Despite often being cast as the religion of immigrants, Catholicism has a long history here in the United States. Unfortunately, so does anti-Catholicism. In this episode, host John Fea and producer Drew Dyrli Hermeling discuss American Catholicism. John looks at the roots and utility of political anti-Catholicism. They are joined by historian Catherine O’Donnell (@codonnellinaz) who discusses her new biography, Elizabeth Seton: American Saint.
Here is the Stanford press release:
Stanford will rename some campus features named for Father Junipero Serra, the 18th-century founder of the California mission system, but will retain the Serra name and the names of other Spanish missionaries and settlers on other campus features, based on the recommendations of a university committee of faculty, students, staff and alumni.
The Stanford Board of Trustees accepted the committee’s recommendations to rename certain campus features and also accepted a recommendation by President Marc Tessier-Lavigne to use the opportunity to honor university co-founder Jane Stanford. As a first implementation step, Tessier-Lavigne is initiating a process seeking approval from Santa Clara County and the U.S. Postal Service to rename Serra Mall, the pedestrian and bicycle mall at the front of the Stanford campus that serves as the university’s official address, as “Jane Stanford Way.”
The Serra dormitory and small academic building with the Serra name also will be renamed, with the new names to be determined. However, Serra Street on campus will retain its current name, and the university will pursue new educational displays and other efforts to more fully address the multidimensional legacy of Serra and the mission system in California.
After extensive research and outreach, the committee applied a rigorous set of principles that a previous Stanford committee had developed for considering the renaming of campus features named for historical figures with complex legacies.
Serra’s establishment of the mission system is a central part of California history, and his life’s work led to his canonization by the Roman Catholic Church in 2015. At the same time, the historical record confirms that the mission system inflicted great harm and violence on Native Americans, and Stanford has several features named for Serra even though he played no direct role in the university’s history.
Read the rest here.
Want to learn more about Serra? I recommend Steven Hackel’s Junipero Serra: California’s Founding Father.
Cassie Yacovazzi is Visiting Assistant Professor of History at University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee. This interview is based on her new book Escaped Nuns: True Womanhood and the Campaign Against Convents in Antebellum America (Oxford University Press, 2018).
JF: What led you to write Escaped Nuns?
CY: I was initially interested in anti-Catholicism in early America. As a person with a religious background, I wanted to know more about how nationalism, popular culture, and patriotism could shape who was considered religious insiders and outsiders in America. In my research, I kept coming across brief references to Maria Monk, an escaped nun and the listed author of Awful Disclosures of Hotel Dieu. Her convent exposé of 1836 was a phenomenal success, selling over 300,000 copies before the Civil War. But Monk was a fraud, having never lived in a convent as a nun or otherwise. I wanted to know more about why this book was so popular, what it revealed about anti-Catholic bias, what debates the book sparked, and who the real Maria Monk was. I set out to write a book about Maria Monk, but as I researched, I realized opposition to nuns was a much larger phenomenon. I came across dozens of escaped nun books, learned of various convent attacks, noticed denunciations of convent life littered throughout anti-Catholic materials, and found significant overlap between antebellum reform movements, such as abolition, the common school movement, urban reform, and anti-Mormonism and the campaign against convents. I realized there was a story there, and I wanted to learn and tell that story.
JF: In 2 sentences, what is the argument of Escaped Nuns?
CY: The campaign against convents in antebellum America was a far reaching movement, as popular as abolitionism, the common school movement, urban reform, and anti-Mormonism. While anti-Catholic and nativist impulses propelled this campaign in part, nuns’ nonconformity to female gender norms of true womanhood—their rejection of marriage, motherhood, and ideals of domesticity—rendered them conspicuous targets of attack among the vanguards of accepted behavior.
JF: Why do we need to read Escaped Nuns?
CY: The history of anti-Catholicism in America is well documented and established. The animus against nuns and convent life, however, has often simply occupied a paragraph or footnote in this history. Yet nuns served as a barometer of American attitudes toward women. For many, the veiled nun represented a waste or corruption of womanhood; as Mother Superior she embodied the wrong kind of woman, masculinized by her position of authority. This image proved stirring enough to lead men into action to “liberate” women from their “captivity” and expose and demolish convents or “dens of vice.” In doing so, many Protestant Americans believed they were protecting women and Protestant American civilization. In the face of rapid urbanization and western expansion this mission appeared imperative. Escaped Nuns traces the facets of anti-convent sentiment, shedding light on a major contest for American identity at a time of rapid demographic and cultural change.
JF: When and why did you decide to become an American historian?
CY: For me deciding to become an American historian was a gradual decision rather than a single moment thing. I loved my history courses in high school and especially in college. I majored in Liberal Arts, focusing on History, Philosophy, and English, not really knowing what subject in which to specialize. When it came time to graduate, there was something in me that wanted to stay in academia and continue to pursue the life of the mind. I had found a sort of “home” there. But what would be my focus? I chose history because I thought I could incorporate my other loves of philosophy and literature. I also chose history because it was the subject that best helped me place my worldview, beliefs, and values in context. While in graduate school at Baylor University and then the University of Missouri, history became a way of life. Through acting like a historian I became one. It was in some ways accidental, but I feel comfortable, challenged, and inspired in this role.
