52 Poems, Week 34: The Country Clergy (R.S. Thomas)
52 Poems, Week 35: The Lantern Out of Doors (Hopkins)

Sunday Night Journal, August 26, 2018

I had intended to write about something else today, a couple of somethings else, actually, but was occupied with other things well into the evening, and in any case I would have a very hard time focusing on anything but the letter released yesterday by Archbishop Vigano. Surely you've heard the story. If not, here is what I think is the first report. One of the first, anyway. Naturally the factions went to war immediately, either believing Vigano's assertions and supporting him, or disbelieving them and attacking him. I don't think you need for me to cover the arguments and the evidence and the parties involved. I'm not a journalist, and there are plenty of them, professional and amateur, doing that job, and you can find their work online in an instant. So I thought I would just state my personal reaction.

Then I wrote a thousand words of personal reaction. Then I threw them away. So these two paragraphs are all there's going to be for a Sunday Night Journal this week. I'll say this much: I think Vigano is most likely telling the truth, so at first I was excited to think that rumored facts were finally going to be dragged into the light of day. But the most likely outcome is no real "outcome" at all. Just the further escalation of the factional war and the further deterioration and demoralization of much of the Church. 


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"To be restored, our sickness must grow worse"

Maybe you're right that this won't resolve anything, but my initial reaction is that at least it is an attempt -- intemperate at times, but courageous -- to name names and blow away the screen of secrecy. Even if it changes nothing substantive, it helps us see things more clearly. Assuming its claims are true.

Very apt quote. Or, as someone else put it, "the worse, the better. :-)


It is certainly in one sense good for me and I'm sure for others, in that it gives some kind of body to the sense that "something ain't right here." That was a big part of the post that was not.

What a huge buzz kill, Mac! I always tell people that my own personal salvation has nothing to do with the Pope or others in Rome, but perhaps that is a bad way to look at it. I don't know. If I didn't feel that way it would be hard to remain Catholic. But it is me, the parish I attend, the priests I know....my own relationship to the triune God. The rest of it just feels like chatter not unlike the political nonsense. Sigh.

I think, and I may be wrong, that something is going to come of this. I think it will be like Watergate and will get worse and worse until it's better. I hope so.

As I said in the comments for last weeks's SNJ, our priest gave a pretty good homily about the mess yesterday--and got a pretty long ovation--and week before that our pastor addresses it also.

I know people were upset in 2002, but I don't remember there being the vocal anger that I am hearing now.

Yesterday when we sang the Agnus Dei, I began to tear up because it really hit me what it was that we were asking.


I hope you're right, that something will come of it, though it's hard to think what the something might be that--that is if you mean some kind of institutional change or reform. Some kind of more or less grassroots renewal could be coming. Possibly also in conjunction with a major shrinkage of the institution in places with huge Catholic populations.

"I always tell people that my own personal salvation has nothing to do with the Pope or others in Rome, but perhaps that is a bad way to look at it. "

I don't think so. There is a good Dorothy Day quote making the rounds about how she never had high expectations of the hierarchy.

I often read Fr. Martin Fox's homilies because he just about always gets down to brass tacks about the faith in good, clear language, like here in yesterday's homily:

The God of Israel, the living God who delivered his people from Egypt,
is the God who is in this church, right now.
Father, Son and Holy Spirit, One God;
the God who was made flesh in the womb of Mary, and became man.

The God who took up the Cross for us.
The God who said, in Galilee, “my flesh is true food,
and my blood is true drink; eat my flesh and drink my blood” in the Eucharist.

Jesus – the new Joshua – stood before his people and asked them:
Are you in or are you out?

Right now, you are in his divine presence:
and every single Mass presents the same question!

Every Holy Mass is a renewal of Jesus’ eternal covenant in his blood.
When you are at Mass, if you receive Holy Communion,
Stop and realize how solemn and how momentous that is.

This is not just a ritual, a habit; trot up front with everyone else,
plop that little white disc in your mouth and go sit down again.
I don’t mean to be irreverent, but I know what I see.

