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Those Sinners are Our Sinners

The question of what counts as "religious practice" and its protected "free exercise" has dominated much of the Catholic conversation recently, and it has figured prominently on this blog and in the magazine. My approach to the question has been largely informed by a "religious studies" perspective, which attempts to think of "religion" as an object of academic inquiry and analyze the many ways in which it is performed and negotiated by those who use the concept. This includes both believers and non-believers. The former might argue either that "religion" is a 19th-century abstraction imposed on them from without, forcing them to define what they do in very restrictive and exclusionary terms (e.g. as strictly worship),or they might embrace it for the civil protections that it offers and seek shelter under its hopefully expanding exceptions. (The USCCB, it seems to me, is currently oscillating between both of these positions.) Non-believers also might either reject the concept as a 19th-century abstraction that has long been revealed to be a social or psychological pathology that we are (hopefully) outgrowing, or they might find it useful for describing certain communities and individuals that do, in fact, seem to preserve valuable beliefs and practices that set them apart and may provide important resources for a culturally impoverished post-secular society. Regardless of which of these four options one decides to take up, it seems clear that "religion" is indeed a concept that, like all inherited traits, we are stuck with, and thus, the question, "What is religion?" remains a live one, even if your answer is that it is an illusion.Against this "religious studies" background, Kathryn Lofton has a provocative post over at The Immanent Frame about a conference that she hosted last September at Yale on "Sex Abuse and the Study of Religion." The participants at the conference focused primarily on the epidemic in the Catholic Church, and looking at the archive of material compiled at BishopAccountability.org, they asked, How [are] the sex abuse cases also cases of religion?"

This is, of course, a very controversial question for many Catholics and non-Catholics alike, who would likely protest that sexual abuse is the furthest thing from an instance of "religion," insisting that it must be a perversion of religion, if not a negation of religion. Acknowledging this, Lofton writes:

While it seems reasonable to imagine the celebration of the Mass or the substance of seminary education as subjects of analysis for the academic study of religion, turning to sexual abuse is a more awkward maneuver to make. However, scholarship pursuing popular religious experience offers some vocabulary to begin such a venture. The study of lived religion focuses most intensely on places where people are wounded or broken, amid disruptions in relationships, because it is in these broken places that religious media become most exigent, Robert Orsi has written. It is in such hot cultural momentsat the edges of life, in times of social upheaval, confusion, or transition, when old orders give way and what is ahead remains unclearthat we see what matters most in a religious world. Orsi invites us to observe the simultaneity of religious life and religious studies, how the scholars role to interpret what matters becomes especially important precisely when it seems that the system collapses in its effort to maintain what matters.

For many, the current public controversy over "religious freedom" seems like such a "hot cultural moment," when believers and non-believers are deploying religious rhetoric to stake out positions for themselves in the public sphere and to move people in their communities to action. The Bishops' call for a "Fortnight for Freedom" and the language surrounding it conjures images of religious persecution and martyrdom, encourages holy defiance, suggests a suspension of political order for the sake of a Higher Call, imagines an expansive vocational understanding, in which everything a person of faith does is in some way an extension of living his or her Catholic identity, and all of this is done in an "effort to maintain what matters."Was this not also true of the perpetration and cover-up of sex abuse? I am, of course, not suggesting that the Bishops' actions in seeking to protect what they see as the "religious freedom" owed to them and their flock are the same kinds of actions as the perpetration and cover-up of sexual abuse. Yet, from the perspective of one who is interested in "religion" in all of its manifestations, the question is: What do these "hot cultural moments" reveal about a particular "religion"? When it comes to the "cultural moment" of abuse in the Church, Lofton writes:

These hot cultural moments are rarely the ones accompanied by photographers flashbulbs or press releases. After reviewing the documentary record, the story of Catholic sex abuse that emerges is one of stunning intensity and intimacy. This was a series of crimes committed in quiet auspices, in recreational and domestic spaces, in vestries, campgrounds, and childrens bedrooms. This was a series of relationships that were, simultaneously, abusive and interdependent, public and private, possessive and devotional. Sexual abuse between priest and parishioner is, therefore, a form of lived religion. This is not only because religious contexts offer hierarchical social situations conducive to abuse, but also because abuse is, in this documentary record, shown to be an articulation of Catholic ecclesiastical authority, Catholic theological investment, and Catholic sociological change.

It seems to me that if we, as a Church, are going to get to the "how" and "why," and more importantly, the "how do we not let this happen again" of sexual abuse, we are going to have to deal with the "religious," and specifically, "Catholic" nature of the problem. Of course, as we've all heard, sexual abuse is something that happens in many different kinds of institutions, but as we have also been told more recently, the things done by Catholics in those institutions have a distinctively Catholic character, which should be all the more true if that institution is a church.So, when we look at the stories of sexual abuse and its cover-up, and we see and hear theological language being used to justify those actions, we have to be honest about the way in which our theology might be inextricably intertwined with all those things done in its name. To take a recent case, it seems that Monsignor Lynn understood is vows of obedience to cover all actions prescribed for him by his Bishop and to entail unquestioning loyalty in their execution. Similarly, the perpetuation of abuse was often aided by replacing the language of psychology and illness with the language of pastoral care and forgiveness. These were not simply weaknesses of individual moral judgment or misunderstandings of the pathology of pedophelia, but they were religious failures, insofar as they involved the use of theological language to destroy rather than build-up the faithful. Thus, if we are going to confront the abuse crisis head-on, Lofton writes, we must ask questions like:

Why did sex abuse occur? How did it occur? Why was it managed as it was by ecclesiastical authorities? What sacramental thinking and theological rhetoric has circulated during its duration? For example, how did Catholic understandings of the child and of the priest, or the distinctive Catholic construction of human sexualityin particular the requirement of celibacy for leadership and prohibition of masturbationcontribute to the perpetuation of abuse? What sort of sexual politics, gender norms, cultural logic, and social facts contributed to the unmitigated persistence and slow diagnosis of abuse? And how does the very way we interpret and define abuse relate to its experience and practice?

It's not enough to name sexual abuse as a lapse in "religious" practice and belief. In order to understand it in its specifically "Catholic" form, we must re-examine our theology and the ways in which we perform that theology institutionally and interpersonally. In this case, far from being a useless abstraction, Lofton is encouraging scholars and lay people to use the category of "religion" to examine the very particularity of lives lived in faith and doubt, redemption and sin. As she writes, "'Religion' as a category has no meaning if it is merely saved to designate ideal practice; it is a term that summarizes failure and fulfillment of prescribed relations." If Lofton is right, then, "religious studies" might actually be able to illuminate the failures of religion, which believers themselves might miss with their gaze fixed firmly on the promises, and not the perils, of their own traditions. And while some might even be tempted to shake their heads with sanctimonious disappointment at the few sinners that are spoiling the Church for the rest of us, perspectives from the study of religion might help us see that those sinners are our sinners, their words are our words, their victims are our victims, and, in this case, their abuse was Catholic abuse.

About the Author

Eric Bugyis teaches Religious Studies in the Division of Politics, Philosophy and Public Affairs at the University of Washington Tacoma.

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What a timely article! It seems that everything the church does is cast in the light of the sex abuse scandal. For instance, the Fortnight For Freedom is as you describe, Eric, but it is hard to get past its real meaning because the measuring stick will always be against the "sins of our leaders". One thing that comes to mind is our Catholic notion of our authority figures in the church. We are more apt to measure the tenents of our faith and the rules of the church in light of the frailties of these men. Thus, firm catholics cannot help but rely on their own conscience concerning matters of health care etc.; not what the church is calling violations of freedom. If anything, the sex abuse scandal has torn the church open, and those people who care about its survival will give positive input in spite of the flaws of our bishops or other powers that be in the church.

A few thoughts:"So, when we look at the stories of sexual abuse and its cover-up, and we see and hear theological language being used to justify those actions, we have to be honest about the way in which our theology might be inextricably intertwined with all those things done in its name. To take a recent case, it seems that Monsignor Lynn understood is vows of obedience to cover all actions prescribed for him by his Bishop and to entail unquestioning loyalty in their execution."I imagine that many or at least some bishops, priests, and lay people have held the notion of obedience which was apparently articulated or at least held by Monsignor Lynn -- i.e., the notion that obedience of one's religious superiors required was necessary even when obedience would mean going against one's conscience and/or doing something sinful (such as covering up sex abuse, breaking laws, etc.). However, this has never been official Catholic doctrine, has it? I'm not a priest or religious (though I'm still kind of saving myself for the Jesuits), but that was absolutely NEVER the understanding of obedience that I learned in all my years of Catholic grade school, high school, college, and grad school (I'm 30), or that I've encountered in various writers of the Catholic tradition. For those who do have such a defective understanding of obedience, where did they acquire it? For example, where would Monsignor Lynn have acquired it? Of course, we might also ask, was that REALLY his understanding of obedience, or is it the case that that was that more of a defense strategy and he really did know he was doing wrong?So far I've been discussing the issue of obedience and authrotiy on the part, basically, of bishops, priests, religious, and, I guess, lay people working in the Church. Of course, the issue also arises with regard to how ordinary Catholic lay people in parishes, and in particular Catholic children, have at different points in history and in different regions understood obedience and/or the authority and status of bishops, priests, and religious. And here of course there has probably been (at least in the past) a big disconnect between official Catholic doctrine vs. popular understandings and attitudes. I imagine there was probably also a difference between how more educated and/or better catechized Catholics understood the position of a priest, vs. how less educated and/or more poorly catechized Catholics understood it. For what it's worth, in my own case (again, I'm 30, and if it's relevant, I'm from the Philadelphia archdiocese, though I went to private Catholic schools, not diocesan ones -- Sisters of Mercy for grade school, Jesuits for high school), I think even from a young age I would have known exactly what was going on if a priest had, God forbid, attempted to abuse me: my parents and especially my Mom taught me about such dangers at an early age, and also, my parents are pretty liberal with regard to Catholicism, and I never had a very exalted view of priests, and I think I knew even in late grade school about cases of clergy sexual abuse. Of course, people in other times and places would have had very different experiences. To boil down and reflect on a lot of what I've said, I guess I'm saying that it will be helpful to distinguish between what is or has been official Catholic doctrine, vs. various defective theologies, whether such defective theologies are held by priests and religious such as Monsignor Lynn, or on a more "popular" level by Catholics growing up in past decades, etc. With that distinction in mind, I think this post and the article/post it quotes is helpful and interesting -- I think it will meet resistance among some, but I don't think it necessarily needs to.Another line that caught my eye: "Why was [sex abuse] managed as it was by ecclesiastical authorities?" -- Among other things, I wonder if part of the problem might be reluctance among Catholics, and among humans in general, to acknowledge publicly certain types of sins/crimes/faults/etc. I mean, I suppose many bishops in, say, the 1950s or 1960s, might have thought that it would harm people's faith if they turned abusive priests into the police, and such priests were put on trial, and the whole thing was all over the media, etc. But really, why should it have harmed people's faith? We're taught that all of us are sinners, in need of redemption (and of course sometimes those sins are crimes that lead to jail, etc.). Why this need to think that priests are always automatically holier? I mean, when a priest says "Lord, wash away my iniquities; cleanse me of my sins," he isn't just saying it for fun; it's true.

I think the root of the Church of Rome's sex abuse crisis is the doctrine that the Father sent his only begotten Son to die for us on the cross in order to effect our salvation. This was not part of primtive Christian belief, which stressed the importance of helping neighbor in need and remembering the self-sacrifice of Jesus' entire earthly ministry. Every Christian man and woman was part of a *priestly community* by virtue of his or her baptism. The liturgical presider --- not considered a "priest" as we understand this term today, by the way --- was unordained and fulfilled this role by virtue of his community leadership. Unfortunately, the idea of the crucified Jesus as (innocent) "victim" came about quite early in Christian doctrine, and the sacred liturgy came to be seen as a memorial/re-presentation of Jesus' "sacrifice" on Calvary. This scenario would require a "priest" to mediate between God on high and the people down below. Because of his position in the church, the "priest"thus came to occupy a higher place on the ecclesial totem pole. A church that initially saw Jesus washing the feet of his disciples and mixing with the "have nots" of his day and place eventually became a church of hierarchy: deacon, priest, bishop. The liturgy would eventually become the domain of the ordained, and the people might receive the eucharist once a year if they received it at all. Add to this picture the legalization of Christianity by imperial decree early in the 4th century, not to mention various civil perks and authorities granted to bishops over their Christian "flocks". With the aforementioned would come imperial/royal interference in the selection of bishops and other church officials because the earthly rulers recognized the influence that could come with ecclesiastical appointments. Let's not overlook, too, the interference in civil matters by the ecclesial hierarchs. As they say, "the rest is history".Today, we still identify our ordained liturgical presiders as "priests" who enjoy an "ontological" superiority by virtue of their ministerial ordination. They are said to walk "in the person of Christ the head". We still see the mass as the re-presentation of the sacrifice --- God's sacrifice of his Son --- on Calvary. Thus, we still see the essential role of somebody to mediate between God and man. If James Davidson and Dean Hoge's "Mind the gap: The return of the lay-clerical divide" is any indication, we've seen a resurgence of clergy ("JPII priests") who believe they are separate from --- and above --- the laity and, therefore, have the final word on matters of church. Adults have no problem addressing their ordained presiders (even the younger guys) as "Father"; it's the "priests on pedestal" mentality that infantilizes the laity. We cannot have mass without the "priest" (never mind this was not the picture in primitive Christian communities).The aforementioned groundwork provides ample opportunity for priestly sexual abuse of children, episcopal malfeasance, and papal indifference to --- nay, complicity in --- all the aforementioned. Those who fail to learn the lessons of psychology and history are doomed to see it repeated.Orthotoxy is the root of our sin and dysfunction.

Joseph -- Isn't all of that a little far-fetched? Can one really draw so clear a line between the belief that Jesus died for our sins, and clergy sexual abuse? (And of course there are so many variations on the doctrine that Jesus died for our sins, i.e., so many different models of redemption, and most of them are not necessarily problematic, as the penal substitution model would be.) Also, isn't the way you describe some Catholic Christian doctrines a caricature? Would any of the Church Fathers, or the scholastics, etc. have said that the priest mediates "between God on high and the people down below," with all that that implies? Would any have said that the priest "occup[ies] a higher place on the ecclesial totem pole" (of course they wouldn't have had the term "totem pole"), in the sense that you're using it, as if they're not meant to serve, etc.? It's one thing to say that bishops and popes have failed to actually serve rather than expect to be served; it's quite another thing to think that Church leaders and Catholic theology has ever actually said, "the bishops are meant to be served by the laity," etc. The problem is more hypocrisy than heresy.Basically, I don't think that the system of an ecclesial hierarchy itself leads to sex abuse and its cover up. Of course, I do think there should be reforms in things such as how bishops are chosen, accountability, etc., but I don't think you necessarily have to tamper with Catholic doctrine in order to do it.

Lofton's argument may be too subtle to summarize adequately in a blog post, but I am skeptical of efforts to connect clerical sex-abuse to basic features of Catholicism. If I claimed there was something about French culture that encouraged alcoholism, you might respond, "That's interesting -- are there studies that show that alcoholism is especially prevalent among the French?" If I answered, "I don't know, but I have noticed that whenever French alcoholics try to deny or rationalize their problem they do so in French," you would probably not be impressed. Of course Catholics who do bad things -- things the church condemns -- use the moral vocabulary available to them when they try to rationalize their actions. This fact alone does not make those actions distinctively Catholic. Unless there is solid evidence that sex abuse is more common among Catholic priests than among other adults who have regular contact with children, there is no point in asking what it is about Catholicism in particular that turns priests into abusers. Of course, the cover-up is another matter: one can plausibly argue that structural features of the church as an institution conduced to secrecy and an unwillingness to let law-enforcement officials do their jobs. That plausible argument has been made by many people -- including by those tasked by the bishops with investigating the causes of the scandal. But here, too, one must be careful not to introduce mere speculation as conclusive analysis. Eric writes, "the perpetuation of abuse was often aided by replacing the language of psychology and illness with the language of pastoral care and forgiveness." How does he know this? As a matter of historical fact, wasn't the replacement the other way around? The peak of the abuse crisis coincided with the ascendency of the therapeutic approach to pedophilia, both inside and outside the church. Bishops tended to be deferential to psychologists who claimed that pedophilia was primarily to be understood as a form of mental illness and that most pedophiles could be rehabilitated and safely returned to service. Of course, the idea that pedophilia is an illness is not incompatible with the idea that sexual abuse is a sin, but the lesson drawn by many bishops from the advice they received from experts was that pedophiles were not fully responsible for their behavior, that they were pitiable compulsives who needed treatment, not moral condemnation or criminal prosecution. In any case, it's far from clear that the "language of psychology and illness" was in this instance more compatible with law and order than was the "language of sin and forgiveness."

