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Again and again

posted by awelborn

The main threads of conversation about the Clark situation seem to have settled on the question of what does an incident like this mean for our faith? The question can be broken down into two more:

1) Does it discredit faith to the outsider?

2) Does it strike a  blow to the faith of one who is Catholic?

Take the first question first. The way this usually comes out is that when a hardliner falls, the line he or she preaches is seen as pretty much instantly discredited in the eyes of many.  We can make a list from Jimmy Swaggert through Newt Gingrich to Monsignor Clark with countless in between, including a closeted homosexual or two or three. "Ah," the comment goes, "Here we go again. Another conservative proving that what he preaches is a lie. Even he can’t live by it."

Well, the only thing to say to that is probably – if the minority who flagrantly fail are an argument against the truth of what they say, what about those who spectacularly succeed? Wouldn’t they be an argument for it? Is it necessary to privilege the witness of the former over the latter? Not for an honest person, I would think.

But it’s a caution, nonetheless. If you’re going to be out there railing about morality, try to be no more than the most ordinary, run-of-the mill sinner, will you?

Some people have a hard time understanding how this kind of thing happens – not how people fall, but how and why people who are living deeply contrary to their own stated values get up inthe morning get up in front of audiences or congregations, without cracking up.

Well, a lot of times, they don’t. A lot of times people who are leading those deeply bifurcated kinds of lives are, believe you me, deeply self-medicating in all kinds of ways that make reality conveniently fuzzy and easier to cope with.

It’s the ever-present peril of ministry as a job, as a profession, as something you go and do to get paid rather than something you do because you are following Jesus. Those of us who have been in professional ministry talk about the risk of losing your faith in the midst of it, and this is one of the ways it can happen. The swamp of bureaucracy, routine and simple human dynamics can put an enormous distance between your present reality and the lively, on-fire soul that started out, thinking that this was the life, that it would be so easy to keep your faith strong and alive in a church environment, surrounded by church people 60 hours a week.

Not so. And in that context, an alternate reality can take root and grow, in which people do odd things that to them, don’t seem odd because of the ways they’ve insulated themselves and deadened their souls.

But what about us? Should this present a crisis of faith? I have no idea why it would, even if I were a devoted parishioner of St. Patrick’s and Monsignor Clark had baptized my baby after inspiring me to come back to the Church.

Easier said than done. Much easier. We’ve all been disappointed. But let me share with you two ways to look at this.

When the clerical scandals first broke back in ’02, Nancy Nall interviewed me for the local paper, and asked me how I would talk to my own kids about shortcomings of church employees. I really didn’t know what to say because you know, for most of their lives, I was a church employee, and my shortcomings were blindingly clear to them. The idea that someone dedicated to ministry could also be a flawed human being would not exactly be big news. So that’s what I said to her.

I’ve worked in the Church. In my own way, I do a lot of preaching. And I live with myself, I know myself, and I know what a sinner I am, and that impacts what I say and how I say it.  For example, I feel that one of the most important messages of Jesus is to put God first, above all other things, including material things and hope for worldly success. I believe this to my core, but it’s something I struggle with, constantly, myself. So what do I do? Keep silent on that issue? No – but as I talk about it, I can never speak as though I’m above it all, as if this isn’t my issue, too, or that I am in a position to simply condemn others who don’t seem to live out this aspect of the Gospel – because I don’t either.

I know what I believe, I know what I know is true, but since I’m a flawed sinner believing these things, does that mean they’re not true any more?

I know that’s kind of tangled, but do you see my point? Forget other people’s failures. What about mine? Do my own failures invalidate what I belive to be true? I believe that real love demands sacrifice. Do my own hesitations or outright refusals to sacrifice mean that love no longer requires sacrifice?

Secondly, as a person with an interest in history, I tend to see things across time, culture and space. If the alleged events really did occur, Monsignor Clark’s sins don’t impact my faith in Christ any more than do the sins of a 14th century bishop or a 19th century abbess. It’s all exactly the same to me. How can I co-exist with sinful leaders? Even if every single person in a leadership position in the Church was instantly purified, right now, I would still be co-existing with sinful leaders – 2000 years worth of them.

This is not to say we shouldn’t expect more from those in leadership – Jesus lets us know pretty clearly what is expected of them. He also speaks clearly of the impact of unfaithful leadership, as did prophets throughout the history of Israel. The call to accept reality is not a call to settle or to accept sin. In the past week I have seen stories on a Brother/principal arrested for public lewdness in Florida, a Kentucky priest arrested and charged with same, a priest in Indiana charged with molesting a developmentally disabled man, and a Dallas priest charged with DWI, with a background of serious problems.  These things exist, are awful and the Church hierarchy has not yet proven its mettle in dealing with them, nor have we in responding to them. But here’s the thing: such was the case ever and always. But you and I didn’t know about it. Priests have always sinned, and sinned terribly. Priests have done awful things to people to anger and hurt them and turn them from the Church. But because of secrecy, different standards of reporting and public conversation and simple parochialism, the vast majority of Christians could live their entire lives without a thorough education in the sins of the clergy, such as we have now. But it was there. Read a history book, if you doubt me.

But why does that invalidate the truth of the faith? I can see how someone could respond that way, but in the end, you have to make a choice. Who is your faith in? Our call is to pull our eyes away from human leaders and, with a tremendous jump of faith, let them rest on Christ, trying to live with the confusing mystery that is Church, that is the fact that these human beings have taken us so far, in pointing the way to Him…but they can only take us so far.

Comments will open on this in the morning.



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HerbEly

posted August 12, 2005 at 8:47 am


Are General Officers More Accountable than Bishops?

Amy Welborn has a great post on the Monsignor Clark scandal. It’s the ever-present peril of ministry as a job, as a profession, as something you go and do to get paid rather than something you do because you are



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Paul Pfaffenberger

posted August 12, 2005 at 10:10 am


Amy,
Great essay! One line really stood out …
“I know what a sinner I am, and that impacts what I say and how I say it. ”
It is precisely that humility that is missing from so many of the offenders, and that adds to the scandal.



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Seamus

posted August 12, 2005 at 10:26 am


What Mr. Pfaffenberger said. This whole sad episode reminds me of one of John di Fiesole’s “stock questions”: “Have you tried prayer and fasting” (http://disputations.blogspot.com/). Ultimately, that’s the only solution.



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Boethius

posted August 12, 2005 at 10:27 am


I agree with many of Amy’s points and merely offer an observation:
A man that finds nothing immoral will never be accused of hypocrisy.
The fact that the Catholic Church and its members are regularly accused of hypocrisy just shows me that it is one of the few institutions that still teaches morality.
Yes, it’s sad when individual members whom we love and respect don’t meet the high standards that they proclaim, but that doesn’t mean that we should give up on the high standards.
Let us pray for God’s grace so that we all may meet the high standards that we proclaim as Catholics. Lord knows it’s not easy. But let’s not give up the fight.



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Seamus

posted August 12, 2005 at 10:28 am


Oops, that should be “John *da* Fiesole”. Sorry about that.



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David

posted August 12, 2005 at 10:38 am


Ok and thanks, amy



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Christine

posted August 12, 2005 at 10:44 am


“Secondly, as a person with an interest in history, I tend to see things across time, culture and space. If the alleged events really did occur, Monsignor Clark’s sins don’t impact my faith in Christ any more than do the sins of a 14th century bishop or a 19th century abbess. It’s all exactly the same to me. How can I co-exist with sinful leaders? Even if every single person in a leadership position in the Church was instantly purified, right now, I would still be co-existing with sinful leaders – 2000 years worth of them.”
Well I can certainly relate to that, as one who literally “read” my way into the Catholic Church. My hair was just about standing straight on end this morning leaving the house after my husband and I had a very vigorous discussion about the Clark situation and the sexual abuse scandals.
Because he grew up at a time when lay Catholics were too often discouraged from questioning authority and too many times were led to believe that priests and religious really did merit a much higher spiritual scorecard that the mere layperson he now does not have to “tools” to digest these events and see them in terms of centuries rather than the span of his lifetime. Amy’s point about secrecy and parochialism in the past is well taken.
It’s so frustrating that I can’t find a way to make him understand why I remain in the Church despite her sometimes very human failings and that Christian faith is ultimately in the One who loves and guides the Church, not in mere mortals.
I’ve also been reading the Pope’s book “God and The World” and he covers some of these issues. He states, if I remember correctly, that even though there has been scandal and sin throughtout the church’s history she is such a deep part of him that leaving would be like losing part of his body. But he makes no excuses whatsoever for those failures.



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Jimmy Huck

posted August 12, 2005 at 10:53 am


Amy, very moving piece. I agree with all of it. I think the issue, the crushing disappointment, has less to do with recognizing the reality of the failings and sins of our clergy and Church leadership. I think we all are aware of that at a fundamental level. Nor is it really that such failings, when they come to light, are “faith-skakers” for us who are sure of our faith. Rather, it is the hubris and the lack of humility about our sinfulness coming from the “hardliners” (your term, not mine) that rubs the wrong way. Orthodoxy has the aura, whether deserved or not, of being cruelly rigid and unsympathetic, if not even unforgiving.
Some of the faithful who abide by the often difficult road of Orthodoxy take comfort in the stern, unyielding, and uncompromising leadership of the “hardliners” and appreciate when these hardliners take on “heterodoxy” (i.e. the propensity towards sinfulness) with such public vigor and certitude of moral superiority. Often times, it is the struggling “heterodox sinner” who bears the full weight of such “tough love” and is made to feel his sinfulness ever so poignantly by the outspoken and hardline defenders of orthodoxy.
And when one of the hardliners falls, it is not the “hardline” itself that is at issue, but a sense that, perhaps, maybe, the “softies” who are less quick to the “tough love” trigger finger with the struggling faithful need to be given a bit more public weight and validity in the pastoral work of the church.



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jane M

posted August 12, 2005 at 10:59 am


Humility is really the key to accepting the scandals. Understanding of our own deep sin, understanding of the necessity of giving the priesthood respect while remembering that any individual priest is still a personal person who sins and needs our love, understanding that God is willing to work through flawed human beings – all this requires real humility. Not my will but Thine.



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Donald R. McClarey

posted August 12, 2005 at 11:03 am


If my faith, as it has, could survive the first Pope denying our Lord, I can think of nothing else that any cleric could possibly do which would shake my faith. Sadden me yes, shake faith no.
As to outsiders, it paints a poor public picture. However, I am sure any fair outsider will realize that any faith has plenty of clergy who are bounders. This sad fact says precisely nothing about the truth or falsity of a belief.



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Jimmy Huck

posted August 12, 2005 at 11:10 am


In my previous post, “faith-skakers” should be “faith-shakers”. An obvious typo; but I didn’t want anyone to think I was introducing some new post-modern vocabulary here.



