Now I wasn't there, and it's possible that these quotes from Catholic News Service can be taken out of context, but the comments below betray a certain consistency with other recent episcopal responses to the physical and sexual abuse of Catholic children and the media and public reaction to same that I think is worth noting. Apparently it is modernism and a malevolent media to blame for all. Who knew?

Bishop Edward J. Slattery of Tulsa, Okla., recently celebrated a two-and-a-half-hour pontifical solemn high Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception April 24, replacing Colombian Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, the celebrant originally scheduled by the Maryland-based Paulus Institute for the event, meant to honor the fifth anniversary of Benedict XVI's papacy. The cardinal was forced to withdraw after a furor erupted over a letter he wrote in 2001 as the head of the Vatican's Congregation for Clergy, praising a French bishop for not reporting an abusive priest to authorities. (The Vatican had to then quickly emphasize that bishops are expected to comply with all civil laws that mandate reporting of sex abuse allegations and to cooperate in civil investigations.) The Mass was celebrated in Latin for the first time in decades at the basilica, according to CNS, "with ancient chants and with pomp, splendor and majesty" (take that novus ordo zombies!). In his homily Bishop Slattery noted the "enormous suffering which is all around us and which does so much to determine the culture of our modern age," pointing to "the enormous suffering of His Holiness these past months" as well as the suffering of those who face poverty, abuse, neglect, disease and heartache. Such suffering, he said, "defines the culture of our modern secular age."

Really, with all due respect, what exactly is this enormous suffering the Holy Father and similarly embarrassed episcopal leaders are enduring while they take every opportunity to fulminate about the dread effects of modernism and the dark sexual forces unleashed by our wanton secular age? It seems to me they're suffering their share (as we laypeople suffer ours) of a proper mortification served up by newspaper coverage that, however imperfect at times, is essentially doing the church a huge institutional service. Let’s try to perceive how that "suffering" compares to an 11-year-old child tied up and raped by his pastor and forced to carry that memory around for a lifetime while he bumps into his abuser at parish festivals and school fundraisers, then tries to concoct some semblance of normal physical and emotional intimacy as an adult . . . Hmm. I’m thinking not much . . . And it must come as a great relief to assign clerical psychosexual perversion and cruelty to Vatican IIish modernism, even if that doesn't properly square with the reality that the vast majority of the abusive clerics completed their formation years before Popes John or Paul began their efforts.

From CNS: Suffering, said Bishop Slattery, "yours, mine, the pontiff's" -- is "the heart of personal holiness ... It is the means by which we are made witnesses of his suffering and sharers in the glory to come. . . . Do not be dismayed that many in the church have not yet grasped this point, and fewer still in the world will even consider it . . . You know this to be true -- and 10 men who whisper the truth speak louder than a hundred million who lie."

I can't say I'm really sure what the good bishop is getting at there. Could be I'm just part of that 100 million (my hearing has grown awfully poor of late), but I'm thinking Jesus would have endorsed a pass on the suffering of so many children and their families and the children of these children, even as a pathway to personal holiness. Whatever the redemptive value such suffering may offer the church today, it really doesn't add up well.

Kevin Clarke

Comments

Jeff Bagnell | 4/28/2010 - 10:13am
 
Yes the White House is clearly more than what the President needs; why not sell it? You could apply this reasoning - - which is exclusively hurled at the Holy See - - to every other government and religious body in the world.  And let's say there were someone willing to fork over $500 billion for Vatican City and everything in it, that would be about $200 for every human being on the planet.  Maybe $400 for every poor person.  What do we do after that?  As Jesus said, the poor you will always have with you.  And he wasn't just talking about material poverty. 
Brendan McGrath | 4/27/2010 - 10:26pm
To dovetail with what Jeff said about the cathedrals, etc. - I think this is another case where many people are looking at things from a distorted perspective, or with a stereotyped view of the Church.  First, as John Allen explains in his book "All the Pope's Men," the Vatican is really not that wealthy; its wealth is comparable to the endowment of an American university.  The art, etc. isn't something from which it makes money.  People often say, "the Vatican should sell all the art and feed the poor," etc., but this is where that distorted perspective comes in: if the Vatican should sell its art, should the federal government sell the Smithsonian?  Should we sell the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, the Statue of Liberty, etc., etc.?  There are many things we could sell to feed the poor, and maybe we should - but why the Vatican in particular?
Jeff Bagnell | 4/27/2010 - 9:34pm
I agree with Brendan.  I kind of draw the line at things like cappa magna, but what the pope and bishops wear doesn't really bother me.  The pope wears white like a general wears stars.  
 
