Category Archives: Catholicism

Thoughts on “Winning the Culture War”

Last night as I was walking out of Mass with my wife, I saw a display case for Lighthouse Catholic Media and picked up a CD entitled “Winning the Culture War,” in which Dr. Peter Kreeft of Boston College presents a fictional conversation between C.S. Lewis’s Screwtape character and his apprentice, Wormwood. They are discussing how to dismantle Truth by politicizing religion, preaching tolerance, and advancing moral relativism.

One quote from Dr. Kreeft that especially struck me was this one:

“The origins of the moral relativism that justifies the sexual revolution is not intellectual, it’s moral. We’re not confused about moral absolutes, we’re afraid of moral absolutes. Our moral relativism is almost wholly sexual; almost no one defends nuclear war or insider trading or oil spills or even smoking. But anything to do with sex is justified, sanctified and glorified. Even murder is justified in the name of sex. Abortion is fundamentally about sex. Feminism, abortion, divorce, cohabitation-all these issues are about consequence-free sex.”

As a millennial, I grew up in the wasteland left behind in the aftermath of the sexual revolution waged by the Baby Boomers and institutionalized as the framework through which to view all future societal progress. I grew up in a world saturated with sex. Sex on TV, sex in the classroom, sex on college campuses, sex on billboards, sex in the magazines in the supermarket checkout line. And the aforementioned doesn’t even qualify as pornography by modern standards.

Dr. Kreeft’s presentation got me to thinking about our culture, and he is absolutely right. Sex isn’t even exciting anymore. There’s no restrictions to give it the thrill it once gave man. We are simultaneously sexualized and sexless. Sex no longer has meaning or significance in our culture, it’s what you do when there’s nothing good on TV. There are all kinds of sexual issues even in marriages today; sexless marriages, sex that seems routine, a chore, a duty, and sex cheapened by addiction on the husband (or wife) part to porn. And it’s not because God made sex boring, but because man’s designs have distorted sex.

Sex in and of itself-the union of man and woman in a powerful bond of intimacy with a teleological end of bringing new life into the world is no longer enough for the masses. No longer does the mere beauty of the male or female form created in the image and likeness of God prompt sexual desire and drive. Instead, we desire distortions and perversions of what is perhaps is nature’s most beautiful act and seek out images, fantasies and entertainment that degrade and debase sex. We can no longer be fulfilled by timeless love stories; no, we need perversion, domination, abuse, “red rooms,” whips, chains and all manner of diversions to make sex “exciting.” We have men in their 20s seeking treatment for impotency because they can no longer get aroused by a present human female (their wife) after years of living in a virtual world of masturbating to pornography. Worse, men can’t even form the relationships to lead to sexual intimacy, because the “hookup culture” has robbed them of any sense of permanence and commitment.

Our Lady of Fatima said more people will go to hell for sins of the flesh than for all other sins. As a young man navigating our culture, I admittedly bought into the lies promoted by the culture. I had sex outside of marriage, I dabbled in pornography. I damaged myself.

When I met my beloved wife, I couldn’t be the complete gift to her that I could have been had I waited, as she did, to make love for the first time to my spouse. I couldn’t, as much as I wanted to, go back and “undo” my past. Thanks to the grace of God, He was able to restore me before I met my wife, lead me back to Him, and make me a gift to my wife.

After we first got married, my wife was still on hormonal birth control because her endocrinologist insisted she be on it as a type 1 diabetic. Once my wife got on my insurance plan, we were able to find a pro-life endocrinologist and OB/GYN and learn NFP.

There’s simply no other way to say this-there is no substitute for the real thing, without barriers. God intended lovemaking to be a total and complete donation of self to your spouse. When we remove the distortions man has put on sex, sex becomes exciting, thrilling, and full of possibility. Contraceptive sex, by contrast, puts conditions on that gift. It says “I give you everything but my fertility because I don’t completely trust you,” and who wants to make love with someone they don’t completely trust without reservation? Contraceptive sex objectifies people. It uses them for our selfish pleasure. By contrast, natural lovemaking gives and receives. The woman receives the man’s sperm and the man receives his wife’s gift of fertility. Our reproductive faculties are not mere products of evolutionary biology, THEY ARE GIFTS GOD HAS ENTRUSTED TO US, TO BE GIVEN TO ONE PERSON EXCLUSIVELY IN A BOND OF LASTING FIDELITY!

