of the Obama administration toward the Middle East.


Image result for siege of budapest 1686


References

Editorial. No Way to Treat RefugeesNew York Times, October 10, 2016. Accessible at http://www.nytimes.com/topic/destination/hungary

Robert Royal. The Catholic Martyrs of the Twentieth Century: A Comprehensive World History. New York: Crossroads Books, 2000.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Pilgrimage to Rome: Stalled soul on the Scala Sancta (reflections on minor sufferings of American commuters)

According to Catholic tradition, St. Helena, mother of Constantine, made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem in the years 326-328, where she recovered the True Cross. Evelyn Waugh's fictional account of Helena's pilgrimage, simply titled Helena, portrays her as a late comer to faith and spiritual kin to the three Magi, who arrived tardy at the manger of Christ.

A less well known tradition holds that Helena also discovered the actual stairs that Christ walked for his meeting with Pontius Pilate, who condemned Christ to a horrible death. Those stairs, called the Scala Sancta, are now in Rome, where pilgrims can crawl up all 28 steps in remembrance of Christ's suffering.

I creeped up those steps myself when I was in Rome earlier this month, somewhat reluctantly I confess. Pilgrims surrounded the stairs by the hundreds, and I had to wait in line for the privilege of my holy crawl.  I was aware of course that I should spend my time in contemplation as I ascended the stairs on my knees, and I resolved to reflect on the last terrible hours of Christ's life.

But as I waited for my opportunity to ascend the Scala Sancta, I observed a woman half way up the stairs, who wasn't moving. She would kneel for a time in prayer, pull herself erect occasionally to stretch her legs, and then sink to her knees again--always in the same place. In short, she was blocking traffic, forcing other pilgrims to veer around her, exactly like motorists veer around a stalled car on the freeway.

"How inconsiderate," I thought to myself. And that led me to think back on all the years I have spent commuting to work, all the minor traffic accidents I have witnessed, all the times I got stuck in traffic because someone's car broke down on the freeway, slowing the flow of traffic--sometimes for hours.

And that is what I thought about as I crawled up the Holy Stairs--all the years I've spent commuting to work in my car and all the millions of other Americans who spend so many hours of their lives simply driving to and from work. I thought of the collective boredom of all those commuting Americans sitting in their cars with nothing to divert them but their radios and their mugs of coffee.

And why do we do it? We do it to get to our jobs--our boring, uninteresting, unimportant jobs: the jobs we do simply to get a paycheck to pay our home mortgages. Most commuters drive to jobs in the cities but they live in the suburbs, where the schools are better. They sacrifice 2 or 3 hours of their lives every working day simply to live in a town that has decent schools for their children.

These are small sacrifices that commuters make--certainly small compared to the sacrifice Jesus was prepared to make when he walked up the Scala Sancta to meet Pontius Pilate. But I devoted my holy crawl to American commuters who suffer the minor inconvenience of driving to work every day for the sake of their children and for no other reason. Surely the Holy Family looks down on them in their daily commutes and sends them a blessing.



Image result for scala sancta


Image result for commuter traffic


Thursday, September 15, 2016

Cardinal Bernard Law, Saint Maria Goretti, and the Catholic Church's sexual abuse scandal: Would Saint Maria Goretti forgive a priest who put his penis in a child's rectum? Would she forgive an archbishop who protected child rapists?


The Story of Saint Maria Goretti: Virgin Martyr

Saint Maria Goretti, a virgin saint of the 20th century, died on July 6, 1902, murdered by Alessandro Serenelli, who had tried to rape her. Maria fought off Serenelli's sexual advances, but he stabbed her 14 times.  She did not die immediately; she lived about 20 hours. And before she died, Maria forgave Alessandro and expressed the wish that she would meet him in Paradise. She was only 11 years old.

Alessandro was convicted of murder and sentenced to 30 years in prison. He was initially unrepentant, but Maria appeared to Alessandro in a dream while he was sleeping in his prison cell. In that dream, Maria offered Alessandro 14 candles as a symbol of her forgiveness--one candle for each stab wound.  He then repented his terrible crime and became a different man.

After 27 years, Alessandro was released from prison. He became a Franciscan lay brother and died at the age of 87. He was still alive when Maria was canonized in 1950.

Would Saint Maria Goretti forgive Catholic priests who raped children?

A few days ago, I visited the Shrine of St. Maria Goretti, which is located in Nettuno, Italy, not far from Rome. I found myself pondering what Saint Maria's views might have been about the Catholic Church's sexual abuse scandal. She is the patron saint of rape victims, but she is also the patron saint of forgiveness. Would Maria Goretti forgive the Catholic priests who rammed their penises into the rectums of little boys? Would she forgive the bishops and church administrators who shielded child abusers from prosecution--evil men who introduced little children to oral sex?