I put this criticism in the category of the people who rail about all the magnificent cathedrals in the world, and all the gold and jewels they contain, and couldn't we sell them all and feed the world.  Of course, it is the poorest of the poor who would be most heartbroken if that happened; they draw so much hope and inspiration from the great cathedrals and beauty inside of them.  
Brendan McGrath | 4/27/2010 - 8:59pm
Jim, you said, "Maybe B16 wouldn't suffer so much if he dressed like, and presented himself as, a real human being as opposed to an overdressed Infant of Prague." - I've noticed recently how much criticism there is of the liturgical clothing of various bishops.  While not the case in this just-quoted comment, often people will speak derisively of clergy as wearing "dresses," and express an anger or frustration that seems to arise from the conjunction of the Church's teachings on homosexual activity with the perceived homosexual-like nature of such liturgical dress.  It's sort of ironic: people will make anti-gay comments about clerical dress precisely because they perceive certain bishops as anti-gay. 
 
Often the criticism of liturgical outfits arises from a good and necessary concern for issues of whether we're doing enough to care for the poor, oppressed, and underprivileged, whether we're doing enough for social justice, etc.  But I wonder if some of the animosity towards elaborate liturgical clothing is misplaced, or if it perhaps stems more from a sort of prejudice or dislike of something other than American styles of dress?  I mean, I wonder if other cultures might look at the expensive suits and outfits we Americans wear for formal occasions (business, weddings, proms, etc.), and have similar objections?  Is a wedding dress or a prom tuxedo any less offensive than elaborate liturgical finery?  Do we need to re-evaluate the way we look at such liturgical dress, and see if it's colored by prejudices or cultural bias, the same sort of prejudice or bias that's behind, say, reactions to those pictures of Obama in traditional African garb, or whatever?  To approach it from another angle, is there a way to do a "retrieval" of elaborate liturgical finery?  Is there some way in which we could draw on language of the baptized and all humanity being called to a "royal priesthood" to say that a bishop's wearing such finery is meant to elevate all people, not just himself (herself)?
 
To put it all another way: is there something unhealthy, homophobic, or prejudiced about the way many Americans respond to the idea of priests wearing "dresses"?  To what extent is a negative perception of Benedict as dressing like the Infant of Prague colored by a sexism/patriarchy/misogynism which sees infancy as connected with a womanliness from which men are expected to separate themselves? 
 
