Thursday, April 29, 2010

As Church fixes abuse problem, society must follow suit - Bp. RF Vasa

As Church fixes abuse problem, society must follow suit
By Bishop Robert Vasa

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. During this month there has been an increased level of activity and concern expressed about the extent of child abuse in our country and in the world as a whole.

There has been a bright light shining on the flaws and faults of the Church in regard to its past and even present failures in regard to reporting child abuse and protecting children from abuse. This light is not at all comfortable but it is necessary and hopefully it is also purifying. Unfortunately the focus of the past and even into the present is that all too human tendency to deny, minimize and even fail to recognize the presence of abuse. There is also a definite need to be more vigilant about who is allowed into the priesthood and who is allowed to have access to children.

The bright light shining on the Church, however, may be shading other areas of society where abuse is much more prevalent and much less noticed. The 2009 Report by the Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops indicates that during the course of 2009 there were nearly 400 new allegations of abuse presented to dioceses in the United States. This number is indeed distressing but it does need to be looked at a bit more carefully. There were 352 allegations presented to dioceses that occurred prior to 1990. More than one-third of these instances of abuse (127) occurred as long as 40 or 60 years ago. This does not diminish the gravity of the abuse but it is very difficult for most priests and bishops of today to claim responsibility for abuse that occurred so long ago. To say that the “church” allowed this abuse to happen is to fail to recognize that priests and bishops in the Church from 40 to 60 years ago failed to do all that they should have done to prevent and report such abuse. The same can be said of those very tragic years between 1970 and 1990 when a vast majority of the abuse occurred. Of the new allegations received in 2009, 225 were from these years. This number may be slightly higher if one adds in the 14 cases presented without specification of a particular year. This would raise the number for these years to 239.

The report, while acknowledging the serious shortcomings of Church leadership in the past, as indicated by the number of allegations still coming forward from those years, has some hint of hopeful news. During the course of 2009 there were 24 cases presented to dioceses that involved abuse occurring since 1990. Thus, from this 20-year period, 24 persons who had been abused came forward in 2009. Considering that there are approximately 195 dioceses and eparchies in the United States this would mean that in 2009 a vast majority of dioceses have not received a claim of having been abused during these years. This does not mean that there are no other victims still struggling with the trauma of having been abused during these years but hopefully this relatively low number can be seen as a sign of hope.

A further and very real sign of hope is the report’s counting of the number of new allegations received in 2009 for abuse that occurred last year. This number is 6. If this is at all accurate it would show that the Church has indeed taken the horrible trauma and scandal of child sexual abuse very seriously and that the efforts of the Church, its bishops, priests and laity, are bearing fruit. We do not deny the past but the efforts of the Church these past 10 to 20 years seem to be having a positive effect. I pray it is so. It is indeed most sad that the Church did not take these strong measures 40 years ago and for that we apologize to the people of God and most especially to those who have been harmed and often grievously harmed because evil and sinful priests were allowed to continue in ministry after their evil inclinations and actions were manifested and known by those who had the power and the duty to remove them.

In great contrast to this sign of hope in the Church I need only refer to the state of Oregon. According to an April 22 headline: “Change needed in abuse investigations.” In brief, the story points out that in 2009, Oregon state workers screened 67,885 reports of child abuse and neglect. These 67,000 reports generated 28,584 investigations. These 28,000 investigations revealed 11,090 children who were victims of abuse or neglect. The story points out that nearly half of these children were under 6.

This is an area that needs the same bright and unrelenting light of truth that has been focused so diligently on the Church these past 20 years. I do not at all defend the past negligence of the Church but I do commend her increasing vigilance these past 20 years. Where is the vigilance in our society? How can nearly 5,000 pre-kindergarten children be the victims of some form of abuse or neglect in Oregon in a single year? If we conservatively multiply this number (which would undoubtedly be much larger in many states) by a mere factor of 40 we come to the most shameful possibility that more than 200,000 pre-school age children in the United States may have suffered some form of abuse or neglect in 2009. Yet, the story will receive one day of coverage in the local paper and then pass again into oblivion until April of next year. In the meantime, every single report involving the Church will make national news for days and sometimes weeks. One could begin to wonder if the public concern is really about the welfare of children at all.

I want to commend and encourage The Central Oregon KIDS Center and their promotion of Darkness to Light Training. KIDS Center, among other things, provides education and consultation to community members and professionals throughout Central and Eastern Oregon on issues related to child abuse and neglect. In a recent news article one of the Darkness to Light Trainers noted: “There is only one person responsible for children, and that is every single adult.”

This type of training and attitude, too, is a great sign of hope.

