Church Reflections

The Abuse Continues

The Pennsylvania Attorney General released the grand jury report looking at clerical sexual abuse across the commonwealth in six of the eight dioceses. The other two were previously investigated.

In the lead up to the release, I had heard it was going to be bad. Real bad. It is.

Just in Pennsylvania, 300 priests over 70 years.

And while the numbers alone are horrible, I read some of the accounts; some of the details not published in the papers. I struggle to find the words.

The level of sin and evil exhibited by these men is incredible. These crimes were against the weakest of us—our children. They were not the results of someone who was sick and struggling. They were not the results of someone having a moment of failure. 

They were the actions of sinister men deliberately and intentionally committing some of the most egregious offenses against nature and morality. They were calculated efforts to abuse children and to coerce submission through their role as our highest moral authorities, our representatives to us and to God of our faith. These were not men struggling with some part of themselves that they tried to use their faith to combat. There were men who used their faith as a tactical weapon against these poor children.

And worse, others around them supported them in doing it. Sure, there are sometimes bad apples in a bunch but for the other priests and bishops who knew about these things to let them go? To hide them? To move them?

For some time, there was talk about the various recovery programs that priests used to be sent to for these crimes. At the time, so the talking points go, there was an understanding that this could be “treated”. Call it denial or something, but I gave the benefit of the doubt to those accounts. Yes, we know better now, but back then, maybe that really did make sense.

After hearing about the scope, reading the accounts, and attempting to internalize and grapple with what the authorities of my faith did, no. That line of argument does not past muster. There is no way that anyone hearing these accounts could think that all someone needed to do was go to treatment to “cure” them. Either these other priests and bishops stuck their heads in the sand and refused to hear what actually happened or they are far more disgusting than we as the American Church have ever been prepared to admit.

I want to be able to propose ways to stop this from ever happening again. Not the sexual abuse—though that should absolutely stop—but this institutional culture. Even after the Dallas Charter and all that we, as a church, have realized since 2002, how are there still more new accounts coming to light from decades ago that were known? Why are there redacted names of priests in the grand jury report of previously known events that weren’t made public. Even in those cases where it was deemed the accusations were not credible, is there enough transparency to vouch for that?

I wish I could write a polished post that would give some glimmer of hope. I can’t. Not right now. I can only remind myself that our faith is in Jesus Christ, not in the ministers of the Church. 

Church Featured Tradition

Happy Annunciation!

Normally, the Solemnity of the Annunciation, the celebration of the angel visiting Mary and asking her if she would bear Jesus, is on March 25th. Liturgical pregnancies are always nine months long (March 25th to December 25th, or the birth of Mary is celebrated nine months after the Immaculate Conception).

This year, though, the celebration is transferred to April 9th. Why?

Calendar rubrics FTW. The vast majority of liturgical celebrations are simply not celebrated when a “higher ranking” feat takes place on the same day.  The memorial of St. Ceallach in Ireland is usually celebrated on April 1st, but wasn’t celebrated at all since that was Easter Sunday. Solemnities, however, are transferred forward to the next available date that does not outrank it.

In 2018, March 25th fell on Palm Sunday, so the Annunciation would be pushed forward to Monday, March 26th. All of Holy Week, however, outranks the Annunciation, so it would to be pushed forward to Sunday, April 1st, which being Easter obviously outranks. The entire octave of Easter (the eight days from Easter to Divine Mercy Sunday/the 2nd Sunday of Easter) share the rank of Easter, so the Annunciation had to keep moving forward. The Monday of the 2nd week of Easter is known as “low Monday” from the Extraordinary Form where a “low Mass” would be celebrated for the first time in awhile. Be it a regular weekday of Easter, the solemnity outranks it and Mary’s visit from an angel found a home for 2018.

For your own edification, the Table of Liturgical Days is available from the Order of St. Benedict site. The table originated in Pope Paul VI’s Universal Norms on the Liturgical Year and the Calendar which is what guides local bishop conferences and how all those calendar printers get things right.

Church Featured Leadership Oblate

The Work Speaks For Itself

As part of my personal development toward being a Benedictine oblate, I'm reading an edition of the Rule of St. Benedict with commentary to make it applicable to fathers, but I am considerably amazed how often the Rule is applicable to my work at Automattic.

For example, St. Benedict, in telling the qualities of an abbot, touches on preconceived biases and provides a solid rule for me to follow as a team lead.

