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Friday, November 07, 2014

Family Prayer - challenge and blessing

While it may be a steep challenge for married couples to pray together each day, as parents they can take joy that it is easier to pray together as a family. Parents can give thanks to the Lord that their children - especially young children - are by their very presence and by soaking up their parents' presence and love are in effect allowing God to create among them a loving atmosphere of family, within which parents as well can feel comfortable to pray openly to the Holy Trinity.

If you, reader, are married, you could take this as a friendly warning, that for a husband and wife to pray together it is more difficult and challenging than taking off one's clothing, because clothing covers only the body, especially its more vulnerable parts; whereas silence or reluctance or unwillingness to pray together covers much more... all of our inner thoughts, feelings, fears and insecurities about ourselves, faith but also doubts about the profound mystery of God the Holy Trinity, all the fears and uncertainties about life, our future, our security, the well-being of our loved ones, and the success or failure or delay in accomplishment of all our plans, desires, and work.... All that we carry and host deep within us appears to be infinite because it probably is, which elicits very deep and strong feelings....

There is so much concealed beneath the thin veil of our silence that to even think of lifting the veil to our own awareness, let alone to another - however beloved that other is - can be and is for most people frightening and overwhelming. This explains the strong reluctance to do it and the strong emotional reaction when we ask or propose it when the other would rather not go there.... Also, the extent and depth of our holiness before God has much to do with the quality of our love of and care for others as well as love and care of our self, our own life. For this reason we are incompetent to judge the relative holiness of others, however flawed or weak they may in some ways appear to us.

This is another reason to hold others in high esteem and respect and even to consider them better than ourselves. This was recommended by many of the saints and is even in Scripture in one of Paul's letters. This attitude allows us to live in humility, in truth about ourselves, others, and God in the abiding and uninterrupted divine presence of the Holy Trinity within us and around us. Whatever we see and hear in another that appears to us to be wrong, in error, or possibly sinful, all this can simply inform how we can pray for them and pour out our love for them in this way and also through understanding, sympathy, compassion, and support. You remember how St Francis composed a hymn enshrining the wisdom he discovered that it is far better rather than be understood, to seek to understand; rather than be consoled, to console; rather than be loved, to love, and to be the first to forgive whenever forgiveness is needed.

As you consider the rich interior life of your spouse and father / mother of your children and the deep mystery of all that the Holy Trinity know, see, and love in them and all that God is working in them through their own natural processes and moment to moment thoughts, feelings, discernment, decisions, efforts, and labors, you as a person of faith could allow yourself to stand in awe of your spouse's deep mystery and entertain much interior dialogue with the Lord about them and your love for them and your desires and hopes for them, providing you are in accord with the Father's will for your spouse.... As you pray in such ways for him or her, you will find the Lord deepening your respect and love for them and I am quite certain that they will sense something of this through the peace and loving look they will most definitely perceive from you....

If you and your spouse do not yet prayer daily or even regularly, you remain free on occasion to ask your spouse to pray with you, but when you prepare to do so, may I suggest you first pray for them and about this, submitting your desires and needs to the Holy Trinity, asking God to purify your desires, needs, heart, mind, body, and soul, and then live in peaceful anticipation until the moment when you sense it is right to mention to your spouse your desire. Then may I suggest you frame it in terms of your own need, something like:

"Beloved, do you have a moment? With all that has been happening lately... (give examples) I have been feeling lonely and uncertain in my praying (or whatever your actual experience and feelings are).... I have been thinking and praying about this and I realize that I need you. I feel so secure and at peace when you accept to pray with me. You are my strength. Would you please think about it and let me know soon when you would be willing for us to pray together for a little while?"

You will see how he or she responds. If they manifest great reluctance you can let them see that you understand how difficult it is for them, and maybe they could simply do it like they do with your children and not worry about anything but just keep it simple. You could say you seem to recall Jesus saying something about how we should be as simple as children before God.

Know that I keep couples and families in my mind, heart, and soul for my daily prayer before the Lord for his Family....

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Christians still suffer, but with hope in God

It is an inescapable reality to both enjoy life and to suffer it. Our very capacity to enjoy makes us capable of suffering to the same degree. As difficult as it is to personally suffer from various conditions and circumstances, It is so very difficult to stand by helplessly as someone we love suffers. I know this from personal experience - it is unavoidable for anyone who loves - how difficult it is when in the face of a loved one in pain all our desire might be to make it better or simply take all the pain away. From our roman catholic and orthodox Christian faith traditions we have come to find four ways to better endure the intense pain of loss and separation, all the more painful when it is compounded by sudden and inexplicable tragedy.

The first "way" is common to all Christians. We remember that God so loved us that the Father sent his willing Son to come among us that we might no longer be alone or struggle against such great odds by ourselves. We realize we still have Jesus as our captain, our champion, just a step ahead of us. He braved the worst of what can befall any of us and shows us the way forward. He lifts our gaze up to see our Father and his immeasurable love for us. There is no better comfort than to feel something of that love.

The second way is also common to all Christians... it is Jesus Himself. He is the living Word of God - the divine Son - and we can draw great strength and comfort from pondering this Word in the Sacred Scriptures. At times as we ponder and pray over lines from the Psalms, Proverbs, Gospels, Letters, and so on... it is as though He speaks to us, to me, personally.

With this living food our spirit mobilizes our flesh to go on and take a few more steps.... A growing intimacy that the Word brings about within us lifts us up into the living God in ways that words cannot tell, as Saint Paul put it, and though our pain remains, it is slowly absorbed into God. In ways that are unique for each person, our pain can become "glorious" or "radiant" as Jesus' own wounds have become. That is, we find we are able to experience comfort, hope, confidence of being loved, even hope for the future - while still caught in the pain of our losses - and this simultaneous suffering and unearthly joy becomes life giving to others around us as they too behold what is happening to us and they get caught up in it....

The third way is partly common to all Christians and is also Jesus from a different perspective, as still present and active among us and within us. Baptism is common to all Christians, a new life, an infusion of divine life in us by the presence and work of the Holy Trinity, that begins to reshape us into children of God. There is a true yet ever mysterious pouring out of the divine life of the Trinity into us and an ongoing presence and action of the divine persons that enables us to progressively experience, think, speak, act, and behave more and more as Jesus did. This too becomes life giving for others to see. We are given much comfort and hope as we see the living God so mysteriously yet so tangibly be present and act within us, lifting us up, slowly transforming us, and also acting for others through us.

