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Archive for March, 2009

I recently received the following comment.  It is a story I am hearing again and again.

In 2007 I went with my wife to see our priest in Florida concerning our marriage. I told the priest that I did not want to get divorced and that my wife had filed for divorce. The parish priest told me, while pointing his finger at me, that he believed our marriage, quote— “…should never have happened.” I told him that I had come to see him for help to save my marriage. I told him that I expected him to defend the Catholic sacrament of matrimony. He repeated, “The marriage should never have happened.”

We have four young children who attend school at this same church, his church. The priest advised my wife to be lenient with child custody. When I left his house on the school grounds, I repeated to the priest that he should “Defend the sacrament of marriage.” He then said to me, “Get out of my sight, you arrogant bast-rd!” After the meeting with the priest, on our way home, my wife said to me; “You see, even the priest believes we should divorce!”

This is absolutely true and you can contact me or my wife to verify this is true. I know you will not believe what I am saying. But it is absolutely true.

I want to know; what I can do now? My wife is in the last stages of this divorce and she is living with another man. Time has passed since my encounter with this priest and I believe there is no way to repair the marriage situation, for obvious reasons.

But as far as I am concerned the priest, to whom I went for help, was instrumental in shattering any hope to resolve the situation with my wife. He threw his weight and that of the Church behind her decision. I have stopped attending church since this incident. I still pray. I am angry and I find it difficult to remain silent.

Sometime in the future, when all my pain is gone, I will peruse this priest in the Church under Catholic Church law. I cannot forgive this priest for what he did to me, particularly when I was foolish enough to go to him for “help”. He committed the greatest sin.

Patrick

FATHER JOE:  I am so sorry Patrick for what you have gone through. There are cases where marriages are difficult to save, particularly when there is abuse and fear. However, I am sickened when people simply say they fell out of love or found someone they liked better. I do not now the grounds for her divorce and we have not heard her side; however, you are right, whenever possible a priest must both safeguard the well-being of the spouses and the sacrament of marriage. It is not the role of a priest to urge divorce but rather dialogue and reconciliation. You mention that your wife is in the end-stages of a divorce but living with another man. Does she think that most priests would also rubberstamp adultery? If she attempts an annulment you have every right to share your side and how you view the sacramental nature of the bond. Be honest about it, even if it means that she would not be able to get the annulment. Anything else short-changes the process and is an offense against truth. Know that not all priests would have acted like the one in your story. I will keep you in my prayers. Her departure from your life and home is a terrible cross. I bring my struggles and pain to my Lenten observances. Do not blame the Church for the callous actions of one priest and the abandonment of a wife who failed to return the love you had for her. We have a regular commenter at this Blog named Karl who has endured a similar situation. The diocese in which you live may have resources for coping with the loss and for dealing with the repudiation of the priest. Bai Macfarlane has developed a national campaign against no-fault divorce and has appealed her husband’s divorce to both the civil courts and the Roman Rota. She may have some useful information to share with you, too.

Her webpage is: http://www.marysadvocates.org.

Her email is: ma.defending@marysadvocates.org.

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STEVE:

With all of these cases [of priests leaving for women], it brings up the arguments to allow priests to marry. The practice of celibate priests, I believe, did not happen until the middle ages in the West. Our first Pope, Peter was married as many priests in the East have been since the beginning. What is the opposition to allowing married priests? It seems it might solve a lot of the lonliness and depression problems a lot of Western priests have as well as sexual impropriety. It seems to be a self-imposed cross of the Church on its clergy in the West.

My European Legal History professor was of the cynical view that the celibate priesthood in the West was begun so that priests could not pass on their money to children or wives upon death in order to keep the money and property under Church ownership.

