Tag Archives: canon law

Yes God Really does Love the Real World

“God loves human beings. God loves the world. Not an ideal human, but human beings as they are; not an ideal world, but the real world. What we find repulsive in their opposition to God, what we shrink back from with pain and hostility, namely, real human beings, the real world, this is for God the ground of unfathomable love.” — Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I think one of the greatest joys that I have as a Priest is when people tell me that they like me because I am “real.”  It’s not so much that they think I am a great preacher, which I am not or that I have all the answers especially because my answer to many questions that I am asked is “I don’t know.”  In fact what those that like me say what they like about me is that I am approachable and care enough to give them the time of day and listen to them.

My psychological and spiritual collapse following my tour in Iraq caused me to see why who live in the real world appreciate pastors, Priests or Rabbis that are real.  There were very few people, especially ministers that in the years following my return that I felt that cared about me enough to share what I was going through with them.  In fact I found that many were not interested or simply did not want to deal with a “bruised reed.”  I think that when a minister, Priest or Rabbi expresses doubt or is in crisis be it a long term physical illness that will not be healed, a deep depression that causes them despair or a spiritual crisis that causes them to question their faith that the tendency among most ministers is to run away as if they were radioactive or that it was catching.

In fact I have heard this for years as friends or pastors that I met in their crisis expressed the pain of being ostracized by other ministers or their denominations or local churches.  Likewise I have also all too often seen churches and pastors ignore or ostracize people simply because they are not easily “fixed” or those that are considered “problems” because they ask uncomfortable questions or point out inconsistency or injustice in the church.  Then there are the times where the Church mistreats, abuses and uses people without any real care for them as people treating them as numbers or even more crass “tithing units.” Finally there are the times that the Church covers up the crimes of its ministers against the weak including sexual abuse and pedophilia and when found out blames the victims or protect the criminals from the justice of the state using Canon Law to subvert the justice system.  Such actions are not unique to the Roman Catholic Church that most often stands accused but can be found in almost any church or denomination.

I think a lot of this is simply that many of us clergy types become so invested in “defending” what we believe that we forget that the call of Jesus is to care for those that are the least, the lost and the lonely. Without getting preachy it seems to me that Jesus preferred to be with such people and often castigated the clergy of his day for doing exactly what we do.  The whole “woe to you Scribes and Pharisees…” passage should send chills up any minister’s spine because we are often no different than them.

Likewise when we refuse serve people that come to us because of denominational differences or because they are not Christians or someone of our faith tradition and then refuse to help them find someone that can we do a disservice to them and to God.  Since have served nearly my entire time in ministry in some form of the chaplaincy I deal with this often. I represent a small religious tradition which is Catholic but not Roman and very ecumenical, thus I am in a distinct minority.  I know man who serves as a Priest in a small communion that has many similar beliefs to my church who told me that he loved being his denomination because when he was a Chaplain “he did not have to worship with Protestants or give them communion.”

One of the men that serve as a model for me is the late German Redemptorist Priest Bernard Häring. Häring was drafted as a medic by the German Wehrmacht at the beginning of the Second World War and taken out of the parish.  In his service as a medic he never forgot that he was a priest and performed his duties as a priest to non-Catholics in his units even celebrating the Eucharist with them.  He also took the time to serve and care for civilians, Poles, Ukrainians, Russians and French in the areas that he served.  One story that he told was when he told his Protestant Soldiers that their official pastor would be coming for service that they told him “There really is no reason to make any changes for us because you are ‘one of us.’” (Bernard Häring “Priesthood Imperiled: A Critical Examination of Ministry in the Catholic Church” Triumph Books Ligouri, MO 1996 p.9)  Häring was transparent about exactly what he was, a Roman Catholic Priest whether he dealt with Protestant or Orthodox Christians and because he was “one of us” they accepted him and made him their pastor even without becoming Catholic themselves. A Polish parish that he served as a prisoner of war sought to make him their pastor following the war despite him being a member of the Army that brutally subjugated their country.  After the war he continued with that same spirit and I have sought to emulate that spirit in my Priestly ministry.

I definitely am not perfect but I try to listen and care for those in my charge regardless of their faith or lack thereof.  I just hope that in my imperfect attempts to care that people see that God loves them. My trust is in the simple message that “in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.”

As Bonhoeffer said “God loves the real world.”

Peace

Padre Steve+

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High Crimes and “Miss” Demeanors: The Catholic Church Equates Women’s Ordination with Pedophilia

Note: This is a serious post that unfortunately has been on my mind for some time and I have not written about it until now.  It is important enough for me to interrupt my latest baseball post and I realize that some readers will not like what I say; I might even get some hate mail as I have gotten it for much less but here it goes.

