When a new pope gets elected later this month, one of the many decisions he will face is whether to grant official recognition to anoint a Patron Saint of Handgunners.
The candidate is Saint Gabriel Possenti, a 19th century Italian monk who allegedly saved a village from bandits with a handgun before dying of tuberculosis at 23.
The St. Gabriel Possenti Society established itself over 20 years ago with the sole purpose of getting Possenti recognized as handgun enthusiasts’ official saint, agitating and campaigning on his behalf. The 501(c)3 charity group, whose seal includes a drawing of Possenti and a revolver, encourages members to lobby local clergymen, write letters to Vatican officials, and “obtain numerous Gun Saint tokens and deposit them in church collection baskets of your denomination.”
According to the group, Saint Gabriel Possenti saved the villagers of Isola del Gran Sasso from a marauding gang of 20 renegade soldiers by demonstrating his marksmanship with a revolver in 1860. When the gangsters (whom the group notes were also “would-be rapists”) descended on the town, Possenti fired at a lizard in the road and killed it with a single shot.
The bandits, terrified by his excellent shot, fled the town and the day was saved. “St. Gabriel Possenti performed this feat of courage without causing physical harm to a single human being,” they note.
The legend, however, may be little more than that, as some allege the gun incident never occurred. One website dedicated to the saint notes that the tale only appears in one of the four biographies on Possenti, and that the author of the relevant one, Rev. Godfrey Poage, acknowledged that “some of the accounts in his book were invented to ‘enliven’ the story.” Furthermore, Possenti died only two years later and thus would likely have been in late stages of tuberculosis, the critics note, and thus in no shape to fight off 20 armed gangsters.
In a statement sent today marking the upcoming feast day of the saint, Society Chairman John Snyder acknowledged the historical dispute and defended the “lizard incident.”
“The Poage account of the lizard incident remained non-controversial for over a quarter of a century. It wasn’t until I began promoting St. Gabriel Possenti as a Patron of Handgunners in the late 1980s that anti-gun bigots began a belated attempt to attack the account of the lizard incident. It seems they are more concerned with being politically correct than historically accurate,” Snyder said.
Snyder wrote a whole book about the incident, “Gun Saint,” which features an illustration of the young Saint Gabriel Possenti firing a gun as bearded gangsters flee in all directions.
The group even claims biblical passages support the use of guns for self-defense. You can read about them in a printed monograph, which the Society will send to you for a reasonable contribution of $10.
By: Alex Seitz-Wald, Salon, February 21, 2013
“Motivation Via Laicization”: Milwaukee Archdiocese, Under Cardinal Dolan, Paid Sex Abusers To Leave Priesthood
Laurie Goodstein reports in the New York Times:
[A] document unearthed during bankruptcy proceedings for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and made public by victims’ advocates reveals that the archdiocese did make such payments to multiple accused priests to encourage them to seek dismissal, thereby allowing the church to remove them from the payroll.
A spokesman for the archdiocese confirmed on Wednesday that payments of as much as $20,000 were made to “a handful” of accused priests “as a motivation” not to contest being defrocked. The process, known as “laicization,” is a formal church juridical procedure that requires Vatican approval, and can take far longer if the priest objects.
Timothy Dolan, now a Cardinal and the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, but at the time the Archbishop of Milwaukee, authorized the payments. He did not respond to several requests for comment, according to the Times.
Here are some things Dolan has commented on lately:
He suggested New York’s marriage equality bill was akin laws in totalitarian societies;
He compared gay marriage to “polygamy, adultery, forced marriages;”
After the Obama administration declined to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court, he accused it of “hostility” toward “traditional marriage,” and a “new, more aggressive position” on gay marriage that would “precipitate a national conflict between church and state of enormous proportions and to the detriment of both institutions;
He found President Obama’s support for marriage equality “deeply saddening;”
He said the White House is “strangling” the church with the contraception coverage requirement;
He wrote that the contraception coverage is “un-American;”
He worried that by inviting HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to speak, Georgetown University showed it was moving to a more “secular model, where they would take their cues from what’s happening in contemporary events instead of the timeless wisdom of the church.”
