Fordham Hosts Hilarious Colbert and Dolan and Martin Too

Proud as a peach of my alma mater today after hosting the illustrious Stephen Colbert of the acclaimed Colbert Report and the esteemed Archbishop of New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan for an evening on Catholic Humor, which at times turned serious.

The animation pictured above is awesome and was created by Fordham Senior, Tim Luecke. Awesome job!

First the humor from the NY Times:

Cardinal Dolan introduced Mr. Colbert’s wife, Evelyn, who was sitting in the audience, and brought her up to the stage. The cardinal put his arm around her and gave her a kiss on the cheek, and when Mr. Colbert feigned offense, the cardinal said, in a remark that brought down the house, “I can kiss your wife. You can’t kiss mine.”

Mr. Colbert used his time onstage with the cardinal to air his complaints about the new English translation of the Mass, which was just introduced in American parishes this year.

“Consubstantial!” Mr. Colbert exclaimed, using a particularly cumbersome word that is now recited in the Nicene Creed. “It’s the creed! It’s not the SAT prep.”

The audience sent in questions by Twitter and e-mail, which Father Martin pitched to the two men. Among them: “I am considering the priesthood. Would it be prudent to avoid dating?”

Cardinal Dolan responded that, on the contrary, “it’s good” to date, partly to discern whether the celibate life of a priest is what you want. Then he added, “By the way, let me give you the phone numbers of my nieces.”

Mr. Colbert said: “It’s actually a great pickup line: ‘I’m seriously considering the priesthood. You can change my mind.’ ”

Later the evening turned a bit more serious when a question came forward concerning ….

“So many Christian leaders spread hatred, especially of homosexuals. How can you maintain your joy?”

Cardinal Dolan’s response talked about his ongoing dialogue with Muslims and some thoughts on talking with picketers outside St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

But the Times noted:

But Mr. Colbert’s response was quick and unequivocal. “If someone spreads hate,” he said, “then they’re not your religious leader.”

The constant live tweeting from Grant Gallicho of Commonweal Magazine gave people a blow by blow account. Some additional tweet highlights:

Q: What’s your favorite beer? (Relief applause.) Dolan: Why don’t u take me out and see? #Dolbert Colbert names Old Style WHICH IS AMAZING.

Agreed on Old Style and I can’t seem to picture Dolan at The Jolly Tinker or The Lantern which have been famous Fordham haunts (I believe the Lantern still exists). I could picture him at Clarke’s, a great old bar which once was right on Fordham Road and then moved to Webster Avenue. But alas, it no longer exists.

Additional Banter:

@StephenAtHome If Jesus doesn’t have a sense of humor I’m in huge trouble.
@CardinalDolan He does. He chose me to be a priest.

@StephenatHome: Do you want to do this evening thing w/ @CardinalDolan? @StephenAtHome said “Hell yes.” Could be next pope. think of all the indulgences…

Fr. Jim Martin, SJ had some comments before the event with the Washington Post including that the event was only a bit less complicated than planning the Second Vatican Council and then when asked what Stephen Colbert is really like, a question Fr. Martin probably hears twice a day, he responded:

JM: He’s very devout, you can tell he knows his stuff. There are real questions he asks under the guise of humor, under the cloak of his character. People don’t realize they’re being invited into thoughtful questions about religion in a humorous way. He does great evangelizing. . . . We were discussing the recession, and whether or not people are more open to experiencing God in times of suffering, and he asked: Why is lack of money equated with an increase of faith? That’s a great question.

So congrats to Fordham, Fr. Jim and Charlie Camosy who was one of the two Fordham theology professors who came up with the idea to feature these two in this kind of forum.

And to Stephen and Cardinal Dolan…keep laughing.

Apologize, Resign and Forgive

On Thursday, Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas-City/St Joseph was found guilty of failing to tell police about Shawn Ratigan, a priest suspected of sexually exploiting children after Bishop Finn has full knowledge of pornographic pictures found on Fr. Ratigan’s computer, some which he had taken himself.