The fact remains that the sex abuse scandal has hurt the church more than a sex abuse scandal in another secular area of society precisely because it happened in the church--the area of our lives that is supposed to be holy and helpful. Any expression that tries to minimize the magnitude of the breech and its everlasting tentacles within our church here and now and into the foreseeable future is shortsighted at best. I think what Eric is saying is that any excuse was used even in the name of God, and that is what makes these sins so hard to forgive. The church needs to do more than pay millions of dollars; it needs to publicly apologize to all of the laity for falling short of its barest duties to carry out the mission of Christ. The Fortnight for Freedom is misdirected.

"After reviewing the documentary record, the story of Catholic sex abuse that emerges is one of stunning intensity and intimacy. This was a series of crimes committed in quiet auspices, in recreational and domestic spaces, in vestries, campgrounds, and childrens bedrooms. This was a series of relationships that were, simultaneously, abusive and interdependent, public and private, possessive and devotional. Sexual abuse between priest and parishioner is, therefore, a form of lived religion."What repugnant nonsense. To extend Lofton's concept, one could as well claim that abuse of an adolescent student by a teacher constitutes an educational experience, or a stepfather who molests his young daughter is engaging in an act of parenting.

"abuse is, in this documentary record, shown to be an articulation of Catholic ecclesiastical authority, Catholic theological investment, and Catholic sociological change."It's hard to characterize a statement like this except as anti-Catholic palaver of the most vile kind.

To act contrary to one's own religious standards is not a religious act. If murder my neighbor, that is not a religious act, it is counter-religious. Prof. Lofton seems to have confused an association with a cause.One's own religious standards can, of course, be mistaken interpretations of the standards of one's own religious group. The problems arise when the standards aren't clear.There is no such thing as a specifically Catholic sexual abuse. True, IF one of our rituals called for a specific sort of abusive sexual act, then there would be. But there is no evidence, is there?, of any sort of ritual. Or if there were a sub-species of sexual abuse peculiar to Catholics (acts done only by Catholics), then in an extended sense of "Catholic" ("acts done only by Catholics"), then there would be. But, again, there don't seem to be any of those. One could even stretch the language to cover sexual abuses prompted by *mistaken* Catholic beliefs. This latter kind of case seems to fit Msgr. Lynn.He thought, apparently, that his acts were acts of holy obedience of the Catholic variety. He therefore could claim that his actions were motivated by the "Catholic" teaching as he saw it, and, therefore, his were acts of religion. But he is wrong about Catholic teaching -- the Church does not tell us to obey unjust commands, in fact, it tells us not to. Or does the Church teach both -- that he should have obeyed but he also should not have obeyed? Or was it the case that the Church changed its teaching on the subject? (Here we go again.)

Why so often the wide brush to describe events? There is definitely a pathology in the way the RCC has addressed sex. At the same time there is a lot of pathology in the practice of sex with those who are not Catholics. While the church has always said the abuse does not take away the use it always seemed that the use was sinful. Certainly, Augustine condemned pleasure in sex and while others have found him wrong his opinion seemed to have prevailed. John Paul II extensive writings on the theology of the body seems to portray some kind of preoccupation with the subject. Not that they have it right but Protestants are generally not that preoccupied with the matter. To blame celibacy is not to condemn it because it seems to have been well placed with Paul and others. And Paul always saw it as a choice and perhaps preferred if one would work as he did for the gospel But when it became mandatory it seems to have produced so many miscreants that it muddled the whole area of sex.I have always maintained that the gathering of certain women around priests was because of their belief that the priest could not hold up to advances and that he would eventually concede as many did. No doubt many clergy were the aggressors but the priest as a "public temptation" is a phenomenon that few writers have adequately tackled.The Catholic literary world has been silent on the modern sexual novel Fifty Shades of Grey. Does that say something? At any rate there is something to the notion that sexuality in the church is poorly developed. But then again when it comes to sex many can become tongue tied. When pornography came up before the Congress some years ago one member instead of describing or defining it said "I know it when I see it." So Eric, You and Lofton may have to develop your thesis more cohesively. Right now it seems more conjecture than reality. It seems you know "Catholic sexual abuse" when you see it but may have trouble defining it or describing it. While we are all sinners it seems an awful stretch to include the whole church in sex abuse.

Jim -- I don't think Lofton's reflection/argument necessarily has to be read as anti-Catholic; it's hard to explain what I mean, but from what I read of this blog post, it didn't sound like that. In fact, I think according to her line of thinking, one COULD say that abuse of a student by a teacher constitutes an "educational experience," or "a form of lived education," or something. I could be way off, but I think she merely means that the abuse took place in the context of, and was expressed through, Catholicism. Similarly, a teacher abusing a student would take place in the context of education, and be experienced as having to do with education, etc.Speaking of which, in thinking about a lot of this lately (because of the Church scandals, the Sandusky trial, and seemingly every other scandal that occurs), a thought has occurred to me -- how much does gender figure into all of this? Suppose a teenage boy were being sexually abused not by a (male) priest, but by a female teacher? (And I suppose age could be a factor in here.) I.e., suppose a 35-year-old female teacher seduced, say, a 16-year-old boy, and intercourse regularly took place, as well as other sexual acts. Would the psychological damage be the same, or as severe, as it would if it were a 35-year-old male? Would the public outrage be as severe? What if at one point during intercourse, the female teacher changed her mind, and told the boy to stop, but he didn't -- would it suddenly switch to being a case of the boy raping the teacher? I know this is going off topic, but I have a sense that gender/sex and the relative power/privilege of different genders/sexes is a bigger factor in this than we normally think about, or a bigger part of the context. I mean, think about the oddities that occur if you were to take a transcript of a teenage boy's gut-wrenching testimony about being sexually abused by an older man, and try to change it to being about an older women: "I screamed for help, but nobody heard"? When you consider it, it just becomes apparent how much power and privilege is accorded to males, whether by society, by biology, or by both. Could this sort of contrast shed any light on the issue of clergy sexual abuse?

Brendan, the earliest Christian communities did not have *priests* as we understand this term today. On the other hand, folks back then did select or otherwise acknowledge community leadership, and it was this leadership, as Kenan Osborne has noted in his history of ordained ministry, that served as the basis for a person's liturgical leadership. As I've noted, with a change in the meaning of sacrifice --- to that of the sacrifice of the Son by the Father --- would come also the need for ritual/cultic *priests*. A priest, regardless of religious background, by definition mediates between God/gods and human beings. It is this religious positional status that elevates the priest above the people. As Jaroslav Pelikan observed, "Chrysostom [d. 407 AD] also spoke of 'the Lord being sacrificed and laid upon the altar and the priest standing and praying over the victim', summarizing the sacrificial language about the Eucharist which had also become accepted practice. Therefore the apostles, too, were represented as priests" (THE CHRISTIAN TRADITION: A HISTORY OF THE DEVELOPMENT OF DOCTRINE, Vol. 1, THE EMERGENCE OF THE CATHOLIC TRADITION (100-600). Have Catholic leaders and theology, you ask, ever taught that the bishops (and, by extension, priests) "are meant to be served by the laity?" In fact, yes: Actions speak louder than words. Theology says that the ordinand is a "priest" (it also says the ordinand is a presbyter, but this Vatican II retrieval from primitive Christianity is generally downplayed). The phrase "priests on pedestals" comes to mind. We are told that the ordinand enjoys an "ontological" superiority over the laity. We have the "common priesthood of believers" (the only kind of priesthood in the primitive churches), on the one hand, and the "ordained priesthood", on the other. Only a priest can "confect the eucharist". In short:Revised understanding of sacrifice + Associated cultic priesthood + Imperial bestowal of episcopal civil authority over laity + Subsequent developments = Clerical culture, i.e., elevation of the ordained and subordination of the laity. If recent revelations are any indication, this is a recipe for disaster (and I'm not exaggerating). Organizational psychologist Edgar Schein has written that culture endures because it "works". The primitive churches were "flatter". Today, we have hierarchy --- indeed, in spades! And they dress and behave the part. Ain't for nothin' we hear complaints about the hierarchs' "lack of transparency and accountability". Arrogance comes to mind, as well.When we look at the institutional Church of Rome, and when we accept that a culture endures because it "works", one must ask, Works for whom?If you haven't already, you may wish to peruse two articles:+ Robert Egan's "Why Not? Scripture, History and Women's Ordination", originally published in COMMONWEAL and available at http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1252/is_7_135/ai_n29481721/+ James Mackey's "Turning punishment into instrument of love" at http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/opinion/2010/0512/1224270207377_pf.html(HT: Jimmie Mac)The problem is ecclesial culture informed by a theology that separates the laity below from the "priesthood" above.

Matt: One of the things I found so interesting about Lofton's argument is that it actually uses "religion" in the more expansive sense that the Bishops and others have been arguing for and that I have been arguing against in the "religious freedom" debate. My contention has been that the only practices that the government could competently identify as "religious" should involve worship or catechesis, but those so exercised about the threat to "religious freedom" posed by the HHS have been insisting that doctoring or educating is also a protected "religious exercise." To which I ask: How does one teach chemistry Catholicly? How does one perform an appendectomy Catholicly? Mutatis mutandis, you seem to ask: How does one abuse Catholicly? In the case of education or healthcare, the arguments seem to be that Catholicism forms the identity of those performing the profession and thus is an intrinsic part of what they do because it suffuses their understanding of who they are. Why couldn't this also be true of the sex abuse that happened in the Church? It seems to me that it is actually more likely that we could apply the label "religious" in this case, because the people in question were clergy and the institution they represented was a church. As for your French example, I don't imagine that you mean to suggest that theology is like a foreign language that could be quite easily translated into English? E.g. "God" in Christianese means some psychological reification of your father in English. This is a position that some take, but usually it is with the intent of showing that there is actually no real content or additional claims being made in theology that are not already covered by "secular" language. I expect that theological speech is different because of the concepts that it uses and to what and how those concepts refer. So, for instance, priests don't have a job, but a vocation. They aren't certified; they are ordained. Believers don't join the Church, like a country club; they are baptized into it. I take it that "vocation" is not just Christianese for "job," but it is actually saying something different. Also, what it describes is something different. So, if theological language is being used in the perpetration of abuse, then it seems plausible that something different might be going on. Just as we would not want to assume that some Catholic nurse saying she feels "called" to heal is simply a theological rationalization of her job, we might not want to so quickly assume that the theologically-framed self-understandings of either the abuser or abused are simply religious rationalizations.One of the difficult questions that Lofton raises is: When is "religion" synonymous with "rationalization," and when is it "authentically religious?" Catholics might want to say that the "religious" self-understanding of the nurse is "authentic," but that the "religious" self-understandings of the abuser and the abused are just "rationalizations." But, what are the non-circular criteria of analysis here? Who gets to decide that their "religious exercise" is actually "religious" over against those other apparent manifestations of "religion" that are not really "religious?" I think that Lofton is suggesting that if it looks like "religion" and talks like "religion," then scholars of "religion" ought to treat it as such. And, as troubling as it might be, maybe practitioners ought to as well. Otherwise, we might perpetuate a "religious" problem by failing to embrace "religious" reform.

Joseph--Your answers are touching on my comments about the erosion of the authority of the church. You are right in talking about infantalizing the laity and the priesthood above with the laity below. This has been the traditional teaching that has been implied in the church for years. My point is that the breeches occurring because of the sex abuse scandal has blown that theory. Melinda Gates this week said that she felt no compulsion as a Catholic to back away from her stance on making birth control widely available to third world countries. She said, and rightly so, that their situation demands it. Think of the rapes etc. that these women endure. Her point was dismissive about her role as a catholic. It has no bearing on the needs in these countries.

Eric states that "priests don't have a job, but a vocation." This says it all. That is precisely why the sex abuse scandal is worse in the church than anywhere else. The church had a standard of morality to uphold. The church will suffer for this scandal for many years to come, and it will undermine their authority. Eric's last statement about "perpetuating a religious problem by failing to embrace 'religious' reform" has truth in it. Unless the church sees all of the implications of this crisis, they are going to be hard pressed to irradicate the faulty thinking throughout the church that led to such agregious actions within its walls.

I tend to disagree with my good friend James Mackey that "blood sacrifice" is a late invention of the Constantinian Church. "I think the root of the Church of Romes sex abuse crisis is the doctrine that the Father sent his only begotten Son to die for us on the cross in order to effect our salvation. This was not part of primitive Christian belief, which stressed the importance of helping neighbor in need and remembering the self-sacrifice of Jesus entire earthly ministry."But the NT itself has Jesus say "The Son of Man came to give his life as a ransom for the many" and the Eucharist is presented as his blood poured out for the remission of sins. Stretching cause-effect reasoning so widely could lead to arguments against any reference to God, since it could be argued that the idea of God introduces confusion into the minds of sex offenders, who use religion to undercut the gravity of their actions.We need to carefully limit this kind of reasoning, because it can easily become quite nihilistic.

"As Ive noted, with a change in the meaning of sacrifice to that of the sacrifice of the Son by the Father would come also the need for ritual/cultic *priests*. A priest, regardless of religious background, by definition mediates between God/gods and human beings. It is this religious positional status that elevates the priest above the people. As Jaroslav Pelikan observed, Chrysostom [d. 407 AD] also spoke of the Lord being sacrificed and laid upon the altar and the priest standing and praying over the victim, summarizing the sacrificial language about the Eucharist which had also become accepted practice. Therefore the apostles, too, were represented as priests "The problem, however, is that Jesus himself is represented not only as a sacrificial offering (Romans 3.38ff. I Cor on "Christ our Pasch is sacrificed" etc. etc.) but also as a Priest, who offers the perfect sacrifice (Hebrews).

Eric Bugyis: I would say that Kathryn Lofton is engaging in guilt by association. Shame on her. She's going to give religious studies a bad name by engaging in such ridiculous nonsense.As to the Catholic bishops and their fortnight for religious freedom campaign, the Catholic bishops don't want to come clean about the role of bishops in transferring priests against whom allegations of sex abuse had been made. As a result, the bishops want to change the topic of the discussion from the priest-sex-abuse scandal to something else -- anything else! To Americans, freedom of religion sounds as American as apple pie. So the bishops have decided to try to use freedom of religion as a way to change the topic of the discussion, at least in Catholic circles.However, just because the Catholic bishops in the U.S. have been rather foot-loose and fancy-free in the way in which they have gone about formulating their "cause" regarding freedom of religion in the U.S., Kathryn Lofton and you should not interpret their bad example as a cue for you to follow their bad example and put together your own version of foot-loose and fancy-free thought about the priest-sex-abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church.Instead of following their dubious way of proceeding to put together a patchwork of stuff under the heading of freedom of religion, you and Kathryn Lofton should recognize that the bishops are nutty. In short, you and Kathryn Lofton should not aspire to follow their nutty example by constructing a nutty case under the heading of religious studies.

The Fortnight for Freedom, the sex abuse scandals, One Direction, peanut butter and xylophones have this in common: none of them have anything to do with one another.

Thomas: I should make (have made?) clear that I am using Lofton's argument about taking "religious abuse" as a proper object for the study of religion from a scholarly, third-person perspective and thinking about its implications for my participant perspective as a Catholic. So, any concerns regarding "guilt by association" are mine, and I'm not exactly ashamed about them. If our religion abused, then we should be worried about that.Thomas and Jim: The connection to the "Fortnight for Freedom" is mine as well, and the point there is that the Bishops are playing the same "what is religion?" game as scholars of religion. So, if there are insights from religious studies concerning what constitutes a "religious practice," it would be helpful if the Bishops would take heed. Thomas, you seem to agree with me that the Bishops are making a category mistake in claiming that healthcare and education are protected "religious exercises." Jim, you seem to agree with the Bishops that protected "religious exercise" is more expansive than worship and catechesis. But how expansive and why? It seems to me that Lofton's analysis might help us think through that question. When, for example, do things done by clergy in the name of religion, like claiming institutional autonomy from legal authority, fail to qualify as protected religious practice? From a scholarly perspective, pace Lofton, when do they fail to qualify as religious phenomena at all?

Eric,The long series of questions in the last quote you give from Lofton in the post itself strike me as an amalgam of the straightforward, the muddled, and the tendentious.As for your own question (at 4;55 a.m.): "When is religion synonymous with rationalization, and when is it authentically religious? The title you give your post seems to suggest an answer with regard the sexual abuse of children.