There’s a reason everyone says free, natural, self-donating lovemaking is better on every level; BECAUSE IT IS! But more importantly, every act of lovemaking is an expression of the Sacrament of marriage to the fullest extent. When we make love freely within the context of holy matrimony, there is no fear of rejection or unintended pregnancy. There is, however, hope. Hope and possibility that your mutual self-gift, in cooperation with God, transmitted new life.

Even the use of NFP without grave reason distorts God’s plan sex. My wife and I were still learning NFP when we conceived, but the surprise was pleasant. When we learned we were pregnant, we realized we both had wanted a child, and that we really didn’t have a sufficient reason other than selfishness (i.e. when I get this job or make this amount) to delay having children. Not to mention, having to stop in the midst of intimacy to ask “is this a fertile day?” is a real mood killer.

So much of society is missing out on the thrill of sex that is total, complete, self-giving and life-giving. We’ve distorted sex beyond all recognition, and as witnesses to the Truth of Christ, we have our work cut out for us as we seek to invite people to inquire about the source of our joy and hope. We must meet people in the trenches, speak the Truth with love, and pray for the conversion of individuals and conversion of the culture. Everyone deserves to experience the riches of God’s plan for true unencumbered sexual intimacy with a lifelong partner, in Covenant with God, free from man-made perversions. It is, after all, God’s plan for mankind.


Sex, Religion, and our Sick Culture

The controversy over the Obama administration’s mandates requiring all health insurance plans to cover all FDA-approved contraceptives has been raging for three weeks now.  Last Friday, President Obama “accommodated” employers with religious and/or moral objections to the mandate by proposing an accounting gimmick.  Under this “accommodation,” employers with religious or conscience objections to contraceptives would not be forced to offer them to employees, but the insurance companies would be required to provide contraceptives to employees “free of charge.”  As if the mandate didn’t insult religious institutions already, the “accommodation” insults the intelligence of the American people.  After all, when is the last time your insurance company gave you a free lunch?

Through this bogus “accommodation,” the White House, aided by their media allies and dissidents who claim to speak for the Church, have effectively shifted the paradigm of the debate from being about a violation of freedom of religion and the Constitution to one about Bishops and pro-life politicians wanting to force women to conform to their religious values.  As former Clinton pollster and political strategist Dick Morris hypothesized, this was a politically calculated move from the start, beginning with George Stephanopolous’ out-of-the-blue question to GOP presidential candidates about whether or not states could constitutionally ban contraception.  Thus the narrative that the Catholic Church seeks to impose its values on America and ban contraception-all part of a grand design thought up in conjunction with pro-life presidential candidates.

The current fight over the contraceptive mandate stems from our culture, inasmuch as culture forms our politics.  Our society is awash in competing secular ideologies and philosophies claiming to lead to human happiness and liberation.  With supreme court rulings and the passage of laws over the years that run contrary to the common good and human dignity, our culture, and indeed our politics, have abandoned a society rooted in the promotion of human dignity and embraced one that seeks only the right for each man to define right and wrong for himself. Thus, today’s government abandons the first amendment in order to promote evil as good.

Politics aside, the controversy comes just as my 9th grade Catechism class is embarking on a six-week study of Blessed Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, adapted for teens.  In a catechesis spanning five years, the former Pope sought to re-establish the lost notion of human dignity and true love through his weekly audiences.  What Pope John Paul II sought to counter was the culture of objectification, selfishness, and relativism that had taken hold of the world during the sexual revolution of the 1960s.

In 1930, the Episcopal church was the first to move towards the acceptance of contraceptives, and over time, the other Protestant denominations followed suit.  At the time, even Mahatma Ghandi had preached against birth control, as it allowed us to throw self-discipline and control over our desires to the wind.

In 1962, “the pill” was released to the market.  Invented by a Catholic in an attempt to avoid violating Church teachings on condoms, in 1968 Pope Paul VI released Humanae Vitae, reiterating the Vatican’s teaching against contraception and reaffirming the self-giving of marital union.  The day after the release of Paul VI’s encyclical, the New York Times featured a full-page ad with the signatures of many American Bishops who publicly rebuked the Vatican.  Blessed Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body was and is a lesson that seeks to bring the culture back to a view of sexuality rooted in human dignity after decades of attempts to erode the true nature of human dignity.

In a culture that views marriage as a contract lasting only as long as it is convenient, a culture entertained by an industry saturated with sex, and a utilitarian, consequence-free view of sexuality and human dignity, the Theology of the Body curriculum that my students are exploring must seem rather radical, and perhaps even avant-garde to the second generation to grow up in a world of “sexual liberation.”