JF: What is your next project?
CY: My next project is in some ways a big change from my first. The topic for my next book is Mary Kay—the woman and the cosmetics empire. I’m exploring Mary Kay’s personal story, the growth of her company, and the subsequent Mary Kay culture in the context of women in business, the history of beauty, the feminist movement, and the intersection of gender, capitalism, and religion.
JF: Thanks, Cassie!
There is a battle raging for control of the Catholic Church. Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano’s recent claim that Pope Francis covered-up Theodore McCarrick’s sexual indiscretions is the latest battle in a political holy war between conservative Catholics (supporters of Benedict XVI) and progressive Catholics (supporters of Pope Francis). John Gehrig‘s recent piece at Religion & Politics lays it all out. Here is a taste:
While the daily developments and details of Viganò’s claims should be thoroughly investigated no matter where they lead, there is no way to understand this saga without recognizing how the former ambassador’s claims are part of a coordinated effort to undermine the Francis papacy. The Viganò letter is as much about power politics in the church as it is about rooting out a culture of abuse and cover-up. A small but vocal group of conservative Catholic pundits, priests, and archbishops, including the former archbishop of St. Louis Cardinal Raymond Burke, have led what can be described without hyperbole as a resistance movement against their own Holy Father since his election five years ago. Pope Francis, the insurgents insist, is dangerously steering the church away from traditional orthodoxy on homosexuality, divorce, and family life because of his more inclusive tone toward LGBT people and efforts to find pastoral ways to approach divorced and remarried Catholics. These conservative critics, many of whom essentially labeled progressive Catholics heretics for not showing enough deference to Pope Benedict XVI, are not discreet in their efforts to rebuke Francis. Last year, in a letter to the pope from the former head of the doctrine office at the U.S. bishops’ conference in Washington, Fr. Thomas Weinandy accused the pope of “demeaning” the importance of doctrine, appointing bishops who “scandalize” the faithful, and creating “chronic confusion” in his teachings. “To teach with such an intentional lack of clarity, inevitably risks sinning against the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth,” the priest wrote in remarkably patronizing language more befitting a teacher correcting a student than a priest addressing the successor of Peter.
Viganò’s testimony therefore should not be read in isolation or as an aberration, but as the latest chapter in an ongoing campaign to weaken the credibility of Pope Francis. Political, cultural, and theological rifts among Catholics are nothing new in the church’s 2,000-year history, but Viganò’s call for the pope’s resignation has set off the ecclesial version of a street fight. “The current divisions among Catholics in the United States has no parallel in my lifetime,” Stephen Schneck, the former director of the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies at Catholic University of America, said in an interview. Bishops who usually take pains to show unity in public have issued dueling statements on Viganò’s letter that reflect this discord. Cardinal Tobin, who was appointed by Francis, sees Viganò’s accusations being used by the pope’s opponents to gain leverage. “I do think it’s about limiting the days of this pope, and short of that, neutering his voice or casting ambiguity around him,” the cardinal told The New York Times. Some conservatives in the hierarchy have cheered Viganò. Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas, issued a statement just hours after the letter was made public and ordered priests in his diocese to read his statement during Mass. “As your shepherd, I find them credible,” the bishop wrote in response to Viganò’s allegations.
Read the entire piece here.
Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano has accused Pope Francis of covering up the sexual sins of former Washington D.C. archbishop Theodore McCarrick. Thus far, Francis has dismissed the accusations. But now it appears that the Vatican is forming some kind of a response to the Vigano testimony. Gerard O’Connell of America explains:
The Council of Cardinal Advisors issued a statement on Sept. 10 expressing their “full solidarity with Pope Francis in the face of what has happened in these last weeks”—namely the attack against him by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the former nuncio to the United States. They added that they were aware that the Holy See is preparing “the eventual and necessary clarifications” in response to the grave allegations Archbishop Viganò made in August.
Archbishop Viganò had accused the pope of covering up the abuses committed by Archbishop Theodore McCarrick and of lifting the sanctions he believes Pope Benedict XVI imposed on the former Washington cardinal. He also accused many Vatican officials during the previous two pontificates of the same cover-up. The archbishop stunned the Catholic world by calling for Francis’ resignation.
The cardinal council members said in their statement that they were aware that “in the present discussion” the Holy See “is formulating the eventual and necessary clarifications” to these events. In this way, they confirmed the news that had circulated in the Italian media in recent days that the Vatican is preparing a response to what Archbishop Viganò stated in his letter, the contents of which has become a source of scandal and division in the church, particularly in the United States, and a direct attack on the pope and his moral authority.
Read the rest here.
Ave Maria is a very traditional Catholic college. It was founded in 1998 in Ypsilanti, Michigan by Tom Monaghan, the founder of Domino’s Pizza. I first learned about it through the ads the college regularly took out in First Things magazine.
In the wake of the controversial Cardinal Vigano letter accusing Pope Francis of covering-up the sexually abusive behavior of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, one might expect the president of a conservative Catholic college to join the chorus of conservative Catholics who are critical of Francis. But not Jim Towey. I will let the Naples Daily News explain the rest:
Ave Maria University President Jim Towey’s statement in support of Pope Francis has prompted a swift backlash from several members of the Catholic community, including a group of nearly 70 alumni who signed an open letter asking he make a formal retraction.