Pertinent to the payments made to abusive Milwaukee priests—one, Goodstein reported, had sexually assaulted 10 minors—in March the National Catholic Reporter noted how Dolan was echoing the words of Bill Donohue, the vitriolic head of the Catholic League, calling the director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), David Clohessy, a “con artist:”
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York and president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, posted a link on his blog this afternoon to a statement from Bill Donohue, the head of the Catholic League, which suggests the director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests may be a “con artist.”
The post comes as the victims’ advocacy group and its director, David Clohessy, have found support in recent days on the editorial pages of several national papers in light of attempts by attorneys representing priests accused of abuse to obtain 23 years of the group’s documents.
Dolan’s post came on his “The Gospel in the Digital Age” blog at the New York Archdiocese website. It quotes in full three paragraphs of a statement by Donohue before providing people a link to read the rest.
Donohue’s statement, titled “SNAP Unravels,” is a long rehash of some of the facts surrounding the attempts by priests’ lawyers, which resulted last January in Clohessy’s deposition in a case involving a priest accused of abuse in Kansas City, Mo.
After making numerous references to the transcript of that deposition, which was released March 2, Donohue asks: “So is David Clohessy a sincere man driven by the pursuit of justice? Or is he a con artist driven by revenge? It may very well be that the former description aptly explains how he started, while the latter describes what he has become.”
This week, according to Goodstein, SNAP sent a letter to the Milwaukee archdiocese, asking, “In what other occupation, especially one working with families and operating schools and youth programs, is an employee given a cash bonus for raping and sexually assaulting children?”
Kathryn Joyce published an extensive interview with Clohessy at RD in March about efforts by the accused Kansas City priest and the Archdiocese of St. Louis to subpoena confidential records from SNAP. There, she wrote:
While the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has denied that there is a national strategy for the Church to fight sex abuse cases more aggressively, even the Church’s staunchest defenders see the pattern. As William Donohue, the pugilistic president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, told the New York Times this week, bishops are going after SNAP because “SNAP is a menace to the Catholic Church.”
Clohessy told Joyce that the recent escalation against SNAP showed that the dioceses were attempting “to discredit, derail, bankrupt, and silence SNAP. And to scare anyone—police, prosecutors, victims, concerned Catholics—from contacting us and reporting crimes and exposing corruption.”
BY: Sarah Posner, Religion Dispatches, May 31, 2012
There is a healthy struggle brewing among the nation’s Roman Catholic bishops. A previously silent group, upset over conservative colleagues defining the church’s public posture and eagerly picking fights with President Obama, has had enough.
The headlines this week were about lawsuits brought by 43 Catholic organizations, including 13 dioceses, to overturn regulations issued by the Obama administration that require insurance plans to cover contraception under the new health-care law. But the other side of this news was also significant: The vast majority of the nation’s 195 dioceses did not go to court.
It turns out that many bishops, notably the church leadership in California, saw the litigation as premature. They are upset that the lawsuits were brought without a broader discussion among the entire membership of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and wanted to delay action until the conference’s June meeting.
Until now, bishops who believed that their leadership was aligning the institutional church too closely with the political right had voiced their doubts internally. While the more moderate and liberal bishops kept their qualms out of public view, conservative bishops have been outspoken in condemning the Obama administration and pushing a “Fortnight for Freedom” campaign aimed at highlighting “threats to religious freedom, both at home and abroad.”
But in recent months, a series of events — among them the Vatican’s rebuke of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, encouraged by right-wing U.S. bishops — have angered more progressive Catholics and led to talk among the disgruntled faithful of the need for a “Catholic spring” to challenge the hierarchy’s shift to the right.
Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, Calif., broke the silence on his side Tuesday in an interview with Kevin Clarke of the Jesuit magazine America. Blaire expressed concern that some groups “very far to the right” are turning the controversy over the contraception rules into “an anti-Obama campaign.”
“I think there are different groups that are trying to co-opt this and make it into [a] political issue, and that’s why we need to have a deeper discussion as bishops,” he said. “I think our rhetoric has to be that of bishops of the church who are seeking to be faithful to the Gospel, that our one concern is that we make sure the church is free to carry out her mission as given to her by Christ, and that remains our focus.”
