"It is...Our will that Catholics should abstain from certain appellations which have recently been brought into use to distinguish one group of Catholics from another. They are to be avoided not only as 'profane novelties of words,' out of harmony with both truth and justice, but also because they give rise to great trouble and confusion among Catholics. Such is the nature of Catholicism that it does not admit of more or less, but must be held as a whole or as a whole rejected: 'This is the Catholic faith, which unless a man believe faithfully and firmly; he cannot be saved' (Athanasian Creed). There is no need of adding any qualifying terms to the profession of Catholicism: it is quite enough for each one to proclaim 'Christian is my name and Catholic my surname,' only let him endeavour to be in reality what he calls himself." -- Pope Benedict XV, Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum 24 (1914)

Friday, May 31, 2013

Vatican’s Secretary of State remembers ‘friendly relationship’ with pro-abortion, Marxist priest


Wed May 29, 2013 19:03 EST

ROME, May 28, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The well-known pro-abortion and pro-homosexual Italian priest who passed away this week has received warm remembrances from Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, the head of the Italian bishops’ conference, while the Vatican's Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, has recalled a "friendly and respectful" relationship with the priest. Earlier this weekLifeSiteNews reported how a prominent “transsexual” gay activist received Holy Communion at Don (Fr.) Andrea Gallo’s funeral mass at the hands of Cardinal Bagnasco.

Don Gallo, who had frequently berated the Catholic Church for refusing to accept homosexuality, was one of Italy’s most prominent Catholic priests. He was loved by the secular media and the far left and his death and funeral has made front page headlines throughout Italy, where he was a well known, vocal opponent of numerous Catholic teachings.

Don Gallo

Gallo was known mostly for his support for Marxist-inspired “Liberation Theology,” and opposition to Catholic teaching on abortion, homosexuality, artificial contraception, female ordination, divorce and the celibate priesthood as well as his heavy criticism of the hierarchical structure and governance of the Catholic Church.

In 1998, Gallo admitted to procuring abortions for prostitutes associated with the Community of San Benedetto.

“I helped the Albanian prostitutes to have abortions,” he said. “I have advised them not to do it but when they told me, however, that ‘I wanted to abort,’ I addressed [the matter] to a doctor friend, who performed the surgery.”

In 2008, Gallo defended Ermanno Rossi, the gynecologist who was at the time under investigation for conducting illegal abortions.

Cardinal Bertone, as quoted by Vatican Radio and L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican’s quasi-official newspaper, said he had remembered his former classmate, a fellow member of the Salesian order, in his prayers. He added that he had enjoyed a “friendly and respectful relationship” with Don Gallo and “a frank and lively dialogue at times.” But Bertone added that Gallo’s “dedication to the needy” could not alone be the “spring” that “inspired his priestly identity.”

Cardinal Bagnasco was quoted as saying that in the Community of St. Benedict he had founded, Don Gallo was “engaging in a systematic recovery of the disadvantaged.”

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“He has worked in this community, always helped by the archbishops of Genoa.” In the six years, “since I returned to Genoa as archbishop,” the cardinal continued, “I met him several times in a relationship of dialogue, fairness, clarity and paternity on my part. Of affection and friendship on his part.” Bagnasco spoke of the times he had given Gallo “explanations” on “situations that could create confusion.”

“And in this dialogue, we have had a relationship always very friendly and respectful.” Bagnasco expressed his desire to officiate at Gallo’s funeral.

Avvenire, the official newspaper of the Italian bishops and Vatican Radio’s Italian edition, was more forthcoming, calling Gallo, “a controversial priest who over the years, even with the laudable intention of bringing the Gospel to the poor, did not always seem to have taken into account what Benedict XVI in his encyclical would have defined the necessary combination of truth and charity.” Avvenire said that Gallo’s “positions not infrequently appeared in open conflict with the teaching of the Church.”

Corriere della Sera’s website ran a video this week showing Cardinal Bagnasco, the archbishop of Genoa, giving Holy Communion to a self-described “transsexual” activist and former Italian parliamentarian Vladimir Luxuria, who spoke at Gallo’s chaotic funeral.

Gallo was known as a “prete di strada” – “street-priest” or “activist-priest” – an expression that in Italy is understood to have strong leftist political overtones. His public work centered mainly on political and economic issues, opposing nuclear arms, privatisation and globalism. He strongly opposed the Church’s teaching on artificial contraception and accused Pope John Paul II of having “beheaded” Liberation theology which, he said, “had fully embraced the [Second Vatican] Council”.

“Pope John [XIII] died too soon, and the Roman system has won. It is in control, especially now that we’re back to a pre-conciliar Church,” he said.

Gallo called for the hierarchy to initiate a “Vatican Council III” to focus on “three themes: the poverty of the Church, the abolition of compulsory celibacy and the ordination of women.” In the late 1960s, Gallo joined the campaign to legalise “soft” drugs, and was arrested in 1970 at a demonstration for smoking cannabis on the steps of the Genoa City Hall, an incident that led to his removal from the parish and the eventual founding of the Community of St. Benedict.

Cardinal Bagnasco delivered a homily at the funeral, but was interrupted by the hostile crowd, drowned out by chants, boos, whistles and catcalls of “ciao bella,” (goodbye beautiful) and “shame, shame,” until Gallo’s former secretary called for silence. In the streets, the crowd, many wearing red scarves and Communist flags, shouted “santo subito” – “sainthood now”.

About 3000 – some papers said as many as 6000 – turned out for the funeral, including Claudio Burlando, the President of the Liguria region, Marco Doria, the mayor of Genoa for whom Gallo had campaigned, and Paolo Ferrero, the secretary of the Communist party, as well as representatives of the Anarchist Federation.

Among those invited to give eulogies was Moni Ovadia, who said, “I’m a Jew, and an agnostic, but I am convinced that Don Gallo is resurrected. I’ve gone hand in hand with him a good part of my life and I can say he embodied the true spirit of hospitality.”

“We know that God prefers atheists,” Ovadia said. “Pimps, smugglers, whores, this was the chosen people, as the people of Don Gallo.”

Gallo’s celebrity was such that his funeral has received huge coverage in the mainstream secular Italian press, most of it warmly complimentary. Il Fatto Quotidinano ran a commentary piece by fellow leftist activist priest Fr. Paolo Farinella, who described the rain at the wedding as the tears of angels coming down from heaven.

“The rain is a blessing that purifies all to be worthy to participate in the death of a prophet who was loved and who took part in the lives of all those who met him.”

Farinella encapsulated the symbolic meaning of the event, writing, that the “Gallo funeral is the visible emblem of two parallel churches: one of the people, of ‘losers,’ people of flesh and blood, …but who love; and the other one represented by the cardinal who lives in another world, an alien world, with no history and no heart.

“A church lifeless, dead. Don Gallo, dead is alive and lively. The cardinal, living and wrapped in robes and hats, is dead and buried.”

Thursday, May 30, 2013

‘May God have mercy on his soul’: Canadian arch-abortionist Henry Morgentaler dead at 90


Wed May 29, 2013 12:43 EST

TORONTO, ON, May 29, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Dr. Henry Morgentaler, a militant atheist and abortionist who has been referred to as ‘Canada’s Father of Abortion,’ died this morning of a heart attack at the age of 90.

Carolyn Egan, with the Ontario Coalition of Abortion Clinics, told reporters that she spoke with members of Morgentaler’s family, who told her he died peacefully surrounded by family at his Toronto home.