I mean all of this seriously, though I also recognize that much of it sounds funny and bizarre.
JIM MCCREA | 4/27/2010 - 8:07pm
Maybe B16 wouldn't suffer so much if he dressed like, an presented himself as, a real human being as opposed to an overdressed Infant of Prague.
Charles Erlinger | 4/27/2010 - 1:18pm
I have the impression that many in the hierarchy are concerned primarily about words, and many among the lowly faithful are concerned primarily about actions.  For example, a great deal has been made in this season about the shepherd and the sheep.  The shepherd and sheep references are references to a metaphor, which consists of words.  The emphasized implication seems to be that the faithful have an obligation to follow the lead(an action) of the metaphorical shepherds (note the plural, with the implication that the speakers are the shepherds) while the obligation of the metaphorical shepherds to take care of the sheep (implying some kind of concrete action or behavior pattern) receives a lot less emphasis. I suspect that this type of homiletic approach distorts the whole idea of the original metaphor, in which Jesus is the shepherd.  Now there is a metaphor that makes sense to many Catholics, at least in my observation.  I simply don't know many Catholics today who think of themselves as sheep relative to many homilists, but I know many who respect the actions of a certain (fairly large) number of clerics. I suspect that these latter faithful have made a private rule to follow the actions of the admirable, but to regard the words of many others very carefully.
Ashley Green | 4/27/2010 - 1:14pm
I agree with Mr. Clarke that the sexual abuse scandal is completely unrelated to Vatican II or the era that it ushered in, for better or worse. But it is equally true that this crisis has nothing whatsoever to do with priestly celibacy, women's ordination, or the Church's teachings on matters of sexuality. The problems of pedophilia and other forms of child abuse arise independently of any of these issues, and this is easily demonstrated by pointing out that the sexual and physical abuse of children is, tragically, just as prevalent in other institutions and society in general as it is in the Catholic Church. Even the problem, however maddening and inexcusable, of the bishops being more concerned with avoiding scandal than protecting potential victims, has its mirror image reflected in the hierarchies of other institutions, both secular and religious. Religious dogmas and ploitical persuasions have no determinant effect on the presence or absence of pedohilia and other forms of abuse. The only thing to be done is to have effective control systems in place that prevent, as much as possible, an abuser from acquiring access to a victim and that remove the abuser from any possible further access to victims whenever the preventive measures fail. Finally, the conflation of the child abuse crisis with other issues, only serves to complicate what should be a fairly straight forward process of needed reform.
Michael Bindner | 4/27/2010 - 11:33am
This is a misuse of the term "modernism" which originally was meant to condemn modern theological interpretations rather than those held traditionally by the Church. In some cases, the Holy Office is correct in putting the brakes on theologians - however in many cases the charge of modernism is not only a tempest in a teapot (in the area of theology) but was also used to defend doctrine that was clearly out of date, such as the kind of biblical literalism regarding the creation story we now ridicule some Evangelicals for, but which was clearly mainstream Catholic thinking a century ago. Indeed, there are those of us who believe Jesus was likely married who would have been called "Modernists" in the past and who are still called not mainstream - even though a strong argument can be made to the contrary (to whit, Jesus was a working rabbi for a time in Caphernum - an office for which having a wife was a job requirement).

In other words, the question of modernism has nothing to do with compromising with the world and everything to do with being open to evidence in matters of doctrine (and granting the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith less of a priviledged position in these matters than it likes to enjoy).
Brendan McGrath | 4/27/2010 - 1:47am
You know, I can't help but thinking...  I'm looking at the various responses to this homily over at Fr. Z's blog (http://wdtprs.com/blog/2010/04/bp-slatterys-sermon-in-washington-dc/#comments), and I can't can't help but feeling a bit sad and somewhat frustrated at the persistent gulf between the Catholic ''right'' and the Catholic ''left.''  I think I fit on both ''sides'' - I'm a traditional liberal Catholic and a liberal traditional Catholic (not ''conservative'').  How is it that people have such vastly different reactions to this homily, and really to so much within Catholicism and Catholic culture?  Is there a way we can somehow start talking to each other?  I mean, REALLY talk to each other, and try not to ignore the comments/objections/etc. of each other when expressing our own opinions?  I think that more ''conservative'' Catholics are more often guilty of this, saying things without anticipating or responding to the obvious objections of more liberal Catholics.  On a related note, I wonder if it might be a helpful exercise at times for those who are more liberal (on some issues, I include myself in that) to step back and just imagine for a moment: ''What if Ratzinger/Benedict or whoever were right / is right about everything?  How would that affect my world, my way of life, etc.?  Would it make me happy/sad?''  It's hard to explain what I mean, but I just feel like it might be a good exercise, to sort of jar us out of our instinctive reactions to things.  I mean, what if it turned out that God really did/does want us to give not just a faith assent to infallible teachings, but religious assent to non-infallible teachings; what if triumphalism is actually justified or a good thing, etc.?  I'm just sort of thinking/rambling out loud here.
 