Would she forgive Cardinal Bernard Law, the Archbishop of Boston, who covered up a massive sexual abuse scandal in his archdiocese and allowed predatory priests to have access to children? Would she forgive the lawyers who effectuated Cardinal Law's cover-up by drafting confidential settlement agreements? Would she forgive the psychiatrists who got paid to treat abusive priests and who certified that these priests were cured of their sexual pathologies?

Almost all the abusive priests were serial abusers. They raped a lot of boys, and they raped them multiple times. Would Maria forgive a priest who raped a little boy more than once? A priest who raped a lot of boys? Would she forgive Cardinal Law for every priest he protected?

Perhaps she would. But I think she would expect these sinners to make some act of penance. Alessandro, after all, spent 27 years in jail and lived a holy life after he was released.

But Cardinal Law is in Rome. In fact, he may have passed me in the streets of the Vatican last week. Perhaps he was among the VIPs who motored by me in their black luxury cars with tinted glass, accompanied by their smartly dressed body guards. The cardinal may have passed me as he was going to dinner at one of Rome's fine restaurants.

Perhaps Maria Goretti has forgiven Cardinal Law and all the bishops who closed their eyes to child rape. But I doubt it; I seriously doubt it.

Note

For other commentary on Cardinal Bernard Law or the sex abuse scandal, see these sources:

Abuse Enableng Bishops Who Were Resigned or Removed. Bishopaccountability.org. Accessible at http://www.bishop-accountability.org/bishops/removed/

Rev. Kenneth Doyle. How Can the Catholic Church Allow Bernard Law To Remain a Priest? Crux, December 14, 2015.  .Accessible at https://cruxnow.com/church/2015/12/14/how-can-the-church-allow-bernard-law-to-remain-a-priest/

Survivors Network of Those Abused By Priests.  Web site: http://www.snapnetwork.org/faqs10215
Image result for cardinal bernard law and pope francis



Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Pilgrimage to Rome: Labor Day Mass at St. Peter's Basilica where I heard people singing Pescadore des Hombres

On Labor Day, I attended mass at a side chapel of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. A priest from Iowa presided--a man in his mid-forties, humble and earnest. He told us we should ask God to bless the work of our hands and to be thankful for the work that God has given us to do.

An enormous painting of The Presentation of the Lord loomed over our side chapel, and the splendor of St. Peter's Basilica gave the mass a special power. But I was touched more profoundly by music I heard coming from another mass--a Spanish-language mass taking place somewhere beyond my sight at another side chapel in the vast basilica.

Somewhere people were singing a song I had often heard while attending mass in northern New Mexico--Pescador des Hombres. People were singing in Spanish, and they must have sung all four verses, because the singing continued for quite some time.

Immediately, I was taken out of St. Peter's Basilica. In my mind's eye, I was in the upper Rio Grande Valley of northern New Mexico. I saw the pure, unpolluted waters of the Rio Grande River, dappled by sunlight and teeming with trout. I saw the simple adobe churches of the villages in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

Hearing that familiar and humble tune, I became aware of the long heritage of my Catholic faith in my own country. The Spanish came up the Rio Grande River from El Paso in 1598. By the early 17th century, they were farming the thin soil along the tributaries of that great river as far north as modern-day southern Colorado. They built their simple adobe churches and prayed the mass a good twenty years before the Puritans landed in Massachusetts Bay. They forted up in their churches and their homes against the Apaches and the Comanches.

As I listened to Pescador des Hombres echoing through St. Peter's Basilica, I was reminded that my faith is an ancient faith and a simple faith.  Although I was surrounded by the great splendor of Roman Catholicism--its art, its statuary, the Pieta of Michelangelo--I am sustained by the simplicity, the  humility, and the childlike faith of my Catholic ancestors.

I believe because my ancestors believed. I embrace the mystery of the Eucharist because the saints embraced this mystery and willingly died horrible deaths in defense of a mystical truth--that Christ is present in the bread and wine of the Eucharist.

I am proud to share in the patrimony of Catholicism--its literature, its beautiful art, the soaring architecture of its cathedrals. But when I am overcome by doubt--which I often am--my faith returns when the Holy Spirit reminds me that the Catholic faith is the faith of the poor and the humble. It is the faith of people who suffer.


Image result for painting  and "presentation of the lord" and "St. Peter's basilica"



Lord, When You Came To The Seashore/Pescador Des Hombres
by Cesareo Gabarain
Lord, when you came to the seashore you weren't seeking the wise or the wealthy, but only asking that I might follow. 
REFRAIN (English): O Lord, in my eyes you were gazing, Kindly smiling, my name you were saying; All I treasured, I have left on the sand there; Close to you, I will find other seas. 
REFRAIN (Spanish): Señor me has mirado a los ojos, sonriendo has dicho mi nombre, en la rena he dejado mi barca, junto a ti buscaré otro mar.