Wednesday, September 12, 2018
“… Through some mysterious crack… the smoke of Satan has entered the Church of God. There is doubt, uncertainty, problems, unrest, dissatisfaction, confrontation. The Church is no longer trusted.”
– Blessed Paul VI, June 1972
I’m sure many of you reading this article have had wonderful experiences with the Church and Her good sons, just as I have. You may have a wonderful pastor, a trusted confessor, or are friends with a good priest or bishop and have experienced how the life blood of Christ can flow beautifully through them. My Archbishop is a gift; a good shepherd and a caring spiritual father. I’ve experienced his kindness and compassion first hand. My pastor is the same, so approachable, deeply human, and full of love with a deep desire for his people to meet Christ. I’ve met so many incredible priests through my time discerning in the 1990’s at St. Charles Seminary in Overbrook, and in my work teaching the theology of the body across the country and beyond for the past 18 years.
But sadly today, in the eyes of many, the Catholic Church is not to be trusted. From the culture’s perspective, the Church is not only seen as irrelevant to a post-modern, post-Christian age, but due to the crimes and sins of a minority of priests, bishops, and the latest debacle with Archbishop McCarrick, it is a sham. It appears to many in the culture today as a hypocritical and dysfunctional creature. Worse, it’s seen as a predator. Thanks to the latest revelation of sins from the once revered and high-ranking cardinal from Washington, DC (since demoted), priests are yet again seen as the awkward relative at the family wedding, who appears all dressed up for the ceremony but is to be avoided at all costs at the reception afterwards. He is perennially suspect. Merciful God! Bless with holy courage all the men in black so faithful to their vocation. They are on the cross yet again.
How did this happen? We could blame poor seminary formation, bad diocesan administration, personal sin and duplicity. I’d pose another reason in addition to these as to why some members of the institutional hierarchy in the Church have failed so miserably. Because of the failure to be formed in an integrated way in the theology of the body, the marriage of our sexuality and spirituality, our desires and God’s design for them, many suffer the spiritual version of the same resistance to Humanae Vitae that happened 50 years ago this year. They are afraid of total self-giving love and the new life that flows from it. The power of the priesthood has been contracepted.
“The church is Mother; the church is fruitful. It must be. You see, when I perceive negative behavior in ministers of the church or in consecrated men or women, the first thing that comes to mind is: ‘Here’s an unfruitful bachelor’ or ‘Here’s a spinster.’ They are neither fathers nor mothers, in the sense that they have not been able to give spiritual life.”– Pope Francis
Some Catholics, lay and religious, priests and leaders, who’ve held positions of power and authority in the Church, in seminaries, universities, and dioceses have traded in the dynamic, life-giving power of the gospel for something safe, controlled, and ultimately self-serving. They have contracepted the gospel. Many clergy have cut themselves off from the theological potency of their priesthood; from their call to spiritual fatherhood. What remains when the theology of their bodies is absent? A twisted mockery of masculinity and fatherhood, the likes of which we see in the depraved actions of Archbishop McCarrick and others in their relations with those who should truly be their spiritual sons.
Christ calls us out of the boat. Christ calls us out of ourselves and Christ said that Hell could not hold up its gates against the power of this Church. But rather than walk out in naked trust on the waves and wind, trusting in He Who calls us out of the boat, many have preferred to stay strapped in their seats, relying on their own safety mechanisms, administrative machinery, and a bland bureaucracy. They’ve denied and repressed their very nature, which is meant to radiate radical new life into the garden of the Church and of the world!
How will we fix this? Well, for the structures to be salvaged we could ask for more “transparency”, “accountability”, and “integrity.” There are good bishops who have been sincerely working towards this for years, including our own Archbishop Chaput here in Philadelphia. These are essential for any relational body. But if a diocese merely offers another layer of procedures and policies, it cannot be enough. I think it’s time for many of these prophylactic structures to fall away. Perhaps we put too much weight on the administrative machinery? What we need now is a total transformation of the heart and the mind and the body. Where do we begin? Real education, which literally means “a calling out, being led beyond ourselves.”
