Posts Tagged ‘St. John Paul II’

Child Abuse and Sinn Fein: The Courageous Witness of Mairia Cahill

Wednesday, March 11th, 2015

The sexual abuse of children is akin to and inseparable from slavery, and thus sadly has molested human civilization for millennia. The past forty years have witnessed a cascade of revelations that have shaken religious, media, business, higher education, and now political organizations worldwide. As painful as have been these revelations, they can be among the most positive advances in human history if in the end they reduce the scourge of abuse. The abused ones who come forward are the heroes whom history should honor and remember.

For the past five years in Ireland, and especially the past few months, the child sex abuse accusations brought forth by the courageous and determined Mairia Cahill (born in 1981 in West Belfast), the grandniece of the former chief of staff of the IRA and herself the former National Secretary of Ogra Shinn Féin, have rocked the Sinn Fein party with greater intensity. Ms. Cahill (pronounced, caa’-hill, with emphasis on the first syllable) claimed to have been abused as a teen by an IRA member at a safe house, and to have been subjected to continual mistreatment by the IRA when she came forward with her accusations. In addition, Ms. Cahill claimed that the IRA simply “exiled” this alleged abuser south to the Republic of Ireland after forcing her to confront her alleged abuser in an IRA-staged extra-legal trial. Ms. Cahill furthermore has claimed that on numerous occasions the IRA secretly exiled sexual abusers to the south of Ireland, and perhaps executed some, and that Sinn Fein has systematically covered up these extra-legal actions for years.

Ms. Cahill has taken a growing, public role in the political arena with her accusations (you can skip to minute 4:05 for her own remarks) —

Sinn Fein for its part began first to respond, like religious and other leaders facing similar accusations, with outright denial, then an appeal for people to come forward with information, then apology, and most recently, their call for an all-Ireland “sex abuse initiative.”

Contrast the decisive statements of Sinn Fein politician Mary Lou McDonald against clergy sex abuse in 2009 —

with Ms. McDonald’s own positively “episcopal” statements about accusations of abuse late in 2014 —

In the past week, another victim claiming similar IRA abuse and coverup, Paudie McGahon, 40, came forward–

–causing a second shoe to drop for Sinn Fein.

There are numerous videos online of interviews and statements by Ms. Cahill, perhaps the longest and most dramatic being from the BBC Spotlight NI program late in 2014 —

I pray for Ms. Cahill’s safety, and for healing and even joy for her and other victims. She continues to put herself at great risk on behalf of others. Her presence of mind and spirit are indeed admirable, and are an example of the grand and good gifts that the Irish people give to the world.

Professor Liam Kennedy of Queen’s University Belfast has called for a wider inquiry into the abuse, both physical and sexual, of children by paramilitary groups, estimating five hundred such cases —

Such inquiries can contribute to what St. John Paul II called the “healing of memories.”

I offer only a theory in reflection: My theory is that the culture of abuse is historically paired with the culture of slavery. Dublin was used as a slave-trade center centuries ago by the Norse. I wonder if patterns of sexual abuse might be traced across millennia from similar ancient, slave-trading ports, which may have established patterns of sick behavior that hid within the more advanced culture that grew over such ancient ills. Abuse and organizations tending toward secrecy made and do make a deadly pair, and can perpetuate the abuse. Happily, the extraordinary witness of Ms. Cahill gives us hope that abuse is foreign to civilization, and not intrinsic to it.

For my earlier blog posts on slavery, see here.

For my earlier posts on pedophilia, see here.

© Copyright 2015, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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Encomium Francis Cardinal George, OMI

Sunday, November 16th, 2014

With the 11/18/14 ceremony marking the beginning of the ministry of Most Rev. Blase Cupich as archbishop of Chicago, this is a time of thanks for the ministry of his predecessor Francis Cardinal George, OMI.

My first unknowing encounter with Francis George was hearing not his voice but his music in my 1950s childhood when he served briefly as a substitute organist in my parish, St. Priscilla. My second encounter with Archbishop Francis George was at the January 17, 1998 Chicago gathering of the National Center for the Laity, on whose board I then served, when he gave his noted “exhausted project” comments during a homily at Old St. Patrick’s Church.

The late Joseph Cardinal Bernardin benefitted throughout most of his tenure in Chicago and beyond from a cheering section both in the secular and in Catholic media, as I hope Archbishop Cupich will have as well. But Cardinal George did not and probably won’t ever have a cheering section to the same extent. This is unfortunate, since few spiritual heads in the Church evidence the depth of religious and cultural insight as does Cardinal George. While Cardinal Bernardin, borrowing a line from St. John XXIII, introduced himself as our brother, Cardinal George introduced himself as our neighbor, an equally rich scriptural reference.