In the 50s and 60s out-of-wedlock pregnancy was shameful; today it is entertainment and federally-subsidized.  Witness the glamorization of what we should be ashamed of in shows such as MTV’s “Teen Mom” and “16 and pregnant.”  We constantly consume sexually explicit advertising and entertainment that glorifies what was once taboo, and yet we perennially lament the state of our youth, the prevalence of sexual activity among teens, and the breakdown of social mores.

Our culture glorifies the debauched while it views tradition and faith with suspicion.  In contradistinction, TOB promotes a resounding “YES!” to the dignity of man and our right to true love, not an objectified use of women and men for self-gratification.  TOB affirms the inherent good of men and women as they were created for each other in the image of God, and the gift of sexuality that He willed as good to us.  It promotes the dignity of marriage not to the detriment of homosexuals, but to say that sexuality outside that which God has ordered does not fulfill the dignity of the person.

This TOB curriculum is providing a radical alternative to the “sex ed” my students receive at school, which promotes the view that we are all objects for the purpose of pleasure; that morality or religious values held by our parents are a detriment to our capacity for self-determination and prevents us from defining happiness on our own terms.  But as the TOB for Teens video tells us,  the aftermath of casual sex outside of marriage is devoid of respect for the dignity of the human person, and is filled with disappointment and pain.  In a refreshing change of course, my students seem to be eager to grasp the idea that no one is an object; we are all subjects of God, made in His image with dignity.

The next five weeks of catechism class promises to be interesting and revealing.  What do young people think of our culture of decadence, relativism and objectification?  Are they secretly yearning for more out of a relationship than sexual pleasure?  Do they resent the pressures of secular culture?  Will they fix the destruction wrought on us by our parents’ sexual revolution?

Time will tell.

Obama Launches Attack on Catholic Church: “Comply or pay a fine,” DHHS rules.

Coming on the heels of the Obama administration’s  arguing against the constitutional precedent of the ministerial exception in the recent Hosana-Tabor case, in which the Court unanimously upheld the right of religious institutions to decide for themselves who qualifies as a minister, a new mandate requires religious institutions to provide its employees with all FDA-approved methods of contraceptives, including birth control, abortifacients such as the morning-after pill, abortions and sterilizations.  The New York Times and other members of the secularist movement have cheered these hostile encroachments by the government on the consciences and rights of religious institutions and individuals at every opportunity.

The  new contraceptive mandate and the administration’s argument against the ministerial exception are but two examples of continued affronts to religious liberty, however.  Prior to Hosana-Tabor, top officials at the Department of Health and Human Services overruled DHHS recommendations to renew a grant to Catholic Charities USA to aid sex-trafficking victims over issues with the Catholic Church’s position on abortion and contraception.  Career employees at DHHS tried to preserve the grant, telling Obama appointees that the program was one of the most effective in the world, but were overruled due to the political considerations of the administration.

Soon after the administration lost its battle to strip religious institutions of autonomy in hiring decisions, on January 20, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced new rules mandating coverage of contraception, abortions, and sterilization free of charge under the new Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, otherwise known as ObamaCare.

Since releasing the preliminary rule last year, religious leaders around the country have expressed concern and pleaded with the administration to expand the rule’s narrow religious exemption.  Timothy Cardinal Dolan, chairman of the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops, attended a reportedly less-than-cordial meeting with President Obama, in which he expressed fear that the new rules would violate Catholic conscience rights and more broadly, the freedom of religion clause of the first amendment.   Dolan pleaded with the president to no avail.  Announcing the new rule, Secretary Sebelius said,

“I believe this proposal strikes the appropriate balance between respecting religious freedom and increasing access to important preventive services. The administration remains fully committed to its partnerships with faith-based organizations, which promote healthy communities and serve the common good. And this final rule will have no impact on the protections that existing conscience laws and regulations give to health-care providers.”

While the administration fully intends to violate the religious rights of the masses, the administration did give nonprofit religious institutions until 2013 to accommodate the new rule.  To this Dolan replied, “so what you’re saying is that we have a year to figure out how to violate our conscience?”  Evidently, yes.

While Sebelius expressed confidence that existing conscience laws would not be impacted, the criteria for qualifying for an exemption as a “religious employer for the new mandate are as follows:

1. The “inculcation of religious values” is “its purpose.”

2. It “primarily employs persons who share its religious tenets.”

3. “It primarily serves persons who share its religious tenets.”

4. It is a non-profit organization under sections of the code that “refer to churches, their integrated auxiliaries, and conventions or associations, as well as to the exclusively religious activities of any religious order.”