What’s next for Bishop Finn? I would suggest an apology and a resignation. It would be impossible for him to lead the diocese at this juncture. Sadly, this is another black eye on the church as Bishop Finn openly violated the Dallas Charter. Earlier in this case when asked why they had not come forward, a diocesan spokesperson reported that they are only required to report cases of sexual abuse, not pornography. In my opinion, that’s just one more example of some in the church living by the letter, rather than the spirit of the law, civil or otherwise. While technically, the spokesperson may be correct, common sense also should tell them that the only proper thing to do would have been to report Ratigan immediately.

One would think that a Bishop would know better. But apparently, Finn did all he could to deny that any wrongdoing was going on.

From the Washington Post:

Finn’s statement after his conviction carefully pointed to inadequate diocesan “process and procedures” as the reason that Ratigan was not reported to police, and his expression of regret was for policy failures and “for the hurt that these events have caused.”

Until this week Finn had vigorously rejected the charges that he had done anything wrong, and had hired a high-priced defense team to make his case. The diocese revealed this week that Finn’s legal bills have cost the diocese and its insurers nearly $1.4 million over the past year, and that parishes will have to kick in more money to cover the outlays. Finn and the diocese still face numerous civil suits resulting from the case.

This is not going to end well. Kansas City/St Joseph was a model diocese before Finn’s arrival with much live and enthusiasm for the Catholic Church. I fear that much of that has eroded now.

It’s time for Bishop Finn to resign. That is the only way to healing and reconciliation.

It may be difficult to forgive someone like Bishop Finn and Fr. Ratigan, to be sure. But we are called to do this as Catholics. At the same time, justice is the only way that reconciliation can occur for the diocese. And with that in mind, Bishop Finn needs to take the first step in moving on and letting the diocese come to heal and more importantly call anyone who has been abused back home to receive and apology and a promise that justice for victims of abuse will happen. That will be the next Bishop’s first order of business.

Today, let’s pray for victims of abuse, for all of the children that Fr. Ratigan violated and for these two priests who will face justice for their crimes. Lastly, for the people of the diocese of Kansas City/St Joseph…
Know that we here at Googling God stand with you today.

Fr. Benedict Groeschel, CFR on Child Abuse: “Sometimes the Kid is the Seducer”

I’ve known of Fr. Benedict Groeschel for some time. I’ve found him to be somewhat pleasant on the occasions I’ve been in the same room with him. My sister would speak with him several times at Children’s Village where she served as a teacher for years. I’ve been a celebrations for my dear friend, Fr. Jim Lloyd where he’s been in attendance as well. So know that I hold no ill will against Fr. Benedict or his religious order, who I have seen with my own eyes do some incredible work with the poor.

So I’m hoping that in this interview he gave to the National Catholic Register, he didn’t mean this in the way that it came out. Because it sure doesn’t sound good.

He said this with regards to priests who are child sex abusers:

People have this picture in their minds of a person planning to — a psychopath. But that’s not the case. Suppose you have a man having a nervous breakdown, and a youngster comes after him. A lot of the cases, the youngster — 14, 16, 18 — is the seducer.

NCR: Why would that be?
Well, it’s not so hard to see — a kid looking for a father and didn’t have his own — and they won’t be planning to get into heavy-duty sex, but almost romantic, embracing, kissing, perhaps sleeping but not having intercourse or anything like that.

It’s an understandable thing, and you know where you find it, among other clergy or important people; you look at teachers, attorneys, judges, social workers. Generally, if they get involved, it’s heterosexually, and if it’s a priest, he leaves and gets married — that’s the usual thing — and gets a dispensation. A lot of priests leave quickly, get civilly married and then apply for the dispensation, which takes about three years.

But there are the relatively rare cases where a priest is involved in a homosexual way with a minor. I think the statistic I read recently in a secular psychology review was about 2%. Would that be true of other clergy? Would it be true of doctors, lawyers, coaches?

Here’s this poor guy — [Penn State football coach Jerry] Sandusky — it went on for years. Interesting: Why didn’t anyone say anything? Apparently, a number of kids knew about it and didn’t break the ice.