© 2010, Catholic Sentinel

Do the math. where's the outrage?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Nearest mass in the Extraordinary Form

I bought gas after low mass last Friday (Oregon gas gets much better mileage than Boise gas); 49.6 miles one way. Interesting reading on the odometer when I got home, considering that summorum pontificum was released on 7/7/7...

Friday, April 09, 2010

The GIRM is law

Some time ago I had an inconclusive discussion with a religious sister who took issue with my use of the term "liturgical law" and said 'they are only guides, not law like canon law.'

Today Fr. Z takes on this very distinction, which turns out to be false.

QUAERITUR: putting collection under the altar during offertory

A reader queries:

Our diocesan liturgist claims that it is ok with Canon law to put the monetary offers under (literally in my parish, there’s an opening under the altar stone, between the supports of the table part) the altar. She says that the GIRM (which I quoted on the subject) does not have the weight of canon law. [FAIL.]

I am pretty sure she’s wrong, [She is wrong.] and you seem like the sort of priest who could point me to where she is wrong. Is there anything written to the effect of GIRM is the law of the Mass, and Canon Law is the law of (whatever Canon Law deals with)?

I consulted a canonist just to be sure to get the right language for this fundamental response which any priest or "liturgist" – lay or ordained – ought to know in order to claim anything close to competence.

Canon 2 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law for the Latin Church pretty much destroys the argument of the diocesan liturgist:

"For the most part, the Code does not determine the rites to be observed in the celebration of liturgical actions. Accordingly, liturgical laws which have been in effect hitherto retain their force, except those which may be contrary to the canons of the Code."

This acknowledges several important things – first of all, liturgical law is truly lawnot just "guidelines."

Secondly, the Code is not the place to look for liturgical law. The Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani (hereafter GIRM) was duly promulgated as law in accord with canons 7 and 8.

John Huels (a canonist who holds a lot of weight – mostly deservedly – among liturgists – though no weight at all concerning anything else and for pretty serious reasons) states in his book Liturgy and Law:

The major sources of universal liturgical legislation for the Latin Church are the norms contained in the liturgical books, the canons on the liturgy in Book IV of the Code, and other current legislative texts issued by the Holy See. The canons of the Code for the most part do not specify matters dealing directly with the celebration of the liturgy. Such laws are found principally in the liturgical books in two forms: the rubrics and the praenotanda.... Both rubrics and praenotanda are overwhelmingly ecclesiastical, not divine, laws and are subject to the general norms of the Code on ecclesiastical laws. They are equal in weight to the canons of the Code and to other universal ecclesiastical laws. (p. 84 ff)

Article 73 of the GIRM has the same canonical weight as a canon.

Shall we have a look?

The Preparation of the Gifts

73. At the beginning of the Liturgy of the Eucharist the gifts, which will become Christ’s Body and Blood, are brought to the altar.

First, the altar, the Lord’s table, which is the center of the whole Liturgy of the Eucharist,70 is prepared by placing on it the corporal, purificator, Missal, and chalice (unless the chalice is prepared at the credence table).

The offerings are then brought forward. It is praiseworthy for the bread and wine to be presented by the faithful. They are then accepted at an appropriate place by the priest or the deacon and carried to the altar. Even though the faithful no longer bring from their own possessions the bread and wine intended for the liturgy as in the past, nevertheless the rite of carrying up the offerings still retains its force and its spiritual significance.

It is well also that money or other gifts for the poor or for the Church, brought by the faithful or collected in the church, should be received. These are to be put in a suitable place but away from the eucharistic table.

NB: "These are to be put in a suitable place but away from the eucharistic table."

AWAY from the altar.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Fascinating comment

The following comment was posted in response to an article by George Neumayr at The American Spectator (which is a good read):

The End of History and the Last Pope
By George Neumayr on 4.8.10

This entire matter is primarily Catholic-bashing (though it was somewhat invited - but how did that came about; (un-Catholic liberal infiltration) is what the finger-wagging accusers don't wish to discuss?)
They are now clamoring to put The Pope on trial.
The way I see that going:

The Pope on Trial.

Prosecutor: Mr. Pope, sir, Were you ever made aware that your priests were doing this evil?

Pope: Why yes, I was always aware that some priests and others in the Church have succumbed to secularism and liberalism’s code of morality, instead of following God’s commandments against doing such behavior, just as some prosecutors have done. By the way, is that a stone you just picked up?

Prosecutor: (quietly dropping the stone) Mr. Pope, sir, isn't your church embarrassed to have evil people inside it?