Despite the administrations flimsy assurances that the mandate is not intrusive, the USCCB-as well as many other religious institutions who serve people from all backgrounds- say the new rules force them to violate core teachings in order to satisfy the whims of the administration’s secularist base.  For instance, an order of nuns would not be required to provide insurance covering contraception and abortion, but a school, university or hospital run by the Order in question would be compelled to violate their religious beliefs, as Raleigh Bishop Michael Burbidge  and many other Bishops have stated.  Catholic Charities, one of the largest social services providers in the world,  running soup kitchens, shelters, and providing numerous other human services in cities all across the country, would be forced to pay for procedures to which they are opposed as well.  Those found in violation of the mandate could be subject to a fine of $100 per day, per employee.   In fact, according to the National Catholic Reporter, the University of Notre Dame faces a decision over whether to comply with the new mandate or face a $10 million fine.

After President Obama campaigned as a figure of unity and spoke of the values of religious freedom both at Notre Dame and on several other occasions, it is clear that despite overtures towards religious liberty, his real allegiance lies with the radical pro-choice activists who make up the base of his supporters.  Secretary Sebelius may claim the mandate has no bearing on “freedom of worship”,  but the “freedom of worship” and freedom of religion are not the same thing.  As Wesley J. Smith writes at National Review,

“The former means that one may believe whatever one wants and worship privately without interference, whereas the latter allows one freedom to live in the world at large consistent with one’s faith tenets, even if they are not endorsed by the state.”

Not only does the administration plan to regulate which religious beliefs are acceptable, they also plan to make religious institutions speak for the pro-choice agenda of  government.  As Secretary Sebelius states,

“We intend to require employers that do not offer coverage of contraceptive services to provide notice to employees, which will also state that contraceptive services are available at sites such as community health centers, public clinics, and hospitals with income-based support.”

In other words, the mandate would require those who qualify for the narrowly-tailored exception to refer employees to contraceptive services in the community.  The new HHS rules are clearly unconstitutional, and the USCCB, joining dozens of colleges, dioceses and businesses in a suit against Secretary Sebelius have precedent on their side, embodied in precedent upholding the religious liberties of individuals and associations against the encroachments of the government, such as West Virginia v. Barnette (1943).  But what does the Constitution matter anyway?  Clearly it was not being followed in the drafting of this mandate.

In another sad turn of events, students at Fordham University, a Catholic university, are protesting against its policy of not dispensing birth control on campus.   Students at Fordham are demanding “affordable” (i.e. subsidized) contraceptives as well, and staged an off-campus clinic where students could get contraceptives and other reproductive services not offered on campus.   Fordham, again a Catholic institution, may be changing it’s policy in light of the new HHS rules.

The new mandate represents the continuation of an assault on religious institutions, which has been ongoing by members of the secular elite for decades.  For example, since the cause of gay marriage has arrived on the scene in recent years, faith-based adoption agencies such as Catholic Charities, a longstanding provider of care for children, have been forced to comply with state rulings directing them to place children with same-sex couples, or cease all adoption operations.  Catholic Charities has stopped its adoption operations in Illinois, Massachusetts, and is likely to do so in New York.  Regardless of one’s stand on same-sex “marriage,” forcing religious institutions to comply with secular rules is a violation of the constitutionally-guaranteed free exercise of religion.  All individual rights must be respected, but our secularist politicians fail to balance the scale so that the rights of institutions with opposing, faith-based viewpoints are respected as well.

Inasmuch as the Catholic Church is an institution, extending beyond the sanctuary in service to mankind through education, health care, and charity, it has been the target of attacks in recent years by those who seek to silence truth, faith and reason.  While the Obama administration may think it is scoring a victory, it has picked a fight with one of the oldest institution in the world, and has united conservative and progressive Catholics alike in opposition to government overstepping its bounds.  Therefore, as First Things editor R. R. Reno writes, Catholics and all believers must stand strong for our first, most cherished freedom of religion, up to and including civil disobedience.

Many pick fights with Rome…none have won.

On Truth and Pope John Paul II

This weekend marks a historical event, the beatification of Pope John Paul II in Rome.  The event is historic in the remarkably short period of time in which it is taking place, a mere six years after his death in spring 2005.  It also marks the first time that a Pope (Benedict XVI) has overseen the cause for his immediate predecessor’s sainthood.