This has always been God’s plan and will remain the only way for life to return to our hearts, the Church, and the world… “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.” (John 12:24)
This death to self remains the way to life. Giving ourselves in love, not taking from others, is the path to being a true human being. Is this being “taught” through teachers from whom this passion is “caught”? This alone builds authentic communion, not a comfortable place for our sin or pride to settle.
This self-giving love is the mission of every priest, and every person. This is the watermark behind the entire catechesis of the theology the body. And herein lies the antidote; the theology of the body is the answer. “This theology of the body is the basis of the most appropriate method of… man’s education.” (St. John Paul II)
This teaching, which is the “total vision of man” that Blessed Paul VI called for in Humanae Vitae must become the foundation on which all seminary training, catechesis, and pastoral education rests. This theology of the body, taught through a head and heart immersion, will reveal the call to spiritual fatherhood and authentic masculinity for those called to the celibate vocation.
“In spite of having renounced physical fecundity, the celibate person becomes spiritually fruitful, the father and mother of many, cooperating in the realization of the family according to God’s plan.”– St. John Paul II, FC, 16
As an educator for an apostolate whose sole purpose is teaching and guiding men and women through this healing and transformative teaching, I want to encourage readers to point their priests, deacons, bishops, seminarians, and all of the laity in need of healing and integration to the Theology of the Body Institute. There is no other way to salvage souls than through this teaching, which is the gospel, and the salvific plan of God for the modern world and the bruised Bride of Christ, the Catholic Church. “To whom else shall we go?”
Nearly 50 years ago, soon after the publication of Humanae Vitae, another voice in the Church spoke a prophetic word about the present state of things and their collapse. In a radio broadcast in Germany, in 1969, a young priest said ”From the crisis of today the Church of tomorrow will emerge — a Church that has lost much. She will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning. She will no longer be able to inhabit many of the edifices she built in prosperity. It will be hard going for the Church, for the process of crystallization and clarification will cost her much valuable energy. It will make her poor and cause her to become the Church of the meek… But when the trial of this sifting is past, a great power will flow from a more spiritualized and simplified Church.”
– Father Joseph Ratzinger, (Pope Benedict XVI), 1969
Lord, we ask you again to meet us in Your Mercy, and to guide us home through healing. You can do all things. Lord, rebuild Your Church!
Originally posted at www.TOBInstitute.org
Bill Donaghy has spoken internationally on faith and the New Evangelization since 1999. Through his work with the Pontifical Mission Societies, Bill gave hundreds of talks on the spirituality of mission to young people throughout the greater Philadelphia area and beyond, creating a teaching and speaking ministry known as MissionMoment.org. He holds an Associates Degree in Visual Arts, a Bachelors in Philosophy and a Masters in Systematic Theology. In addition to his full-time work for the Theology of the Body Institute, Bill teaches at Immaculata University. He and his wife, Rebecca, live outside of Philadelphia, PA with their four children.
Sunday, February 18, 2018
“Wounds need to be treated, so many wounds! So many wounds! There are so many people who are wounded by material problems, by scandals… People wounded by the world’s illusions…”
– Pope Francis
Since the fall of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein in late 2017, we’ve seen a continuous descent of men from powerful places and positions to a basically non-existent existence. Their sins of abuse, sexual harassment and the mistreatment of women have been given the light of day, and they have fallen into shadow. Praise God that justice and accountability will be served, but the scales may have tipped too quickly.
Already there’s a growing sense of extremes, imbalance and a touch of hypocrisy. Hashtags like #ToxicMasculinity and t-shirts proclaiming “Girls Rule the World” and “We Don’t Need You” will undoubtedly hurt us both in the end. What’s needed is balance, and the beautiful reminder that we both need each other.
St. John Paul II once wrote that the “shared life of men and women… makes up the pure and simple guiding thread of existence. Human life is by its nature ‘coeducational and its dignity as well as its balance depend at every moment of history and in every place of geographic longitude and latitude on ‘who’ she shall be for him and he for her” (TOB 43:7). I can’t think of an insight or an invitation more beautiful than that.
