Sunday, February 22, 2009

"How Was Work Today, Dear?"
"Anything interesting happen?"

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Hits Just Keep On Comin'

I don't mean to pile on the Legionaries (notwithstanding the vacuousness of their response thus far), but some very prominent and very articulate Catholics have weighed in on this scandal and some of their commentary is just too good not to post. So, I'm posting it (bolding and italicizing by moi).

From Diogenes via Catholic Culture:

The Legion of Christ & its founder Posted Feb. 17, 2009 8:47 AM || by Diogenes

What do we know about the misbehavior of Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, deceased founder of the Legion of Christ? In strict terms: nothing. In part this is the fault of the Holy See, whose 2006 communiqué did not specify the wrongs in response to which it "invited" Maciel to "a reserved life of prayer and penance." In part it is the fault of the Legion of Christ, which issues assertions about Maciel while withholding the evidence on which the assertions are grounded. In place of publicly verifiable data -- such as checkable documents and signed testimony -- we have coy and ambiguous declarations based on informal confidential investigations. This is not knowledge.

In early February the Legion's spokesman Fr. Paolo Scarafoni announced that Maciel had sired an illegitimate daughter, now in her twenties. The CNS story reports, "Asked how the Legionaries came to know about her, Father Scarafoni said, 'Frankly, I cannot say and it is not opportune to discuss this further, also because there are people involved' who deserve privacy." This is a transparent falsehood. Scarafoni was in reality communicating "Frankly, I cannot be frank about this matter." Tactical mendacity of this kind is beloved of Roman churchmen (think of the Jesuit General's claim that there is no conflict between the Society and the Holy See); it is not intended to be credible, but it serves as a kind of No Trespassing sign, warning outsiders that further inquiry along a given line will not be tolerated. Granted, however, that we don't and can't know whether Maciel's paternity is better founded than any other claim the Legion has made about him, the remarks that follow will assume that this minimal admission is true.

Maciel deserves to be reviled by the Legionaries of Christ. By "deserves" I mean his revilement is a debt of justice owed all Catholics by the Legion. This is not on account of Maciel's sin of sexual weakness, nor even on account of the sin of denying his sexual weakness. The fact of the matter is that Maciel was publicly accused of specific sexual crimes, and that out of moral cowardice he enlisted honorable men and women to mortgage their own reputations in defense of his lie. The lie was the lie of Maciel's personal sanctity, which Maciel knew to be a myth, and which the fact of his bastard child (putting aside the more squalid accusations) proves that he knew. To the villainy of sacrificing the reputations of others, Maciel added the grotesque and blasphemous claim that the Holy See's sanctions were an answer to his own prayer to share more deeply in the passion of Christ, as an innocent victim made to bear the burden of false judgment in reparation for the sins of mankind. The Legion cannot share Catholic reverence for the Passion and fail to repudiate Maciel's cynicism in portraying himself as the Suffering Servant.

Yet the LC leadership persists in allotting Maciel a role of (somewhat tarnished) honor: praising with faint damns, and suggesting that his spiritual patrimony remains valuable in spite of his personal life. This won't work.

Many of the greatest saints were repentant sinners. Yet not only did Maciel (as far as is known) go to his death without repenting, but he used wholesome Christian spirituality as a tool in the deception of others. Think of the Soviet mole Kim Philby: while he worked in the UK's SIS and Foreign Office, his articulate patriotism may have inspired those he duped to a deeper love of country. Yet once he was unmasked as a spy, and after his patriotism was revealed as a contrived distraction from his real treachery, even those who were moved to genuine loyalty by his speeches would not continue to feed on them. And note: Philby's patriotic words would provoke the most shame and disgust precisely in the persons who found those words truest.

Or consider a woman whose husband ingeniously hid his infidelities from her for many years. Once she realized she had been deceived, the gifts he brought back from his business trips would be understood to have been instruments in that deception. Far from cherishing the jewelry he gave her, she'd feel that the diamonds now mocked the affection and fidelity they symbolized. By the same token, Maciel's addresses will be spiritually kosher -- he was after all a highly successful deceiver. But those addresses dishonor the very truths they expound, and it's impossible that they can cause anything but distress and confusion in those who attempt to nourish themselves on them.