What our catholic and orthodox tradition offers us as seven "sacraments" are stable and life giving mysterious encounters with the living God in the person of Jesus. As we stumble in our weak human flesh and fall in our personal sinfulness, we encounter Jesus in a personal way - much as people in the Gospels did - in what we call Reconciliation. As we confess our sins before a priest, it is to Jesus that we confess, and through the priest it is Jesus Himself who says to us "Your sins are forgiven you. Go, and sin no more." Because much of our grief is pain exacerbated by our sins and often by regrets, experiencing personally Jesus forgiving touch is incredibly healing and comforting.

In our experience of the Holy Eucharist, the Bread of Life and Chalice of Salvation are so real, so very much the living Body and Blood of Christ, that we receive nothing less than a "transfusion" of divine life when we receive Jesus in Holy Communion. He takes us by the hand and enables us to more willingly and eagerly give our life for others as He does for us. Confirmation strengthens us in our walk of faith much as the Father's voice did for Jesus, calling Him his beloved Son. When we are sick or injured, the Anointing of the Sick brings us the healing touch of Jesus himself... this is how we experience it. The sixth and seventh sacraments or mysterious encounters with the living God are vocational: Holy Orders in which Jesus makes for himself deacons, priests, and bishops to pastor his people, and Marriage to introduce married couples into a life of Matrimony to experience the mystery of God's spousal love for his Church, for all of us baptized, as for his Bride. All of these are the third way.

The fourth way is about the presence and action of the Holy Spirit, whom in the creed we call "Lord and Giver of life", and of whom Saint Paul had much to say, the promise of Jesus. We believe it is the Holy Spirit who enables us to perceive the presence and action of the Holy Trinity within us and to cooperate with God for our own good and transformation as well as for the good of others. As we become more familiar with the three divine persons, as they progressively reveal themselves to us personally, it is not that our sufferings in this life are less, if anything our capacity to suffer them is enhanced - our sensibility or sensitivity increasing causes the pain in a way to become more "exquisite" - however, the increasing place of the Holy Trinity within us and our progressively being drawn more deeply into the life and love of the Trinity begins to make our personal suffering pale or diminish in proportion.

Our entire perspective comes to life and changes. Like God, we also become better able to tolerate the pain of others, to see it is their journey that they travel as they must, but we can with peace allow them to go on suffering and walking on, knowing they are not alone, that their God is with them, and that somehow, our willingness to bear some of their pain in some way diminishes the intensity of it for them. They know and sense that God also comforts them through us.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Happy Fathers' Day to all men!

It's not easy to be a man, or a woman, but we become more human with every thought, decision, word, action, gesture, attitude, and prayer....

It's not easy to be a mother, or father, but we become more generative with every gift of self to our spouse, our children, and our neighbor....

God disciplines us his children, and the more we accept it the holier and more loving, more truthful, more just, more good, more beautiful we become, and we in turn are to discipline those in our care with the same firmness, kindness, and loving mercy our heavenly Father and our Lord Jesus shows us, in the life giving Holy Spirit.

Happy Fathers' Day!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

What is the Holy See?

The Church of Jesus Christ has many levels... and in a way what follows is an over-simplification for the purpose of clarity....

In the beginning there were five autonomous Christian Churches developed by the Apostles and centered in Jerusalem, Rome, Antioch, Constantinople, and Alexandria.

The great Library of Alexandria and much of the Church leadership and strength were destroyed but in time there emerged the Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt, which owes its foundation to the apostle and evangelist St Mark.

Much of Antioch was either destroyed or forcibly converted to Islam in the 7th century but there remains a small Antiochan Orthodox Church.

The Patriarch of Constantinople remains the recognized head of all the Orthodox churches, first among equals, but that Church itself is very diminished in members due to forcible conversion practiced since the 7th century by various conquering waves of Islam.

During the second half of the first millennium while Islam was conquering most of the known world and forcibly converting people or killing them or making them second class citizens with no rights and heavy head taxes for life, there developed Orthodoxy, that is, an Eastern form of Christianity with its own cultural expression and spirituality, with over a dozen churches all autonomous and ethnic, that is, characterized by their nationality, language, and culture, so to this day we have the Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, Coptic Orthodox, Syrian Orthodox, Ukrainian Orthodox,  Chaldean Orthodox, and so on....

Then in 1054 due to centuries of increasing political, economic, and religious differences and even violent wars and atrocities - which were more about human nature and not so much about faith or religion - there was a break between East and West, the Orthodox Churches and the Roman Catholic Church, and the two heads mutually excommunicated the other and all the members of their respective churches.

In the course of the last two thousand years, the primary cause of aggravation, discord, and violence in civil society yet implicating the churches was the confusion between secular and religious interests and between religious leaders and worldly rulers. In the beginning, when the Roman Empire stopped persecuting the one Church, religious and secular affairs remained separate. With time, kings sought the blessing of the Church and the Church sought the protection of monarchs, and this opened the way for secular leaders to manipulate and make use of the Church in ways that at times were immoral and lead to what seemed to be religious wars but were mostly about politics, economics, and demographics.

It is only since the creation of the Vatican City State in 1929 that the Roman Catholic Church in particular has been freed from worldly concerns and governance and free to devote itself entirely to the service of God, the service of its members, and the service of humanity as a whole.

As time went by, during the early Renaissance and the subsequent centuries some of the Orthodox felt that they were drawn by God to reunite with Rome, with the successor of the Apostle Peter, and they became Eastern Rite Churches such as the Greek Catholics, Ukrainian Catholics, Chaldean Catholics, and so on, who were considered traitors and heretics by those who remained Orthodox.

Today, the Orthodox churches continue to be autonomous under the figurehead leadership of the Patriarch of Constantinople, first among equals, who doesn't have the kind of authority that the Pope has over all the Catholic Churches, the Latin Rite or Roman Church and all the Eastern Rite Churches.

The Roman Catholic Church

The Pope is first of all the Bishop of Rome, the Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Rome. There are some 500 parishes there.

As Bishop of Rome from the time of the 12 Apostles the Pope came to be recognized as the "first among equals" among all the bishops and patriarchs, who are head of their respective churches. Primarily this was because the first Bishop of Rome, the first Pope, was St Peter, the first among Jesus' 12 Apostles, but also in the time that followed because so many of the Popes were martyrs for Jesus and for their faith, killed by Roman authorities over 300 years.