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Janet

posted August 12, 2005 at 11:14 am


Christine’s comments reflect my own thoughts on this issue. I think that it’s harder for cradle Catholics – especially those of a certain age – to wrap their minds around the idea of sins committed by the clergy.
I am a 52 yr old Catholic woman who left the church at 17 and came back at 43. I have been very disturbed by the number of Catholics who claim to have lost their faith because of the scandals. Faith in what, fellow sinners and human beings?
I know, I know, the higher standard applies here in spades. We do expect more from clerics and we should. Most importantly, we should expect those individuals who cannot remain faithful to their vows to humbly admit that and stop pretending that they are.
I am not saying that I think we should give these guys a free pass because after all, we’re all human. But ultimately, what are we following here, the messenger or the message?



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Maureen

posted August 12, 2005 at 11:18 am


Jimmy Huck –
There is no question that the Church needs to witness both to God’s justice and God’s mercy. The problem is that we have divvied them up between us like the soldiers dicing for Christ’s garments. Both the “progressives” and the “conservatives” are very hard on certain sins and very easy on others, and very hard on certain sinners and very soft on others. The result is that many Catholics literally don’t know right from wrong, while others have decided God will never forgive their sins because they are obviously unforgivable.
And again, this is coming from both sides of the house. Progressives are not shy or soft about preaching on how certain things and people seem horribly evil to them.
So what we have is a situation where both sides — heck, all sides — of the house need to keep trying harder to follow Jesus and the fullness of his teachings, as passed down to us by the Church. Otherwise, we are going to be in a damned hellish situation.
This is not a conservative problem. This is not a progressive problem. It is our problem, the problem of sin. Jesus and the Cross are the answer — the only answer there is.



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Carrie

posted August 12, 2005 at 11:24 am


Many years ago when I volunteered in my former liberal parish, I got a real taste of what life in the rectory was like through the happenings in the parish office. I still marvel that our priests manage to hold onto their faith despite it. It was quite an eye-opener.
At that time I had to deal with sad shortcomings and hypocricy, and I came to the same conclusions Amy has come to. Should the Church change her doctrine because we mortals fail to live up to it? Certainly not. What is good and right is good and right in spite of my own and others moral failures. Could I speak with conviction about my own belief in that moral doctrine even if I fail to live up to it, or does that make me a hypocrite? I concluded that I not only could, but that I must because good and right remain good and right even when I don’t.
With all the heterodoxy I see floating around parish websites, I’ve come to a much greater appreciation of what our doctrine means to us. Sure guides about right and wrong mean more to humanity than our culture is willing to acknowledge. Ultimately to abandon doctrine will bring us to the place of no longer being able to define goodness. What a terrible state mankind would be in if that were to occur.



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ajb

posted August 12, 2005 at 11:27 am


Amy,
I don’t this crums like Monsignor Clark so much shake the faith in the sense of convincing people that the Church’s teaching are untrue.
Rather, it shakes the faith in the sense of convincing people that the Church’s teaching are an unattainable, unrealistic standard of living. So why bother even trying.
You can believe that Jesus taught what he did about marital fidelity and you can even believe that it’s a teaching he directed towards us.
But in the moment, when your longtimesecretary with legs like a thoroughbred starts batting her eyes, and you’ve got to decide what to do? Well, you can’t be faithful all the time. I mean, even Monsignor Clark, who taught about this stuff, couldn’t stay out of the hot-tub.
That’s where conduct like his hurts.



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Ken

posted August 12, 2005 at 11:32 am


Out here in LA we’ve got some of the mouthiest radio talk shows in the entire country, and they’ve just discovered this scandal.
The nasty-humor angle? Msgr Clark’s going to get nailed because it was with a female secretary instead of a male altarboy.
(And, unlike most Church scandals, the introductory sound bite was not “Sodomy” from Meet the Feebles; I don’t think they used a sound bite at all.)



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reluctant penitent

posted August 12, 2005 at 11:37 am


I’m very afraid that those Bishops and Priests who are already hesitant to say anything that the secular culture might consider controversial will be inspired by this episode to be even more hesitant.
The lesson to be drawn from this affair is not ‘Do not proclaim Church teaching loudly!’ but rather ‘Do not proclaim Church teaching loudly if you’re committing adultery…in fact you should probably stop with the adultery, beg the husband and Church for forgiveness and go on a long penitential retreat to a monastery!’ The second lesson is longer to say but more appropriate.



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Simon

posted August 12, 2005 at 11:48 am


Amy, your essay here is of such a quality that it almost deserves to be the last word on this subject. Thank you.
Ah, but there’s never really a last word so long as there are comment boxes, so I just reiterate here something from an earlier thread:
“Orthodox” is too often used synonymously with “good.” Certainly, if a priest publicly denies what is true and teaches that sinful acts are, well, not really all that bad, that priest is bad news — almost regardless of anything else he may be or do. This is the rightful objection to “liberal” or “heterodox” priests and others in the Church.
But every Christian is called to seek Christ above all things, and clergy have a special responsibility to exemplify this in their daily lives. That means — for each of us, and especially for priests and religious — regular personal prayer and a spirit of self-denial. As Amy, Jimmy Huck and others rightly note, humility is essential. It’s really the cornerstone of the spiritual life.
When we run across priests who speak orthodox words but constantly indulge in material comforts, occupy themselves primarily in administrative or fundraising work, and do not ever seem to find the time in their busy schedules to spend time with Our Lord outside the celebration of Mass itself …. then we can’t be surprised when such priests are discovered filled with vice. They have put Our Lord in a drawer and forgotten Him.
Let’s pray (really) for all the priests and religious out there — and for the whole Church — that a living, joyful, continuous relationship with Christ will be the center of their and our lives every day.
And let’s also pray that priests as well as lay people may return to the regular practice of sacramental Confession, which if practiced faithfully, frequently and sincerely can head off these horrible scandals long before they reach the motel room stage.



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dick

posted August 12, 2005 at 11:53 am


Thank you Amy. Amen to your post.



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Rod Dreher

posted August 12, 2005 at 11:59 am


Let me raise an issue that has come up before in various threads (I’m thinking esp. about our heated discussions over Protestant evangelizing in Latin America). Bear with me here, and let’s try to work through these issues without turning on each other, or saying, “You just need to go spend more time in front of the Blessed Sacrament.”
Orthodox Catholics have a strong tendency to stand firm on doctrine. Whenever we’re faced with colossal failure among the clergy (for example), we hold firm to the Church’s doctrine, which must be true even if humans fail to live up to its demands. That is understandable, and has kept many of us Catholic despite everything.
But too often we get caught up in our heads, and fail to appreciate that what is objectively true must at some point be subjectively true if it is to mean anything. The point is Kierkegaard’s, and it goes like this: the truths of religion are the kinds of truths that must be appropriated and lived out subjectively if they are to mean anything. The truths of math and science are true whether anybody believes them or not, but the statement “Jesus Christ arose from the dead” can only be fully realized subjectively — that is, by being perceived as an objective truth by a subject (e.g., you and me). That being the case, we would orient our entire lives around that objective truth that we cannot prove except by the witness of our lives. An outsider may have trouble believing the preposterous notion that a man arose from the dead to save sinners, but if he sees people who profess that living out its implications, he may become persuaded of the objective truth of it.
Now we come around to the scandal. I have been thinking in a new way about why I’ve been so hard hit by all this, even though I know that the truth of the faith is true no matter how corrupt the clergy may be, and indifferent to that fact the laity is (N.B., I think the cause for the most despair among the laity is not that there are grotesque sinners among the clergy, but that these sins were known about by bishops and fellow priests for so long, and they did nothing to put things aright). But — I think it would be much easier to withstand these blows if we were being routinely fed and built up by the liturgy and by the community of the faithful. When you live in a situation in which you are not fed, when the preaching is at best useless, and at worst positively destructive; when you live in a situation in which you are not taught at mass, and you live in a community of Christians in which unity in faith is a myth (that is, when people can’t even agree on what a Catholic is); when Catholicism becomes merely the following of the Law and the routine fulfillment of duties, and the Church seems more like an organization than an organism; when it takes all your powers of concentration to focus on the fact that despite what you see around you and what you have seen around you for many years, the Catholic faith is really true — well, with all that in mind, it may be difficult over time to keep the faith. For the doctrines to be real, to have the power to change your life, to bring you closer to Christ and to make one a saint.
Does that invalidate the doctrines? No. But I want people to think about the point Kierkegaard made, and to understand that in our humanity, if we fail to see those doctrines lived out, if we fail to find help and support in living out those doctrines, well, rote recitation of the syllogisms is only going to carry us so far.
I’ve written before about two friends of mine. I’ll call them A. and B. — both of them read this blog, so if they want to identify themselves, they can.
A. and his family were leaving Evangelicalism about 10 years ago, and were considering either RCism or Orthodoxy. I made a strong pitch for RCism. He brought up all the problems in the US church, with which he was intimately familiar as a result of his work as an academic and a journalist. I acknowledged them, but told him that if the doctrine was true, he belonged in RCism. He said he had to raise kids, which made RCism a turnoff. What he meant by that was that he didn’t trust RC parishes to help him raise them in the traditional faith, and the Rome of John Paul was a long way off. I had no idea what he meant. Now that I’m a father of small children, I certainly do. And my friend is now Orthodox. My bloodless syllogisms said nothing to him in the concrete situation he was in, as spiritual head of his family.
My friend B. was a devout orthodox Catholic who moved about three years ago to one of the worst dioceses in the US. I used to live in that part of the country, and I know how dead the Church is there. He wrote to me for advice when he got there and found the Church was a veritable corpse. We corresponded about this over time, and I tried to be helpful. Not long ago, he wrote to say that he was going to a Presbyterian Church. He sounded very sorry to say it, but told a very moving (to me) story of going from parish to parish, trying to find something, anything, like Catholicism. But he didn’t. I know how real his suffering is, because I went through it too. Worse, he is a single male, and was dying to meet a woman who shared his faith. This never happened at the Catholic parishes here — again, I know exactly how he felt, because I was in the same position when I lived there. He was lonely and isolated in the faith, and grew despairing. Finally one day someone from a Protestant church reached out to him, and invited him to Bible study. Long story short: in that church, he found a community of devoted Christians for whom Jesus is real — and they show it. He’s begun to pray again, and to have joy in his Christian faith. And he’s met a faithful young woman whom he’s started to date.
It is hard for me to understand why he should be lonely in those tomb-like dead churches for the sake of doctrine that few Catholic seem to believe. Is he better off living in depression, loneliness and isolation, and risking losing his faith at all, all to maintain a relationship with the Catholic Church? Or is he better off in a place where, however flawed the doctrine, Jesus is alive, and he is growing in love of Christ?
I only bring all this up to remind people that we are human, and that there is more to our faith than holding on to right doctrine.