To repeat: the fact that he was a flawed priest is not the reason for repudiating Maciel. The Mexican priest-protagonist of Graham Greene's novel The Power and the Glory was enfeebled by lust and alcoholism and despised by those he served; yet, because of his concern for souls, he kept himself in the arena of danger and died a martyr. Maciel presents Greene's image flipped on its head: he was a Mexican priest with an internationally cultivated reputation for sanctity. He lived surrounded and cosseted by admirers, and yet in reality he held divine retribution so lightly that he went to his deathbed without undeceiving those he'd taken in, leaving behind him shattered consciences and wobbly faith.

When I speak of the Legion's duty of revilement, I do not mean they should issue so many pages of rhetorical denunciation of Maciel's sexual iniquities. What is required is an unambiguous admission that Maciel deceitfully made use of holy things and holy words in order to dupe honest and pious persons into taking false positions -- sometimes slandering others in the process -- in order to reinforce the legend of his own sanctity. Since Maciel's treachery was sacrilegious in its means and in its effect, he should posthumously be repudiated as a model of priesthood and of Christian life.

What is said above is predicated on the minimalist assumption that Maciel's siring of a bastard daughter is the only canonical lapse that can held against him. Yet he stood accused of sins much more serious, including the sin of absolutio complicis -- i.e., of sacramentally absolving one's own partner in sexual wrongdoing. The Legion's leadership professes improbably comprehensive ignorance of Maciel's misdeeds, but even if they are in fact in the dark about Maciel's guilt in this area, they surely must understand that abuse of the sacrament of confession moves the debate over Maciel's priesthood onto an entirely different level than a failure in sexual continence. True, we don't expect Newsweek or NPR to focus on the gravity of abusing a sacrament, because for them sacraments are simply ceremonies. But we would expect orthodox Catholic priests to grasp the importance of the charge. Knowing what they now claim to know about Maciel's sexual delinquency, can the Legion confidently dismiss the accusation of abuse of the confessional? And if they can't dismiss it out of hand, how can they fail to address it, even obliquely, in their statements? How can they keep up the public patter of his "flawed priesthood" without the certainty -- the certainty -- that there are not souls out there that need concrete sacramental help, souls whose access to the sacraments Maciel may have blocked by his villainy?

The Legion leadership's piecemeal public disclosure broadens rather than narrows the general speculation about the extent of Maciel's crimes. Today and for the foreseeable future they're in the "half of the lies they tell about me aren't true" position. They have only themselves to blame. Whereas St. Augustine said, "God does not need my lie," the Legion's officialdom appears to base its strategy of teaspoon by teaspoon revelations on the contrary conviction: "God needs our falsehood, and yours as well."

Yet what are we to make of the Legionaries who aren't superiors and who remain under a vow of obedience to those who are? Are they complicit in the actions of their superiors simply by remaining bound by their vows? If Maciel has real victims whose urgent spiritual needs are being ignored or dismissed by the leadership, can the Legionaries who would wish to address those needs act on their own to do so? If not, what is the course an honorable man would take, and how might the Holy See make it possible for him to act in conformity with a well-formed conscience while remaining a religious in good standing? Many persons of good will associated with the Legion and Regnum Christi have called for prayers for Maciel's victims. This is entirely proper. But if you were a victim of Maciel, and had been denounced as a slanderer for accusing him, and that denunciation had never been unsaid, would you feel spiritually buoyed by the promise of prayers offered on your behalf?

Monday, February 16, 2009

I Guess It Would Be A Waste of
Time To *Hope* for *Change* Here

Minister on trial for abortion clinic protest
Charlie Butts - OneNewsNow - 1/26/2009 6:00:00 AM

A California pastor has been found guilty of violating a city ordinance related to abortion clinic demonstrations.

Watler HoyeReverend Walter Hoye is a Baptist, pro-life pastor form Berkeley. According to a California Catholic Daily article, he has been convicted of two counts of "unlawful approach" to women seeking abortions, as the new "bubble law" requires demonstrators to stay at least 100 yards from abortion clinics and anyone associated with them -- employees and patients.

