Monday, April 30, 2012

Piety vs Spirituality

I want to follow up on yesterday’s posting and the subject of the lack of spirituality and direction for the spiritual journey in our parishes today.  Are people even aware of our rich Catholic tradition of prayer?  A priest friend of mine told me that a “super-Catholic” parishioner of his complained that he never spoke about spirituality in his homilies.  He claimed that all he spoke of was spirituality.  The problem was two very different understandings of spirituality.  “Agnes of God” (his pet nickname for this particular lady) meant that he should talk more about saying the rosary and doing holy hours.  She arrived at church every morning at 7 am (an hour and a half before the morning Mass) to say the Stations of the Cross (“In Agnes’ religion, Jesus always ends up in the tomb, even on Easter morning,” Father noted), say her rosary, and work her way through a pile of novena pamphlets.  After Mass she would remain to lead fellow parishioners in a second rosary.  All this is well and good, he pointed out, but it constitutes “piety” rather than “spirituality.”  When the parish priest spoke to her about various other forms of prayer that wefre being offered in the parish, forms such as Lectio Divina she was uninterested, or Christian Meditation, she dismissed it as “Christian Buddhism”.  This limited understanding of prayer is not only common among the laity.  I have a cousin who is an up and coming prelate and was on the Vatican appointed team that “investigated” American seminaries about eight years ago.  He told me that when they visited a Carmelite monastery where the young friars were studying for the priesthood he and other team members were surprised to find that there were no scheduled holy hours as in diocesan seminaries, that visits to the Blessed Sacrament were not actively encouraged by the formation team, and that the rosary was never said in common.  When these and other suggestions for change were made, the formation team was adamant that there would be no such additions to the community schedule.  The friars celebrated the Liturgy of the Hours in common every day, had daily Mass together, and were required to do two hours of meditation in their “cells.”  In addition they met once a week for “lectio divina” in common.   While individuals were free to pursue other forms of prayer and encouraged in private piety, there would be no change to the common schedule.  Within a month of the visit, the team received a letter from the Carmelite headquarters in Rome informing them that the Order stood behind the formation team.  Carmelite Spirituality is, they were informed., very “bare bones” and the Order resisted innovations that would dilute their tradition by adding “foreign” elements to the spirituality that had guided Carmelites for eight centuries.  The traditional spirituality which guided Saint Teresa and Saint John of the Cross, is “to meditate night and day on the Law of the Lord” and “to keep vigil in prayer” in their individual cells as the Rule of their Order has called them to do for eight centuries.
      A similar story comes from a friend of mine who is a priest of the Ukrainian Rite.  A century and more ago when Eastern Rite Catholics were immigrating to America, many “Latin” customs were introduced into the Rite such as Stations of the Cross, the rosary, and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament in order to make these Eastern Rite Christians look more “Catholic,” as if Catholic meant “Roman.” . But now there is a strong effort to purge the Eastern Rites of these Western practices and restore the traditional devotions and prayer-life of the East.  
      For those whose spiritual life is comprised only of pious exercises, the abandonment or absence of these devotions makes it appear that there is no spirituality when in fact various Churches or Monastic communities are returning to the more ancient forms of prayer that are properly theirs.       Does this mean that there should be no room for piety?  By no means.  We all begin the spiritual journey with pious prayers and most of us still revert to the pieties of our youth at times of stress or distraction and we still find not only comfort but grace in traditional devotions.  But we also know that “active” prayer or “vocal prayer” is the initial steps of a spiritual journey that takes us deeper and deeper into the heart of God.  For those who are willing to let go of their attachments to active prayer forms and trust God to lead them, there is a possibility of moving into the “Prayer of Quiet” and then beyond into the deeper forms of contemplative prayer.  One does not then abandon devotional or active prayer, but one does become less dependent on it.  
       As one matures in prayer one becomes more and more conformed to the will of God and the fruits of this spiritual maturing can be recognized.  These fruits are not visions and extraordinary gifts.  While grace may sometimes be manifested in such phenomena, extraordinary occurances are no sure assurance of spiritual maturity. Indeed, as John of the Cross warns us such “gifts” can offer greater peril to the soul than grace as these gifts are not necessarily from God.  In fact, according to Teresa of Avila, speaking of such things as visions or locutions, as Father Haley was inclined to do, is one of the signs that these visions are not from God but are manifestations of a lack of humility.   The only true sign of authentic spiritual maturity is the conversion of the human heart to God and in particular the increase of charity.  As the soul journeys further and further in God, it becomes more and more like God.  The soul learns to see the world through the eyes of God and the fruits of this are most clearly a depth of wisdom and of compassion that reflects the divine attributes.      I wonder how such a soul would have handled the dilemma that Marcel Guarnizo faced when Barbara Johnson stood before him for communion at her mother’s funeral.  Somehow, neither compassion nor wisdom come to mind. 