While Cardinal George has grown stronger in administration and in the communicative side of being the Archbishop of Chicago, it did not come easy to him. Although a gentle person, he evidences from time to time vinegar and quick wit that can either help or hurt his efforts, but he also reveals self-effacing if not humorous humility. He has this bad habit of speaking the truth as he sees it. He sometimes made mistakes in appointments, as almost all administrators do. But one of his most carefully considered and successful appointments, of the Rev. Robert Barron of the Word on Fire media ministry as rector and President of the University of St. Mary of the Lake and its Mundelein Seminary, is of far reaching significance for the Church. As did Cardinal Mundelein when he appointed Msgr. Reynold Hillenbrand to the same rectorship in the 1930s, Cardinal George has appointed “a man with imagination.” May Fr. Barron stay right where he’s at as rector / president of USML as long as the Lord wills it.

An equally significant appointment by Cardinal George was that of Sr. Mary Paul McCaughey, OP, as Superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Archdiocese of Chicago. In my opinion, Sr. Mary Paul is the best Chicago Catholic schools superintendent in living memory. May the Lord give her more strength and energy before He grants her a well-deserved rest! And may support come to the Catholic primary and secondary schools to continue this our shared Catholic mission.

In the temporal sense, three human progeny generally outlive a person: children, writings, and institutions. Cardinal George protected the Catholic Schools of the Archdiocese so many of their children could have a Catholic education. He stabilized the Chicago seminaries after a period of decline and scandal. He established the Liturgical Institute at USML to enrich the life of the Church. He defended the Catholic hospitals against radical interference, and defended religious liberty on both the health care and the marriage questions. He dialogued with Catholic university presidents both locally and internationally, keeping some in the fold, and under his support the Lumen Christi Institute at the University of Chicago has grown to an international reach. He also firmed up a structure to protect children from abusers, and to deal promptly with the perpetrators, and established a Healing Garden at one of Chicago’s oldest parishes, Holy Family. Cardinal George reached out to Muslims and those of other faiths. He dealt very patiently with Fr. Michael Pfleger, and he shepherded the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius to ecclesiastical approval. He defended the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, joined anti-violence and affordable housing efforts, and supported countless charitable works of the Church.

And he has written well–both in terms of his most recent books, but especially in terms of his essays, pastoral letters, addresses and homilies. I do hope the Archdiocese perpetually keeps open the web page with Cardinal George’s writings. His books, The Difference God Makes: A Catholic Vision of Faith, Communion, and Culture, and God in Action: How Faith in God Can Address the Challenges of the World, will be read the more as religious liberty continues to erode and as religion continues to be shoved from the public square. I hope Cardinal George is given the time, energy, and privacy to continue to write.

Cardinal George presided on the hot seat of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the USCCB, during one of several recent rounds of the “bad priest” scandal. He was openly disrespected by a number of politicians, several Catholic. At the same time, Cardinal George served on numerous Vatican Congregations, and St. John Paul II asked Cardinal George to preach a retreat in the Vatican. In the celebrated words of Bill Murray’s assistant greens keeper character in the film Caddyshack, at least “He’s got that going for him.”

Cardinal George’s fun side was seen early in his tenure, when he visited the TV booth at Wrigley Field, and was asked for an invocation as Sammy Sosa came to bat. When Sosa promptly hit a home run, the city got to hear the Cardinal’s laughter. Whether the home run was due to divine intervention or to some other more worldly force will remain, as we Catholics say, a mystery.

Recently, I’ve been reading the works of the great 19th century German bishop Wilhelm Emmanuel von Ketteler, whose 1848 sermons and later writings in Mainz presaged–with the Pope’s acknowledgement–Leo XIII’s social encyclicals.

The writings of Francis Cardinal George are of a similar stature. They will inform the choices that Catholic Christians will make for generations about faith and life, about religion and culture, and about church and state whether Cardinal George’s role is ever acknowledged. I’m sure that Cardinal George would be quite happy if he were forgotten and if the greater glory went to the Lord. That is why he stays to the very end of every parish event he attends, greeting and meeting parishioners down to the last person in line. Cardinal George has the charismatic gift of soldiering on, despite illness, be it polio, flu, cancer, a cold, or fatigue, long beyond his 50 plus years of priesthood. Perhaps I should say, the Gift of Carrying the Cross.