Henry Morgentaler

“May God have mercy on his soul,” Jim Hughes, President of Campaign Life Coalition, Canada's largest pro-life organization, told LifeSiteNews.com.

“I have been praying for him daily for more than 20 years,” Hughes said. “He’s caused much damage to men and women who have personally experienced the abortion issue. And he’s certainly done great damage to Canadian society, to the future of the country, with the loss of so many millions of unborn children.”

Morgentaler responsible for abortion-on-demand to 9th month

In addition to personally aborting thousands of children, Morgentaler bears a large portion of the responsibility for the current legal vacuum on abortion that every unborn baby in the country faces.

On January 28 of this year, pro-life activists mourned the 25th year anniversary of the Morgentaler Decision, in which the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in favor of the notorious abortionist. The court struck down the few remaining protections still afforded to unborn babies by the 1969 Liberal government’s “Omnibus Bill,” which already permitted abortion under permissive circumstances.

Unlike the 1973 Roe V. Wade of the United States, the 1988 Morgentaler Decision did not give women a constitutional ‘right’ to abortion, but simply declared as ‘unconstitutional’ Section 251 of the Criminal Code that governed abortion. The court left the “abortion question” to Parliament to “pronounce on and to direct social policy.” However, to date Parliament has failed to pass any such abortion-related legislation.

The Morgentaler Decision meant that a pregnant woman could legally terminate the life of her unborn child during all nine months of pregnancy, for any reason whatsoever. The decision placed Canada alongside Communist China in having no legislation whatsoever protecting young human life in a mother’s womb.

Holocaust survivor to birth control pioneer and 'abortion zealot'

Morgentaler was no stranger to brutality. He was incarcerated as a young man at a Nazi concentration camp for his Jewish ancestry. In 1950 Morgentaler immigrated to Canada and practiced medicine. He very soon came to devote his energies to spreading contraception, becoming one of the country’s first doctors to perform vasectomies, insert IUDs, and provide unmarried women with the pill.

By 1973, Morgentaler claimed to have performed over 5000 illegal abortions. Numerous attempts to bring him to justice proved futile since Canada's media and other influential persons and organizations generated mounting public sentiment onto his side.

Morgentaler was charged in 1983 with performing ‘illegal abortions’ after opening English Canada’s first abortion clinic in Toronto. His case reached the Supreme Court of Canada in 1986. Then, in 1988, the Supreme Court ruled in Morgentaler’s favor.

For his work in securing legal abortion on-demand for Canadian women, Morgentaler was awarded the Order of Canada in 2008. Over 100 Members of Parliament opposed his being named to the Order, and numerous former recipients returned their awards in protest.

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Hughes described Morgentaler as an "abortion zealot," recalling that during their first personal meeting, Morgentaler had told Hughes that he would never succeed in restricting abortion. “You’re never going to succeed. I’ve aborted the mistresses of judges, cabinet ministers, and cops,” the pro-life leader remembers Morgentaler telling him.

However, Hughes also said that Morgentaler's position on abortion appears to have changed over the years. The last time Hughes spoke with the abortionist, he had asked Morgentaler to join a joint conference call denouncing late-term abortions. While the abortionist declined the invitation, he had showed signs of moving away from his earlier strident position on this issue when in 2004 he decried late-term abortions saying, "We don't abort babies, we want to abort fetuses before they become babies. Around 24 weeks I have ethical problems doing that.” Even in the case of severe fetal defects or teenage pregnancies, Morgentaler said that his clinics "usually counsel the woman to continue the pregnancy and put it up for adoption if she is unable to care for it."

Hughes said that he "saw some growth in the man over the years," and recalls that the last time they spoke, Morgentaler "thanked me for the way I had treated him when we had met personally."

On one occasion Hughes remembers dining in a restaurant and seeing Morgentaler eating at a nearby table. Hughes approached Morgentaler and told him that he was still praying for him regularly. The abortionist thanked the pro-life activist.

Morgentaler: 'My whole life has been devoted to doing things to get me the love of women'

Morgentaler is well known for being a philanderer, having been married three times, and having had affairs with many other women while married. "I’d say my whole life has been devoted to doing things to get me the love of women," the abortionist candidly admitted in one clip from a deeply personal interview that aired on CBC in 2008.

When asked why he has had so many relationships over the years, Morgentaler - who told interviewer Evan Solomon later in the interview that he has been receiving Freudian therapy for "a long time" - responded: "What explains it is my inordinate need to be loved by women.

"Some time along my emotional development," he continued, "I got the impression that my mother didn’t love me, because there was a younger baby that she devoted a lot of attention to, which happens in many families I guess. I personally believe that she neglected me and that she didn’t love me. So, to be loved by women was emotionally to me very important."

This past March Canadian pro-lifers were encouraged to pray for Morgentaler’s conversion.

“This is the end of an era and we hope that our country can now turn a necessary corner and find the courage to restore protection to all human beings, born and pre-born,” said Mary Ellen Douglas, National Organizer of Campaign Life Coalition. “As we wish for both ally and adversary, may God have mercy on his soul.”

Co-authored with John Jalsevac

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Pope Francis rejects attack on old rite and says "treasure tradition"

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

The Bishops of the region of Tavoliere met recently with Pope Francis on anad limina visit. On their return home, one has given a fascinating glimpse of the attitude of Pope Francis to those who are seeking to use the opportunity of his papacy to attack the traditional Mass. This is reported in the Italian paper Il Foglio, in the article: La messa antica non si tocca, il Papa gesuita spiazza ancora tutti ("The old mass is not to be touched, the Jesuit Pope wrong-foots everyone")

Here is my translation of the relevant part of the article which tells of other bishops raising concerns with the Holy Father and goes on to speak of the intervention concerning the old Mass:
Then it was the turn of the bishop of Conversano and Monopoli, Domenico Padovano, who recounted to the clergy of his diocese how the priority of the bishops of the region of Tavoliere had been that of explaining to the Pope that the mass in the old rite was creating great divisions within the Church. The underlying message: Summorum Pontificum should be cancelled, or at least strongly limited. But Francis said no.

Mgr Padovano explained that Francis replied to them saying that they should be vigilant over the extremism of certain traditionalist groups but also suggesting that they should treasure tradition and create the necessary conditions so that tradition might be able to live alongside innovation.
This is not really a surprise (did anyone expect that Pope Francis would somehow "repeal" Summorum Pontificum?) but it is a welcome confirmation of what we would all expect.

One thing that jumps out of the story is that the bishops of this region judged that their main pastoral priority - to be communicated to the Pope on a five-yearly visit - was to attack Summorum Pontificum. Forget abortion, embryo experimentation, the push for same-sex marriage throughout Europe, the loss of faith of many Catholics and our failure in catechesis and evangelisation. No, the really big problem is a small number of priests legitimately saying the old Mass. Given what Pope Francis has said about the danger of being a self-referential Church, I can well imagine he gave them short shrift.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Should moderation be canonized?

By Alice von Hildebrand

Aristotle’s sense of the concrete sheds light on many problems of human existence. He remarks wisely that we all can err by going to extremes: there is a “too much”, there is a “too little.” Common sense tells us that these excesses should be avoided.

The soup can be unbearably salty or totally tasteless. A sound can be too loud and deafens us, or it can be too weak, and remain unperceived. The list is endless, but the couple of examples given prove that Aristotle has a valid point. Excesses should be avoided. Practical wisdom tells us that there is a middle ground which is sound and reasonable.