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reluctant penitent

posted August 12, 2005 at 12:16 pm


“What he meant by that was that he didn’t trust RC parishes to help him raise them in the traditional faith, and the Rome of John Paul was a long way off.”
Isn’t he supposed to raise them in the faith rather than rely on the parish to do it? The catethesis is that good at the Orthodox parishes? The people that pristine? Where are these morally and doctrinally healthy Orthodox parishes? My experience is that in Orthodox parishes the smells and bells are more attractive, but that’s about it.
And how does an ‘orthodox’ Catholic buy into Presbyterianism? It’s true that ‘we are human’ but how do you just shut off your beliefs like that for the sake of belonging a pleasant congregation that helps you feel less lonely? I honestly don’t get it and I’ve lived in some terrible parishes. Of course, if you’re really desperate you can always attend services at at Presbyterian house of worship and go to Mass as well, so I don’t see why you have to leave the Church to feel less lonely.



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Bill

posted August 12, 2005 at 12:35 pm


As you suggest, Amy, I believe that an understanding of the history of the Church is important to help one keep scandals like Clark’s alleged conduct in proper perspective. I’m not prepared at this stage to say I’m certain that Clark’s guilty (although I admit it doesn’t look good), but assuming for the sake of discussion that he is, I don’t really consider it that big a deal for me personally. And I say this as someone who benefitted greatly from the conservative and traditionalist Catholic culture that Clark nurtured in NYC in the 1990s. The history of the Church is replete with bad popes, bishops, priests, religious and laity. It is disappointing to find out that Clark may have feet of clay, but my faith was never in Msgr. Clark personally, but in those things he had to to say and that were said under his aegis which were consistent with Catholic tradition. That Clark’s life may not have measured up actually to living that tradition or even that he didn’t really believe in that tradition at all is pretty much beside the point. Explaining this fact may go a long way to addressing the honest doubts and concerns raised in Catholics and non-Catholics by this situation. It seems like a great teachable moment.



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al

posted August 12, 2005 at 12:41 pm


But it is holding on to the right doctrine that makes it possible for us to give something to our fellow Christian other than the bromides (pray more) derided above.
As the Msgr. Clark episode makes clear, the “subjectively lived” faith of one man, is insufficient for another–one persons emotional enthusiasm (thinking of Knox here) does not suffice to enliven authentic faith in another.
I’m sure for many, Msgr. Clark was the light in the wilderness, not the least reason for which is the conservative Catholic establishment’s putting forward of such models as the antidote for AmChurch, while simultaneously criticizing the negative nabobs of the Wanderer for not providing positive role models.
So while the Wanderer, and those to the right of the Wanderer, complain at length about the reasons why the salt has lost its savour–because the Doctrine has been compromised, the Positive Conservatives propose the Clarks of the world as the answer to why nothing is too very bad, either in Amchurch, or, frankly, in American Culture–that its possible to live a fully Catholic life in this environment, yadda yadda yadda.
And so when of these liferafts deflates, those who’ve held on, are set adrift again.
Which is why these things scandals seem to exact such a toll, psychically, on those who’ve been led to believe that this is a normal state of affairs.
Were it the odd Msgr. Clark amongst the wheat, I think it would be less psychically catastrophic. But when you have significant segments of the Church given over to self glorification–to a Church not of Sacrament, but of Symbiosis–a Church of Affirmation rather than Transformation, I heard some perceptive protestant minister say, talking about why Gay Marriage wouldn’t wash–then you have the angst we see now when something like this happens



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Stephen Joseph

posted August 12, 2005 at 12:53 pm


My reaction in terms of how this impacts my faith in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church? Well, in the immortal line of Richard Gere in Officer and a Gentlemen: “I got no place else to go.” Of course, St. Peter did say it best, “To whom should we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (paraphrasing)



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Bill

posted August 12, 2005 at 12:53 pm


Rod,
As I think you know, Msgr. Clark was responsible for creating the sort of parish that your friends were looking for, but were unable to find. Catholics “were being routinely fed and built up by the liturgy and by the community of the faithful” at St. Agnes in NYC in the 1990s.



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reluctant penitent

posted August 12, 2005 at 1:02 pm


“I’m sure for many, Msgr. Clark was the light in the wilderness”
I think that this inflates Msgr. Clark’s past importance in the American Church.
But even if he did have the importance attributed to him by al, the light would not be emanating from the Monsignor but from the truth of what he said.
Sorry al, but I just don’t see any Protestant group as a beacon of Christian orthodoxy when compared with the Catholic Church. At most a group is right about X but wrong about Y, and all the X’s are affirmed by the Church. I just do not see how, if one believes all the X’s that the Church affirms, one just shuts off one’s mind and joins a Protestant congregation.
Because of the liturgical atrocities in the Church today, I seriously considered Orthodoxy (and I still periodically go to a Russian Orthodox Church) but I was never able to shut my mind off and ignore the fact that I disagreed with the Orthodox about some important issues. I just do not get how someone can allow feeling to trump belief.
There’s somethign basically absurd about the claim that faith is more than right doctrine given that faith is a kind of belief–i.e. an affirmation that the doctrine of the Church is true, and a commitment to that doctrine no matter what one’s emotional state. If you can betray your faith just because you feel lonely or depressed, think of what would happen if you were tortured.
The troubles in the Church are not a negation but a test of faith.



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Christine

posted August 12, 2005 at 1:17 pm


Bill, that’s pretty much how I see it. I guess I was very fortunate before my conversion to have Catholic relatives who influenced my decision to become Catholic because it gave me models of what it means to see and live life through Catholic eyes.
Centuries ago I believe it was St. John Chrysostom who said that the floor of hell will be paved with the skulls of bishops. The Church has gone through purges many times in the past and she is undergoing one now.
Meantime, as someone else (can’t remember who it was) said, “I’ll not let the bastards drive me out!”



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julian

posted August 12, 2005 at 1:19 pm


Msgr. Clark has found himself in an unfortunate situation. He is not alone. Plenty of people, religious and lay, find themselves in sticky situations. The fact that Msgr. Clark is a public figure compounds it. However, his problems are a matter for his bishop and his confessor. He clearly needs prayers right now. That doesn’t excuse or justify his actions.
The bitter disappointment and occasional excuse-making that accompanies this particular situation is also unfortunate. However, it is not impossible to understand it. People thirst for orthodoxy in the pulpit and at the altar. A generation of liturgical and doctrinal malaise of various stripes in some areas has left a sizeable community alienated. Sometimes, as in the case of those devoted to the John XXIII Mass, the Church does something to accommodate them (of course, it took a rather serious situation to arrive at that particular accommodation). Other times, it seems that the Church is ignoring them. Therefore, when someone inside the Church is not only friendly to orthodoxy, but also publicly and loudly orthodox, they attract attention and attachment. When it turns out that these good and holy men are human, like the rest of us, there is a sense of betrayal and resentment. One can make excuses or become disillusioned.
However, the flaws of the messenger do not change the message. I think most people recognize that. Just because Msgr. Clark turned out to be a bit of a cad doesn’t make the Church’s teachings any less true.



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TSO

posted August 12, 2005 at 1:40 pm


Does it discredit faith to the outsider?
Given that Americans are above all practical – even when it comes to shopping around for a religion that will make them “good” and/or hip – I wonder if the popularity of Eastern religions like Buddhism in the US is partially due to the fact that you don’t hear Buddhists doing this type of stuff (though I don’t live in India and admit to the being possibly ill-informed).
By seeking religions that are farther away from us (weak Christians) I think many impute to those traditions that which they can’t in truth deliver – exoticism without the historical baggage. Catholics might become Protestants to avoid the taint of the Inquisition & Crusades, and Protestants might become Buddhists to remove even more historical baggage (like burning witches). It’s sort of the mentality, “well, Christianity didn’t make —fill-in-the-blank— a better person or society so it must not be true.”



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James Kabala

posted August 12, 2005 at 1:47 pm


What I wonder about is whether Father Clark has any concern for his own eternal soul. Does he really believe? If he does believe, how can be so reckless? It’s bad enough when we have a young man who assumes he has a few decades yet to live and therefore takes a “God, make me chaste, but not yet” attitude, but a 79-year-old priest surely ought to recognize that his day of reckoning could come at any time. He should thank God that he didn’t die a la Nelson Rockefeller.



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Desert Chatter

posted August 12, 2005 at 1:56 pm


When we put people on pedestals (or climb up on them ourselves), we should not complain that they/we have so far to fall.
The good monsignor chose to say one thing and do another…..his only complaint is that he got caught. Some special destiny has to await someone who participates in the break up of a marriage that he himself presided over.



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chris K

posted August 12, 2005 at 2:02 pm


When I saw the pictures of the two entering the motel, I immediately recalled several adult women as well as teen girls dressed almost exactly as this woman, but within what they, in these cases, would probably like to call our churches today, “worship spaces”. And I remember the reactions of men or boys in close proximity, struggling to overlook what would cause them great distraction in their total concentration on the mass! (I’m not leaving out the men/boys in their own sloppy get ups, but that’s a bit different for our subject here). I have to believe that if there is such a lack in realization of just Who it is they stand before in such coverings or lack thereof, then why is there so much shock that there is similar lack of respect for His “mere” representatives? Why, if there is no insistence by those placed in charge of the “worship space” of respectful dress and/or manners, should anyone not imagine a lack of respect for that priest’s own expected behavior in the wide open public spaces? I know the subject has been the monsignor, but, men do not stand or fall alone. I wonder if any of the talks of the monsignor were ever about the necessity to obedience in always wearing the outward sign of one’s vocation as a priest….or in avoiding even the occasion of sin. There no longer appear to be any reactions of embarrassment or shame or tones of red flushing the faces of those who are responsible for either tempting or placing themselves in such situations. Now, where does that stupid lack of self awareness before God’s constant Presence start?? Only in the example of weak priest models? How many “good” Catholic kids, for example, have been permitted for decades now to accept as innocent, male/female sleepovers by “good” Catholic parents? How many get to stand in the shadows, never having any fingers of conscience pointed at them…those who call themselves Catholic with a similar requirement to model that role? Be happy you have not been called to the more public roles in our faith…esp. in these times..and especially when not backed by much, if any, prayer or fasting or insistent reminders of good example by those who depend on you. I recall in one of Fr. Corapi’s talks him asking for strong prayer because, as he said, “it ain’t over ’til it’s over”. Another priest spoke to the desire of satan to swallow as many of the sheep as possible. He said that starts with the appetizers, the priests, and once he has them, he has no opposition to the main course!