FATHER JOE:

There was a preference for celibacy going back to St. Paul and the early Church. There is even evidence that married priests practiced celibacy. Jewish priests practiced temporary celibacy during the time of their service to the temple; the difficulty with Christian priests was that their service was perpetual. There were many early attempts to impose mandatory celibacy in the West, as is evidenced in the Lateran councils and various synods. The definitive point came in the eleventh century. The ruling was not simply to protect Church property but to raise the moral and spiritual caliber of clergy. Celibacy was such a serious sacrifice that it was thought that it would help weed out the worldly ambitious and those seeking monetary gain. The Church essentially made the monastic model the framework for her priests in the West. They would not promise poverty like religious, but they would often live a simple life and promise obedience and celibacy. We should not look at celibacy merely as a deficit or as a tragedy. It is a wondrous gift that God makes possible through the faith and service of the man and the empowering gift of grace. This does not mean that married men could not function as priests, only that the single-hearted love of celibate clergy is a different kind of priesthood, yes of a higher order.

Married people also know loneliness and depression. Married intimacy and sexuality is no absolute protection in this regard. The celibate priest is often too busy to feel sorry for himself. In any case, most priests I know are happy men. They belong to the people they serve. They are comfortable with “aloneness” and if they are ever tempted by loneliness, it becomes part of the priestly identity, resonating with Christ’s agony in the garden as he awaited his betrayer and passion. I do not think married priests would solve the Church’s problems. Then we would have to deal with alienated spouses, marital and family scandals, etc. If you do not believe me, look at the Lutherans and Episcopalians. They have their rascals, too; although, our sinners seem to get more publicity than theirs.

STEVE:

Regardless of its origins, I think it’s time the archaic celibacy rule for Western Priests was abandoned. Eastern Rite married priests, to my knowledge; do not suffer from the problems of Western celibate priests to the same degrees. They have proven it works. Not only those, but many Protestant ministers with big congregations have families and do well. One argument I’ve heard is that priests are on call 24/7 but so are doctors and many other married professions. In addition, allowing married priests would help solve the priest shortage, therefore reducing the work each priest has to do.

FATHER JOE:

I absolutely and totally… disagree with you. One of the hallmarks of a traditional Catholicism is the celibate priesthood. The Protestant reformers were quick to discard celibacy because it is such a hallmark of a Western priest’s identity and fidelity. He belongs to the Church. He goes where the bishop sends him. There is no wife and family that can be used as a manipulation against him. There is no reservation to sending him to the missions or to a poor parish where drugs, crime and murder surround him.

The numbers of Eastern rite clergy are very small and even they admit their problems. The bishops themselves must be celibate. Protestant ministers may have large congregations and serve well, but they are not priests. Indeed, they are not even deacons, and among these men we have many married clergy. It shocks me that you would compare Protestant ministers to Catholic priests. Trustees control their churches. They compete for the churches that offer the best salaries and benefits. Episcopal bishops often only have minimal control, and that in a church where holy orders is generally counterfeit and doctrines and values blow about like leaves in the wind. A minister cannot absolve your sins. A priest can take a damned man and make him a saint! (He knows the sins and secret lives of others, pray God a married priest would not talk about such things in his sleep and into his wife’s ears!) A minister can give you grape drink and buns. But a priest can give you the body and blood of Jesus Christ, humanity and divinity, raised from the dead! Does he need to conceive a child with a woman when he can consecrate God at the altar? In any case, you are quite wrong about married clergy in other churches. Over half of the men in the Lutheran churches are divorced and remarried. The Methodist churches allow for married men and yet most new candidates in seminary are female. The Episcopalians are not always in the news but there are countless cases of adultery, pederasty and pedophilia, and incest thrown in besides. Indeed, the past president of the Episcopal Church USA left his wife and lived with his gay lover. You would hold them up as an example for us? Pleeeeeease!

I am not saying that we cannot have married priests. We have some wonderful men, formerly Episcopalian, in my diocese. But it can make the priesthood a great deal harder and Mother Church would prefer not to place both the burden of a family and ministry upon our priests. The first man ordained in the Catholic priesthood after leaving ministry in the Episcopal church was greeted with great fanfare. A few years later his wife gave him an ultimatum– the Catholic priesthood or their marriage. She said that many years of service in the Episcopal church did not prepare them for the demands of Catholic priesthood. He remained a Catholic priest and she left him. Now, if not through a promise, then through her divorce he has joined the ranks of the celibate priesthood.