It seems that the Roman Catholic Church is finally making some changes to policy and possibly Canon Law to ensure that clergy that are convicted of sexual assault, rape or pedophilia receive faster censure or maybe even punishment in the Church outside of what various national or state governments do.  Of course this came after years, albeit decades of chicanery where the Church either through omission or commission aided and abetted many of the men suspected, charged or convicted of sexual abuse, assault or other crimes against children as well as adults entrusted to their spiritual and sometimes their physical care.  It is a policy decision that moves in the right direction but seems to be perfunctory and in light of the actions of the church hierarchy over many decades to cover up crimes committed by clergy seem hollow and unrepentant and an insult to victims who still desire justice even as the Vatican continues to fight to keep clergy from being prosecuted by the courts of various nations.  To make matters worse it uses the same letter to equate the ordination of women as a “major crime against the Church” or in other words equivalent to pedophilia, child sexual abuse and a host of other crimes whose victims cry out for justice.  I just don’t get it.

Now before the reader thinks that I am on an anti-Catholic crusade be assured I am most assuredly not. I find even with all of its faults as well as recent retrenchment on many initiatives that were once heralded by Catholics and Protestants alike, much to be commended in the Roman Catholic Church. In fact in the late 1990s I explored the possibility of “crossing the Tiber” and wrote two very orthodox and even serious articles on the Church in the New Oxford Review. Those articles actually got me banned from writing for several years by a former Archbishop in my church who is now coincidently a Roman Catholic Layman who writes for Catholic Online.  Back then stuff was too Catholic for him, seems almost like Karma to me, now he defends the Curia and I question it.  Things have changed over the years.  Many of my closest friends in ministry have been and are Roman Catholic Priests, many of who feel as I do and fear retribution if they speak up on any of this.  Needless to say I am dumbfounded at the statements and actions coming out of the Vatican or directly from Pope Benedict XVI.  It almost seems that these actions and statements occur on a weekly basis. If you ask me such statements and attitudes make the Church hierarchy appear to be defensive, vengeful, arrogant, isolated, vindictive, petty and completely unaware of how these actions make the Church look to a watching world.  But then I wonder if they really care about this.

To be honest I don’t know what to make of this. The Church has survived 2000 years or so and survived a lot worse crisis than it is experiencing in this new millennium however it seems that the present administration in the Vatican has built a wall to “protect” itself from actual accountability and responsibility for the criminal acts of some of its clergy which in turn victimizes the victims of these men again and again.  The whole attitude and action seems without grace and heartless despite the formal statements from the Pope and other prelates, however as my old sophomore football coach Duke Pasquini used to say “your actions speak so loud I can’t hear a word you’re saying.”  Words are cheap and the Vatican’s failure to first discipline its own and second to turn them over to the state for temporal judgment is arrogance that Jesus would have condemned the Pharisees and Sadducees for, not what he expects of his Church to practice.  Actions speak louder than words and the Vatican’s actions damn it in the eyes of a watching world and this friends  is nothing to rejoice over or gloat about even for those that have an ax to grind against the church.  It is cause mourning for it taints people’s view of God in a decidedly negative way both believers and unbelievers, God gets the blame more often than not for the sins of his people.  If Benedict is serious about wanting a leaner church he will get it as ordinary Catholics, especially in the west will vote with their feet leaving only those that agree with this perverted view of the Church’s role in the world.

There are two things that I want to note before I end this little essay.  The first was the censure of Christoph Cardinal Schoenborn, the Cardinal Archbishop of Vienna and the driving force behind the current Catechism of the Catholic Church, a renowned theologian, pastor who was considered as a potential Pope.  Schoenborn accused retired Cardinal Angelo Soldano, the former Vatican Secretary of State of blocking investigations requested by him of clerics accused or suspected of criminal sexual activity.  He also said that Soldano had caused “massive harm” when he dismissed claims of clerical abuse as “petty gossip” in his Easter sermon.  In censuring Schoenborn the Vatican announced that brother Cardinals could not criticize one another but only the Pope.  I am sorry but when the Church, any church silences dissent and even constructive criticism from its highest ranking prelates then there is a problem because it demonstrates that the leadership views the preservation hierarchy and the rights of the Papal state as more important than the Gospel and justice for the people of God.  Somehow I can hear Jesus call out “woe to you Scribes and Pharisees and all that.”  Rome is burning and the Pope and the Curia continue to try to douse the fire with gasoline.  No wait, napalm it’s stickier and burns better.  They are a disaster.

