Retrieved from my archive: June 2002

And to think I had already been “journalling” for around two years by then! Don’t be surprised if some links no longer work.



June 2002 revisited

If you have been a regular on my site you would have heard before of the extremely wicked Landover Baptist Church. I suspect it is the same team that now gives us a site purporting to be The White House. It could well be the real thing! Have a look and wonder (with me) how long it will stay up! Or maybe it really is the White House; one never knows what is satire and what is reality these days.
I am continuing through Jonathan Glover’s extraordinary Humanity. I still think it is a must read, but do warn prospective readers that they will need a strong stomach; some of the horrors of the 20th Century are presented unflinchingly and graphically.
Sunday, June 02, 2002

Today I caught up with R again. We have succeeded in finding the richest Chocolate Brownies in Sydney. The only disadvantage is that it is impossible to finish one by oneself. Just as well there were seven of us there: N and M, J and T, X (who had a holiday from the monastery) and W–and last but by no means least, C. Rarely has such a crowd been so much of one mind 😉 We all look forward to meeting again in the very near future.
Wednesday, June 05, 2002


I have called him "Father Ted" after that TV comedy show MX is so fond of, and he has been busy sending me some very interesting stories over the past few days. Apparently there is a very important conference happening in Dallas Texas, with an Australian connection:

Adelaide’s ‘healing bishop’ to help US priests
Adelaide Catholic Archbishop Philip Wilson has been asked to help US bishops cope with an unprecedented sex-abuse crisis.
He will leave today to address the special session at the US Conference of Catholic Bishops in Dallas, Texas, which starts on Saturday. It is the first time an Australian archbishop has been invited to the conference, which will be attended by 350 bishops from across the US….
Archbishop Wilson said yesterday he was honoured to have been invited but also was "a bit over-awed" by the prospect of counselling the US bishops.
"I have been asked to lead them in reflection about what they are going through," he said. "I think they would probably want me to talk to them about the feelings I had when I was confronted with similar issues in Wollongong. I will be talking to them about how, as bishops, they are coping with this challenge."
Archbishop Wilson, 51, became known as the "Healing Bishop" in Wollongong through his handling of a spate of child-abuse scandals involving Catholic clergy and teachers.
Archbishop Wilson said he would be telling the US bishops about how he confronted sex abuse in Wollongong and, more recently, in Adelaide.
He is a vocal opponent of the use of confidentiality clauses in compensation payments to victims, describing them as "hush money".
Archbishop Wilson also has engaged a private consultancy, Child Wise, to develop a child-protection strategy for all Catholic schools in SA.
Conference spokesman Mark Chopko said he had been asked to address the bishops because he was "wise in matters of faith, skilled in diocesan leadership and experienced in dealing with the scandal and the pain and misfortune that clerical crimes bring upon bishops, the people and the church".

There are some unexpected dimensions to sacerdotal sexual abuse, as the following explores:

Among the abused
By John Gallagher (Excerpted from The Advocate, June 25, 2002)
Gay men and lesbians are among the many who have been abused by Catholic priests–a fact church officials may be forgetting in their rush to scapegoat gay priests.

Now as a lapsed Presbyterian I could have told them that mandatory priestly celibacy is a problem, not to mention unscriptural; but that aside, one cannot but relate to the humanity in the following story, which could apply to teachers I know or (at various times) even to oneself:

Loss of healthy affection is the hidden tragedy
For many priests and religious, it has taken the decades since the Second Vatican Council to help achieve well-integrated psychosexual health. Boys and girls who entered high school seminaries at 14 often found themselves, in their 20s and 30s, in a state of arrested adolescent development, experiencing for the first time crushes and romantic behavior most people go through as teens. Religious people don’t have a monopoly. The human heart is a fragile but real school of life, and the human condition being what it is, I’d bet that most of us — married and single, gay and straight, lay and religious — muddle awkwardly through relationships on our way to wholeness and integration. Some of us, unfortunately, never get there; pedophiles are a case in point.
If it’s a tossup between Father A, who is cold and disconnected from people, and Father B, who has ‘fallen’ by having had an adult romantic relationship but who has become a pastoral, prayerful and efficient leader, most Catholics would take Father B any day.
Priests — like all of us but perhaps more than those of us with family and spouse — need strong, healthy relationships, because celibacy is not about avoidance, but about loving. In the 1984 anthology,Celibate Loving, An Encounter in Three Dimensions, Jesuit L. Patrick Carroll summed up the challenge: ‘In every generation [of church life] there have been too many crusty bachelors and mean old maids masquerading as celibates, going to their graves without once letting sex rear its head. Too often love was squelched in the process, and they witnessed to nothing but will power.’

It would be a better world, in my humble opinion, if the conservatives were to be rolled. By definition all they can offer is more of the same, endlessly repeating the abuses of the past because they are incapable of confronting reality or questioning what Blind Freddy can see needs to be questioned. But that is conservatives for you, isn’t it? Where they are not merely smug, they operate from fear, from self-interest, from an undue romanticism about the past. However, see what you think:

From The Tablet
…In America, too, there is a strong whiff of a witch-hunt in the air. Mother Angelica’s EWTN network recently posted on its website (it has since been withdrawn) an old pre-Vatican II document barring gays from the religious life. It was issued by the Congregation for Religious in 1961 and published in a 1963 volume of the Canon Law Digest. It reads: ‘Advancement to religious vows and ordination should be barred to those who are afflicted with evil tendencies to homosexuality or pederasty, since for them the common life and the priestly ministry would constitute serious dangers.’
The bishops know, of course, that if an efficient purge were ever possible–and after all, how could chaste celibate priests, whatever their inclinations, be removed? –the only way of keeping up priest numbers would be to ordain married men. For one of the sea-changes of the last few months has been the acceptance by both sides that at least 50 per cent of priests are of homosexual inclination. This statistic was a bombshell when Fr Donald Cozzens first used it in a chapter of his book Changing Face of the Priesthood it is no longer considered controversial. At the April meeting of the American cardinals in Rome, Bishop Gregory spoke of an ‘ongoing effort to make sure that the Catholic priesthood is not dominated by homosexual men’ — sure evidence that the bishops accept Cozzens’s evidence.
Liberals and progressives in the American Catholic Church also want to look at clerical celibacy, not to enforce it but to make it optional. They say obligatory celibacy, adopted by the Latin Church in the High Middle Ages, is a broken model. Because in this era society sees sexual activity as intrinsic to human life, as a necessary expression of love, a number of priests who lack the vocation of celibacy will also experience it as an arbitrary burden. Men kept sexually immature by paternalism and an all-male environment will be unable to sustain celibacy; sexual abuse of minors and other sins against chastity are therefore inevitable.
Progressives too are angry at their bishops, not for succumbing to tolerance but for using money donated by the faithful to pay for the costs of clericalism. Pointing to Boston, they say sex-abusing priests were allowed to continue to abuse because they were sheltered by a secretive, hierarchical, self-protective, us-and-them culture of cronyism. If compulsory celibacy is one of the factors at the root of the scandal, clericalism, in this view, is its greenhouse. Clericalism can only be overcome, progressives say, by ordaining women and married men and by opening up the governance of the Church to the laity.
The bishops need to keep these diametrically opposed interpretations of the crisis in mind as they gather in Dallas, but their options are in reality far more limited than the radical solutions proposed by either side. The United States bishops are almost all conservatives appointed by John Paul II, and must operate within the norms of a universal Church. But public outrage is intense and media scrutiny aggressive. The bishops may be in the mood for fairly sweeping reforms, especially with the present pontificate in its twilight, and the character of the new one unguessable. But their room for manoeuvre is still more limited than most Americans realise.

So thanks, Father Ted 🙂 That has been very interesting, and important to us all really. Bless you.
For those interested you might consider this Yahoo group:
Thursday, June 13, 2002

On a day when the news seems too depressing–the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald is full of the latest insanity/obscenity from Israel–it is good to report that I have belatedly discovered (with some guidance) the poetry of Frank O’Hara.

To John Ashbery

I can’t believe there’s not
another world where we will sit
and read new poems to each other
high on a mountain in the wind.
You can be Tu Fu, I’ll be Po Chu-i
and the Monkey Lady’ll be in the moon,
smiling at our ill-fitting heads
as we watch snow settle on a twig.
Or shall we be really gone? this
is not the grass I saw in my youth!
and if the moon, when it rises
tonight, is empty — a bad sign,
meaning ‘You go, like the blossoms.’

This is surprising, my late discovery, as O’Hara: 1) has been a strong influence on one influential stream of contemporary Australian verse, that associated with John Tranter (whose e-zine Jacket is worth regular visiting) and the late John Forbes; 2) was gay. This last fact leads to the following slightly sad note from a Georgetown University publication for teachers:
Some teachers are afraid to address the homosexual content of his poems. I have discovered that addressing the issue as just one more subject reduces the students’ discomfort. If students remain uncomfortable, the best position to state is, "We are all grown-ups here. We must be ready to confront attitudes and positions we both share and do not share."
Indeed. The idea of mentioning Frank O’Hara without mentioning his sexuality does seem hard to understand though; yet how many a discussion of Auden, Isherwood, Tennessee Williams, Oscar Wilde, etc. etc. has proceeded thus. A not so subtle form of oppression? There is of course the issue of the right time, place and age to introduce "adult themes" of any nature, but again and again one is frustrated and annoyed by the irrationality that conventional morality foists on us all… Oh, and I was so thick that it took several days to dawn on me that O’Hara was gay! I must have been very inattentive…:

Ave Maria

Mothers of America
let your kids go to the movies!
get them out of the house so they won’t know what you’re up to
it’s true that fresh air is good for the body
but what about the soul
that grows in darkenss, embossed by silvery images
and when you grow old as grow old you must
they won’t hate you
they won’t criticize you they won’t know
they’ll be in some glamorous country
they first saw on a Saturday afternoon or playing hookey
they may even be grateful to you
for their first sexual experience
which only cost you a quarter
and didn’t upset the peaceful home
they will know where candy bars come from
and gratuitous bags of popcorn
as gratuitous as leaving the movie before it’s over
with a pleasant stranger whose apartment is in the Heaven on Earth Bldg
near the Williamsburg Bridge
oh mothers you will have made the little tykes
so happy because if nobody does pick them up in the movies
they won’t know the difference
and if somebody does it’ll be sheer gravy
and they’ll have been truly entertained either way
instead of hanging around the yard
or up in their room
hating you
prematurely since you won’t have done anything horribly mean yet
except keeping them from the darker joys it’s unforgivable the latter
so don’t blame me if you won’t take this advice
and the family breaks up
and your children grow old and blind in front of a TV set
seeing movies you wouldn’t let them see when they were young.

You may read more about O’Hara at: a special article in Jacket; The Poetry Society; Frank O’Hara – A Tribute  (1926-1966)  to a great American Poet. One rather nice article is Frank O’Hara: Nothing Personal by Elaine Equi.
Thursday, June 20, 2002