Over the centuries, primarily due to having greater resources and also accumulating a large library of documents and teachings, the Bishop of Rome came to be recognized as a moral and religious authority, one whose role was to assure the defense of the faith, one in whom Jesus Himself accomplished his promise recorded by Matthew in 28:20 that He would remain with us until the end. So Catholics believe that Jesus assures the Pope will always defend the faith and never make a mistake in the expression and teaching of the faith and of morals.

During the thousand years after the end of the Roman persecutions, so until the Renaissance, Europe was a vast land governed by princes and kings of various sorts, so the land was a bunch of principalities and kingdoms and, occasionally, empires that combined several of the smaller areas into a larger entity or empire. It happened sort of naturally that the bishops and in particular the Bishop of Rome came to rule a large area of land with responsibility to care for and protect the inhabitants. So, the Pope in time developed and army and used it. It is not possible to really understand that or have any sympathy for the people who lived then unless we try to put ourselves "in their shoes or minds".

We are all children of our age and we are least likely to understand objectively the times we live in simply because we are in them and cannot see the big picture as clearly as those who look at us from the outside. It is very arrogant of us to take a superior stance and judge others - either in the past or in other cultures and societies - as primitive, barbaric, or what have you when what we are doing is judging them by our own standards - which they have never known or experienced - instead of judging them by their own standards, which is the only fair way to judge anyone.

During the Renaissance, the Church and especially the Church in Rome became a patron of the arts and sciences, and provided the resources for artists - painters, sculptors, architects - and scientists to develop their field of expertise simply because these churches were among the few organizations other than monarchs who had the means to do so. In this way, the various dioceses and most of all Rome became depositories of art and scientific works. This is why we still have today the Vatican Library and Archives containing manuscripts of historical value going back almost two millennia and the Vatican Museum.

These are of value to the whole human race and don't just belong to the Roman Catholic Church, which continues to be the custodian, assuming the responsibility and expense of maintaining them and keeping them secure. Whether ordinary people contributed offerings voluntarily or their money was taken from them by force as taxes or by persuasion in order to obtain spiritual benefits; either way the religious architectural, artistic, and historical heritage belongs to the people of every age and generation, and the Church remains a stable and trustworthy custodian of this part of the human patrimony.

In the late 1800's there arose in Europe a trend of nationalism and in various places the principalities and kingdoms were abolished, sometimes through civil war, and replaced by states with national governments and eventually with elected officials. It was Mussolini who, in 1929, signed a Concordat with the Pope who surrendered that last remaining Papal States to the government of Italy and in turn Italy left the Roman Catholic Church with the Pope at its head a small parcel of land called Vatican City - much smaller than Montreal and about the size of Mont Royal Park - and recognizing Vatican City as a state; so it is now the Vatican City State with recognition at the United Nations which was itself formed in 1948.

So we have

Vatican City State - a state equal to other nation states but existing as a principality, like Monaco and Lichtenstein

The Holy See - this is the Chair of Peter, the Pope as religious and moral leader of the Roman Catholic Church with all his appointed officials and assistants

The Roman Curia - all the officials and groupings constituting the Holy See and working under the Pope's leadership at the service of the universal Church: the Secretariat of State (like a Prime Minister and his Office), Congregations, Tribunals, Pontifical Councils, Synod of Bishops, Offices, Pontifical Commissions, Swiss Guard, Institutions Connected, Labour Office of the Holy See, Pontifical Academies, Pontifical Committees

The Diocese of Rome operates like any other diocese around the world but is among the largest if not the largest. This link gives information about Rome but the Rome website is difficult to log into.

The Roman Catholic Church exists worldwide in the form of local churches or dioceses. Larger dioceses are called archdioceses and the archbishops have some jurisdiction over some neighboring dioceses called suffragan dioceses. However, each diocese is autonomous and the local bishop or archbishop has full authority and responsibility to govern and serve the faithful and the whole population under his jurisdiction, but also is answerable to the Pope who continues to have moral authority over all the bishops together and each one in particular. This is demonstrated in the practice of bishops being personally appointed by the Pope after the Congregation of Bishops has carefully researched the best possible candidates.

From the point of view of civil law, property, assets, personnel, and all forms of management, each diocese is truly autonomous, as if it were simply a member of an association of dioceses worldwide. Each diocese is regulated according to local civil and criminal codes of law.

Some people and organizations are trying to hold the Pope responsible for the abuse of children worldwide, but this shows their lack of understanding of how the Roman Catholic Church works. The Pope has moral authority to try to lead the bishops of the world in the best possible direction, but in the end, each bishop is responsible under local laws for his governance in civil and criminal matters, just as every priest is responsible for his own conduct under those laws.

Bishops are now being held accountable for not having properly managed priests reportedly having committed sexual abuses of children and for not having acted promptly enough to prevent such priests from having further access to children. However, what these accusations seem not to take sufficiently into account is the historical circumstances at work at the time of those sexual abuses, such as the prevailing medical and psychological expertise concerning such behavior and abuse. In addition, those accusations don't seem often to take into account the positive measures taken by many bishops and dioceses to isolate and attempt to treat priests accused of or caught in the act of abuse.

In a social climate in which the general population could not tolerate even contemplating the possibility of sexual abuse, it was difficult if not impossible for bishops to offer to help the reported victims, even though in many cases attempts were made to offer what care could be offered at the time.

Whenever it can be established that priests abused, they must be held accountable according to local laws, and in the end, they will also have to answer to God. When it can be established that bishops failed to govern properly, to prevent such priests from abusing again or to offer timely and effective assistance to victims, then they too must be held accountable according to local laws, and eventually to God.

One of the most serious and misunderstood issues relates to financial compensation of victims because people misunderstand the Roman Catholic Church as a depository of riches and wealth, comparable to billionaires and large corporations that enrich their shareholders. The truth is that the Roman Catholic Church, from a human point of view, is not a single entity like a billionaire or a multinational corporation.

The Roman Church has thousands of dioceses and each one has some form of civil incorporation. In Québec, due to the Napoleonic civil Code, each parish is an autonomous corporation and the bishop does not "own" the assets belonging to parishes. The "riches" of the Vatican are mostly architecture, art, and archives, and no one actually "owns" them, though in human affairs all man-made things must "belong" to someone or some organization. Vatican City "owns" the buildings and art "treasures" of the Vatican, but really, these are part of the patrimony of humanity in general and of Roman Catholics and Christians in particular.

