Tom McMahon's commentary today explains the difficulty in discussing the clerical abuse issie. Not so much what has occurred but why it has occurred. As Tom writes: "There is no priest I know willing or able to share his story of maturity and growth." Perhaps it is challenge all people face in discussing in public their sexual development?
Leadership need be open to truth lest the institution perish...
I have always been intrigued by World War Two stories of resistance forces who lived and worked among the Germans as they occupied conquered countries. These were the heroic patriots that gambled their lives as they resisted their conquers and fought back to regain freedom. Today the Catholic Church to which I was ordained in 1954 and served well for 26 years pretends I don't exist while my inside the church position as a married priest has become invaluable. I am a resistance fighter, totally immune to Vatican anger and mistreatment. I am free, a follower of Jesus who hopefully reports truth as I see the situation. I wish the Roman Catholic church well, its people deserve our support. Leadership need be open to truth lest the institution perish.
Today at our Senior History Club, the membership had invited the Reverend Juanita Cordero, woman American priest to present her cause and dialogue with 25 persons of mixed religious background. One of my major contribution was that history was being made. I saw the woman's movement pushing forward, joining the ranks of Susan B. Anthony, Florence Nightingale and the myriad of other females who have championed the rights and dignity of women. My version of "God is on their side".
After I have had a chance to interview club members I shall offer in a week or so a summary of how Juanita went over with her audience, some old time Catholics, Jews, denominational Christians, and Arabic. That history was underway was my main focus; there were numbers of issues introduced that could take many hours and meetings to understand this radical experience. Woman have become outspoken in all levels of modern life, especially the work place and university. How their power will bring about change will be of major interest to me. Again I repeat that this camel's nose movement of women priests is making its inroad into history and daily life. I sense they are here to stay ... with lots of maturity and learning needed.
Last night at our monthly Civil War Round Table meeting I won a book entitled The Civil War as a Theological Crisis. I am reading with interest. "What side was God on?", and "what role did the Bible play?" have center stage. Along with a Ken Burns' film on the radical newness of death and burial during the American Civil War we plan an intense study of religion and war. I am also into Appreciative Inquiry in the Catholic Church by Susan Star Paddock, a book whose theme is to look for the good done in religion today.
The dark tunnel of human sexuality...
Presently I am floundering as I re-enter the dark tunnel of human sexuality of my early days as child, seminarian and young priest. I find myself dreaming of violent suppression and the want for human freedom. There is no priest I know willing or able to share his story of maturity and growth. I am the lone wolf little boy from 15th street, San Francisco who is on his own to flesh out a clerical mentality that lies suppressed in a world glaring with tinselly cheap imitation sex, an apparent contradiction to the Creator's plan of nature. One of these weeks I will send forth my investigative thinking. Keep in mind my long held motto: "there are no experts!" Our post-Victorian age is slow at appreciating the Creator's idea of human sexuality. I'm into a book on male sexuality from 1978 and the issue of touching. I'm also prejudiced from my early training by my widowed mother.
The following is a piece I wrote for myself just a few years ago, one of many on clerical abuse. I forward it on for the message of hope I have had difficulty in putting my finger on while reviewing the substantial material concerning abuse. On the revelatory side we have had recent expose of a local Jesuit brother and his years ago criminality at Bellarmine High School; the newspapers seem to be searching in the dark and victims' group howling for annihilation of the entire priesthood. The air is filled with confusion, enough to make one ready to turn it all off. Here's what I wrote – with a couple of updates at the end...
A Paper from the Past...
CLERICAL ABUSE: Let's open with a note of hope ... in 1964, flying toward Paris after a visit to Lourdes our airplane was engulfed in a lighting storm, trays uprooted and a fair amount of fear registered among the passengers. On board were two dozen priests and nuns as well as our group of 20 American teenagers on tour of Europe. The kids had sung in a musical at home and slowly from the back of the plane came Ann's voice and the kids joined in … "whenever I feel afraid I hold my head erect and whistle a happy tune so no one will suspect I'm afraid..." . It's from from The King and I, Richard Rodgers. These are scary times for Catholics as we see our institution falling apart especially the long standing tradition of our once proud priesthood. Read the 24th Chapter of Luke and the don't-be-afraid account of the resurrection. I'm not into tombs and rolling away a stone and all that fancy cover-up of Jesus' death; what is of primary interest to me is that Jesus was (is) alive to his early followers and with them/us in a new form. In the midst of this worldwide clerical abuse tragedy we are challenged to keep our eye of faith on Jesus and whether I/you really believe the Man from Nazareth is our way of life. "Be not afraid ... I go before you" ... Jesus will weather this clerical storm. Remember the story of Jesus in the boat on a stormy lake...
His being above the water, walking or in a boat, is key to appreciating Jesus' integrity, evil lurking under the water. On days when gloomy reports fill my computer I sit back and "whistle a happy tune". I sense Jesus alive on the internet ... that Jesus fellow sure gets around and I marvel at the disguises he wears. Jesus is my human wholesome (holy) brother ... and sister. I trust his way of life.
A 2012 addition: Think of Jesus on the justice bus with Sister Simone Campbell.
A further 2012 addition: I heard Cardinal William Levada on radio yesterday, speaking in calm voice that all will be well concerning the universal furor over clerical scandal. The church now had a firm grip on the problem and the pope is ready to address the issue with healing and consoling words. "No", Levada said to his interrogator "I have no idea of what the pope is going to say; his holiness does his own thinking." Again Tom's 2012 addition: more proof that the voice of the laity is necessary as the hierarchy remains so impotent and silent.
Tom McMahon, San Jose, Ca.. In my secret hideaway sending out messages of hope from the underground. 26Sep2012
Tom McMahon, ordained in 1954 and now married, lives a very fulfilled life in San Jose and continues to contribute voraciously to several Catholic discussion lists in the States. He has been an enthusiastic supporter and encourager of the Catholica initiative from the very beginning.
What are your thoughts on this commentary?
You can contribute to the discussion in our forum.
[Index of Commentaries by Tom McMahon]