My concern is the following: can common sense wisdom shed light on ethical problems? Is virtue a “middle ground” and “vice” some sort of excess? This is the famous Mesotes theory offered us by The Philosopher (as St. Thomas calls him) in his Nicomachean Ethics. The term “nihil nimis” (nothing in excess) sounds like harmonious music to the human ear. “Don’t exaggerate,” always aim at the golden mean. Any excess is to be anathematized. The “good” man is therefore also the wise man who finds the right middle, and adjusts his conduct to it.

But wisdom also teaches us that we should carefully refrain from “over extending” a truth in the sense of applying it to domains which have a very different structure.

Not surprisingly Aristotle did extend this valuable insight to the ethical sphere: avariciousness is an excess. A miser sits on his bag of gold; any money spent breaks his heart. A prodigal person, on the contrary, cannot keep a penny in his pocket. This was the case with Chesterton, as he himself confessed.

Both positions are “unreasonable” and for this reason are be rejected, but are they immoral and equally immoral? Who would not prefer Chesterton to Mr. Grandet in Balzac’s famous novel? Is prodigality to be condemned as much as it is “opposite?” Reason tells us that we should aim at the middle: spend when necessary; save when necessary. This is definitely sound economics, but is it a virtue? Is reasonability a key to ethics? If that were the case, we should consult a talented accountant to be our guide in many of our moral decisions. It is true that there are definitely cases when “unreasonable” (spending wildly and letting one‘s children starve) is definitely immoral.

But does not ethics require more than common sense?

Father Copleston remarks that this “virtue” plays an important role in Aristotle‘s ethics, but the question we dare raise is: can’t it also be a recipe for mediocrity? Why is it said in the Apocalypse that those who are neither hot nor cold, “will be spewed out of my mouth” (Rev. 3:16) and Dante makes an explicit reference to those who, “mai non fur vivi” (Canto 3): those who “play safe” and never commit themselves to any truth. It might be the recipe of “successful” politicians.

In other words, should we unconditionally endorse Aristotle’s Mesotes theory? That virtue is a mean between two extremes: excess and defect? That we should move toward the center? But is the crucial moral question: too much or too little? Is it not rather a question of what we ought to do in a given situation independently of our subjective wishes?

The avaricious man does not spend when spending is called for because his “heart” is in his money. His motivation is dictated by what Dietrich von Hildebrand dubbed, “the merely subjectively satisfying.” But the very same is true of the prodigal. He enjoys spending and he does not sit on his gold because giving it away is “fun.” Both men have the same identical motivation, but having different temperaments (today people would say “genes”) they make “opposite” decisions. They are “twins.” It should be luminous that the crucial question is whether a person is motivated by what he subjectively enjoys, or whether he is responding to a moral call.

Let us apply this approach to other types of “excess”: prudishness and pornography. They are opposites; but are they both to be rejected because in one case “one covers too much” and in the other, “one covers too little?” But in fact ethics tells us that both prudishness and pornography are both poisoned. The first by the Calvinistic conviction that original sin has so totally corrupted our nature, that everything in man is depraved and very particularly a sphere where innumerable men trip and fall as our Lady told the little children at Fatima. Pornography is detestable because the pornographer looks at a mysterious sphere (a divine invention) with Satanic glasses. Lucifer loves filth.

Both should be abhorred and rejected; it is definitely not a question of “finding a middle ground.” Which is worse? In this context, I will refrain from discussing it, even though it might be worth doing.

Prudishness offends a divine invention; pornography throws dirt on it. The right attitude will be found by asking: what was the Divine plan in creating man “male and female.” The question of “unveiling” then receives a radically different sense. When is unveiling called for and when is veiling called for? The answer to the first question is when with God’s permission having received the Sacrament of Marriage, the spouses, in trembling reverence, gratefully unveil themselves and generously give themselves to their loved one. Then unveiling is the theme: when St. Elizabeth of Hungary gave herself to her beloved spouse, we can imagine how the angels rejoiced: this unveiling was in “conspectu Dei” and glorified God. This is true of all saintly marriages, and there are many in the Church. Veiling is called for when the situation makes it clear that this secret is to be kept. Would it be proper for nuns to be in bikinis? The theme is then to protect the secrets of the King.

We now see how inadequate and misleading it is the question of “too much” or “too little.” The one question that we ought to raise is, “What ought we to do in this particular situation? What is God expecting from us – independently of our subjective wishes?

When facing a starving person, there is a clear call to help him generously. But to feel noble and generous in giving a most expensive gift to George Soros would trigger our laughter. In other words, the ethical question is, “What is the call of the moment?” In Christian terms, “What is the theme of Christ?”

When St. Francis chose “lady poverty” and gave everything away he certainly was not motivated by prodigality, but responding to a divine call to follow the One who chose to be born in a stable. From the point of view of the “mesotes,” he was highly unreasonable. He stood in front of nothing. But why? Because of his burning love of Christ that he wanted to follow.

To a secular mind, saints are shockingly unreasonable. “It is all well and good to be a good Christian,” they will tell us, “but to wear a coat in tatters and eat the left over from a garbage bin, is plainly an exaggeration.” A secular mind might reason that a prostitute should change her “life style” which ultimately is unhealthy and will not be beneficial to her. But at the same time they will strongly object to Mary Magdalene’s way of repenting : was it not a bit too extravagant? Alas, this question was raised by the Apostles.

But can one love God too much? Can one be too humble or too charitable? Flat footed reasonability sounds so convincing. It is the guide line of successful politicians. Yet, the saints while giving everything to God felt subjectively that they have given nothing. It is worth mentioning that this truth was already intuited by Plato, “a preparer of the ways of Christ.”

In one of Plato’s dialogues, Phaedrus, Socrates listens to a friend who shares with him the content of a discourse of a man who claimed that love is a sort of “madness”: the lover loses his head for the loved one, and inevitably will harm himself. The non-lover on the contrary, keeps his sanity, and will wisely use a relationship to his advantage, so that he will come out “the winner.” At first Socrates seems to agree with this thesis, but then he “hears his voice” and realizes that he has gone off track.

He cannot take another step: he must first correct the erroneous view he had adopted. He now tells us that there are two very different types of madness. There is a sort of madness that militates against reason. But there is also a divine madness which even though not following the “prudent” dictates of reason, transcends reason. Man then grows wings and is given to perceive that there are things of such greatness and beauty that they are worth giving everything to attain them. To trample on reason leads to disaster. To grow wings and go beyond reason is the road to all great things.

We are told in the Gospel that when a man finds a pearl of great price, he sells whatever he possesses in order to acquire it. This is the holy madness of the saints.

Let him hear, he who has ears to hear.

Alice von Hildebrand is a lecturer and an author, whose works include: The Privilege of Being a Woman (2002) and The Soul of a Lion: The Life of Dietrich von Hildebrand (2000), a biography of her late husband.

Monday, May 27, 2013

To the Slaughter

National Review Online

MAY 24, 2013 6:00 PM

British lions come up lambs in Woolwich.

By Mark Steyn
About Author

Michael Adebolajo speaks to horrified onlookers after the attack.

On Wednesday, Drummer Lee Rigby of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, a man who had served Queen and country honorably in the hell of Helmand Province in Afghanistan, emerged from his barracks on Wellington Street, named after the Duke thereof, in southeast London. Minutes later, he was hacked to death in broad daylight and in full view of onlookers by two men with machetes who crowed “Allahu akbar!” as they dumped his carcass in the middle of the street like so much road kill.