John Paul II was a truly transformational figure in that he humanized the papacy.  His charisma, his energy and zest for Christ and the Church inspired millions, and his message of the hope and freedom found in Christ Jesus left an indelible mark on the world by contributing to the break-up of the tyrannical Soviet empire and the reviving of the Church, which had fallen into decay after the tumultuous cultural clashes of the 1960s and 1970s, which saw some 45,000 priests leave the priesthood and saw Europe divorce itself, culturally and politically, from its Christian roots.

John Paul II’s death was met with cries of “Santo Subito!” (Sainthood now!) from the thousands of mourners in St. Peter’s Square and from millions of the faithful around the world whose lives he had so touched.  John Paul inspired thousands of youth to enter religious life and to defend their faith by living it out in their daily lives.  Even non-Catholics recognized this man as a leader, a peacemaker, and a man who sought to change the world for the better.

On the eve of his beatification, the media has predictably begun its assault on John Paul II’s legacy as Pope, attempting to dismiss his achievements while focusing on his mistakes, principally in regards to his handling of the sexual abuse crisis and his friendship with the founder of the Legion of Christ, Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, now disgraced as a criminal for his abuse of seminarians and fathering of illegitimate children.  The media of course, wants to paint John Paul II as a perpetrator of the cover-up and culture of secrecy within the Church hierarchy, when in fact he was a leader in reforming the priesthood, investigating seminaries around the world for heretical practices, unfit candidates, and general dissent from the moral and theological teachings of the Church amongst priests, bishops, and religious.

New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, had a scathing column regarding the push for John Paul’s sainthood entitled “Hold the Halo,” published in Sunday’s edition of the Old Grey Lady, America’s “Newspaper of Record.”  Dowd claims that JPII “forfeited his right to beatification when he failed to establish a legal standard to remove pedophiles from the priesthood.”  In fact, it was under John Paul that a thorough investigation of the priesthood was conducted and canonical statutes of limitations were done away with.

While the sexual abuse scandal has left a stain on the Church hierarchy, Dowd and her crowd fail to acknowledge that the actions of those in the Church do not define the Church; rather, the Church is defined by its teachings and its existence as the Body of Christ, not the criminal actions of a few wayward members of the episcopacy.  As Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York recently wrote on his blog, “it’s especially tragic when someone leaves Jesus and His Church because of a sin, scandal, or slight from a priest or bishop.  If your faith depended on us, it was misplaced to begin with.  We priests and bishops might represent Jesus and shepherd His Church, however awkwardly — but we are not Jesus and His Church.” 

Perhaps Dowd’s biggest dislike for Pope John Paul II rests not in his efficacy in handling the abuse crisis, but his adherence to the timeless teachings of the Church, which are Truth.  While praising his stands against the evils of Communism, Dowd writes, “as progressive as he was on those issues, he was disturbingly regressive on social issues- contraception, women’s ordination, divorce and remarriage.”  Dowd’s use of the word “regressive” to describe efficacious defense of Truth is misplaced.  “Regressive” implies that we had “made progress” as a Church on these moral issues, and that John Paul somehow returned us to the Middle Ages.  She posits that John Paul protected the Legion of Christ and Opus Dei because they acted as “the shock troops in John Paul’s war against Jesuits and other progressive theologians.” 

Since the cultural revolutions of a generation ago, the “shock troops” in the war for moral relativism and secularized culture devoid of any religious expression have been trying to apply political labels to an institution founded on the teachings of an eternal being, Jesus Christ, not the temporal desires of mere mortals.  It is in this distinction that these so-called “progressive Catholics” miss the boat. 

When Jesus asked us to take up our cross and follow Him, he didn’t say we were going to be skipping through a meadow having a picnic.  Jesus himself was controversial; his actions and teachings went against convention and political correctness, which is the reason he was crucified.

I am always amazed by people who call themselves “recovering Catholics.”  Many of these individuals are Baby Boomers raised on the Baltimore Catechism and taught to fear God as an angry being by nuns who never should’ve been nuns.  This goes back to Archbishop Dolan’s saying that if your faith is allowed to be formed by priests, bishops, or nuns, who are mere sinners like all of Christ’s body, your faith is misplaced.  Coincidentally, these “recovering Catholics” also tend to be obsessed with a Church they claim to want nothing to do with, claiming that the Church is “repressive” and needs to “modernize.”  I had the opportunity to sit in on two meetings of a graduate course on oppression at UNC’s School of Social Work, and was struck by the professor and the student’s fixation with the Catholic Church as a source of “oppression”, stemming from its teachings on the sanctity of life and marriage. 