So to help restore the balance and get men and women to come together again in trust and love, here are “5 Ways to Heal the #MeToo Movement and Solve the Problem of #ToxicMasculinity”:
1. DIGNIFY: Let’s ponder, internalize and actualize in our daily lives this additional word from that “Poet of the Divine Mysteries”, St. John Paul II: “The task of every man is the dignity of every woman, and the task of every woman is the dignity of every man.” (St. John Paul II, paraphrased. TOB 100:6) If this task of showing dignity is achieved, no one is deceived.
2. PASSIONATE PURITY: Let’s know in our bones that passion (eros in Greek) is not an enemy but an invitation to love inscribed into us in the very beginning of the world by God Himself! Men and women “live on this earth,” Pope Francis wrote, “and all that they do and seek is fraught with passion.” (AL, 143) But recall it must be a self-giving not merely self-indulging passion in accord with the meaning of our bodies as unitive in love, and procreative in life. Selfish passion is self-destructive and needs a “radical transformation” from selfishness to selflessness.
3. WONDER FOR THE OTHER: Our origin in Genesis “confirms in a definitive way the importance of sexual difference… so that Adam’s life does not sink into a sterile and, in the end, baneful encounter with himself. Only the woman, created from the same ‘flesh’ and cloaked in the same mystery, can give a future to the life of the man… ” (Vatican Document on the Collaboration of Men and Women in the Church). Can we stop and be amazed at the incredible differences we reveal and just revel in the wild perspectives we each bring to life? This wonder for the other is the front porch to the house that holds the human family.
4. TESTIFY TO LOVE: Everyone knows in their heart of hearts the difference between love and lust, its opposite. So let’s do everything possible to shut up and shut down the Fifty Shades of Grey films and other works that come out of Hollywood – works that contradict the true meaning of the #MeToo movement and why it started (a movement which, ironically, is also coming out of Hollywood).
5. REVEAL GOD THROUGH THE BODY: Recall #1 above, that our task is the dignity of the other through showing dignity for ourselves. Point out the hypocrisy of the “nearly naked dress trends” and the inappropriate dress that is sold even at pre-teen ages. Fight it in your own way. Let the high calling of the body to reveal the beauty and wonder and communion that is God be revealed through carrying ourselves with respect and sensibility to the other person. In the words again of our “Apostle of the Human Person”, St. John Paul II, “Man must be reconciled to his natural greatness.” This begins in the love cradle of the family! A “family is mature when the emotional life of its members becomes a form of sensitivity that… follows each one’s freedom, springs from it, enriches, perfects and harmonizes it in the service of all.” (Pope Francis, Joy of Love, 146)
In a recent acceptance speech at the Golden Globes that instantly went viral, former talk show host and actress Oprah Winfrey addressed the deep wound that has been exposed all over the entertainment industry, American politics, and across the spectrum of the shared civic life of man and woman. In a general sense, that wound is sin. Specifically, from Miss Winfrey’s words, it’s the sin of the lust of men against women; the sordid sexual harassment of greedy men in positions of power who’ve abused their power to use women for their own selfish pleasure. Over the last three months, the cathartic revelation of this specific wound has been both horrific and healing. Oprah praised the brave women who were finally able to speak out, that they too had suffered abuse and she cried out the #TimesUp! It’s now time to set free “magnificent women” and “phenomenal men” to rise up and show us “a new horizon”, becoming “the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say ‘Me too’ again.”
Amen, I couldn’t agree more! It is indeed high time that these sexual scandals that have riddled Hollywood culture in particular for decades are now exposed. But how does one really “fix the problem”? How does one defeat this abuse of power and balance the imbalance in the relations between men and women? Short answer, start respecting and honoring the dignity of every human person. Even shorter and more effective solution, Jesus. But for Hollywood, that Holy Wood of the Cross still might seem a little too… demanding. The Truth Who can set us free just seems so binding.
For Oprah and the #MeToo movement, part of the answer lies in women being free to speak “their truth.” It’s a powerful step in the right direction, but my truth, your truth, still feels a bit like the furtive steps of Pilate as he circled around Jesus, asking “Truth? What is truth?” In the construction of more stringent policies in the workplace regarding sexual harassment, the same relativistic fog has been creeping in. “What is sexual harassment? What is appropriate speech and conduct in the presence of the opposite sex?” In this hyper-sensitive, politically correct age, it seems hard to find a hard and fast answer.