As grotesque as this act of savagery was, the aftermath was even more unsettling. The perpetrators did not, as the Tsarnaev brothers did in Boston, attempt to escape. Instead, they held court in the street gloating over their trophy, and flagged down a London bus to demand the passengers record their triumph on film. As the crowd of bystanders swelled, the remarkably urbane savages posed for photographs with the remains of their victim while discoursing on the iniquities of Britain toward the Muslim world. Having killed Drummer Rigby, they were killing time: It took 20 minutes for the somnolent British constabulary to show up. And so television viewers were treated to the spectacle of a young man, speaking in the vowels of south London, chatting calmly with his “fellow Britons” about his geopolitical grievances and apologizing to the ladies present for any discomfort his beheading of Drummer Rigby might have caused them, all while drenched in blood and still wielding his cleaver.

If you’re thinking of getting steamed over all that, don’t. Simon Jenkins, the former editor of the Times of London, cautioned against “mass hysteria” over “mundane acts of violence.”

That’s easy for him to say. Woolwich is an unfashionable part of town, and Sir Simon is unlikely to find himself there of an afternoon stroll. Drummer Rigby had less choice in the matter. Being jumped by barbarians with machetes is certainly “mundane” in Somalia and Sudan, but it’s the sort of thing that would once have been considered somewhat unusual on a sunny afternoon in south London — at least as unusual as, say, blowing up eight-year-old boys at the Boston Marathon. It was “mundane” only in the sense that, as at weddings and kindergarten concerts, the reflexive reaction of everybody present was to get out their cell phones and start filming.

Once, long ago, I was in an altercation where someone pulled a switchblade, and ever since have been mindful of Jimmy Hoffa’s observation that he’d rather jump a gun than a knife. Nevertheless, there is a disturbing passivity to this scene: a street full of able-bodied citizens being lectured to by blood-soaked murderers who have no fear that anyone will be minded to interrupt their diatribes. In fairness to the people of Boston, they were ordered to “shelter in place” by the governor of Massachusetts. In Woolwich, a large crowd of Londoners apparently volunteered to “shelter in place,” instinctively. Consider how that will play when these guys’ jihadist snuff video is being hawked around the bazaars of the Muslim world. Behold the infidels, content to be bystanders in their own fate.

This passivity set the tone for what followed. In London as in Boston, the politico-media class immediately lapsed into the pneumatic multiculti Tourette’s that seems to be a chronic side effect of excess diversity-celebrating: No Islam to see here, nothing to do with Islam, all these body parts in the street are a deplorable misinterpretation of Islam. The BBC’s Nick Robinson accidentally described the men as being “of Muslim appearance,” but quickly walked it back lest impressionable types get the idea that there’s anything “of Muslim appearance” about a guy waving a machete and saying “Allahu akbar.” A man is on TV dripping blood in front of a dead British soldier and swearing “by Almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you,” yet it’s the BBC reporter who’s apologizing for “causing offence.” To David Cameron, Drummer Rigby’s horrific end was “not just an attack on Britain and on the British way of life, it was also a betrayal of Islam. . . . There is nothing in Islam that justifies this truly dreadful act.”

How does he know? He doesn’t seem the most likely Koranic scholar. Appearing on David Letterman’s show a while back, Cameron was unable to translate into English the words “Magna Carta,” which has quite a bit to do with that “British way of life” he’s so keen on. But apparently it’s because he’s been up to his neck in suras and hadiths every night sweating for Sharia 101. So has Scotland Yard’s deputy assistant commissioner, Brian Paddick, who reassured us after the London Tube bombings that “Islam and terrorism don’t go together,” and the mayor of Toronto, David Miller, telling NPR listeners after 19 Muslims were arrested for plotting to behead the Canadian prime minister: “You know, in Islam, if you kill one person you kill everybody,” he said in a somewhat loose paraphrase of Koran 5:32 that manages to leave out some important loopholes. “It’s a very peaceful religion.”

That’s why it fits so harmoniously into famously peaceful societies like, say, Sweden. For the last week Stockholm has been ablaze every night with hundreds of burning cars set alight by “youths.” Any particular kind of “youth”? The Swedish prime minister declined to identify them any more precisely than as “hooligans.” But don’t worry: The “hooligans” and “youths” and men of no Muslim appearance whatsoever can never win because, as David Cameron ringingly declared, “they can never beat the values we hold dear, the belief in freedom, in democracy, in free speech, in our British values, Western values.” Actually, they’ve already gone quite a way toward eroding free speech, as both prime ministers demonstrate. The short version of what happened in Woolwich is that two Muslims butchered a British soldier in the name of Islam and helpfully explained, “The only reason we have done this is because Muslims are dying every day.” But what do they know? They’re only Muslims, not Diversity Outreach Coordinators. So the BBC, in its so-called “Key Points,” declined to mention the “Allahu akbar” bit or the “I”-word at all: Allah who?

Not a lot of Muslims want to go to the trouble of chopping your head off, but when so many Western leaders have so little rattling around up there, they don’t have to. And, as we know from the sob-sister Tsarnaev profiles, most of these excitable lads are perfectly affable, or at least no more than mildly alienated, until the day they set a hundred cars alight, or blow up a school boy, or decapitate some guy. And, if you’re lucky, it’s not you they behead, or your kid they kill, or even your Honda Civic they light up. And so life goes on, and it’s all so “mundane,” in Simon Jenkins’s word, that you barely notice when the Jewish school shuts up, and the gay bar, and the uncovered women no longer take a stroll too late in the day, and the publishing house that gets sent the manuscript for the next Satanic Versesdecides it’s not worth the trouble. . . . But don’t worry, they’ll never defeat our “free speech” and our “way of life.”

One in ten Britons under 25 is now Muslim. That number will increase, through immigration, disparate birth rates, and conversions like those of the Woolwich killers, British-born and -bred. Metternich liked to say the Balkans began in the Landstrasse, in southeast Vienna. Today, the Dar al-Islam begins in Wellington Street, in southeast London. That’s a “betrayal” all right, but not of Islam.

Mark Steyn, a National Review columnist, is the author of After America: Get Ready for Armageddon. © 2013 Mark Steyn

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Why the Latin Mass?

mass1‘I went into St. Peter’s and stood under the dome and read those words: Tu es Petrus et super hanc petram. And I looked to theconfessio where lie the bones of St. Peter, and I looked again at the words in the dome, and I understood, and from that understanding I have never turned back.’