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James Kabala

posted August 12, 2005 at 2:28 pm


Rod:
I’m sorry, but I think both Friend A and Friend B have constructed fool’s paradises for themselves. Don’t they realize how many sinners there are among the Orthodox and the Presbyterians as well? If their church attendance is based on the virtues of their fellow worshippers, or worse yet, their clergy, they’re setting themselves up for a disaster when they discover that no church is free of Cardinal Laws and Father Clarks among its clergy and that there might even a Shanley or two among the Orthodox and Presbyterian ranks.
I remember a few months ago there was a post here about some scandal among the Orthodox clergy, and one poster said something like, “I hope that this puts an end to the idealization of the Orthodox as free from scandal that some St. Bloggers like to engage in.” Unfortuantely, for both Rod and his friend, this lesson seems to have failed to take.



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reluctant penitent

posted August 12, 2005 at 2:32 pm


“Some special destiny has to await someone who participates in the break up of a marriage that he himself presided over.”
Perhaps a destiny witnessed by St. Faustina.



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ajb

posted August 12, 2005 at 2:34 pm


Recognizing that the Church subsumes the fullness of the Faith, but abandoning that Church in order to find a date and better Sunday brunches does seem to take one out the “invincible ignorance” category, doesn’t it.



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John Farrell

posted August 12, 2005 at 2:43 pm


Rod,
Beautifully written.
And well said, Al.



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Mark Shea

posted August 12, 2005 at 2:54 pm


Amy:
What can I possibly add to such a first rate essay? Please don’t rob your column readers. Rework it and publish it in OSV!



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Bill

posted August 12, 2005 at 3:02 pm


James,
If I understand Rod correctly, I think you missed his point. I think he is saying that the Catholic faith is not something that can normally be lived in isolation. Catholcs need good liturgy, orthodox preaching and a functioning parish life. I don’t think that Rod is saying that his friends failed to recognize that other religions are made up of sinners, too, but rather that his friends were not able to find Catholic parishes that met certain minimal criteria and that, on a surface level at least, other religions offered more attractive alternatives. That’s a difficult position to counter, especially for a family with children.



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Rod Dreher

posted August 12, 2005 at 3:03 pm


RP: Isn’t he supposed to raise them in the faith rather than rely on the parish to do it? The catethesis is that good at the Orthodox parishes? The people that pristine? Where are these morally and doctrinally healthy Orthodox parishes? My experience is that in Orthodox parishes the smells and bells are more attractive, but that’s about it.
I know of two very good Orthodox parishes: Holy Cross in Linthicum, Maryland, and St. Seraphim’s here in Dallas. There’s a tremendous renaissance of faith going on in American Orthodoxy, mostly thanks to the influx of Evangelicals. In any case, as a Catholic trying to raise his kids in the faith, I don’t trust the parish to be a help, and in fact expect the parish to be vaguely hostile. My wife and some other orthodox RC moms set up a Catholic vacation bible school here last year because none of them had faith in what the parish(es) would teach our kids. As I’ve said repeatedly in these comboxes, it’s hard to raise your kids to believe in the Catholic faith when it’s pretty much you alone, and when you don’t have the community of believers who are united in faith, and when you cannot trust the pastor as a spiritual leader. (Not that Father X. or Monsignor Y. is a bad man, understand; just that the world is a rough and hostile place for believers, and we need more than Amchurch platitudes to help us.) If you can pull it off on your own, good for you. I find it increasingly difficult. My wife, who grew up in a Baptist church here in Dallas, talks from time to time about how her childhood and teen-years peer group at the church gave a safe place for her and her friends to grow up in. They got solid moral and theological instruction from the pastor and their teachers at the church, and it helped them build a solidly Christian peer culture that got them through the teenage years. I’ve never seen that in the Catholic church, though no doubt it exists at some parishes. Michael Medved talks about the insufficiency of the family being the only place kids receive this kind of instruction, saying that it’s great if you won’t let your kids watch immoral TV programs, but if everybody else in your child’s peer group is allowed to watch these programs and to let their worldview be shaped by them, you and your kids are still in a mess.
My friend and his wife are very faithful Christians, and they’re raising their kids in the faith. But they have lots of support from their Orthodox parish community too, and their pastor. I envy that. I don’t think it’s wrong to want to have that. Parents need that. At least this parent does. The “Sacrament Factory” model of the Church just does not work so well in such cases.
RP, again: And how does an ‘orthodox’ Catholic buy into Presbyterianism? It’s true that ‘we are human’ but how do you just shut off your beliefs like that for the sake of belonging a pleasant congregation that helps you feel less lonely? I honestly don’t get it and I’ve lived in some terrible parishes.
I appreciate your honesty, but I don’t think you fully grasp what I’m trying to say. I won’t speak for my friend, though if he’s reading this I hope he’ll speak out. When I was living in south Florida in the 1990s, before I met my wife (on a trip to Texas), I was a fairly new Catholic, and struggling to become holier than I was. My parish was pastored by an elderly Irish drunk and a not-much-younger “Spirit of Vatican II” priest who rarely missed an opportunity to preach on how the world’s worst sin was homophobia. I was a single guy, and just sat there doing the “ex opere operato” thing, and waiting to receive the Sacrament so I could get out of there. I tried several other parishes, which were as bad or worse.
Meantime, I was working in journalism, and had no — exactly no — other Catholic friends. I was constantly being challenged to defend my faith, especially on sexual matters. When asked, I did not hide the fact that I was committed to living chastely until marriage. Boy, that gave my friends a lot of big laughs. Needless to say, I never met any Catholic women who shared my commitment to the faith. If not for my dear, dear online friends (this was before the blogosphere debuted), I don’t know how I would have made it through. The depression and loneliness — by which I mean the feeling that I’m doing this all alone — was very hard to deal with.
And that was years before the Scandal broke.
So when you talk about a guy who was in the same position I was in for three of the most difficult years of my life, and who is having to figure out how to be Catholic with all the crap I had to put up with, and on top of it had the overlay of the Scandal, and when you make it sound like he left his Catholic faith simply to go to a Protestant church that was more chatty and pleasant, I’ve got to tell you that you are utterly missing the point, and thoughtlessly denigrating a real and painful struggle a lot of Catholics are going through.
What is Christianity for, anyway? To belong to the Catholic Church for its own sake? Is being a Catholic a goal in and of itself, or are we Catholic because we believe that that is the surest way to being transformed in Christ? Will God ask us on Judgment Day if we were Catholic, or will he be more concerned about whether or not we were holy?
My friend was, in the end, more concerned about holiness than about maintaining communion with a Catholic Church that had, for all practical purposes, lost the faith. He struggled mightily to find something, anything, to hold on to. He didn’t find it. In his Protestant church, he has found people who are serious about their faith, and joyful in their sharing of it. He has found pastoral leadership that is helping him get more deeply into the Bible, and to deepen his commitment to Christ. He is learning what it is to be a joyful Christian. Mind you, he did not want to leave the Catholic Church. But it came down to this: which is more important, living as a Catholic, or living as a Christian?
I suggest that those of you who don’t understand how anyone who is Catholic could perceive that distinction will have no good answer to someone like my friend, who was suffering greatly, and who was in a lot of spiritual pain, and need. Someone met his legitimate need for serious Christian doctrinal teaching, and the joy of fellowship. Those people happened to be Presbyterian.
This goes back in part to the thread on Joel Osteen. I can’t imagine leaving the Catholic faith to become a member of Osteen’s congregation. But people do it all the time. Why? What are they getting there that they’re not getting in the Catholic faith? How are the scandals, and the Church’s handling of it, affecting their perception of Catholicism in the absence of good catechesis, and all the other problems besetting the Church?



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Angus McWasp

posted August 12, 2005 at 3:06 pm


Rod’s point is quite well taken. I read last week where Benedict XVI once said (earlier) that finally there were only two arguments for the Church: her saints and her art. It’s not been a good 40 years in the desert for either in many a diocese–this whole generation may have to die out before we are able to cross over into the new evangelization and the universal call to holiness. So this is where I think Rod makes a huge contribution: if we would be convincing and life-giving, we must surround them with saints. If practically none are available, we’d best be charitable in judging the decisions of those seeking spiritual food. We say we wouldn’t do this or would do that, but in fact, for whatever happy reason,we are not starving as they are starving–and we’re sure not on the scene feeding them, either. Besides, even if they are ‘objectively’ wrong, their story is not over yet. I seem to remember a Presbyterian who with much struggle crossed the Tiber and has proven to be a bit of a boon us in the Latin Rite. Perhaps we should not, you know, condemn out of hand. Much less condemn someone who defends his friends. And if I might take Rod’s point one step further, may their shaking the dust from their feet as they leave our town serve as a warning that we (I, and you!) must turn much more seriously toward holiness, keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, if we expect them to find food, shelter, and life among us.



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Rod Dreher

posted August 12, 2005 at 3:08 pm


James: I remember a few months ago there was a post here about some scandal among the Orthodox clergy, and one poster said something like, “I hope that this puts an end to the idealization of the Orthodox as free from scandal that some St. Bloggers like to engage in.” Unfortuantely, for both Rod and his friend, this lesson seems to have failed to take.
James, Bill is right: you completely misunderstand me. Both Friend A and Friend B were not looking for perfect; they were looking for better. And ajb, to put down the soul-searching my friend went through, which eventually resulted in him going over to Protestantism, to the mere search for a better brunch is insulting. Live in denial if you like, but when men and women in a similar situation come to you in pain and confusion, asking you why they should stay put in the Amchurch desert, you had better come up with a more persuasive response than smart-ass remarks. Because when people’s spiritual lives, and the spiritual lives of their children, are at stake, smug triumphalism doesn’t cut it.



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Bill

posted August 12, 2005 at 3:24 pm


AJB,
Ronald Reagan used to say that he didn’t abandon the Democratic Party, but that the Democratic Party abandoned him. Sometimes, the key is figuring out who’s abandoned whom. What is a person to do if he has a family or if he is looking for a wife and the nearby Catholic parishes have liturgies with invalid matter and form, priests (and laymen) that affirmatively preach heresy and immorality and congregations that are okay with all this, including ladies at Mass who dress like Ms. DeFilippo on her way to Amagansett? I guess the answer is to look for an adequate parish farther away (or, better, an independent chapel), but it is willful blindness not to acknowledge that lots of Catholics get lost because of the legitimate need to parish shop.



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James Kabala

posted August 12, 2005 at 3:34 pm


About whether God will ask us on judgment day if we were Catholic: I don’t believe in a strict, 100%-of-non-Catholics-go-to-Hell interpretation of “Outside the Church There Is No Salvation,” but that dictum has been part of Christian teaching from the very beginning, and we ignore it at our peril.
And since no other church (that I know of) still condemns birth control and remarriage after divorce, nor believes in the formally defined dogmas of the Immaculate Conception and papal infallibility, I can’t quite wrap my head around the idea that leaving the Church is a way to avoid heresy.



