Friday, September 7, 2012

The Pope and Truth; Father Benedict Groeschel's Interview; and Cleanup Crews

For whatever reason, Father Benedict Groeschel's interview in The National Catholic Register didn't outshine Hurricane Isaac and the Democratic National Convention this week.

That journalistic SNAFU, what the Pope said about truth and "tolerance," and how folks are cleaning up after the hurricane, are my picks for news to discuss this week:
  1. Who's Afraid of Truth?
  2. "Without Our Usual Screening and Oversight"
  3. Prayer and Cleanup Crews

1. Who's Afraid of Truth?

"Upholding ethical truths is not intolerance, Pope states"
David Kerr, CNA/EWTN News (September 4, 2012)

"Pope Benedict XVI told a group of his former students that Christians should not be scared to uphold ethical truths despite the fear of being branded 'intolerant.'

" 'Today, the concepts of truth and intolerance have almost fused together, so that to say that one has the truth becomes synonymous with intolerance. And we Christians do not dare to believe or to speak about the truth,' the Pope said in his homily during Sunday morning Mass at Castel Gandolfo...."
I might have a little more respect for today's establishment, if they'd decide that both of these attitudes are wrong:
  • Although personally opposed to abortion, I don't have the right to force my views on others
  • Although personally opposed to slavery, I don't have the right to force my views on others
Both statements assume that some human beings aren't 'real' people, and so may be treated as property.

The first reflects the preferred reality of today's 'better sort' in America. The second expresses an attitude which, finally, has become socially and legally unacceptable here.

As I've said before:
"...I sincerely hope that it doesn't take something like two centuries and a major war to sort out the question of whether or not it's okay to kill babies, cut up (living) people for parts, or make one class of people fair game for doctors with an urge to experiment...."
(February 2, 2009)

2. "Without Our Usual Screening and Oversight"

"Father Groeschel steps down from EWTN show"
CNA (Catholic News Agency) (September 4, 2012)

"Franciscan friar Father Benedict Groeschel has stepped down as host of EWTN's Sunday Night Prime television show following his apology for making comments about the sexual abuse of minors.

" 'Father Benedict has led a life of tremendous compassion and service to others and his spiritual insights have been a great gift to the EWTN family for many years. We are profoundly grateful to him and assure him of our prayers,' Michael P. Warsaw, president and CEO of EWTN Global Catholic Network, said Sept. 3...."
Maybe the Democratic National Convention and Hurricane Isaac kept The National Catholic Register's rush into print story from becoming this week's top news item.

What's the Story Behind That Story?

The byline of "Father Benedict Groeschel Reflects..." gives John Burger credit for broadcasting Father Groeschel's statement. The National Catholic Register's Contacts lists John Burger as the publication's News Editor. I haven't read whether or not Mr. Burger was actually involved, though.

The story came out in late August, just before Labor Day weekend, when many Americans like to take a vacation. Maybe Mr. Burger decided to have someone else on the staff, or an intern, handle that particular piece. Or maybe he got distracted by something more important when Father Groeschel's interview crossed his desk.

In one way, why Fr. Groeschel's remark got published without explanation doesn't matter. It's been done, and can't be undone. I hope someone in The National Catholic Register will be trying to sort out the decision-making process involved: but that's not my job, happily.


The National Catholic Register's Editor in Chief apparently found out about the article, and added an 'oops, sorry' note under Mr. Burger's byline:
"Father Benedict Groeschel Reflects on 25 Years of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal"
John Burger (August 27, 2012)

"...Editor's Note

"...Child sexual abuse is never excusable. The editors of the National Catholic Register apologize for publishing without clarification or challenge Father Benedict Groeschel's comments that seem to suggest that the child is somehow responsible for abuse. Nothing could be further from the truth. Our publication of that comment was an editorial mistake, for which we sincerely apologize. Given Father Benedict's stellar history over many years, we released his interview without our usual screening and oversight. We have removed the story. We have sought clarification from Father Benedict.
"Jeanette R. De Melo
"Editor in Chief"
I'm glad that De Melo's statement included "...without clarification or challenge ... an editorial mistake ... apologize ...." I think that's a professional, common-sense, way to deal with "an editorial mistake."

I also think that at the very least, someone who knew a little about Father Groeschel, Catholicism, and child abuse - and was paying attention - should have been involved. But what's happened, happened.

"...In a Coma For Over a Month..."

