My World of Religion, Politics, Entertainment and Social Issues

If you are visiting my blog, expecting to see 'Toward a Progressive Catholic Church,' I have changed my title to reflect my wide assortment of interests. Having retired from my secular job, I hope to devote the rest of my life to my hobbies, ministries and perhaps a part-time job that makes good use of my communications skills. This blog will be designed to address my multi-faceted interests.

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Location: Rochester, New York, United States

I have an M.A. in Theology and an M.Div (Master of Divinity) from St. Bernard's School of Theology and Ministry. I am currently a media consultant and promoter of classical music. I am also certified as an officiant by the Federation of Christian Ministries for baptisms, weddings and funerals and minister independently of the Rochester Diocese. My life has encompassed many interesting paths: broadcasting, free-lance writing, video-production, music, ministry and a secular job in government. In addition to this blog, I have a YouTube site at www.youtube.com/priestray and I have a Facebook page.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Crimes and Punishments

The following was published in the September-October, 2007 edition of 'CORPUS REPORTS.'

CRIMES AND PUNISHMENTS
By Ray Grosswirth, CORPUS Media Liaison

It was recently announced that the Los Angeles Archdiocese agreed to a settlement of over $600 million, as restitution for the multiple cases of sexual abuse that occurred over the period of several decades. Those who have covered the abuse story since 2002 have theorized that our hierarchy can probably live comfortably with this settlement, with the preconceived notion that our bishops can now go about the business of healing a wounded church.

$600 is indeed a lot of money! Yet, considering all the real estate holdings of the Los Angeles Archdiocese, bankruptcy seems unlikely. As in the case of the Boston Archdiocese, once buildings are sold and financially-strapped parishes are closed, it will be business as usual for the powers-that-be.

While perhaps some of the victims will find comfort in the large financial settlements they are receiving, wounds will continue to punctuated by many open sores. After all, this is not a crisis that began in 2002. In retrospect, we have only begun to scratch the surface of the sexual abuse crisis. As reported by Fr. Thomas Doyle on countless occasions, he tried to warn the Vatican over two decades ago that there was an emerging crisis that could severely damage the church, unless immediate action were to be taken. Instead of giving thanks to Fr. Doyle for his accurate assessment, the Vatican attempted to silence him.

Those of us who continue to work for reform in the Roman Catholic Church are thankful to Tom Doyle for having the courage and foresight in 1985 to recognize the danger that had the potential of bringing down the institutional church. Perhaps more important was Tom’s concern for victims. The Vatican owes Tom a sincere apology for its failure to take his warnings seriously. The Roman Catholic Church will now have to struggle to find a high level of credibility, after having failed to act sooner against priest-abusers.

I listened attentively to National Public Radio on July 15, for several commentaries and interviews were being offered, in response to the report of the financial settlement of the Los Angeles Archdiocese. What came across very clearly was the disgust over the fact that the Roman Catholic hierarchy has yet to say it has sinned against its members. Somehow, the money is supposed to be both the solution and the end of the crisis. I continue to find myself scratching my head in total bewilderment over the fact that the Vatican still does not get it!

I still consider my membership in CORPUS to be one of the major blessings in my life. Unlike most of our members, I was ordained a married priest. Yet, I share something in common with our members who were ordained as celibates and subsequently married later. All of us have experienced what amounts to being shunned by certain segments of our faith communities. In my case, a few weeks following my ordination as a married priest by Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, my long-time pastor asked me to refrain from receiving Communion at his parish. However, he indicated that if I elected to state that I was sorry for having sinned against the church, I could continue to partake. To this day, I continue to ask myself, what sin have I committed against the church?

Canon Law articulates the fact that any public action that goes against the teachings of the church can result in excommunication. Here is the interesting paradox: I am guilty of no crime. I simply found a way to get myself ordained as a married priest, so that I could minister as a disciple of Christ. At the same time, celibate priests who have been found guilty of the crime of sexual abuse continue to be members in good standing with the Roman Catholic Church. Although they have been stripped of their active ministries, their pensions remain intact and they are permitted to receive Communion. My interpretation is that because my ordination was a public act that went against the church’s rule on celibacy, I cannot receive Communion at my long-time parish. On the other hand, because of the fact that pedophile-priests committed their crimes in private, their rights to Communion remain solidified by the Code of Canon Law.

It is my hope that CORPUS will continue to fight for a more inclusive church. It was encouraging for me to see some young persons in attendance at our June conference in Providence. As conservative young bishops continue to be appointed, they see that many of us who have worked toward reform for many decades are dying and retiring. Therefore, bishops envision what can perhaps be interpreted as a pre-Vatican II model church emerging – one that is characterized by rigid rules. Our bishops also believe that by enforcing codes of orthodoxy, the sexual abuse crisis will be erased from memory. (It was this code of orthodoxy that brought about the crisis in the first place.)

It will be the task of the young folks of CORPUS to be the voice of change for the next generation. In this regard, it is good to keep in mind that the next Board elections will take place in 2008. It is my hope that candidates, young and old, will emerge with fresh ideas that will counteract the rigidity of a reckless Roman Catholic hierarchy.

In conclusion, I will pray for healing in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and other dioceses that have experienced the ravages of the sexual abuse crisis. However, money alone cannot bring about this healing. What is required is a new vision for the inclusive-type ministries modeled for us by Jesus. My thanks to all CORPUS members who are witnesses and advocates for this new vision.

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