Despite having a married clergy, many mainline traditions are also having clergy shortages. The prospect of married clergy will neither solve scandals nor fill seminaries.

Most celibate priests I know are happy and want things to remain as they are. Honestly, we would appreciate it if the laity and others would just mind their own business and leave untouched the celibacy which we treasure in the priesthood.

STEVE:

God commanded us all from the beginning to be fruitful and multiply. Anyway, just some thoughts!

FATHER JOE:

I do multiply… every time I baptize someone… every time I take a host and say, “This is my body.” The body of the Church grows. Christ extends himself in the sacrament. That is how I am fruitful… by being a good priest and caring for souls in the family of God. The sacrifice of not having a wife and children was and is a very serious one for me… but I think it was for the best… and I would do it again! I belong to no one family but to every family.

TOM:

Franciscan friars aren’t celibate because they’re Latin Rite priests. They’re celibate because they’re Franciscan friars.

FATHER JOE:

You are right that religious brothers and priests both take vows of celibacy.

However, the religious clergy I know still see their celibacy as an element of their priestly vocation. Indeed, they speak about it as such in their theological formation classes as a shared discipline with the secular or diocesan priesthood. If they were one of the newer faith communities which invite both celibates and married couples, then the candidate for priesthood would have to embrace celibacy before ordination. Diocesan seminarians pledge celibacy at their ordination to the diaconate. Religious brothers and priests are held to vows of obedience, celibacy and poverty. Diocesan priests make promises of obedience (at the ordination to priesthood) and celibacy (at the ordination to the diaconate). However, no matter when taken, celibacy is understood as something that is to be maintained perpetually throughout priesthood. The Church regards the celibacy of both religious and secular priests as part of the common discipline mandated by Church law.

It should also be noted that in practice it is a great deal easier for a religious brother or sister to be released from vows than for a priest (secular or religious) to be released from celibacy. Laicization regulations became more complicated under Pope John Paul II than with Pope Paul VI. Under the previous Pope, there were thousands of defections who received laicization. Not all of them were released from the obligation of celibacy which is a separate matter. Some men left the priesthood following Vatican II, not because of romantic relationships but because they could not relate to the new sense of identity in the Church and the reformed liturgy. Pope John Paul II revised the laicization process and now it more resembles the procedures for an annulment. Usually the first and maybe even the second request for laicization are turned down. There are long periods of seeming inaction on the petitions. The priest must assert that his ordination was a mistake and that he should never have been ordained. The Church can also force laicization upon a priest as a disciplinary measure, i.e. a pedophile abuser, a man ordained to traffic in drugs, etc. Both the Mafia and the Communists tried to plant their personnel in the ranks of the clergy; when discovered, these men were quickly removed.

If a religious priest, like a Franciscan, should want to become a diocesan priest, he must receive permission of his superior and the invitation of a bishop. After five years of service within that diocese he can be incardinated as a diocesan priest. He does not repeat his vow to celibacy which still binds him but he does promise anew and transfer his obedience from his superior to the diocesan bishop.

I have a dear friend who was a Carmelite and who faithfully served as a diocesan priest for many years. Such a change in direction is not infrequent and is often welcomed in dioceses where the priest shortage is particularly painful. Similarly, I have known men who went from the diocesan priesthood to the religious life, particularly as monks.

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FATHER JOE:

Healthy heterosexuals, real men in the priesthood, are attracted to women. They make a promise of celibate love and by discipline, prayer and grace, they live out this life of loving service. They might fall in love… heck, they might fall in love with a number of nice women in their lifetimes, but they remain steadfast. Older and wiser men recognize the signs and make distance, even becoming gruff or mean to women they particularly like. This is often misinterpreted. But it has to be done. If a priest falls deeply in love with a woman in a romantic way, he must abandon her friendship and any affiliation with her. He must not play games that will lead the both of them into disaster. He must say goodbye. Often he will not and should not tell the woman why they cannot remain associates or “friends”. He must love her enough to let her go. There is something of sacrifice and the cross about this. It is as it must be. We need men who have a single-hearted love for God and devotion to the Church. As new Christs, they take the Church as their spouse. Once the promise is made, they must not think again that they are free like other men. Fantasies must be guarded and brushed aside. No time for envying other men or feeling sorry for oneself can be allowed. They have surrendered their intimacy and their sexuality to God– case closed.