Some folks need to wake up! You are meeting the Living God here.

He ends with this:
Until we squarely face – chew on and swallow –
the truth of human darkness,
we cannot really know what God is saving us from.
Without facing what hell really is, heaven is just a word.
Wouldn't it be nice if today's horrific scandals led more priests to talk like that? Shoring up the very foundations of belief would seem the most pressing task of all right now.

Yes indeed. I'm not sure if this is what you mean but I've always felt that the Church could endure almost any amount of corruption as long as the foundational teachings are preserved. And at the bottom of my hostility toward the theologically progressive party in the Church is the sense that they want to discard or change some of those.

That is Jesus's job.


I also feel that the Church can "endure almost any amount of corruption as long as the foundational teachings are preserved". What I mostly meant, though, was that a great many of the laity need instruction in those teachings because of all the confusion brought about by the progressive changes these past 50 years or so.

That's true, though I wonder how many at this point would even pay attention. Not that that should stop the effort. Rod Dreher is always saying, and he has a point, that if/when it becomes a social and career liability to be a Christian, there will be a massive defection.

"That is Jesus's job." That's true, too. It seems like a slightly odd comment, though, because the Church is usually the means by which he does it. I know I don't need to tell you that so maybe I'm misreading your comment.

So, I was lying in bed and I read the last couple of comments and made that comment, thought, "That's probably confusing," and that is the last thing I remember. ;-)

What I meant was that it's His job to make sure the Church endures. Is that what you thought I meant? It is the Church's job, but I just was thinking the gates of Hell and all that. Even now I don't know if I'm saying what I want to say.

I think my main thought is that things look so bad and we have got to quit focusing on the things, and look at Jesus. I always feel like when I say stuff like this, everybody is going to think I'm overly pious, but it's the truth. There are probably a thousand scripture that apply to situations like this like, "Thou does keep him in peace whose mind is stayed on Thee, because he trusts in Thee.," and " Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things." And, we can't just keep staring into the pit like that's the final word.


I used to be a really good typist.

All true, but not incompatible with trying to realistically assess the situation and the direction things seem to be headed. Signs of the times and all.

True, but I see people caught up in this whirlpool of fear and despair.

I wish I could adequately summarize this essay by Christopher Dawson that has really helped me with this. It isn't about this particular topic at all, but a general overview of how things work. ;-) I will try in my blogpost tomorrow or Thursday, but I will probably fail.


Yes, there are people doing that, and it's definitely not healthy. Have been as long as I've been Catholic, actually. It's a question of balance (to quote the Moody Blues).

There's an article up at National Review today suggesting a much larger role for the laity in Church governance. Interesting piece, but I was mostly struck by the accompanying photo of a nun and several young people carrying a cross between the Catholic Churches of Quincy, Mass., to pray the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday, 2017. Gave me more hope than a lot of what I've been seeing and reading lately.

These same lay people who are ripping each other apart on Facebook?


No, not those, the other ones. :-)

But seriously, I do think that there are an awful lot of good things going on at the parish level all over the place.

I shared a good and interesting homily from a local priest on Facebook. I don't think I can link to it here. He was involved with the clean-up of the seminaries.


Nice Moody Blues reference, Mac.


Marianne: certainly I agree that lay people should be involved in the investigation into the cover up of McCarrick etc. As Father Barron said, it will take people with forensic skills. I also think some lay oversight (might not be the right word maybe just ‘sight’) of episcopal doings could work. But most of us here are old enough to remember the late 1970s or early 1980s, when conservative and charismatic groups of catholics had lay leafership. Those groups quickly became cult like. In 2011 I walked 11 days into Santiago with a boy who had been working in lay campus ministry (hes a priest now in DC). He said his group was weird and cult like and he ascribed that to lay leadership. If You could guess what group I mean Please remember that I’m talking about 2011 - It may be different now. The early 1980s were my debut years in the RC church and I have to say the thought of lay leadership is horrible to me

I pretty much agree with that but I don't take "much larger role for the laity" to mean "lay leadership." Perish the thought, actually.