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Denise

posted August 12, 2005 at 3:40 pm


“Jesus Christ arose from the dead” can only be fully realized subjectively — that is, by being perceived as an objective truth by a subject (e.g., you and me). That being the case, we would orient our entire lives around that objective truth that we cannot prove except by the witness of our lives. An outsider may have trouble believing the preposterous notion that a man arose from the dead to save sinners, but if he sees people who profess that living out its implications, he may become persuaded of the objective truth of it.”
More baloney. “Living out its implications” might “prove” that you BELIEVE in the Resurrection; it wouldn’t “prove” that Jesus rose again. If you have to have “proof”, you don’t have “faith”. And isn’t it a bit ridiculous to tie a priest in NYC to the Resurrection? Ridiculous.



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Sherry Weddell

posted August 12, 2005 at 3:43 pm


Rod:
“Someone met his legitimate need for serious Christian doctrinal teaching, and the joy of fellowship.”
Speaking on someone who nearly left Catholicism twice over the isolation even though I was deeply intellectually convinced, you raise an excellent point.
But its not something that all Catholics feel as acutely. I can still remember my former partner-in-crime’s reaction (a Dominican priest) to the fact that so many evangelicals are former Catholics: “Tell them to stop it!” He simply *could not* take in the idea that someone could knowingly leave the Eucharist. When I tried to explain the abiding pain of those who were used to fellowship from their peers and now cannot find it, I knew that I was trying to bridge a huge gap of experience and expectation.
Rod, some people can live off the sacraments alone and don’t feel this need in the same way. Some of us find it nearly impossible to live without fellowship. Count me among the latter. One group is not holier or more orthodox than the other. People’s spiritual needs do vary tremendously.
What I want to propose is not a “solution” to bad pastors and barely functioning parishes but it does specifically address your concerns and we did it successfully in Seattle because I got really tired to talking people out of leaving the Church over the phone. It is entirely legitimate, entirely Catholic, and entirely supplemental to whatever is available at the parish or diocesan level.
We formed our own lay-lead, multi-parish support group (the famously Nameless Lay Group) for Catholics hungry for fellowship and evangelicals interested in Catholicism who needed more support than RCIA could give.
We prayed, (we had access to a Eucharistic Chapel and held our own informal prayers services there), included teaching (we gave talks ourselves – since we included folks like the not yet famous Mark Shea and brought in good speakers from the area, including priests),shared a meal and fellowship, threw parties, built friendships, had a newsletter, etc.
It didn’t solve the problems of the universe or the diocese but it made a big difference in a number of people’s lives. We gave a Baptist guy his first taste of Catholic life (he said “you are the first Catholics that I ever knew were real Christians), helped a Reformed Dutch family in NZ answer their questions and enter the church, and brought great strength and comfort to converts and cradle Catholics alike.
It also indirectly gave birth to the Catherine of Siena Institute because Fr. Michael Sweeney, who were brought in to speak occasionally, knew he was seeing the theology of the laity enfleshed in our little group.
This fellowship thing is a problem which we as lay Catholics can do something about and for which we do not have to wait for the clergy to get a clue (although its splendid if they are part).
Yes, I know that many of us would love to have a ready made support group at hand which we,as very busy people who can’t add *one more thing* to our lives, wouldn’t have to start or actively support but if there is really a necessity than we need to take responsibility and action.
Those of us who have some space in our lives can and should undertake the work for those who need it but cannot actively contribute right now. For our sake, for the sake of the Church, for the sake of the world, it needs to be done. Who among us is called to thise work?



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tmatt

posted August 12, 2005 at 3:48 pm


Rod’s man A, here. That would be me. I also had lunch with man B, shortly before leaving South Florida. He wanted my input, too.
Let me again stress several points made often here in the past.
(1) I am a religion writer and the son of a minister. The last thing in the world I am seeking to do is make claims of perfection in a Communion. I have covered the worst of Orthodox scandals as well as Roman. I am a veteran reporter.
(2) Parents need the help of their spiritual fathers and congregations. It is wrong for them to be undercut by clergy and congregations. Period.
(3) Rod knows this, but I also have sincere theological differences with the Church of Rome, questions I took to people I respect and trust with names like Chaput, Kreeft and Neuhaus. No lightweights there, agreed? In particular, I could not embrace Vatican II on salvation and the other great world religions. Read the chapter on hell in “Crossing the Threshold of Hope.” Can you sense the worry in John Paul’s words there?
And like I keep saying with a wink — I also love liturgy and great music. So there is no way I can be an American Catholic. ;-)



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DarwinCatholic

posted August 12, 2005 at 3:57 pm


I know I certainly qualify as one of those is is far more head than heart in his approach to religion. We all have our strengths and our weaknesses, and one of my weaknesses seems to be that I am destined never to _feel_ faith as many people do.
Perhaps because of that, I find it very hard to imagine leaving the Church for Protestant denomination (or even for the Orthodox) because of difficulty in finding community. Community is certainly important, but community is not faith.
Perhaps the other reason for my lack of sympathy is that in many ways growing up with my family in SoCal in the 80s _was_ a matter of chosen isolation. LA Archiodese certainly isn’t the weirdest in the country, but it can be pretty bad in spots. And while I went to Catholic schools through 5th grade, and we always belonged to one parish or another we literally never knew any other solid orthodox Catholic families. Most of our closest friends were families my parents had known since college, and they were all Protestant of one sort or another. (Perhaps a major reason for my apologetics oriented approach. I had to explain my beliefs from an early age.)
As I got into high school, a few of my parents single friends converted to Catholicism, and we got to know a few orthodox Catholic families through the growing homeschooling community. But even so, we certainly never felt like we had a home or community there. There are still plenty of ways to disagree enough with other Orthodox Catholic families that you wouldn’t want them to be the primary influences on your kids.
Perhaps it’s because it’s the “head” style of faith that God has given me, but I know that I could not face God on his throne and say, “I knew that Your Church taught the fullness of truth, but I denied it and left because I was too lonely.” I don’t question that the loneliness can be painful. (One of the reasons my wife and I moved to Texas is that we were tired of the Catholic atmosphere in California.) But I can’t see how leaving the Church could be an option for someone who was a seriously believing Catholic in the first place.



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Bill

posted August 12, 2005 at 4:00 pm


Sherry,
At Msgr. Clark’s parish, groups like yours thrived in the 1990s. It was really something special. Clark is responsible for whatever misconduct he may have engaged in and he should be held accountable. But however his situation is ultimately resolved, I will always give him credit for the good work he did.



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Regina

posted August 12, 2005 at 4:19 pm


Rod D: “Live in denial if you like, but when men and women in a similar situation come to you in pain and confusion, asking you why they should stay put in the Amchurch desert…”
Maybe you could say “Because Jesus is in the Church He left us, as He was in Palestine despite the machinations and weaknesses of Judas”.
If you need all clerics to triumph over all temptations at all times in order to accept that Jesus left us this Church, then, really, you deny that Judas was handpicked and his screwup said nothing about Christ’s message or little band except that it happens.
As for needing perfect witnesses in order to believe, how many do you need?



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Rod Dreher

posted August 12, 2005 at 4:29 pm


Denise, you don’t understand my point. Please read carefully. Then read it again.
Regina, I invite you to re-read my posts. You are setting up a straw man.



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j-g

posted August 12, 2005 at 4:34 pm


Among the “groups like yours” that I would recommend is the “>http://www.cursillo.org/> Cursillo movement. Years after making my Cursillo weekend ["retreat"] I still meet almost once a week with other Cursillistas to pray and talk about Jesus and everything else since we last met. It’s a fellowship / camaraderie / bond that goes beyond our own parishes. Many Cursillistas I know have gone on to “light a fire” back at their parishes after attending a Cursillo.



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reluctant penitent

posted August 12, 2005 at 4:47 pm


Rod’s man A says:
“I also have sincere theological differences with the Church of Rome, questions I took to people I respect and trust with names like Chaput, Kreeft and Neuhaus. No lightweights there, agreed? In particular, I could not embrace Vatican II on salvation and the other great world religions. Read the chapter on hell in “Crossing the Threshold of Hope.” Can you sense the worry in John Paul’s words there?”
Well that I can understand as a reason to choose Orthodoxy over Catholicism. I do not agree with man A’s reasoning but at least I can get my mind around the idea that you do not want to be Catholic because you do not believe what the Church teaches. What I cannot fathom is believing what the Church teaches but leaving anyway.
That’s the rational side, which. But I come at this from a very different angle emotionally as well. I grew up in a Communist country and my family experienced quite serious problems because they went to Church. I was an altar boy afraid of having my secret discovered by my peers in school. When we came to North America we encountered a very ungrateful, spoiled and whiny Catholicism always ready to kvetch and always on the verge of leaving. My family did not leave when they faced real dangers, yet these people were ready to leave because Fr. X said something they didn’t like or Bishop Y was an incompetent or negligent administrator. I could never comprehend this kind of Catholicism and I never will.
Whenever I am even remotely tempted to go in the way of Orthodoxy (the only non-Catholic brand of Christianity that has anything to offer, in my opinion) I remember the Catholic martyrs who died because of their commitment to the teaching and sacraments of the Church, and did so with no chanted liturgy, incense or four-part harmony to help them feel the presence of Christ. No Stalin or Hitler was able to drive them from the Church, and I’m going to be weakened in my faith by Msgr. Clark Abp and Messrs. Haas and Haugen?



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reluctant penitent

posted August 12, 2005 at 4:53 pm


last line is supposed to be ‘Msgr. Clark Abp. Weakland and Messrs. Haas and Haugen’



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Karen LH

posted August 12, 2005 at 4:54 pm


I haven’t done more than scan this and some of the other threads, so maybe I’ve missed something, but I just wanted to make a few points.
First of all, even though the situation looks pretty awful, it might be a good idea to at least reserve the possibility that Msgr. Clark is innocent. I’ve done too many things that looked ghastly from the outside, but which actually had an innocent explanation (often involving gross stupidity or temporary insanity, but that’s another story).
Second, a couple of years ago I was really badly scandalized by a priest (it wasn’t sexual sin — there are actually other sins that a priest can commit!). The fact that I was scandalized was largely my fault — I was engaged in some pretty serious hero-worship and should have known better. Nevertheless, I was seriously tempted to leave the Church over it, and it was precisely the “bloodless syllogisms” that kept me in. The ONLY reason I stayed was that I was convinced intellectually that Catholicism was true: there was NO felt faith whatsoever. All I could think was: if I was so wrong about this person, what else have I been wrong about? I felt absolutely abandoned by God.
I don’t know how much this applies to other people, but one of the things that I’ve slowly been learning from the situation was that it wasn’t so much God that I was believing in, but the Church. Not the Church as in the magisterium and the sacraments, but the Church as in my priests, bishops, pope, friends, organizations, etc., etc. When those things were attacked, my faith started to fall apart. Put not your trust in princes, as the book says.
Rod seems to view suggestions about spending time in front of the Blessed Sacrament as so much pietistic unhelpfulness, but I really think that that’s what you’ve got to do. Obviously, you do what you can on a practical level, but at some point you’ve just got to hunker down and trust that, somehow, God knows what He’s doing and is beating you up because it’s good for you. Somehow.
Rod, I don’t see where Denise and Regina are missing your point. You do sound like you think that bad priests and parishes justify leaving the Church. They don’t. Ever.