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Genuine Spiritual Hungers and Pious Charletans

How is it that a Marcel Guranizo or a James Haley can have such devoted followers who swear to their “holiness” while at the same time Church authorities see it necessary to remove them temporarily (Guarnizo) or permanently (Haley) from ministry?   Now granted there are dozens of stories in the history of the Church where good men—and women—fell afoul of the Institution and paid the price for their integrity.  This past week I related the story of Margaret Anna Cusack, the foundress of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Peace, whose persecution by Archbishop Corrigan led her not only to leave the Sisterhood she had founded but to return to the Anglican Communion in which she had been baptized and raised.  Saint John of the Cross was persecuted by his fellow Carmelites and even imprisoned for nine months in a monastic prison for his “disobedience” to his religious superiors when all he was trying to do was encourage reform among his brothers.  Saint Mary MacKillop, Australian foundress of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart, was excommunicated because she wouldn’t buckle under to the local bishop’s demands to control her religious order.  But even as they say that being paranoid doesn’t mean that people aren’t out to get you, so too persecution is no sure sign that one is a saint.   
       I have never met either James Haley or Marcel Guarnizo, but their ecclesiastical status is troubling vis a vis the perceived sanctity about which their defenders are loud and long.   There are degrees of censure.  “Administrative Leave”—the status of Father Guarnizo is probably the lightest form of censure under which he could be put.   It is not, I believe, even a canonical category.  As I explained in an earlier blog (April 25)  it seems that it is just removing him from the public eye while circumstances totally unrelated to his refusal of communion to Barbara Johnson are investigated to make sure that in his involvement with Aid to the Church in Russia and the Educational Initiative for Central and Easter Europe he has done nothing illegal or that would otherwise “embarrass” the Church.  His administrative leave only affects his ministerial status in the Archdiocese of Washington.  He is totally free to return to his home diocese, the Archdiocese of Moscow, and serve there at the will of that Archbishop.  In fact, he probably is free to assume ministry in any other diocese, even in the United States—or the world—with permission of the local bishop. 
       The next most serious step would be for a priest to be deprived of his faculties and this would bar him entirely from priestly ministry but leave his clerical status intact.  Such censure would apply only the diocese where the faculties were withdrawn.  This is sometimes used against religious order priests to force them from a diocese where the Bishop finds them troublesome for their preaching social justice themes or their failure to adhere strictly to liturgical norms, but it could be used against secular clergy as well.   Another bishop, another diocese, is free to admit the priest and restore his faculties for the new diocese.  Suspension a divinis which bars him from public ministry would be the next most serious step and in this case the accused is not able to resume ministry even in another diocese unless and until the suspension is lifted by the priest’s canonical superior who had placed him under suspension. 
      For a priest to be defrocked is the most serious punishment and it is rarely used. It is invoked only when the priest’s behavior would continue to bring extraordinary disgrace on the Church.  The priest is not only prohibited from exercising ministry but is returned “to the lay state”—that is to say he is no longer acknowledged as a priest.  Persistent and public immorality would be one reason this censure would be invoked, but it might also be used to distance the Church from a priest with serious psychological problems for which he either refused or is unable to be treated.  A priest with a sexual addiction that cannot be brought under control might be defrocked.    A man who uses the priesthood or the Church in a serious financial scam might be defrocked.  In both those—and most other cases—the individual usually would first be given the opportunity to resign his priestly ministry voluntarily but the refusal to do so would result in his being defrocked.  
        I don’t know why James Haley was defrocked but the fact that he was not only defrocked but then, according to his defenders, excommunicated is an indication of some very serious misdeed which he will not acknowledge.  It may be that psychologically he cannot accept responsibility for whatever misconduct has brought down this punishment but in any event it is a tragic story not because he didn’t deserve the punishment but because he cannot bring himself to take responsibility for his actions and be restored to the unity of the Church.  If this were a case, as in the case of Mary MacKillop, of an individual bishop, it could be a personal vendetta but if the excommunication comes from the Holy See—as “defrocking” would have to (the local bishop not having that authority)—the charges must have grave weight.      
Reading various blogs and entries on the internet, both Father Guranizo and James Haley have impressed many people with their being “holy priests.”  How is it that people are so easily impressed?  A colleague of mine was a parishioner at Saint Lawrence Church in Arlington where James Haley had once served as parochial vicar.  I remember this story because my friend and his wife left Saint Lawrence, their long time parish, and joined Saint Matthew Cathedral parish across the river in Washington, precisely because of James Haley.  Then-Father Haley would speak at Mass of the “visions” he had while gazing into the chalice of the newly consecrated Precious Blood.  They found this very disturbing without being able to explain precisely why.  Other parishioners, however, ooohhhed and aaahhhed at Haley’s profound “mystical gifts.” 
       Many are taken in by great piety and devotion because they confuse piety with true holiness and this is one of the structural faults in contemporary Catholicism.  A newly ordained Methodist pastor with whom I was speaking recently told me that when she was in seminary she and other Protestant students cross-registered with a Catholic seminary for courses in spirituality because the Methodist faculty didn’t offer any courses while the Catholic theology school had an entire department of spirituality.  Yet, she was surprised that most of the students in the spirituality courses were Protestants or lay people.  Candidates for the Catholic priesthood were too busy with their canon law and liturgics classes to have the room in their schedules to study the mystics.  This corresponds with my own experience where I find the secular clergy in particular to be grossly ignorant of the mystical tradition in Catholicism.   I think these accounts for much of the poor preaching today when Catholics are either subjected to pious drivel or drowned in doctrinal complexities, neither of which belongs in the pulpit.   Modern people have great spiritual hungers and the Catholic Church is blessed with a rich tradition of spiritual teachers such as Francis de Sales, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Ignatius Loyola, Thérèse of the Child Jesus, Bernard of Clairvaux,  Elizabeth of the Trinity,  Thomas a Kempis, as well as a host of lesser known writers—Brother Laurence, Dom Augustine Baker, Marie of the Incarnation, Hadewicjh of Antwerp, Jan Ruysbroeck.  The work of many of these writers is available in the Classics of Western Spirituality series by Paulist Press.   In addition to these great writers of the past, current Catholic spiritual writers such as Thomas Keating, Ronald Rohlheiser, Ruth Burrows, Joan Chittester, Richard Rohr, are writing books that are helping tens of thousands of people—Catholic and non-Catholic alike—on their spiritual journeys.  And of course the work of the twentieth century Trappist monk, Thomas Merton (d. 1968) continues to inspire countless people.  And yet, do we hear about the spiritual journey in our parishes?  All too rarely.  One of my students last year mentioned that her pastor had cancelled a talk by the Trappist monk William Menninger  because  as her pastor told her “contemplative prayer is for monks and nuns, not people like you.”  What a pity.  Richard Rohr writes:
      Much of the Western world has given up on the church and is going other places for wisdom.  Unfortunately, in these other places they are sometimes “willingly filling their belly with the husks the pigs are eating” (Luke 15:16) But we in the church must ask ourselves if we have not been the parent who sent them away because there was nothing trustworthy or life-giving at home.
I think he has a point.