Tu es Petrus et super hanc petram aedificabo ecclesiam meam.  Those words resonate with me in so many ways, so many times, places.
One of my students came into my office last week, having just seen an impressive film in his European history class about Martin Luther. He is intelligent, moral, and takes Latin (the latter nearly equal to being moral!). He proceeded, on the basis of the film, which had its biases, to rip apart the Catholic Church, corruption, bad popes who had children, priests living in sin, failure to preach the Gospel, and much more. We have all heard this view of history, which despite the biases, has some basis in reality.
 In response, I tried to explain the significance of the Tu es Petrus saying in the Gospel of Matthew; but he would have none of it, because to him it was obvious—that is, someone had told him—that Jesus was not referring to Peter but to the rock which is the Church in some idealistic sense. So all I could do was to tell him how and when I understood this passage. I was in Rome for the first time in my life in the summer after my first year at the Yale Divinity School. I shall not tell you, for it has nothing to do with a Christian sermon, about my discovery on that occasion of my Italian heritage. Nor shall I tell you about the beginning of my love affair with the baroque in the church of St. Andrea al Quirinale. But I shall tell you what I told this young man, for it has to do with my discovery of the Catholic faith. I went into St. Peter’s and stood under the dome and read those words: Tu es Petrus et super hanc petram. And I looked to the confessio where lie the bones of St. Peter, and I looked again at the words in the dome, and I understood, and from that understanding I have never turned back.
And neither did Gregory the Great. If I were to be elected Pope, I have no doubt as to what name I would choose: Gregory. For two of my greatest heroes of the Church both bear the name Gregory: Gregory the Great and

‘A true reformer…recalls forma, recalls beauty, recalls the forma Ecclesiae– back to who she is — the bride of Christ, the locus of salvation, the meeting of heaven and earth.’    

Gregory the VII. And they are my heroes because they both understood what the words Tu es Petrus mean in the most existential yet in the most objective way.
Let us not quibble about understandings about jurisdiction, decretals, or Gregorian chant. Both of these men knew who they were and what they must do. They both knew the terribly earthen vessels they were, and yet pressed on with their reforms, for they were both reformers in the truest sense, not puritans or reactionaries but true reformers. What is a true reformer? And its attendant question: what is a true reformation? We all think we know what reformer and reformation mean, but if we look deep into the roots of these words we see something that surprises us. What is a true reformer: he is the one who recalls forma, he is the one who recalls beauty, he is the one who recalls the forma Ecclesiae, who recalls the Ecclesia Formosa—whose beauty is a reflection of the beauty of God in Jesus Christ—back to who she is, the bride of Christ, the locus of salvation, the meeting of heaven and earth. For the Christian, beauty finds its source in the beauty of God, whose love is the source of beauty. It is the Christian who looks upon the crucifix and sees sheer and utter beauty. And it is in this sense that Dostoyevsky’s Idiot is absolutely right: beauty will save the world.

mass2‘It is the Mass that is the recollection of beauty — of the beauty of God.’
And it is the Mass that is the recollection of beauty, of the beauty of God. Recollection is a strange English word. To gather together again, to bring together in the mind, to remember. And yet much more than this. But to not remember, to refuse to remember: this is sin in the deepest sense. Forgive my classical allusions today, but I know many of you share my love of the classics. I teach both Catullus and Cicero. Catullus and Cicero were certainly, although contemporaries, quite different men. Yet both took friendship ultimately seriously. Both agreed on one thing: to be immemor, to be forgetful of one’s obligations to one’s friends, was a terrible sin. To forget on purpose the bond that joins two friends who have agreed to enter into this relationship: that is the unforgivable sin. The sin of being immemor is taken to tragic and lofty heights by Vergil in the Aeneid. When Aeneas forgets on purpose who he is, that is to say, what he must do, what his destiny is, he is recalled in a terrifying way to do what he must do. And thus, for the Western hero, for the pre-Christian hero, to forget in a deliberate way who one is by forgetting what one must do—this is sin. Adam and Eve forgot deliberately who they were and what that meant. And they sinned. When Israel forgot who she was, the chosen people of God, she sinned. And then comes that moment in which the sin of being immemor is made forgivable by a gesture, by a word: “Do this in memory of me.” Memory and its pollution by sin is purified by the breaking of bread and the drinking of a cup of wine by God in the flesh: anamnesis makes memory the vehicle of God, the calling forth of God: the bell rings, the host is held on high, the people sigh, and God is with his people. Past becomes present: the unreality of the future is guaranteed and made real by this presence, the presence of God.

‘The bell rings,  the Host is held on high, the people sigh, and God is with His people.’

One of my favorite pieces of literature is the Narnia Chronicles by C.S. Lewis. In the third book, Prince Caspian, the prince is fighting a battle against the evil forces led by his wicked uncle, and the prince’s troops are losing. In desperation the prince blows on a magical horn that is able to summon the heroes of the past to come to the rescue of those in the present. The Prince sounds the horn and the kings and queens of the past come back and with great courage and fortitude lead the charge and win the battle. But here and really. Not nostalgia, not memory. But anamnesis. The horn sounds not to summon imaginary heroes from the past to fight battles of the present. The horn sounds, the bell sounds, the silence sounds, to summon the power and person of God himself to be present in and defend and make fruitful the Church, his Body, et portae inferi contra eam non praevalebunt.
Twenty years is a long time and a very short time. The Saint Gregory Society exists not to wallow in nostalgia. Not to exult in some sort of gorgeous Wagnerian glorification of the past and therefore the present. Not to preserve Gregorian chant and Lassus as a wonderful and beautiful art form, which both are. Not to wall its members off from the crass and vulgar and chillingly secular and anti-religious aspects of contemporary society. But rather, with the explicit support of Pope Benedict XVI, to refuse to be immemor, to refuse to pretend that the post-Vatican II liturgy, despite its validity and source of grace, is continuous with the traditional Roman rite, to refuse to reduce anamnesis to the memory of the present community: but more importantly to take on the task which is the task of the Cross: to bear the burden of Christ whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light; to continue to offer the Holy Sacrifice with dignity, reverence and faith, and to witness to the Church and to the world, by the beauty of the Mass and the holiness of its members, the reality of the truth, goodness, and beauty of God.

‘This rite is not convenient, for it demands that you allow yourself to be swept up into the re-presentation of Calvary; that you use silence, holy silence, to go where words cannot go.’

You who come here for the first time and experience the depth of Catholic worship
which unites us beyond time and space with the dead and with the saints in
heaven; you who come here occasionally when your schedule permits. Go home and
consider whether what we do here and in my own parish of St. Mary in Stamford
in the offering of the traditional Mass is important for the Church and
important for you as Catholics. If what we do is important then it deserves the
active support of those who understand what is at stake—not merely time and
financial support but bodily support, being present here to worship God in this
timeless rite. It is certainly easier to pop into one’s parish church and sit
through the Novus Ordo Mass and, knowing that that frail garment is a source of grace, to receive Holy Communion and go home and suppress the feeling that there is something missing, something wrong.
We are a people whose lives are based on convenience. And not only is this Mass not convenient to come to: the odd hour, the sketchy neighborhood, the peeling paint of the church: this rite itself is not convenient, for it demands that you give yourself, you lose yourself, you allow yourself to be swept up into the re-presentation of Calvary; it demands that you use silence, holy silence, to go where words cannot go; it demands that you participate deeply in the act,participatio actuosa, rather than persisting with the kind of “active participation” which belongs at a school assembly. To come here requires sacrifice, but that’s what it is all about anyway.

mass6‘To witness to the Church and to the world, by the beauty of the Mass and the holiness of its members, the reality of the truth, goodness, and beauty of God.’

Today we ask for the intercession of Saint Gregory the Great, that he may give us the courage, strength, hope and joy to recall the Church to liturgical reform—not to bring something back from the past, but to recall the Church to its essence in the beauty of Christ as seen and experienced in the traditional Roman rite.