Visible "heads" in the Church, bishops, have of themselves no wealth, unless they are of a rich family and share in the enjoyment of such estates. Regrettably there may be here and there bishops who have "enriched" themselves by siphoning off some funds for their personal use, either in legitimate ways or "under the table", but such cases are few indeed, and when they do occur, they are generally caught and reprimanded. Wherever bishops are in their person the "corporation" which "owns" the assets of their diocese, what constitutes their "wealth"?

Generally all church properties have been purchased and built for the people and by the people. Ordinary citizens like us for generations have contributed their hard-earned offerings to the Church in order to be able to worship in a building offering them shelter from the elements and at the same time through religious art and architecture evoking in beautiful ways the God in whom they believe and whom they come to worship. Dioceses that enjoy surplus funds employ them to maintain those buildings, offer additional services, and provide alternative places for formation, retreats, and recreation, like retreat and formation houses and camps.

When victims and their representatives sue a local church for compensation, the amounts are generally in an order of magnitude that can in effect bankrupt a local church. Because churches do not operate for profit, literally, any surplus funds are needed for personnel development and building maintenance. Large sums attributed by courts to compensate victims generally require that churches be closed and sold. That means that your church or mine would have to be closed, sold, and the money given to victims because father so and so abused them sometime in the past. For one victim to be compensated for sexual abuse, more victims are made now when they lose their church which they have supported. The compensation does not come from the perpetrator of the abuse, nor from the bishops involved at the time of the abuse, but rather from ordinary people today who in effect lose their church and must either begin all over again or must go somewhere else.

This doesn't mean that victims don't deserve compensation, they do, but more than that, they need competent assistance in order to come to terms with what they suffered, somehow get past it, and resume living and giving meaning to their lives. For this the Church hold a heavy responsibility to do all it can to help them achieve an optimal outcome, but simple financial compensation is a view of things inspired by our very twisted western society whose primary value is money and the accumulation of wealth and all the pleasure one can possibly afford. Wealth and pleasures of the flesh do not bring happiness, but rather a meaningful life.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Sexual abuse 2 - is eroticization gone awry

Sexual abuse is a crime against humanity...
because it violates the free will, dignity, integrity, and health of the victims... and it manifests the disintegration of the perpetrator's humanity. 

In our previous blog reflection we began to discuss the nature of sexual abuse by clergy and that it is, sadly, but the tip of the iceberg of human society. We began by noting that

"The sexual exploitation and abuse of one human being by another is a crime against humanity because it is a violation of who that person is in their very identity as a sexual human being. Our sexuality is an integral facet of who we are in our distinctiveness as human beings. We are living beings with a capacity to not only relate to others and to care for them but also to do so in a great variety of distinct ways, with degrees of intimacy and expression appropriate to our age, gender, the nature of the relationship, what it is that we want to express or give, all of which is deeply tied into our freedom as individuals and our capacity for meaning and responsibility. Sexual and other forms of abuse are particularly heinous when committed against children and other vulnerable, fragile, or innocent beings. They become doubly tragic when those perpetrating the abuse are themselves the distorted product of having in their turn suffered sexual or other forms of abuse, often at an early and deeply impressionable age." 

It is admittedly impossible to thoroughly understand our human nature, including our sexuality, and even less it its distorted forms, unless we acquire a more fundamental and evidence-based grasp of what we are as human beings and how we come to be, to become, the beings we are when at our best or at our worst. What many factors enhance our free will to live lives of purpose and integrity on the one hand or on the other hand debilitate that ability and cause us to become mere shadows, shameful and even dangerous counterfeit human beings?

The role of "eroticization" in becoming a human person

Distorted human beings - undeveloped or "petrified" persons

to be continued....

Friday, January 17, 2014

Sexual abuse 1 - by clergy the tip of the iceberg

Sexual abuse is a crime against humanity

The sexual exploitation and abuse of one human being by another is a crime against humanity because it is a violation of who that person is in their very identity as a sexual human being. Our sexuality is an integral facet of who we are in our distinctiveness as human beings. We are living beings with a capacity to not only relate to others and to care for them but also to do so in a great variety of distinct ways, with degrees of intimacy and expression appropriate to our age, gender, the nature of the relationship, what it is that we want to express or give, all of which is deeply tied into our freedom as individuals and our capacity for meaning and responsibility.

Sexual and other forms of abuse are particularly heinous when committed against children and other vulnerable, fragile, or innocent beings. They become doubly tragic when those perpetrating the abuse are themselves the distorted product of having in their turn suffered sexual or other forms of abuse, often at an early and deeply impressionable age. 

One benefit, admittedly an incalculably costly one, of the current scandal of sexual abuse of children and other innocent and vulnerable people and by virtue of the actions that have been courageously taken by victims, those who support them, and those individuals and agencies who represent them, but also by virtue of church leaders who have made manifest their willingness to receive complaints, is that social taboos are shattering and it is becoming more possible to talk of these things openly and therefore to begin to work together towards solutions and better safeguards.

The complex nature of the human person and sexuality 

The fundamental and horrible truth of the matter is that human nature, including our sexuality, has been weakened, damaged, tainted since the dawn of human history. The abominable practices and the pain and suffering engendered by misuse of human sexuality is primarily what has caused - almost across the board worldwide - religious leaders to condemn sexual infidelity and all forms of unusual sexual practices as evil or at least to be avoided if not condemned.

Human history, literature, and culture chronicles the many ways in which human beings cause others to suffer whenever they use their sexuality as a way of taking pleasure, often at the expense of others. While men and women differ by design in their naturally occurring genders - with males more intrusive and females more inclusive - sexual predators can and do exist among members of both genders, even if they admittedly can appear and operate very differently with different degrees of destructiveness in the consequences and aftermath of their sexual activity.

Particularly in our day there is an increasingly universal acceptance that sexual expression and even experimentation are acceptable providing they take place among consenting adults. Yet, increasingly there are those bold and aggressive enough to contend that such sexual activity and experimentation is even acceptable by adults to children and youth. These opinions and ideological positions do not take into account the human developmental process nor the subsidiary process of eroticization.

If we are ever to understand what is going on, how the trends in human thought, feeling, conviction, and practice are constantly evolving - and often in ways that bode ill for the common good - we need to have a closer look at the nature of the human person and of our sexual dimension in a dynamic way that makes provision for and takes into account our developmental process.

