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Friday, May 27, 2011

From Dancing Nuns to New Age, Time Has Come to Save Churches and Turn Back to Sanctity


Pope Benedict XVI has slowly but surely moved on a course that will make him more than just the "caretaker" Pope many envisioned him to be.

And that will come, perhaps, because of his effort -- subtle, but powerful -- in nudging the Church back to greater reverence.

This has been seen in his encouraging re-establishment of elements from the older Mass (including in the way of music as well as the new Missal); requiring every bishop to allow the Latin Rite; and, most recently -- stunningly -- his closure of a major monastery in Rome that had allowed the singer Madonna to perform there and has a nun and former disco dancer who performed modern dance, in church, with a Crucifix. In the U.S. are dozens of convents and retreat centers where nuns have adopted Zen, yoga, and New Age therapies -- an untold scandal that seems to have evaded a Vatican visitation of convents (at least thus far) and the notice of local bishops.


Sister Lucia of Fatima once said that our modern time was experiencing a "diabolical disorientation." That was stated in the middle of the last century and in fact the 1960s saw a fantastic infusion of evil into our realm, as spirits of rebellion, crime, lust, perversion, pharmaceia (drugs), wayward music, disoriented artwork, the occult, psychic phenomena, and pornography came flooding into society like a tsunami.

Sister Lucia's warning, and what occurred starting half a century ago, come to mind in the wake of a major study released two weeks ago that was sponsored by the United States bishops and indicated that another Church issue, the sexual abuse crisis, involved those who (in the words of one news report about the study) "came from seminary classes of the 1940s and 1950s who were not properly trained to confront the upheavals of the 1960s, when behavioral norms were upended and crime overall in the United States spiked."

Issued by the John Jay College -- which is devoted to criminology -- the study couldn't single out any one over-riding cause, indicating a combination of social factors and not able to quite put their fingers on it because the "mystery" is something criminologists don't calculate: the devil.

We have been saying for years that at the root of the sexual abuse crisis is the wave of evil that has infected every segment of society and seemed to specialize in wanton sex during the mid-to-late 1960s and into the 1970s, when it virtually became an institutionalized aspect of our culture.

The spirit affected those in seminaries, rectories, universities, convents, and monasteries (probably in that order) -- and in our view hit with particular force because it coincided with a weakening in the Church's spiritual-warfare components, notably tools of exorcisms, fasting, blessings against evil, deep devotions to the Blessed Mother, reverent liturgies (which were in the process of becoming more oriented to priests than to Jesus), and the prayer at the end of Mass to the Archangel Michael.

That all joined with a devastating trend toward worldly intellectualism that stripped mystical theology from seminaries, a crisis that remains in full throttle at episcopates.

And it was deadly as society has been swept into a disorientation that made wrong right and right wrong and good out of fashion and in some cases (see the arrest of pro-lifers) against the law. The clear fact is this: during the 1960s and with increased momentum since, priests and everyone else have been surrounded and in fact inundated with lascivious images on the cover of magazines, suggestive news stories, sultry commercials, pounding carnal music, libertine philosophy, lurid supermarket magazines, ribald Super Bowl ads, nudie publications like Playboy, Penthouse, and Hustler, off-color TV shows, sexy soap operas, tasteless billboards, X-rated movies, sex-drenched Hollywood dramas, online pornography, evocative music, sex novels, provocative newspaper ads, news items constantly making free sex seem like the new norm, sex-themed Broadway plays, and so forth.

The result: a satanic infiltration of the priesthood, and in our view, in most or at least many cases, it didn't seem like a case of wolves in sheep's clothing so much as what Sister Lucia said: a diabolical disorientation.

Our clergy were "sorely vexed."

They, and the rest of us, were naked against the enemy.

To go into a modern diocesan center is too often to encounter a largely lonely, renovated building with a sensation of spiritual vacancy.

If one hears a chanting of monks, it's not from the chapel; it from a secretary's CD.

And in the cafeteria: the public-address system may be blaring music in fact from the Sixties or Seventies, as opposed to "religious" music.

Mysticism is not welcome. It's the chancellor's job to blunt it. Meanwhile, employees strategize on how to best "consolidate" parishes -- close churches -- without losing appeals to Rome.

This is another great development in the pontificate of Benedict:

In a couple of cases, Rome has sided with laity who had fought closure of church properties. Most recently -- this week -- a Vatican ruling saved St. Mary's Church in Jamesville, New York -- at least as a sacred (if not actively ministered) site.

This is a great and crucial cause that all Catholics should undertake: fighting -- respectfully -- to maintain holy property.

It is improper for consecrated ground and buildings to be destroyed or turned into condos, which has occurred. In Italy, one has become a restaurant (the altar is behind the bar). In Upstate New York, a college fraternity bought another. In still other cases, they have been turned into pentecostal-style churches or Muslim gathering places.

While, due to inner-city population shrinkage, and priest shortages, there is the need to pare down active parishes, sacred ground must remain just that. We urge this because we believe there will be a time in the not so distant future when events will swell the ranks of the faithful -- those who seek refuge in church.

The Church is not dying. It is quiescent. It will rise with force in the difficult times to come.

And it will need to facilities. Let Catholicism be prepared! (And also let us not sell property at a down cycle).

The darkness continues to gather and its special power -- its infusion -- during the Sixties remains mysterious. For sure, smoke was coming through the fissures. Priests who had no indications or appearances of homosexuality -- nor any waywardness -- were suddenly swept into just that. Data show that abuse incidents were "highest between the mid-1960s and the mid-1980s," the report noted. "Ninety-four percent of the abuse incidents reported to the Catholic Church from 1950 through 2009 took place before 1990," it said.

It was what was affecting all segments of the West. "There's no indication in our data that priests are any more likely to abuse children than anyone else in society," said Karen Terry, principal investigator for the report, at a news conference where the report was released Wednesday, according again to news reports. No doubt: homosexuality played a role; men who were really heterosexual were deceived by the evil one into unmanly inclinations, as the Sixties spirit skewed genders with not just homosexuality but also radical feminism.

Sex? Everyone was doing it -- illicitly. It was the Age of Hefner. It was the age of "liberation." We are still feeling the results -- and in fact they have never waned.

Priests fell to the temptation. We have also warned that some have been falsely accused, and we continue to be suspicious of certain claims that erupt from a person who suddenly recalls abuse by a priest four or five decades ago.

Recently, there have been cases of priests cleared, at least in homosexual cases involving youngsters (it never was actual "pedophilia"). In other cases, priests who initially seemed victims of a persecution have admitted guilt.

Surrounded by this, of course they were affected.

Everyone was.

Does that excuse it?

It certainly does not. And the overall invasion of the priesthood remains mysterious. The Church was dramatically behind the curve in noticing the effects and dealing with it and made the drastic mistake of wanting to be worldly. It "opened the window" (to use a Vatican II term) to society -- and we see what came in. Windswept house indeed. We only recently received a horrendous first-hand account of how a priest in Upstate New York serially abused boys -- boys whose lives were no doubt dramatically affected. Laymen should be given great credit for knowing the foundation of Catholicism and sticking with it despite what so many priests -- so many -- did.

Yes, some were wolves in sheep's clothing. Some are still out there. Some have been falsely accused. Others hope they will be thought of as falsely accused, when they have not.

It says this to the Church: close the window. Go back to your roots. Forget being hip. You will rise again. Be prepared.

And it says to society:

Stop pointing fingers at the Church and take a glance in the mirror.


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