Now and then I thank God that I never started or joined a lay community. I was really interested in it at one time but no serious possibility ever arose. My impression is that they don't in general have a great track record.

Marianne: ten years ago in Aberdeen I was involved in a farce of an abuse scandal involving clergy at all levels. I came away saying there should be some kind of lay governance in the church. But whatever I said that in the UK people would say that ends up with the government running the church. Ie Anglican or Gallican scenario. I didn’t know what to say in Answer so I stopped arguing for it. But it may be That the kind of things suggested in this article could work

They have a pretty lousy track record. I've been close to more than one, and there was some pretty ugly stuff in them.

I work at a seminary. I was talking to one of the seminarians the other day. We were discussing the current turmoil. He said, "It doesn't really distress me that much. I'm so happy to be in the seminary."

I'm not really into lay leadership, I mainly sent the link to that article because of the photo that went with it!

Robert, this is my experience too. Im teaching Christology to the seminarians, as I do every autumn, On Saturday I went to the ordination mass of young man I taught, and hes back already teaching high school in Chile. The life of the church goes on, and it it a life of service.

A priest friend of mine who's pretty well-connected in the diocese believes that some of the guilty bishops are trying to keep the focus on the "clerical" side of the scandal in order to steer attention away from the possible involvement of well-placed Catholic laymen -- politicians, bureaucrats, etc. -- as well as from themselves.

I've thought about the similar scandal in England several years back, which started as an expose of pedophilia in the entertainment industry, but was later found to have connections with politicans, churchmen, business leaders, etc. It seems that some deep digging needs to be done, but my friend is afraid that it won't happen, because the "bad" bishops don't want it to.

That's odd. My first thought was that it seems pretty unlikely, but then I thought of McCarrick's reputation as a big-time fund-raiser. That surely means he had some big-time connections.

And there were a few instances in the Pa. report where local politicians/police covered for abusive priests at the behest of the bishop. One such case happened in the next county over from where I live.

That in itself would not be surprising--just friends or fellow establishment members doing favors for each other. But that these politicians/police were actively involved in abuse...that's a pretty shocking possibility. I am coming to suspect that the desire to do sexual things with children--I mean actual children, not teenagers--is way more widespread than I would ever have dreamed, which is a horrifying thought.

I think it has something to do with the rise in pornography. It leads them to seek greater and greater stimulus. Blech.


To put it mildly.

Even taking that into account, I still just can't comprehend it. Increasing kinkiness of adult sex is not surprising. But a child?!?!?!?!

"But a child?!?!?!?!"

It's all in De Sade: the corruption of children as the apotheosis of sexual freedom. I firmly believe that it's where the Sexual Revolution will inevitably lead, liberal/progressive protestations to the contrary. There's just no way that reducing the entire gist of morality to "consent" will result in something capable of resisting it. I don't believe it can do the required moral heavy-lifting, and in any case there will always be ways to get around it.

I've heard that argument made but am skeptical, because the taboo seems so strong. And also because I can't believe very many people at all want it. But I certainly could be wrong.

I read a bit of de Sade in college, I don't remember what but I didn't get very far in it. I was expecting pornography and was kind of horrified when I realized that it was about real injurious violence and murder. The fact that he's considered all edgy and transgressive and stuff is a sign of sickness.

Which reminds me: the phenomenon, or fad maybe, of Drag Queen Story Hour is extremely creepy. In the pictures I've seen the people doing it look like demons. It has now come to Mobile, Alabama, and the usual culture war fracas is going on.

Not that I don't think the taboo could be removed, but seems like it would take a couple of generations.

I think that the 2002 Church scandal actually helped put the brakes on the erosion of the taboo, possibly for a long time. But the sexualization of children still proceeds in other guises (fashion, advertising, sex ed, etc.).

Yeah, I see some of that stuff and think "They can't really mean to be suggesting what they are obviously suggesting."

