mea culpa

I love words. I love reading them and writing them. I love new words, and old words with new meanings. Recently, the Merriam Webster Dictionary has been tweeting words of the day that seem to be trolling a certain someone. Who do you know that could use a dose of self awareness of their faults? Who do you know that is “venal”, “abominable”, “obdurate” or a “grinch”? (Other recent words of the day.)

Today’s word, “mea culpa”, is steeped in catholic memory. Remember the thrice beating of the breast during the confiteor?

Through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault!

I groaned when this gem was brought back with the new Roman Missal. Yes, I’m scum. I’m a sinner. I ooze guilt through my catholic pores. But, as I get older, I resent standing and professing my guilt. I much prefer to point my finger at the real sinners. You know, those who are WAAY more evil than I. The headlines of 2018 were filled with these scoundrels.

We are currently watching one of the world’s greatest democracies implode because of a greedy, corrupt, selfish leadership focused on feeding the rich at all costs while demonizing the poor, migrants and visible minorities. They rationalize their evil agendas with bastardized interpretations of Christianity. The hypocrisy is staggering. There is no sense of personal fault. They do not perceive their acts as sinful.

Within the church, those of us “of a certain age” remember the threats of hell for sins as “grievous” as missing Mass on a Sunday. Now we know that some of those same priests who lectured us from pulpits and confessionals were sexual abusers, moving from parish to parish. Bishops chose to protect their priests at all costs within a clerical culture of secrecy, denial and cover-ups. Again, the hypocrisy is staggering. Where is their sense of sin?

Mea culpa. I am no saint, but I know when I have done wrong. It makes me feel like kaka. Many times I curse my catholic guilt, but at least it keeps me on the straight and narrow – or at least the bumpy and uneven.

The Merriam Webster Dictionary declared JUSTICE to be the word of the year.  A timely word. Our world is hungering for justice more than ever. We yearn for leaders of integrity who will use their power in service for the common good, so all God’s people may live with dignity, security and peace.

The Dictionary’s word of the day for Christmas was BENISON, a “blessing or benediction”.

Blessings to you and yours in this New Year!


inquisitions are not the answer


Blanket accusations and indiscriminate purges are part of the dark history of the Catholic church. From the killing and pillaging associated with the “holy” Crusades, to the mass executions of “heretics” during the Spanish Inquisition and the Protestant Reformation, the church showed no mercy in its self-righteous mission to defend the one and only true faith. It wasn’t until the 20th century that Pope John Paul II made a public act of repentance for these sins of the church.

Inquisitorial times, whether in churches or governments, feed authoritarian power in those who hold power and those who seek power. In the desire to purge the named evil, false accusations are inevitable. Whispered rumours morph into fact from sheer repetition. Personal vendettas and ideological battles lead the unscrupulous to name perpetrators with little or no evidence. Officials snitch on other officials. Neighbours snitch on neighbours.

Today it is easier than ever to spread calumny, rumour or innuendo. Social media gives everyone a voice and a platform. It also gives everyone the opportunity to hear all voices, whether true or false. We demand instant reporting and instant responses. Out-of -context headlines are retweeted before sources are investigated or proven, often by well meaning persons.

The recent news on the ongoing sexual abuse crisis has ignited understandable anger. We want it ended. We’re tired of the shock and the disgust. We want heads to roll. And, let me be clear, guilty heads should and must roll.

But, due process must be put in place and followed.

Some are calling for a mass resignation of American bishops. Is this the answer? I don’t think so.  Many of us know, and perhaps are friends with, priests or bishops of integrity. Blanket accusations and assumptions of guilt are unfair, and dangerous. Even if proven innocent, the initial assumption of guilt is seldom forgotten.

Cover-ups or canonical slaps on the wrist for serious crimes of abuse must end. The answer is a due process of law, with punishment suited to the severity of the crime.

Another inquisition is not the answer.


in defence of pope francis


My last blog post was an angry rant. I believe that anger is the correct response to the seriousness of the abuse crisis. Anger is the wake up call. Anger is the emotion that will fuel the desire to face the problem, search for solutions, and begin the difficult task of reforming and rebuilding.

But, we also need to put anger aside to gain clarity and perspective amid a deafening cacophony of opposing voices. In the next few posts, I hope to share some more thoughts with the hope that you will share yours. Dialogue is needed more than ever before.

In reality, the problem is greater than one grand jury report. Greater than one diocese. Greater than one cardinal or one bishop or one priest. Greater than one pope. The sheer magnitude, world-wide, of the abuse crisis defies any “one size fits all” solution.

Heavy the head that wears the crown. But, I have more faith in Pope Francis wearing that crown than any other head in our church today. Here’s why…

From day one, Francis has railed against the evil rot of clericalism. He preached about it to the cardinals as they prepared for the last papal election. After he became pope, Francis never tired of criticizing men who enter the priesthood for power and prestige. He pointed his finger at cliques within Vatican circles that spend their energy in political posturing, infighting and gossiping.  He consistently preached to bishops and cardinals, old and new, to be true servant leaders not princes.

As a bishop and cardinal, Francis lived a simple, humble life in the poor neighbourhoods of Buenos Aires. When he counsels families on daily life and love, he speaks with an intimacy and knowledge that defies his celibate life. His words reflect the many hours he has spent with families, sharing their joys, their sorrows and their struggles.

Francis’s deep love for children is without question. We know he will do all within his power to protect these little ones and their families.

Francis is a Jesuit. At the core of Jesuit spirituality is the discipline of discernment. Discernment requires deep prayer and hard work. And, it takes time. This is hard to accept when we yearn for quick and easy solutions.

No words of penance or sorrow can take away the damage, both personal and institutional, that this crisis has caused. But, I do believe that when Francis speaks he speaks from his heart. His words are genuine, honest and transparent.

This crisis is greater than the wisdom of any one person, no matter how kind, wise, loving or holy they are. Francis is not perfect. He has and will continue to make mistakes. For some, his words and actions will be too much. For others, not enough.

The church is in a mess beyond the power of any one person, committee, inquiry or program. If any pope is capable of beginning the clean up, it’s Francis.