Two Catholic friends of mine attend the School, and view their interest in helping the less fortunate as a calling from God and a way in which to live out their faith.  Both have told me that Christians are viewed as suspect within the School of Social Work, and that most have an anti-religious bent.  I would venture to say that these “recovering Catholics” have lots of regrets and remorse about their past, which serves as the source of their animus toward not just the Church, but to God.  We all have Truth written on our hearts, as Aquinas said.  Perhaps when we yearn for the Church to change to fit our views, we are trying to avoid admitting that we have made mistakes?  It seems, then, that we must remember that God yearns to forgive; indeed He already has forgiven us.

I am reminded that to follow Christ is not easy.  I myself struggle with the teachings of the Church often.  How do I reconcile the Church’s teaching on marriage with my friendships with individuals who are gay or lesbian?  If I accept Church teaching, do I betray my friendship and love for my friends who happen to be gay?  Can I stand for life, even when that life is a result of a crime, such as rape or incest, despite the fear of being painted as unreasonable, or anti-woman?  I, like many Catholics, I suspect, constantly juggle the temporal and the eternal, the faith and the tainted culture in which we live.  It’s a journey, full of ups and downs, triumphs and failures, revisions and more revisions.  I am comforted in knowing that though these teachings may sometimes be hard to swallow, it is Truth-with a 2011 year history.  I am constantly evolving and asking how best to follow the example of Christ.

What keeps me going is the knowledge that while we are all sinners and we all experience periods of uncertainty, sadness, and feelings of failure, the Church is a rock, an anchor, a constant on which we can always depend on to remain the same as we navigate a world of change.  It is comforting to know that though my children will grow up in a world radically different from the world I grew up in, I will be able to impart to them the same Truth my parents taught me and their parents before them.  Truth is not politically correct, it is not malleable, and it is not handed down on the whims of men.  As such, defense of Truth, as in John Paul’s case, is not a cause for ridicule, but for admiration.

If the Church were dependent on the actions of men, it would’ve been dead on arrival.  St. Peter, the first Pope, denied Jesus three times!  And yet he went on to shepherd Christ’s Church!  While John Paul might have done more to combat the “filth in the priesthood,” as Benedict XVI so rightly coined it, to make his shortcomings cloud his contributions to the world is to diminish a man who arguably changed the course of history, and most definitely inspired an entire generation.  Lay faithful, religious, priests, bishops, popes, and even saints are sinners.  Only Jesus was without blemish.  So while those who wish to turn the world into a relativistic cesspool will spend the weekend fuming over John Paul’s beatification, I will be watching the ceremony, and praying that I, a sinner, might be granted mercy and the grace to follow Christ, like John Paul did so well.  Santo Subito!

The Media and the Church-for the Media, its not about the abuse

 Throughout the past several weeks, the media has worked itself into a frenzy, trying to use shoddy, “gotcha” journalism to turn the screws on public enemy #1 for the journalistic and political elite; the Church.

Issues of sexual abuse are not problems exclusive to the Catholic Church.  Statistics show that the majority of abuse occurs in families, social settings, and schools.  However, up until the 1980s, common beliefs that pedophiles could be treated with psychotherapy, coupled with an aura of secrecy and the likelihood of disbelief among a society that held clergy and religious in the highest esteem, prevented bad priests from being exposed.  Bishops, such as Bernard Cardinal Law, former archbishop of Boston, swore priests and victims to secrecy for years leading up to the revelation of widespread abuse and a cover-up thereof in the Archdiocese of Boston dating back several decades.  Make no mistake-any priest who engages in pedophilia must be quickly handed over to the authorities and punished to the full extent the law allows.

Almost a decade after a scandal that rocked Boston, revelations of abuse in Ireland and Germany have begun surfacing in recent months.  Some involved solicitation of minors in the confessional, others involved pedophilia on trips, in schools or in rectories.   Fr. Hullermann of Germany was transferred to then-Bishop Joseph Ratzinger’s diocese for treatment and returned to pastoral ministry, only to be convicted of pedophilia a short time later.  The press attempted to tie the Pope to Hullermann, only to discover that a subordinate handled the case.  The archdiocese of Milwaukee had on its hands a manipulative, unremorseful priest by the name of Fr. Murphy, who allegedly molested some 200 deaf boys over several decades. 