HELEN:

Father Joe, I have question about the following: “Often he will not and should not tell the woman why they cannot remain associates or ‘friends’.”

Why should a priest not be honest with the woman? If he pushes her aside with no explanation, she may think she has done something wrong (sinned) to hurt or offend him, when she has not. Perhaps, she did not lead him on. We (adults, single, celibate, married, whatever) are beyond the age of innocence, yet we do not always “do” anything that makes another desire us sexually. The priest has taken a lifetime vow of celibacy. Has he also promised not to be so aloof that may hurt another person, when a simple explanation could clear up the problem, as far as the woman going her way, so as not to be a “stumbling block” to him?

FATHER JOE:

“Why should a priest not be honest with the woman?”

Priests are often shy men who live in their heads. They may feel a great many things that they do not express. While priests may express fatherly love or the more general love of a shepherd to his flock, it would not do for a priest to confess “romantic” love to a woman. I base this upon the experiences of many priests who thought they had to be honest before making distance between themselves and a woman they cared “too much” about. More so than not, it can touch reciprocal emotions in the woman and matters can quickly escalate. It is best that she never know how he really felt. Unfortunately, they can also begin to lie to themselves, that they can keep this love under control.

“If he pushes her aside with no explanation, she may think she has done something wrong (sinned) to hurt or offend him, when she has not.”

Yes, she might feel hurt. This sometimes happens, but it cannot be helped. It is for the sake of both their souls that he must keep silent. He can assure her that she has done nothing wrong, and maybe tell her that the demands of ministry require more of his time. This is true; his priesthood requires that he spend less time with her. He can also explain in a vague manner, that he wants to return to the spirit of detachment that he was taught in seminary so as to better focus on his spousal love to the Church and to his prayer life as a priest. But he should not tell her, “I love you.” What he feels for her may not even be reciprocal; it does not matter. He might never get over her and will have to take this burning love with him to the grave– so be it. He must allow her to find joy in the company and embrace of another man, no matter how much he sacrifices personally. Promises are made to be kept.

“Perhaps, she did not lead him on?”

“We (adults, single, celibate, married, whatever) are beyond the age of innocence, yet we do not always ‘do’ anything that makes another desire us sexually.”

She did not have to, at least not intentionally. He might simply have fallen in love with the person she was. Priests are especially vulnerable or sensitive to nice girls who practice and know their faith: going to Mass, saying their prayers, practicing modesty and chastity, etc. They are everything a religious man of strong values would hope to find. He sees in her a true helpmate and a wonderful potential mother for a family. Many people these days discourage priests and tear them down. Such a lady builds him up and tells him that he is important and needed. He will quickly make friends and before long, loving her will be as easy as breathing. Her joy will become more important to him than his regular duties. Trouble is brewing!

We are sexual beings. Priests like all men are constantly dealing with sexual feelings and thoughts. His need for intimacy when turned toward such a girl will not subtract the sexual elements. If the relationship becomes increasing exclusive, then he must make the hard decisions about what to do next. Hopefully, the priest did nothing to lead the woman on.

Young priests in particular can be very innocent. This is also a component that quickly resonates with the innocence of a woman who cherishes her virginity and values. They see in each other something of themselves, and the potentiality for a best friend. But can a priest have a woman as his best friend? I have trouble in seeing it. Fr. Groeschel used to recommend that priests make friends with women whom they find particularly unattractive. This way they develop that side of their personalities that must interact with females, but by lessening any possible dangers. That is why some priests reserve their closer female relationships to matronly or elderly women. Older priests might also have some friendships with young women for whom they have fatherly feelings. However, caution must be used because while young men like young women, so do old men.