Friday, April 27, 2012

There Is Always More to the Story . . .

The Cathedral of Saint Thomas More,
Diocese of Arlington
In my last entry I mentioned Father Marcel Guarnizo, the priest who had refused communion to a woman at her mother’s funeral back in February and James Haley,  the former priest who allegedly was defrocked and excommunicated earlier this year.  I had a number of inquiries asking more about Mr. Haley and I only know what I have read about him on a number of right-wing websites posted by friends of his.  All in all it seems a tragic story. 
       James Haley was ordained for the Diocese of Arlington in 1987 and was suspended from priestly ministry fifteen years later.  He fought his suspension in Rome but—at least according to his defenders—ended up being defrocked and excommunicated rather than vindicated. 
      Mr. Haley claimed in a court deposition while he was still a priest that until he was ordained he had no idea that there were homosexuals in the Catholic priesthood.  He sure had that misconception cleared up early on.  According to an article by Mark Fellows on the website Daily Catholic    ( back in 2003, Haley was assigned to one gay-pastored parish after another.  Now, I’m not saying this couldn’t happen but if Mark Fellows is to be believed, Sodom and Gomorrah looks like a finishing school for young ladies next to the presbyterate of the Arlington Diocese.   And then, as if all these gay pastors wasn’t bad enough, apparently every gay priest in the diocese began going to confession to Haley as he had to see a psychologist for counseling to help him cope with the emotional burden of “knowing what I did not want to know about my fellow priests through confession."
        Let me just take a break here and interject that other priests have told me that the subject of homosexuality in the clergy was discussed in their seminary years and that while it may have been disheartening to hear of this subject, later life experience came as no surprise much less trauma.  Priests have also said that it is highly unlikely that sexually active priests would confess to “such a delicate soul as Haley purports to be.”  In other words, they believe Haley was over-dramatizing his surprise and trauma in the deposition he gave and which Fellows related in his article.
         Deposition—what deposition?  Well that is where the trouble began.  But before I get to the deposition let me continue the narrative.  Haley went to the bishop about his “discovery” that there were gay priests in the Diocese of Arlington.  The bishop at the time was John Keating, aka “John the Good” according to the right-wing detractors of the current bishop.  Nevertheless, as good a bishop as Keating may have been, he told then-Father Haley he was powerless to do anything about the gay clergy and their acting inappropriately.  (“Inappropriately” is, I realize, an understatement if Haley’s stories are true.)  Haley kept accumulating evidence about his fellow priests whom he saw as betraying their vocation.  Now here is where it gets a little weird.  Well, no, it has gotten plenty weird awhile back.  Here is where I get confused.
         Then-Father Haley was assigned to All Saints Parish in Manassas, Virginia, an outlying suburb of Washington DC.  While on the parish computer, he discovered that the pastor had been visiting gay porn sites.  That is a risky thing to do on a computer to which others have access, but hey, we all know about bucks in rut running across eight-lane highways when they get the scent of a doe, or another buck if the first buck be gay.  But that isn’t all.  Apparently the pastor at All Saints wasn’t gay but omni-sexual as Haley also found over 300 love letters from the pastor to a married female parishioner.  And according to Haley the pastor and his lady friend had become a source of scandal to the entire parish, if not to all Loudon County, for their carrying on in hot tubs at parish parties.  (I have yet to go a parish party featuring hot tubs, but then hey I am a Yankee and we north of the Mason Dixon are a bit more, how you say, puritanical?  My parish doesn’t have hot tubs even for Easter baptisms much less for the Altar and Rosary Society annual banquet.   I guess what I am trying to say is that James Haley seems somewhat of a Drama Queen, er, sorry, King.) 
         Well things escalated from there.  The woman in question divorced her husband and like the fork with spoon, ran away with the pastor.  There was an ugly lawsuit from the (justly) aggrieved husband at which then-Father Haley testified and spilled the beans not only about the adulterous pastor-in-rut but about any priest he ever knew of who had a voluntary sexual discharge. Here is where the deposition comes in and if you read the deposition—it is on line—it is a bit over the top but would make a great mini-series.  The Thornbirds looks like the Ave Maria Hour after you read this. 
         But wait, there is still more, between the time Haley discovered the pastor’s combined taste for gay porn and straight sex—which (porn and loveletters) by the way he downloaded onto a disk and gave to the new bishop, Bishop Keating having died—and the deposition, Haley had been transferred to where he could do more “investigating”  Why would any pastor let a man into his house who would go through his computer, his rooms, and his wastebaskets, looking for “evidence” of misconduct? It is one thing to find such material; it is another to actively search. Once the pastor (the guy who likes gay porn and female parishioners) knew the “parish computer” had been raided for the material of his viewing pleasure, it was clear Haley could no longer stay in that house.  So he was transferred to a new parish where the pastor “confided” to him how he was embezzling parish funds and was into gay porn.  My God, is there a straight priest in Northern Virginia???  Or a priest with enough common sense not to tell his associate of his crimes and sins?  Haley reported this pastor too to the bishop and while the pastor was not reprimanded in any way, Haley was transferred to another parish with—you guessed it—another gay-porn addicted pastor.  What are the odds?  Once again, Haley reported the matter to the bishop but this time the bishop demanded Haley resign from active ministry. 
         This is an incredibly sordid affair.  There is no doubt that the pastor in Manassas was carrying on with a married parishioner or that the subsequent pastor had embezzled funds.  The one priest left the priesthood, married the woman (after her divorce); auditors found over $300,000 taken from the second parish.  Some of the other stories Haley related in his deposition seem to be without basis in fact in as that various priests named continue to be in good standing.  Haley has been suspected in some circles of tampering with the evidence he presented to the bishops regarding the alleged misconduct and porn.    
         James Haley had been an engineer before entering the seminary and supposedly had a history of whistle-blowing that led to his loss of employment.  Whistle blowers are not always the heroes of stories.  And sometimes people start fires so they can be the hero who discovers the fires and puts them out.  This pattern of whistleblowing was repeated in the Diocese of Arlington.  Was each and every alarm a genuine fire?  I don’t know.  Father Haley’s defenders are quick to insist it was.
         Earlier this year it was reported that the Holy See defrocked and excommunicated James Haley after a long series of judicial procedures, the records of which are not publicly available.  Haley’s supporters claim that he was framed and railroaded by the Bishop of Arlington in revenge for the deposition he gave regarding the clergy of the diocese.  They also claim that at least one canon lawyer was told that he “would never work again” if he defended Haley in Church Tribunals. While I see why James Haley may have been suspended from ministry, I am sorry to hear that he has been defrocked, but I am curious about the excommunication.  Granted, there was an allegation against Haley that he had, while a priest, absolved a partner (a woman) in a sexual sin and this brings an automatic excommunication that is reserved to the Holy See for lifting.  But that does not seem to be the reason for this excommunication. Such an excommunication is latae sententiae,i.e. automatic, whereas the stories reported seem to suggest that in Haley’s case there was an actual decree of excommunication.  The story is that the woman had taken Father Haley’s hand and put them on her breast to see if he could tell which breast was “the real thing” and which had been reconstructed after surgery.  Father Haley was not a willing participant in this act.  Furthermore, it was not a sin for anyone unless and except in the intent of the woman for it to be sinful and it would thus only be sinful for her and not for Father Haley who actually would be the victim of sexual harassment in this situation.  Third, any first-year seminarian would know enough to tell the woman, if she thought she needed absolution for this act, that is if her intent were sinful, to see another priest.   There has to be something more to incur excommunication, even latae sententiae.  And then—if incurred—excommunication is one of the easiest problems to resolve.  All you need do is repent of whatever you did.  James Haley might not be able to get back into the priesthood for whatever crimen got him defrocked but the excommunication only requires the humility of repentance.  I feel bad for him.  I suspect he is a very disturbed individual.  It is probably good that he is out of ministry but I hope he has friends and a confessor who can help him find the balance to rebuild his life.  It isn’t that he has been persecuted by the Bishop of Arlington and a lavender cabal that runs the diocese.  Like the story of Father Guarnizo and his various “charities” there is more to it that we don’t know.  I am not saying that the machinery of Holy Mother Church is always just, I am only saying that there is more to this story than has been admitted to.  And pardon me for ending a sentence with a preposition.  According to Sister Arrabiata in seventh grade this incurs a penalty worse than latae sententiae.  