Pope: Well, my Boss says that's precisely why he came down here and made it in the first place - for sinners, and he proved it by hand-picking that Judas fellow. We don't deny sinners exist; we merely try to convert them – as in that “go and sin no more” thing.

Prosecutor: You are aware, are you not, that the world is extremely angry at your Church, Holy Father?

Pope: Certainly, but it comes as no surprise, because, as the Person who created those angry people once warned us; the world will always hate us because of what we are called to believe, - they are really angry because they refuse that simple message and hate any and all who accept it, or preach it. They crucified Him with the same anger and for the same reason, remember?

Prosecutor: No more questions.

for a fascinating sociological look at the issue, please read this article:

Moral Panic Flares Again, by Massimo Introvigne
Is priestly paedophilia a problem? Yes, says an Italian sociologist. Is it a big problem? No.

Massimo Introvigne is an Italian sociologist of religion. He is the founder and managing director of the Center for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR). This article from the CESNUR website has been reprinted and translated with permission.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

An interesting commentary from Jake at the blog Roma locuta est

Saturday, March 27, 2010
Silence all electronic devices ...

At my local parish, the "Commentator" (whose place in the liturgical life of the Church always alludes me), somewhere between greeting the congregation and announcing the opening hymn, reads the following scripted request: "Please take a moment to silence all cell phones and other electronic devices." The irony of this struck me last week when, following the request, the sound of a synthesized piano backed by synthesized strings introduced the elevator music that was to set the tone (or lack thereof) for the liturgy. I wonder if the same request is made at our Sunday evening "Youth Mass" (whose place in the liturgical life of the Church always alludes me) before the electric guitars and synthesized drums begin.

Believe me, I long for the day that we "take a moment to silence all electronic devices".

Jake also wrote a long analysis to go with his observation of irony here:

A Rhythmic Reply ... or rather a Musical Manifesto

Nice work, Jake!

Fr. Bart de la Torre OP reporting from Mexicali

Easter Monday, April 5, 8:37 a.m.

Dear Lay Dominicans,

As you probably know, a strong earthquake hit us at around at 3:40 p.m. on Easter Sunday, April 4. The news is settling on 7.2 as its force and on six miles as its relatively shallow depth, but is still wavering on the epicenter as 15 to 30 miles south of Mexicali. We immediately lost power, but I forgot to turn off my light and so was awakened when the power came on at round 4:40 a.m., April 5. After the earthquake, I spent two hours putting books back into bookcases, mopping up water from filled plastic glass, and sweeping up the debris of broken statuary and decorative objects.

Then I drove around the visiting parishioners. I noticed no downed houses. Many did not want to reenter their homes and so were outside in their front yards and in the streets. They were visiting and so it looked festive. But when I would stop, they were all worried and many said they had turned to God during the quake, whose strong shaking lasted a whole minute at least. They also were expressing a conviction that God was reacting to our sins and warning us to turn back to him. One non-church going family phoned me to come over and pray over them, and the 14 y/o boy said he would be going to Mass faithfully from now on. I pray he does!

Here in our rectory, Fr. Joseph Barranger, who is an excellent cook, had prepared a delicious Easter Sunday meal for us. Shortly after the dinner, the quake hit. Father Joseph, who is from the East Coast and not an experienced seismic rider, got outside without delay. The rest of us, used to the earth shaking, shrugged it off, but after 30 seconds of violent shaking and loud noise coming from the building, we also took off for the outdoors. We stood swaying in our front yard looking at our house and at ourselves, wondering if the roof would collapse and if we were being shaken by the ground our just dizzy. Yes, we were being bounced around both by the quake and then by strong, immediately following aftershocks, but the house stood firm. The earth cracked open along various long lines in our yard in front of our car port and through its tiled floor. The car port itself, which was attached to the house, separated from it slightly, and our hot water heater pulled out a few inches from the wall but its lines did not break.

Fathers David and Martin immediately left by car to inspect the three church in our parish and found some damage but the buildings themselves seem to still be sound. People around the churches, including some husky, tattooed men who are not normally church-goers, had already rushed to help secure the buildings and clean up the debris. There were wall cracks, some broken statues and windows, and the chairs that serve as pews were thrown in disorder. The illuminated, Dominican cross high atop our main church, which is a well-known landmark and visible for a great distance, is askew. Large cracks have appeared in the convent of the Dominican Sisters who are our collaborators here in our parish, and we await a professional evaluation as to the solidity of the structure.

Sadly, so far it is known that two people died in Mexicali and some were injured, but thank God our parish seems to have escaped such consequences.