Katie Short, an attorney with Life Legal Defense Foundation tells OneNewsNow that an abortion clinic got fed up with Hoye because he was so successful at convincing women not to abort their babies.

"They got the city council to pass a special ordinance saying that anyone seeking to give out information or counsel people entering abortion clinics had to ask permission from eight feet away before doing that," she explains.

Clinic personnel said he violated the law, but Short contends their testimony was false.

"There was someone who had been videotaping that day," she notes. "And if you look at what the escorts said and what actually happened, it was clear that they were just making up things when they said, 'Oh, he got within inches of a patient or another patient was holding up her hands to ward him off,' and all of that was totally fictional."

The article claims the tape proves Hoye was approached by clinic employees. Although several charges were dropped, Pastor Hoye faces up to a year in jail and a $2,000 fine on two counts. However, Short plans to appeal the case.

In addition, Short has filed suit in federal court asking that the ordinance be declared unconstitutional.

I Love It When People Agree With Me

I'm not going to dwell on the Legion debacle; as I mention below, anyone interested can find comprehensive coverage over at Tom Peters' American Papist blog. However, I can't resist the opportunity to pat myself on the back (again) regarding how much eminent theologian Dr. Germain Grisez agreed with my take on how the Legion could move forward.

Here is the text of an e-mail I shared with some friends recently:
While I have been closely following the ongoing fallout over the latest revelations re Fr. Maciel on various blogs, forums, etc., I have been *trying* to stay on the sidelines and have avoided posting comments. That is, until last night.

While it's unfortunate, it is not surprising that a lot of LC/RC folks are still in denial about the situation or they still are willing to fiercely defend the Legion. Last night I was reading postings on the Catholic Answers forum and saw a fellow named "Marty" post this:

"Their main apostolates are FUNDRAISING and RECRUITING!"

Naturally, he was quickly attacked by other LC/RC defenders -- one named 'Toni" in particular. I felt compelled to then post (and this was my first comment on this subject):

No, Marty is right. I was involved with Regnum Christi for several years and, at the end of the day, that's what apostolates were all about: how many new members were you recruiting and how much money were you raising.

A few minutes later I added:

One final thought. Although the Legion's response so far has been pretty lame. (Ed Peters put it well when he said on his blog: "Is Legion leadership really going to continue talking to the Catholic world as if it were inhabited by idiot children?") While I largely agree with Dr. Peters' sentiments, I think the Legion really has no choice.

If the Legion was to say, "yeah, our founder was a pedophile and a womanizer", it would be over. They might as well shut down all their operations the same day.

As it is now, it may be the end for them anyway. Regardless of how one felt about the Legion before this latest development, the reality is that it will be very difficult -- probably impossible -- for the Legion to recover from this.

Face it. If you had a son or daughter considering a vocation and they said they were considering the Legionaries of Christ, someone -- a family member, a friend, an acquaintance at church -- is going to confront you and say something to the effect: "you're not seriously considering allowing your child to go to the Legion are you??"

As far as the Legion goes, the best response I've seen is Patrick Madrid's suggestion on his blog that the Legion dissolve the order and start over again. Personally, I think that is a great idea. While I had a negative experience with Regnum Christi, I still met many wonderful people during the time I was involved. I would like to think that all their time, effort, dedication and love for Christ and His Church could be salvaged if the organization was resurrected in a new form.
Of course, LC/RC defenders quickly trashed me too, but that's OK -- I expected it and ignored it. What is really interesting is this letter from Dr. Germain Grisez that Tom Peters posted on his blog today. (As you may or may not know Dr. Grisez is the pre-eminent moral theologian in the U.S., if not the world). He said:

You and all your good and faithful confreres share a common good ... . I do not think that good end can be realized by the juridical person, the Legionaries of Christ, and its present leadership.

... [E]ven after the death of an institute's saintly founder, its members' service and life continue as cooperation with him or her. Regardless of Father Maciel's subjective moral responsibility—which only God knows—the evidence of his objective betrayal of his commitment makes it impossible for you and other good and faithful Legionaries any longer to carry on your service and life as cooperation with him. Unless you and your confreres proceed as quickly as possible to terminate the juridical person, the Legionaries of Christ, and reorganize yourselves into a new institute, the common good you now share will begin to decompose: very few new men will join you, many in formation will leave, some professed members will separate, and the collaboration and support of the lay faithful will shrink.