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Oh, What a Tangled Web We Weave--More on Father Guarnizo

Let’s take a break today from the struggle between the bad guys in the Vatican and the good Sisters and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious and go back to the saga of Father Marcel Guarnizo—the priest who refused communion to Barbara Johnson, a woman who is a partner in a same-sex relationship, at her mother’s funeral.  I have been intrigued by Guarnizo because he seems to have such extraordinary talent and connections that I couldn’t  figure out why he was working as a parochial vicar (associate pastor) at a parish in Gaithersburg Maryland.  Guarnizo was born in Columbia, raised in Northern Virginia, educated in Rome, and ordained for the Archdiocese of Moscow.  Why was he in Gaithersburg? 
     In doing some background work on Father Guarnizo, I found this December 2009 article:  

Father Marcel Guarnizo is founder and chairman of the Vienna-based organization Educational Initiative for Central and Eastern Europe (EICEE), which hosted a conference earlier this month to mark the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, and to reflect on lessons learned from the rise and fall of communism.
EICEE hosted its conference in Zagreb, Croatia, and featured speakers included Robin Harris, former advisor to Margaret Thatcher, and John O'Sullivan, executive editor of Radio Free Europe in Prague.
The keynote speaker was Noble Peace Prize Laureate Lech Walesa, former leader of the Polish Solidarity Movement and former president of Poland. Walesa's address was titled "1989-2009: Lessons Learned from the Fall of Communism."
ZENIT recently caught up with Father Guarnizo at the foundation's headquarters in the Castle Neuwaldegg in Vienna, to talk about the conference, the role of the Church in the demise of communism in Europe, as well as the biggest challenges facing EICEE in its efforts to rebuild the nations of Central and Eastern Europe, which were shackled under communist regimes only one generation ago.