Towey has since amended his original statement and wrote a follow-up letter apologizing for some of his words, but he maintained his support of Pope Francis.
The pope stands accused of knowing of allegations of sexual abuse in the church and failing to take action.
In his Aug. 29 statement, Towey characterized the matter as a “rift between Pope Francis and some conservative members of the Church hierarchy.”
On Aug. 30, Towey wrote a letter addressed to the “Friends of Ave Maria University,” acknowledging his words had hit some members of the Ave Maria community “with great force.” Towey also apologized for his “gratuitous comment about what might have motivated Cardinal Burke’s conduct.”
The original Aug. 29 statement included a sentence that suggested American Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, a leader of the conservative wing of the church who has criticized Pope Francis “may still be smarting from the Holy Father’s decision to remove him from his prominent position as head of the Holy See’s highest ecclesiastical court.” That portion of the statement has since been removed.
Read the rest here.
As we wrote about here last week, Catholic Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano recently claimed Pope Francis knew that Archbishop Theodore McCarrick was a “sexual predator” and did nothing about it. Vigano made his allegations in an 11-page “testimony.”
Yesterday, the editors of the Catholic magazine Commonweal called Vigano’s letter “a subjective account of recent church history full of unverifiable claims” with a “petty and self-righteous tone” that reads like it was written to “settle personal scores.”
So far, Pope Francis has not addressed the Vigano accusations, but the Commonweal editors think that he should:
But Francis should do more than respond to those who “seek scandal” with “silence,” as he put it in a recent homily. When he was first asked about Viganò’s charges during an in-flight press conference on his way back to the Vatican from Ireland, he replied, “I will not say a single word on this.” And he hasn’t. That is unwise. However dubious or questionable Viganò’s charges, Francis should respond to them directly, especially given that a number of the claims refer to private conversations between the two men. If Francis did not know about Benedict’s request that McCarrick should keep a low profile, he should say so. If he is afraid of implicating his two predecessors, who promoted McCarrick and allowed him to continue in public ministry, he shouldn’t be. The truth is more important. As the church once again reckons with its leaders’ failures to confront and punish abusers, the faithful deserve answers.
Read the entire editorial here.
Writing at the National Catholic Reporter, Michael Sean Winters argues that Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano’s testimony that Pope Francis covered-up the inappropriate behavior of former-cardinal Theodore McCarrick is little more than a conspiracy theory.
Here is a taste of his piece, “Vigano letter exposes the putsch against Pope Francis“:
Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano’s testimony proves one thing: The former Vatican ambassador to the United States is to the clergy sex abuse crisis what Oliver Stone is to the assassination of President John Kennedy, a trafficker in conspiracy theories who mixes fact, fiction and venom to produce something explosive but also suspicious. When you finish reading this testimony, as at the end of Stone’s 1991 movie “JFK,” you can only conclude that the product tells us more about the author than it does about the subject.
Vigano is certainly correct that Cardinal Angelo Sodano, longtime Secretary of State to Pope John Paul II, was a patron of disgraced former-cardinal Theodore McCarrick. Stone recognized the assassination happened in Dallas. But why does Vigno fail to mention the key role played by Cardinal Stanislaus Dsiwisz in protecting McCarrick?
Read the entire piece here.
Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, a former apostolic nuncio in Washington D.C., claims that Pope Francis knew that former Archbishop Theodore McCarrick was a “sexual predator and not only covered it up, but brought McCarrick into his inner-circle.
Vigano’s 11-page report reads like a television drama. Read it here. Vigano also claims that Cardinal Wuerl of Washington D.C. was also involved in the cover-up, although Wuerl denies it. (Wuerl also allegedly covered-up sexual abuse in the Diocese of Pittsburgh).
I am sure this will be all over the news later today, but most of what we know right now is coming from the Catholic press. Here is a taste of the Edward Pentin’s piece at the National Catholic Register:
In an extraordinary 11-page written testament, a former apostolic nuncio to the United States has accused several senior prelates of complicity in covering up Archbishop Theodore McCarrick’s allegations of sexual abuse, and has claimed that Pope Francis knew about sanctions imposed on then-Cardinal McCarrick by Pope Benedict XVI but chose to repeal them.
Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, 77, who served as apostolic nuncio in Washington D.C. from 2011 to 2016, said that in the late 2000s, Benedict had “imposed on Cardinal McCarrick sanctions similar to those now imposed on him by Pope Francis” and that Viganò personally told Pope Francis about those sanctions in 2013.
Archbishop Viganò said in his written statement, simultaneously released to the Register and other media, (see full text below) that Pope Francis “continued to cover” for McCarrick and not only did he “not take into account the sanctions that Pope Benedict had imposed on him” but also made McCarrick “his trusted counselor.” Viganò said that the former archbishop of Washington advised the Pope to appoint a number of bishops in the United States, including Cardinals Blase Cupich of Chicago and Joseph Tobin of Newark.
Read the rest here.