I'm not trying to make light of the serious situation the Legion finds itself in -- but I do think it's pretty cool that Dr. Grisez's thinking aligns so closely with mine. Maybe he read my post on Catholic Answers before writing his letter. Gee, it would have been nice if he would have at least quoted me.
"Face the Ugly Truth"

As a Catholic with some knowledge of the Legionaries of Christ and Regnum Christi, I have been following the latest developments with morbid fascination. (Anyone wanting to know anything about this matter should check out the original and comprehensive coverage done by Tom Peters via his American Papist blog).

I saw this excerpt from Raymond Arroyo on American Papist and thought he very neatly summed things up:
"Now some say that the Legion should forget all of this and press forward: continue meditating on Father Maciel’s writings, enjoy the good he did and forgive the rest. But this misses the point. Continuing to build upon a foundation of deceit will not permit growth in the order. In light of the recent revelations, it seems Father Berg has it right. There is no way to mouth quaint pieties and expect that everything will be better in the morning. To attract new recruits to the order and for the health and welfare of those good clergy already in its ranks, the Legion must clean house, taking the time to reform its operations and to rediscover its true charism. Only by facing the ugly truth, reaching out to the wounded victims, and relying on the Holy See for guidance can the Legion be returned to strength and credibility. Adversity is sometimes God’s way of bringing cleansing and lasting change. May it be so for the good people within the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi."

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

It Takes More Than A Genius

A lot of people people have never heard of Tim Berners-Lee; even fewer have heard of Mike Sendall. I saw a piece in the Journal a couple of days which mentioned Berners-Lee and it made me think of Sendall even though I did not know who he was at the time.

You see, Tim Berners-Lee invented the world wide web. (Without going off on too much of a tangent, although most people think of them synonomously, the internet and the Web are not the same thing. It was Berners-Lee that came up with the idea of developing a common document code (hypertext) so that people could navigate among computers hooked up the internet.) Here's teh part of the Journal story I found interesting:
As a young computer scientist in 1989, he sent his manager a memo outlining the idea of hypertext and how it could help researchers share information. His manager scribbled "vague but exciting" and gave him the time to develop the idea.
Everyone takes the Internet/Web for granted now. But, as much as we depend on it now, it's only a few years old. Heck, some of our kids were even born before the Web was around. And for us more "seasoned" folks, we spent most of our lives getting by without it.

So, obviously, Berners-Lee is a genius -- right? But what about this un-named manager? What if he had responded: "quit wasting time on this nonsense and do something productive"? It's an interesting "what if?". Think about it. Think about all the different ways we use the internet. If it's hard, try unplugging your connection for one day and doing without it. But as much as we owe to Berners-Lee for developing the Web, we also owe a lot of his manager for seeing the potential and responding "vague but exciting".

Oh, by the way, Berners-Lee's manager was a fellow named Mike Sendall. It seems that this was not a fluke, but he had his genius of encouraging the people who worked for him, like Tim Berners-Lee, to take the time to explore new ideas. Unfortunately, Sendall died just a few years later in 1999.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Abortion = Murder

As our culture becomes more and more coarse and paganized, it's hard not to become desensitized even when one doesn't participate in the cultural decline. However, here's a story that is so horrific in its callousness for the sanctity of life, it still has the power to shock the conscience.

Lawsuit: Florida Clinic Botched Abortion, Threw Out Live Baby

Thursday , February 05, 2009


TAMPA, Florida —

Eighteen and pregnant, Sycloria Williams went to an abortion clinic outside Miami and paid $1,200 for Dr. Pierre Jean-Jacque Renelique to terminate her 23-week pregnancy.

Three days later, she sat in a reclining chair, medicated to dilate her cervix and otherwise get her ready for the procedure.

Only Renelique didn't arrive in time. According to Williams and the Florida Department of Health, she went into labor and delivered a live baby girl.