Listen to some of these comments on Fr. Z's blog, interspersed with comments from this blog.  Is there a way to... I don't know.  Is there a way for the criticisms and praises of the homily to somehow ''speak'' to each other?
 
''It doesn’t get much better than this. A grand slam.''
 
''This would have been a great homily to slaves in the early 19th century urging them to accept their lot. Obedience would earn them eternal life.''
 
''I pray other bishops will follow his lead. He found the right balance in delivering these words.  When was the last time you heard talk of obedience from the pulpit? And, explained in such a way?''
 
''An over-mystification of the suffering theme without making clear the historical/political reasons behind Jesus' death.''
 
''I was blown away…amazing. Honestly, I had been a bit upset by all the allegations of abuse/cover up in the news recently…Bishop Slattery’s sermon made me proud to be Catholic and to follow our Holy Father and unite our sufferings to his so that we can one day be saints- through what we suffer.''
 
''Let’s try to perceive how that ''suffering'' compares to an 11-year-old child tied up and raped by his pastor and forced to carry that memory around for a lifetime while he bumps into his abuser at parish festivals and school fundraisers, then tries to concoct some semblance of normal physical and emotional intimacy as an adult . . . Hmm. I’m thinking not much.''
 
''...this is one of those homilies that makes you want to jump up in applause afterwards...''
 
''Too smug and triumphalistic, two traits that Catholics (especially the hierarchy) least need at present.'' 
 
''Sermons like that don’t just happen—His Excellency brought his A-game to Washington.''
 
''The hierarchy makes up the powers-that-be. It is the hierarchy and its toxic culture of clericalism (read: privileged status) that victimized the ''little ones.'''
 
''I am so glad His Excellency reminded us of this. We forget our lives are hard at times and think it is our faoult or that God hates us. He is reminding us to be patient in suffering and be prepared for more. God is with us. He will not abandon us. He loves us. He will give the joy inside the pain. We can smile thru the tears and, thereby, merit a reward greater than the pain.''
 
''In effect God could be thought to have replied, 'Don't box me in your smug securities! There is NO 'impregnable foundation' - not even the temple! I will allow the temple to be destroyed in order to destroy such smugness and make you wake up to the truth that it is YOUR SINS  THAT HAVE BROUGHT THIS RUIN UPON YOURSELVES.'''
 
''Bishop Slattery may not have been originally scheduled to do this Mass, but he was meant to do it.''
 
''And please ... do not co-opt Jesus into the rotten and toxic culture of clericalism. Isn't it enough suffering for Jesus already to be claimed as the guest of honor in an assembly with yards of silk and lace and cappa magnas?''
 