Sancte Gregori, ora pro nobis.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Father Richard Cipolla is Chair of the Classics Department at the Brunswick School in Greenwich, CT and parochial vicar at St. Mary Roman Catholic Church in nearby Norwalk. The parish, located in a suburb of New York City, is a vibrant, growing one, with a strong tradition of celebrating the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. This article is taken from a homily he preached at the 20th anniversary mass of the Saint Gregory Society on November 12, 2006. The Society can be found athttp://www.saint-gregory.org .
In Rome, High Mass in the Extraordinary Rite is celebrated at Trinita Dei Pellegrini by the Fraternal Society of Saint Peter. High Mass is at 11:00 on Sundays.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Fifty Years Later–Vatican II’s Unfinished Business


Today, 50 years after the opening of Vatican II, the misinterpretation of one of its most salient documents, Lumen Gentium, continues to drive a number of Catholics in the United States into one of two camps, the “right” or the “left.”

Fifty years after the opening of the Second Vatican Council, the Church in the United States is in the throes of a struggle. Loyal Catholics are showing renewed vigor and vitality, and are helping the Church to move forward in unity. At the same time, the Church is also being exhausted and drained from within by a vocal movement of other Catholics who continue to dissent from Church teachings, particularly the teachings of the Second Vatican Council.

Dissent is entrenched in the Church in the U.S.

For most American Catholics over 50, it is an accepted fact that dissent from the magisterium of the Church is widespread, tolerated, and, in some quarters, even welcomed. The breaking point, of course, was Paul VI’s 1968 prophetic encyclical, Humanae Vitae, which condemned contraception as “intrinsically disordered.” The encyclical became one of the most controversial documents of the century, if not many centuries. The widespread dissent by Catholics was led with enthusiasm by huge numbers of Catholic theologians, professors and intellectuals. The onslaught of bright, articulate academics turning on the Pope encouraged many Catholics in the pews to do the same.

Why would so many educated Catholics—who should have been ready and able to defend the teaching authority of the Church—turn against the Pope with such force? How could they justify it?

The most popular argument was that permission to dissent had been given by none other than the Second Vatican Council. The dissenters claimed that “the spirit of Vatican II,” along with theological perspectives of the Council, supported their argument that individual Catholics have a right to dissent from “non-infallible” Church teachings—even authoritative encyclicals like Paul VI’s “Humanae Vitae”—if they felt they had a good enough reason.

Unfortunately, this false notion was unwittingly given a boost by none other than the bishops of the United States. On November 15, 1968, a few months after the promulgation of Humanae Vitae, the bishops issued their pastoral letter, “Human Life in Our Day,” to help Catholics interpret the Pope’s encyclical. The bishops said in no. 51 of that document that in some cases, a Catholic could dissent from “non-infallible authentic doctrine” of the magisterium. They explained: “The expression of theological dissent from the magisterium is in order only if the reasons are serious and well-founded, if the manner of the dissent does not question or impugn the teaching authority of the Church, and is such as not to give scandal.”

So, the bishops did approve of limited dissent from papal teaching in faith and morals.

This position was given even more credence later by the powerful and widely quoted Cardinal Bernardin when he was Archbishop of Chicago. Shortly before his death in 1996, Cardinal Bernardin initiated his Catholic Common Ground Project, to bring factions of the church together in “dialogue.” According to a Nov. 14, 1996, article in Origins (pp. 353-356), the axis of Cardinal Bernardin’s legacy was the belief that “limited and occasional dissent” from the magisterium of the Church was “legitimate.”

But what did Vatican II really teach?
So, the intellectual community and even the high-ranking Church leaders were reinforcing the idea that dissent from Church teachings was to be expected, even welcomed—and that permission to do so came straight from Vatican II.

However, had they really read the documents of Vatican II?
The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium), no. 25, presents a far different answer from the dissenters. This carefully reasoned Vatican II document states that, even though the bishops of the Catholic Church are not individually infallible, they do teach infallibly the Church’s doctrines of faith and morals “when, gathered together in an ecumenical council, they are teachers and judges of faith and morals for the universal Church, whose definitions must be adhered to with the submission of faith.”

What could be clearer? Lumen Gentium, no. 25, explicitly states that one such case of the bishops teaching infallibly is when they teach a matter of faith and morals in “an ecumenical council.” Vatican II was “an ecumenical Council.” The Council also taught in no. 25 of Lumen Gentium that these definitions of the bishops on matters of faith and morals must be held with a “religious assent.” Furthermore: “This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra …”

The Council goes on to explain this required assent to the Pope’s non-ex cathedra teaching: “…that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will.” But how does one know the Pope’s “manifest mind and will?” Again, the Council clarifies it by saying that: “… His mind and will in the matter may be known either from the character of the documents, from his frequent repetition of the same doctrine, or from his manner of speaking.”

Clearly according to the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council there is no room for dissent from even the non-ex-cathedra or “non-infallible” decisions of the Pope on matters of faith and morals—not even “limited and occasional” dissent. This means that there is no room for dissent from the Pope’s teaching on contraception in Humanae Vitae. A Catholic, therefore, who would maintain that one could dissent from a non-ex cathedra or non-infallible decision of a pope, would be implicitly dissenting from Lumen Gentium no. 25 and the Second Vatican Council itself.

The occasion for the misunderstanding
Although Lumen Gentium, no. 25, speaks clearly, it should not come as a surprise that it was misinterpreted. Part of the confusion arose from an interpretation of Paul VI’s statement about the authority of the decisions of the Council. As found in vol. 11 of The Pope Speaks, Paul VI stated in “After the Council: New Tasks,”

In view of the pastoral nature of the Council, it avoided any extraordinary statement of dogmas that would be endowed with the note of infallibility, but it still provided its teaching with the authority of the supreme ordinary magisterium. This ordinary magisterium, which is so obviously official, has to be accepted with docility and sincerity by all the faithful, in accordance with the mind of the Council on the nature and aims of the individual documents.

For the dissenters, the Pope’s careful parsing of the Council’s mission—to avoid “any extraordinary statement of dogmas that would be endowed with the note of infallibility”—was apparently just enough of a loophole to keep the fires of their argument alive.

However, note that the Council titled Lumen Gentium, as the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church. That indicates that the “nature” of Lumen Gentium is “dogmatic” per se, and its “aim” is to point out to Catholics those dogmas of divine faith which have always been part of the belief of the Church!

So, while there are no “extraordinary” dogmas in Vatican II, there are ordinary dogmas which are drawn from Scripture, Tradition, or previous teachings of the magisterium. Thus, even though the Pope and the Council did not exercise their infallible authority to teach Lumen Gentium, the contents (teachings) in Lumen Gentium are, by their very sources, clearly dogmatic. Thus, each Catholic must accept no. 25 of Lumen Gentium as a matter of faith, even though the form of the document itself is not infallible.

Of course, the fact remains that none of the documents of Vatican II are taught ex cathedra. Therefore, none of the teachings of Vatican II are formally pronounced as dogmas by the Second Vatican Council itself. So, very strictly speaking, a person can dissent from Vatican IIitself without being a formal heretic. However, to dissent from an ecumenical council is no small matter. To put it informally, one may avoid being a heretic, but still may be a “bad” Catholic.

Ordinary counciliar self-verification is not enough
How did this confusion take root? It can best be explained as rising from the concept of conciliar self-verification. In other words, the Second Vatican Council teaches that the fathers at an “ecumenical council” are teachers of faith and morals, and their “definitions must be adhered to with the submission of faith.” The problem is, the ecumenical council making this statement is itself an ecumenical council—and, therefore, is making statements about itself and not making it with the highest authority, i.e., ex cathedra.