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reluctant penitent

posted August 12, 2005 at 4:58 pm


“I was seriously tempted to leave the Church over it, and it was precisely the “bloodless syllogisms” that kept me in.”
Thank God for the bloodless syllogism.
“Rod seems to view suggestions about spending time in front of the Blessed Sacrament as so much pietistic unhelpfulness”
He does so to his disadvantage, unfortunately. I would add the Rosary and the Divine Office.



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Regina

posted August 12, 2005 at 5:05 pm


Maybe it is because your posts are so long and self-contradictory that so many of us don’t “get” your “point”.
Having re-read your post, I still think your main point was: “Someone met his legitimate need for serious Christian doctrinal teaching, and the joy of fellowship. Those people happened to be Presbyterian.”
This is what happens when priests have to be sinless in order to preach about sin and Presbyterian ministers who sin don’t make the 6 o’clock news.
So?



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Rod Dreher

posted August 12, 2005 at 5:24 pm


Good grief, Regina, where on earth am I saying that anybody needs “perfection”?! You are willfully misreading my posts, if you are reading them at all. I refer you back to the 3:08 p.m. post in which I wrote that Friend A and Friend B weren’t looking for perfect; they were looking for better.
If you’re going to dispute me, dispute what I actually am saying, not what you imagine I’m saying because you can trot out some platitude to try to knock it down.



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thomas tucker

posted August 12, 2005 at 5:27 pm


I understand what Rod is saying about his friend who found vibrant faith in a Presbyterian church. There are people lke that.
But, that’s sure not like me. I have always thought, and felt, that I would rather have the Truth even if it made me uncomfortable. I would rather be solitary and lonely but know the truth as taught by Christ’s church, than be in a companionable vibrant group learning and teaching Calvinism or whatever Presbyterians believe thses days. But that’s me. Some people need a group of faithful like-minded folks to be fulfilled. What should they do if they don’t find it in a Catholic church where they live?



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Donald R. McClarey

posted August 12, 2005 at 5:35 pm


“About whether God will ask us on judgment day if we were Catholic: I don’t believe in a strict, 100%-of-non-Catholics-go-to-Hell interpretation of “Outside the Church There Is No Salvation,” but that dictum has been part of Christian teaching from the very beginning, and we ignore it at our peril.”
I believe it was Saint Thomas More who said that no one on his death bed ever regretted being a Catholic. I have always been struck by the sheer number of non-Catholics on their death beds who seek admission to the Church. As they approach God in death, many non-Catholics choose to do so as Catholics. A Protestant American officer observing priest chaplains giving the last rites to men under fire in WWI, opined that, “Protestantism may be a good religion to live by, but apparently Catholicism is a better religion to die in.” When I come before my God, I will be proud to do so, with all my sins, as a member of His Church.



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fbc

posted August 12, 2005 at 5:36 pm


Almost immediately upon my conversion in 1996, I experienced some of the same angst that Dreher talks about here, among which was the feeling like being some of the only orthodox believers in our wealthy (and I found out only too late notoriously “progressive” Catholic parish.)
My wife and I could not count the number of times that our fellow parishioners would gleefully announce (to our shock and disbelief) that they were “done having children”, or worse, that their spouse had just had their tubes tied. The average number of ex-spouses seemingly outnumbered the average number of children. The homilies were about Gilligan’s Island episodes (really!), and there was never or hardly ever any teaching from the pulpit other than the exhortations to niceness. The whole place seemed otherworldly to me — as if the Catholic Church stood for absolutely nothing more than being pleasant.
After a couple of years of this spiritual pabulum, I was at something of a nadir of faith when I quite accidentally discovered the Latin Mass. (Ours is a city in which the bishop has invited the FSSP with his blessings.) Because I was such a recent convert — I knew next to nothing about the roiled waters of the 60′s and Vatican II.
So I started attending the old Mass and fell in love — not with the Mass itself, at first, so much as the parishioners there. They were warm and open and real. But most of all, they were serious about their faith and orthodox in their beliefs and practices.
I’d found my spiritual home, and encourage anyone who’s wandering in the desert of Novus Ordo Catholicism to look for this alternative.



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CSR

posted August 12, 2005 at 5:40 pm


Reluctant Penitent wrote: “What I cannot fathom is believing what the Church teaches but leaving anyway.”
I’m Rod’s man “B”, and I think Reluctant’s comment was directed at me. I’m pressed for time now, so I’ll make this as brief as I can.
For years I’d worried about the tepidness of the parishes I attended — the lack of Biblical preaching, scripture study, evangelism, missions, the general lack of fervor. (The fact that no parishes seemed to have actual Bibles anywhere in the church seemed symbolic of this).
These concerns were heightened by the Scandal–and the generally tepid reaction to it from the few serious Catholics I knew.
Still, I felt that Catholic theology was correct (or, at least, the *most* correct), and so it would be wrong to go anywhere else. To fortify myself, I devoured books on Catholic apologetics (Kreeft, Shea, Hahn, Chesterton, Schenck, Martin, Kempis, Wilkin et. al.), read the Bible more regularly, and consulted priests and fellow lay Catholics. But eventually, I began to have theological doubts too.
Finally, I reached a tipping point. I felt if I could find a vibrant parish that preached the Gospel clearly, strongly, and aggressively, I could live with my theological doubts. But after a thorough search of my area, I couldn’t find a parish like that.
And I also knew that if I felt completely certain about Catholic theology, I could just sigh and put up with content-free preaching, hymns about “gathering” rather than praise, priests who say the Mass as if it were a cookbook, mendacious bishops, no priority given to scripture study in local parishes, schools, or seminaries, lack of fellowship, and all the rest. But as I said, I had too many theological doubts to ignore.
This was a painful process that took place over several years. In the end, I realized that I didn’t believe in Catholicism enough to remain in parishes that did not bother to teach it.
I eventually would up at a local Presbyterian church. I attend there not because I think its members or pastors are sinless, but because Christ is preached clearly, Scripture is taught diligently, and I’m getting fed there in a way I wasn’t getting fed elsewhere. Theologically it’s a better fit for me too.
That’s all I’ll I’ve got time for now. God bless you all — this blog has certainly been a blessing to me.



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Anna

posted August 12, 2005 at 5:46 pm


I can emphasize with Rod’s friend B; it’s called been there. I haven’t done that because I cannot think of anything that could cause me to reject the Catholic church, now that I have found her.
I have always been hungry for God and a connection to His community. Even if I chose to take a semester of Systematic Theology to provide a spiritual base while church hunting.
I also don’t know how I would survive as a Catholic, orthdoxy in her doctrine, but more open minded in her view of liturgy, were it not for the Internet, and the friends that have been come family.
It is very hard, being a single Catholic.



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reluctant penitent

posted August 12, 2005 at 5:51 pm


“Theologically it’s a better fit for me too”
Rod’s man B is starting to make sense too. I do not agree with his theological concerns, but at least I can understand his motive for leaving the Church.
It’s precisely because I believe that what the Catholic Church teaches is true that I cannot imagine myself leaving for another Church.
It does seem to be all about doctrine after all–Rod’s men A and B confirm it.



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Regina

posted August 12, 2005 at 5:54 pm


Rod:
“Good grief, Regina, where on earth am I saying that anybody needs “perfection”?! You are willfully misreading my posts…
If you’re going to dispute me, dispute what I actually am saying”
I refer you back to your cries yesterday of “hypocrite” and your declaration that you would never trust a priest again because Clark observed in a homily that our society is sex-drenched;he also rightly observed that, since 80% of the alleged abuses we are being sued into oblivion over were homosexual, perhaps there’s a problem there that needs to be addressed in the seminaries; then he may have sinned with a woman. Here is your reaction:
“If Clark really was seeing a married woman, how on earth could he bring himself to confect and consume the Body and Blood of Christ? To preach the Word of God?”
Aside from the fantastic illogic of your reaction, the demand for “perfection” is obvious. If you kneel during the Consecration thinking that the priest is sinless or that that even matters, then your faith is in people and your consternation is with human nature – the way a 12 year old can’t process Dad’s temper. It has nothing to do with Catholicism or the structure of the Church, the latter of which may be your real target.



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fbc

posted August 12, 2005 at 5:58 pm


I deeply sympathize with both Mssrs. A & B. But for the fact that I believed the Church to the be true, I might’ve gone out of it just as soon as I’d entered. Certainly the protestants in my area seeem to be far, far more serious about their faith than the ordinary Catholic.
But I’m curious to know what they think of the doctrine of “Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus” (There is no salvation outside the Church)?



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Anthony

posted August 12, 2005 at 5:59 pm


DarwinCatholic says he couldn’t say: “I knew that Your Church taught the fullness of truth, but I denied it and left because I was too lonely.”
What’s the right thing to do if the parish you go to, and every other parish within reason, refuses to teach the “fullness of truth”, and in fact, may be actively denying some of that truth?



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Condy Eckerle

posted August 12, 2005 at 6:01 pm


A Franciscan perspective from the Catholic Online website:
“Soon Francis started to preach. (He was never a priest, though he was later ordained a deacon under his protest.) Francis was not a reformer; he preached about returning to God and obedience to the Church. Francis must have known about the decay in the Church, but he always showed the Church and its people his utmost respect. When someone told him of a priest living openly with a
woman and asked him if that meant the Mass was polluted, Francis w ent to the priest, knelt before him, and kissed his hands- because those hands had held God.”
?



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jtbf

posted August 12, 2005 at 6:04 pm


csr:”The fact that no parishes seemed to have actual Bibles anywhere in the church seemed symbolic of this)”.
Had you opened the missalette in all pews of all parishes – and surely you must have – you would have seen the Bible represented in both Old & New Testaments and the Gospels throughly read & considered EVERY DAY in a 3 year cycle. Just imagine that the missalette has a label that says “Bible passages herein” and that a neon sign flashes during the readings saying “Bible! Bible!” and you’ll feel better. The charge that Catholicism isn’t Bible-based and that the Bible isn’t the basis and central part of the Mass is an old, easily overcome canard. But you have to pay attention during Mass, csr.