Let me point out a number of troubling things to be clear:

There’s no way that a kid should be held responsible when it comes to sexual abuse. Even if a 17 year old consents to sex with an older man or woman the adult should know better than to engage in that type of act with a MINOR!

And “poor Jerry Sandusky?”—come on, Fr. Groeschel! Sandusky pathologically designed a way to become close to his victims and took full advantage of them and abused them for his own sexual deviancy. The fact that kids looked up to him is absolutely irrelevant.

Do I feel sorry for people who engage in sexual abuse, who are only attracted to teens at the same age they were when their sexuality got stunted by an abuser. Men and women who are caught in a vicious cycle of the abused becoming abusers?

Yes. I do. But that doesn’t mean they get a free pass and it certainly doesn’t mean that it’s the fault of kid who got abused.

Would he say that a woman who got raped would be at fault because she showed affection to a man who couldn’t understand that “no meant no?”

I’m hoping that someone misspoke. Because I can’t believe that after all that’s been said and done about sexual abuse and the millions of dollars that are still be spent by the church on this, that Fr. Groschel would say something like this.

DUI for Bishop-Elect of San Francisco

Another black eye on the church’s hierarchy:

The Roman Catholic archbishop-elect of San Francisco was arrested for investigation of driving under the influence, San Diego police said Monday.

The Rev. Salvatore Cordileone, a vigorous supporter of California’s same-sex marriage ban, was taken into custody after being stopped early Saturday at a police checkpoint near the San Diego State University campus, said Detective Gary Hassen, a police spokesman. He declined to comment on whether Cordileone took a sobriety test or reveal his blood-alcohol content.

The stop was made at 12:26 a.m. on the outskirts of the campus, a residential area of modest houses, apartment buildings and restaurants where college students mix with the general population.

Cordileone was booked into San Diego County jail two hours after being stopped and then released at 11:59 a.m. Saturday on $2,500 bond, sheriff’s records show. He was ordered to appear in court Oct. 9.

The San Diego city attorney’s office, which prosecutes misdemeanor DUI offenses, said it had not received a report on the arrest.

The San Francisco archdiocese did not immediately respond to phone and email messages seeking comment.

Of course the media will now spin that he was strong against gay marriage and make that the story…but shouldn’t the story be that the Bishop should know better than to get behind the wheel of a car while inebriated? He could have killed someone or himself!

We all make mistakes, of course. And I’m not really a drinker. A Jameson’s once in a while or a Light Beer here and there, but like my father before me I never wanted to be accused of being “an Irish drunk” because people assume that upon hearing of my nationality. But I can’t say that I know what it’s like to be behind the wheel of a car and wonder if I should be driving. I hope I would hand the keys over to someone else or find a way to spend the night if I couldn’t do it. When I was 15 a close friend of mine died drinking (he choked on his vomit after passing out). That kind of gave me the willies and made me shy away from that a bit.

But for whatever reason, the Bishop did not do the right thing and we as laity should hold him to a higher authority as a role-model, especially for our youth.

It’s going to take some explaining to get out of this one. He’s the Bishop-Elect and the Pope can take his assignment away from him if he chooses, but my guess is that he won’t.


Young People in the Church Today: No Time for Infighting

John Allen is always insightful and we’ve been talking over here about the need for peace within the Church, moving away from the divisiveness that often comes with differences of opinions.

Some of Allen’s thoughts seem like good ideas to me. Sometimes we need to surprise those with whom we disagree by taking up a position that we normally wouldn’t get behind with vigor. Allen explains:

In addition to an ecclesiology of communion, “thinking with the church,” or whatever spiritual motive one might advance, offering surprising support is also smart tactics. It means opening channels of conversation before a crisis erupts, and it would give the center-left more leverage to push back against trajectories they don’t like. As a rule of thumb, it’s generally easier to manage disagreements among friends than strangers.
To flesh out the concept, opposition to the death penalty or support for immigration reform wouldn’t count as “surprising support,” even though those positions are in sync with the bishops, because they’re what everyone expects from the center-left. However, the Catholic Health Association’s opposition to the Obama administration’s restrictive definition of a religious employer in its contraception mandate is a good case of surprising support because the CHA and the bishops famously had their disagreements over health care reform.
At least three such opportunities seem to be hanging out there like low-lying fruit.