“The priest has taken a lifetime vow of celibacy. Has he also promised not to be so aloof that may hurt another person, when a simple explanation could clear up the problem, as far as the woman going her way, so as not to be a ’stumbling block’ to him?”

YES, a priest has taken a lifetime vow or promise of celibacy.

But, to be honest, he did not make promises about the rest. Some priests are aloof and they remain that way to survive. Others are better at relationships and limits. I am all for simple explanations, but in many of these situations the explanations are really not so simple and can lead to a host of additional problems. Rarely is it a case of the woman going her way, unless she sees the problem and nobly makes a move before the priest does to preserve his vocation. What usually happens is that a priest, consulting his spiritual director and/or confessor, will seek a new assignment. It is often too hard for the priest to remain in a parish and regularly see a woman with whom he wants to share time and intimacy. He goes on with his life and she goes on with hers. He does not go out of his way to be mean or nasty. He will no doubt bless her and keep her in prayer. But he might also never see or talk with her again. And if he does, then he must bear his pain of loss in silence.

HELEN:

Thank you for your explanation. Obviously, priests are fully human. They are as sexually alive and responsible for their own behavior as anyone else. It just seems that in almost every instance a priest could say, “I’m sorry, but I can’t see you anymore. You didn’t do anything wrong and have not sinned against God. I am asking you not to question me further. If you care for me, as a human being, please don’t continue to ask.” It seems kind, doesn’t seem to violate his vows, and would let a young woman (perhaps as shy as he) know she had not led a priest on.

FATHER JOE:

Helen, certainly the priest should do all he can to help a person he loves to move on with her life. But the priest may be so caught up in his own emotions that he does not have the right words.

You suggest that he could say the following: “I’m sorry, but I can’t see you anymore. You didn’t do anything wrong and have not sinned against God. I am asking you not to question me further. If you care for me, as a human being, please don’t continue to ask.”

I think it is good to tell her that she has done nothing wrong. About that I agree, if it is indeed the case. But I also believe that he has to remove himself from the picture. If she really cares about him, no explanation will suffice. Someone is going to get hurt, not matter what.

Further, in some cases the emotions are not entirely shared. The girl might only have “friendship” feelings while the priest feels more than he should. He has to be careful to say or do nothing that would re-direct or amplify her feelings. (It could also be the other way around. I have known priests pursued by women.)

Romantic feelings are not very rational. The problem may be more the priest than the girl. If he says something like this and she comes crying into his arms, begging, “What is wrong, tell me?” Well, who knows?

Thank you for the contribution. I hope priests struggling in such situations will take seriously this post and the thoughtful words that you offer as a model for them. You are a smart lady, Helen. God bless!

MARY:

There are so many factors involved in these situations; it is hard to reduce these situations to linear scales of right and wrong. There are multiple factors acting on the principles. Some examples:

(1)  Some women consciously or unconsciously actively seek priests out for relationships and marriage. I know of one woman who is obsessed with marrying a priest and even vehemently argues for the Church to allow priests to marry. She never sees her obsession as taking a “father” away from many, many, children. This woman may have felt that she needed a father for her children, but she probably didn’t ever consider that in giving her children a father she will be depriving many, many others of a one-of-a-kind spiritual father.

(2)  People become confused I think also when they entrust someone with the deepest, most intimate parts of their spiritual life. This is often a person’s most secret and intimate self. It’s not surprising that a person who has never been able to share this part of their life with anyone else will reason that their ability to share it must necessarily mean that that they and their priest/counselor share an intimacy beyond any other and is evidence that they should be together for life.

(3)  Our society is over sexed and places a high premium on “sexual identities.” The Christian life demands that people refrain from inappropriate relationships but the world is so at odds with Catholic understanding of sexuality and the human person. Everyone is bombarded constantly with messages to be sexy and demonstrate one’s sexual prowess. It’s about the equivalent of alcoholics being asked to live in a bar 24 hours a day. The temptations are so great. I think we need to realize that just as alcoholics need AA, so to do those who are called to chastity according to their state in life (married, celibate consecrated, celibate singles, etc.) need the same kind of support that AA provides its members. I think the Church should organize support groups for chastity for both lay people and clergy.