"My contention has been that the only practices that the government could competently identify as religious should involve worship or catechesis"I believe you are mistaken in your contention. I'll explain why below."One of the things I found so interesting about Loftons argument is that it actually uses religion in the more expansive sense that the Bishops and others have been arguing for ... In the case of education or healthcare, the arguments seem to be that Catholicism forms the identity of those performing the profession and thus is an intrinsic part of what they do because it suffuses their understanding of who they are."I find Lofton's concept of religion, as described in your post, to be badly flawed, and to the extent that her analysis depends on her flawed take on what religion is, it may explain why I find her so offensive. That her notion of religion, and the bishops' notion of religion, are both more expansive than your constricted notion, doesn't mean that her notion and the bishops' notion are the same. I think it's pretty clear that the bishops don't consider "religion" to be what Lofton does. It is not mere "identity" - if you take "identity" to mean "the state of having been initiated into Catholicism" without all of the connotations and implications that flow from that sacramental reality - that is what Catholic individuals, and the leaders of Catholic institutions and associations like Notre Dame, Catholic hospitals and Catholic social service agencies, assert in protesting the HHS mandate. In fact, Lofton (and you?) wants to bracket out the very thing that makes Catholicism a Christian *religion* rather than a mere voluntary association of humans. You quote her as saying, "Religion as a category has no meaning if it is merely saved to designate ideal practice." In fact, it is the practices in conformance with the ideal - the principles, the standards, which were bequeathed to us by God, culminating in his Son who is God's Word and who came to fulfill the Law - that serve as the measure of our fidelity to our faith. Obeying that Word, in all its breadth and depth, is the essence of what it means to be Catholic and live a Catholic life. This explains how it is that a surgeon who removes an appendix can do so in a Catholic way: if she became a surgeon and maintains her professional competence in response to a call by God to this vocation; if she is performing this surgery as an act of love toward the ill patient; and if she is doing it in a way that respects the medical-ethics standards taught by the church's teaching authority; she is, in fact, performing a "Catholic" appendectomy. Her actions, her principles and her way of life well up out of her Catholic faith. And she should have wide latitude to live her faith this way in US civil society.Abusing minors, or aiding and abetting the abuse of minors, is a perversion of that fidelity. It doesn't well up in response to one's faith in God. It comes from some other source. It is, quite literally, not-Catholicism. Whatever it is - surely a crime and a sin, whatever else it is - it is the opposite of responding to, and obeying, the Word.

Robert Imbelli: I'm not sure what answer you are reading into the title of my post, but I should clarify that the claim that abuse and its cover-up can be an act of "religion" doesn't imply that this abuse is, was, or should be sanctioned by religious authorities. It simply means that religious concepts and practices shaped the culture in which such acts were made possible, and thus, to adequately deal with the problem, we have to address the specific *religious* culture in which it arose. It cannot be the case that there is ideal Catholicism, on the one hand, and all that sinful stuff the heathens do, on the other... Jim: You are right that Lofton brackets the theological content of Catholicism. But, if we were to replace it, the story might go something like this (h/t Augustine): Sin, as the failure to achieve an ideal state, can only be judged as a species of that ideal and the relationship in which the sinner stands to it. Unless we want to slide into a Manichean view of the world, in which Evil is the equal and opposite counterpart to the Good, we are always going to have to deal with sin as some failure of the Good. So, when sin occurs in the Church, this means that the Church is falling short of embodying the Good. It's not the case that there is some positive force called non-Catholicism that is attacking a religiously pure Catholicism, but within Catholicism there are more or less successful instantiations of the ideal, which we do not grasp fully (otherwise, it wouldn't be so hard to live it). When sin occurs, it behooves us to examine our collective Catholic consciences to figure out which parts of the religion are "non-ideal" and fix them.

A potential benefit: Lofton and her colleagues will learn how strange their vocabulary seems to non-academics. For sake of argument suppose they have discovered or are about to discover a root cause that has escaped notice until now. I suggest that if they want to publicize their discovery they will have to run their prose through a truth in advertising filter. For example, Lofton's statement "While our conclusions are preliminary, our clamor for more work in this vein is absolute. There will be no true healing, no true reconciliation, and no true justice, absent the practice of humane interpretation" converts to "We have no idea what we're talking about so clearly more research is needed. There is an urgent need for us to discuss our latest high-minded concepts with our like-minded colleagues at more well-funded conferences."Observe how the truly adept negotiate and perform.

I believe the answer given by Eric above is true. We cannot possibly address sins of the church unless we examine practices of the church that are less than ideal that may have fostered sinful behavior. The church cannot be on the defensive, but rather must be on the offensive in examining itself and rooting out practices, attitudes, and faulty ways of thinking which may have led to the sinful abuse.

It's not nice to have this turned around on you is it? How many people have tried to lay the blame for child molestation at the feet of the structural and cultural failings of secular liberalism? "The sixties made them do it" has been the working hypothesis of a lot of people. So the question is, are there structural pieces that contribute to the incidence and perpetuation of sexual abuse of children, and are any of those present within the Catholic Church? Calling them "religious" strikes me as moving to the conclusion way too fast, but you CAN deduce similarities among institutions involved in high profile abuse cases:1. Male centric 2. Clear hierarchical authority 3. Distinctive culture -- many who are part of the organization are convinced of its separateness and uniqueness and have a very strong motive to maintain that separateness and give it the benefit of the doubt when it is challenged by detractors and accusersThis is what the PSU football program and the Roman Catholic Church have in common, and I think Horace Mann has two out of three (all but the first). In other words, sexual abuse occurs in many settings, and is always first and foremost the responsibility of the perpetrator, but there may be some settings in which it is able to thrive and permeate an institution because institutional features make it difficult to address. Indeed, the same features that might make the institution strong in some respects make it vulnerable to opportunistic abusers in others. Individual perpetrators explain the incidence of abuse. What explains the failure to deal with those individuals as a forthright and normal law enforcement matter? If it isn't (one hopes) the fact that those in authority excused or encouraged horrible wrongdoing, what was it if not the gravitational pull of institutional norms and values?

Why the topic, with varying views here, is important is that man faithful are "tired" of the topic and wish it would end.They understand the humanity of their clergy but also expect professionalism in their dealing withe faithfulThis also involves also the management of clergy by their overseers, the bishops and up the line.The Sandusky case highlighted two important points here:-the desire by the institutions that oversee such people to tamp down the problem rather than confront it.-As the PA Atty General noted. we need to continue to strengthen the call to listen to the children first and foremost.Yet it strikes me that the Church leaders, despite nice words, continue to fight as hard as posible to continue institutional protection as in the continuing Lynn (possibly Bransfield to come) , Milwaukee civil suit and the KC Bishop Finn trial.The Chutch has its own governace and secrecy as a special problem in this and it's hardly resolved.Unless a better effort is made to tranparently deal with violations of public trust and their handling, the Church has a special problem = rooted in the nature of that trust.In reading this thread and others, I have little confidence we'll move forward in that direction as issues of internal loyalty and obedieince seem rather critical as opposed to the common good not to mention horrendous crime.

Eric,you write above: "It simply means that religious concepts and practices shaped the culture in which such acts were made possible, and thus, to adequately deal with the problem, we have to address the specific *religious* culture in which it arose. It cannot be the case that there is ideal Catholicism, on the one hand, and all that sinful stuff the heathens do, on the other "Evidently, in the matter under consideration, the failure was that "religious concepts and practices" did not shape the "culture" sufficiently. Let's start "simply" with Galatians 5:13-25.As for your reference to "heathens," I much prefer the discernment with which you began: sinners -- they and we.Nor is it some abstract "ideal Catholicism" that was transgressed, but Christ and his body in the bodies of those violated.

Robert, I'm not sure that we are that far apart, except that I would like to also entertain the possibility that the Church's culture was/is being shaped by the wrong "religious concepts and practices." If, as Augustine tells us, we "see now through a glass darkly," then sin does not only affect our will, but our intellect as well. So, the "sin" in question could just as easily be in the concepts as it is in the sinful actions "rationalized" by them.

Eric,You write, "One of the things I found so interesting about Loftons argument is that it actually uses 'religion' in the more expansive sense that the Bishops and others have been arguing for and that I have been arguing against in the 'religious freedom' debate."This is not quite right. At most, the bishops are arguing that everything Catholics do ought to be an expression of their faith. Whenever they do what Christ and his church bid them do, they are practicing their religion. Lofton is arguing that everything Catholics do, whether in accord with the church's teaching or not, counts as religious practice, since whatever they do, they do as Catholics. This is true but trivial. When I go for a jog, I jog as a Catholic; when I was the dishes, I was the dishes as a Catholic, etc. Catholics also sin and break the law as Catholics, but that does not mean that their sinning or lawbreaking is attributable to Catholicism and can therefore be reasonably described as "Catholic religious practice."If a doctor, having taken the Hippocratic Oath, uses his medical knowledge to poison someone to death, the murder is not to be described as an example of "medical practice." The important thing is not the connection between his professional formation and his knowledge of which pills in which combinations would be lethal. The important thing is that harming a patient is a violation of a physician's most basic duty.Because Lofton's definition of religious practice is actually more expansive than the bishops' definition, you cannot endorse the former while continuing to reject the latter as insufficiently narrow.

It simply means that religious concepts and practices shaped the culture in which such acts were made possibleThis may be the same question raised by Father Imbelli, but I would think the religious concept that made such acts possible is the Fall, no? Has it been shown that Catholics abused children more than other religious, more than others in position of authority, for example, school teachers, counselors, etc? If not, I'm not sure what could be particularly Catholic about it.

In addition to seconding my esteemed colleague's comments, I think it's worth noting that Lofton's bald assertion that most abusers repeated their behavior with multiple victims, often in multiple parish locations doesn't square with John Jay's research, which found that most priest-abusers were one-time offenders.

Matt, The concepts we use shape the way we think about ourselves, our actions, our responsibilities, etc. So, if a priest, for example, is encouraged by a clerical culture and theology of ordination to think that he is ontologically distinct in a way that colors his entire way of being in the world, it seems plausible that he might interpret his actions through that lens as being theologically legitimated by who he is. Some lay people might also share this interpretation, and then you have a situation in which the entire clerical-lay relationship is mediated in and through the performance of theological conceptions of what it means to be ordained or not. How is this not the *definition* of a "religious practice?" As for the physician example, would you not say that physician-assisted suicide is an example of medical practice, legitimated by certain questionable concepts of health and well-being? Furthermore, would it not be the task of the medical community to clarify and/or reject such conceptions, if they were found to support bad medical practice? Lastly, I'm not sure Lofton's concept is more expansive than the Bishops. She is talking about ordained ministers of the Church relating to believers often in ecclesial contexts (e.g., confessionals), and the Bishops are talking about lay people and non-Catholics (and a few clerics) relating to other lay and non-Catholic individuals in mostly non-ecclesial contexts.

Matt,Thanks for your response to Eric's original. Your take on this makes a lot of sense.A

In prisons other prisoners act with hostility to abusers of children and the elderly. These acts of abuse are truly abominations. Though the cover-up by the bishops and others is more serious I do not excuse any individual for abusing children. One really cannot blame the culture for it because then most in that culture would be doing it not a small percentage. Perhaps one could allow for those who have been abused though I am not sure. The whole idea relies on the baseness of human nature which succumbs to sexual or authority pressure whether in sex abuse or genocide. In that sense we might allow this notion to gel with the "we are all sinners" approach. At the same time no one can be exonerated from sexual or genocide abuse. The human person can resist the culture. And those who do give humanity hope. Even Jesus seems to agree that the we are all sinners approach does not apply when he said that a special punishment is in store for those who abuse children.

The notion that every single thing a Catholic does is a Catholic act seems to ground her claim that "sex abuse cases are also cases of religion." That reasoning could be extended in every direction to show its absurdity. It reads like dressed up guilt by association. When cops cover up for abusive cops, do we draw the conclusion that there is something about police work that causes abuses and cover ups? What about sexual abuse that takes place in a medical setting? In an educational context? Lofton doesn't adequately distinguish between the acts of abuse and the scandal itself. People aren't scandalized by abusive priests -- although their behavior is, let us all acknowledge, deeply damaging and criminal. People are scandalized by the failure of church leaders -- and not only bishops -- to respond adequately to the crime of sexual abuse by priests. And certainly the clerical culture is partly to blame. But there is something fatuous about calling a multivalent, pervasive destructive behavior like sexual abuse "religious activity." I can't imagine Lofton would feel comfortable calling sexual abuse in Africa -- which, according to a 2009 study, owns the highest rate of child sexual abuse in the world -- "African activity." Abuse happens because adults with disordered desires and impaired impulse control find opportunities to molest. They find such opportunities in many professions and vocations (including, not incidentally, that of the parent) across all settled continents.

Grant, Why couldn't one of the valences of the "multivalent behavior" of sexual abuse and its cover-up be "religious?" Why should it be treated by medicine, psychology, sociology, cultural and gender studies, anthropology, and every other discipline of human analysis, but preciously secured from religious studies and, I would add, theology? I imagine there are plenty of scholars studying Africa who are concerned with the particularities of sexual abuse and its prevention as it manifests itself in that context, which is no doubt informed by notions of identity, gender, and authority that are intertwined with the self-understanding of the people in that region. A quick Google search of "sex abuse in Africa" yields this well-footnoted article from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virgin_cleansing_myth, which reports that "Anthropologist Suzanne Leclerc-Madlala has recognized the 'virgin cleansing myth' [the mistaken belief that if a man infected with HIV, AIDS, or other sexually transmitted diseases has sex with a virgin girl, he will be cured of his disease] as a potential factor in infant rape in South Africa." So, it's not completely "fatuous" to think that local beliefs might contribute to the perpetration and perpetuation of sexual abuse.

John Jays research, which found that most priest-abusers were one-time offenders.Grant, I am sure you can cite the relevant stats for your assertion. In a cursory search I find that figure to be 56% which applies to single allegations rather than single time. At any rate if you can help give me the citation I would appreciate it.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic_sex_abuse_cases

Having dealt with abusers in severa; professions, it's surely true they are predatory opportunists.But how they were and are managed is a real question in violations of trust.I still think the Church suffers here due to the fact that its principle m.o, is its own law code which (despite the many legal counsels that help insulate folks up the chain of command in civil society ) seem to insulate them more from accountability but also because ,despite pleas they are "doing all they can," fight very hard to retain their their security.Grant is right that this is not only scandalous but criminal and, despite what happens eleswhere (I'll be very interested in Mr. Freeh's work on the Penn St. Administration) the question of justice within the Church resonates -given its status in regard to value issues.BTW, saw on the news last night that alumni contributions to Penn St. have increasedf!Where your treasure is... The god of football does wonders.What about the God of our Church who is thought to speacially grace those who govern??????

Eric,You write, "As for the physician example, would you not say that physician-assisted suicide is an example of medical practice, legitimated by certain questionable concepts of health and well-being?"This adaptation of my analogy would only pertain to the current discussion if the church, or some non-negligible part of it, taught that because of the special ontological dimension of the priesthood it was OK for priests to molest children. Of course the church has never taught this, nor does its theology of ordination imply it.Any theology can, with a little imagination, be abused by those looking for excuses, or blamed by those in a hurry for an explanation. So an anti-Christian responding to any crime committed by any Christian might say, "What do you expect from people who call themselves the children of God, and believe they have been ontologically elevated by their baptism? Those specially favored by the Creator Himself naturally consider themselves better than the rest of us and can hardly help believing they are exempt from certain constraints that apply to mere pagans." Silly, yes, but not much sillier than the travesty of Catholic moral and sacramental theology according to which a priest's sins are "theologically legitimated by who he is."

Bill: It's in John Jay's "Nature and Scope" report. From page 6:

The majority of priests (56%) were alleged to have abused one victim, nearly 27% were alleged to have abused two or three victims, nearly 14% were alleged to have abused four to nine victims and 3.4% were alleged to have abused more than ten victims. The 149 priests (3.5%) who had more than ten allegations of abuse were allegedly responsible for abusing 2,960 victims, thus accounting for 26% of allegations. Therefore, a very small percentage of accused priests are responsible for a substantial percentage of the allegations.

That last fact is one of the reasons I resist single-explanation theories of the crisis.Also note this from page 4:

We detected 310 matching encrypted numbers, accounting for 143 priests with allegations in more than one diocese, eparchy or religious community (3.3% of the total number of priests with allegations).

That also contradicts Lofton's claim about the behavior of "most abusers."

Eric: Perhaps what Lofton plans to post will clarify what she means when she describes sexual abuses committed by Catholic priests as "cases of religion," but what you linked to doesn't go much beyond assertion. I didn't say that nothing about Catholicism can help us understand why the abuses occurred and why church leadership failed miserably to address them. It doesn't take a PhD in religious studies to recognize the way clerical deference contributed to the crisis, or they way it compounded the ambient culture's aversion to acknowledging sexual abuse (or much about sexual behavior at all) -- especially at the height of the crisis -- to say nothing of its tendency to trust institutional authority in a way today's would not.

Eric --I think that problems with the meanings of "Catholic" might be alleviated somewhat by contrasting the uses of "Catholic" as a noun and the uses of "Catholic" as an adjective. As a noun it often signifies something which *constitutes* a Catholic as as Catholic, e.g., participant in the Mass or believer in infallibility. These are essential characteristics (given the usual uses of the term). As an adjective it often describes a distinctive Catholic characteristic (e.g., wears ashes on Ash Wednesday), but it sometimes describes a characteristic which is only highly associated with Catholics. An example of the latter: an Thai agnostic might enjoy celebrating St. Patrick's Day with his friends while not be a member of the Church. Would his celebration be a Catholic one? No, not in any *essential* sense of "Catholic", but in a cultural sense of "Catholic", I think the answer is yes. Ambiguity, ambiguity..