''Could even one of those attending yesterday have entered the Basilica Shrine expecting that he or she would be witness to something even rarer than a XXIst Century Pontifical Solemn High Mass, namely a sermon so profound and Spirit-filled that, published, it will claim a rank among the finest ever delivered by a North American churchman?''
Julius-Kei Kato | 4/27/2010 - 12:35am
Bishop Slattery's homily (full text here), particularly the emphasis on sanctifying suffering, uncannily reminds me of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ - it is an over-mystification of the suffering theme without making clear the historical/political reasons behind Jesus' death. Besides, it is too smug and triumphalistic, two traits that Catholics (especially the hierarchy) least need at present. 
True, Jesus died for the world's salvation/sanctification but that death was also incarnated in human reality - historically/politically, a result of a teaching and lifestyle that emphasized that the compassionate and inclusive heart of the Kingdom of God was for everyone - above all, for the little ones, the most vulnerable, marginalized,  underprivileged, those considered ''sinful'' and ''far'' from God. In effect, Jesus went against a religious system/structure that claimed a privileged status in front of God either because it believed that only through perfect obedience to the Law and the host of other smaller ''laws'' (Pharisees) or because it believed that obedience to the cultic practices associated with the temple was of paramount importance (Sadducees). These powers-that-be wanted people to be obedient to their versions of God's will, convinced that their claims and God's will were one and the same. We know that Jesus didn't buy that and it was to be these ''powers demanding obedience'' who eventually contrived to put him to death. 
Is Jesus' suffering then a good image for the pope and the hierarchy's present suffering as Bishop Slattery suggests? Absolutely not! The hierarchy makes up the powers-that-be. It is the hierarchy and its toxic culture of clericalism (read: privileged status) that victimized the ''little ones.'' A better image, I propose, for the hierarchy's present sufferings due to the sex abuse crisis is that of the First Temple's destruction. It was then that Ezekiel sees God leaving the temple; it was then that Jeremiah urges Israel to think of Babylon as God's purifying agent. The temple's destruction debunked a smug and triumphalist theology that considered Jerusalem and the Davidic line to be ''untouchable'' and ''impregnable'' because God, it was believed, would always dwell therein (something eerily like ''the impregnable foundation'' that Bishop Slattery proclaims). God's answer through the prophets? In effect God could be thought to have replied, ''Don't box me in your smug securities! There is NO 'impregnable foundation' - not even the temple! I will allow the temple to be destroyed in order to destroy such smugness and make you wake up to the truth that it is YOUR SINS  THAT HAVE BROUGHT THIS RUIN UPON YOURSELVES.
In my opinion, homilies like Bishop Slattery's blunt the stark message from God that the sex abuse crisis is supposed to be. The hierarchy should start thinking of the harsh lashes from the media, from the world, from ''Babylon'' to be the stern voice of the one ''who disciplines those he loves.'' And please ... do not co-opt Jesus into the rotten and toxic culture of clericalism. Isn't it enough suffering for Jesus already to be claimed as the guest of honor in an assembly with yards of silk and lace and cappa magnas? I'm pretty sure being claimed as the patron of clericalism will make him ballistic .... Just a thought ...
Molly Roach | 4/26/2010 - 10:24pm
They made the weather.  They moved predators around.  They shopped for psychiatric opinion that was in accord with their opinion.  They protected predators from criminal prosecution.  They made the weather and now they stand out in the rain and they say it's raining.
Jeff Bagnell | 4/26/2010 - 9:19pm
@Molly, "author" is not right.  The pope is not the author of this situation, he is not all-knowing and all-seeing, as most readers of America would readily agree.  The author of the situation are the priests who gave in to the sick impulses, the bishops and their assistants who coddled them, the psychiatrists who urged patience with them, and the lowering of standards of those who became priests.
Claire Mathieu | 4/26/2010 - 9:15pm
You who suffer, obediently take up your cross of suffering and follow Christ.
This would have been a great homily to slaves in the early 19th century urging them to accept their lot. Obedience would earn them eternal life.
I see some value in the points developed in that homily, but what's missing is justice. Justice!
And only the ones who suffer the most have a right to talk about taking up the cross in my opinion. That means, in this context, only the people who have been abused as children.
 
 
Jeff Bagnell | 4/26/2010 - 8:57pm
Brendan's observation about how depressing and horrific the situation is really rings true, regardless of whether one can see the connection between the silly season of Vatican II, and some of what has happened since.  It's like the Church's Vietnam War.  The containment strategy didn't work and Saigon is now being evacuated from the rooftops.    
 