     Vienna based organization.  Castle Neuwaldegg.  Conference in Zagreb.  Radio Free Europe.  Former Advisor to Margaret Thatcher.  Keynote speaker Lech Walesa. Efforts to rebuild the nations of Central and Eastern Europe. wow!
      Further investigation shows that Guarnizo is linked to AID TO THE CHURCH IN RUSSIA.  This organization is responsible, according to its website, for numerous projects helping rebuild the Catholic Church in the former Soviet Union.  Its work is endorsed by a 2001 letter from the then Archbishop of Moscow, Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz.  And this Guarnizo isn’t in the Vatican Diplomatic Corps but associate pastor in one of Gaithersburg Maryland’s three Catholic parishes? As my Yiddish grandmother used to say: Go figure!   
       I’m a historian, not a private detective but…well, historians are always doing detective work though usually about dead people.  I made a few phone calls, several of which weren’t returned.  I did some web searches.  I spoke with a few people “in the know.  I spent some time with a research librarian.  Well, as near as I can make out, EICEE isn’t based in Castle Neuwaldegg in Vienna but in a rather mundane office building on North Fairfax Drive in Arlington VA.  Educational Initiative for the Countries of Central and Eastern Europe seems to be—and I can only say seems to be—an autonomous organization that is one of a network of independent institutes and organizations that includes the prestigious Neuwaldegg Institute of Vienna.  While the Neuwaldegg Institute does sponsor a number of impressive programs, I can’t find anything equivalent for its American counterpart, Guarnizo’s EICEE.  EICEE does have an impressive “Board of Advisors” including Damian von Stauffenberg, a German financier who comes from one of the most aristocratic of  European Catholic families.  While von Staufenberg is supposedly “President” of EICEE’s board of Advisors, I can’t find anything on any other website than EICEE’s that links him to this organization.  Another advisor is (or was) Vaclav Havel, former president of the Czech Republic and distinguished Czech poet.  Mr. Havel died last December but according to the EICEE website he is still listed on the “Board of Advisors.”  Frank Shakespeare, former US ambassador to Portugal and to the Holy See is also listed on the “Board of Advisors.”  Presumably he is able to give more advice than the Late President Havel, but I am curious about such a distinguished board for an organization that seems little more than an empty office and telephone machine in Arlington VA.  According to the EICEE website, wire transfers, checks, and PayPal all enable you to support the “work” of EICEE.  Of course, but precisely what work?   
       Aid to the Church in Russia is even a bit more, hmmm, shall we say “shadowy?”  It is located in the same office as EICEE and when you call Aid to the Church in Russia, the EICEE machine picks up the call.  Its website shows no activity for about seven years now, but still assures you that that the more you contribute the higher percentage of your contribution goes to the actual work of the organization rather than to administration. In addition to various programs for planned giving ( I am avoiding the word “schemes” lest it give the wrong connotation) such as annuities, charitable remainder trusts, real estate, life insurance and bequests, Aid to the Church in Russia is prepared to accept cash gifts, depreciated property, securities, stocks, tangible personal property, and land.  And again—the more you give, the more goes to charity and the less to “administrative costs.”  Hmm. Sounds somewhat fishy, n’est pas?  I would say something is rotten in the State of Denmark but I think it is actually in the State of Virginia. 
         I suspect that Father Guarnizo isn’t all that he is cracked up to be—or perhaps more than he admits to being.  Now, don’t get me wrong, this could all be legitimate and at least he doesn’t seem to be involved in the Colombian Drug Traffic, but this might explain his being placed on administrative leave more than his refusal to give Ms. Johnson communion. 
      Now I know the various DC area websites—Renew DC Catholicism, Les Femmes, An Archdiocese of DC Catholic—all have been defending Guarnizo’s actions and going after that mean ol’ Cardinal Wuerl and his evil lackey, Bishop Knestout for the unfair way they have treated this loyal and obedient priest.  But suddenly it makes sense.  Administrative leave is exactly the sort of discipline you use to put some distance between the organization and a person who may—or may not—be involved in something that is how shall we say it, “criminal?”  Ouch, that’s harsh.  Let’s just say “not by the books.”  A cop is put on “administrative leave” after he shoots someone until the investigation assures us that he acted appropriately.  A teacher who is accused of misconduct is placed on administrative leave until the investigation determines whether he did something wrong.  Perhaps Father Guarnizo has acted legitimately in these organizations of his, or negligently at the worst.  There is nothing wrong with putting him on administrative leave until you check it out and make sure that he isn’t going to bring down more negative attention on the Church. 
      This is somewhat like the “Father Haley” case.  James Haley is a priest from the diocese of Arlington whom, according to his defenders, has been unjustly defrocked and excommunicated. Guarnizo’s defenders are telling you one side of the story as have Haley’s.  Perhaps that is all they know.  In the Haley case the Bishop of Arlington isn’t telling the rest of the story any more than the Archdiocese of Washington is telling you their reasons for treating Father Guarnizo as they have.  I know it is hard to believe that priests who are as pious as Father Guarnizo or ex-Father Haley could be up to something wrong, but history shows us that men go right from the altar to the most shocking of crimes just as others go from the most vile of sins to great acts of charity.  In the end we are all inextricable mixtures of sin and grace.  As Blessed John Henry Newman once said: none of us are as bad as we could be or as good as we should be." That’s why I believe in original sin.  I can recognize it in others because I know it in myself. And I supposed the reason that God doesn’t need a television is that he can get enough drama watching us.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Let's Hear It For the Ladies --Yet Again

good nuns
Sister Dorothy Vidulich of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Peace, attributes the following words to their foundress, Mother Margaret Anna Cusack. 
The prophet does not compel;
She invites each person to see herself,
her world, her God,
in a fresh way.
bad nuns