"If our religion abused, then we should be worried about that."Eric --You seem to assume that "our religion" is some subsistent reality which has the prooperty of being able to decide to do x or y. But it isn't. It's a complex process with individual humans who decide to do x or y.If that's not your meaning of "our religion", what is? (Yeah. Hard one :-)

Matt, I think many people feel that a "non-negligible" part of the Church, i.e. the hierarchy, obviously thought that the way they were handling cases of sexual abuse was "OK," not to mention that the "non-negligible" clerics who committed acts of abuse must have thought at some point that what they were doing was "OK." And if either party used theological concepts to get to these "OK" conclusions, it seems important to examine these concepts.Grant, I certainly didn't mean to imply that anyone needed a PhD to follow this discussion. I do not think that it is a trivial point, however, to see that things like "clerical deference," "aversion to...sexual behavior," and the "tendency to trust institutional authority" were/are underwritten by theological understandings of clergy, sexuality, and ecclesiology. So, an analysis of these theological loci, and others, seems appropriate in addressing the specifically "religious" dimensions of the crisis.

Eric: When I mentioned aversion tosexual behavior, and the tendency to trust institutional authority, I was referring to the wider culture.

Ann, I totally agree: "Ambiguity, ambiguity..." As for religion being a "subsistent reality," I take it that concepts shape us as much as we shape them, and so, it's not entirely clear that religion is just a matter of "individual humans who decide to do x or y." Take the Cologne circumcision discussion, for example. Some have argued that circumcision is not a question of individual autonomy and choice, but it is about group identification and "being chosen." I'm not a big fan of this argument, but I understand its plausibility. We are determined by our religions as much as we determine them.

Grant, I see. But those became/become theologically buttressed within the Church, independently of the wider culture. No?

Is everything that is "Catholic" also "religious"? Again, ambiguity rears its ugly head.

"But the NT itself has Jesus say 'The Son of Man came to give his life as a ransom for the many'and the Eucharist is presented as his blood poured out for the remission of sins."In his FROM AGE TO AGE: HOW CHRISTIANS HAVE CELEBRATED THE EUCHARIST, Edward Foley observes:"The word 'sacrifice' occurs often in the New Testament, especially in the letter to the Hebrews and in the book of Revelation...While comfortable with sacrificial language, the New Testament writers are not literalists and do not equate Jesus' dying with any temple or Passover sacrifice; nor do they give the impression that Christian table fellowship is in continuity with the practice of Jewish sacrifice. Rather, they evoke and build upon an authentic and *spiritual* understanding of sacrifice."The Old Testament provides very clear guidelines regarding the physical aspects of sacrifice, as this practice was at the heart of temple worship. Yet, it is clear in Jewish theology that the physical aspects alone, especially the destruction of the victim, were not the central point of sacrifice; rather, the interior disposition of the offerer was critical. The prophets, in particular, made this point..."One of the theological lenses that the early Christian community employed to think about Eucharist was sacrifice. This sacrificial lens, however, in no way implied any literal or physical understanding of the Lord's Supper as a sacrifice. Rather, it betrayed an understanding of the Lord's life and death --- and the summation of his life and death in meal sharing --- as fundamentally self-giving. The table gatherings of the early community celebrated the complete self-giving attitude of the incarnate Word, and rehearsed a similar attitude in the follower of Jesus through the breaking of the bread and the sharing of a cup of wine..." (pp. 30-31). Translating this insight into modern-day application, it would be no different than someone exclaiming, "I poured my blood, sweat, and tears into this project" --- a statement not to be taken literally. From the above, we should take away two points: (a) The scriptural passages use metaphorical language, and (b) Jesus' entire life including passion and crucifixion is an act of self-sacrifice. Jesus is not being sacrificed by the Father. It would stand to reason that primitive Christian communities would not have "priests" since (quoting Hebrews 7:26-27) "Jesus, then, is the High Priest that meets our needs...He is not like other high priests; he does not need to offer sacrifices every day for his own sins first and then for the sins of the people. He offered one sacrifice, once and for all, when he offered himself." Elsewhere in Hebrews, we read, "Let us, then, always offer praise to God as our sacrifice through Jesus, which is the offering presented by lips that confess him as Lord. Do not forget to do good and to help one another, because these are the sacrifices that please God" (He 13:15-16). It's interesting, too, that Hebrews was written about the time of the Roman destruction of the Jewish Temple, an event that would mark the decline and eventual end of the Jewish priesthood. Even before then, as James Burtchaell has noted in his FROM SYNAGOGUE TO CHURCH: PUBLIC SERVICES AND OFFICES IN THE EARLIEST CHRISTIAN COMMUNITIES, "t]he local synagogues had already chosen to deny priests any special privileges or position..."

Eric,You write,

I think many people feel that a non-negligible part of the Church, i.e. the hierarchy, obviously thought that the way they were handling cases of sexual abuse was OK, not to mention that the non-negligible clerics who committed acts of abuse must have thought at some point that what they were doing was OK.

The first half of your sentence is not in dispute -- although I would add the point I made in my first comment: if bishops failed to respond properly to allegations of sexual abuse, it was not only because of their desire to protect the church's reputation or preserve its autonomy; it was also because psychologists encouraged them to deal with pedophilia the way they dealt with any other compulsive behavior: get the pedophile some help, then send him back into ministry.As for the second half of your sentence, I don't know where that "must have" comes from. People sometimes do things they know to be wrong.

"As for religion being a subsistent reality, I take it that concepts shape us as much as we shape them,"Eric --What does it mean to say that "concepts shape us"? To shape is to act on something other than the shaper. Do you think concepts actually have some reality apart from us so that we can attribute an action (shaping us) to them? They have no action of their own. They are identical with part of us. Yes, this gets us into the metaphysics of personhood, a very difficult and much neglected subject.

Forcing the Catholic church to look at some of its failures in the mirror is no more anti-Catholic than to force the state of Israel to come to grips with some of its failings re: Palestinians is anti-Semitic.As a reminder, the victims are those abused by priests and the system - not the system itself.

"The problem, however, is that Jesus himself is represented not only as a sacrificial offering (Romans 3.38ff. I Cor on 'Christ our Pasch is sacrificed' etc. etc.) but also as a Priest, who offers the perfect sacrifice (Hebrews)."As Mackey has noted, Jesus did not see himself as a priest. He saw himself as a prophet:+ "A prophet is respected everywhere except in his hometown and by his own family" (Mt 13:57).+ "A prophet is not respected in his own country" (Jn 4:44).+ Jesus expresses his preference in Mt 9:13 (repeated at 12:7): "I want mercy, not [animal] sacrifice." Importance is attached to human kindness, i.e., love of and concern for neighbor. Jesus does not want ritual/cultic sacrifice.+ "For the Son of Man...will reward each one according to his deeds" (Mt 16:27). A deed is "a usually praiseworthy act" (AMERICAN HERITAGE DICTIONARY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE, Fifth Edition, 2011). "Deeds, not words, matter most" (example with definition).+ "The whole law of Moses and the teaching of the prophets depend on these two commandments [i.e., love of God and of neighbor]" (Mt 22:39-40). The stress is on love, defined in some quarters as "extending oneself for the benefit of the beloved". This understanding captures the essence of Jesus' earthly ministry including his passion and crucifixion. Jesus sacrifices himself. It's not much different than a person sacrificing "wants" in order to address greater human need of others."The Gospels are the heart of all the Scriptures 'because they are our principal source for the life and teaching of the Incarnate Word, our Savior'" (CCC-125).In Acts 3:22-23, Peter says, "For Moses said, 'The Lord your God will send you a prophet, just as he sent me, and he will be one of your own people. You are to obey everything that he tells you to do. Anyone who does not obey that prophet shall be separated from God's people and destroyed.'" This passage comes from Peter's sermon, which, according to Raymond Brown, "is meant to illustrate the presentation of Jesus to Jews" (AN INTRODUCTION TO THE NEW TESTAMENT, p. 290). This is an example of foreshadowing/typology/prefigurement. Peter is drawing material from the Old Testament to help his listeners relate to Christian teaching. Jesus is portrayed as a prophet.

"JosephYour answers are touching on my comments about the erosion of the authority of the church. You are right in talking about infantalizing the laity and the priesthood above with the laity below. This has been the traditional teaching that has been implied in the church for years. My point is that the breeches occurring because of the sex abuse scandal has blown that theory."Denise, if I understand you, I'm not sure that the erosion of papal and episcopal authority will necessarily result in a healthier church, i.e., one that jettisons the infantilization of the laity. Most Catholics --- within or outside the institution --- probably have no idea (beyond a few sensational headlines in the secular media) of what has been and is happening in Rome or elsewhere. Sad to say, I suspect most of these people don't care, either. It's called "indifference". As long as the pewsitters continue to toss their shekels into the weekly collection plate and do not tie such giving to articulated expectations of renewal, and as long as wealthy benefactors continue to give their largesse to bishops, cardinals, and popes, the ecclesiastical "samo-samo" will likely continue. I wish I could say otherwise.That said, we should not stop challenging them.

"In the life of the Church, the Eucharist is revered as the most perfect manifestation of the divine. Consequently, proximity to the Eucharist defines and gives value to the offices of bishop, priest, deacon, as well as other offices and roles. The relationship between priesthood and the Eucharist, the human touching the Divine as the priest offers the memorial of the supreme sacrifice of the cross, leads the Scholastics to conclude that ordination to priesthood conveys a permanent, indelible character that changes his very being, a change that is, in the teaching of some, eternal" (Michael Papesh, CLERICAL CULTURE: CONTRADICTION AND TRANSFORMATION, 2004)."[We] need to be careful not to undermine the dignity and sanctity of the ordained priesthood and obscure its radical, ontological difference from the baptismal priesthood of the faithful" (Russell Shaw, "On Clericalism").

Culture is the property of a group and is found at every hierarchical level. It matters because it is a powerful, latent, and often unconscious set of forces that determine both our individual and collective behavior, ways of perceiving, thought patterns, and values. Cultural elements determine strategy, goals, and modes of operating. Leaders and senior managers are influenced by their own cultural backgrounds and shared experience.Culture develops only in successful organizations. The original leaders attract and retain others who, upon seeing successful products/services, conclude that the beliefs, values, and assumptions of the leaders must, therefore, be right.Culture is so stable and difficult to change because it represents the accumulated learning of a group --- the ways of thinking, feeling, and perceiving the world that have made the organization successful. It helps give predictability and meaning to everyday life. Any prospective culture change launches massive amounts of anxiety and resistance to change.There are three levels of culture:+ Artifacts = what one sees, hears, and feels while hanging around;+ Espoused Values = the underlying philosophy that defines the reasons for the organization's existence. Examples include teamwork, integrity, customer orientation, product/service quality, respect for people, proactive rather than reactive, expression of feelings and/or opinions, experimentation, cooperation, etc. Organizations with different artifacts (dress codes, manifest behaviors, structures, processes, etc.) can articulate the same values. + Shared Tacit Assumptions = the unconscious, taken-for-granted beliefs, perceptions, thoughts, and feelings that are the ultimate source of values and actions. These account for "the way we do things around here". Assumptions have proven successful over time.The bottom line about culture is that it is:+ Deep = It "controls you more than you control [it]. You want it that way, because it is culture that gives predictability and meaning to...everyday life. As you learn what works, you develop beliefs and assumptions that eventually drop out of awareness and become tacit rules of how to do things, how to think about things, and how to feel."+ Broad = "As a group learns to survive in its environment, it learns about all aspects of its external and internal relationships," e.g., with the boss, toward customers, the sacred cows, expectations for advancement and rewards, what kind of people to hire and promote.+ Stable = People "do not like chaotic, unpredictable situations and work hard to stabilize and 'normalize' them. Any prospective culture change therefore launches massive amounts of anxiety and resistance to change." Cultural elements are "some of the stablest parts of [the] organization."Understanding the assumptions, i.e., the shared mental models that members hold and take for granted (the deepest level and the essence of culture), can explain the artifacts, but one cannot infer the assumptions only from behavioral observation. It is necessary to make tacit assumptions explicit, a step that requires talking to "insiders" and systematic observation.NOTE re: midlife and mature organizations = "Whereas leadership created culture in the early stages [i.e., founders and founding families], culture now creates leaders, in the sense that only those managers who fit the mold are promoted to top management."From Edgar Schein's THE CORPORATE CULTURE SURVIVAL GUIDE, 1999.

" really cannot blame the culture for it because then most in that culture would be doing it not a small percentage."Grant --Right. A culture is an artifact, not an object of science. A culture is a composite of different people with different virtues and vices, so it is impossible to generalize about the virtues and vices of the one, complex culture. A culture is not like a category or class of natural objects all of which have the same defining characteristics. So a whole culture cannot accurately be said to have a virtue or a vice. This is why it is stereotyping to say, for instance, that all Germans are responsible for the Holocaust -- or that sexual abuse is a sin of Catholic priests. Our sins are our own and only our own. Sartre got that exactly right.

Mr. Molloy, you wrote earlier today, "Lofton and her colleagues will learn how strange their vocabulary seems to non-academics."Oh, yeah, I can relate, and I find a number of blogger comments only slightly more intelligible :-)I guess I'm a "meat and potatoes" guy.

". . . leads the Scholastics to conclude that ordination to priesthood conveys . . . "Joseph J. ==Please. There have been thousands of Scholastics, some more important than others. You cite only one. Believe me, what you cite is not a typical Scholastic opinion. Wny do you insist on generalizing so about all of them?

Joseph J. ==The view of culture of Joseph Schein which you present is only one version of what "culture" means. It is a view of a man who no doubt is part of the sort of culture which he describes. But I venture to say that most things called "cultures" are not stable -- they include dialectical movements within themselves, and even dialectics within dialectics. (Didn't you yourself note earlier that cultures are "fluid"?) I daresay that even the Church's culture changes a lot over the eons, though its rate of change is glacial.Too simple, Joseph, too simple.

Joseph J. --Even though I'm an old academic, I found Lofton's language really, really peculiar, especially her use of some lowly prepositions. Weird, actually.

Eric - I do agree that there are elements of formal church organization that do not mitigate the risk of abuse. Certainly, there is risk to be found within the customary method of transferring priests from one parish to another. The risk of chancery officials interfering with the functioning of supposedly-independent review boards is another example. And I agree that the Catholic theology of the bishop as shepherd of his diocese contributes to this lack of risk control. I apologize for some of the circumlocutions in the previous paragraph; they are there because I am intentionally not claiming that Catholic theology *enables* abuse, because I don't think that enabling abuse is intrinsic to Catholic theology. I do think that the way power is concentrated in the person of the bishop is a risk. It means that bishops and their staff need to be holy, alert, humble leaders. Abusers thrive by exploiting naivete and trust. Bishops need to be aware, and build organizations that are aware, of these risks.Catholic theology is a constraint: whatever changes to people/processes/resources can be made to mitigate the risk, need to happen within the fences that delineate the theology of the bishop. Thus, in my view, there will never be, and can't be, some sort of reorganization that removes from the bishop the responsibility of making the final decision on cases of credible accusations of abuse. On the other hand, it seems to me that Rome could take a more active role in disciplining bishops whose track record indicates that they're not trustworthy watchmen on the walls of their diocese. And of course, the people of God need to continue to take their turns in the watches - there is nothing theologically that I know of that would discourage that.

I think that there are cultural factors in areas of crimes.For example, the issue of machismo in domestic violence.That doesn't mean all or most ora large percentage of Latinos perpetrate domestic violence, but that culture can contribute to the problem.The point I tried to make here was that the culture of the Church as subject only to irs own rules and laws has protected those responsible for managing sex abusers to enjoy no accountability and thus to (even till the present , I think) perpetuate the problemHow one views the role of the bihops historically (when warned in the 80's did they take view of institution first and what fits in) up through Boston in the early 200os when terrible abusers were maintained by the (supposedly disgraced) but rewarded Bernatd Law til today when Lynn's best defense of only following orders underscores the problemSo we get divided views about say SNAP and its ad in the NYT.I think the issue raised by the AG of PA is have we reached a watershed moment post Sandusky where we'll really put the children first.My guess so far is that institutional support be it Penn St(or ND) football or the Church's structutal support for those up the line is continuing to win.Unfortunately, from where I sit, the notion of justice continues to be sercondary to loyalty.

I wonder are the critics of sacrificial language attacking the wrong target. The Bible is far more gutsily sacrificial than the Fathers, especially those who have been schooled in Platonism, such as Origen, the Cappadocians, Ambrose, and Augustine.I don't buy the idea that Christ's sacrifice is merely spiritual and metaphorical. Romans presents him as a hilasterion or propitiation (3.25) provided by God, I John as a hilasmos (2.2), and we are told that "the blood of Jesus cleanses us of all sin" (1.7). The sacrifice of the new covenant is living and spiritual, yet the language of the old testament is massively employed to denote its atoning and cleansing force.The physical reality of Christ's cruficied body, and the physical presence of his glorified body when the Eucharist is enacted, cannot be spiritualized away.The ministers of the NT are elders, not priests, yet the whole people of God, ministers included, is a priestly people (1 Peter).