The New York Times, not exactly a friend of the Church, ran an “expose” that charged that then-Cardinal Ratzinger-now Pope Benedict XVI-ended a canonical trial conducted by the diocese of Superior in the late 1990s in response to a letter from the offending priest, Fr. Lawrence Murphy, who asked Ratzinger to suspend the investigation and trial because he was dying.  Ratzinger was then prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which had jurisdiction over the Murphy case because some of the charges against Murphy had to do with violating the confessional.  Secretary of the CDF, Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone, now the Vatican Secretary of State, responded in early 1997 to Archbishop Weakland, who had begun preparations for a trial against Murphy and allowed the trial to proceed.  Murphy had written to Bertone after he learned of Weakland’s plans to investigate, try, and defrock him, saying that according to the 1962 Code of Canon Law, which was in effect at the time Murphy committed the abuse, the statute of limitations had passed and an investigation/trial could not proceed.  He also noted he was dying, and requested to “live out my remaining days in the dignity of my priesthood.”  Bertone denied Murphy’s request in 1997, telling Weakland in his response that the canonical statute of limitations were to be waived and the judicial actions could proceed.  For clarity, Bertone denied Murphy’s request to drop the proceedings, and instructed Weakland to go around judicial proceedings in order to expedite Murphy’s defrocking.  A short time later, Weakland met in Rome for a meeting on the case chaired, again, by Bertone and not Ratzinger, as the New York Times insinuated.  Bertone reiterated that Weakland should proceed to defrock him. Murphy died a few weeks after this meeting.

The New York Times, however, went about reporting the story in such a way that fit their preconceived version of events-ultimately, that Pope Benedict had dismissed accusations of abuse as a Cardinal in charge of the CDF, by not responding to Weakland’s request for assistance in how to go about defrocking Murphy.  Weakland DID receive a response from Bertone, Ratzinger’s Secretary for CDF.  But because the response was not signed by Benedict himself, the Times ran with the notion that Pope Benedict XVI, as Prefect, sheltered pedophiles and protected the Church at the expense of justice.  The grievance is a red herring akin to the “scandal” of getting a letter written by a staffer instead of a Congressman in response to a letter supporting some legislative action.  In actuality, both as prefect of CDF and as Pope, Benedict has led the charge in rooting out abusive priests and ending the culture of secrecy.  More detailed debunking of the New York Times’ story can be read here and here.

In order to give equal fault where fault is due, members of the Church hierarchy made damaging, inappropriate, and in some cases, even criminal decisions about the way in which pedophile priests were dealt with.  Bishops, such as Bernard Cardinal Law of Boston and Bishop Brady of Ireland refused to resign after it came to light their complicit actions in covering up scandal, including using the sacrament of confession, in the case of Law, to swear a victim of Fr. Birmingham to silence and secrecy after he came to Law with the allegations.  In the heat of the Boston scandal, Law was whisked away from the crime scene and given a position in Rome by an aging Pope John Paul II, who I believe was losing his faculties in the waning days of his pontificate, and was being ill-advised by subordinates with an interest in protecting Law. 

Clerics wanting to attribute the scandal solely to vicious, hate-driven media attacks on the Church only serve to create an image and air of the clergy being beyond reproach.  Sermons, such as one given by the Pope’s personal preacher on Good Friday that compared the attacks on the Church to anti-Semitism merely throw gas on a fire that the media has worked into a blaze.

However, despite grave and damnable mistakes by some in the handling of the scandal, the mainstream press has had it in for the Church for decades.  The American press, led by such “venerable” organs as the  New York Times, Newsweek, and the prime-time lineup of hysterics at MSNBC have moved from reporting on the problem of criminal priests to finding fault in the Church doctrines of priestly celibacy, male hierarchy, and a perceived “oppression of women, their “rights” (abortion), and dissent.  The scandal of sexual abuse is not about the children or rooting out criminals for the press-it is simply another weapon to use in a 45-year effort by secular liberals to dismantle the last standing obstacle to the implementation of their vision moral relativism and utopia.

When Pope John Paul II passed away in the spring of 2005, the mainstream press was hysterical about the prospects of the Church “finally catching up to the times,” as Lisa Miller of Newsweek has put it in so many articles of late.  Proposing that the Church could’ve avoided scandal if women were at the decision-making table, Miller writes that the Church “has willfully ignored the integration of women in the workforce and public life.”  Miller engages in wild leaps of logic in her article, stating that “In a world where the whole really matters more than individual parts, a rigid—sometimes brilliant, sometimes mean-spirited—morality reins. This elevation of the church above all things explains how an institution dedicated to serving the sick and the poor might also refuse condoms to those at risk for AIDS. It explains how an organization committed to families could deny birth-control pills to mothers. And it explains, sadly, how a bishop faced with a pedophile in a parish might decide not to call the cops.” 