He suggest three opportunities:
Getting behind the HHS Mandate, speaking out against anti-Christian persecution (in the developing world especially) and lastly helping the Bishops transition to a world church.

The latter two I jump on board with immediately…albeit I’m not sure how “surprising” these are. The first one, I’d tread a bit more carefully into. I think there’s a real opportunity to look at this issue in a larger context and to ask the question of whether health care should be tied to employment in the first place. I would wager that Catholics could take the lead here in getting out of that and offering their employees a higher salary and allowing them to form their own consciences and purchasing a health care plan of their own.

But there’s an even larger place where the center-left and even the center-right can meet.

It’s called Catholics for Civil Discourse. This could be a place much like the Catholic Common Ground Initiative –which had merit, but I believe that ended up as a bunch of center-left people trying to keep it afloat. Are we willing to talk things through and maybe use some principles of conflict resolution to show the world that Catholics can indeed rise above the hatred and move towards forgiveness and reconciliation of one another. I liken much of this to relationships between conservative and liberal Supreme Court Justices. Justice Scalia and Justice Ginsburg might agree on little but you never hear either on badmouth the other. In fact, they are close friends and they can see the other’s perspective clearly, even if they don’t share the other’s view. I suspect Ginsburg just says some days “Well, that’s Antonin all right!” and then smiles and laughs a bit. And Scalia probably says, “Well, you know how Ruth thinks. But she means well and has people’s interest at the heart and she does know the law well. Smart lady. Don’t agree with a lot of her views but she’s tough.”

Can’t we have a similar discourse in our church? More importantly, SHOULDN’T we have a similar discourse in our church?

Right now many have simply determined that neither side of the extremes needs the other. Jesus laughs at that and shakes his head and I think might even laugh and say “Dumb folks. They just don’t get it.”

Commonweal writer J. Peter Nixon gets to the heart of this argument very well in my view:

In the 1980s, center-left bishops had to listen to the center-right because they had the ear of Rome. The center-left has the ear of no one. They have nothing that the bishops really need and probably nothing that the bishops want. They have no leverage.

Allen suggests that “center left” probably describes the majority of American Catholics and perhaps a super-majority of those working in Catholic institutions, such as chancery offices, Catholic Charities, etc. This is true, but it is changing. We have had a fair amount of episcopal turnover in California in the last few years, and the trend is unmistakable. Older, largely “center-left” staff are retiring or leaving and being replaced by younger, more self-consciously “orthodox” Catholics.

It’s true that the majority of rank-and-file Catholics are probably “center left” in orientation. But what of it? Younger Catholics, for the most part, are simply not attached enough to the Church as an institution to think “institutionally” about their theological commitments. Communal dialogue is something you engage in because you have a community. The majority of younger Catholics—like a majority of younger Christians—are spiritual consumers. If they are dissatisfied, they will choose “exit” rather than “voice.”

In short, this has become an “older” person’s fight within the church. The younger folks don’t have time for such riff-raff, nor do they have the scars from past battles that left others with deep woundedness and brings them into a vitriolic reflex each time something new saddens them from ideologues on either side. The young simply want to pray, connect with Jesus, form friendships with people of honor and serve the needs of the poor. In short, they want a church they can believe in, not one that focuses on infighting.

Infighting will do us no good, even if one side wins. If the far or even center-right wins they get a smaller and more faithful to the hierarchy breed that might not be able to be evangelize or be effective. If the center-left or far left wins they’ll be confusion as to what Catholics stand for, if they even stand for anything.

The truth is that consensus is what is called for in our church. And young people may not be willing to do the work required to battle things out for a long time with people that they really might not think are worth spending all this time on. It’s just easier to leave and have a more individualistic view of religion or spirituality.

We are in tough times. One of my jobs is to try to build consensus amongst younger people of faith, even people of different faiths. But to do that, we have to first engage them in the experience of where they find God working in their lives. Personal discernment, listening to where people are finding God in their lives is a necessary first step.

From there, we just may find an opportunity to understand one another and most importantly….