What Williams and the Health Department say happened next has shocked people on both sides of the abortion debate: One of the clinic's owners, who has no medical license, cut the infant's umbilical cord. Williams says the woman placed the baby in a plastic biohazard bag and threw it out.

Police recovered the decomposing remains in a cardboard box a week later after getting anonymous tips.

"I don't care what your politics are, what your morals are, this should not be happening in our community," said Tom Pennekamp, a Miami attorney representing Williams in her lawsuit against Renelique and the clinic owners.

The state Board of Medicine is to hear Renelique's case in Tampa on Friday and determine whether to strip his license. The state attorney's homicide division is investigating, though no charges have been filed. Terry Chavez, a spokeswoman with the Miami-Dade County State Attorney's Office, said this week that prosecutors were nearing a decision.

Renelique's attorney, Joseph Harrison, called the allegations at best "misguided and incomplete" in an e-mail to The Associated Press. He didn't provide details.

The case has riled the anti-abortion community, which contends the clinic's actions constitute murder.

"The baby was just treated as a piece of garbage," said Tom Brejcha, president of The Thomas More Society, a law firm that is also representing Williams. "People all over the country are just aghast."

Even those who support abortion rights are concerned about the allegations.

"It really disturbed me," said Joanne Sterner, president of the Broward County chapter of the National Organization for Women, after reviewing the administrative complaint against Renelique. "I know that there are clinics out there like this. And I hope that we can keep (women) from going to these types of clinics."

According to state records, Renelique received his medical training at the State University of Haiti. In 1991, he completed a four-year residency in obstetrics and gynecology at Interfaith Medical Center in New York.

New York records show that Renelique has made at least five medical malpractice payments in the past decade, the circumstances of which were not detailed in the filings.

Several attempts to reach Renelique were unsuccessful. Some of his office numbers were disconnected, no home number could be found and he did not return messages left with his attorney.

Williams struggled with the decision to have an abortion, Pennekamp said. She declined an interview request made through him.

She concluded she didn't have the resources or maturity to raise a child, he said, and went to the Miramar Women's Center on July 17, 2006. Sonograms indicated she was 23 weeks pregnant, according to the Department of Health. She met Renelique at a second clinic two days later.

Renelique gave Williams laminaria, a drug that dilates the cervix, and prescribed three other medications, according to the administrative complaint filed by the Health Department. She was told to go to yet another clinic, A Gyn Diagnostic Center in Hialeah, where the procedure would be performed the next day, on July 20, 2006.

Williams arrived in the morning and was given more medication.

The Department of Health account continues as follows: Just before noon she began to feel ill. The clinic contacted Renelique. Two hours later, he still hadn't shown up. Williams went into labor and delivered the baby.

"She came face to face with a human being," Pennekamp said. "And that changed everything."

The complaint says one of the clinic owners, Belkis Gonzalez came in and cut the umbilical cord with scissors, then placed the baby in a plastic bag, and the bag in a trash can.

Williams' lawsuit offers a cruder account: She says Gonzalez knocked the baby off the recliner chair where she had given birth, onto the floor. The baby's umbilical cord was not clamped, allowing her to bleed out. Gonzalez scooped the baby, placenta and afterbirth into a red plastic biohazard bag and threw it out.

No working telephone number could be found for Gonzalez, and an attorney who has represented the clinic in the past did not return a message.

At 23 weeks, an otherwise healthy fetus would have a slim but legitimate chance of survival. Quadruplets born at 23 weeks last year at The Nebraska Medical Center survived.

An autopsy determined Williams' baby — she named her Shanice — had filled her lungs with air, meaning she had been born alive, according to the Department of Health. The cause of death was listed as extreme prematurity.

The Department of Health believes Renelique committed malpractice by failing to ensure that licensed personnel would be present when Williams was there, among other missteps.

The department wants the Board of Medicine, a separate agency, to permanently revoke Renelique's license, among other penalties. His license is currently restricted, permitting him to only perform abortions when another licensed physician is present and can review his medical records.

Should prosecutors file murder charges, they'd have to prove the baby was born alive, said Robert Batey, a professor of criminal law at Stetson University College of Law in Gulfport. The defense might contend that the child would have died anyway, but most courts would not allow that argument, he said.