 
Molly Roach | 4/26/2010 - 8:57pm
Sorry, to correct the quote:  "The made the weather and they stand in the rain and they say it's raining."
Molly Roach | 4/26/2010 - 8:56pm
The Pope and the Bishops are the authors of the current situation which is causing them discomfort.  I am reminded of a bit of dialogue from "Cold Mountain:"They made the weather and they stand in the rain and they it's raining."
Brendan McGrath | 4/26/2010 - 8:43pm
"The last-minute omission of the phrase 'saltem psychologice' from paragraphs 30-31 of Pope Pius XII's encyclical 'Sempiternus Rex Christus' before its publication in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis made me do it."
"The moving of St. Catherine of Siena's feast day from April 30th to April 29th made me do it."
"Nicholas Ludwig Count von Zinzendorf made me do it."
"The removal of 'Mysterium Fidei' from the consecration of the Chalice made me do it."
Pearce Shea | 4/26/2010 - 8:11pm
This post of Kevin's especially the ending line is a great definition of the term "uncharitable."
 
Yikes, way to scrape the bottom of the barrel on this one. While I don't agree with all of what Bp. Slattery wrote, it was theologically and rhetorically beautiful and the petty jab here is pretty disappointing.
George Purnell | 4/26/2010 - 7:43pm
The Piarist pedophilia in the seventeenth century was caused by the Second Vatican Coucil!
Anonymous | 4/26/2010 - 7:31pm
Kevin Clarke; seeing these comments blasting your post, I feel obliged to remind you that there are many out there who know that they have a mission to correct the lies of Amerika  ops..America mag. . they think that any homily given at a Latin Mass can never, never be critiqued or even anaylized. IT COMES FROM ABOVE just like the good ole days.  
Jeff Bagnell | 4/26/2010 - 7:03pm
The Siri Thesis made me do it.
Brendan McGrath | 4/26/2010 - 6:44pm
Regardless of where one falls on the Catholic "political" spectrum (whicih is really more of a map), and apart from all the horrific and depressing aspects of this whole situation, you have to sit back and laugh at the funny title for the blog post: "Modernism made me do it."  It'd be funny to see what other little taglines one could come up with, not just about the scandals, but just as little stand-alone bits of humor:
 
"Monothelitism made me do it."
"The post-Tridentine scholastic separation of nature and grace into two separate levels decried by Henri de Lubac in 'The Mystery of the Supernatural' made me do it."
"The Baianists made me do it."
"The post-Nicene gap between theologia and oikonomia in Trinitarian theology lamented by Catherine Mowry LaCugna in her award-winning 'God For Us'made me do it."
"'Dominus Iesus' made me do it."
"The manual tradition made me do it."
"EWTN's authentic femininity made me do it."
"Marty Haugen made me do it."
"Eighth-century Adoptionism made me do it."
 
Other ideas?
Peter Lakeonovich | 4/26/2010 - 6:19pm
Kevin, We do not recount and repeat our sins over and over, and dwell in misery and harm that our sins cause others and ourselves. That is the power of God's forgiveness, the greatness of Christ's mercy. That is what the good bishop is getting at. Jesus Himself told St. Faustina that the greatest sinners - i.e., those guilty of abuse and cover up and pride and arrogance - are the ones who have the greatest claim to His mercy, because that is why he suffered on the Cross.

And be careful about how you depict suffering in the context of Christ. Are you saying he would not have endorsed a pass on genocide? Earthquake victims? His own Cross?

The Holy Father is our good shepherd in the world. When members of the flock suffer, he suffers and we all suffer. You do get that, right? As for comparative suffering, you are most likely correct. But that is a futile exercise because all suffering is subjective to the one suffering.
Jeff Bagnell | 4/26/2010 - 5:57pm
This might have more force if it weren't for the indirect and wrongheaded attempt to blame the Church before Vatican II for the crisis.  That some of the priests received their "formation" before Vatican II is not as relevant as that the vast majority of abuse cases happened after the "windows were thrown open" after Vatican II. Before Vatican II, if a priest indicated any inkling of attraction to men or boys, he was out on his ear.  After Vatican II, it was a problem to be analyzed and treated and swept under the bishop's oriental rug.  
 
It's silly to pretend that clerical discipline was not greatly relaxed after the "aggiornamento" of John XXIII.  It's like ignoring that a victim of lung cancer took up chain smoking in his 40s, even though he was "formed" as a human being long before that.