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DarwinCatholic

posted August 12, 2005 at 6:10 pm


What’s the right thing to do if the parish you go to, and every other parish within reason, refuses to teach the “fullness of truth”, and in fact, may be actively denying some of that truth?
In my own family, I’ve seen two reactions. My folks (partly for reasons of inertia and partly because of the need to keep the same health insurance and stay near a major cancer center…) have stuck it out in a parish where the liturgy isn’t _too_ bad, but the pastor has a way of hoping for women priests and saying “and became flesh” instead of “and became man” in the creed. My father’s comment is, “If everyone in the history of the Church was holy, or even most of them, I’d wonder if perhaps this was just a human institution. But the fact that so much of the Church, throughout history, has been corrupt, and yet doctrine has remained incorrupt suggests to me that God is behind it.”
I agree with him on that, but since our family is young, and we were tired of being the only young couple with kids attending our parish that spoke English, we moved to Austin, where we had friends and knew the parish life was pretty decent.
It’s no fun being a catacombs (sp?) Catholic. Like I said, growing up we were literally the only orthodox family we knew until I was halfway through highschool. The confirmation program I had to go through was heretical through and through (or perhaps more accurately just ignorant). But my folks maintained a very strong faith life and provided us with an outstanding doctrinal education. And all of us kids (my youngest sister is 21 and at college) are still practicing Catholics. It doesn’t have to take a village, or a parish. Sometimes it just takes a family.



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Rod Dreher

posted August 12, 2005 at 6:11 pm


Regina: I refer you back to your cries yesterday of “hypocrite” and your declaration that you would never trust a priest again because Clark observed in a homily that our society is sex-drenched;
OK, stop right there. You’ve now shown to me definitively that you either cannot read, or cannot read accurately, or quote fairly. And in either case, you no longer are worth taking seriously as a matter of response on my part.
Focus on your word “because.” I went to rather extreme lengths yesterday on the blog to explain that my “Won’t get fooled again” remark referred to what I have learned in the past three years about the stupidity and naivete of trusting a priest just because he holds and voices orthodox opinions. Why do you ignore what I actually said? Because it’s easier to trash me if you quote selectively and inaccurately?
Regina again: Here is your reaction:
“If Clark really was seeing a married woman, how on earth could he bring himself to confect and consume the Body and Blood of Christ? To preach the Word of God?”
Aside from the fantastic illogic of your reaction, the demand for “perfection” is obvious. If you kneel during the Consecration thinking that the priest is sinless or that that even matters, then your faith is in people and your consternation is with human nature – the way a 12 year old can’t process Dad’s temper. It has nothing to do with Catholicism or the structure of the Church, the latter of which may be your real target.

Dear, this is dim-witted kookery. My comment was quite plainly a rhetorical question, not an indication that I have become a Donatist. And your suspicion that I have a “real target” is telling. What a rich inner life you must have! Sometime, I must ask you to educate me about the Freemasons…



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tmatt

posted August 12, 2005 at 6:11 pm


Referring to the Orthodox Church, I assume?
We know where the Church is. We must trust God to know where the Church is not.
When I attend Roman parishes, I ask for the priest’s blessing. That is, if he is not — as far as I can tell — a heretic to his own faith.



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fbc

posted August 12, 2005 at 6:17 pm


Anthony asked: What’s the right thing to do if the parish you go to, and every other parish within reason, refuses to teach the “fullness of truth”, and in fact, may be actively denying some of that truth?
I don’t mean to sound as if I’m proselytizing, but more than a few of my fellow Latin Mass parishioners drive upwards of 2 hrs each way to come to our Mass. (I’m not sure I’d go that far — I’d probably search out every parish in a fifty mile radius until I found one that wasn’t openly heretical or politically correct, first.)



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reluctant penitent

posted August 12, 2005 at 6:22 pm


On average, in the US, you’re more likely to be within driving distance of an orthodox Catholic parish than an Orthodox parish.



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chris

posted August 12, 2005 at 6:51 pm


Rod,
I don’t like your response to Regina. This is your remark in context. Plainly, it is closer – exactly so – to what she deduced than what you say now.
“It is astonishing to me that Msgr. Clark would risk his reputation, all he has built in a lifetime of ministry, the moral authority of the Church, the hopes of his parishioners (he was thought a rock by the orthodox laity of the Archdiocese), the fate of a family, and ultimately his immortal soul, to have an affair with his secretary (assuming, of course, that he has done this — and if he hasn’t, that videotape is pretty damn hard to explain).
Men do this all the time, I know. But not every man is a priest. Not every man is rector of the most important Catholic Church in the most important Catholic diocese in the most important country in the world. It’s just astonishing. If Clark really was seeing a married woman, how on earth could he bring himself to confect and consume the Body and Blood of Christ? To preach the Word of God?
A priest friend of mine was telling me last night, with regard to this and other scandals, that the only thing he figures is that his scandal-ridden confreres at some point ceased to believe in Almighty God.”



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Rod Dreher

posted August 12, 2005 at 7:02 pm


Chris, read. my. words. I don’t deny that he confected the Sacrament validly. I am not a Donatist. I was expressing my astonishment that a priest can be screwing his secretary and yet dare to confect (and consume) the Blessed Sacrament daily. How Regina (and you) get from that a demand that priests be sinless is beyond me.
And do the other posts I wrote yesterday explaining my position further not count for anything?



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pacetua

posted August 12, 2005 at 7:05 pm


I do understand the frustration of Rod and his friends. Like many posters here, I find the practice of the Catholic faith here in America to be, sometimes, fraught with difficulties. I don’t like feeling like neither of the two parishes I regularly attend is a spiritual home, and it angers me when a priest treats the Mass as though it were his personal plaything. I have walked out of heterodox Masses in order to go to a different Catholic church.
But a different church altogether? Not an option. I’m sorry that CSR didn’t feel he could be fed by the Catholic faith. I once knew a young man who had left the Catholic Church who used almost the same words: he wasn’t being fed.
Those of us who stay Catholic in these difficult times do so because we believe we are being fed: fed the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus, given to us at a cost too terrible to contemplate. I couldn’t possibly leave Him. I’m too greedy for eternal salvation to give up the Bread of Life.
My family faces nothing like the Catholics in China who worship in secret and face punishments up to and including death for the privelege of assisting at Mass. For me to contemplate leaving the Church due to the shortcomings of Father Tiddlywinks or Sister Scaryface would seem a bit….wimpy.
I’m not trivializing those who struggle with these issues. Certainly we’d like our children to experience a vibrant faith with good and holy leaders who will help them lead virtuous lives. But to give up the Mass for the sake of such a community would mean such a huge reordering of our priorities as to make it unfathomable.
Sure, we should be able to have both: the Mass and the joyful community of believers. And the Chinese Catholics shouldn’t have to risk death to go to Mass, either. It’s hardly news that life isn’t always what we want it to be.



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Regina

posted August 12, 2005 at 7:08 pm


Rod: This is what you wrote.”We have not recovered from this. I simply don’t know who to trust anymore in the Church. Had this happened to a liberal priest, it would have made more sense to me, and in any case I wouldn’t have taken it so personally because I wouldn’t have expected more out of him. But I had grown accustomed to trusting orthodox priests. Stupid me. Won’t make that mistake again.
I have lost the ability to trust the Catholic clergy, in general”.



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Jackie

posted August 12, 2005 at 7:11 pm


And this, ROD:
“Hey, here’s what an idiot I am. From The Corner, February 23, 2002:
MONSIGNOR EUGENE CLARK: [Rod Dreher] Just back in town tonight, and I hear that Monsignor Eugene Clark, the rector of St. Patrick’s Cathedral and a real hero to New York’s orthodox Catholics, has caused quite a stir over the weekend with a fiery homily that made a point of discussing the homosexual aspect of the Church scandal. Imagine that, a Catholic priest teaching unpopular Catholic doctrine from the pulpit! Amazing. I wish Msgr. Clark had also taken out after clericalism, the other pillar of this scandal, but youcan’t have everything. I’m so grateful to the monsignor for having taken a brave stand in this tough city that I’m going to send last Sunday’s tithe to him, along with a thank-you note for being that all-too-rare creature: a Catholic priest with faith and guts. If you agree, write to the Monsignor at St. Patrick’s Cathedral Rectory, 460 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10022.
Won’t get fooled again.”



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Gerrie

posted August 12, 2005 at 7:17 pm


ROD, READ YOUR WORDS. No one said you said the confection was invalid. What you said was that you couldn’t understand how a sinner would stand up there and do it. What you said was ridiculous enough without your lashing out and making it worse.
“Chris, read. my. words. I don’t deny that he confected the Sacrament validly. I am not a Donatist. I was expressing my astonishment that a priest can be screwing his secretary and yet dare to confect (and consume) the Blessed Sacrament daily.”



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Rod Dreher

posted August 12, 2005 at 7:36 pm


Gerrie: No one said you said the confection was invalid. What you said was that you couldn’t understand how a sinner would stand up there and do it. What you said was ridiculous enough without your lashing out and making it worse.
Is that what you people are going on about? That I find it amazing that a man who is carrying that kind of serious sin could not only consume the Eucharist, but actually confect it in the first place?
And it’s “ridiculous” to marvel that someone (a priest) who has every reason to know what the Blessed Sacrament is — the Body and Blood of the Creator of the Universe — would risk his soul by consuming it knowing (presuming the Clark story is true) that he’d banged his secretary the other night, and that he would be banging her again?
Gosh.
Look, I don’t deny that priests do this, but it really does shock me, even worse than I was shocked as a college student to see a kid from my philosophy class say in front of a crowd, “God does not exist, but if He does” — and then flip the bird heavenward.
Maybe I’m scrupulous, but I stay away from the Sacrament if I get too mad during the homily, because I don’t want to receive unworthily. I wasn’t aware that good Catholics considered it “ridiculous” to be scandalized by a priest’s confecting and receiving the Blessed Sacrament while conducting a sexual affair with a married woman. I have indeed learned something from you people.
Anyway, Regina, now at least you recognize that I was not basing my loss of trust in orthodox clergy simply on Msgr Clark’s fall. I lost it for good based on what happened to me. But then again, in the spring of 2002 a holy and orthodox Catholic priest told me that only a fool would trust a priest simply because that priest mouthed orthodoxy. He said that in his experience, some bad men hid out behind pretenses to orthodoxy. Of course he was right. I just didn’t know how right at the time.
My point is: statements of orthodoxy guarantee nothing about the trustworthiness of the priest who makes them. That’s elementary, I know, but it’s amazing how hard it is for some of us (me) to learn them.



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James Kabala

posted August 12, 2005 at 8:02 pm


I think Rod’s last comment was great, and I agree with every word of it. However, I do think there is a danger of his (and others’) falling into a sort of conservative anticlericalism. The last three years have certainly proved that the average priest is no better than the average layman, but I don’t think that they’ve proved that the average priest is WORSE than the average layman. I think we should try to avoid the worldview of assuming a priest is a rat until he proves otherwise, just as we wouldn’t assume a non-priest was a rat until he proved the contrary.
P.S. I think that the admissions of tmatt and csr that they also had doctrinal doubts sort of vindicates the points reluctant penitent, I, and even ajb (although he was unnecessarily snide) were trying to make.