Let him make no distinction of persons in the monastery.
Let him not love one more than another,
unless it be one whom he finds better
in good works or in obedience.
Let him not advance one of noble birth
ahead of one who was formerly a slave,
unless there be some other reasonable ground for it.

Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 2

Within the context of a monastery, this section demands that an abbot treat everyone equally and let that person's work speak for itself. At work, this is a reminder of the same. No matter if I get along better or worse with someone in particular or if a person has a good or bad reputation, a leader must treat everyone with equal footing. Any judgements of a person should be limited to a judgement of their actual work.

This sounds obvious and easy, but it is just as easy to get swept up enjoying the company of a particular employee and find yourself letting him or her off the hook for missing a performance benchmark unjustly or being annoyed with an employee for something minor and silly and let that influence you on their next evaluation.

While there are few people of noble birth or former slaves in our midst, we can promote or demote people in my minds by judging them based on their background, not their portfolio—"they went to Yale so they would be well-suited for this". Quite often, we do this without thinking about it, which therein lies the rub.

In leadership, whether that is of a household, of a monastery, or of a corporate team, some of our most damaging actions take place only because we aren't fully thinking through our preconceived biases.

Church Daddy's Corner Microblog

Piñatas Are The Tipping Point

For future reference, the math checks out for a Spanish Mass, Spanish rosary, and Spanish posadas followed by piñatas and cookies to still be "fun" to a six-year old.
Austin Church Microblog

Fr. Bill Day

June 28th will be “Fr. Bill Day” in Austin, thanks to the City Council. He’s done good in his time here and wish him well in his new ministry as Bishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee.
Church Daddy's Corner Featured Food

40 Days with Food Allergies

I wasn’t going to share my Lenten observance publicly. Most years, it has been something that was work, requiring some change in my life, but admittedly, seldom gave much food for thought.

This year was different and gave me a new perspective on something that I thought I understood already. My Lenten practice this year was to eat as if I had the same food allergies as Olivia, my eldest, who is allergic to animal milk, eggs, most tree nuts, and peanuts.

I didn’t think the practice would be that hard. She’s in second grade. We’ve been dealing with this for a while now. It was amazing how eye-opening this experience has been.

I did horrible at it too. If I was actually allergic to these foods, I would be dead right now. First, we made an early concession. She eats a lot of grains for breakfast (cereal, toast, etc), which are a recipe for me to double my weight in a week, so it was acceptable for me to eat eggs for breakfast.

Then another concession: I’m not in charge of food for the house and Olivia isn’t home for lunch during the school week. Vanessa wasn’t keen and I wasn’t apt to push her to make sure lunches were Olivia-friendly.

Huh, this is already harder than I thought it would be.

Dining out was interesting. With O, we would generally tell her what singular option she could eat, since often there is only one or two, and that’s her meal. I never realized, at least coming from the perspective of having the menu before me, how limiting that really is. Don’t feel like the chicken? Too bad. Don’t like that entrée? Tough, unless you’d rather not eat. Or, if there were other options, they were smaller items that left me hungry.

All in all, I didn’t faithfully follow it. I cheated all the time. Not because I wanted to cheat—I didn’t sneak food one night because I was craving it—but it is so hard to live with food allergies. Did I want to be that guy that grilled the wait staff about what was in each menu item? When I asked someone if it had dairy and they replied “Eh, I don’t think so”, do I push them on it?

I do it for my kid, but we also naturally gravitate to the places we know are safe for the family now. It is one thing to show up somewhere and realize the only thing your kid can eat is the fruit salad and toast when they’re two. It’s harder to get away with that when they’re seven. Before going some place new, we need to check out their menu online, verify if they have allergen information on it (or at least see if their menu even suggests something might meet her needs), then call ahead to verify.

I realized in a fresh and new way how mindful she has to be of food constantly. I vented a bit about it on my daddyblog. To follow this Lenten practice, it wasn’t just keeping sweets out of the house or not buying soda at the store or something relatively isolated. To fully follow it, I would have to transform how I think about food and expand how often I think about it. It radically changed how I think about Olivia and food allergies—this is after growing up in a home with a mom allergic to tomatoes and being co-responsible for Olivia’s food for seven years. I truly thought I understood better.

As the sunsets on Good Friday and Lent 2017, while I’m very eager to eat without thinking about milk, eggs, or nuts, it is going to be a long time until I stop hearing this new voice