If sex were not pleasurable, then there would be little need for this dialogue because few if any human beings would engage in sexual activity. It is precisely because of the pleasure that sex can and does afford that the human impulse to engage in it is so strong. The pleasure principle in general and in sex in particular is of itself ambivalent at worst - neither good nor bad - at best high and noble, and in the middle with the average view that sex is simply good, when it is not great.

Sex is good, yes, but not in every instance

Even reluctant or prudish religious authorities have traditionally granted that sex was good with the belief that it was designed and created by God, if only for the transmission of life and the survival of the species. Those with a more objective, realistic, and appreciative eye go further in acknowledging that human sexuality also has benefits for human couples when engaged in by one woman with one man for life; in that the power of sex binds them together, allows them to mutually give pleasure and comfort, and over time can evolve and grow with them and their relationship so as to intensify their mutual attachment, fidelity, and solicitude, that is, their disposition and motivation to look out for the other and to deliberately put the other's interests first, ahead of their own.

Pope John Paul II, the Bishop of Rome from October 16, 1978 to April 2, 2005 was of this view and went much further and deeper in his development of thought on what he called the "theology of the body", which emerged over time from the philosophical reflection he engaged in from his youth on human meaning, freedom, love, and "the acting person". He was of the view that human beings give meaning to their lives by their deliberate choices and that the highest meaning comes in the freedom to make of oneself a total gift to the other. He called this the "law of the gift". His work continues to be promoted all over the world for the common good.

 Why do people pervert sex into violence?

Because human sexuality is so deeply tied into the integrity of the human person, our freedom, our capacity for giving meaning to our life, and our capacity to be open to and care for the other, sexual abuse is particularly bad for the pain it inflicts, the deep damage it causes, and the lasting harm it does as a violent act, and it is increasingly evil the more grievous its effects on the victim, the one whose freedom, integrity, meaning, caring, and openness have been violated.

Why do people then perpetrate such violence one upon another? The answer can only be found in the toxic mixture of the beauty, goodness, attractiveness, power, high purpose, and desirability of sexual expression on the one hand, and the distorted nature of the humanity of the perpetrator on the other hand. By analogy we understand that a hammer in the hand of a sculptor like Michelangelo can be instrumental in creating such inspiring sculpture as the Pieta, but in the hand of a vandal can destroy a thing of beauty, or wound or kill living things and even people.

The beauty and power of human sexuality 

So it is with our human sexuality, which can be seen as a capacity for tenderness. Human beings don't simply have sexuality, but we are sexual beings. Our sexuality informs, colors, and is informed by our whole being at every level. Comforting a child engages our human sexuality, our capacity for tenderness, but in a healthy person does not generally engage one's genitals or erotic stimuli or responses. These tend not to activate without specific stimulation, unlike our other functions which operate automatically.

Our sexuality can be considered healthy when we have effective safeguards allowing us to distinguish different types of relationships giving us freedom to express a wide range of tenderness - actively in giving and passively in receiving - without any confusion from sexual arousal in ways appropriate to the nature of each relationship, time, circumstance, and the meaning we wish to express. Sexuality can be considered most noble when it seeks and effectively accomplishes the good of the other.

Genital sexuality adds to the expression of tenderness other meanings related to the union of a man and a woman and the outcome of their sexual fertility in the procreation of children, the transmission of life itself. Sexual activity outside of a woman / man couple with a mutual commitment for life sets aside the procreative function, the stability of a life commitment, or other dimensions which all have repercussions on those engaging in sexual expression and those affected by it, such as the offspring.

Human sexual development requires mentoring

However, it is easily observable that human beings don't just fall into a perfect experience and sexual life stance, but that this requires careful upbringing, learning, mentoring, and living. We also need to learn to seek and give forgiveness when our expressions of tenderness and sexual union are clumsy or selfish and manipulate, take, and hurt rather than give and care. When our sexuality and capacity for tenderness are poorly formed, mistakenly informed, or incompletely matured, all kinds of harm can be done in the abominations that occur.

We can see this in every generation and just about in every life. Married couples must invest selfless effort to develop their sexuality so that it becomes a mutual venture that enhances their union and bears good fruit for others around them beginning with their family. The more selflessly parents live their sexuality as a couple, the more benefits there are for their children who develop a more healthy sexual outlook from the mentoring they receive.

Wandering away from the original design

Other forms of human couple have the additional struggle of not having the differentiation and complementarity inherent in the basic man-woman couple, or the permanence and stability of being committed to each other for life, or the deepening of their relationship that comes from long term fidelity and exclusivity, or the deeper freedom that comes from sharing a deep personal relationship with their Creator God as the true and existential source of their love, fidelity, and fertility. When fertility is regarded as a curse or medicated as a disease might, it is easy to understand how sexuality can become an arena of disagreement and unpleasantness if not of selfish manipulation and abuse.

When children are brought into the world in a family where at its center the parent couple do not live their sexuality with the purest of motives and the clarity and freedom of unselfish love, one can begin to understand how all kinds of misunderstandings, manipulation, hurts, and deviations can occur. It is the tragic truth that it is most often and primarily in the family that children are abused in various ways including sexually, where parents or other adults abuse children precisely because they cannot assert themselves and are in their innocence most vulnerable and easy to manipulate and exploit.

Once sexuality is in this way perverted in the young, they struggle for their whole lives to live a more wholesome sexuality in accord with our fundamental design for happiness and togetherness. Those who are fortunate are able to gradually sanitize or make healthier their sexuality, but others become inclined to reproduce in their own lives the abuse and perversions of sexual tenderness that marked them in their innocent years. It is much like the children of alcoholics who tend to gravitate towards another alcoholic when they are seeking out a spouse or life partner simply because that is the type of human personality with which they became familiar while growing up.

Exquisitely sensitive spouses or dangerous rapists

It is the very same raw material of human sexual personality that begins at conception and develops through gestation, birth, infancy, childhood, youth, and adulthood. Why, then, do some become exquisitely sensitive and loving spouses, some struggle with clumsy attempts to please, others have trouble setting aside their own desires and come across as "taking" rather than "giving", and still others become manipulators, violators, rapists, pedophiles, ephebophiles, in short, dangerous offenders and monsters?

It is impossible to understand these differences outside of a "developmental model" of the human person as a sexual human being as opposed to a human being who simply happens to have sexual organs. A human being is a single living entity, and all of its experiences interact with all the others throughout its developmental stages and then continuing throughout its entire life cycle. You cannot examine or understand a person's sexuality without striving to understand the entire person, because everything within them is interrelated. You "pull" on one aspect and the whole fabric is pulled along.