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pacetua

posted August 12, 2005 at 8:04 pm


Rod, like many others here, I am scandalized by a priest’s confecting and receiving the Blessed Sacrament while conducting a sexual affair with a married woman.
Scandalized. Not shocked.
Maybe I should be shocked. But the road to immorality begins with little steps, and a man doesn’t set himself up as a false god overnight.
Pride, not lust, is chief among the seven deadly sins. Pride is the breeding ground from which the other sins of envy, anger, sloth, avarice, gluttony, and lust arise. The same false pride which makes a man pursue the adulation of crowds, be they orthodox or heterodox, may blind him to his own spiritual failings to the point where he begins that most dangerous of all behaviours, the practise of excusing in himself what he would condemn in others. From this step to rationalizing his own adultery while continuing to confect the Blessed Sacrament is, unfortunately, a very small journey.



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Bill

posted August 12, 2005 at 8:37 pm


Reading the discussion about Rod’s friends, I’m thinking more and more of Msgr. Clark as a tragic figure in the mold of Greene’s Whiskey Priest. Forget their different personalities; both Clark and the Whiskey Priest faced the dilemma Rod set forth (assuming Clark is, in fact, guilty as accused): How can a priest in a state of mortal sin confect and consume the Blessed Sacrament? Perhaps, like the Whiskey Priest, Clark realized that he was saving others, even while he recognized the precarious nature of his own salvation. Had Rod’s friends had the benefit of coming across Msgr. Clark’s parish, is there anyone here who would doubt that there seems to be more that a fair possibility that the friends would be Catholics today?



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James Kabala

posted August 12, 2005 at 8:56 pm


One thing that should be noted:
I thnink it’s very doubtful that Clark lost his virginity at the age of 79. I wonder how long it will be before other women come forward?
Sorry, Bill, I suspect that this man’s whole life was a shame. I don’t buy a “conflicted sinner” theory like the one you mention. (And if I recall correctly, the whiskey priest was truly repentant; he just couldn’t find a priest to hear his confesion.)



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James Kabala

posted August 12, 2005 at 8:59 pm


Aargh!
Not “shame,” though it was also that, but “his whole life was a SHAM.”



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James Kabala

posted August 12, 2005 at 9:02 pm


That post was very typo-filled in general. Rest assured that I do know how to spell “think” and “confession.”



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chris K

posted August 12, 2005 at 9:05 pm


I’m coming to the usual conclusion that what many posts express whenever there is the question of scandal and imperfect witness in parishes and/or their leaders is the “feeling” reaction. One must “feel” at home; “feel” people are trying to be faithful; “feel” that I am being served, feel that they are dancing to my tune, etc. They want their narrow road paved in a more perfect cobblestone pattern. It’s all very subjective.
What’s the right thing to do if the parish you go to, and every other parish within reason, refuses to teach the “fullness of truth”, and in fact, may be actively denying some of that truth?
Act! YOU be the one to speak out; influence the others. It may take humility served by humiliations, but if your adherence to the Truth and your love for others to have the same is real, then you will sacrifice for it. There’s always at least a few, a little remnant, that can begin to act and bear some fruit, even when it seems to go unseen. We had and still have such a lazy parish, with a lot of elitist types, but just a few still, after years, work to keep adoration, the rosary devotion twice a week and don’t care how looked down upon we are by the majority. They don’t know what they’re missing! We do it all ourselves, with permission, but no real involvement by the several pastors we’ve gone through. And we should only hope for them and pray the Spirit comes more strongly upon them and the entire parish. Anyone who thinks he (dramatically) just “can’t take it anymore” needs a wake up kick in the spiritual pants if he believes it’s a good thing to opt out. He places himself on a higher level than Jesus. His sacrifice was for just such people, and even for those who would never move beyond the luke warm or even recognize His sacrifice. What sadness that caused and still causes Him. And He continues to ask each one who truly has the desire to follow Him “do you love Me” and if so to sacrifice the same. That’s the only way anyone can come to know just a little of the heart of Jesus…by suffering some of the frustrations He must have endured in all those who never understood Him or tried.
I just watched the interview with the bishop in the Sudan. Such witness of people who have been maimed and lost all family, are truly lost persons themselves, and yet still carried their Catholic faith through it all. Then, when there is some kind of peace, they begin building clinics and who comes to them for healing?? those who killed their families, crippled them, raped them….and they respond by serving their enemies…forgiving through action. Whew! That got my attention! Does anyone ever improve through condemnation? How easily we toss our pearls about. We need such examples to remind us of how easy we have it and what it may take, someday, to keep it. How we respond to the sinner in ourselves and then to the sinner in our midst is the basis for that great commandment upon which the whole faith is built. Off my soapbox!



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reluctant penitent

posted August 12, 2005 at 9:15 pm


“Maybe I’m scrupulous, but I stay away from the Sacrament if I get too mad during the homily, because I don’t want to receive unworthily.”
I wonder whether–and I do not say this in jest–it is permissible to read during a really bad homily. I cannot see any reason why one would be obliged by Church law to listen attentively to every homily, and it may even be an obligation to refuse to pay attention to a heterodox homily.



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reluctant penitent

posted August 12, 2005 at 9:31 pm


Here’s the sort of story that I read when my candy-ass problems cause me to lose enthusiasm about the Church (from: http://www.cardinalkungfoundation.org/articles/shineout.htm):
“After they locked him up in his own house, the priest was horrified to look out of his window and see the Communists proceed into the Church, where they went into the sanctuary and broke into the tabernacle. In an act of hateful desecration, they took the ciborium and threw it on the floor with all of the Sacred Hosts spilling out. The priest knew exactly how many Hosts were in the ciborium: thirty-two. When the Communists left, they either did not notice, or didn’t pay any attention to a small girl praying in the back of the Church who saw everything that had happened. That night the little girl came back. Slipping past the guard at the priest’s house, she went inside the Church. There she made a holy hour of prayer, an act of love to make up for the act of hatred. After her holy hour she went into the sanctuary, knelt down, bent over and with her tongue received Jesus in Holy Communion, since it was not permissible at that time for laymen to touch the Sacred Host with their hands. The little girl continued to come back each night to make her holy hour and receive Jesus in Holy Communion on her tongue. On the thirty-second night, after she had consumed the last and thirty-second host, she accidentally made a noise and woke the guard who was sleeping. He ran after her, caught her, and beat her to death with the butt of his rifle.”



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Margaret Dougherty

posted August 12, 2005 at 10:06 pm


“Maybe I’m scrupulous”
Judging from the subjects that have gotten your adament and inflamed interest over the last year or so, Rod, I don’t think scrupulousity is an issue for you.
Certainly, the patronizing tone you adopt when cornered and your sexistly putting Regina down as a “dim-witted” “dear” don’t suggest scrupulousity to me.
I’ve noted you jump in when homosexual priests get caught and blame the bishops. When orthodox priests misbehave, you rail against what priests represent. Usually. The common denominator is an attack on the hierarchical structure. Not unlike Voice of the Faithful.
Few people would argue that Jesus isn’t in other Christian churches. His church, however, the one church He founded, is Catholic and to say so isn’t “triumphalism”.
“Someone met his legitimate need for serious Christian doctrinal teaching, and the joy of fellowship. Those people happened to be Presbyterian”: this is a remark that is baffling as to its intent from someone who claims to be “Orthodox”.
As for the priest confecting the Eucharist while in sin: mortal sin is mortal sin. Priests have been confecting the Eucharist for 2,000 years while doing all sorts of sinful things. I think you find it “shocking” in order to discredit the hierarchical structure, the way you would be “shocked” by bishops if the priest had been ogling the altar boy.



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Christine

posted August 12, 2005 at 10:08 pm


“Maybe I’m scrupulous, but I stay away from the Sacrament if I get too mad during the homily, because I don’t want to receive unworthily. I wasn’t aware that good Catholics considered it “ridiculous” to be scandalized by a priest’s confecting and receiving the Blessed Sacrament while conducting a sexual affair with a married woman. I have indeed learned something from you people.”
Rod, I wouldn’t say you are scrupulous but maybe a bit of good old fashioned pietism is coming to the fore. Martin Luther, certainly no fan of the papacy of his time fought a constant battle against the extremes of rationalism that reduced Christian faith to mere intellectual assent to propositions and a pietism that in some of the radical evangelical quarters insisted that the efficacy of the sacraments depended upon the worthiness of the minister. Luther insisted he would not hesitate to accept Holy Communion from a corrupt Pope himself because Christ’s gift remains sure.
I also wince to hear you refer to your fellow Catholics here as “you people.” We may not all have the same viewpoints but our shared lives in Christ should override our shortcomings.



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Bill

posted August 12, 2005 at 10:27 pm


James,
It’s perilous to assume much of anything about the state of someone else’s soul. I don’t pretend to know what makes Msgr. Clark tick. However, I do know that the availability of a confessor wouldn’t make much of difference if one were not really sorry for one’s sins. But even if the worst is true about Clark, should all the good he did in his ministry simply be disregarded? Shouldn’t it at least be acknowledged that he made it possible for people in situations similar to Rod’s friends to enter the Church when they may not have otherwise?



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Louis E.

posted August 12, 2005 at 10:29 pm


Given that Mrs. DeFilippo is 46 and was Msgr. Clark’s secretary ever since she left high school,there’s no reason to assume he lost his virginity at 79 even if it was with her.(One report has it that he resigned rather than obey an order to fire her?)



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tmatt

posted August 12, 2005 at 10:52 pm


Bill:
You are right that I am not a Roman Catholic and I know it. Finding a good parish would have changed my mind? I have seen a few. I have seen many, many more that were — as best I could tell — barely breathing or actively postmodern, post-Vatican II, whatever.
But I would not say that discussing issues of the Catholic faith with the likes of Stafford, Chaput, Kreeft and RJN is avoiding solid, informed Catholic points of view.
Rod focuses on my “parental” objections. They were strong. But there were other solid objections, too. Any thinking person who seeks the trunk of the ancient tree of faith stands in 1054 and makes a decision about who left who. “Progression of doctrine?” I don’t think so.



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Lynn Gazis-Sax

posted August 12, 2005 at 11:53 pm


(One report has it that he resigned rather than obey an order to fire her?)
Given that they both did whatever it was they were doing for five hours in that motel room, resigning might actually have been more honorable than staying in place and firing her. I suspect she’ll be looking for another job in any case.



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Hello

posted August 19, 2005 at 4:41 pm


Lonely Catholics

Read Amy Welborn’s post on Msgr. Clark and the comments that followed. Most people believe that the Monsignor broke his vow of celibacy. My belief is that if Clark is guilty, he should not have maintained his innocence, and that if he is innoce…



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