(4)  If this relationship really went on for awhile, it underscores the value of having busy body old ladies as receptionists who just have a way of “knowing” who should have a lot or a little access to father.

SANDY:

Fr. Joe, today I find all too many priests insensitive to the feelings of those they “shepherd”. How sad it is for me to hear that a priest would purposely choose to be mean to a woman whom he has feelings for. It seems cruel given the sensitive nature of woman. Some women look to a priest as a reflection of Christ. A priest treating her coldly may cause her to question her love of the Church and this may cause her to leave the Catholic Church. I know this because I have left the Church due to so many uncaring priests.

FATHER JOE:

You miss the point Sandy; the object or ideal is for the priest to pull away before the woman develops strong feelings and an attachment to him. Many today see love only in a selfish way, like those priests who break their promises. If a priest really loves a woman he will want what the best for her, even if he must pay a high price by forfeiting her friendship. Love is not always about kissing, holding hands, embracing, or jumping into bed. Sometimes REAL LOVE means saying goodbye. (Remember, priests and their women who attempt marriage commit mortal sin and cannot be restored to good grace unless they separate or unless the priest is laicized and given permission to marry. I have known such couples, cut off from the sacraments, knowing that every act of romantic affection and sexual union is neither sanctioned by the Church nor approved by God. How can a good priest live with such a decision, knowing that he may have damned the person he says he holds most dear?)

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April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Through Scripture and Catholic teachings we are called to protect the life and dignity of all human persons no matter how young or old. Working to prevent child abuse is an important response of what we are called to do as a Church.

The Archdiocese of Washington is dedicated to promoting and ensuring the protection of all children. The archdiocese [wants] to help parents better understand how to protect their children from victimization, both inside and outside the home.

A long standing commitment to protecting children

The Archdiocese of Washington was one of the first dioceses in the nation to have a written Child Protection Policy, education on child protection and the first to use electronic fingerprinting for background checks. Our policy has become a model for dioceses nationwide and is available online at www.adw.org.

If you have worked with children in our parishes and schools, you know
that any adult who has substantial contact with children must complete an application, be fingerprinted for a criminal background check and attend a child protection education workshop. The program used for these workshops, Protecting God’s Children for Adults, is nationally recognized and held across the archdiocese throughout the year in English and Spanish.

Children in archdiocesan schools and religious education programs also
receive education on how to recognize abuse and protect themselves. In fall 2008, Touching Safety, a safe environment program that has been successfully used in 31 other dioceses, was implemented as the core curriculum for schools and parishes. The program supports the teachings of the Catholic Church, has age-appropriate lessons and connects with the education for adults.

An archdiocesan Child Protection Advisory Board of lay experts
(including at least one victim-survivor) monitors the archdiocese’s outreach and compliance with the Child Protection Policy. In addition, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops audits all dioceses on their compliance with the U.S. Bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. The auditors conduct interviews and review records and materials relating to education, background checks, compliance monitoring, reporting and healing. The archdiocese has been found in full compliance every year.

Since 1993, the archdiocese has had a Case Review Board to assist the Archbishop in assessing allegations of child sexual abuse against clergy and fitness for ministry.

Help, healing and support for victims

The Archdiocese of Washington has long been committed to the treatment and healing of those harmed. These are some of the ways the archdiocese has reached out to victims of abuse by archdiocesan personnel:

  • Apology and statement of remorse by a bishop and leadership.
  • Immediate offer of paid counseling, therapy and other assistance (1) of an individual’s choice, (2) for as long as needed to heal and (3) for family members, in some situations.
  • Assistance regardless of legal claims. The archdiocese has paid for counseling even after being sued and even after the suit was thrown out of court on its merits, because we believe it is the right thing to
    do.
  • Opportunity to meet with a bishop. Our bishops have traveled to meet with victims, provided them with a private phone number and e-mail, and set aside regular office time just for victims who would like to meet.
  • Immediate reporting of allegations and support for victims in pursuing criminal prosecution.
  • More than $6 million in direct assistance has been provided to victims and millions more spent on prevention efforts. Settlements have been made, if appropriate in an individual’s situation.
  • Licensed clinical social worker on staff to assist those coming forward and Office of Child Protection Services to assist victims and implement prevention programs.

