Thought-Provoking Reads, vol. 10

Meg Hunter-Kilmer, Held By His Pierced Hands, “A Novena of Saints for a Church in Crisis”:

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With all the news out of Washington and Pennsylvania, with the continued revelations of unimaginable horrors perpetrated by priests and bishops, we the laity have work to do. We must demand accountability and transparency. We must work for reform. We must speak out against the evils wrought in our name. But above all, we must pray. We must fast and pray for the healing of the victims, the protection of the innocent, the conversion of abusers, the restoration of the Church.

Elizabeth Scalia, Word on Fire, “McCarrick, Mary, and Mystery”:

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What shall we do with that sign? Well, for one thing, we must be willing to investigate the long pattern of abuse, influence, and cover-up that involves Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick (and his enablers) as carefully and thoroughly as we investigate miracles at Lourdes and tears of the Madonna. We must be as unrelenting in discovering proofs, seeking evidences, and distrusting “easy” answers about the men who run the Church as we are over each miraculous claim we study.

Abigail Favale, Church Life Journal, “The Specter of a Sweeping Rewrite of Catholic Sexual Teachings”:

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Katsushika Hokusai, The Great Wave off Kanagawa, c. 1833, Wikimedia Commons, PD-Old-100.

But here is what this perspective fails to grasp: that very principle—the unassailable value of human life (even of death row inmates)—is the foundation of the Church’s current teaching on human sexuality. What the Church says about sex is fundamentally about life.

Bishop Robert Barron, Word on Fire, “The McCarrick Mess”:

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I say this because that awful crisis just seemed too thought-through, too well-coordinated, to be simply the result of chance or wicked human choice. The devil is characterized as “the enemy of the human race” and particularly the enemy of the Church. I challenge anyone to come up with a more devastatingly effective strategy for attacking the mystical body of Christ than the abuse of children and young people by priests. This sin had countless direct victims of course, but it also crippled the Church financially, undercut vocations, caused people to lose confidence in Christianity, dramatically compromised attempts at evangelization, etc., etc. It was a diabolical masterpiece.

Timothy P. O’Malley, Church Life Journal, “Confusing the Self-Emptying Love of the Cross with Political Power”:

I am with Bishop Barron—we should conduct a complete investigation. Let no stone go unturned in discovering what happened relative to McCarrick’s horrific abuse of young men. If our favorite Pontiff has culpability in the scandal, even if indirect, let us acknowledge it. Let us turn to the seminaries and make sure that this abuse is not happening today. If seminaries are places where celibacy is not practiced, a reform must be instituted—it is not enough to say, “boys will be boys.” We cannot say anymore, as seminarians have been told, “You just need to get used to it.” You just need to be used to sexual assault at the hands of your classmates. If crimes have been committed, let them be prosecuted.

Sr. Helena Burns, America, “How ‘Humanae Vitae’ helped one nun find her feminist voice”:

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CNS/Nancy Wiechec

When a woman says, “I can be as good as a man,” it is a false admission of inferiority. By adopting a supposedly gender-neutral way of being human in the world, radical feminists are actually adopting a male paradigm and obliterating the feminine paradigm and distinctly feminine gifts of the body and soul.

Jane Sloan Peters, First Things, “The Hidden Splendor of the Church”:

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Servant of God Chiara Corbella Petrillo

Some have emphasized the role of laypeople, particularly those able to withhold donations, in keeping pressure on bishops to investigate abuse. Others note that the most vehement calls to action and reform have come from young laypeople. I would like to add that a cloud of witnesses, including the three laypeople noted here, give us hope. They attest to the persistent and insurmountable work of the Holy Spirit. Amidst photograph after photograph of McCarrick, I have returned to a photograph of Servant of God Chiara Petrillo, mid-laugh, a jagged surgical scar at her throat and a patch covering one cancerous eye. She comforts me. Not everything that is hidden is evil. My feeble efforts to follow Christ are not farcical because of priests like McCarrick. In the sacraments, I still encounter the Shepherd.

Rebecca Moore, MercatorNet, “The brainwashing myth”:

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Image by Peeter Allik, Tartu Art Museum, Estonia, via Wikimedia

How else to explain why people become immersed in fringe groups that seem so alien to their previous, more socially acceptable lives? How else to account for the fact that – in some cases – they’ll even commit crimes?

But like the word “cult,” the term brainwashing seems to only be applied to groups we disapprove of. We don’t say that soldiers are brainwashed to kill other people; that’s basic training. We don’t say that fraternity members are brainwashed to haze their members; that’s peer pressure.

As a scholar of religious studies, I’m disheartened by how casually the word “brainwashing” gets thrown around, whether it’s used to describe a politician’s supporters, or individuals who are devoutly religious.

I reject the idea of brainwashing for three reasons: It is pseudoscientific, ignores research-based explanations for human behavior and dehumanizes people by denying their free will.

Simcha Fisher, I have to sit down., “The Good Ole Shepherds Club”:

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Jebulon [CC0], from Wikimedia Commons

Once you’re comfortably inside the walls that define your group, the group quickly becomes what defines you; and then, if there’s nothing from the outside calling you to account, it’s all too easy to put all your effort into making the walls stronger. No matter what your original reason was for joining that group, your sole work becomes maintaining the walls.

And inside the walls, the oxygen decreases, the temperature rises, and what was once a group of individuals becomes undifferentiated intellectual and spiritual compost that’s not even useful as fertilizer, because it never leaves the heap….

This is what happens when you are so deeply entrenched in a group of your peers. You forget that there is an outside world. You forget you’re still free to act like any other human being would act, and so you don’t act. You just keep on frantically daubing at the chinks in the walls, where that awful light keeps getting in.

Anna Keating, Church Life Journal, “Addressing the American Suicide Contagion”:

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MiskatonicGolden Gate Bridge suicide message, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0.

In this way, physician assisted suicide is not simply the private choice of a patient who is ready to die. It impacts us all. As it creates two classes of people, makers and takers, and encourages takers to end their own lives before they “become a burden” on makers….

We need to question the myth of the sovereign individual who makes her choices in a vacuum. We are all products of a society that shapes who we are, how we think, and what choices we have. And what is given as an option by a person in power, can often feel like an obligation, especially when there are not good alternatives.

Jenny Uebbing, Mama Needs Coffee, “I Will Never Leave Her”:

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Will they remember a faithful who doubled down in penance and reparation for sin, offering up their own sacrifices and sufferings to purify the Bride of Christ? Or will they remember a mass exodus of people finally fed up with hypocrisy and failure, resigned to seek their spiritual sustenance elsewhere?

I am angry. I am desperate for transparency and justice and for a profound reckoning of the atrocities committed by men whose very lives are meant to emulate the Good Shepherd, and who instead pattern themselves after Satan, the Father of Lies.

But I will never leave. I would rather die than leave the Bride of Christ alone in Her suffering, or turn away from the Eucharist which is the source and summit of our life.

I am angry and I am hurt and I am deeply, deeply confused.

And I will never leave.


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