To seek peace.

U.S. Bishops Condemn Bachmann’s Muslim Brotherhood Claim

Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), Thomas Rooney (R-Fla.) and Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.) recently drafted a letter to various government agencies asking them to investigate the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood on various agencies in the federal government, particularly homeland security and the state department. In particular they targeted top State Department official Huma Abedin in their concerns.

42 religious organizations didn’t just distance themselves from those remarks, they outright condemned them.

From the Huffington Post:

“[W]e write to raise our voices in protest of your recent letters regarding prominent American Muslim individuals and organizations,” the 42 organizations wrote in a letter to the lawmakers on Thursday. “These letters question the loyalty of faithful Americans based on nothing more than their religious affiliations and what is at best tenuous evidence of their associations. As such, your actions have serious implications for religious freedom and the health of our democracy.”

The signatories include the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which often sides with Republicans on social issues, along with the Interfaith Alliance, American Civil Liberties Union, American Baptist Churches USA, NAACP and United Church of Christ.

As King of Fairness, I’d like to say…

Nice job outta our Bishops on this one.

Dolan and Martin and Colbert…OH MY!

From Religion News Service: I just may have to fly down to my alma mater for this one. Fordham University is sponsoring an event on Sept. 14 titled: “The Cardinal and Colbert: Humor, Joy, and the Spiritual Life.”

Now THAT could be an amazing event. Here’s a snip on each “theologian-comedian” as moderator Fr. James Martin, SJ calls them.

Today, Colbert is a married father of three, a churchgoing Catholic who sometimes teaches Sunday school at his New Jersey parish – a far cry from the right-wing blunderbuss he portrays on his popular cable show.

But even his bloviating on-screen persona manages to work Catholic riffs into the program on a regular basis. In one episode after Easter Sunday, Colbert came on looking hungover and confessed to having just ended a “Catholic bender.”

Dolan is certainly no slouch when it comes to faith, and he’s also pretty good in the humor department – especially when he is joking at his own expense, usually about his ample girth.

“As we pass Radio City and pass the Ed Sullivan Theater and pass Times Square, the greatest challenge is to pass the hot dog carts and not stop,” Dolan said after his appointment to New York.

In a similar vein, he once said: “My first pastoral letter’s gonna be a condemnation of light beer and instant mashed potatoes – I hate those two things.”

And to “60 Minutes” there was this one: “They asked me when I got here, ‘Are you Cardinals, Mets, Brewers, or Yankees?’ And I said, ‘When it comes to baseball, I think I can be pro-choice.’ ”

While Cardinal Dolan and Stephen Colbert are the stars here, don’t count out our buddy Fr. Jim who is known to throw a few yuks out himself.

I think this could be a huge event. And if you’re Catholic you should know that if your deadly serious all the time, then you’re probably seriously dead!

Needed: The Fortitude to Stand Up Against Injustice

So Philadelphia’s Msgr. Lynn received nearly the maximum sentence for harboring at least one pedophile priest through reassignment. His lawyers maintain that Lynn is the “fall guy” for a systematic failure by the Archdiocese in which they routinely reassigned predator priests to unsuspecting parishes and agencies.

So is Lynn really as blameworthy as say, Cardinal Bevilacqua who once reportedly said during the height of the scandal in Boston that he had never met nor known anyone who had been abused by priests?

I’m of a split mind here. Surely, Msgr. Lynn knew what was going on with at least one priest (the statute of limitations has run out on several others) that they could have discussed in the case. Msgr. Lynn did nothing to protect children at least in that instance and clearly in several more.

The issue at play indeed is a systematic one, however, one in which there seemed to be a “standard operating procedure” with regards to these cases in Philadelphia’s archdiocese, of reassignment after a brief psychiatric evaluation. Even when recommended that an abuser-priest be kept away from children the advice seemed to be roundly ignored in favor of hoping, against better judgement, that this would not occur again. Moreover, there seemed to be a lack of knowledge about pedophilia at the highest levels of the Archdiocese, including Msgr. Lynn and Cardinal Bevilacqua that was ingrained in this standard procedure of reassignment.

And nobody was smart or brave enough to question that.