Here is what is happening on Twitter:
Annnnnd in the evening’s *other* news, this document is quite possibly a truly historic bombshell in the life of the Roman Catholic Church. https://t.co/cxY3xNi76g
— Ross Douthat (@DouthatNYT) August 26, 2018
Written by the former papal nuncio to the U.S., it does exactly what many have called for, and offers testimony concerning who in the hierarchy knew what, and when, about the crimes of Cardinal McCarrick. The testimony implicates a host of high-ranking churchmen. And the pope.
— Ross Douthat (@DouthatNYT) August 26, 2018
Reporters at @washingtonpost in various cities pursuing details about reports of former Vatican ambassador’s text about McCarrick/Wuerl/Francis/Benedict. Regardless of where this goes, it appears to pull the Catholic Church deeper into crisis, division
— Michelle Boorstein (@mboorstein) August 26, 2018
This is about far more than McCarrick, and even abuse. It’s about power and the future direction of the Catholic Church. The anti-Francis wing of the church is speaking with new boldness.
— Elizabeth Dias (@elizabethjdias) August 26, 2018
Understand what the former nuncio is saying: Pope Francis, though he knew that McCarrick molested seminarians, rehabilitated him, and brought him into his inner circle. If true, Francis is a total fraud on sex abuse.
— Rod Dreher (@roddreher) August 26, 2018
Regarding the Vigano letter – impt to keep in mind that Vigano and Francis have been political enemies. Recall when Francis visited US and Vigano invited Kim Davis & then Francis replaced him as ambassador to the US. Plus, release is timed bf Francis addresses press in Ireland https://t.co/X1pqvhCbEv
— Elizabeth Dias (@elizabethjdias) August 26, 2018
The members of the conservative, anti-Francis wing of the Catholic church are swarming like sharks. Vigano’s report is filled with speculation and theories that need confirmation. If what he says is an accurate portrayal of events, this could indeed be a bombshell. Stay tuned.
Paul Elie, a senior research fellow at Georgetown University’s Berkeley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs, reminds us that sometimes “witch hunts” turn-up witches.
In 2002 , a Mexican cardinal said that the Boston Globe’s reporting on sexual abuse in the Catholic Church was a “witch hunt.” We now have a similar sex abuse scandal in Catholic Pennsylvania. (I have not seen anyone call this a witch hunt yet, but I could be wrong). Elie argues the press, the prosecution, and the people remain the best way to keep powerful priests and politicians accountable.
Maybe Trump should head down to the White House cinema and watch Spotlight. He might learn something about the essential role the press must play in curbing executive power.
Here is a taste of his piece at Time:
“Witch hunts” is what prominent cardinal Óscar Rodríguez Maradiaga of Honduras called the Boston Globe’s and other outlets’ reporting on decades of sexual abuse by Catholic priests in 2002, after the coverage led to accusations of a cover-up. He is now one of Pope Francis’ closest advisers. But they were not witch hunts. They told the truth and exposed the perils of unchecked power exercised by another cardinal, Boston’s Bernard Law. That reporting led to Law’s resignation, the removal and prosecution of priestly offenders, and a promise from U.S. bishops to install a “zero tolerance” policy on sexual abuse.
Sixteen years later, the phrase witch hunt calls to mind President Trump’s assault on the free press, the rule of law, and our constitutional system of checks and balances and the separation of powers. What happens when those curbs on executive power are weak or nonexistent? Too often we look to places like Vladimir Putin’s Russia to answer that question. Instead, we should look to the Catholic Church; we can see the consequences in the broken lives of thousands of victims and the anguish of our Catholic neighbors — because the crisis of priestly sexual abuse is a crisis of executive power run amok.
Read the entire piece here.
The staff at the Jesuit magazine America has assembled a bunch of very helpful links here. They include statements by Pope Francis, laity and victims, and the U.S. Bishops.
The University of Scranton, a Jesuit institution in Scranton, Pennsylvania, has decided to rescind honorary degrees granted to three former bishops who covered-up the crimes of sexually abusive priests. The buildings named after these bishops will be renamed. Here is the full statement from The University of Scranton president Scott Pilarz, S.J.:
Dear Members of the University Community,
The recent release of more than 1,300 pages of grand jury proceedings detailing sexual abuse by Catholic priests in Pennsylvania and failures by Church leaders in responding to these situations is justifiably generating international attention and outrage. Since the report’s release last week, the University has considered how best to respond to the deeply disturbing report and to past honors and recognition it has bestowed upon individuals named in it.
Earlier today, I consulted with a group of administrators, faculty, alumni and student leaders to recommend a course of action to the Board of Trustees. This afternoon, the Board met in special session and unanimously approved our recommendations.
With sympathy for and in solidarity with victims of sexual abuse in the Diocese of Scranton, The University of Scranton will rescind honorary degrees and rename campus buildings recognizing Bishops Jerome D. Hannan, J. Carroll McCormick, and James C. Timlin. As documented in the report, these Bishops covered up the crimes and misdeeds of men who were under their jurisdiction and placed children in harm’s way.
