Showing posts from February, 2013

Sex Abuse & The Wages of Celibacy

As I tried to note yesterday, there are two ways of interpreting the resignation of Scotland's Roman Catholic cardinal: either a confirmation that clerical celibacy is directly related to instances of sex abuse or that clergy abuse - and all forms of sexual abuse - are more expressive of an exploitation of power than they are of sex.

To my mind, it's patently obvious that it is the latter issue. When one surveys the great swath of instances of abuse and exploitation, these acts are overwhelmingly expressions of power over one another. Our tendency has been, culturally, to define "sex abuse" so narrowly that we think of Catholic clergy or pervy old men. While I'm not saying Catholic clergy is bereft of pervy old men, I would argue that if we think of the various expressions that sexually exploitative actions can take - excesses of fraternity pledging, team membership rites, teachers seducing students, etc. - these are acts that demonstrate a corruption of power. …

Scotland's Cardinal Out: Abuse and Power

With less than three days remaining in his papacy, Pope Benedict XVI accepted the resignation of Cardinal Keith O'Brien after allegations of sexual abuse dating back to the 1980's were made public. Some of the cardinal's critics see these accusastions as delightfully ironic, as O'Brien has been an outspoken critic of gay marriage, labeling it a "grotesque subversion." Why ironic? The accusers include three priests and a former priest.

Cardinal O'Brien will not be attending the conclave that will choose Benedict XVI's sucessor. 
Given recent rumors about a "gay lobby" in the Vatican, these accusations cannot but feed these beliefs. That said, I think the problem resides deeper than the level of sexual orientation. As paraphrased in the New York Times, the accuser who left the priesthood did so because he was unable to reconcile himself to the idea of spending a lifetime under Cardinal O'Brien's authority. 

The issue rests less on sex…

On Grace, Love, and Freedom

"Grace," for William Lynch, "should be understood as the act by which an absolutely outside and free reality communicates an absolutely interior and free existence." When we speak of grace - God's, the beloved's, a friend's - we mean an act, a relationship, that makes us more of who we are. Grace doesn't interfere or take away from who one is; indeed, grace carves out the space for us to grow into the people we are capable of becoming.

Healthy relationships never dominate or demand; they free us to take risks, to be bold, because we are animated and excited by love. "Real love communicates a self-identity and autonomy that is no longer in basic conflict with real mutuality. It takes two real self-identities to make a relationship, and it takes such a relationship to make two real persons." Grace makes us free.

As we trek through Lent, it may be a good time to re-assess some of the relationships in our lives. Am I being an agent of grace, …

INN - Gun Control - Episode 1

This is the first of a three-part series the Ignatian News Network filmed on Gun Control. I was interviewed for this series as I had blogged in the wake of the Newtown school shooting.

Divine Office

Regular readers of my blog know that I'm not big on hawking products: I think consumerism is, basically, the true religion of Americans and it's not one I'm keen on evangelizing.

That said, for those who are technologically inclined, I'd like to draw your attention to Saint Paul exhorts Christians to pray without ceasing (1 Thess 5:17). At various points of the day, the Church provides an opportunity to pray in common. Called the "liturgy of the hours" this is, quite literally, the work of prayer: just as you would clock-in at your job, so to can you clock-in for prayer (the 401k, though, is not this side of eternity).

The iPad app is just about $20.00 but it provides you with an entire day's worth of prayer. What I appreciate is that there's some music - a huge help in my own prayer life - and its audio is of rather good quality. For some reason, I find it so much more meditative to pray with someone, which this program enables.…

Ash Wednesday Prayer

As part of a presentation I'm giving today for one of my courses I'm charged with leading the group in prayer. Here is my morning meditation:

Papal Resignation & Psychology of Lent

In the immediate aftermath of this morning's historic announcement - the first time this has happened in six hundred years - there is precious little that I can contribute by way of commentary on Pope Benedict XVI's resignation. While I may lack in the ability to offer enlightening commentary, I can point readers to Paddy Power's betting pool on who will be elected to succeed Benedict XVI: if I were a betting man, I'd throw a buck down on Bono (500/1 odds) just for fun.


I just have a brief comment on William Lynch's chapter on "Hopelessness as Entrapment." Very many of us are entrapped by an absolute projected by our imaginations. That is, we have this idealized notion of what we "should" be but are not yet. Perfect body, perfect degree, perfect job. Yet the gap that separates us from the ideal frequently traps us, freezes us in place. The goal seems unattainable and we feel trapped where we stand. Unable to achieve the ideal, we feel tra…

On Hopelessness

William Lynch begins his second chapter entitled "On Hopelessness" with a quote from Chesterton: I don't care where the water goes if it doesn't get into the wine. Hopelessness is not necessarily a bad thing; indeed, it can sometimes even be creative. Yet when hopelessness invades the pure wine of hope, well, the diluted result is less than appetizing.