Clarke also paraphrased Blaire as believing that “the bishops lose their support when the conflict is seen as too political.”
Blaire’s words were diplomatic. But in a letter to the national bishops conference that has not been released publicly, lawyers for California’s bishops said the lawsuits would be “imprudent” and “ill-advised.” The letter was not answered by the national bishops group before the suits were announced.
Already, there are reports that some bishops will play down or largely ignore the Fortnight for Freedom campaign, scheduled for June 21 to July 4, in their own dioceses. These bishops fear that it has become enmeshed in Republican election-year politics and see many of its chief promoters, notably Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, as too strident.
The irony in the current acrimony is that Catholics were broadly united in January across political lines in opposing the Department of Health and Human Services’ initial rules on contraception because they exempted only a narrow category of religious institutions from the mandate.
Facing this challenge, the president fashioned a compromise under which employees of Catholic organizations such as hospitals and social service agencies would still have access to contraceptive services but the religious entities would not have to pay for them. This compromise was accepted by most progressive Catholics, though many of them still favor rewriting the underlying regulations to acknowledge the religious character of the church’s welfare and educational work.
But where the progressives favor pursuing further negotiations with the administration, the conservative bishops have acted as if it never made any concessions at all. Significantly, Blaire identified with the conciliatory approach. As Clarke wrote, “Bishop Blaire believes discussions with the Obama administration toward a resolution of the dispute could be fruitful even as alternative remedies are explored.”
For too long, the Catholic Church’s stance on public issues has been defined by the outspokenness of its most conservative bishops and the reticence of moderate and progressive prelates. Signs that this might finally be changing are encouraging for the church, and for American politics.
By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, May 23, 2012
Catholic nuns are not the prissy traditionalists of caricature. No, nuns rock!
They were the first feminists, earning Ph.D.’s or working as surgeons long before it was fashionable for women to hold jobs. As managers of hospitals, schools and complex bureaucracies, they were the first female C.E.O.’s.
They are also among the bravest, toughest and most admirable people in the world. In my travels, I’ve seen heroic nuns defy warlords, pimps and bandits. Even as bishops have disgraced the church by covering up the rape of children, nuns have redeemed it with their humble work on behalf of the neediest.
So, Pope Benedict, all I can say is: You are crazy to mess with nuns.
The Vatican issued a stinging reprimand of American nuns this month and ordered a bishop to oversee a makeover of the organization that represents 80 percent of them. In effect, the Vatican accused the nuns of worrying too much about the poor and not enough about abortion and gay marriage.
What Bible did that come from? Jesus in the Gospels repeatedly talks about poverty and social justice, yet never explicitly mentions either abortion or homosexuality. If you look at who has more closely emulated Jesus’s life, Pope Benedict or your average nun, it’s the nun hands down.
Since the papal crackdown on nuns, they have received an outpouring of support. “Nuns were approached by Catholics at Sunday liturgies across the country with a simple question: ‘What can we do to help?’ ” The National Catholic Reporter recounted. It cited one parish where a declaration of support for nuns from the pulpit drew loud applause, and another that was filled with shouts like, “You go, girl!”
At least four petition drives are under way to support the nuns. One on Change.org has gathered 15,000 signatures. The headline for this column comes from an essay by Mary E. Hunt, a Catholic theologian who is developing a proposal for Catholics to redirect some contributions from local parishes to nuns.
“How dare they go after 57,000 dedicated women whose median age is well over 70 and who work tirelessly for a more just world?” Hunt wrote. “How dare the very men who preside over a church in utter disgrace due to sexual misconduct and cover-ups by bishops try to distract from their own problems by creating new ones for women religious?”
Sister Joan Chittister, a prominent Benedictine nun, said she had worried at first that nuns spend so much time with the poor that they would have no allies. She added that the flood of support had left her breathless.
“It’s stunningly wonderful,” she said. “You see generations of laypeople who know where the sisters are — in the streets, in the soup kitchens, anywhere where there’s pain. They’re with the dying, with the sick, and people know it.”