Buildings previously named for these three Bishops will be renamed as follows:
McCormick Hall will be renamed MacKillop Hall in honor of Saint Mary of the Cross MacKillop, an Australian nun who founded the Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart and who publicly exposed the sexual abuse of children by a priest. In her life, she faced persecution and excommunication, during which she was assisted by the Jesuits until later being absolved. Pope Benedict XVI named Sr. Mary Australia’s first saint in 2010.
The name on Timlin House will be removed and Mulberry Plaza, the complex in which the building is located, will be renamed Romero Plaza in honor of the late Oscar Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador, who will be canonized by Pope Francis on October 14. Murdered in 1980 while saying mass in San Salvador, Archbishop Romero remains an inspiration to millions, including many on the University’s campus who have made the moving pilgrimage to El Salvador.
Hannan Hall will be renamed Giblin-Kelly Hall in honor of the late Brendan J. Giblin ’06 and William H. Kelly Jr. ’93. Brendan was a graduating senior at Scranton and co-captain of the swim team when he was tragically killed while on Spring Break in Panama City. Bill worked for Bloomberg, LP in Princeton, N.J. and their affiliate, Bloomberg Tradebook LLC, in New York City. On September 11, 2001, Bill attended a conference at Windows on the World at the World Trade Center, Tower One, and was killed in the attack that destroyed those buildings. Since Bill and Brendan died, their families and friends have devotedly kept their memory alive, transforming tragedy into good in support of future students at Scranton.
In choosing to honor St. MacKillop, Archbishop Romero, Brendan and Bill, we hold up the example of their lives as a reminder always to be a voice against abuse and violence no matter the cost, to champion the poor and oppressed, and to treasure the bonds of friendship and community that are at the heart of The University of Scranton.
These actions are important, but the gravity of the information we now know demands even more of us. As a Catholic and Jesuit university founded by the Diocese of Scranton, The University of Scranton will strive together with the people of the Diocese and Catholics everywhere to address the difficult but necessary questions that arise from the grand jury report. As a university community, we look forward to working with the people of the Diocese to assist in facilitating discussions and reflection in the long but hopeful process to rebuild trust and find peace. In support of this initiative, the University is devoting resources to advance the programs and projects that emerge from our collaboration.
Additionally, I recognize that stories from the past two weeks can trigger painful memories for members of our campus community who themselves are lifelong scars of sexual abuse. Please be assured that the staff of the Counseling Center and Campus Ministries are available to help students and that the University’s employee assistance program is always available for faculty and staff.
On this journey, I ask that you pray for the healing of all victims of sexual abuse and their families and that you pray also for the people of the Diocese of Scranton and the Universal Church.
Scott R. Pilarz, S.J.
Here is the full text of “Letter of His Holiness Pope Francis to the People of God,” August 20, 2018:
If one member suffers, all suffer together with it” (1 Cor 12:26). These words of Saint Paul forcefully echo in my heart as I acknowledge once more the suffering endured by many minors due to sexual abuse, the abuse of power and the abuse of conscience perpetrated by a significant number of clerics and consecrated persons. Crimes that inflict deep wounds of pain and powerlessness, primarily among the victims, but also in their family members and in the larger community of believers and nonbelievers alike. Looking back to the past, no effort to beg pardon and to seek to repair the harm done will ever be sufficient. Looking ahead to the future, no effort must be spared to create a culture able to prevent such situations from happening, but also to prevent the possibility of their being covered up and perpetuated. The pain of the victims and their families is also our pain, and so it is urgent that we once more reaffirm our commitment to ensure the protection of minors and of vulnerable adults.
1. If one member suffers…
In recent days, a report was made public which detailed the experiences of at least a thousand survivors, victims of sexual abuse, the abuse of power and of conscience at the hands of priests over a period of approximately seventy years. Even though it can be said that most of these cases belong to the past, nonetheless as time goes on we have come to know the pain of many of the victims. We have realized that these wounds never disappear and that they require us forcefully to condemn these atrocities and join forces in uprooting this culture of death; these wounds never go away. The heart-wrenching pain of these victims, which cries out to heaven, was long ignored, kept quiet or silenced. But their outcry was more powerful than all the measures meant to silence it, or sought even to resolve it by decisions that increased its gravity by falling into complicity. The Lord heard that cry and once again showed us on which side he stands. Mary’s song is not mistaken and continues quietly to echo throughout history. For the Lord remembers the promise he made to our fathers: “he has scattered the proud in their conceit; he has cast down the mighty from their thrones and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty” (Lk 1:51-53). We feel shame when we realize that our style of life has denied, and continues to deny, the words we recite.
With shame and repentance, we acknowledge as an ecclesial community that we were not where we should have been, that we did not act in a timely manner, realizing the magnitude and the gravity of the damage done to so many lives. We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them. I make my own the words of the then Cardinal Ratzinger when, during the Way of the Cross composed for Good Friday 2005, he identified with the cry of pain of so many victims and exclaimed: “How much filth there is in the Church, and even among those who, in the priesthood, ought to belong entirely to [Christ]! How much pride, how much self-complacency! Christ’s betrayal by his disciples, their unworthy reception of his body and blood, is certainly the greatest suffering endured by the Redeemer; it pierces his heart. We can only call to him from the depths of our hearts: Kyrie eleison – Lord, save us! (cf. Mt 8:25)” (Ninth Station).