Human development is a long and complicated process

Before the advent of discoveries and advancement in our understanding of the human person, it was generally thought - and many people have not caught up with the social sciences and still think - that a person is "born that way", the way they are, and that they cannot change. Advances in scientific observation, analysis, theorizing, and experimentation have revealed that the living entity called a human being as a physical and psychic organism has a wide and complex range of emotive experience as well as expression, and in addition has a more mysterious spiritual dimension that is more difficult to observe and quantify.

The human being begins its development with the genetic material it "receives" from its mother and father and from the moment of conception also absorbs untold billions of "impressions" from both the mother and the father during gestation in the womb and then continues to take in untold quantities of "impressions" from its parents, other people, other living thinks, and everything else that exists all around it, as well as its own inner processes, which in turn are also very complex.

Each individual has received from its genetic material certain "predispositions" to a variety of conditions, inclinations, sensitivities, and sensibilities. As time passes and as it takes in quantities of sensations and experiences, the individual undergoes the ongoing cumulative effect of all that it is taking in, its ongoing growth, and a developing and constantly operating process of "updating" or "rebooting" for understanding and interpretation, judgement and orientation, responsibility and freedom. Sensations, perceptions, emotions, thoughts, interpretations, awareness, feelings, moral judgements, free choices, the acceptance of responsibility and responsibilities, freedom to change, deliberate commitments, ongoing learning, admission of fault, and efforts to improve are only some of the multiple facets and operations taking place more or less simultaneously that taken together are in a continuous way formative of the human person.

Human development - becoming a person

In the social sciences it is now generally accepted that the human being is a dependent entity from the moment of its conception until it reaches maturity. One becomes a mature adult, with at least the essential elements and abilities of an adult, after having experienced 8 developmental stages between conception and the early twenties. These stages are: fetus, body identity, identity of the doer, individual identity, psychosexual identity, psychosocial identity, identity of the self, and early adult.

We more easily recognize them as gestation, infancy (0-1), toddler (1-2 1/2), budding individual (2 1/2 - 3), Oedipus Complex or nightmare stage (3-6), the "flocking" by gender stage (6-12), teenage (12-18), and "getting a life" (18-22). Along the way, each person develops "preferences" of sensation, outlook, expression, reaction, and action. During the first year of life after birth, some become more "captative", active, or outreaching, while others prefer to become more "receptive", passive, or wait expectantly. During the "potty training" stage, some become more "retentive" and hold things in, hold onto things; while others become more "eliminative" and release things, let them go more easily. This generalizes to every aspect of life from personal hygiene to money to generosity of time and spirit.

From the stage where children "fall in love" with their opposite gender parent (3-6), some males befriend their "intrusive" mode (generally experienced as wanting to be like Daddy) - which is inscribed in the very design of their body - and let it become their natural way of being manly in the world; while some - either because they have been harmed by extreme forms of male intrusiveness or simply lacked an available model - prefer the female "inclusive" mode (they prefer to be like Mommy or like a very inclusive father; with the result that being intrusive takes more effort and energy every time they need to employ that mode, particularly if the mother was intrusive in a way that felt angry or controlling or threatening.

During that same stage when little girls "fall in love" with their Daddy, some females befriend their "inclusive" mode (generally experienced as wanting to be like Mommy) - which is inscribed in the very design of their body and let it become their natural way of being womanly in the world; while some - either because they have been harmed by extreme forms of female inclusiveness or simply lacked an available model - prefer the male "intrusive" mode (they prefer to be like Daddy or like a very intrusive mother; with the result that being inclusive takes more effort and energy every time they need to employ that mode, particularly if the father was inclusive in a way that seemed weak or withdrawing, or humiliating.

In their teenage years, boys and girls try out their newly discovered personal preferences and abilities and find that they are energized when they are with others and may become increasingly extroverted, or they may find that being with others is more draining than energizing, so that they may become more introverted. These dispositions may also tend to vary in accord with the size of the group and their familiarity with the others and degree of acceptance by the others. Some will be more inclined to be leaders and others followers and still others, either role depending on the circumstances and the others involved.

Most of us have some "wrinkles" in our development

Social scientists, philosophers, theologians, varied other professionals, and people in other walks of life will define what is a human person from a variety of viewpoints and a wide range of parameters. What does it take to become fully human? If an individual gets stuck in the first stage of life, infancy, when it was the center of the universe and the mother was still felt to be part of its own body, then as an apparent adult, this individual turns out to behave so selfishly with such little conscience that we call them sociopath - without awareness of others as having a life of their own - or psychopaths - so intent on using others for their own ends that they are actually dangerous to life and limb.This is the case of those who in the face of the prospect of being abandoned will kill their spouse, children, and finally themselves, because they suffocate emotionally at the very thought of being abandoned.

Those who get "stuck" at the potty training stage may appear as extremely retentive or miserly or up tight, on the one hand, or on the other hand eliminative or spendthrift or irresponsibly carefree. Such an individual may be developmentally incapable of caring for others - unable to put out what it takes to care for others or unable to conserve what resources or time or energy that caring for others takes.

Those who get stuck at stage four - 2 1/2 to 3 - may never have become an "individual" in their own right, either because they became so merged with a needy parent or parents that, discouraged from paying attention to their own feelings and needs, they became incompetent as an individual human. Such an individual, perennially deprived of individuality or personal identity, would be hard pressed to properly care for others, being ever depleted for lack of self care. If they manage to heroically care for others, it would then be at extreme cost to themselves, being unable to distinguish differences in priority among the needs and wants of others and their own needs and wants, unable to reconcile those of others and their own.

Those who experience difficulties in befriending their own gender come to such difficulties from any number of factors: the degree or lack of masculinity of their father, absence of a father, frightening or humiliating distortion of a father figure, or unsteady, unstable character of their father; the degree or lack of femininity of their mother, absence of a mother, frightening or humiliating distortion of a mother figure, or volatile, unreliable character of their mother; which factors can be exacerbated by one or several occurrences of one or more forms of abuse: emotional, physical, psychological, sexual; or deprivations that are normally associated with social instability, poverty, and violence such as war, unemployment, racial or other forms of negative discrimination, religious or other forms of persecution, and so on.