Beyond the temporal legacy of Cardinal George, there is the eternal. He learned from an early age the priestly role, an eternal role shared with the Lord. As a Missionary Oblate of Mary Immaculate, an OMI, Cardinal George gained a special appreciation for mission and religious life. I rejoice to continue sharing the Faith with Cardinal George as we look forward to joining the cloud of witnesses (Hebrews, 12:1).

Much will continue to be made of the differences between Cardinal George and Archbishop Cupich, especially regarding the 2009 Obama / Notre Dame honorary degree controversy, where each took a divergent approach.

On the above point I merely reply, that after the recent death of Auxiliary Bishop Timothy Lyne, Cardinal George could have moved from the mansion into the Holy Name Cathedral rectory at any time as was considered early in his tenure as Chicago archbishop. But I have a theory that the Cardinal elected to stay in the mansion so that his successor could elect to have the nice headline. Sometimes humility means that one look like a rich man so one’s successor does not have to. A lesser man would have kept the nice headline for himself. Archbishop Blase Cupich’s tenure will be all the better because he was preceded by Francis Cardinal George, OMI.

© Copyright 2014, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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In Hac Lacrimarum Valle: The Enduring Dark Age Revealed

Sunday, August 10th, 2014

The notion of the “Dark Age,” after its coinage by Petrarch at the dawn of the Renaissance, may well have been propelled by later Reformation retrojectors–those projecting their own current views into the past–to blow at the candles illuminating Medieval culture so that the Reformation might better shine.

Modernity, post-modernity, and other contemporary cultural forces have especially resisted the words of the Medieval hymn to Mary, the Salve Regina, “gementes et flentes in hac lacrimarum valle,” translated “mourning and weeping in this valley of tears,” which is thought to have its origins in St. Jerome’s rendering of Psalm 83:7 (84:7)–

6 Beatus vir cujus est auxilium abs te:
ascensiones in corde suo disposuit,
7 in valle lacrimarum, in loco quem posuit.

Vulgate Psalms, Chapter 83, accessed from http://www.sacred-texts.com/bib/vul/psa083.htm on 8/10/14.

–and which is now in many contemporary translations rendered as the “valley of Baca” instead of the valley of tears.

Contemporary Christians and agnostics likewise often reject the term, “valley of tears.” Garry Wills omitted the Salve Regina ending from his book on the Rosary (Catholics normally end their praying of the Rosary with the Salve Regina). The “valley of tears,” like St. John Paul II’s term “culture of death” from Evangelium Vitae, appears to make the progressive mind uncomfortable.

But I challenge contemporary thinkers to find a better expression to describe the terrible circumstances of those suffering from war, persecution, or poverty, than the “valley of tears.”

Scripture scholars have puzzled over the meaning of the Hebrew word Baca for centuries. Is it a place in Palestine, or a figurative state of sorrow?

In Arabic, Bakkah has a more precise meaning, the place of the sacred Kaaba in Mecca.

So those who suffer around the world today are indeed cast into the valley of tears, and into the collision of words and cultures–Baca, Bakkah–between Christian, Jewish, and Muslim interpretations.

Slavery has returned: it never left, but now is visible to the contemporary eye.

Yet can the contemporary eye fathom the meaning of the Enduring Dark Age that has exploded in our faces? What difference do progressivism, modernity, atheism, theory, narrative, etc., matter to Isis and their ilk? Atheists preaching their advantages to such a world merely sow into the wind. Can these violent fanatical forces be defeated by armies shaped today more to generate social change at home than the proper protective mission of a military force?

Fueled by almost a century of first Nazi and then Soviet anti-Semitic propaganda, a militant Islam is at war with the United States and Israel. Russia, Iran, and China are ready to pounce on their first geopolitical opportunities, and have an interest in prolonging the conflict. This general situation may not change for centuries.

Welcome, therefore, to the Enduring Dark Age, or if you prefer, the uncovering of a Dark Age that never really ended, but in which “enlightened” technological society collides with genocide, forced conversion, summary execution, and slavery–now made painfully visible by global communications, and catalyzed by the global proliferation of weapons down to the mad and genocidal local bully.

As long as hearts are darkened by hatred and fear despite our sophistication, and as long as the guns are not silenced, our age will darken still.

Salve Regina, Mater Misericordiae. . .

Hail Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy. . .

Perhaps we can find hope and consolation in the words of the Psalmist beginning with–

How lovely your dwelling, O Lord of Hosts! (Psalm 84:1)

–and hear in the confluence of the contested words Baca and Bakkah the ending of tears and the presence of God.

O Clemens, O Pia, O Dulcis Virgo Maria!

© Copyright 2014, Albert J. Schorsch, III
All Rights Reserved

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