2. … all suffer together with it
The extent and the gravity of all that has happened requires coming to grips with this reality in a comprehensive and communal way. While it is important and necessary on every journey of conversion to acknowledge the truth of what has happened, in itself this is not enough. Today we are challenged as the People of God to take on the pain of our brothers and sisters wounded in their flesh and in their spirit. If, in the past, the response was one of omission, today we want solidarity, in the deepest and most challenging sense, to become our way of forging present and future history. And this in an environment where conflicts, tensions and above all the victims of every type of abuse can encounter an outstretched hand to protect them and rescue them from their pain (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 228). Such solidarity demands that we in turn condemn whatever endangers the integrity of any person. A solidarity that summons us to fight all forms of corruption, especially spiritual corruption. The latter is “a comfortable and self-satisfied form of blindness. Everything then appears acceptable: deception, slander, egotism and other subtle forms of self-centeredness, for ‘even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light’ (2 Cor 11:14)” (Gaudete et Exsultate, 165). Saint Paul’s exhortation to suffer with those who suffer is the best antidote against all our attempts to repeat the words of Cain: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen 4:9).
I am conscious of the effort and work being carried out in various parts of the world to come up with the necessary means to ensure the safety and protection of the integrity of children and of vulnerable adults, as well as implementing zero tolerance and ways of making all those who perpetrate or cover up these crimes accountable. We have delayed in applying these actions and sanctions that are so necessary, yet I am confident that they will help to guarantee a greater culture of care in the present and future.
Together with those efforts, every one of the baptized should feel involved in the ecclesial and social change that we so greatly need. This change calls for a personal and communal conversion that makes us see things as the Lord does. For as Saint John Paul II liked to say: “If we have truly started out anew from the contemplation of Christ, we must learn to see him especially in the faces of those with whom he wished to be identified” (Novo Millennio Ineunte, 49). To see things as the Lord does, to be where the Lord wants us to be, to experience a conversion of heart in his presence. To do so, prayer and penance will help. I invite the entire holy faithful People of God to a penitential exercise of prayer and fasting, following the Lord’s command. This can awaken our conscience and arouse our solidarity and commitment to a culture of care that says “never again” to every form of abuse.
It is impossible to think of a conversion of our activity as a Church that does not include the active participation of all the members of God’s People. Indeed, whenever we have tried to replace, or silence, or ignore, or reduce the People of God to small elites, we end up creating communities, projects, theological approaches, spiritualities and structures without roots, without memory, without faces, without bodies and ultimately, without lives. This is clearly seen in a peculiar way of understanding the Church’s authority, one common in many communities where sexual abuse and the abuse of power and conscience have occurred. Such is the case with clericalism, an approach that “not only nullifies the character of Christians, but also tends to diminish and undervalue the baptismal grace that the Holy Spirit has placed in the heart of our people”. Clericalism, whether fostered by priests themselves or by lay persons, leads to an excision in the ecclesial body that supports and helps to perpetuate many of the evils that we are condemning today. To say “no” to abuse is to say an emphatic “no” to all forms of clericalism.
It is always helpful to remember that “in salvation history, the Lord saved one people. We are never completely ourselves unless we belong to a people. That is why no one is saved alone, as an isolated individual. Rather, God draws us to himself, taking into account the complex fabric of interpersonal relationships present in the human community. God wanted to enter into the life and history of a people” (Gaudete et Exsultate, 6). Consequently, the only way that we have to respond to this evil that has darkened so many lives is to experience it as a task regarding all of us as the People of God. This awareness of being part of a people and a shared history will enable us to acknowledge our past sins and mistakes with a penitential openness that can allow us to be renewed from within. Without the active participation of all the Church’s members, everything being done to uproot the culture of abuse in our communities will not be successful in generating the necessary dynamics for sound and realistic change. The penitential dimension of fasting and prayer will help us as God’s People to come before the Lord and our wounded brothers and sisters as sinners imploring forgiveness and the grace of shame and conversion. In this way, we will come up with actions that can generate resources attuned to the Gospel. For “whenever we make the effort to return to the source and to recover the original freshness of the Gospel, new avenues arise, new paths of creativity open up, with different forms of expression, more eloquent signs and words with new meaning for today’s world” (Evangelii Gaudium, 11).
It is essential that we, as a Church, be able to acknowledge and condemn, with sorrow and shame, the atrocities perpetrated by consecrated persons, clerics, and all those entrusted with the mission of watching over and caring for those most vulnerable. Let us beg forgiveness for our own sins and the sins of others. An awareness of sin helps us to acknowledge the errors, the crimes and the wounds caused in the past and allows us, in the present, to be more open and committed along a journey of renewed conversion.
Likewise, penance and prayer will help us to open our eyes and our hearts to other people’s sufferings and to overcome the thirst for power and possessions that are so often the root of those evils. May fasting and prayer open our ears to the hushed pain felt by children, young people and the disabled. A fasting that can make us hunger and thirst for justice and impel us to walk in the truth, supporting all the judicial measures that may be necessary. A fasting that shakes us up and leads us to be committed in truth and charity with all men and women of good will, and with society in general, to combatting all forms of the abuse of power, sexual abuse and the abuse of conscience.