Reporting abuse

  • If you suspect child abuse (sexual, physical or neglect of anyone under the age of 18) or have been a victim of child abuse, report it immediately to the local law enforcement agency or the local department of social services (Department of Child Protective Services in the District of Columbia).
  • If you suspect child abuse involving any archdiocesan personnel, also report it immediately to Marcia Zvara, MSW, LCSW-C, Director
    of Child Protection Services for the Archdiocese of Washington, at 301-853-5328.
  • The complete Child Protection Policy, which includes a form to report suspected abuse by archdiocesan personnel and details on where to report to civil authorities (Appendix A) is available online at www.adw.org.

Some signs that a child is being sexually abused:

  • Suddenly refuses to change for gym or to participate in physical
    activities
  • Reports nightmares or bedwetting
  • Experiences a sudden change in appetite or behavior
  • Demonstrates bizarre, sophisticated, or unusual sexual knowledge
    or behavior
  • Becomes pregnant or contracts a venereal disease, particularly if
    under age 14
  • Runs away

Note: Victims of sexual abuse do not necessarily exhibit physical signs of the abuse and some sexually abused children may exhibit no signs of abuse at all.

By the numbers

Between July 2007 and June 2008 in the Archdiocese of Washington:

  • 97 child protection workshops were held for adults who work with children in the archdiocese
  • 5,800 people, including clergy, new employees and volunteers attended those workshops
  • 18,251 Catholic school children received safe environment  education
  • 22,281 children in religious education programs received safe environment education
  • 6,536 employees, volunteers and clergy were fingerprinted

Between 2003-2007 the Catholic Church in the United States:

  • Trained more than 1.8 million clergy, employees and volunteers in parishes in creating safe environments and preventing child sexual
    abuse
  • Prepared more than 5.8 million children to recognize abuse and protect themselves

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“LONGING FOR SOMETHING? MAYBE IT’S GOD!” When a friend of mine first saw the title of this initiative on a bus billboard, she humorously said, “Hum, longing for something? Maybe it’s… CHOCOLATE!” She did not mean to be profane; I guess she was just hungry. Her response does offer us something important to reflect upon. Many people are searching for ultimate meaning, but often they settle for something proximate and which gives a quick fix. Some turn to drugs and replace otherworldly communication (prayer) and meditation with drug induced euphoria. Others have substituted sexual union, and the accompanying thrills, for a genuine communion with God and the spiritual rapture that knows no bounds. I suppose some try to find God in a bottle, and yet excessive alcohol always fails to deliver what it promises and forces a heavy toll upon us as well. Even physical food, which we need to survive, cannot come close to the promise of the Eucharist as our spiritual food and encounter with the living God. Every one of us is like a puzzle where our lives consist of putting the pieces together in the right places. Without God, an important piece remains missing and the perfection or wholeness is ruined. We were made for God. There is no need to wander aimlessly through this world. The Church safeguards the answers to the ultimate questions; Christ, himself, is the source of this meaning. He is the Way and the Truth and the Life. The old children’s catechism did not hesitate to share the answer to the great existential question. Why did God make you and me? He made us TO KNOW HIM and TO LOVE HIM and TO SERVE HIM in this world and TO BE HAPPY AND GIVE HIM GLORY forever in the world to come. That is the long and short of it.

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ADW_Longing_BusBack.qxd

The Archdiocese of Washington has started a blog for the Lenten initiative, “LONGING FOR SOMETHING? MAYBE IT’S GOD.” My dear friend and priest-colleague Father Charles Pope writes most of the posts. He is well known for his offering of the Tridentine Mass and for running a bible study in the White House during the last Bush Administration. It can be found at:

http://blog.adw.org/.

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