I find it all but impossible that a woman in the nineteenth century could express herself this way—or even formulate such ideas in her own mind—not because a woman’s mind differs from the male mind in any capacity but simply because the ideas expressed are far ahead of 19th century categories.  Indeed, the creativity to birth this insight and the courage to give it speech is far more likely to come from a woman than a man, especially a man trained in the stodgy Neo-Scholastic thought canonized in the papacy of Leo XIII.  Perhaps I have misunderstood Sister Dorothy and she is writing about the impact that Cusack has had over the years rather than quoting the foundress directly.  But even so, this is a remarkable statement and it captures the reason that I think  today’s American Religious Sisters have triggered the alarm bells in the Vatican. 
      Margaret Anna Cusack was a remarkable woman.  I first read about her over thirty years ago while staying in a retreat house run by her Sisters.  She had been a convert to the Catholic Church from the Church of Ireland (Anglican).  Immediately after becoming a Catholic, she entered the Poor Clares at Kenmare in Ireland as a nun.  In those days, the Irish Poor Clares, for a variety of historical reasons, were not strictly cloistered and Cusack brought her education to bear in writing articles supporting the Irish Land League in its attempts to break the Landlord system in Ireland by which English gentry lived off the labor of impoverished Irish tenant farmers.  She developed a huge name for herself as an author and she left the Poor Clares to establish a new community free of the burden of monastic customs that regulated day to day life among the Poor Clares.  The new community, founded in England, was called the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Peace and they were founded to do what we would today call Social Work among the poor immigrants to England from Ireland.  Cusack soon established a second foundation of her Order in the United States.  Here, as I said yesterday, she fell afoul of Archbishop Corrigan who demanded control over Cusack’s new Congregation.  The conflict escalated and Cusack realized that Corrigan would persecute the Sisters as long as she was associated with them.  Discouraged and disgusted by it all, Cusack left the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Peace and returned to the Anglican Communion.  She kept up contact with the Sisters throughout her remaining years but the Sisters were forced to rewrite their history and make no mention of their original foundress.  Such is the fear that independent minds can raise in moribund institutions. 
     The Catholic Church today is in a crisis of leadership.  The largest religious denomination in the United States today is the Catholic Church.  The second largest denomination is former Catholics.  Note: I said former Catholics, not non-practicing Catholics (they are in the first group regardless of their inactivity.)  Even as huge numbers of converts are received into the Church every Easter and as its ranks are swelled by immigrants from Latin America, the Philippines, Vietnam, Korea, Haiti and other nations with large Catholic populations,   American Catholicism is also hemorrhaging members out the back door.  There are various reasons for this and one of them—and not the least—is that as the tectonic plates of culture have shifted and people have much more confidence in their religious experience and less needy of—and less inclined to trust in—being fed their experiences of God by others, even (and perhaps especially) religious “authorities.”     This is particularly true when the God delivered by religious authorities does not match the God people experience.  The fact that the Catholic hierarchy has lost its moral credibility doesn’t help the situation. 
     This is where a huge part of the problem relates to Humanae Vitae, the encyclical of Paul VI that condemns contraception.  The Magisterium has told us that artificial contraception is a moral evil and that its use separates one from direct communion with God—such separation being one of the consequences of what we Catholics call mortal sin.  In fact, despite magisterial teaching, millions of Catholics have opted to ignore the Church’s proscription of artificial contraception and have found no disruption in their relationship with God.  This isn’t to say that artificial contraception isn’t gravely wrong—I don’t do theology, only history—but it has weakened the credibility of the Church to claim an absolute authority over access to God when Grace seems to flow in abundance regardless of magisterial proscriptions. Along the same lines but even more dramatically, hundreds of thousands of gay Catholics have learned to maintain a strong relationship with God while also maintaining a committed and loving (and sexual) relationship with another human person.  Moreover, gay people, like those using contraceptives, are all over the Church—educators, theologians, musicians, hospital chaplains, spiritual directors, canon lawyers, pastoral associates, extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist, fund-raisers, institutional administrators—and again, their experience is a disconnect with magisterial authority.        
       At the same time, of course—and tragically—the magisterial authority has been grossly undermined by the inept handling of the sexual abuse crisis and now more and more with financial scandals.  Most of our bishops seem unaware that they are ludicrous emperors marching naked down the aisle with only their miters for ornament and while their (moral) nudity might be repulsive to the rank and file Catholic, the real problem is that they have been so isolated from reality as, like Adam, not to know they are naked.  They honestly believe they are still in a position to offer moral guidance.  I am all for people believing but God’s people should never be naive.  It is beneath the dignity of those who are baptized and sealed with the Holy Spirit to be credulous.   And here is why the nuns are in trouble: they’re prophetic in an Institution that distrusts prophecy.

The prophet does not compel;
She invites each person to see herself,
her world, her God,
in a fresh way.

Notice, I said in an Institution that distrusts prophecy.  I did not say a Church that distrusts prophecy.  The Church includes the hierarchy but is much broader than its leadership.  People today are seeing themselves, their world, and God (God is never “my” God, “your God” or “their God”—God is just God. )  in fresh ways and this takes control of the God experience away from the boys and let’s everyone in the game.  And that is precisely what the boys in Rome—and the local chancery offices—are afraid of, a level playing field of grace where they can’t control the game.  Go nuns!!!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Let's Hear It For The Ladies cont.