In this way, we can show clearly our calling to be “a sign and instrument of communion with God and of the unity of the entire human race” (Lumen Gentium, 1).
“If one member suffers, all suffer together with it”, said Saint Paul. By an attitude of prayer and penance, we will become attuned as individuals and as a community to this exhortation, so that we may grow in the gift of compassion, in justice, prevention and reparation. Mary chose to stand at the foot of her Son’s cross. She did so unhesitatingly, standing firmly by Jesus’ side. In this way, she reveals the way she lived her entire life. When we experience the desolation caused by these ecclesial wounds, we will do well, with Mary, “to insist more upon prayer”, seeking to grow all the more in love and fidelity to the Church (SAINT IGNATIUS OF LOYOLA, Spiritual Exercises, 319). She, the first of the disciples, teaches all of us as disciples how we are to halt before the sufferings of the innocent, without excuses or cowardice. To look to Mary is to discover the model of a true follower of Christ.
May the Holy Spirit grant us the grace of conversion and the interior anointing needed to express before these crimes of abuse our compunction and our resolve courageously to combat them.
Kathy Sprows Cummings is a historian of American Catholicism, the director of the Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism at Notre Dame, and a Catholic who was raised in Pennsylvania. She brings all of this expertise and experience to bear on her recent New York Times op-ed: “For Catholics, Gradual Reform is No Longer an Option.” Here is a taste:
People will say that there is still holiness in the church, that there are many priests and bishops with good and pure hearts, and they are right. But there are times when the sin is so pervasive and corrosive that it is irresponsible to talk about anything else, and this is one of those times. My once-polite requests for incremental reform have morphed overnight into demands that church leaders voluntarily relinquish their place at the head table.
Read the entire piece here.
The report by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court is out and it reveals some pretty disgusting things about the Roman Catholic Church in Pennsylvania. 1000s of victims.
Read Michelle Boorstein’s Washington Post coverage here. A few lowlights from the official report:
- A priest raped a seven-year-old girl while he was visiting her in the hospital after she’d had her tonsils out
- A priest made a nine-year-old boy give him oral sex and then rinsed out the boy’s mouth with holy water to purify him.
- A priest who was a registered psychologist hypnotized a girl and took off her clothes.
- An accused priest left the priesthood after years of child abuse complaints. Upon leaving, he asked for, and received, a letter of reference for his next job–at Disney World.
- The report states “while the list of priests is long, we don’t think we got them all.”
- One of the victims tried to kill herself as the grand jury report was being prepared.
- Boorstein notes that “the investigation is the most comprehensive yet on Catholic Church sex abuse in the United States.
Read the entire 1356-page report here.
Last month we reported on Pope Francis’s decision to remove Cardinal Theodore McCarrick from public ministry following allegations that he sexually abused a teenager nearly fifty years ago. The Jesuit America magazine has now published a statement about the McCarrick case. Here is a taste:
The Catholic Church cannot pretend to be shocked about the pattern of sexual abuse of adult seminarians by Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, recently detailed in a comprehensive story in The New York Times. As The Times made clear in its reporting, many church leaders had received multiple notices of the cardinal’s behavior. Local dioceses had been told, the papal nuncio in Washington, D.C., had been told and, eventually, even Pope Benedict XVI had been told.
But none of these reports interrupted Cardinal McCarrick’s rise through the ranks nor his appointment as cardinal nor his eventual retirement in 2006 as a respected leader of the U.S. church. Nor did these reports lead to his removal last month from public ministry, which finally resulted from a credible allegation of abuse of a minor almost 50 years ago, recently revealed and acted on by the Archdiocese of New York.
It is true that none of the earlier reports of abuse alleged criminal behavior with minors, but they were serious enough that Cardinal McCarrick should have been called to account for the terrible misuse of his office and authority. The church and its leaders should be ashamed of their failure to do so. The slow and halting progress the church has made by way of reforms adopted in response to the sexual abuse of children, for example through the Dallas charter, has been called into question by the revelation of its ongoing failures to deal with other reports of abuse. Nor should the media, including we in Catholic media (Cardinal McCarrick was a longtime friend of this magazine and delivered the homily at our centennial celebration in 2009), be absolved of responsibility for any failure to take these and other rumors and reports as seriously as was required. To demand accountability only of the hierarchy is itself hypocrisy.
Read the entire editorial here. This is significant because America is widely known as a left-leaning publication (although I am sure the editors would rightly say that they are simply upholding Catholic social and moral teaching) and McCarrick was a champion of social justice.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez pulled off a major upset in yesterday’s Democratic primary race in New York’s 14th District. She defeated Joe Crowley, the 10-term member of the U.S. House of Representatives who many believed would be the heir-apparent to Nancy Pelosi as the House Minority Leader. Ocasio-Cortez is a 28-year-old Democratic Socialist who ran on universal health care and the abolition of ICE. She is also a Catholic.
On the day after her victory Ocasio-Cortez started writing, but not for The New York Times or The Progressive or The Nation or Jacobin or In These Times. Nope. She turned to the web pages of the Jesuit magazine America.