Jesus did not present himself as a priest, but he does talk of himself as giving his life as a ransom for many (the saying has a good chance of being historical), and he does use Jewish sacrificial traditions in composing the Last Supper (again with a good chance of historicity). It is thus unsurprising that the New Testament (not the Constantinian Church) gave Jesus a priestly identity as well as a prophetic one.

"change in the meaning of sacrifice to that of the sacrifice of the Son by the Father"Here again the NT is the source of this alleged change. Romans 8, "he did not spare his own Son, but offered him" "made him to be sin (a sin-offering) who knew no sin"

"Jesus sacrifices himself. Its not much different than a person sacrificing wants in order to address greater human need of others."I think not only the Gospels and St Paul would find this flat reduction abhorrent, but that Jesus himself would; "The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for the many."

I wanted to reread this thread and it seems so problematic to me in many ways.The tremendous overevaluation of the priest presider(remember. "The priest is everything.") gives a special luster to that role and make vilations of trust there more aggravating circumstantially!Christ sacrificed once and for all and we join him, priest and people in the celebration of the new Passover.But, since VII the pushback has been to overemphasize the priest role and theology of the cross. That should be another thread.The problem is the lack of accountabiliy within.canon Law (often referrred to as "The Sacred canons") that insulate up the line from managing well such problems.To say their boatds are the ones who insure accountability runs contrary to the fact that such boards are both not independent and, in fact, those who raise enough hackles can be dismised from themThis thread confuses "cultural issues" as being causal issues instead of contributory (in fact, quite important contrinutory) factors in the problem of sex abuse.The Freeh report, just out, says one of the most important things Penn St. can do is seriously reexamine its culture at all levels on this.(Freeh incidentally cited a major problem as a striking lack of EMPATHY(my emphasis) on the part of leadership.Omstitutional protection can easily generate that.There are some thoughts here that the bishops were babes in the woods about this matter for some time.But the problem was known and warned about in the 80"s. Before I retired on the 90's, there'd been the awful mess at Covenant house in NY, but guys like Shanley rolled along in Boston.We know of many other multiple perps as well as one with a "single report".But a perspective on the total management of this cohort underscores a perception of institution first and protect people up the line ( "a striking lack of empathy?)It;s good that loyalty and obedience were mentioned as pronlematic in the Chutch today (big article in outr morning paper today on loyalty oaths for lay ministers/teachers in Arlington, VA and the pushback against.)The current culture of "command/control" in today's Church serves a vaneer of dealing with probkem far better than actually coming to grips and that goes all the way up the line -at least as far as I can see in what's happening in Ireland.We've got to be serious about protecting out chuildren and listening to them first!A large dollop of real empathy would help as well as less concern among clergy and even more so hierachy about themselves first!

After reviewing the documentary record, the story of Penn State sex abuse that emerges is one of stunning intensity and intimacy. This was a series of crimes committed in quiet auspices, in recreational and domestic spaces, locker rooms, showers. This was a series of relationships that were, simultaneously, abusive and interdependent, public and private, possessive and devotional. Sexual abuse between mentor and protege is, therefore, a form of lived collegiate athletics. This is not only because collegiate athletic contexts offer hierarchical social situations conducive to abuse, but also because abuse is, in this documentary record, shown to be an articulation of athletic-program hierarchical authority, athletic-program devotional investment, and athletic-program sociological change.

a. "Please. There have been thousands of Scholastics, some more important than others. You cite only one. Believe me, what you cite is not a typical Scholastic opinion. Wny do you insist on generalizing so about all of them?"Ann, I was quoting the book's author, a Roman Catholic pastor in the U.S. Scholastics aside, I think Pastor Papesh's basic point is sound: "In the life of the Church, the Eucharist is revered as the most perfect manifestation of the divine. Consequently, proximity to the Eucharist defines and gives value to the offices of bishop, priest, deacon, as well as other offices and roles. The relationship [is] between priesthood and the Eucharist, the human touching the Divine as the priest offers the memorial of the supreme sacrifice of the cross" (brackets added).b. "The view of culture of Joseph Schein which you present is only one version of what 'culture' means. It is a view of a man who no doubt is part of the sort of culture which he describes. But I venture to say that most things called 'cultures' are not stable..."A brief biography on my source is at http://www.careeranchorsonline.com/SCA/ESabout.do?open=es.When we discuss the church, we are discussing flesh-and-blood human beings whose interactions with one another and with their environment can be studied by professionalis within various social science disciplines. Unlike you, perhaps, I'm not prepared to downplay the contributions and insights of folks like Schein.

Bob, you mentioned, "But the problem was known and warned about in the 80s..."Although Tom Doyle, if I recall, submitted a report to the U.S. bishops' conference sometime in the 1980s, let's not overlook NCROnline's "Bishops were warned of abusive priests" (http://ncronline.org/news/accountability/bishops-were-warned-abusive-pri...), which reports the hierarchs were warned about the problem as early as the 1950s!(Doyle, if I recall, would suffer repercussions for being the proverbial "bearer of bad news".)

Oops, delete the parenthesis at end of my NCROnline link. Sorry.

Grant, by the end of your analogous paragraph, you are equivocating between Penn State, "collegiate athletics," and "athletic-program" behavior, which would be like equivocating between the Catholic Church, Christianity, and religion in general. Lofton is not saying that the Catholic abuse scandal calls into question Christianity or religion in general. Rather, it is moving in the other direction by raising questions about the specific institutional and ideological instantiation of "religion" that made these specific instances of abuse possible in the Catholic context. Her paragraph begins and ends with "Catholicism." This is precisely what is happening at Penn State, where the recent Freeh report called for an "overhaul of the 'Penn State Way,'" as the Chronicle of Higher Education reports: "The Freeh report lays out more than 100 bulleted recommendations, some in painstaking detail, on reforming Pennsylvania State University's operations, citing weaknesses in its "culture, governance, administration, compliance policies, and procedures for protecting children."" (http://chronicle.com/article/Freeh-Report-Calls-for/132835/). Similarly, I think that we could ask ourselves about overhauling the "Catholic Way." Where's the independent report that offers 100 recommendations in painstaking detail to the hierarchy for such an overhaul? The John Jay report, as I understand it, was mostly descriptive about the "nature and scope" of the problem, and it was commissioned by the Bishops. The Penn State investigation was conducted by the former FBI director, and Papa Paterno announced his retirement in the immediate wake of the scandal. I don't see the Church submitting itself to a similar investigation by any equivalent international body anytime soon, and I haven't heard of any "Papas" retiring. So, right now, it looks like a secular athletic program is being more proactive than Mother Church at setting things right and rebuilding trust, which doesn't really give us a lot of room to be playing "gotcha" with what appear to be genuine calls for reform wherever they are coming from.

Joseph J. --I don't disparage isolated voices outside of academe. There are many wise people there. But I don't automatically accept them either just because they claim insight..

Let's imagine a miracle: Louis Freeh investigating the American bishops' protect-the-children programs.

Ann, I'm not aware of Dr. Schein "claim[ing] insight." His work speaks for itself and is very much respected within the community.

Joseph O'Leary, I'll try to respond tomorrow.

Joseph J. -- Fr. Tom Doyle recently wrote about that 1985 report by him, Peterson, and Mouton, its fate, and the circumstances at the time. http://www.richardsipe.com/Doyle/Manual-History%20%2010-12-2010.pdf Among many interesting parts is a 1992 letter (p. 20) to Doyle from Abp. Daniel E. Pilarczyk, then President, NCCB/USCC. He spoke for the Conference on how much the bishops had already learned and done. His tone and message, read 20 years later, is illuminating if unsurprising about that sub-culture, considering what has become public knowledge since. Prior to NCR and Doyle, one of those who addressed the problem in detail was St. Peter Damian, who wrote The Book of Gomorrah in about 1051 to advise the Pope on clerical sexual malfeasance and required actions. A reference to a translation (available at Amazon) is at http://www.richardsipe.com/Click_and_Learn/2005-10-05-Celibate_Myth.html

Eric: You really ought to read the John Jay reports (plural) before pontificating on the subject. Lofton asserts without argument. And you seem to agree. A list of provocative questions isn't enough to justify calling acts of sexual abuse committed by priests instances of "lived religion." It's a huge claim she makes. And you make. And one of you ought to pony up. Show your math.

I weas dlad to see some further responses on this.The Freeh report was first and foremost about the Penn St. situarion and the culture there,But it was also given context, a major indictmen tof the culture of big time college athletics, where alumni/donor contributions outweigh having problems publicized (unless or until theg are. I wonder, e.g. if Bobby Petrino would still be coacjon football at rkansas while ghe kept kernoodlikng with his "assistant", if his accident with her hadn't happened?) Big time college athletics, of course has big time lawyers ready to tamp down problems and I think the need of money power will override any damage done to persons - even at schools like ND.But beyond athletics, big institutions will value their own money power over damage to individuals -Jamie Dimon wil be back in front of congress today to tell there's much more loss at JP Morgan but it's handled by laying off some manafers w/o severanc eand taking awy a couple of years back pay - no need to regulate.A special case is our Church which deals with problem top down . I think the Irish storyi s quite germane: Rome sends in its picked men and they'll solve things - but haven't.It's been said and I think it's the case tha BXVI is not a good listener.When challenges have been raised abourt American hierarchs, including the former head and more curently the current one, nothing happens, They are only responsible to their powers that be.Throughout history, the powerful have treated victims as expendable to maintain money power or both,But in today's brave new world of instant communixcation, there is far more kicjback.Especially in institutions claiming our trust, there is an expectation of real concern - first -for victims.Freeh's Penn st. report, as In oted, talks about an awful lack of empathy on the part of leaders there.Listening genuinely to the victims who were damaged is critical to that kind of needed empathy.Ask the victims of abuse in the church if leadership has supplied that.Let's forget about Loften for a minute and ask are there cultural factors in Catholicism rhat infleunce its managing of sexual abuse issues?And try to answer that appreciatively, as empathy demands, and not only intellectiually.Penn St. today in many newspaper or other media venues/ are calling on all of us to reflect on our cultures and this issue.I think that's spot on and -if that's ponticating, so be it!

Grant, maybe you can explain to me why you think the John Jay reports are so dispositive on the scandal. Several people have critiqued the reports as unreliable and biased. Here are just three weaknesses cited by Tom Roberts in NCR:"Questions persist about the reliability of the basic data that underpins both the most recent study, as well as one on the nature and scope of the scandal that was released in 2004, because the researchers relied principally on reporting by bishops. The reliability of such reporting is called into question on a number of fronts and was most recently challenged by a grand jury report that claimed that officials of the Philadelphia archdiocese had not reported dozens of credibly accused priests. Doubts about the reliability of the numbers were even given credibility by one of the John Jay researchers in a recent interview.The conclusion that priests behavior was influenced by and reflected turmoil in American culture during the 1960s and 1970s is called into question, or at least qualified, say experts, given revelations of similar widespread scandals in the United Kingdom and several European countries. The dimensions of the scandal in those countries surfaced in recent months, at a point when the John Jay researchers were concluding research on the U.S. church.The lack of any in-depth look at institutional dynamics, particularly clerical/hierarchical culture, an element some think is integral to understanding why and how abuse of children was covered up and tolerated for so many years."(http://ncronline.org/news/accountability/critics-point-john-jay-studys-l...)So, I might go and show the math, if I thought there was any reliable math to show. As it stands, it sounds to me like someone is cooking the books, and we're certainly not going to get any accountability that way.

Joseph O'Leary, I want to address several points you've raised:a. "The Bible is far more gutsily sacrificial..."I think it more accurate to state that the Bible's gutsier references to sacrifice are in the Old Testament. In the New Testament, on the other hand, we find metaphorical and typological references to sacrifice. In teaching and preaching, Jesus and disciples used such tools to help their audiences better understand and adopt new doctrines as their own. Jesus et al knew the importance of "Know thy audience".Sacrifice in the OT is bloody; sacrifice in the NT generally is not (a notable exception in addition to the crucifixion is the stoning of Stephen). OT sacrifice is cultic since it is carried out by priests. NT sacrifice is not cultic since there is no priestly slaying of an innocent victim on an altar. Jesus' sacrifice --- and not just on Calvary but, in fact, throughout his earthly ministry --- is *self-sacrifice*. Jesus was not sacrificed by the Father if, by this expression, one means that the Father sent his only begotten Son to die for us on the cross. This negative picture --- one which I remember from my pre-Vatican II days --- effectively turns "Abba" ("a term expressing warm affection and filial confidence" according to an online dictionary) into the Eternal A$$hole. I simply cannot imagine the Father telling the Son that the latter's brutal treatment on the road to Calvary and subsequent bloody execution is necessary to appease the Father and bring about our eternal salvation. Jesus' sacrifice is self-imposed.b. "I don't buy the idea that Christ's sacrifice is merely spiritual and metaphorical."Neither do I. Christ's sacrifice throughout his life --- climaxing with his crucifixion and death --- was very real. His sacrifice, however, was a *self-offering*. Jesus gave (and not just "gave up") his llife in service to, and as a supreme act of love for, others.c. "Romans presents [Jesus] as a hilasterion or propitiation (3:25) provided by God...[T]he language of the old testament is massively employed to denote its atoning and cleansing force."Scripture scholar Raymond Brown suggests it's important to understand the religious background of the people who received Paul's letter to the Romans:"There were probably 40,000-50,000 Jews in Rome in the 1st century AD..."...Ca. 375 Ambrosiaster, living in Rome and writing a commentary on Rom[ans], reports the Romans 'received the faith although with a Jewish bent ['ritu licet Judaico']...Acts 28:21 relates that Jews in Rome had channels of theological information coming from Jerusalem, a connection supported by Jewish documents describing figures of the late 1st century."(In his Commentary on "Romans", John J. Pilch writes: "It seems that [the Roman church] was established by the Jewish-Christian community who had traveled to Rome. But about A.D. 49 Emperor Claudius ordered the Jews expelled. After Claudius died around year 54, Jewish Christians who returned to Rome were surprised to meet a large number of Gentile Christians. Converts had multiplied. The Roman Christian church, then, to whom Paul sent this letter was predominantly Gentile Christian."(Notwithstanding the above, Pilch suggests that Paul apparently wrote his letter to (a) "introduce himself to a community which for the most part did not know him personally," (b) "marshal, evaluate, and summarize the arguments he might have to present in Jerusalem if his preaching were still being challenged," and (c) "win the affection of this minority [Jewish Christians]" and thereby "have powerful support from them for his anticipated difficulties in Jerusalem" ["Romans", THE COLLEGEVILLE BIBLE COMMENTARY].)Returning to Brown:"Why is all this important for understanding Rom[ans]?...First, knowing a surprisingly large number of Christians at Rome, Paul would have shaped his letter to speak pastorally to the community there. Acts and Gal[atians] indicate that Christianity coming from Jerusalem was likely to have been more conservative about Jewish heritage and the Law than were the Gentiles converted by Paul...Rom[ans] is also the most 'liturgical' of the undisputed Pauline letters in the sense of employing the language of Jewish worship, e.g., Christ is described as an expiatory sacrifice (3:25); people are urged to present their bodies as a living sacrifice (12:1); and Paul's own ministry is in the priestly service of the gospel (15:16). Could this phraseology have been employed with an eye to recipients who respected the Jerusalem Temple liturgy?...Paul was planning to go to Jerusalem; and if Roman Christianity stemmed from Jerusalem, a persuasive letter to Rome from Paul might both help him to anticipate what he might say at Jerusalem and at the same time persuade the Roman Christians to intervene with the Jerusalem authorities on his behalf" (AN INTRODUCTION TO THE NEW TESTAMENT).Paul's letter to the Romans (and perhaps especially with Jewish Christians in mind) employed language suitable for his audience(s). Paul used *their* language to pass on Christian teaching. Paul knew the importance of "Know they audience", particularly in light of an upcoming trip to Jerusalem to meet Jewish Christian leaders --- whom he may have expected to give him a less-than-enthusiastic reception?d. "The physical reality of Christ's crucified body, and the physical presence of his glorified body when the Eucharist is enacted, cannot be spiritualized away."I am not "spiritualizing away" Jesus' crucified (or glorified) body. I am not denying the historical reality of the crucifixion or resurrection.However, when you refer to "the physical presence of his glorified body when the Eucharist is enacted", you are superimposing physicality on a mystery of our faith. Because a mystery cannot be explained (otherwise it would not be a mystery), it is ultimately fruitless to move beyond simple belief in the real presence of Christ in the eucharist. On this point, I'm reminded of Jesus' encounter with Thomas: "Blessed are those who have not seen, but believe" (Jn 20:29). I believe in Christ's real presence in the eucharist. Period. When the early Protestants attempted to disprove Christ's real presence, and when Rome attempted to explain/prove it, both camps were necessarily engaging in an ultimately pointless exercise. I've found Gerald T. Floyd's information about "Real Presence in the Eucharist" very helpful. To access, go to http://creativeadvance.blogspot.com, click the link to his dissertation, and scroll down to Part II, chapter 2 on the subject. e. "The ministers of the NT are elders, not priests, yet the whole people of God, ministers included, is a priestly people (1 Peter)."Yes, but the concepts of priesthood and sacrifice take on new meaning. Priesthood, mirroring that of Christ, is one of self-offering. Sacrifice, like that of Christ, is one of service. A priestly people is challenged to mirror Jesus' outreach to the "have nots" of society. On this point, we remember Jesus' express wish --- "I want mercy, not [animal] sacrifice."f. "Jesus did not present himself as a priest, but..."Jesus clearly identifies himself as a prophet; Peter acknowledges Jesus as a prophet. Nowhere in the gospels ("the heart of all the Scriptures" per CCC-125) does Jesus say he is a priest or his disciples refer to him as a priest. In obedience to the Father, Jesus offers himself to the task of preaching, teaching, and healing. Jesus takes on suffering and dying on his own.g. "Here again the NT is the source of this alleged change ["to that of the sacrifice of the Son by the Father"]. Romans 8, 'he did not spare his own Son, but offered him' 'made him to be sin (a sin-offering) who knew no sin"Again, we see the writer's use of language appropriate --- especially in this case, perhaps --- to Jewish Christians with close ties to religious leaders in Jerusalem. In my Catholic Study Bible that uses "Today's English Version", Romans 8:31-34 reads as follows:"In view of all this, what can we say? If God is for us, who can be against us? // Certainly not God, who did not even keep back his own Son, but offered him for us all! He gave us his Son --- will he not also freely give us all things? // Who will accuse God's chosen people? God himself declares them not guilty! // Who, then, will condemn them? Not Christ Jesus..."If the Father is all-loving, if the Father is "Abba", I cannot see the Father giving us the Son to die on the cross as an appeasement to a vindictive Creator. The sacrificial language is directed to an audience accustomed to sacrificial imagery but being taught to see it in a new way, namely, as a *self-offering* in imitation of the life of Jesus.h. "I think not only the Gospels and St Paul would find this flat reduction abhorrent ["Jesus sacrifices himself. It's not much different than a person sacrificing 'wants' in order to address greater human need of others."], but that Jesus himself would; 'The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for the many."OK, let me try again: If God is Love, and if Jesus is Love Incarnate, and if love (upper or lower case) is understood as extending oneself for the benefit of the other/s, and if Jesus said "I want mercy, not [animal] sacrifice", then the Father reached out to humanity and gave us the Son to teach us that by loving one another, we are doing God's will and, in fact, loving God in the process (Mt 25:35-40).I think it's axiomatic that genuine love is sacrificial in that we delay or relinquish our own needs and wants to help the other/s. Jesus in the gospels in eminently practical, e.g., "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath" (Mk 2:27). Jesus gives us a new law, and that law is love. The new sacrifice is not cultic. It is practical, intended to meet human need in God's name. The new priesthood is not cultic. It is one of self-offering. Jesus and disciples use language tools to convey new teaching in terms more readily accessible to their Jewish audience. The rule is "Know thy audience".