Ven.Anne of Saint Bartholomew
who resisted outside control by
the Cardinal Berulle over the
Discalced Carmelite nuns in 17th
century France
Yesterday I wrote about women religious who resisted the efforts of bishops to exercise control over them and their congregations.  We looked at such outstanding figures as Saint Mary MacKillop, Mary Ward, Margaret Anna Cuscack, and Saint Teresa of Avila.   There are also stories of women who lost the battle—often to the detriment of their congregations. 
      Pierre de Bèrulle is a figure in Church history who, for the most part, I have always admired.  He was ardent for the reform of the Church of France in the early seventeenth century. You see, for a variety of reasons more political than religious, France had not yet accepted the Decrees of the Council of Trent (that only happened in 1615—some 53 years after the Council concluded) and there were a lot of leading French Catholics who saw the great need for reform.  Many of these devout Catholics (actually they were known as the parti dévot) gathered in the home of the wealthy French widow,  Madame Barbe Acarie to discuss plans for reform.  (Francis de Sales, Bennet Canfield, Jean Jacques Olier, and others were all regulars at the Salon Acarie.)  Bérulle understood that the key to reform of the Church was reform of the clergy and religious.  Olier established the Society of Saint Sulpice to prepare candidates for the secular priesthood.  John Eudes established the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament as well as the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of the Refuge.  Bérulle himself established the French Oratory.  He also invited the two closest companions of Saint Teresa of Avila, Anna of Jesus and Anna of Saint Bartholomew, to come to France and established the Discalced Carmelite nuns.  It was a worthy cause, but as soon as French nuns were professed, Bérulle sent the Spanish Madres packing.   Like Teresa, they did not want the nuns to be subject to external authority and Bérulle wanted them to be under his thumb, er “guidance.”  The Spanish daughters of Teresa went up to the Netherlands where they established the Carmels from which are descended the majority of American monasteries of Carmelite nuns.  The French nuns buckled under and there has long been an argument among Discalced Carmelites whether the French Carmels preserved the heritage of Teresa or not, whether they are authentically “Teresian” or are they “Bérullian.”
     Here in America the disputes over the independence of the religious Sisters has also been a battle.  Bishop John Carroll persuaded the widowed convert, Elizabeth Ann Seton to establish the American Sisters of Charity modeled on the French Institute founded by Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac, but Carroll, a very busy man, gave Mother Seton a pretty free hand in her enterprise.  In 1817, just a few years before her death, Mother Seton sent three Sisters from Emmitsburg up to New York City.  When John Hughes became Bishop of New York, one of his first acts was to demand that the New York Charities be withdrawn from the jurisdiction of the Emmitsburg Sisters and placed under his jurisdiction.  He named his sister, Mother Angela Hughes, as the second Mother General of the New York Sisters.  Again, John Hughes is another figure whom I have always admired, but he had a tremendous psychological need for control that went far beyond the Sisters of Charity in his diocese.  His entire style as bishop was “one man rule”—sound familiar?
      Hughes was not exceptional in this matter.  Many religious congregations—both those founded in the United States  (The Charities, the various Newman Communities of Franciscans, the IHMs) as well as those coming from other countries (the Sisters of Mercy) met with demands from American bishops that they sever their ties outside the diocese and place themselves under the jurisdiction of the local bishop.  For the sake of the work that needed to be done for the immigrants, for the poor, for women, or orphans, the nuns acceded to these demands for control.  Other congregations such as the School Sisters of Notre Dame successfully resisted.   The Benedictines were always particularly successful in resisting Episcopal control—but their monastic roots gave them strong precedence on which to stand.  Today’s nuns are well and wise to insist on their autonomy and self-governance.  But a lot of the men just don’t get it—the world has changed.  Collaborative models work in our contemporary world, hierarchical models are as archaic as the Mastodon.  Of course, the danger that both bishops and Rome fear is that if the nuns can take responsibility for their own decision making, will others in the Church see possibilities for collaborative rather than hierarchal models of authority?  Why is always about power and never about the Gospel?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Let's Hear it for the Ladies (Again!)

