Thursday, October 27, 2011

Everything is For Sale in Rome

The Dome of Saint Peter's from the
Vatican Gardens
Saturday evening I was with a group of friends and one friend passed to another Michael Rose’s book Good Bye Good Men (Regency Publishing, 2002).  They saw the questioning look on my face and the one fellow, the one giving the book, asked me what I thought of it.  I had to admit that I don’t think very much of it.  I think Rose had some points but his reliance on anecdote—and anecdotes from anonymous sources—leaves it void of credibility.  One simply cannot check his “facts” and consequently the book is useless except as a piece of polemic and polemic these days in the Church is as common as “cow pies” in a pasture and worth about as much. 
     This is not to say that he is wrong.  It is clear that there is a gay subculture in the Catholic clergy today.  One only has to see the effeminate approach to worship that many of the younger priests embrace to know that there is a critical absence of male role models in clergy formation programs.  (I don’t mean to equate effeminacy with homosexuality, but in the context of the younger clergy and the way they behave on the altar, I mean “camp.”) Where is the strong, loving, and wise male to lead us in public prayer?  I increasingly see brussles lace clad wraiths with manicured fingers delicately holding tulip shaped chalices as they whisper magic words like a sorceress conjuring her magic.  Don’t misunderstand me, this isn’t a liberal swipe at the conservative younger clergy.  The Legionaries of Christ, a most conservative group and one despised by liberals, for whatever other faults they may have present very good masculine men.  That doesn’t guarantee their sexual orientation, of course, but the Legionaries demonstrate that one doesn’t have to be a pansy to be “orthodox.”  And I don’t believe that a gay priest who is committed to celibacy has, by virtue of his sexual orientation, anything less to offer God and the Church than a heterosexual priest who is committed to celibacy.  In fact, if there is one thing I admire about the Legionaries is that they are committed to something other than themselves. I don’t think their commitment is admirable—it is to the Legion, not to the Church or the Gospel, but at least it isn’t the narcissistic ”it’s all about me” pseudo-priesthood that I see today when I hear priests talk about “at my Mass”  or “in my parish.”  It is Christ’s Priesthood; the Church’s Mass, and the people’s parish. 
     I am currently reading Jason Berry’s Render Unto Rome.  It is more interesting and certainly more credible than Good Bye Good Men, but like Rose’s work, flawed.  I am somewhat disappointed in that.  It is much better researched and carefully footnoted which is one advantage Berry has over Rose, but like Rose he starts with his conclusions and then tries to find the “evidence” to support it.  While I suspect Rose’s evidence is mostly made up—being anecdotal and anonymous and fitting just a bit too perfectly to this thesis, Berry’s evidence is far better footnoted, but still the methodology is flawed.   He has an axe to grind and yet I think he is missing some of the real issues.  He talks about the Legionnaires founder, Father Maciel, and his influence pedaling in Rome—throwing around tens of thousands of dollars at a time to buy the favor of high placed prelates but Berry seems to think that Maciel is unique in this.  How much money did Mother Angelica throw around among the key Curial officials?   How much money did it take for some of our red hats to find a head to sit on?  How much money does Christendom College pay out when it invites various Curial officials to come and give a “lecture?”  What sort of a “stipend” does someone like Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos get when he comes to sing a Pontifical High Mass in the “Extraordinary Form” for the Latin Mass Society—I bet it’s more than the ten dollars I give to have a Mass said for my mother.  And those canons at Gricigliano—you can bet that Cardinal Burke isn’t showing up there in return for just a good lunch.   It was true in Luther’s day and it is true today: “everything is for sale in Rome.”  I think Rose is a man without a conscience who exaggerated to the point of libel to prove his point and I think Berry is a man without imagination who naively undershot the fiscal corruption in the Church.  But I haven’t finished his book yet so let’s see.         

No comments:

Post a Comment