At the Golden Globes, in an effort to bring a clear light and some justice upon the abusers, the majority of women came dressed in black. This was powerful to see, and the solidarity should be admired. Their truth, which is fact the truth, is that ultimately a person should never be used or seen merely as a sexual object. To this we should all cry #MeToo! But then it got a little murky. Ironically, a number of the women’s gowns left little to the imagination of the lustful men they were meant to teach a lesson to about seeing women as sexual objects. To some, the irony was apparent, to others, apparently not, as in this US magazine article praising the “Nearly Naked Dress Trend” of the women fighting sexual exploitation and objectification.
The televised gala event then ended with the trailer for Hollywood’s very own latest installment of the Fifty Shades of Grey series, Fifty Shades Darker, in which a naive young college girl is further seduced and manipulated into a sado-masochistic relationship with a powerful billionaire man. Again, to some viewers the irony was apparent, to others, apparently not.
Hollywood is caught in a conundrum. A damned if you do, damned if you don’t scenario. Sex has become both the idol they can’t let go of, and the evil they can’t seem to shake off. The tease and the trap.
Back to the main question and a proposed way out of this conundrum. How do we stop men from sexually harassing and objectifying women? How do we set “magnificent women” and “phenomenal men” free? I say we call out the three elephants in the room, and they are not three men weighty with lust and lists of allegations. The three elephants who’ve been stampeding over the hearts and bodies and beauty of women and the role of men as stewards and protectors of women for well over 60 years: porn, contraception, and abortion. And both men and women are responsible for opening up the gates that let them in.
#TimesUp…. The reports are in, the data is clear. This unholy trinity of porn, contraception, and abortion are like weapons in the hands of lustful men in this war on women. And porn, contraception, and abortion conversely have been weapons in the hands of women resentful of the abuse and domination of men in their lives. Destroy these weapons, and restore the truth of what a human person is, and the women can be free, and know again their truth. And the men will remember who they are and who they are called to be. We are sons and daughters of the Father, brothers and sisters sharing a common humanity. We are all called to love, not lust. We are called to union not use. We are called to be magnificent and phenomenal, and nothing less, because we are made in the image of the Holy Trinity, in Whom there is only love and life!
So here are the 3 Simple Steps to Become “Magnificent Women” and “Phenomenal Men”
1. Shut down the porn industry that objectifies and abuses women, and has so clearly infiltrated Hollywood and television that it’s enabled BDSM films like Fifty Shades to become mainstream “entertainment”.
2. Stop using contraception which enables and rewards men’s (and women’s) lust without consequence.
3. Outlaw abortion which literally kills the fruit and final end of sexual love and also enables and rewards men’s (and women’s) lust without the responsibility of fatherhood (or motherhood).
We are made for more, and only if and when we can all let go of these idols, can we be free. The heritage of our hearts “is deeper than the sinfulness inherited.” Christ’s words “re-activate that deepest inheritance and give it real power in human life” (TOB 46:6). We “must rediscover the lost fullness of (our) humanity and want to regain it” (TOB 43:7). Christ the perfect Man “assigns the dignity of every woman as a task to every man.” And “he assigns also the dignity of every man to every woman” (TOB 100:6). Men and women are “called to a full and mature spontaneity in relationships that are born from the perennial attraction of masculinity and femininity. Such spontaneity is itself the gradual fruit of the discernment of the impulses of one’s own heart” (TOB 48:2).
In Christ, we hear “an invitation to a pure way of looking at others, capable of respecting the spousal meaning of the body” (VS,n. 15) Only this pure way of looking at one another, really looking at the whole person made in the image of the God Who is Love, will usher in that “new horizon” for us all.
A much repeated sentence we hear at our Theology of the Body retreats and courses is "I wish I heard this when I was younger!" ...
The Great Divide , Part 2 In yesterday's post, with the inspiration of St. Augustine, we looked at the sad division that exists betwee...
This one helped me see the need for a redemption of some of our words from a fallen understanding of them, starting with the word Love. &quo...
PREAMBLE: Before we even begin today's reflections, I have something to smell you, I mean tell you. One of the coolest things about Pa...