The second came the same day and in the same document that the Vatican will in making it easier to investigate sexual abuse in the church. The document declared it a Major crime against the Church” to ordain a woman as a Priest. Now this is not new the Vatican has been excommunicating women and those that ordained them for years.  However, declaring it to be a major crime puts it at the same level as pedophilia and other sexual crimes of clergy.  How do they compare?  Oh wait, female Priests put the souls of their parishioners in mortal danger even more so than male Priests who physically, emotionally and sexually abuse those in their charge.

The ordination of women may not be allowed by the Roman Catholic or for that matter my Church but to call it a major crime against the Church and equate it with pedophilia and sexual abuse of minors is abhorrent.  When the Roman Catholic Church hides behind diplomatic immunity as a nation state and claims religious persecution when someone inside or outside of its walls calls it to account it shows a cold and ruthless face to the world.  It says that it wants to punish those guilty of such heinous crimes but at the same time it shields them from criminal prosecution by the state without providing any discipline of its own.  The Vatican claims to be a state with all the rights and privileges thereof but refuses to put these criminals in its own jails and punish them.  In fact I say hire more Swiss Guards, open up a jail in the basement of the Vatican do a little rendition and torture in some third world dictatorship put them on the Papal G5 send them to Rome and give these criminals a life sentence in the catacombs somewhere.  Well that won’t happen so were left with the Vatican continuing to protect the guilty and if it does anything try them in ecclesiastical courts which do nothing more than mete out spiritual judgments that do absolutely nothing to help the victims.

Jesus I’m sure would be really welcome especially by hanging out with people like Mary Magdalene and even the Apostle Paul who seemed to allow women to have a lot of authority in places that he visited, people like Lydia in Philippi as well as Priscilla of Priscilla and Aquila fame. Interestingly enough many commentators and Scripture Scholars believe that Priscilla may have written the book of Hebrews and some make a very convincing case for this.  My Lord it is no wonder that people don’t want to have anything to do with the Christian faith when the mother Church of the west engages in such activities.

I really don’t know what to say when Catholics come to me about such things because I do not ever want to be accused of leading Catholics away from their Church or faith. As an Anglo-Catholic with strong pro-Roman leanings I encourage them to stay and be salt and light knowing that all Papacy’s end and magisterial eras come and go and that the Church has somehow made it 2000 years through worse crisis than the current day.  That is cold comfort to them and I wish that I could do better but it is what it is and unfortunately Rome continues to burn as the Pope and Curia call for more napalm with which to further engulf the church that they pretend to defend.  It seems that they are about to destroy the church in order to save it and I cannot understand where that fits in the context of God’s love and care for his people, especially the lost, the least and the lonely, those whose prayers like those of the sinner versus the Pharisee are heard by God.  God help the Roman Catholic Church and even more those victimized by its clergy in such ungodly ways.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Kira Gets Married, the June Swoon and the Rise and Fall of Stars

kira 1Kira Arriving escorted by her Proud Dad Tony

After having to deal with what has seemed like and unending series a series of memorial services, funerals and family medical crisis’ I finally something to celebrate.  Judy and I are going to the wedding of Kira.  Kira goes to the same church as Judy whose mother sings in the same choir.  Kira is a choir child and occasionally will sing with them. We first met Kira when she had just graduated from high school.  Even then she was a joy.  She was and is one of the sweetest girls we have ever known.  Of course Judy knew Kira and her family at church.  I was on the road frequently and only occasionally attended the church.  I got to know her better over at Gordon Biersch where she worked when Judy and I first started going there.  The first time I actually met her Judy told me “THIS IS KIRA AND YOU WILL OVERTIP HER.”  I did so but never regetted it, Kira always earned it.  If things were not too busy and even if they were busy Kira would pull up a chair by us and just talk.  Sometimes it was life, sometimes church, school or relationships but the conversation between us and Kira was something that we looked forward to every time we went to Biersch.  Now we know all of the bartenders and quite a few of the servers at the restaurant, and we love them all and we pretty much overtip them as well.  Kira however was something special.  As she completes college I know that she will do great things.   Her soon to be husband is a lucky man and is advised to take good care of Kira.

Kira is also a beautiful girl.  She comes from Irish and Italian stock, but you would think that she came direct from directly from Erin.  Her personal and physical beauty must have attracted guys like flies.  She seems to have stepped out of an Andrew Greely Bishop Blackie mystery as the sweet and beautiful heroine who helps Blackie solve the mystery.   If we had a daughter, we would want her to be Kira.