Healthy, impoverished, or damaged development at any of these earlier life stages has cumulative effects when the individual enters into the subsequent more social stages of human development, which in turn can accentuate or open up delays in development of various facets of the emerging human person. Childhood and teenage bullying, social pressures to conform and even to perform anti-social or criminal acts, neglect or abandonment by significant adults, extreme social upheaval and countless other factors can enhance, hold back, or demolish an individual's human development up to that point in their young lives.

The initial result when the individual "comes of age" and is recognized as "an adult" will be a human individual that is capable of a minimum of self care, awareness of others as independent individuals with their own value and right to exist, ability to live and act in the world and society, and ability to assume the rights and duties of a citizen and member of society. For many, this initial plateau or goal is delayed until later as they struggle to survive, to help their family or basic group to survive, all the while trying to welcome the challenges and events of life as opportunities to continue to grow and to develop into fully functional human persons.

The role of "eroticization" in becoming a human person

Distorted human beings - undeveloped or "petrified" persons

to be continued....

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Case Against the Pope

I was profoundly moved by the "Culture Project" presentation recently in New York of "The Case Against the Pope" on the Internet after being directed to it yesterday by the "Center for Constitutional Rights". The panel consisted of Gerard Mannix Flynn who wrote and performs "James X' spoke to "How James X Came About", a play that came to him in which he expresses the suffering inflicted on a person by sexual and other forms of abuse and in particular by trusted authority figures such as priests and their struggle to emerge from that dark place into the light; Pam Spees who spoke to "CCR Involvement in James X"; Gabriel Byrne who spoke of his "Motivation for Directing James X"; and Mary Valier-Kaplan who spoke on "How Art Confronts Society".

Each of them also gave personal testimony in the course of addressing their involvement with this 75 minute theater play "James X" which runs without intermission. I was quite taken up by them and found that each panelist came across as entirely authentic, particularly as they confided their personal testimony, and an honest and deeply motivated desire to seek human progress in putting a stop to the abuse, torment, and torture of innocent children at the hands of adults, especially those who are in positions of public trust and for that reason particularly dangerous as predators.

I could not find fault with anything each of them said about the sad realities of abuse and what untold suffering it causes the victims and all those related to them; nor would I want to find fault given that a person's personal experience is of inestimable value. The challenge then for all those who seek to help and intervene in any way and work collaboratively for progress in this troubled area of human existence is to establish the objective truth in both the facts of each case as well as the person's subjective experience of those facts, on the one hand, and on the other hand, to better understand all the players involved, in both their nature and intentions, from the plaintiffs and those representing them to representatives at all levels of the Roman Catholic Church.

I found the experience of listening to this panel very compelling and stimulating in part because they addressed something that deeply distresses not only me but I think most if not all of us alive today on this planet who have any degree at all of sensitivity to the suffering of others, especially vulnerable and innocent children of any generation, whether it be decades ago or only this week. There seem to be many complications around these issues given the time it is taking to achieve workable solutions to the essential problems - both the rescue of and caring for victims of abuse and establishing clear protections for children and other vulnerable people in the present and for the future.

As I listened to the panelists' passionate pleas for progress on these issues - the key motivation in the CCR's action to put the issue to the Vatican officials named at the World Court in The Hague - I came to understand something for the first time: the rampant human emotion of fear on the part of all parties involved in these issues and their attempts to resolve them.

Plaintiffs, those who care for them, and those who seek to represent them, are afraid of the apparent power wielded by the sheer number of individuals and institutions comprising the entity called the Roman Catholic Church - including the "secular arm" called the Vatican City State and the "Holy See" designating the Pope's own ministry and that of all those individuals and groups and services that assist him - and fear for past, present, and future generations of children and other vulnerable people who may risk abuse at the hands of some elements of that authority and power. They fear, and I think rightly so as fear goes, that the harm done may not be redressed and that further harm may be done, and that we may continue to be helpless to stop it. These are legitimate fears that are crying out for our considered attention and timely and concerted action I think.

What was new to my awareness as I listened to the panelists' eloquent pleas for progress in these urgent matters was that fear may also be present and exerting undue influence within the ranks of the Church's own authorities, and servants, and within its numerous international and national primary and subsidiary institutions. Understandably, there may be some fear of being overwhelmed by the sheer number and gravity of the complaints, and some of those fears could likely be assuaged by proper formation and procedures and protocols for attending to the complaints as to both the victims and the alleged perpetrators. Further fears would be generated by concerns for the welfare of the victims of whom many have lost faith in the Church itself, generating a sense of helplessness in those who would be most apt and motivated to offer help. Thirdly, and these fears I think are the ones most likely to obstruct a proper meeting and dialogue with civil entities representing victims and their interests, which fears I would categorize under the impression of a general threat to the very existence of the institution of the RC Church itself.

There exist unquantifiably massive amounts of verifiable evidence and testimony in support of the Roman Catholic Church as an institution bringing untold benefit to humanity - in response to daily human needs as well as to spiritual needs - in just about every nation on Earth, and that in a consistent if progressive way over the past two millennia. When suits are brought to court at various levels by plaintiffs and those representing them, it seems apparent that all too often those suits are brought with such force and in such a way as to trivialize, ignore, or even deny the value of the Church as an institution - as though it were entirely criminal in a totally indiscriminate way or that the fact of the crimes of abuse of themselves could cancel the existence of the entire institution and all of its actors and members - such that one can be justified in taking from these suits and actions and the manner in which they are brought forth the impression that the desired intent or effect, directly or indirectly, intentional or unintentional, of such suit and action would be the destruction of the Church itself.

So on the one hand we have the plaintiffs - the victims - those sympathetic to them and representing them, for the most part afraid of the danger that certain elements of the Church - disturbed and unbalanced clergy or religious or responsible laity - have in the past and continue in the present to represent. On the other hand, we have members and servants of the Church who are afraid that the suits in their lack of discrimination will in effect bring about the destruction of the Church.

Consider those dioceses where the bishops have shown great openness to receive the complaints, to accept responsibility for them, to express appropriate and sincere regret for them, and to accept to fulfill the court's requirement of compensation. Many of them were brought to the brink, if not actually over the brink, of bankruptcy. After all, what is the Church, really? Unlike multinational corporations whose purpose is the amassing of assets, profits, and dividends to shareholders, officers, and employees, the Church's purpose is public service. The vast majority of dioceses have few if any investments, and generally these are to offset obligations of services, often social services, and their only other assets are buildings with their accessories, and people, both employees and members, many of whom are volunteers.