Here is a taste of her piece, published today:
Discussions of reforming our criminal justice system demand us to ask philosophical and moral questions. What should be the ultimate goal of sentencing and incarceration? Is it punishment? Rehabilitation? Forgiveness? For Catholics, these questions tie directly to the heart of our faith.
Solutions are already beginning to take shape, which include unraveling the War on Drugs, reconsidering mandatory minimum sentencing and embracing a growing private prison abolition movement that urges us to reconsider the levels at which the United States pursues mass incarceration. No matter where these proposals take us, we should pursue such conversations with an openness to change and an aim to rehabilitate our brothers and sisters wherever possible and wherever necessary. By nature, a society that forgives and rehabilitates its people is a society that forgives and transforms itself. That takes a radical kind of love, a secret of which is given in the Lord’s Prayer: Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And let us not forget the guiding principle of “the least among us” found in Matthew: that we are compelled to care for the hungry, thirsty, homeless, naked, sick and, yes—the imprisoned.
I am really looking forward to Catherine O’Donnell‘s forthcoming biography of Elizabeth Seton. This weekend she delivered the keynote address at the Spring meeting of the American Catholic Historical Association at Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Maryland. Here is her fascinating talk:
<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/264862672″>Plenary Address, Spring Meeting of the American Catholic Historical Association at Mount St. Mary’s University</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user84031308″>Mount History</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>
The Catholic magazine Commonweal has had enough. In the March 6, 2018 issue, the editors chide the evangelicals and Catholics who voted for Donald Trump. Here is a taste:
…[Christian Broadcasting Network journalist David] Brody’s “reason” for Trump’s ascendency, however, seems to confuse the political agenda of conservative Evangelical Christians with God’s will, something that is much harder to discern in the opacity of historical events. Thanks to Trump, Brody proclaims, the reliably prolife Neil Gorsuch sits on the High Court. The U.S. embassy in Israel is moving to Jerusalem. Obama’s alleged assault on religious liberty has been reversed. As a consequence, Evangelicals have learned their lesson. They vote in “the macro” now, meaning a deal with the devil gets a Christian imprimatur. “The goal of Evangelicals has always been winning the larger battle over control of the culture, not to get mired in the moral failings of each and every candidate,” Brody writes.
Is this really what it means to be a conservative Christian in America today? At a time when the nation and the churches are desperately in need of the moral, spiritual, and intellectual contributions of thoughtful, traditionally minded Christians, it is alarming to see “macro” calculations of expedience replacing the Gospel. Is championing a “bold culture warrior” who promises to reverse what Brody and his allies insist is the nation’s precipitous cultural decline now the Christian mission?
Easter will soon be upon us. Christians across the world will once again participate liturgically and sacramentally in the drama of Christ’s death and Resurrection. They will be reminded that the savior of the world was a political scapegoat and a marginal cultural figure. It is a false hope—some might call it blasphemy—to think that a bold culture warrior in the White House can bring about a revival of Christianity, or reverse the troubling transformations that have occurred in our culture and politics. It is always a grave mistake for Christians to align themselves too closely with any one political party or politician, especially with a man who has proudly confessed that he has never asked God for forgiveness. “If I do something wrong, I think I just try to make it right,” Trump has assured us. “I don’t bring God into that picture. I don’t.”
A few years ago, I taught an undergraduate course on migration at the Catholic University of America. During one lecture, I compared nineteenth-century Italian migration and contemporary Mexican migration to the United States. A hand shot up, and a student—one of several with an Italian surname—objected. “They’re not the same,” he protested. “My great-grandmother came here legally, and learned English—Mexicans don’t do that.”
As a historian who studies Mexican immigration to the United States, I’m used to hearing statements like this. Concerns about new immigrants’ legal status and failure to assimilate are widespread, and nativism has re-emerged in recent decades. Still, I wondered why this proud young Italian-American Catholic was so unwilling to compare his ancestors to the Mexican Catholic immigrants of today. Why did he not feel a sense of sympathy and solidarity for contemporary immigrants, who share so much with the great waves of Irish, Italians, Poles, and other immigrants of the late nineteenth century?
At the time, I didn’t quite grasp how many U.S. Catholics feel the widespread American discontent over immigration. After all, the Catholic hierarchy is vocally pro-immigrant, and the U.S. Catholic population is entirely composed of immigrants and descendants of immigrants. Catholics have a proud tradition of social justice, and numerous Catholic organizations have done immensely valuable work to protect immigrants. Nevertheless, in our new Trumpian era of border walls and travel bans, it has become more apparent to me (and others, such as Paul Moses in a recent piece for Commonweal, “White Catholics & Nativism,” September 1, 2017) that white Catholics have a nativism problem of their own.
Given the history of Catholic immigration to the United States, perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised. Catholic nativism toward other Catholic immigrants is a recurring sentiment that dates to at least the second half of the nineteenth century, when the influx of Catholics changed the religious landscape of the United States. From then until today, Irish, Italian, Polish, Mexican, and other Catholics have fought over power, identity, religious practice, and shared spaces.
Read the entire piece at Commonweal.