Kira will be married in the yard of her parent’s home.  Her and our Priest, Fr Jim will perform the ceremony.   The location is because some people attending are decidedly anti-Catholic and will not enter a Catholic church.  This means of course that I will be in my clericals tonight and maybe even wear a big pectoral cross or crucifix.  I seldom wear these even though my church says priests should wear silver pectoral crosses.  I personally find them a bit pretentious, but in this case to help draw fire from Fr Jim and make the anti-Catholics uncomfortable I will wear this and ingratiate myself to them.  Now, this will be a sacrifice for me as it will be hot and humid tonight.  Today happens to be the hottest day that we have had this year the temperature will be in the mid to high 90s with a heat index of over 100 degrees.  I will likely be sweating like a Boiler Technician on a World War Two cruiser in the South Pacific, probably off of Guadalcanal.  I hate humidity.  However tonight the cause is worthy of suffering for Jesus and I’m sure that the Deity Herself will approve.  When Judy and I were married we had temps in the high 90s but we were married in California with NO HUMIDITY thank you God.  There is the possibility that we could get storms so I am praying hard that at least for the duration of the ceremony that the heavens do not open as this is an open ceremony.  Now I do this kind of thing a lot with the Tides with varying degrees of success.  I do pray that the Deity Herself will smile upon Kira’s wedding.

kira 2Kira and Nate

A practical implication for Kira and her very soon to be husband is that the Roman Catholic Church will not recognize tonight’s ceremony because it is not being done in a church building.  The Commonwealth of Virginia will recognize this, but the church will not.  So tomorrow they will have the rite done in the small chapel in the church proper.  It is kind of a two step way of doing this and thankfully for the bride she has a wonderful priest who will work with her.  The inside the building requirement is because of an understanding that since marriage is a Sacrament of the Church that the wedding is to be performed in a religious setting among the faithful.  Complicating the situation was that Kira’s family’s home is in the boundary of another far more conservative parish that would have had to okay it, no chance of that. I do understand this requiement under Canon Law and try to follow it myself though I am not Roman; however as a Navy Chaplain sometimes I make exception to this.  However I also have theological questions about the necessity of getting married in the church building.  If the church is present where the Bishop is and by extension where the Priest is; and the Sacrament is performed in accordance with the Marriage Rite and proper intent of it being a Sacrament  conducted by a validly ordained Priest, how can it not be valid?  It seems to me that the same Holy Trinity which sanctifies the Rite conducted by the Priest is capable of doing this outside as well as inside of the church building.  I’m sure that the early Catholic Church could not do this, neither the Celtic Catholic missionaries who converted much of Western Europe.  They simply did not have the facilities.  Likewise, the underground churches in China or Islamic nations. The Bishop or Priest was present with the faithful and that ensured the validity of the sacraments, not the location.  I’m sure to get a barrage of theological criticism from the Ultra Montanes Canon Law Nazis but what do I care?

kira 3Presentation of the Newly Married Couple

A SHAMELESSS PLUG AND FREE ADVERTISEMENT FOR THE ABBY NORMAL ABBESS: Judy contributed her part for the wedding doing a beautiful Celtic design for the bulletin covers.  I saw her working on these and the detail that she puts into her work and the beauty of the finished product is simply amazing.  If you need digital artwork done for almost anything, or for that matter religious statues restored or custom clergy vestments she is incredible. Some of my posts about our Wiener Dogs display her work.  These are drawings and not photos if you have any questions.  Contact her through the like to the Abby Normal Abbess on the blog role link on right column of this page.

Speaking of the Norfolk Tides, they are emulating the old San Francisco Giants and are experiencing a “June Swoon.”  This has not been a good month for the home team.  The Orioles gutted our fearsome batting order bringing Nolan Reimold, Matt Wieters and Oscar Salazar to the big team where they are all doing well.  Our hitting has died, thankfully the pitching staff is still holding together.  Even more importantly our closest competitor the Durham Bulls are doing even worse this month and we remain a game up in the International League South.  I must redouble my prayers for the team and perhaps ask Tides General Manager Dave Rosenfeld if I can bless the bats.  After all it was Yogi Berra who once said: “I never blame myself when I’m not hitting. I just blame the bat and if it keeps up, I change bats. After all, if I know it isn’t my fault that I’m not hitting, how can I get mad at myself?”  Since Master Yogi has made this pronouncement I am sure that something has happened to the bats and that an exorcism might be due.

Finally some stars are rising and falling this week in the Navy.  First the rising star:  Captain Frank Morneau, my first Commodore at EOD Group Two was selected for the rank of Rear Admiral Lower Half.  This is the same rank as a Army, Marine Corps or Air Force Brigadier General.  There are not many EOD Officers who have risen to this rank.  Captain Morneau is the second.  He was great to work for and is a dynamic and energetic officer.  I remember him most as being a baseball fan, actually a Yankees fan that carried a game used bat to staff meetings.  Since I only carry a baseball in my digital camouflage uniform and get some looks as I toss up and down as I walk our corridors I can imagine the looks that Rear Admiral Select Morneau will get at the Pentagon or Congressional hearings on EOD issues.

