(including my C and E)
I don’t want to end 2010 on a bitter note, so let me be careful how I put this: Bishop Tom Burns of Menevia has published in his 2011 diocesan yearbook a sermon the like of which I hope no Catholic will have to endure in the coming year or any other.
The homily – originally preached to mark the end of the year for priests – begins with reflections on the priesthood. Bishop Burns lays stress on the priesthood of all believers, not glossing over the distinction between Holy Orders and the role of the laity but perhaps blurring it a little. Still, that’s very much in the “spirit of Vatican II” and as such unremarkable. (I wonder how much longer we'll have to endure the "spirit of Vatican II"? It is getting to be such a passe ideal) The bishop describes the privilege of celebrating the Eucharist and immediately juxtaposes it with the sins committed by those ordained to celebrate Mass (Get that? First he calls it a privilege and then he says that it is by those ordained to do so...for a priest is isn't a privilege it's an obligation to his state in life): the same hands that consecrate were employed to commit sin, he says, which strikes me as an appropriately vivid way of conveying the terrible reality. (In any number of ways, not just sexually abusive....I refuse to call most of this pedophilia any longer, based upon the ages of the people involved...terms are important)
But Bishop Burns’s thoughtfulness only make worse what follows: a cold-hearted attack on liturgical traditionalists (Shock me, Shock me, Shock me) that accuses them of trying to preserve the culture of “clericalism” that enabled the abuse to take place. Here’s the relevant section of the homily, which you can find in full on Chris Gillibrand’s blog:
While this example is from Great Britian, I can tell you that this is happening in the US as well. Clericalism has nothing to do with the sexual abuse scandal. Homosexuality does. It is becoming more and more clear that the actively homosexual priest is the one who was involved in the VAST majority of the scandalous actions. Sure there will be anamolies, but by and large this issue is a homosexual issue. Also, it is not a pedophilia issue, but rather it is an issue of ephebophilia or hebophilia. Does this condone the action? No. But we are not talking about pre-pubescent children, 90% of the time. So, pedophilia doesn't fit.For priests who offended, I’m not sure that their abuses grew out of the rule of celibacy; abuse happens within otherwise good families too. I’m more convinced that it grew out of the clericalism of the past. (I'm convinced that it grew from homosexual actions, not from the idea that a priest should look, act and dress a certain way) That clericalism risks raising its head today among those who again are looking for identity in status, not service. They want to be treated differently. There are those who set high standards of morality for lay people, while they blatantly violate those same standards themselves. There are those who go to extremes (Faithfulness to the rubrics are an extreme?) to express the Mass in a particular way, whether it is in the Ordinary Form or Extraordinary Form, in a so-called VAT II rite or Tridentine Rile, through the “People’s Mass” or the “Priest’s Mass”. (?) Some want to put the priest on a pedestal, whilst the people are consigned to be privileged spectators outside the rails. Flamboyant modes of liturgical vestments and rubrical gestures abound. (Those pesky rubrics again...) Women are denied all ministries at Mass: doing the Readings, the serving, the Bidding Prayers, and taking Communion to the Sick. (And this makes one an abuser sexually?) To many in our Church and beyond, this comes across as triumphalism and male domination. This clericalism conceals the fact that the Church as an institution has often acted in collusion with what I can only regard as structural sinfulness. (And who is the institution in question, Your Excellency? The Church or the leaders in the Church?) It has paid dearly for it and is untrue to its humble Founder, Jesus Christ.The Pope wears ornate vestments and is precise in his rubrical gestures: is he included in Bishop Burns’s lofty dismissal of a moribund liturgical culture? (Probably) Or is he referring to Catholics in his own diocese? (There can’t be many: Welsh traditionalists have been pretty much hunted to extinction in recent years.) But it is the implied guilt by association between traditionalism and paedophilia that is shocking, because it is based on a distorted analysis of clerical child abuse. (Ding, Ding, Ding)
Did clericalism enable priestly paedophiles to conceal their crimes? (No it didn't. Sinfulness and Pride did.) Of course it did. But clericalism – that is, an exaggerated respect for the clergy, over and above that earned by their ministry – did not evaporate as soon as the altar rails were dismantled. Nor did the personality cult of the priest disappear just because he wore a polyester poncho instead of a silk fiddleback. On the contrary, the new praetorian guard of “empowered” lay people often helped to create it. Likewise, bishops did not suddenly become more humble: in place of ring-kissing and traditional signs of respect they assumed the dignity of cabinet ministers, each with his portfolio and (frequently obsequious) special advisers. (Here is where the real break down occured in this whole scandal) The corporate responsibility of Bishops’ Conferences has recently helped push through badly needed child protection measures – but only after many years in which those same conferences protected their own inadequate bishops, who in turn were sometimes responsible for shielding disgusting child abusers. (Fr Ray Blake makes a similar point on his blog; see also Linen on the Hedgerow and Fr Michael Brown’s Forest Murmurs.)
I don’t have much patience with Catholics who blame child abuse on “liberalism”: some of the worst criminals in recent Church history have been liturgical conservatives. (Who, like John Goeghan, Dale Fushek, John Hanlon, Paul Shanley, Robert V. Gale and Jesuit priest James Talbot? I doubt vey much they were celebrating the EF) On the other hand, the Pope was right to remind us, in Light of the World, that post-1960s naivety persuaded certain bishops to give paedophile priests a second chance, with wretched consequences. (I disagree...I think that the bishops didn't want to deal with it, so they didn't) But clericalism, too, played its part in the crimes of priests who were liturgical innovators, not reactionaries. Their apparently spontaneous, happy-go-lucky charisma was derived from the institutional power of the priesthood. Their fan clubs of “lay ministers” did no more to protect children than did the priest-worshipping parents of an earlier generation who refused to believe that Father could ever contemplate such sins.
It’s difficult to know whether Bishop Burns was consciously using the abuse scandals to score points against Catholics whose devotional practices he dislikes. He has shown poor judgment before: earlier this year he had to apologise when the father of a Welsh bombardier killed in Afghanistan accused him of using the funeral sermon to issue a political “diatribe”. There is no danger of him being forced to say sorry this time – he can rely on the clericalism of a like-minded Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales to support him. But what this episode does illustrate is the urgent need for the new Nuncio to Great Britain to consider the quality of episcopal appointments.
Bottom line, had the Church leaders not allowed homosexuals into seminaries to begin with, we wouldn't be having this issue. I am not saying that a chaste homosexual doesn't have a place in the Church. He does. But what I am saying is that a homosexual doesn't have a place in ministerial priesthood. It is imcompatible with true understanding of celibacy and how it operates within the ministerial priesthood. Celibacy is embraced from a mature understanding of human sexuality and the moral living of that sexuality. It cannot grow from something that is contrary to the natural law. (CCC #2357).
So, I would implore His Excellency not to look outward to traditionalism, but rather to look inward and see where the lack of control the bishop's excercised when these men were admitted to seminary. It is now that the change has to take place.