See Nicholas Cafardi's new blog at "In All tHings" at America on Penn st. and the Church

"Sacrifice in the OT is bloody; sacrifice in the NT generally is not (a notable exception in addition to the crucifixion is the stoning of Stephen)."The stoning of Stephen is not presented as a sacrifice. Martyrdom is a different thing. You might say that Luke also presents Jesus' death as a martyrdom."Jesus was not sacrificed by the Father if, by this expression, one means that the Father sent his only begotten Son to die for us on the cross." He laid down his life of his own free will (John 10) but in obedience to the will of the Father. The NT does say that God gave his Son, or sent his Son, for the life of the world (Galatians, John 6 and passim), and also ties the atoning death of Christ closely into this."I simply cannot imagine the Father telling the Son that the latters brutal treatment on the road to Calvary and subsequent bloody execution is necessary to appease the Father and bring about our eternal salvation. Jesus sacrifice is self-imposed." What is the point of the sacrifice then? It is meant to take away the sins of the world and to undo the mechanisms that produce sin. "Not my will, but Thine be done" clearly locates a divine purpose behind the Son's death. I don't know anyone who would say the Jesus is appeasing an angry God; at least in Scripture God reveals his Righteousness as not consisting in anger (the opus alienum of Romans 1-3) but as consisting in forgiveness (the opus proprium of Rom 3.25 etc.). Why the Cross? For our sake, to heal our illness at its roots ("by his stripes we are healed" -- Isaiah 53).

"Just as I am, without one plea, but that thy blood was shed for me, and that thou biddst me come to thee, O Lamb of God, I come, I come."Just as I am, and waiting not, to rid my soul of one dark blot, to thee, whose blood can cleanse each spot, O Lamb of God, I come, I come"This is a very beloved hymn in the Protestant world, so it seems that the language of sacrifice is as powerful for modern Americans and Britons as for Paul's Romans."when you refer to the physical presence of his glorified body when the Eucharist is enacted, you are superimposing physicality on a mystery of our faith."No, I am just referring to the words of Jesus, "This is my body" and the words ascribed to him in John ("unless you eat my flesh"). I agree that the presence of the paschal Christ is dynamic and pneumatic and event-ful, but you cannot say that "simple belief in the real presence of Christ in the eucharist" excludes its bodiliness. That simple faith finds expression, quite naturally, in expressions such as "Body of Christ, be thou my saving guest."

Gerald Floyd's link would not open at the passage. Since he is a Whiteheadian, I would probably find his theories farfetched. Luther, Calvin, and Trent all agree on the real presence, as a communion in the body of Christ. Zwingli would say that the presence cannot be corporal, since "the flesh profits nothing" (John 6).

Eric: You're quoting critiques of John Jay's second report, which suggests possible causes of the crisis. The first presents the data the researchers collected. Neither study is perfect, but they are essential reading for someone who wants to write about the scandal.

Joseph O'Leary, in reply to your recent comments:a. "The stoning of Stephen is not presented as a sacrifice. Martyrdom is a different thing. You might say that Luke also presents Jesus' death as a martyrdom."Stephen's death may not be "presented as a sacrifice", but it is certainly a sacrifice in the broader sense of the word. One definition of 'martyr' is: "One who makes great sacrifices or suffers much in order to further a belief, cause, or principle" (AMERICAN HERITAGE DICTIONARY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE, Fifth Edition, 2011). Sacrifice may or may not entail martyrdom.Was Jesus a *martyr*? Why not? The Son, in addition to effecting our salvation, certainly furthered human understanding of what is asked of us by the Father.b. "[Jesus] laid down his life of his own free will (Jn 10) but in obedience to the will of the Father..."I cannot fathom the Father intructing or dutifully expecting the Son to be physically tortured and hung up to die on a cross. Such a picture is totally at odds with Jesus' own understanding of the Father as "Abba". Otherwise, divine love is portrayed as toxic in the extreme. If Jesus had died a natural death, would his message be any less relevant? Would he not have achieved our salvation? I think not. Natural death would not have precluded the resurrection. Jesus' entire earthly ministry --- climaxed by his crucifixion --- was a *self-sacrifice*. It was not imposed directly or indirectly by the Father. Jesus taught his listeners what the Father wants. In adhering to his teaching, we are *at one* with God, hence, the word 'atonement'.c. "What is the point of the sacrifice then?..."The point of Jesus' self-sacrifice is our eternal salvation. In fact, it's been said that when one lives a good Christian life, one experiences a "taste of heaven" on earth. Through upright living and helping one's neighbors, people can effectively render moot the power of "mechanisms that produce sin".Certain Jewish religious authorities and, no doubt, an all-too-willing Pilate willed Jesus' execution. The Father willed the Son's earthly ministry, but it was people who willed his crucifixion. Your reference to Isaiah 53 is an example of foreshadowing or typology, a communications tool used by Jesus and disciples to help their audiences grasp new doctrine. Foreshadowing is not essential to Christian belief. Typology proves nothing.d. "This is a very beloved hymn in the Protestant world, so it seems that the language of sacrifice is as powerful for modern Americans and Britons as for Paul's Romans."Language can be powerful, and its inherent power has been used by Rome to create and preserve a clerical (more accurately, perhaps, a "priestly") culture defined as the elevation of the ordained and subordination of the laity. The laity were expendable. (I find it interesting that Catholic presbyters have been complaining in recent years of being expendable, as well, when they are accused --- falsely --- of the sexual abuse of children. Apparently, the bishops are not expendable unless, of course, they voice a willingness to entertain women's ordination or otherwise upset a conservative pope.) When the term 'sacrifice' is used in reference to the passion and crucifixion, it must be understood in terms of Jesus' self-sacrifice.(The CCC's treatment of the "Lamb of God" imagery states, inter alia, that "Jesus is at the same time the suffering Servant who silently *allows himself* to be led to the slaughter...[CCC-608; emphasis added]." While such phraseology doesn't seem to rule out the idea that the Son's passion and crucifixion were willed by the Father, it does suggest Jesus' own intent to undergo a brutal death to cap his ministry.)e. "No, I am just referring to the words of Jesus, 'This is my body' and the words ascribed to him in John ('unless you eat my flesh')..."In his commentary on John's gospel, Raymond Brown writes:"Although he comes from above and speaks of what is 'true' or 'real' (i.e., heavenly reality), Jesus, the Word become flesh, must use language from below to convey his message. To deal with this anomaly, he frequently employs figurative language or metaphors to describe himself or to present his message. In an ensuing dialogue the questioner will misunderstand the figure or metaphor, and take only a material meaning. This allows Jesus to explain his thought more thoroughly and thereby to unfold his doctrine" (INTRODUCTION, p. 335).In John 16:25, Jesus says, "I have used figures of speech to tell you these things. But the time will come when I will not use figures of speech, but will speak to you plainly about the Father" (Catholic Study Bible, TODAY'S ENGLISH VERSION).f. "[B]ut you cannot say that 'simple belief in the real presence of Christ in the eucharist' excludes its bodiliness."What I am saying is that it is sufficient to believe that the consecrated elements of bread and wine are the body and blood of Christ. No doctrine --- transubstantiation, consubstantiation, etc. --- can truly explain this mystery of our faith. Likewise, no explanation can truly demystify this core Christian teaching. As a mystery, the real presence defies explanation. If the real presence could be explained, it would not be a mystery.Your reference earlier to "[t]he physical reality of Christ's crucified body, and the physical presence of his glorified body [in the eucharist]" reminds me of what some have labeled "the objectification of the eucharist".In his dissertation's section on "Real Presence in the Eucharist", Gerald Floyd writes, "[A]lthough the New Testament does affirm *that* Jesus is present in the eucharist, nowhere does the New Testament tell us *how* Jesus is present" (emphases original). Referring to an observation by Gregory Dix, Floyd notes, "[T]he focus ["during the patristic centuries"] was on liturgical *actions* and on the effectiveness of the eucharistic ritual *as a whole*, not on the bread and wine as elements or objects" (emphases original).In his WORSHIP: A PRIMER IN CHRISTIAN RITUAL, Keith Pecklers describes the growing clericalization of the sacred liturgy during the Middle Ages:"Since the laity had ceased the practice of frequent communion, the bringing of bread and wine from the home no longer made sense...Increasingly, there was an emphasis on adoring the Eucharist rather than sharing it. The Eucharistic Prayer came to be prayed in a low voice or completely inaudibly. The sanctuary or presbyterium became the 'holy of holies' where only the clergy were welcome...Choirs replaced the laity in singing the Mass; the procession of the laity with the gifts ceased; private Masses abounded...[L]iturgy had become the property of the clergy so much so that liturgical books even failed to acknowledge the presence of the laity at public Masses. The normative way of celebrating Mass was essentially without a congregation, even when a congregation was present. The Eucharist had become something which the priest did for others, rather than the one sacrifice of Christ offered together as Christ's body. At the same time the Council of Rouen decreed that the Eucharist could no longer be placed in the hands of the laity. As a further sign of respect, communicants began kneeling to receive the sacrament...By the thirteenth century, the chalice was withheld from the lay faithful, as well..."As Christian worship became increasingly distant from the faithful, it was no surprise that popular devotions grew. From the eleventh through the thirteenth centuries we find significant growth in Eucharistic adoration and benediction, forty-hours devotion and Corpus Christi processions, Marian devotions (e.g., the rosary), novenas, and prayers to the saints...Popular devotions gave the laity a role --- prayers which they could offer as the priest offered the sacrifice of the Mass.**********"...When communion was given it tended to occur before or after Mass but not during. Members of the faithful could make their 'spiritual communion' with the priest as he communicated himself. They were convinced that they were too unworthy to do otherwise. Miracles grew during this period, especially regarding the Eucharist" (pp. 62-64).In his FROM AGE TO AGE (Rev. Ed.), Edward Foley looks at developments in eucharistic theology in his chapter on "The Rise of the Roman Church: 313 - 750":"[While] there continues to be a strong connection [from earlier eras] between considering the Eucharist in sacrificial terms and considering Christian living as a living sacrifice,...there is a notable shift in the balance of Christian thinking about sacrifice in this period...Increasingly..., it is the eucharistic celebration more than Christian living that is cast in sacrificial terms...[T]he trajectory initiated in Tertullian ["in the previous era'] of seeing the eucharistic prayer as sacrificial will develop to the point that the prayer itself will be understood as a sacrifice offered by the priest. The Roman Canon, which first appears in this era and by the middle of the sixth century is deemed the 'canonical prayer'...is filled with language of sacrifice and offering and will contribute significantly to Western thinking about Eucharist as primarily the 'Sacrifice of the Mass'" (p. 120).According to Foley, although there continues to be typology informed by Hebrew scriptures in interpreting the eucharist throughout the fourth and fifth centuries, a new "form of theologizing about the Eucharist develops that does not rely on biblical images or on philosophical categories..." Quoting Enrico Mazza, this second approach "restricts itself to asserting the realism of the sacrament in a naive and decidedly rudimentary way, ending in the assertion of a complete physical identity between the bread and the body of Christ and between the wine and the blood of Christ" (p. 121)."Increasingly throughout this period," writes Foley, "various writers speak of the 'change' that takes place in the eucharistic elements and, by consequence, how that change comes about. Trying to underscore that the eucharistic elements are different from ordinary food is nothing new at this stage of Christianity. One evolution in eucharistic theology, however, is moving from a stage of asserting *that* the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ, to *how* or *when* that change takes place" (121).It is my belief that as long as Catholics continue to identify their liturgical presiders as "priests", Catholics will continue to unwittingly prop up an ecclesial culture that elevates the ordained at the expense of everybody else. A "priest", by definition, mediates (in a Catholic context) between God and human beings by *offering sacrifice on behalf of the people to God*. As I noted in an earlier post, this role understanding places the "priest" higher up in the ecclesial pecking order. Yet, this understanding must be kept in place if we continue to believe that the Father sent the Son to die for us on the cross, that the Son was the "victim" in this scenario. Priesthood and sacrifice are flip sides of the same coin: You can't have one without the other. Add to this toxic theology our culturally informed practice of addressing our ordained presbyters as "Father", and you have a recipe for institutional troubles --- paternalism, infantilism of the laity.If Davidson and Hoge's observations are accurate, we've been seeing the resurgence of "priestly-minded" clergy over the past 25 or so years. They believe their presbyteral ordinations have conferred an "ontological" superiority that sets them apart from the rest of us. They believe they must, of necessity, have the final word on matters of parish life and governance. As the two sociologists of religion point out, these clergy are moving in one direction while most laity --- old *and* young --- are moving in the opposite direction. This is not a good prognosis for the church.

"Was Jesus a *martyr*? Why not? The Son, in addition to effecting our salvation, certainly furthered human understanding of what is asked of us by the Father."See Rev 1:5, "Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness [martys, = martyr], the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood,"You agree, it seems, that "effecting our salvation" is a dimension that goes beyond seeing Jesus as only a prophet-martyr. Of course there are many who would say that Jesus "saves the world" just by his teachings and by the example of his self-giving love. With Rene Girard, they might add that his death spells the end of violent sacrificial mechanisms, and of course there is a lot of truth in that.