What responsibility do we have to buck an unjust system, even at great personal risk to ourselves? I would say simply, that doing the right thing is often, if not always, never easy. And that’s why so many people fail to do it. Fear of reprisal, ostracizing and perhaps even death may have been at the heart of this systematic failure. How many other areas of life do we see people unable to stand up for the most vulnerable in society because of a fear like this? It is the great anxiety of the world in many ways. We’ve allowed great harm to come to many because of our inability to stand up for the rights, needs, safety and even lives of others who are in harm’s way.

And that friends, is wrong.

I can understand the fear that goes along with it, but as said, doing the right thing is almost never easy. That’s just the way it goes. When we stand up for others, we put ourselves at risk and we need to be willing to do that. Perhaps we need to be “cunning as snakes” as Jesus said, in order to protect ourselves? Or perhaps we need more indifference in our lives knowing that indeed the truth will set us free regardless of what happens. We need the bravery to stand up for least of our people, as Jesus did so often. We also need to acknowledge that when we do that we will face much resistance from others. Living in this way will put us in solidarity with the vulnerable and while it might restore their dignity and safety, it also may very well put us in harm’s way ourselves.

I often recount the story of a former workplace of mine where I discovered a woman was not being hired because of her race. It took me three whole days to approach someone in management about it. Why didn’t I speak up sooner, if not immediately? I was afraid. What if I misheard this? What would the person who was at the heart of this do to me if they found out? What if management was angry with me for accusing someone of this and fired me? Finally, I placed all that fear aside and realized that if any of that occurred, I probably wouldn’t want to work there anyway because our values didn’t line up. It was an unjust system and I needed to say that to someone. Unfortunately, our tendency is often to say nothing at all, ignore the issue, and hope that injustice will just go away.

Msgr. Lynn’s failure was simply that. He was working in an unjust and horrifying system of Archdiocesan governance and he did nothing to question it. I shudder to think if there were, in fact, any other injustices in the Archdiocese that have yet to come to light.

So today, let’s pray for victims of abuse for all those who were put in harm’s way by an unjust system of authoritarian power gone awry.

But let’s also pray for our priests, lay people, women’s religious and all those who witness injustice in the world. May they have the strength to speak up when they see the horror of evil at play and may the Holy Spirit pour the gift of fortitude on them so that they might rest easy in doing the right thing, even when it is difficult.

And let’s pray for Msgr. Lynn as well. May we somehow be able to forgive him for his failures and may we realize that it would be unjust for him to be abused by others while he serves his punishment regardless of whatever he enabled others to do to children. Revenge does not equal justice. So let us pray that he is able to see his actions as remorseful ones and that he can make peace with God and himself and that although he was unable to offer a harbor of safety to children, may he be kept safe from harm–as he pays his debt to society.

May God who is infinitely merciful grant us salvation for all of our failures as a people. And may peace and justice one day reign for us all. Amen.

Vinny O’Keefe: A Great Jesuit

During my Fordham days I’d often have an opportunity to hear and talk occasionally with a Jesuit named Fr. Vinny O’Keefe and certainly my Jesuit friends would talk often about the former superior general, Fr. Pedro Arrupe and also Fr. Vinny O’Keefe, SJ, the Vicar General of the Society who was an amazing guy who was always friendly to us students when he came around and often had great stories to tell.

He was the right hand man to Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ who was the great superior general of the Jesuits as the church moved into the period following the Second Vatican Council. Once Arrupe became unable to lead the Jesuits after suffering a stroke, the Jesuits nominated Fr. Vinny as a type of interim to run the order until a successor could be found. Reportedly, Pope John Paul II didn’t like the idea of an American progressive running the Jesuits. The Pope then intervened by appointing a more traditional Jesuit to serve as the Jesuits’ interim leader. This caused quite a rift between the Jesuits and the Papacy at the time.

Jesuit filmmaker, Fr. Jim Mcdermott, SJ realized how important Fr. Vinny was to the society recently, and did a series of videos on his relationship to Arrupe. I found this one to be particularly on the mark:

Rest in peace, Vinny. You were a real treasure.