The falling star is Rear Admiral Alan Blues Baker, the Deputy Navy Chief of Chaplains and Chaplain of the Marine Corps.  Admiral Baker is a graduate of the Naval Academy and former Surface Warfare Officer.  He was investigated by the Navy Inspector General (why we don’t have an Inspector Admiral I will never know) for an allegation of retribution and violation of the Military Whistle Blower Protection Act in regard to the FY 2008 Chaplain Captain selection board.  I do not know Admiral Baker but as a career officer and chaplain in both the Army and Navy see his forced retirement and failure to become our Chief of Chaplains as yet another stain on our Corps.  I wish this had never happened and will keep him and his family in my prayers even as I pray for the future leadership of the Chaplain Corps.  Admiral Bob Burt who was scheduled to retire will remain in office for another year and Rear-Admiral Select Mark Tidd will assume the office as the Deputy and Chaplain of the Marine Corps as scheduled.

This issue grieves me.  I remember when my Brigade Executive Officer and later acting commander Colonel Jim Wigger tell me that the Chaplain Corps in the Army was far more political and had no Ruths, being so ruthless in comparison with the Army Medical Department.  The Army Medical Department was a pretty ruthless organization, so when Colonel Wigger told me that I was somewhat skeptical.  He told me that I was jumping from the “frying pan into the fire” and he was right.  The thing about chaplains regardless of denominational affiliation, theological background or rank is that we are expected to be above the board and exemplify integrity.  If we even give the impression that we are somehow unethical or lacking in integrity then what we say means nothing because people will either not believe us or discount what we say.  It creates a problem for those who are doing good things because some people will lump us all in with the wrong doer. When a chaplain falls it can create a crisis of faith in the community. It is the same as when a civilian minister falls from grace.  The Catholic pedophile priests, pastors of Evangelical Mega-Churches or large ministries who are accused of financial or sexual misconduct created the same problem for civilian ministers as well as military chaplains.  Admiral Baker’s fall comes on the heels of a young Chaplain named Dillman who was convicted of a number of sexual assault and improper conduct charges a couple of weeks ago.  This young man once named as a Military Chaplain Association of America  “Chaplain of the Year is going to Leavenworth for 10 years.  A couple of years ago we had a priest who was convicted of a number of sexual assault charges by having sex with other men and not telling them that he was HIV positive.  This chaplain was a “poster boy” for the Chaplain Corps and the Roman Catholic Church Military Archdiocese.  Another Chaplain named Klingenschmitt was convicted of disobeying lawful orders after having engaged in a prolonged period of protest against the Navy.  Klingenschmitt, who I have written about on this website before made an absolute ass out of himself by protesting the Navy in front of the White House, making spurious allegations against multiple commanding officers and lying through his teeth about “not being allowed to pray in Jesus Name.”  When I was at Camp LeJeune I had to relieve two Chaplains who were kicked out of the Navy for sexual misconduct, one Protestant and one Catholic.  When I was at Headquarters Battalion 2nd Marine Division I was given charge over several chaplains who had not acquitted themselves well in order to try to help them become successful.   I also saw Army Chaplains conduct themselves in less than exemplary fashion.

Of course chaplains and ministers are human and we all are flawed, as the Apostle Paul wrote “All have fouled up and fallen short of the Glory of God.”  This being said chaplains and ministers while being human and free to make mistakes need to be sure that those mistakes are not those which compromise our integrity.  When I was a young Army Chaplain we were told that SAM, Sex, Alcohol and Money were the three biggest issues that put chaplains out of the service in jail.   Let’s add retribution to that list.  It is a sad day for the Chaplain Corps.  Please pray for us as individuals as well as a Corps as we walk through this valley and keep Admiral Baker in your prayers.

Peace, Steve+

Post Script: The wedding went off well, the promise of the Deity Herself to hold back the rain materizlized as she had promised.  Howver it was hot and humid and though I look good in them was regretting wearing my clericals.  The June Swoon con tinues for the Tides and the Bulls but the Gwinnett Braves are sneaking up and are within two games of the Tides and one of the Bulls.  We have been getting some runs but need to have things come together and fast.  Harbor Park is withing my resposne time to the medical center so if there is nothing critical going on tomorrow afternoon I will head over and watch the game.  So for selfish reason if nothing else I pray for the good health of all tomorrow.

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