"I cannot fathom the Father intructing or dutifully expecting the Son to be physically tortured and hung up to die on a cross. Such a picture is totally at odds with Jesus own understanding of the Father as Abba."Throughout history people have been called by their conscience to face painful death. "Not my will, but thine be done" has been their prayer. Indeed, we must all face death, and draw on the resignation of Jesus, with Jesus, to do so."If Jesus had died a natural death, would his message be any less relevant?"The Buddha died a natural death, aged 80, and his message has not lost relevance. How much contingency there is in the way things worked out in Jesus' case is quite a question. I think we need to put Jesus in context in the prophetic tradition, including the martyrdoms of some prophets."In adhering to his teaching, we are *at one* with God, hence, the word atonement." Well, it all depends on what authority you attribute to Paul, who teaches the we are powerless to escape the bondage of sin and be at one with God and his Law, unless empowered by Christ's death and resurrection."Through upright living and helping ones neighbors, people can effectively render moot the power of mechanisms that produce sin." The NT insists that "without me you can do nothing" (Jn 15). The necessity and sovereignty of grace in our salvation is a core Christian conviction."The Father willed the Sons earthly ministry, but it was people who willed his crucifixion."Yet the Gospels never let up on the idea that to follow Jesus means facing the Cross. Of course the Father did not will the evil of persecutors, but he did will the disciples to stand fast in face of persecution, indeed, "blessed are the persecuted" (Mt 5)."Language can be powerful, and its inherent power has been used by Rome to create and preserve a clerical (more accurately, perhaps, a priestly) culture defined as the elevation of the ordained and subordination of the laity."No doubt, but how does that disqualify the Protestant hymin I quoted? If a Catholic prays with St Ignatius Loyola "blood of my Savior bathe me in thy tide" or with St Thomas Aquinas "Pie Pelicane, Jesu Domine,: Me immundum munda tuo sanguine: Cujus una stilla salvum facere: Totum mundum quit ab omni scelere" is she, in your view, subscribing to clericalism?"When the term sacrifice is used in reference to the passion and crucifixion, it must be understood in terms of Jesus self-sacrifice."But it usually is, I would say. We all know that he "laid down his life for his friends" and gave himself as "a ransom for many" and spoke of his blood poured forth for the many, etc. You are not identifying very clearly a distortion of this, and you seem rather to be throwing out the baby with the bathwater.(The CCCs treatment of the Lamb of God imagery states, inter alia, that Jesus is at the same time the suffering Servant who silently *allows himself* to be led to the slaughter[CCC-608; emphasis added]. While such phraseology doesnt seem to rule out the idea that the Sons passion and crucifixion were willed by the Father, it does suggest Jesus own intent to undergo a brutal death to cap his ministry.) Who ever denied this?No, I am just referring to the words of Jesus, This is my body and the words ascribed to him in John (unless you eat my flesh)Of course Jesus uses metaphors throughout John, and there is a school of exegesis that says the passage I quoted is metaphorical, but then they also say it does not refer to the Eucharist. IF it refers to the Eucharist it is not metaphorical, any more than the Last Supper formula is. (Of course Zwingli would say that the Last Supper words are metaphorical too.)You imply that the language of atonement, atoning sacrifice, is just figures of speech. The same could be said of the language of resurrection, exaltation, Incarnation -- Then you offer an interpretation of these figures of speech which to my mind is very reductive. Jesus was just as prophet whose teachings give us the power to help ourselves attain our salvation by being good people -- is that it?

"What I am saying is that it is sufficient to believe that the consecrated elements of bread and wine are the body and blood of Christ. No doctrine transubstantiation, consubstantiation, etc. can truly explain this mystery of our faith."There is no such doctrine as transubstantiation, it is merely an "apt" word for the mystery of Christ's presence, according to Trent. Today theologians prefer to talk of the meal event as the locus of the dynamic presence of Christ in his paschal mystery rather than fetishize the "elements". [t]he physical reality of Christs crucified body, and the physical presence of his glorified body [in the eucharist] reminds me of what some have labeled the objectification of the eucharist. Because you misread me.[T]he focus ["during the patristic centuries"] was on liturgical *actions* and on the effectiveness of the eucharistic ritual *as a whole*, not on the bread and wine as elements or objects (emphases original). Curiously, I just made this point myself.Edward Foley pans the Roman Canon: filled with language of sacrifice and offering and will contribute significantly to Western thinking about Eucharist as primarily the Sacrifice of the Mass (p. 120). The other Eucharistic Prayers also speak of the Eucharist as a sacrifice offered by the community -- "look with favor on your church's offering and see the victim whose death has reconciled us to yourself" -- etc. It is my belief that as long as Catholics continue to identify their liturgical presiders as priests, Catholics will continue to unwittingly prop up an ecclesial culture that elevates the ordained at the expense of everybody else."That is why one of the English texts of the liturgy (now changed) says "your ministers" instead of "minister" and why meum ac vestrum sacrificium was (until recently) translated as "our sacrifice" to get away from the idea that the celebrant is a priest offering a sacrifice on behalf of the people rather than just the minister of the community's offering."Yet, this understanding must be kept in place if we continue to believe that the Father sent the Son to die for us on the cross, that the Son was the victim in this scenario."No, the community can offer Christ's sacrifice to the Father. The first priest is Christ, the second is the priestly community who join with him in his sacrifice. "Priesthood and sacrifice are flip sides of the same coin: You cant have one without the other."I agree, and Christ is therefore a priest, and his people share in his priestly role.Incidentally, even if you could pin all the alleged abuses of the Church on the theological doctrines you claim are toxic, you would still have to remember that abusus non tollit usum. ALL religious doctrines have had toxic side-effects. You do not need to throw out the baby just because the bathwater is dirty.

"The merciful Trinity divided the labor of our redemption -- the Father in accepting the sacrifice, the Son in offering it, the Spirit in bring the fire to it" Pope Leo I. Not the way we talk today!

Joseph O'Leary, to several of your points:+ As a self-described prophet whose sacrifice encompassed his entire earthly ministry and culminated with his self-sacrifice on the cross, Jesus gave new meaning to *priesthood* and to *sacrifice*. Yes, we agree, I think, on the points discussed.+ As you've noted, people have faced painful death to live up to their religious convictions. Still others have not --- even though they retained their orthodox belief. For me, in recalling "Thy will be done", the key question is "Does God will a person's martyrdom?" I don't think so. Some folks are stronger than others. God's ability to read the human heart, God's mercy, God's forgiveness, and God's unconditional love all come into play here.+ My Catholic dictionary defines 'atonement' as follows: "Often used as a synonym for *redemption* (and sometimes carelessly used as a synonym for *expiation*), 'at-one-ment' refers to the end effect of the process of redemption: being at one with God (from whom we were previously alienated) and so sharing in the divine life. The language of atonement may also point to means for removing guild and reconciling sinners with God, in particular,...the death and resurrection of Christ in the NT."+ "Through upright living..." I had in mind a Christian context including fidelity to Jesus' teaching.+ "Blessed are the persecuted", yes. However, I don't recall Jesus damning those who fail the test out of human weakness. Indeed, Jesus tells his followers to love their enemies, not judge others, and forgive without limit. I suspect God will do at least as much as God asks of us.+ Re: the Protestant hymn, sorry for misunderstanding. I had in mind the reference to "sacrifice" and what it at least connotes if not denotes in the Catholic world. I now deliberately use "presbyter" to refer to the Catholic liturgical presider, whether male or female. I no longer refer to Catholic ordinands as "priests" by virtue of their presbyteral ordination. I see the presider --- presbyter or bishop --- as maintaining order in the Christian assembly and receiving the gifts of the people for communal offering in thanksgiving to God. To rephrase, I see the presider as the "lead priest" as he or she leads his/her fellow priests, i.e., all the baptized, at worship. As for any reference to "the sacrifice of the mass", I regard the Catholic mass as a sacrifice only insofar as (a) one must get out of bed in the morning to get to church on time, or (b) one must delay or cancel a desired activity to get to church in the first place! I take this tack because Rome has done little to discourage the idea/doctrine that Jesus is the "victim" slain (in "unbloody" fashion) on the "altar", a doctrine that necessitates preservation of a separate, "ontologically" different kind of priesthood, not to mention the idea that God sent his only begotten Son to die on the cross to effect our salvation. This understanding turns the Father into an a$$hole. To me, this is orthotoxy.+ "When the term 'sacrifice' is used..." I must disagree with your view that "it usually is" understood as Jesus' self-sacrifice. The word "sacrifice" has traditionally referred to a "priest" offering a "victim" on an "altar" to appease a vindictive god(s). The "victim", in other words, "is sacrificed". As a layman, I clearly see a tension in Catholicism as Rome tries to balance competing understandings of sacrifice. Much of this debate, of course, revolves around the issue of, inter alia, the mass is a "sacrifice" or a "memorial meal". I subscribe to the latter view.+ "Of course Jesus uses metaphors throughout John..." We're going to have to disagree that the words of institution, etc. are not metaphorical. Jesus offered the one and only sacrifice; it cannot be repeated. If Jesus' words are not metaphorical, then we end up at mass with Jesus' literal physical body and blood on the church altar/table. Thus enters the church's teaching on *transubstantiation*, which is ultimately a self-defeating attempt to explain a mystery. The recurrection occurred once. Jesus is present in the eucharist but in a different way today. As did the primitive Christians, I likewise believe *that* Jesus is present in the consecrated elements, but I also believe we cannot --- and need not --- try to explain *how* Jesus is present. Human language is simply incapable of explaining or demystifying a true mystery of our faith. + "You imply that the language of atonement..." While you may have *perceived* me implying such, I draw a distinction between actual events --- Last Supper, crucifixion, resurrection --- on the one hand, and Jesus' and disciples' metaphorical/etc. teaching, on the other hand. Do we attain salvation by doing good works? No. Did Jesus teach us how to be good human beings and, in so doing, behave the way that God wants us to behave? Yes.+ "There is no such doctrine as transubstantiation." Maybe it's a matter of perspective: a. "For the first time in the history of Catholic *doctrine*, the Fourth Lateran Council (1215) spoke of 'transubstantiation', i.e., the belief that the substance of bread and wine is changed into the body and blood of Christ. This teaching was reaffirmed and made more precise by the Council of Constance (1415) and the Council of Trent (1551" (Richard McBrien, CATHOLICISM, 1994, pp. 826-827). b. "...Trent's decree on the sacrament of the eucharist includes a canon which offers an interesting example of the necessity of distinguishing, within a canon, between what refers to revealed truth and what does not. The canon is as follows: 'If anyone says that in the holy sacrament of the eucharist the substance of bread and wine remains together with the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and denies that wonderful and unique change of the whole substance of the bread into his body and of the whole substance of the wine into his blood while only the species of bread and wine remain, a change which the Catholic Church very fittingly calls transubstantiation, anathema sit.' Here what is defined as a dogma of faith is the 'wonderful and unique change of the whole substance of bread,' etc. On the other hand, that the church 'very fittingly' calls this change of substance by the name 'transubstantiation' is hardly something that God has revealed. From the fact that this clause is included within a canon that ends with 'anathema sit' it does not follow that one would be a heretic, in the modern sense of the term, if one questioned the 'fittingness' of the term 'transubstantiation', provided one did not question the doctrine that Trent meant to express by the use of that term" (Francis A. Sullivan, CREATIVE FIDELITY: WEIGHING AND INTERPRETING DOCUMENTS OF THE MAGISTERIUM, 2003 reprint, pp. 51-52).From a practical standpoint, perhaps a distinction without a difference?+ "Edward Foley pans the Roman Canon..." If I understand your use of the term 'pan', it's your perception, not mine.+ "That is why one of the English texts..." As you've noted, what was once "our sacrifice" was recently changed by the Vatican to "my sacrifice and yours". Unfortunately, this change separates the sacrifice of the presider (one is tempted to say "of the priest") from that of the congregation. Unfortunately, too, the reference to "ministers" does not serve in this context to declericalize the sacred liturgy. The continuing battle over wording/phraseology reflects the ongoing attempt by Vatican "traditionalists" to chip away at the renewed understanding of the sacred liturgy as a sacred memorial meal.+ "The first priest is Christ, the second is the priestly community..." According to McBrien, "Christ is present, first, in the community which has assembled for worship. Second, he is present in the person of the minister who presides in his name..." (CATHOLICISM, p. 827).+ "...Christ is therefore a priest, and his people share in a priestly role." As long as we understand the mass to be a memorial of the self-sacrifice of Christ not only in his passion and death but also throughout his earthly ministry, I can agree.+ "ALL religious doctrines have had toxic side-effects..." The toxic side-effects within the Roman Catholic understanding of priesthood and sacrifice are so deep and widespread, I think we need to retrieve the simplicity of understanding held by our primitive ancestors in the faith.

More recently, Gerhard Muller, the incoming head of the CDF, was reported by John L. Allen, Jr. at NCROnline as having "apparently counseled against using the term 'body and blood of Christ' to describe the consecrated bread and wine at Mass." I'm only vaguely familiar with the man but not at all with his eucharistic theology. I can certainly see benefit in perhaps our simply acknowledging that "Christ is present in the eucharist, period." See "Pope shuffles Vatican deck with two key appointments" at http://ncronline.org/news/vatican/pope-shuffles-vaticans-deck-two-key-ap....

(Exclude the period mark at end of link)

That Jesus died in obedience to the Father is bedrock NT teaching. That the Cross has to do with divine judgment on sinful humanity is also pretty central.We cannot dump the solemn definitions of Lateran IV and Trent, but we can interpret them. I interpret as follows: the entire meal event becomes a sharing in the paschal mystery in which Christ is dynamically present in his entire reality. Worship of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament must not be abstracted from this. Pius XII says that viaticum is an extension of the Mass and worship of the reserved sacrament a second extension. Worship of the Bl. Sac. is a continuation of the Mass, welcoming the eucharistic presence contemplatively.On transubstantiation, Newman has famous and I think liberating remarks in Apologia V.

Newman: "I cannot indeed prove it, I cannot tell how it is; but I say, "Why should it not be? What's to hinder it? What do I know of substance or matter? just as much as the greatest philosophers, and that is nothing at all;"so much is this the case, that there is a rising school of philosophy now, which considers phenomena to constitute the whole of our knowledge in physics. The Catholic doctrine leaves phenomena alone. It does not say that the phenomena go; on the contrary, it says that they remain; nor does it say that the same phenomena are in several places at once. It deals with what no one on earth knows any thing about, the material substances themselves."

Gerhard Muller is regarded as an archconservative, divisive and polarizing, in Regensburg; see the recent Spiegel coverage.

"That Jesus died in obedience to the Father is bedrock NT teaching." I would understand that Jesus died in obedience to the Father with respect to teaching, preaching, and healing, not with respect to torture and crucifixion."divine judgment on sinful humanity..." This phrase suggests the need for a cultic "priesthood" to "sacrifice" an innocent "victim" on an "altar" in order to appease a vindictive God for the sins of humanity. Rome, of course, tries to have its cake and eat it, too, by describing the liturgical sacrifice as "unbloody" and acknowledging that there was only one true sacrifice when Jesus was crucified and died on the cross. My response: If there was only one sacrifice, and if our primitive ancestors in the Christian faith did not have ministerial ordination, much less a so-called ministerial "priesthood", we do not need such a ministry today, either. Instead, we need to return to the understanding that ordination, a comparatively novel practice in ancient churches, admits one to the *presbyterate* or episcopate to preside at the eucharistic liturgy. We need to understand priesthood and sacrifice as I've described it earlier.I'm not into eucharistic adoration --- not my form of piety. I'm not against it, but I don't promote it. Knowing the general history of various extra-liturgical practices, I'm reminded they developed largely in response to the mass becoming the domain of the clergy. I want to stress that I am not against ministerial ordination in the church, and I am not against the church having the three orders of deacon, *presbyter*, and bishop. I believe in the real presence of Christ in the eucharist, but I think it is fruitless to try to explain this mystery of our Catholic faith. I support women's ordination to all three orders. I regard the eucharistic liturgy as a sacred memorial meal at which we come together to remember the earthly ministry of Jesus including his passion and crucifixion and to give thanks to God for all our blessings.As for Muller, I want to see what develops. Based on what little I know about the man, I suspect he'll be in my proverbial "crosshairs" --- at least on some issues --- at some point :-)

"Jesus died in obedience to the Father with respect to teaching, preaching, and healing, not with respect to torture and crucifixion." Impossible distinction.divine judgment on sinful humanity This phrase suggests the need for a cultic priesthood to sacrifice an innocent victim on an altar in order to appease a vindictive God for the sins of humanity. The NT in fact uses such language, but would not say that God is vindictive -- rather just and holy. "Rome, of course, tries to have its cake and eat it, too, by describing the liturgical sacrifice as unbloody and acknowledging that there was only one true sacrifice when Jesus was crucified and died on the cross."That's already a huge progress over ideas that each mass is a new sacrifice, and shows responsiveness to Protestant thought.""I believe in the real presence of Christ in the eucharist, but I think it is fruitless to try to explain this mystery of our Catholic faith."But we must have good models for conceiving it -- otherwise bad models (magic, fetishism) take over. Biblical and ecumenical eucharistic theology moves us toward a dynamic conception of the meal event and Xt's presence.

"Impossible distinction." The distinction, if I understand you, is "impossible" only if one believes that the Father instructed/dutifully expected the Son to endure torture and crucifixion. I do not accept this understanding. Jesus' entire earthly ministry entailed sacrifice on his part in obedience to the Father, but in this statement I draw a dividing line between Jesus moving out and about, on the one hand, and Jesus being led on the road to Calvary and enduring torture and crucifixion."The NT in fact uses such language..." God is just and holy, to be sure, but the language used by Jesus and disciples was metaphor and other figures of speech to help listeners comprehend new teaching. "But we must have good models for conceiving it..." I'm not convinced. I think it would be prudent for Rome and other Christian churches to acknowledge the truth of the real presence as understood by our primitive ancestors in the Christian faith, the futility of attempts to prove or disprove it, and the wisdom of using such an approach to further ecumenical dialogue and eventual intercommunion.