In other words, one might say this is the conciliar version of chasing one’s own theological tail. The fallout has been that, for several generations of Catholics, from academics and Church leaders to the laity in the pews, the lasting impression is, “Vatican II said it was okay to disagree with the Pope.”

Thus began the era of “taking sides.” It was as if the Catholic faith became no more than a grand game—Pope and established Church teachings versus the dissenters—and individual Catholics could simply pick which team to root for. Some called themselves liberals (the “left”) while others called themselves conservatives (the “right.”) Each group dissented from Vatican II, but for different reasons.

Many liberal nuns in the U.S., for example, continue to sympathize with anti-life groups that claim they are helping the poor by promoting the poor’s right to funds for abortion and contraception. They claim to be supporting social justice by defending, or, at least, sympathizing with, the gay agenda. They are especially vocal in demanding that the Church ordain women to the priesthood—even after John Paul II informed them that the Church teaching on an all male priesthood is infallible and, therefore, cannot be changed.

On the other hand, the Society of St. Pius X, founded by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, continues to err on the side of utter conservative rigidity. They reject the Second Vatican Council as a movement of the Holy Spirit, and cling to the minutiae of 500-year-old rituals as necessary, for their own sake. The change of the liturgy from Latin to English, or the vernacular of each particular country, is their most well-known objection.

Therefore, today, 50 years after the opening of Vatican II, the misinterpretation of one of its most salient documents, Lumen Gentium, continues to drive a number of Catholics in the United States into one of two camps, the “right” or the “left.”

However, the age of confusion may be coming to an end. According to a July, 2012, article in Catholic World Report, the widespread errors that had grown up about papal authority was addressed head-on by Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller, the newly-appointed prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

“We also have the problem of groups—of the right and the left, as is usually said—which take up much of our time and our attention,” Archbishop Müller was quoted as saying. “Here, the danger easily arises of losing sight of our main task, which is to proclaim the Gospel and to explain concretely the doctrine of the Church.”

The archbishop was clear: dissenters do not belong solely to one camp or the other, despite the fact that each one would claim it to be so. Rather, dissenting Catholics on both the “right” and on the “left” are soaking up the energy of the Church by demanding attention to grievances and stifling the apostolate.

A clear path ahead
One way out of this dilemma is clear and simple. Obviously, the Second Vatican Council’s self-verification of Lumen Gentium, no. 25, was not sufficient to bring about the hoped for unity in faith and morals in the Church.

Therefore, Lumen Gentium, no. 25, should be verified outside of the Second Vatican Council. This could come either by the Pope, using his infallible authority to define Lumen Gentium, no. 25, as ex cathedra, or by another ecumenical council doing so. Given the deep, lasting errors which inadvertently took root after Vatican II—clearly, a great Council which has been unfairly besmirched by controversy—is it too much to think that the solution may be another, clarifying Council, perhaps Vatican III?

Some may argue that requiring all Catholics, even theologians, to make an absolute assent to Lumen Gentium, no.25, to remain in the Church would be severe. It would be a retreat from the spirit of John XXIII’s promise, which he made when he opened Vatican II in 1962, that the worldwide Council would use “the medicine of mercy rather than that of severity.” In other words, the Church would guide her flock without condemnations”—known in earlier centuries as the much dreaded “anathema sit” (“let him be excommunicated”).

However, if this confusion is faced, either through a ringing papal document, or the dramatic convening of a new Council, the outcome will absolutely follow Pope John XXIII’s call for “mercy rather than severity.”

Consider that it is Mercy itself for the Church to clearly proclaim her true nature and teaching authority. If she puts an end to the confusion of several generations, she can turn her entire strength and authority to attract people to the Catholic faith. And by doing so, how can we not say that she will be extending the Mercy of Christ himself?

As Christ said, “The Truth will set you free”—and what greater act of mercy is there, than to free those enslaved by error? Finally, dissenters on both the “right” and the “left” will have the Truth clearly presented to them, so that they can freely decide whether or not they are going to join the Church’s mission into the future.

The beauty of this approach is that no one needs to be explicitly condemned. The proclamation would be equivalent to the definition of “papal infallibility” or the “Immaculate Conception” or the “Assumption.” It would be a dogma defining the Church. A person who could not assent to Lumen Gentium, no. 25, would finally know—clearly and without equivocation—that they are no longer Catholic. The decision would be theirs.

Will this happen? We have reason to hope. Perhaps, the first inklings of a definitive move by the Church came in the words of Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller, the new Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Asked by an interviewer, “What do you think of the discussions with the Lefebvrists, and with the religious sisters of the United States?” The archbishop replied: “There are no negotiations on the Word of God, and one cannot “believe and not believe” at the same time. One cannot pronounce the three religious vows, and then not take them seriously. I cannot make reference to the tradition of the Church, and then accept it only in some of its parts.”

The Archbishop went on to say: “The path of the Church leads ahead, and all are invited not to enclose themselves in a self-referential way of thinking, but rather to accept the full life and the full faith of the Church.”

In the archbishop’s words are the seeds of rebirth, a rooting out of error, and the beginning of a new era of faith.

About Fr. Regis Scanlon, O.F.M. Cap.

Fr. Regis Scanlon, O.F.M.Cap., was ordained in Aug. 26, 1972. He is currently in the process of developing the Julia Greeley shelter for homeless, unaccompanied women in metro Denver. He is spiritual director and chaplain for Mother Teresa of Calcutta’s Missionaries of Charity in Denver, as well as being one of the spiritual directors for the Missionaries of Charity in the western United States. He was director of prison ministry for the Archdiocese of Denver, from 1999 to 2010; a chaplain for Missionaries of Charity at their now-closed AIDS hospice, Seton House, and at Gift of Mary homeless shelter for women in Denver from 1989 to 2008; and in 1997, he was sent by Mother Teresa to instruct Missionaries of Charity in Madagascar and South Africa on the subject of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist . His articles have been published in Homiletic & Pastoral Review, The Catholic Faith, Soul Magazine, Pastoral Life, and The Priest. He has also made two series for Mother Angelica's EWTN: “Crucial Questions,” “Catholic Answers,” and “What Did Vatican II Really Teach?”

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Trials of Father MacRae

The Wall Street Journal

Updated May 10, 2013, 6:40 p.m. ET

He was convicted when it was obligatory—as it remains today—to give credence to every accuser charging a priest with molestation.


Last Christmas Eve, his 18th behind bars, Catholic priest Gordon MacRae offered Mass in his cell at the New Hampshire state penitentiary. A quarter-ounce of unfermented wine and the host had been provided for the occasion, celebrated with the priest's cellmate in attendance. Sentenced to 33½-67 years following his 1994 conviction for sexual assault against a teenage male, Father MacRae has just turned 60.

The path that led inexorably to that conviction would have been familiar to witnesses of the manufactured sex-abuse prosecutions that swept the nation in the 1980s and early 1990s and left an extraordinary number of ruined lives in its wake. Here once more, in the MacRae case, was a set of charges built by a determined sex-abuse investigator and an atmosphere in which accusation was, in effect, all the proof required to bring a guilty verdict. But now there was another factor: huge financial payouts for victims' claims.

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Editorial board member Dorothy Rabinowitz on a priest who was wrongly imprisoned for sexually molesting young boys. Photos: Getty Images

That a great many of the accusations against the priests were amply documented, that they involved the crimes of true predators all too often hidden or ignored, no one can doubt.