The radio news is announcing that in Calexico, just north of the border from Mexicali, both the downtown and the border crossing to it have been closed, and that the whole small city has been declared a disaster area because most of the buildings and homes are pre-code, not retro-fitted, and so not built for so strong a quake. Calexico's population is 36,000, the same size as Benicia, CA, where we Dominicans have our oldest continuous parish west of the Mississippi. Mexicali, on the other hand, is home to 1,500,000. It is ironic that tiny, first-world Calexico, CA, USA, is being reported to have suffered more from the earthquake than much larger, third-world Mexicali, which was much closer to the epicenter.

Mexicali is in a seismic zone and expects eventually "a big one". The famous San Andreas Fault runs about 100 yards south of our rectory, right through the yard of the elementary school across the street from us. Offer a prayer of thanks that this earthquake, despite its strength, has caused us Dominicans, Friars and Sisters, no bodily harm, and that our parishioners seem also to have remained personally safe. The cost of the physical repairs remain to be seen, so pray for our benefactors upon whom we depend and who have been so faithful despite the troubled economy.

Allow me to apologize that the battery of my cell phone was down, and because of the power outage, and because I do not have a car charger, I could not recharge the phone to call anyone on the situation here.

What is amazing to me is that the recent earthquake that devastated the entire country of Haiti is reported at 7.0
( ), whereas our quake yesterday was 7.2. It is a miracle eliciting much gratitude to God that we in Mexicali got off so easy.

One radio station in Mexicali, 101.9 FM, resorted to car batteries and was the only station on the air after the quake. I was listening to it as I drove around checking on parishioners. The mayor declared all schools closed for today, Monday, asked all mothers who leave their children at child care centers to stay at home and not go to work, and asked the factories, who are the biggest single employers in Mexicali and are mean, to please be humane about their employees. Good luck! He also said the city's emergency vehicles were running out of gasoline and that they were looking for the director of the government-monopoly gas stations to open them up to the emergency vehicles, but that the director lived in Tijuana and they as yet could not locate him. As of now, Easter Monday, 7:50 a.m., only one gas station is reported to be open, with another perhaps open; the former is far from our parish, the latter within it.

Last night 101.9 FM reported that a large water main had broken and the flooding was undermining homes on a cliff so had to be turned off. That may explain why we still do not have running water even though our power is back. Happily as soon as my helping put our house in order I was inspired to go get 15 gallons of drinking water. A friend who runs a water station was still open, was almost out of the important liquid, but not yet drained. I am going to wash up now with a kitchen-pot full of drinking water. We also have to bless the person who invented hand sanitizer.

A 17 y/o girl parishioner just called on my now recharged cell phone to tell me that at the quake a cousin of hers fainted and in helping her she sprained or broke an ankle. I presume such reports will now begin to trickle in.

Attached are photos illustrating what I have written above. Let me add that the fourth from the end are three angels that were unhurt, but are in shock at the destruction around them. The second from the end is an example of a work of art not touched at all, not even tilted; it is Our Lady surrounded by Dominican Saints, a Renaissance work of art in the Dominican Priory of Santa Maria Novella in Florence, made into a police barracks by the then anti-clerical government and still the barracks. The Last picture is that of the Child Jesus, who turned toward the tabernacle, two unmoved ciboria with consecrated hosts left over from the Triduum services, and the unmoved folk-art image of Ven. Gregorio Lopez ( You will note that the star on our Lady was broken off, St. Martin de Porres lost his head, St. Catherine of Siena her hand, and the child Jesus part of his breast. These statues were put on the floor of our chapel by Fr. David to protect them from any strong aftershocks.
Oops, there goes another strong and long-lasting aftershock! Scary! Do remember us in your prayers!

Peace and Faith.

Fr. Bartholomew de la Torre , O.P.
Western Dominican Mission, Mexicali, Baja California, Mexico

("Dominic...was untiring in promoting peace and faith" because without peace, the faith cannot flourish, and he described himself as pursuing this goal by "singing and gentleness, preaching, imploring and weeping." See Process of Canonization at Toulouse, nos. 3, 7, 13, 18; M.-H. Vicaire, OP, St. Dominic and His Times, pp. 62 with nt. 7; 146; 147 with nt. 80; 148. See also Acts 9:31, “The Church had peace, kept growing, and increasingly enjoyed the consolation of the Holy Spirit.”)

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Holy Thursday meditation

the following is from the Eastern Dominican Province:

A meditation from Fr. Joseph Torchia, O.P.