I won’t even begin to address Miller’s illogical hysteria.  Miller’s incoherence speaks for itself.  Miller is trying to cite failure to adopt to the prevailing mores of pop-culture as the root of sex abuse by priests and the ensuing cover-up.  Miller goes on to say that priestly celibacy is the main cause of the culture of secrecy which allowed this abuse to occur.  To wit, Miller is right about an unhealthy culture of secrecy within Church hierarchy.  The Vatican has, in recent days, clarified and made public procedures for dealing with criminal allegations, stressing the need for immediate, willing and open cooperation with civil authorities.  However, Miller’s insinuation that pedophilia is somehow linked to celibacy is outrageous.  I guess in Miller’s world, married men have never engaged in sexual assault of minors.  While there is room for a debate on the issue of celibacy, which was instituted to prevent priests and bishops from leaving Church property to their children, it has no bearing on whether or not one is a pedophile. 

Simply put, those whom the mainstream media is turning to for “expertise” and opinion on the Church are “Faithful” who have substituted political liberalism and a “If it feels good, do it” ideology for the Catechism.  As if Bill Maher, Richard Dawkins and Sinead O’Connor represented the lay faithful and allegiance to any social teaching of the Church other than care for the poor, the media is desperately trying to make liberal celebrity “Catholics” who disagree with every other tenet of the Faith the face of the global Church.  Unable to separate the atrocious sins of men from the timeless truths of God and natural law, individuals like Miller, Keith Olbermann and Maureen Dowd turn to criticizing the Church for no longer marching in lockstep with mores of Liberalism, and, to an extent, the Democratic Party.   Before the scandal in Germany and Wisconsin came to light, it was health care reform that was used to attack the Church for it’s opposition to abortion.  Now the sex abuse scandal has become the latest excuse to argue for changes, not only in how the Church deals with pedophile priests, but in all the social teachings of the Church.

Witness the duplicity of the media on matters of social mores.  Soon after Benedict became Pope and the “Pope Benedict XVI is a Nazi!” hysteria died down, the Vatican issued a decree reiterating the ban on homosexuals in the priesthood.  The New York Times howled, charging that the decree was mean-spirited and an exceptionally harsh measure against “wayward priests.”  As of late, some reporters have tried to make a distinction between pedophilia-abuse of pre-pubescent children, and ephebophilia, which indicates a sexual interest in sexually mature young men.  Regardless of the age of victims, these acts are criminal and must be met with swift civil and canonical punishment.  However, some psychiatrists have linked some of the acts to admitted homosexual tendencies among priests.  The New York Times is now outraged that this connection is even made.  This comes after scores of seminarians have complained of a “homosexually charged” atmosphere at American seminaries.  No surprise, the New York Times edit board wrote in support of an ACLU-backed 1st amendment defense of the North American Man-Boy Love Association, which maintains a forum on which pedophilia and how to get away with it is discussed.   NAMBLA is represented in gay pride parades around the U.S.  Surely even Lisa Miller could acknowledge a connection between some instances of abuse of teen boys and homosexuality.   Leave it to the media to deny any isolated-case correlation between homosexual activity and pedophilia while also defending the 1st amendment rights of a group of homosexual men that “simply discuss” pedophilia.  One can judge for himself whether the Church has some issues with its moral credibility, but in any event, the New York Times is hardly in a position to pontificate on moral failures of others.

 Moral teachings do not and should not, change with the fads, and yet the liberal elite in America seems to think the day is coming in which homosexual “marriages” are sanctified by the Church, sexual morality is left to self-interpretation, and abortion becomes morally permissible.  In essence, Liberals have made religion about validation of and reconciliation with their beliefs, which the counterculture of the 1960s has ingrained in the societal fabric of America.  The Church has survived countless crises, and as long as Benedict, who drew criticism from the clergy for condemning the “filth in the priesthood”, remains vigilant in rooting out the past practices of secrecy and complacency, the Church will emerge stronger than ever.  The actions of men, including priests and bishops, and even popes, are fallible.  The moral teachings of the Church are not.  Attacking the Church for standing up more life and the traditional family, suggesting fundamental changes in timeless moral teachings will rid the Church or any other institution of the mental sickness and moral depravity of pedophilia only shows the true feelings of the media.  For them it is not about the victims or justice or purification of the Church.  It is about the war of secular liberalism on institutions that question or oppose their actions, and for that reason, and that reason only, they are trying to make the abuse not about a handful of criminal men, but about the entire Catholic Faith.