Neither should anyone doubt the ripe opportunities there were for fraudulent abuse claims filed in the hope of a large payoff. Busy civil attorneys—working on behalf of clients suddenly alive to the possibilities of a molestation claim, or open to suggestions that they remembered having been molested—could and did reap handsome rewards for themselves and their clients. The Diocese of Manchester, where Father MacRae had served, had by 2004 paid out $22,210,400 in settlements to those who had accused its priests of abuse.

The paydays did not come without effort. Thomas Grover—a man with a long record of violence, theft and drug offenses on whose claims the state built its case against Father MacRae—would receive direction for his testimony at the criminal trial. A conviction at the priest's criminal trial would be a crucial determinant of success—that is, of the potential for reward—in Mr. Grover's planned civil suit.

The 27-year-old accuser found that direction from a counselor at an agency recommended by his civil attorney. During Mr. Grover's testimony, this therapist could be seen (though not by the jury) standing in the back of the courtroom. There, courtroom observers noted, and it is a report the state disputes, she would periodically place her finger at eye level and slowly move it down her right cheek—a pantomime of weeping. Soon thereafter Mr. Grover would begin to cry loudly, and at length.

Thomas Grover's allegations were scarcely more credible than those of the 5- and 6-year-olds coaxed into accusations during the prosecutions of the day-care workers—children who spoke of being molested in graveyards and secret rooms. The accuser's complaints against Father MacRae were similarly rich, among them allegations that few prosecutors would put before a jury. In a pretrial deposition, Mr. Grover alleged that Father MacRae had "chased me through a cemetery" and had tried to corner him there. Also, that Father MacRae had a gun and was "telling me over and over again that he would hurt me, kill me if I tried to tell anybody." The priest had, moreover, chased him down the highway in his car.

Enlarge Image
Associated Press

Gordon MacRae outside the county courthouse in Keene, N.H., after his 1994 conviction.

Though jurors would hear none of these allegations, which spoke volumes about the character of this case, there was still the problem, for the prosecutors, of the spectacular claims Mr. Grover made in court—charges central to the case. Among them, that he had been sexually assaulted by Father MacRae when he was 15 during five successive counseling sessions. Why, after the first horrifying attack, had Mr. Grover willingly returned for four more sessions, in each of which he had been forcibly molested? Because, he explained, he had come to each new meeting with no memory of the previous attack. In addition, Mr. Grover said, he had experienced "out of body" episodes that had blocked his recollection.

In all, not the sort of testimony that would bolster a prosecutor's confidence, and there was more of the kind, replete with the accuser's changing stories. Not to mention a considerable history of forgery, assault, theft and drug use that entered the court record, at least in part, despite the judge's ruling that such facts were irrelevant. In mid-trial, the state was moved to offer Father MacRae an enticing plea deal: one to three years for an admission of guilt. The priest refused it, as he had turned down two previous offers, insisting on his innocence.

Still, the jury trial would end with a conviction in September 1994, and a sentence equivalent to a life term handed down by Judge Arthur Brennan. That would not be all. The state threatened a new prosecution on additional charges unless the priest pleaded guilty to those, in exchange for no added prison time. Without funds and unable to hire a new lawyer, already facing a crushing sentence and certain, given the climate in which he would face a second trial, that he could only be convicted, Father MacRae accepted the deal.

In due course there would be the civil settlement: $195,000 for Mr. Grover and his attorneys. The payday—which the plaintiff had told the court he sought only to meet expenses for therapy—became an occasion for ecstatic celebration by Mr. Grover and friends. The party's high point, captured by photographs now in possession of Father MacRae's lawyers, shows the celebrants dancing around, waving stacks of $50 bills fresh from the bank.

The prospect of financial reward for anyone coming forward with accusations was no secret to teenage males in Keene, N.H., in the early 1990s. Some of them were members of that marginal society, in and out of trouble with the law, it fell to Father MacRae to counsel. Steven Wollschlager, who had been one of them—he would himself serve time for felony robbery—recalled that period of the 1990s in a 2008 statement to Father MacRae's legal team. That it might not be in the best interest of a man with his own past legal troubles to give testimony undermining a high-profile state prosecution did not, apparently, deter him. "All the kids were aware," Mr. Wollschlager recalled, "that the church was giving out large sums of money to keep the allegations from becoming public."

This knowledge, Mr. Wollschlager said, fed the interest of local teens in joining the allegations. It was in this context that Detective James McLaughlin, sex-crimes investigator for the Keene police department, would turn his attention to the priest and play a key role in the effort to build a case against him. The full history of how Father MacRae came to be charged was reported on these pages in "A Priest's Story," April 27-28, 2005.

Mr. Wollschlager recalled that in 1994 Mr. McLaughlin summoned him to a meeting. As a young man, Mr. Wollschlager said, he had received counseling from Father MacRae. The main subject of the meeting with the detective was lawsuits and money and the priest. "All I had to do is make up a story," Mr. Wollschlager said, and he too "could receive a large amount of money." The detective "reminded me of my young child and girlfriend," Mr. Wollschlager attests, and told him "that life would be easier for us."

Eventually lured by the promise, Mr. Wollschlager said, he invented some claims of abuse. But summoned to a grand-jury hearing, he balked, telling an official that he refused to testify. He explains, in his statement, "I could not bring myself to give perjured testimony against MacRae, who had only tried to help me." Asked for response to this charge, Mr. McLaughlin says it is "a fabrication."

Along with the lure of financial settlements, the MacRae case was driven by that other potent force—the fevered atmosphere in which charges were built, the presumption of innocence buried. An atmosphere in which it was unthinkable—it still is today—not to credit as truthful every accuser charging a Catholic priest with molestation. There is no clearer testament to the times than the public statement in September 1993 issued by Father MacRae's own diocese in Manchester well before the trial began: "The Church is a victim of the actions of Gordon MacRae as well as the individuals." Diocesan officials had evidently found it inconvenient to dally while due process took its course.

A New Hampshire superior court will shortly deliver its decision on a habeas corpus petition seeking Father MacRae's immediate release on grounds of newly discovered evidence. The petition was submitted by Robert Rosenthal, an appellate attorney with long experience in cases of this kind. In the event that the petition is rejected, Father MacRae's attorneys say they will appeal.

Those aware of the facts of this case find it hard to imagine that any court today would ignore the perversion of justice it represents. Some who had been witnesses or otherwise involved still maintain vivid memories of the process.

Debra Collett, the former clinical director at Derby Lodge, a rehabilitation center that Mr. Grover had attended in 1987, said in a signed statement for Father MacRae's current legal team that she had been subject to "coercion and intimidation, veiled and more forward threats" during the police investigation because "they could not get me to say what they wanted to hear." Namely, that Mr. Grover had complained to her of molestation by Father MacRae. He had not—though he had accused many others, as she would point out. Thomas Grover, she said, had claimed to have been molested by so many people that the staff wondered whether "he was going for some sexual abuse victim world record."

For Father MacRae's part, he has no difficulty imagining any possibility—fitting for a man with encyclopedic command of the process that has brought him to this pass: every detail, every date, every hard fact. Still after nearly two decades this prisoner of the state remains, against all probability, staunch in spirit, strong in the faith that the wheels of justice turn, however slowly.

Ms. Rabinowitz is a member of the Journal's editorial board.

A version of this article appeared May 11, 2013, on page A13 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: The Trials of Father MacRae.