The Gospels and Philippians 2 and Hebrews talk about Jesus as obedient mostly in relation to his passion. "A death he freely accepted" is how Euch. Pr. puts it (il entra librement dans sa passion" is the French version). "I draw a dividing line between Jesus moving out and about, on the one hand, and Jesus being led on the road to Calvary and enduring torture and crucifixion." He is obedient in both; and heroically obedient in the latter; both are salvific but the latter "crucially" so.No one seeks to prove the real presence, but there is an effort to "explicate" it; and indeed one can criticize the efforts of Aquinas (Fitzpatrick; In Breaking of Bread), Luther et al. "Acknowledge the truth of the real presence as understood by our primitive ancestors in the Christian faith," is a vague and ambiguous statement. At what point would you start disqualifying their discourse as too "explicative"?

a. "No one seeks to prove the real presence, but there is an effort to 'explicate' it." Sorry, poor word choice on my part. Earlier and on other threads, I've used the word 'explain' as in "A genuine mystery cannot be explained." That said (and since you've questioned word choice), the average Catholic will likely, if asked by a skeptic/non-believer, "prove" Christ's real presence in the eucharist by mentioning "Transubstantiation" and then, if able, defining the term. For most Catholics, the two terms are used interchangeably. The task for theology, as I understand it, is to make the doctrine meaningful for others without trying to explicate something that, as a mystery, cannot be explained.b. "At what point would you start disqualifying their discourse as too 'explicative'?" I take my cues from Gerald T. Floyd's dissertation linked earlier (because you noted at the time that you were unable to access it on your computer, I should note that I am relying on Floyd's historical overview of "Real Presence in the Eucharist" in Part II, chapter 2):"[A]lthough the New Testament does affirm that Jesus is present in the eucharist, nowhere does the New Testament tell us how Jesus is present. This question, which became a real concern in the later history of the church, is neither asked nor answered by any of the New Testament writers. Thus there is no theory of the mechanism of Jesus presence which can claim exclusive rectitude on New Testament grounds. Only a position which asserted that Jesus was in no way present at the eucharist would be excluded by the New Testament evidence. The creativity of the New Testament period was its ability to hold together several liturgical traditions which affirmed the Lords eucharistic presence, without having to specify how that presence takes place. Later generations would have their own reasons for believing that more needed to be said."The later generations, however, did not include those of the patristic period. Up through the 5th Century the New Testament pattern obtained: not a single Father of the church thought it necessary to specify how Jesus is present in the eucharist."Gerald Floyd's information notwithstanding, I think --- as I've noted earlier --- that any attempt to *explain* (explicate) this mystery of our faith is a wasted effort. If there's a "silver lining" in such attempts among theologians representing various Christian traditions, it may be that they eventually conclude it's best to fall back on the words of Jesus to a doubting Thomas: "Blessed are those who have not seen, but believe". Jesus did not explain this mystery; human attempts (perhaps except as noted) are guaranteed to fail if Christ's real presence in the eucharist is truly a mystery.c. "He is obedient in both ["moving out and about...and enduring torture and crucifixion"]..." Not being a theologian, I'll offer some info from folks better versed in the subject than I am:+ "That Jesus went to his death with unshaken confidence is crucial. As noted in the 1979 statement of the International Theological Commission, his 'existence for others' developed through the historical struggle and questions of his life. '[A]t the last supper and in Gethsemani he seems to have faced death as one entrusting himself to a situation and a future that were still to some extent unknown....[S]uch limits to his knowledge and foreknowledge are precisely part of his being human and not an ugly imperfection from which Jesus must be miraculously preserved.' At the end he trusted that his Abba's reign would come, even though he himself confronted seeming failure. The Jesus who had lived 'for others' now willed to make an ultimate gift of himself, confident that, through his being for others even in dying, the God he called Abba would bring forth final salvation, the eschatological reign. He who offered hope to others, especially by eating and drinking with them, never lost hope himself nor his resolve to be for others even in death. During his lifetime, Jesus shifted attention away from himself to the reign of his Abba" (Bernard Prusak. THE CHURCH UNFINISHED: ECCLESIOLOGY THROUGH THE CENTURIES. Paulist Press, 2004, p. 45.+ "...According to Richard Rohr, the Deuteronomic Code, exemplified by the Ten Commandments, was based on punishing (not healing) the unrepentant sinner. Thus the Deuteronomic Code had the following movement: I sin, God punishes me, I repent, God loves and rewards me. In such a movement, I *earn* God's love and my reward through repentance. But stories such as Paul's conversion or the return of the unrepentant prodigal son turn the Deuteronomic Code upside down. They have a different movement: I sin, I am unrepentant, I am loved and rewarded by God, this heals me so I can repent. In such stories I do not earn God's love and reward through repentance. Instead, 'grace' or God's love and reward is *unearned*, a free gift which heals me and makes my eventual repentance possible."This radical break with the Deuteronomic Code was the hallmark of the covenant introduced by the prophets. In this covenant, God's *mercy* would no longer be in contrast to God's retributive *justice*. Rather, for God now means God being true to Godself as the merciful one, the magnanimous one, the unconditional lover. God would never again vengefully punish sin (Is. 54:9) but rather would heal the hard-hearted by being excessive to the excessive degree, by 'astounding this people with prodigies and wonders' (Is. 29:14, Jerusalem Bible)" (Dennis Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn, and Matthew Linn. GOOD GOATS: HEALING OUR IMAGE OF GOD. Paulist Press, 1994, p. 62).+ Did Jesus "explicitly connect his death with our redemption? If he did, why did the earliest New Testament Christology not make the same connection? Presumably it would have done so if it had some basis for it in the sayings of Jesus. And yet eventually, within the New Testament, Jesus' death *is* interpreted in redemptive categories, as a work of atonement for our sins. Such a conviction evidently had to develop, not at once but over a period of time, as the life and death of Jesus continued to be contemplated in the light of the resurrection."But...resurrection faith first inspired the Church to look forward to the Second Coming, not backward. Only later did it reverse direction and display greater interest in the actual historical existence of Jesus, an interest which produced the Gospels. But where the older Christologies of the Epistles worked out of contemporary thought patterns, the Gospels remained more or less faithful to Old Testament thinking. It was this kind of thinking which accommodated itself most readily to the notion of redemptive sacrifice."The idea of *vicarious atonement*, i.e., the sufferings of an innocent person having redeeming value for the sins of others, was already well accepted in the Judaism of Jesus' day. The best-known expression of this concept occurs in the Servant songs of Deutero-, or Second, Isaiah (42:1-4; 49:1-6; 50:4-9; 52:13-53:12), where the Servant, probably Israel itself, becomes an instrument of divine salvation through his/its passion and death. Jesus himself is identified with the *Servant of the Lord* in the early Christian proclamation (Acts of the Apostles 3:13,26; 4:27,30) and is taken into the Gospel accounts themselves (Matthew 8:17; 12:18-21; Luke 22:37). The Second Isaian imagery is clearly woven through the passage of 1 Peter 2:22-25:**********"But the Servant role, at first eagerly attributed to Jesus, was later abandoned as being too Jewish and, therefore, not readily understandable within the Gentile world. Other, more flexible Old Testament figures came to the surface, particularly the notion of *ransom* and the associated idea of *redemption*. A Marcan saying (10:45) is taken up by the Gospels (Matthew 20:28), with parallels elsewhere (1 Timothy 2:6) to show that Jesus understood his own mission as giving his life as a ransom for many."In the New Testament world of commerce, a ransom was the price that had to be paid to buy back a pawned object or to liberate a slave. Thus, Christ is seen as the ransom given to liberate us all from the slavery of sin. But it has been an extraordinary misunderstanding to view this act of ransoming in more than *metaphorical* terms, as if it were some necessary payment demanded by God. On the contrary, 'the redemption that is in Christ Jesus' is itself 'a gift' of God (Romans 3:24). We have no reason for supposing that the New Testament intended to press the metaphor any farther than did the Old Testament."We do not pay a ransom to God (Psalm 49:8); it is God who is our redeemer (Psalm 78:35; see also Psalm 19:14; Isaiah 63:5). The metaphor means that forgiveness of sin is not some casual or arbitrary act of God. Sin is truly a bondage leading to death. It 'costs' God much to forgive and to deliver us from that bondage. In speaking of the blood of Christ as the 'price' he had to pay, the New Testament is trying to emphasize that the risen Lord's life and death somehow served God's salvific purposes in history. *There is no exact 'commercial' description of what actually occurred in Jesus' passion and death.""What does it mean, therefore, to speak of Jesus as having become a 'curse' for us, and as having shed his blood in *expiation* of our sins?"First, what does it *not* mean? It does *not* mean that Jesus was accursed of God like the *scapegoat* of the Old Testament (Leviticus 16:20-28), which was burdened with the sins of all the people and then driven away to die in the desert, the abode of the demons. Christ is never likened in New Testament Christology to the scapegoat of the Old Testament. It does *not* mean, therefore, that Jesus was marked out for death by the Father in expiation for offenses against the divine majesty, for neither is there any Old Testament model for such a notion."What we have is an exercise in Pauline paradox (Galatians 3:13, with a quotation from Deuteronomy 21:22-23). Christ has brought us back from the 'curse' of the Law by himself becoming a 'curse' for us. As in the case of the word 'ransom', the usage here is *metaphorical*..."What of the *blood sacrifices*? When they were employed as a means of atonement, the death of the animal was entirely incidental. Blood in itself was regarded as a purifying and sacred element (Deuteronomy 12:23). Insofar as the shedding of Christ's blood is clearly associated with the establishment of a new covenant (Hebrews 9:12-14; Mark 14:24; Matthew 26:28; Luke 22:20), the allusion is always to the enactment of the Old Covenant on Sinai (Exodus 24), namely, the blood of a *peace offering*, not a sacrifice of expiation. It is not that God was so enraged by the world's sin that a price was to be exacted (the prevalent idea of God among the pagans), but that God 'so loved the world that he gave his only Son...' (John 3:16)."Jesus himself seems to have viewed his impending death as the fate of a *prophet* (see Luke 13:34)."In summary, the Church's faith in the saving power of Christ's death emerged from its initial faith in his resurrection, and not from any general sense of need for deliverance from sin or from some wide-ranging exploration of Old Testament texts. *Jesus' death assumes meaning within the context of his resurrection*: 'Unless the grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life' (John 12:24-25)" (Richard McBrien. CATHOLICISM. HarperOne, 1994, pp. 444-446).

Jesus seems to have viewed his impending death as the fate of a prophet... but the evidence that he spoke of it in sacrificial terms is just as old or even older -- Mk's "ransom for many" and the Eucharistic words. McBrien is largely running through open doors as he scotches naively literal understandings of these terms; note that a "peace offering" is a sacrifice too.

"The Jesus who had lived for others now willed to make an ultimate gift of himself, confident that, through his being for others even in dying, the God he called Abba would bring forth final salvation, the eschatological reign. He who offered hope to others, especially by eating and drinking with them, never lost hope himself nor his resolve to be for others even in death."That is a fair reconstruction of Jesus' self-sacrifice. But does it mean that the eucharistic banquet is only a commemoration of Jesus' trust in the coming of the Kingdom?

"Up through the 5th Century the New Testament pattern obtained: not a single Father of the church thought it necessary to specify how Jesus is present in the eucharist.Patristic eucharistic theology is rich and sustained by a vivid sense of Christ's dynamic presence in the eucharistic, and it has generally proven unusable in later eucharistic quarrels; so I think this is quite a wholesome basis for eucharistic understanding (and is more and more retrieved in current eucharistic theology).

" Did Jesus explicitly connect his death with our redemption? If he did, why did the earliest New Testament Christology not make the same connection? Presumably it would have done so if it had some basis for it in the sayings of Jesus. And yet eventually, within the New Testament, Jesus death *is* interpreted in redemptive categories, as a work of atonement for our sins. Such a conviction evidently had to develop, not at once but over a period of time, as the life and death of Jesus continued to be contemplated in the light of the resurrection."I presume he would not deny that this conviction was a valid development. What he postulates about earliest Christianity would be hard to substantiate. There may have been a community that looked forward to the parousia without paying much atttention to the passion and even without a resurrection creed (reconstructed from interpretations of Q). As soon as the cross becomes significant, sacrificial language comes into play, including the Suffering Servant theme. " Jesus himself is identified with the *Servant of the Lord* in the early Christian proclamation (Acts of the Apostles 3:13,26; 4:27,30)"He presumes that this late report reflects historical fact.But the Servant role, at first eagerly attributed to Jesus, was later abandoned as being too Jewish and, therefore, not readily understandable within the Gentile world."It is not abandoned within the NT and I am not aware that it was ever abandoned." Other, more flexible Old Testament figures came to the surface, particularly the notion of *ransom* and the associated idea of *redemption*. A Marcan saying (10:45) is taken up by the Gospels (Matthew 20:28), with parallels elsewhere (1 Timothy 2:6) to show that Jesus understood his own mission as giving his life as a ransom for many."But the ransom motif has earlier attestation than the Suffering Servant one; and in any case it is very close to the latter. I doubt if these remarks of McBrien would pass muster with exegetes.

"The Churchs faith in the saving power of Christs death emerged from its initial faith in his resurrection, and not from any general sense of need for deliverance from sin or from some wide-ranging exploration of Old Testament texts. Jesus death assumes meaning within the context of his resurrection."Again, can he deny the validity of the interpretation that connects Christ's death with our need of deliverance from sin? Paul did not invent it out of thin air; Jesus himself may be its originator, if he really spoke of his blood being shed for the forgiveness of sins.

We're killing the proverbial "dead horse" to death. I've quoted from some of my sources on the use of language, and you've expressed disagreement on the basis of your professional background. If anyone has been following this thread to date, I invite them to consider what we've written, research the matter if desired, and make up their own minds.My concern from the outset was to show how a toxic theology has informed a church culture characterized by the elevation of the ordained and subordination of the laity. If the core reality of Catholicism is the sacred liturgy, and if this worship is identified as a "sacrifice" (as in "sacrifice of the mass"), then the church must have an official and distinct "priesthood" since only a member of such a priesthood can offer sacrifice to God on behalf of the people. (One is reminded here, per Jaroslav Pelikan, of Chrysostom [d. 407 AD] writing of "'the Lord being sacrificed and laid upon the altar and the priest standing and praying over the victim,' summarizing the sacrificial language about the Eucharist which had also become accepted practice.") Because of this mediating role, the priest stands on an institutional pedestal, the higher the rank --- priest, monsignor, bishop, archbishop, cardinal, pope --- the higher the pedestal. Add to this picture the practice of most Catholics addressing their frontline clergy as "Father", and we have the ingredients of a patriarchal society, one that tends to infantilize the laity. Thanks to independent media, we've learned of the rotten "fruits" of this church culture in recent years. It's axiomatic in psychology that past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior.I think our exchange has been worthwhile, and I hope you believe likewise.Take care and God bless.

I agree our exchange has been worthwhile -- I might write it up on my weblog.Chrysostom is more preacher than theologian, but I agree that that kind of language pervade much older preaching and theology. Since Vatican II, however, it is quite rare.

I believe that Jesus' death was recognized by his fellow jews as a sacrifice when as John telss us-the tomb was empty . When John ends his gospel with the words-the tomb was empty-jewish followers who were being preached to, would understand the meaning of the empty tomb to be that the sacrifice had been accepted.When Jesus at the last supper tells his apostles that he will offer his body up -they did not understand what he meant. After his death and burial and when the tomb was found empty they understood what he meant at the last supper and that- the sacrifice had been accepted by God.Jesus who offered up the sacrifice and was himself sacrificed was both priest and sacrificial victim. The empty tomb indicated that this sacrifice of Jesus -this body offered was offered by that most holy priest and the offering itself was the most unblemished victim-the already beloved son.This perfect offering and perfect victim put an end to all sacrifices going forward. Jesus being the most holy priest and the most unblemished of offerings-makes all other sacrifices obsolete. What the sacrifice of Jesus and the the acceptance by God reveals is that what is pleasing to God is not ritual and blood sacrifices.Man's relationship with divinity is not about appeasing God through ritual and blood sacrifice but rather our relationship with God is based on a new covenant that places God in solidarity with mans suffering ,sinfulness and death.What is pleasing to God is what is essentially God like and Jesus' self giving is the perfect expression of Gods essential quality of love[the father for jesus in taking the offering-the empty tomb-and Jesus' love for us in offering himself as a revelation for us of what and who God really is.] God is revealed as lover of mankind who through Jesus'life and death can call us to know and love Him. The new covenant reveals the trinitarian relationship of God and his realtionship with man.The old testament gave us glimpses of god's love in the ten commandmants calling us to know know God and to live good-but those are abstractions that do not compel us to love or want or kown God. Jesus' life and death do compel us beyond abstractions to want and love and know God.When preaching to the gentiles-the gentiles would not have understood the meaning of Johns statement that the tomb was empty. They would have thought it could mean that he had not died or that his body had been removed. Seusequently the story of his resurrection had to be made explicit for gentiles to accept Jesus as the messiah-savior of the worldJesus had to have had doubts about who he was or else he did not suffer as humans suffer.

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