Margaret Anna Cusack
in her days as a Sister
of Saint Joseph of Peace. 
I drove down to hear a talk by Sister Teresa Koernke IHM the other day—Sister Teresa is a theologian (Ph.D. Notre Dame) who teaches and lectures in various places around the United States and her focus is Eucharistic theology.  She is the sort of scholar that gives CDF a collective headache but who educated and thinking Catholics find stimulates not only ideas but prayerful reflection.  Her talk was on the Eucharist, or rather Eucharistic Celebrations, and how the liturgy can be manipulated in some ways that are very foreign to the gospel, precisely how they can be used to allow an individual, or a class of individuals, to hold power over others.  Now remember, and this is me writing, not Sister Teresa—I don’t want to put words into her mouth—but Jesus was not a fan of power.  In fact he warned his disciples to eschew it.  There is a difference between power and authority—authority is a charism which draws the listeners and makes them want to follow; power is manipulation that forces people to follow or obey.  In a side comment to her remarks on different “styles” of different priests and how they use or abuse their position to serve or to dominate—and again this is my assessment of Sister Teresa, not a direct quote (you may remember that old adage quidquid recipitur recipitur in modo recipientis recipitur, so this is my modo and not her quidquid)—Sister said what is driving the Vatican crazy about the LCWR is that the nuns have evolved a different model of authority for themselves and it is a model that undercuts the authority (or power) of the hierarchy.  Unlike the hierarchy who have become used to a model of downward decision making, the Sisters have evolved a process of decision making that is dialogical and brings obedience through consensus.  She didn’t say this, but it reminds me of some material I have read on feminine versus masculine ways of relating. 
       The Holy See is concerned about feminism in the ranks of Religious Women, but at the risk of being anachronistic, we have to say that Religious Life was always a place of refuge for women who weren’t about to subordinate themselves to male authority.   Back in the third and fourth centuries when those first monastics began to drift out to the desert and establish themselves as hermits or in small communities, people thought that this was fine for the guys but women were supposed to stay home under the authority of their husbands or fathers or older brothers.  It was much more difficult for women to uproot themselves and flee to the desert.  Those women who embraced the monastic life were rejecting the patriarchal structures of Roman society to live in all women communities led by women.  And just as the monks put themselves on the fringes not only of society but of the Church to escape the bishop’s authority, so too did the women monastics, choose life in the desert where they were free of clergy interference.  I am avoiding the words nuns here as these were really female monks.  Even linguistically—while English has a clear distinction between monk and nun, in Syriac, Greek, and Latin, (and most of the modern romance languages) the difference between the words for “monk” and “nun” are the same root with a gender-particular suffix.   Relationships with male monastic communities were lateral—interdependent—but not subordinate.  While the women monastics may have supplied the male monastics with cloth, wine, beer, garden and other domestic products, the male monastics seem to have often helped the women with heavier projects such as clearing land, construction of buildings, and the heavier farming as well as supplying priests to celebrate the liturgy for them.  Later, say eighth century through the High Middle Ages, there are examples of “double monasteries” of female and male monastics, but most often the superior of such a house was the Abbess, not a monk.  In fact, the more usual pattern was a small community of monks or canons attached to a monastery of nuns precisely to be the chaplain staff for the nuns. 
      By the Central Middle Ages there were abbeys where the Abbess was not only independent of the authority of the local bishop, but she herself exercised Episcopal authority over a quasi-diocese called an Abbey Nullius.  In such an arrangement, the Abbess was not, of course, the bishop, but she was the Ordinary of her quasi-diocese.  There might be any number of towns and even a hundred or more parish churches under her jurisdiction.  She confirmed the nomination of pastors (we need to do an entry on Advowsons and how pastors were appointed in the Middle Ages), gave dispensations, granted annulments, wrote dismissorial letters for ordinations, granted faculties to the clergy of her diocese just like any bishop.  She had to hire a bishop to come in for the ordinations and confirmations, of course, but she was the Ordinary.  As late as the collapse of the Holy Roman Empire (1806) there were over a hundred such jurisdictions ruled by Abbesses, though some had Protestantized at the Reformation.  (That is another entry we have to do—the survival of religious life in Lutheran territories.)   Some of these Abbacies lasted even longer—the Abbess of Los Hueglos in Spain, who was by right a Princess as well, lasted up until the time of Vatican II as head of her small diocese—down to twelve parishes if my memory serves me.        
        As religious life continued to evolve during the so called Counter-Reformation (I hate that term and would prefer to call it the Tridentine Reformation), women continued to create forms of religious life that exempted them from male control.  The most spectacular of these was Mary Ward who founded the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1609.  Modeled on the Jesuits, Mary and her sisters wore ordinary clothes, rejected most of the monastic practices that would have hindered them in their “underground” work in Protestant (and persecuting) England, and were self-governing.  Surprisingly enough, it wasn’t their freedom from hierarchical control that made Rome slow to confirm the work—it was their rejection of cloister which at that time was required for all religious women.  Cloister, by the way, was no indication of male supervision as the great reformer, Saint Teresa of Avila showed. Teresa too was a remarkably independent woman who played authorities—the Holy See, the Carmelite Order, the King—off one another in order to preserve the independence of her nuns.  Another woman of the time who founded a religious community that was structured to be self-governing was Saint Angela Merici whose Ursulines was autonomous communities working fully in the mission of the Church but in ways that they—not bishops or Curia—determined.  We could go on.  Jane Frances de Chantal worked very closely with Francis de Sales in the communities of the Visitandines they established but it was a collaborative work together and not one in which Francis dominated.  Likewise, Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac was a collaborative effort in establishing the Daughters of Charity, perhaps the most radically different form of religious life in the Church up until our own day.  Vincent’s guidance told the Daughters:  for a monastery, only the houses of the sick, for cell, a rented room, for chapel, the parish church, for cloister, the streets of the city, for enclosure, obedience, for grill, the fear of God, for veil, holy modesty.   What would Rome say about this today?  Hard to think that Rome was more open-minded in the 17th century than today but apparently it was.   
      And then there is the case of Saint Mary MacKillop in Australia and her Brown Joeys—the Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart.  Mary actually incurred excommunication rather than subordinate her sisters to outside (i.e. male) authority.  A more tragic story is that of Margaret Anna Cusack, a convert to the Catholic Church and the famous “Nun of Kenmare.”  Having left the Poor Clares where she had been a famous writer, Cusack with the approbation of Leo XIII founded the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Peace.  But when Archbishop Corrigan of New York tried to force the Sisters in to subordination to his authority, she too was excommunicate and returned to the Anglican Church.  Corrigan was one of the most morally righteous but nevertheless  evil men to hold an American episcopate—and that is quite a distinction.  His sin was power and his example should be a warning to current hierarchs.  He was never given the red hat by Rome and his nemesis was Cardinal Gibbons who fought him tooth and nail precisely over the issue of whether authority in the Church should follow the European and monarchical model or the American and leadership model.  But all this is for other entries.  (Actually if you check the labels column you will see eight entries where I have written on Corrigan).   Those ladies from LCWR are more in our Catholic Tradition than the boys in Rome who want them to fall in line and be good little girls who do what they’re told.  Go nuns!