Throughout Holy Week, we have reflected on the days before Jesus’ passion and crucifixion. We have followed Him into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and heard of all the events leading to His betrayal, arrest, trial, and death on the Cross. As we gather together at the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, we call to mind the most profound mystery of our Christian faith. What we commemorate this evening puts everything which happened on the first Good Friday into proper perspective. On that first Holy Thursday, Christ accomplished something that would shape the lives of Christians for all time. But how can we begin to grasp the full significance of the Last Supper? We have heard this account so often we can easily become anesthetized to its meaning, or think of it as something that occurred in the distant past. But we know that what Jesus did on that night and over the next two days are not merely past events. They continue in our lives; their impact reverberates across the centuries. Jesus is present to us here and now, just as He was present to His closest disciples in the upper room. What makes Him present is the Holy Eucharist and the ordained priesthood that brings the Eucharist to God’s people.

When Jesus gave His disciples His Body to eat and His Blood to drink (I Cor. 11:23-26), He prefigured the complete sacrifice He would make on Calvary in less than twenty-four hours: the offering of His Body and Blood on the Cross for our redemption. What binds us together as Catholics lies in our belief that the same Body that was broken and the same Blood that He shed are with us tonight. As we confront this mystery of Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist, we know that He is with us in the most intimate way; He enters the very marrow of our being; He gives a share in His own Divine life. In this Sacred Banquet of the altar, Christ provides the nourishment that sustains us in body and spirit. And we need this sustenance if we are to live out the Gospel message from one challenging day to the next, and remain faithful to our Christian vocation. This is why Christ gave us this Sacrament in the most familiar of all human encounters. He chose the simple experience of eating and drinking together as the means of making Himself present to us for all time. As our first reading reminds us (Ex. 12:1-8,11-14), Jesus instituted the Eucharist in the context of a traditional Passover Supper, with the breaking of bread, and the blessing over a cup of wine. But when He consecrated the bread and wine, He initiated a new Exodus, a liberation of humanity from the bondage of sin and death. And Jesus Himself became the sacrificial Lamb Who offered Himself up for us. That’s the heart of the mystery. Because the Eucharist could only be possible for us now by virtue of the sacrifice that Jesus would make the next day on the Cross.

In dying for us, Christ gave us the means to eternal life. But how are we to live in the present, in the context of our daily lives? Our Gospel provides the answer. Jesus shows us how Christians should live when He washes the feet of His disciples, including the one about to betray Him (Jn. 13:1-15). Over these past Lenten weeks, many of us have been concerned about what we should give up in a penitential way. But this merely sets the stage for something more important. How are we imitating what Jesus did at the Last Supper? To imitate Him in our own lives means that we follow His example and heed the command He gave His disciples (Jn. 13:34-35): Love one another as I have loved you. This means that we must accept His invitation to serve, in the way He was willing to serve, with all we have to give.

As we reenact Christ’s washing of the disciples’ feet this evening, let us mediate on the meaning and demands of Christian discipleship. He shows us what we must do (Jn. 13:15): I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do. This is the model of service, which finds its fullest expression in the ministerial priesthood, patterned after the example of Christ Himself. The priest (acting in persona Christi) thus becomes a model of service for all the faithful in making Jesus present to the Church, the Body of Christ on earth. And the faithful, in turn, become “ambassadors of Christ” (II Cor. 5:20), witnessing to the truth of the Gospel in word and deed. Let us begin this great Triduum in that same spirit of service to God and each other: the kind of service that allows us to enter into the mystery of Christ’s suffering and death, and then, set the world ablaze with the fire of His love.

Fr. Joseph Torchia, O.P., currently serves as a professor of Philosophy at Providence College in Rhode Island. He is also the Editor of The Thomist, a quarterly review that seeks to promote original and penetrating inquiry into the full range of contemporary philosophical and theological questions.
The above meditation contains a reference to Judas in the 2nd to the last paragraph that bears thought.

Judas was a traitor/betrayer, but he was hidden; Jesus practiced that traditional Catholic discipline of not exposing the sins of one which are not publicly known. There is no record of Judas preaching against Jesus, rather his sins were hidden moral failings.

Try as I might I cannot think of a case in scripture where the Apostle or Prophet is an open and declared enemy of God that is as clear as this. Perhaps we can consider this in the case of Saul and the "guild prophets" - their pretention and demise are plain enough, their false leadership as well. Perhaps there is a connection between David and Saul and Jesus and Judas; but Elijah certainly takes down one bunch of bad guild prophets!

It is clear to me that charity is owed to all, including all the Judases and false prophets; a charity perhaps too generously shown to priests who abused and hid, a charity which does not impell one to wash the feet of a false prophet, so to speak.

Wishing you blessing this Triduum, and the recognition that the cross of Christ is the way; be not afraid.