"Hastening the death of an individual who is terminally ill is still considered causing the death of that individual," Batey said. "And I think a court would rule similarly in this type of case."

So, This Is "Change"?

It's not really surprising that Obama is turning out to be just the hypocritical empty suit many thought he would be. Here is an excellent article by Charles Krauthammer summarizing what we've seen so far in our new president.
The Fierce Urgency of Pork

By Charles Krauthammer
Friday, February 6, 2009; A17

"A failure to act, and act now, will turn crisis into a catastrophe."

-- President Obama, Feb. 4.

Catastrophe, mind you. So much for the president who in his inaugural address two weeks earlier declared "we have chosen hope over fear." Until, that is, you need fear to pass a bill.

And so much for the promise to banish the money changers and influence peddlers from the temple. An ostentatious executive order banning lobbyists was immediately followed by the nomination of at least a dozen current or former lobbyists to high position. Followed by a Treasury secretary who allegedly couldn't understand the payroll tax provisions in his 1040. Followed by Tom Daschle, who had to fall on his sword according to the new Washington rule that no Cabinet can have more than one tax delinquent.

The Daschle affair was more serious because his offense involved more than taxes. As Michael Kinsley once observed, in Washington the real scandal isn't what's illegal, but what's legal. Not paying taxes is one thing. But what made this case intolerable was the perfectly legal dealings that amassed Daschle $5.2 million in just two years.

He'd been getting $1 million per year from a law firm. But he's not a lawyer, nor a registered lobbyist. You don't get paid this kind of money to instruct partners on the Senate markup process. You get it for picking up the phone and peddling influence.

At least Tim Geithner, the tax-challenged Treasury secretary, had been working for years as a humble international civil servant earning non-stratospheric wages. Daschle, who had made another cool million a year (plus chauffeur and Caddy) for unspecified services to a pal's private equity firm, represented everything Obama said he'd come to Washington to upend.

And yet more damaging to Obama's image than all the hypocrisies in the appointment process is his signature bill: the stimulus package. He inexplicably delegated the writing to Nancy Pelosi and the barons of the House. The product, which inevitably carries Obama's name, was not just bad, not just flawed, but a legislative abomination.

It's not just pages and pages of special-interest tax breaks, giveaways and protections, one of which would set off a ruinous Smoot-Hawley trade war. It's not just the waste, such as the $88.6 million for new construction for Milwaukee Public Schools, which, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, have shrinking enrollment, 15 vacant schools and, quite logically, no plans for new construction.

It's the essential fraud of rushing through a bill in which the normal rules (committee hearings, finding revenue to pay for the programs) are suspended on the grounds that a national emergency requires an immediate job-creating stimulus -- and then throwing into it hundreds of billions that have nothing to do with stimulus, that Congress's own budget office says won't be spent until 2011 and beyond, and that are little more than the back-scratching, special-interest, lobby-driven parochialism that Obama came to Washington to abolish. He said.

Not just to abolish but to create something new -- a new politics where the moneyed pork-barreling and corrupt logrolling of the past would give way to a bottom-up, grass-roots participatory democracy. That is what made Obama so dazzling and new. Turns out the "fierce urgency of now" includes $150 million for livestock (and honeybee and farm-raised fish) insurance.

The Age of Obama begins with perhaps the greatest frenzy of old-politics influence peddling ever seen in Washington. By the time the stimulus bill reached the Senate, reports the Wall Street Journal, pharmaceutical and high-tech companies were lobbying furiously for a new plan to repatriate overseas profits that would yield major tax savings. California wine growers and Florida citrus producers were fighting to change a single phrase in one provision. Substituting "planted" for "ready to market" would mean a windfall garnered from a new "bonus depreciation" incentive.

After Obama's miraculous 2008 presidential campaign, it was clear that at some point the magical mystery tour would have to end. The nation would rub its eyes and begin to emerge from its reverie. The hallucinatory Obama would give way to the mere mortal. The great ethical transformations promised would be seen as a fairy tale that all presidents tell -- and that this president told better than anyone.

I thought the awakening would take six months. It took two and a half weeks.


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