Sister Joan spoke to me from a ghetto in Erie, Pa., where her order of 120 nuns runs a soup kitchen, a huge food pantry, an afterschool program, and one of the largest education programs for the unemployed in the state.
I have a soft spot for nuns because I’ve seen firsthand that they sacrifice ego, safety and comfort to serve some of the neediest people on earth. Remember the “Kony 2012” video that was an Internet hit earlier this year, about an African warlord named Joseph Kony? One of the few heroes in the long Kony debacle was a Comboni nun, Sister Rachele Fassera.
In 1996, Kony’s army attacked a Ugandan girls’ school and kidnapped 139 students. Sister Rachele hiked through the jungle in pursuit of the kidnappers — some of the most menacing men imaginable, notorious for raping and torturing their victims to death. Eventually, she caught up with the 200 gunmen and demanded that they release the girls. Somehow, she browbeat the warlord in charge into releasing the great majority of the girls.
I’m betting on the nuns to win this one as well. After all, the sisters may be saintly, but they’re also crafty. Elias Chacour, a prominent Palestinian archbishop in the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, recounts in a memoir that he once asked a convent if it could supply two nuns for a community literacy project. The mother superior said she would have to check with her bishop.
“The bishop was very clear in his refusal to allow two nuns,” the mother superior told him later. “I cannot disobey him in that.” She added: “I will send you three nuns!”
Nuns have triumphed over an errant hierarchy before. In the 19th century, the Catholic Church excommunicated an Australian nun named Mary MacKillop after her order exposed a pedophile priest. Sister Mary was eventually invited back to the church and became renowned for her work with the poor. In 2010, Pope Benedict canonized her as Australia’s first saint.
“Let us be guided” by Sister Mary’s teachings, the pope declared then.
Amen to that.
By: Nicholas Kristof, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, April 28, 2012
Since 1870, when the Roman Catholic Church formally pronounced popes infallible, a lot of Vatican energy has gone into claiming that doctrine never changes—that the church has been maintaining the same positions since the time of Jesus. Of course, historians know better: Dozens of church conferences, synods, and councils have regularly revised the teachings, all the while claiming utter consistency. Thus, when the advent of the birth control pill in the early ’60s coincided with a major push for church modernization, there was widespread hope among Catholics that the reform-minded Pope John XXIII would lift the church’s ban on contraception. After all, the Second Vatican Council had explicitly called for greater integration of scientific knowledge into church teaching.
John did establish a small commission for the Study of Problems of Population, Family, and Birth, which his successor, Paul VI, expanded to 58 members. Its job was to study whether the pill and issues such as population growth should lead to a change in the church’s prohibition on all forms of contraception (other than abstinence during periods of fertility—the “rhythm method”). The commission was led by bishops and cardinals, including a Polish bishop named Karol Wojtyla, the future Pope John Paul II. (The Polish government did not allow Wojtyla to attend meetings.) They were assisted by scientists, theologians—including Protestants, whose church had ended its own opposition to contraception three decades earlier—and even several lay couples. One of them, Patty and Patrick Crowley from Chicago, carried letters and stories from Catholic women worn out by multiple pregnancies, medical problems, and the financial burdens of raising large families. The commission deliberated for two years, amid much anticipation from the faithful.
The Vatican’s position on birth control has long held something of a paradox: Catholics are encouraged to plan their families, to bear only the number of children they can afford, and to consider the impact of family size on a community and the planet. In recent years, under Pope Benedict XVI, the church has also made a major push to embrace environmental stewardship. Yet Catholicism has also been the most intransigent of the world’s religions on the subject of contraception, alone in denying its use even to married couples.
This may have made some theological sense in the first century of Christianity, when Jesus’ followers believed he would return in their lifetime: Their mission was to prepare for the Second Coming by devoting themselves to the worship of God. Sex, they believed, was a distraction. The good life was best lived in celibacy—even in marriage. When the wait for the Second Coming evaporated, the belief that sex for its own sake was sinful did not, and abstinence remained the ideal.