What are the marks of being "hopeless"? For Lynch, it is a sense of the impossible, a feeling of too-muchness, a loss of goal and a feeling of futility. The hopeless individual believes that he or she is beyond help, isolated, and alone. One way of putting this would be to say, "there is no use" in doing anything at all. Why try? Why make a wish? There's no point at all. Hopelessness is paralyzing, it freezes the hopeless in place.

Without question, there are many areas of hopelessness in our lives. Not everyone can be trusted. Not ever investment brings a return. Not every choice in life is ass…

On Twitter and Hope

I suspect many parents of teenagers who have a Twitter account have, at some point or another, read a Tweet and said, "What, in the world, would possess my child to make such a public statement?" Even as a mere teacher, I'd have occasion to see things my students would commend to the internet and I'd wonder, "What the hell was this kid thinking to put this online?"

As I read William Lynch, I am coming to realize that Twitter is actually a theater of hope. Lynch contends that, in the most general sense, hope involves three basic things:

What I hope for I do not yet have or see.It may be difficult.I can have it - it is possible.  Re-read some of the Tweets sent by your kids or students. Go read some of the Facebook status updates. Heck, go look at some of your own postings. Are you shocked by what you see? What do these public statements say about you?
Quite a bit, I suspect. 
We live in a culture where we have a "deep repression of the need for help"…

Introduction to the Two Cities

I've been so amazed by messages I've received in response to Tuesday's post that I thought I might continue the theme. In fact, I'm going to make an effort to couple blogging with my own spiritual reading of William Lynch's Images of Hope: Imagination as the Healer of the Hopeless. If my writings encourage readers to pick up a copy of this profound text, then I've done my job in sharing with others a true gem of literature.

Lynch begins by noting something of an irony: "for many people hope really means despair....when we say that a man has hope, we mean that he is in serious trouble...when we say that someone has hope, we usually imply that he has nothing else, and that he is close to despair."

Hope, as we tend to use the word, reflects a sort of bankruptcy. Having exhausted one's talents or abilities or social capital one runs on the last "fumes" of hope. Hope becomes a last-ditch psychological effort, a flight of fancy, a way of tryi…

Desire as a Sign of Spiritual Life

The late Jesuit author William Lynch (1931-2003) suggests in his lovely Images of Hope: Imagination as Healer of the Hopelessthat it is an inability to wish, or to hope, that is the true mark of anxiety. Frequently, I reckon, we think 'anxiety' means the state of having too many choice, too many options, too many things out of one's reach. Contrary to this, Lynch argues that it is precisely an inability to wish that causes us anxiety. We are at our worst when we can't even articulate what we desire.

Lynch uses the following image to help draw our attention to how the ability to express our desires is to being a living being:
If we find a traveler prostrate in the desert and ask him what he wants, he will say: water. The is the sign of life, that he has such a wish and can name it. (135) There is something very risky about having the courage to desire, the audacity to wish. How many of us prefer to submit to the will of another, to just go along with others' expect…

One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic

In his book entitled God's Missionary People: Rethinking the Purpose of the Local Church, theologian Charles van Engen suggests that the four marks of the church - one, holy, catholic, and apostolic - be considered less as adjectives and more as adverbs. That is, they should describe how the church is functioning in a way that is unifying, sanctifying, reconciling, and proclaiming.

By considering the marks of the church as adverbs, it calls attention to something we all too easily ignore: we have to live the church. The church is not, has never been, nor ever can be simply a static institution. Instead, it is the community gathered together by God to proclaim the Good News to the world. These adverbs tell us not what we must do - for proclaiming the Gospel must adapt always to new cultures - but how we must do it.

It's easy to kvetch about the institutional church, so let's think about ourselves for a moment. Are we women and men of reconciliation? Do we draw others in or…

Fall From Grace

Both secular and religiousnews outlets are abuzz today with the that retired Cardinal Roger Mahony and Bishop Thomas Curry have been relieved of public duty as a result of their involvement in the sexual abuse cover up in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Released, too, on a website operated by the Archdiocese are the clergy files of those priests involved in the $660 million dollar settlement reached in 2007.

I have read through many of the documents and I can say, simply, that they serve as a monument to a clerical culture that would put the institutional church over the best interest of the individuals it exists to serve. The documents serve, in short, as a testimony to how far we fall from grace when we devise tactics to evade the truth of our misdeeds rather than seeking transparency.

There is no silver lining to this latest chapter in the Church's story. Reading the personal accounts of men and women who suffered abuse at the hands of priests defies response. When I read that…