Granted, some church buildings are more lavish than others, but they are generally recognized to contain and represent cultural artifacts of lasting and historical value to the whole human race, not only to those who happen to be using and responsible to maintain them. Then there is the vast range of other assets established for the purpose of public service: hospitals, schools, orphanages, soup kitchens and shelters, to name only a few. Compare the benefits to officers of multinational corporations and you will find that bishops, priests, and religious are working and living as relatively "poor cousins". Some enjoy more benefits than others, but the vast majority of priests and religious live poorly and are horrified by the crimes committed by abusers.

From a civil law point of view, local churches or dioceses are incorporated in the person of whoever holds the office of bishop. The bishop is the corporation, not him personally, but him the officer. It does happen that, human nature being the damaged thing that it is, that on occasion a bishop may not properly fulfill his obligations. In countries where a member of the tribe who succeeds in life is then expected to come to the support and aid of his whole tribe or clan, some ethnic bishops have wrongly used diocesan funds to support their tribesmen. We westerners are shocked by such actions, but it is difficult to judge impartially from the outside of a particular social reality. I'm not condoning such misbehavior but just saying that I understand how it happens that people can do such things.

The point that I am trying to make here is that if the Church has any assets anywhere, those assets are the property of the faithful, the ordinary Catholics - the vast majority of whom are poor - and not the property of the clergy who are alleged to be and when proven to be guilty are in reality the abusers of their long suffering victims. Financial compensation of victims comes about by taking from those ordinary Catholics, making new victims of them, as it were, though certainly not in their persons, but still, in a true way, in their investment in their church. When a suit alleges that one or more bishops failed to take proper action to rescue the victims, prevent further abuse, and to attend to the victims' needs, there again, financial compensation takes from Peter to give to Paul or Pauline.

As long as the whole apparatus of action to seek redress for the victims of sexual and other forms of abuse bases its actions and its legal suits on a misunderstanding of what the Church is as an entity that exists in society for service to that same society, then those suits can be expected to continue to generate fear within the institution, fear among its officials, its members, its servants, and its many subsidiary institutions at every level: neighborhood, municipal, diocesan, provincial, national, and international. We all need to become far more astute in our mutual understanding if we are ever to attain a more open and effective dialogue and subsequently achieve together actions and safeguards that will bring both comfort to the afflicted and safeguard to the vulnerable.

As a Roman Catholic man, Christian, and priest myself, I could see here and there in panelists' words some further lack of understanding of the full nature of the RC Church and how it works. Unlike multinational corporations where directives are sent out from the top to all degrees and levels of the company and its subsidiaries with the practical expectation that they will be carried out, the Church does not and cannot function like that. Employees and officers of a company who do not follow directives are disciplined or fired or transferred, and one way or another, no failure to carry them out is tolerated. People earn a salary and are expected to "tow the line". The CEO and their officers have direct authority over employees at every level of the company.

Not so with the Roman Catholic Church, at least, not entirely. While it is true that the Roman Pontiff or his officers do follow up on some outstanding issues or roles carried out by certain individuals such as bishops, priests, Catholic professors, this tends to be in response to complaints that regular authorities have tried and failed to obtain redress. The Vatican in that sense is a kind of ombudsman. The Pope or any other officer of the Vatican - whether the City State or the Holy See - have no authority whatsoever over any bishop or priest's salary, not directly. It is true that a bishop or priest can be disciplined with varying degrees of severity and that these sanctions would then have some practical effects. However, this authority is only morally binding and not legal with civil force.

When a company fires someone, that employee generally has little recourse if the firing was handled astutely and properly in accord with the law. A guilty priest or bishop could be suspended and even excommunicated, but such severe sanctions have rarely until now been employed to stop abusers in their tracks and for understandable reasons. We enjoy in our day unprecedented progress in how we understand the human person and the functioning of all our faculties. Until some decades ago, sexual misconduct was seen entirely as a spiritual problem, one that required confession, penance, and repentance. The fact that sexual abuse by its nature tends to remain hidden and difficult to prove if not difficult to believe in great part led Church leaders to take the part of the accused.

Progress in psychotherapy and counseling has brought to light the experience of the victim and has also brought to light the different kinds of profiles of abusers, the most dangerous being pedophiles - those who abuse prepubescent children - who typically are living in total and unconscious denial. It is even impossible for experienced therapists to help them because they are clinically unaware that they have done anything wrong. Unlike them, those who abuse teens or adults are generally completely aware they have done wrong and generally deeply guilty and repentant, though still in need of help. All this to say that the time has come to assure that authority figures at all levels of the Church are brought "up to speed" on these issues and that proper protocols are put in place and proper formation given on a continual basis, because the Church is an institution in constant transition of personnel as well as of members. People age, become experienced, grow old, die, and are replaced. Those who die bring their wisdom with them and the task must begin ever anew.

The reality also is that each diocese throughout the world - there are currently some 2,846 diocese or local churches worldwide - is autonomous and independently responsible for its normal and ongoing operations. It would be literally impossible for the Pope or the Vatican offices to "micromanage" these dioceses which offer services to the world's 1.2 billion Catholics. Nor would it be in accord with Jesus' will that the bishops be controlled by a central autocrat or autocracy. It has always been understood by Catholics that Jesus gave his authority in name to Peter so that it be exercised by all 12 apostles under the leadership of Peter at the service of all. Peter himself was wrong when he denied Jesus and later when he was corrected by Paul, and it is understood that Jesus' guidance continues until today and will continue until the end when the apostles act as one under Peter. It is Catholic understanding that Jesus continues to unfailingly guide his Church and that this can be seen in the unity of the bishops with the Bishop of Rome and the faith of all the faithful.

So what do people do in the face of sexual and other forms of abuse with complaints against priests in particular? How can we understand how the various instances of the RC Church have handled such complaints in the past and how they are handling them today, and what redress can we seek when the response of Church authorities is deemed to be insufficient or even non-existent? I believe that we will make significant progress on these urgent matters only when both parties - the complainants and the representatives of the Church - manifestly show their agreement on the value of the Church as this value is already manifest worldwide and on the timeliness and need of their concerted collaboration on the healing of the abused, the protection of the vulnerable, the strengthening of the innocent, and the prompt and effective containment, treatment, and sanctioning of abusers.

These thoughts are offered in the interest of advancing the cause for the benefit of all parties and of humanity as a whole. Peace to you, reader, and to one and all. Please feel free to comment here or on my Facebook account.