Father Groeschel's Franciscan brothers explained, but did not excuse, what he said:
"...About seven years ago, Fr. Benedict was struck by a car and was in a coma for over a month. In recent months his health, memory and cognitive ability have been failing. He has been in and out of the hospital. Due to his declining health and inability to care for himself, Fr. Benedict had moved to a location where he could rest and be relieved of his responsibilities. Although these factors do not excuse his comments, they help us understand how such a compassionate man could have said something so wrong, so insensitive, and so out of character. Our prayers are with all those who have been hurt by his comments, especially victims of sexual abuse...."
(Franciscan Friars of the Renewal) [emphasis mine]

Guilt Acknowledged: Now What?

Father Groeschel has apologized and stated that what he said was wrong. I'm pretty sure that some folks who read what The Catholic Register published will still feel bad. That's understandable: and brings up the idea of forgiveness.

I haven't been sexually abused, so 'I don't know what it's like.' On the other hand, I've had an unpleasant and avoidable experience or two. (February 3, 2009) I could:
  1. Cherish my hurt and resentment
  2. Decide that forgiveness is a good idea
On the whole, I think option #2 is the sensible one: partly because that's what Catholic Church says I should do. Forgiveness is a big deal. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 976-983)

As I've said before, forgiveness isn't stupidity. (Catechism, 1861) (May 4, 2012) Besides, forgiveness isn't so much something I do for the other person: I do it for me, to keep from ripping myself apart from the inside:
"...The purification of memory does not mean to forget history. ... The Gospel message of forgiveness and new life purifies bad memories, which entail feelings of bitterness, hatred and revenge. It allows us to see a painful history with reconciled eyes and with a reconciled heart, not to forget but to forgive and be forgiven...."
("Spiritual Ecumenism: the inescapable way forward, Msgr. Brian Farrell, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (April 2005))

Decisions and Regret

"...Fr. Groeschel decided to step down from the program after consulting with EWTN and with his religious community, the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, [president and CEO of EWTN Global Catholic Network] Warsaw said....

"...Fr. Groeschel apologized for the remarks last week, saying he did not intend to 'blame the victim.' He affirmed that a priest or anyone else who abuses a minor is 'always always wrong' and 'always responsible.'

"'I deeply regret any harm I have caused to anyone,' the priest said, adding that his mind and his way of expressing himself are 'not as clear as they used to be.'

"Warsaw said the comments at the EWTN-owned National Catholic Register 'should never have been published' and 'in no way' reflect the views of the Register or EWTN.

" 'It should have been obvious to the editor that Father Benedict's physical condition and mental clarity have deteriorated and that the comments were completely inconsistent with his life's work and witness,' the EWTN president said. 'We apologize that these remarks were published and ask for forgiveness for this error.'..."
I'm strongly inclined to agree with Warsaw: Father Benedict Groeschel's condition should have been obvious. But The National Catholic Register rushed that article into publication, damage is done, and we need to deal with the consequences. I think information helps, so here's what the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal said, and the Register article:

3. Prayer and Cleanup Crews

I think prayer is a good idea. I also think it's important to help in a more obviously-practical way, when possible:
"Catholics responding to challenges of Isaac cleanup"
Hillary Senour, CNA (Catholic News Agency) (September 6, 2012)

"As Gulf Coast residents continue the recovery process following Hurricane Isaac, Catholic groups throughout the South have begun organizing disaster relief services for victims....

"...Hurricane Isaac, which made landfall Aug. 28, dropped more that 15 inches of rain, flooded parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas and Alabama and has killed at least seven people in the U.S.

"Immediately following the hurricane, Catholic Charities of New Orleans and the archdiocese-run Second Harvest food bank were on site offering food and water to victims. Since then, Catholic Charities has begun offering counseling and spiritual support in the form of prayer....

"...Catholic Social Services of Mobile has been working to determine 'how best our agency can respond to this particular disaster,' said John Wilson, who heads disaster preparation and response efforts for the Archdiocese of Mobile....

"...One of the challenges facing the relief efforts will be the smaller amount of federal resources than was available in 2005 following Hurricane Katrina....

"...The Mobile archdiocese has called for a second collection at the upcoming Sunday Masses to benefit local hurricane victims....

"...Catholic Charities of Biloxi is essentially doing the same work it normally would, but is now operating in 'disaster mode' by providing abbreviated case management in order to help a larger number of people...."
The basic rules for the Church are to love God, love our neighbor: and see everyone as our neighbor. (Matthew 5:43-44; Matthew 22:36-40, Mark 12:28-31) (Matthew 5:43-44; Luke 10:25-30; Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1825)

Giving canned food to a community pantry, volunteering for cleanup work, seeing to it that food and workers get to the right places, and pitching in a few dollars to help: what one person does may not seem like much. But many folks, working together? That's another topic.

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What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.