I can't think of any way to respond to progressives being okay with child abuse other than to say something nasty about conservatives, which I will not. I think deviant scumbags cross party lines. In the spirit of John McCain, someone I admired, we should all cross party lines to work for the betterment of everything. Part of that would be putting all child abusers, pornographers, rapists, etc. in jail where they belong.

I think you're misreading what Rob said. He didn't mean progressives are ok with child abuse. He said the logic of the sexual revolution leads to that, and progressives are mistaken in thinking it doesn't. Being, in general, proponents of the sexual revolution, will they be able to draw that line thirty or fifty years from now?

I'm not sure I agree with Rob, as I said, but either way I know today's progressives are as repulsed by it as everybody else, apart from the tiny number of people in entertainment etc. who are kind of testing the boundary.

The phenomenon of beauty pageants for very young girls is as creepy as anything going, and it's a very middle-America thing. It's bizarre and creepy. What *are* these mothers thinking?!?

"thinking"? Not sure that enters into the picture in any way.

A large part of the blame I put on reality TV. The other night around 9:30, I was flipping through the channels and came on a young man standing there in full-frontal nudity. This granny almost fell off her rocking chair. Went immediately to my laptop and discovered it's a show called Naked Attraction. And it's on a government-owned and -operated channel.

Anyway, I do believe some people will do absolutely anything to get on TV now.

"thinking"? Not sure that enters into the picture in any way.

A large part of the blame I put on reality TV. The other night around 9:30, I was flipping through the channels and came on a young man standing there in full-frontal nudity. This granny almost fell off her rocking chair. Went immediately to my laptop and discovered it's a show called Naked Attraction. And it's on a government-owned and -operated channel.

Anyway, I do believe some people will do absolutely anything to get on TV now.

I remember back in the '70s somebody saying that TV had reached bottom with The Gong Show. Ha.

I think there is a show here called Naked Dating or something like that. Or maybe it's in the UK, now that I think of it.

"He didn't mean progressives are ok with child abuse. He said the logic of the sexual revolution leads to that, and progressives are mistaken in thinking it doesn't. Being, in general, proponents of the sexual revolution, will they be able to draw that line thirty or fifty years from now?"


Look how fast marriage fell. And how fast transgender came in.

Exactly. And the latter is already leading to massive harm to children. The things that are being done in the name of trans ideology are mind-boggling and criminal. Rod Dreher, bless his alarmist heart, keeps trying to shake people by the lapels and say "Look at this!". I'll see if I can find an example.

In comparison to that, it would be easy to rationalize some sexual activity with children. The line could be drawn at physical injury rather than age and adult-level consent...now that I think about it, it's all too plausible.

Since it's been taboo for so long in our culture, we tend to think the taboo is universal and sort of intrinsic to human nature. But apparently adult men having "sex" with boys is or has been accepted in a lot of cultures.

Here's just one. Not about pre-pubescent children but there are plenty of stories there, too. It is apparently sort of a fad among the ultra-progressive to have a "gender non-conforming" child. You see pictures of little boys dressed up not just in girls' clothes but with heavy makeup etc.--creepily sexualized.


If these examples were just onesie-twosies one might be correct in attributing them solely to the fringes. But there are lots. How many do there have to be before people wake up?

I keep thinking that a lot of the people who are on the trans bandwagon are going to sort of snap out of it. As you know from reading Dreher's blog, there are a certain number of people more or less on the left fighting it, especially TERFs. (If you don't know that term, you haven't been following this phenomenon--google it.) But I get the impression they're pretty much being steamrolled.

Thinking about this more, it gets more and more plausible. It would be very easy to get a lot of psychologists and sociologists on board. 35 years or so ago I reviewed a feminist child-rearing book which stated as a scientific fact that "earaly sexual deprivation" for girls leads to a host of physical problems. "Early" meant immediately upon puberty. I've since seen the same idea stated in less absolute terms. It's all too easy to foresee the arguments: "After all, they're going to do it anyway, and better that they be initiated by a mature, experienced, caring adult."

By the way, the "you" in the parenthesis about TERF above is meant to be "the reader," not you, Rob. I'm sure you're familiar with the term.

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