|Courtesy of @UnknownPuNster|
Wordless in Delaware
As a regular contributor to this blog, I have my ups and downs. I usually don't get moving until a deadline looms. Sometimes even a deadline does not work. The current moment in Catholic history is one such time. My deadline for this article coincided with some of the worst weeks in Catholicism in recent memory. It has left me near wordless.
In August, the Pennsylvania Grand Jury released a report that chronicled 70 years of sexual abuse of 1000+ minors by 300 Catholic priests. This followed on the June revelation of the withdrawal from ministry of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington, D.C. following credible reports of the sexual abuse of a minor. Prior to this, Cardinal McCarrick had been suspected of multiple abuses of power involving homosexual activity with seminarians under his care. The pièce de résistance was a letter by former U.S. nuncio Archbishop Carlo Viganò, purporting to blow the whistle on Pope Francis himself as complicit in the cover-up of the McCarrick case.
"He is kind of an ODD DUCK."
Blessed Alberione was nothing if not focused on the future of humankind. He faced many crises as he worked to establish the apostolate of social communication. But his eyes were always on the ultimate future of Christ's mission. He yearned for the time that the entire world would realize the ultimate Pauline experience: "It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. (Galatians 2:20)"
I turned to my "odd duck" in my funk. Perhaps this Founder who focused so intensely on the future could give me perspective at a time when I was so discouraged that I could barely pray.
The Church and the world
"The Church, master teacher of mankind, is enlightened by the Holy Spirit. She has two enemies: sin and ignorance."
I love the Catholic Church. I believe it to be a supernatural entity, built on nature and moving through time towards its eternal destiny in a redeemed and perfected universe. Saints and sinners accompany it through the centuries. But many (most?) of the people in my life--and maybe yours--do not see the Church like that. They see it as just one more human institution, flawed perhaps irrevocably as the scandals unroll. And what credibility do I have now when I speak of the goodness, truth and beauty of the Catholic Church? Why would anyone be attracted to it in light of the grand jury report, the rise of Theodore McCarrick through the ecclesiastical ranks, and the allegations of cover-up of his misdoings going to the papacy itself?
It is no answer to separate Christ from his Church as some try to do, saying "Jesus is pure but the Church is corrupt." Since the time of the Protestant Reformation, those who remain Catholic have asserted that natural and supernatural elements subsist inseparably in the visible Church, always available to the authentic seeker. No amount of sin and ignorance on the part of its members can deform the essential holiness of the Mystical Body of Christ. We have no choice but to love the Church and fight to reform it from within.
Alberione addressed the sin and ignorance that wreaks such destruction on the visible Church:
"How often does it occur that the very person who wants to re-establish order ends by disturbing it the most! In certain meetings, the one who demands silence makes more noise than anyone else.
True reforming zeal always begins with ourselves. Therefore, don't be taken in too easily by those who talk about reform--reform of the clergy, of society, of Catholic associations--if first you do not see the beginnings of reform within these people themselves."
"There are individuals who take over the ship and impose themselves on the community. Others, following them without judgment or control, applaud. One such person is sufficient to lower the moral standard."We are indisputably in a time when the Church requires institutional reform. Father Alberione reminds us that we shouldn't be too quick to accept either demands for silence or a proliferation of promises of reform. Let us look for action. By their fruits we will know them.
Addressing the crimes
I have always hated it when Hollywood depicts people committing acts of depravity that involve crucifixes, holy water, and other symbols and sacramentals of Catholic faith. I am quick to label such depictions as anti-Catholic at their root. But the PA Grand Jury report reads like the worst kind of religious horror film. I am horrified to discover the credible possibility of truth within the fiction. The grand jury report includes descriptions of acts of perverted religiosity that mimic authentic Catholic ritual and cry out to heaven for justice. The perpetrators not only abused their authority over the young men (and some women) under their care. They also violated youthful innocence in a particularly pernicious way, modeling a false and corrupt understanding of sexuality, piety, and sacramentality to their victims. They seem deserving to me of the heaviest of millstones tied around their necks.
But whose job is it to take action if one of these little ones should be hurt by a cleric of the Church? Who has the job of chastising the perpetrators and preventing them from adding to the number of victims? Who, if not the bishops and the popes themselves, have the responsibility for hanging figurative millstones around offending clerics and casting them into metaphorical seas? Their religious superiors, can you doubt it? Much of the current anger among laity stems from the credible reports of the covering up of sexual abuse and depravity by the only persons authorized to take action within the Church itself--the clerical hierarchy, i.e. the bishops and the popes.
Blessed Alberione never rose within the Church to a higher rank than priest. But he had members of all of the Pauline institutes under his pastoral and administrative care. He understood the reality of sin and the necessity of arming his troops for spiritual battle. He took seriously the role of spiritual directors.
"Man is a social being by nature. Except in cases of very rare special vocations, we tend spontaneously to meet with one another, to listen to one another, to live together in every period of life. Isolation is generally feared. But this does not mean to be so much a part of a crowd as to absorb everything from surroundings and company, following along blindly, to the point of losing one's personality. We must be good company yet know how to keep apart. One must not be carried away by the crowd, by empty reading, the radio, films, and television, to the point of becoming foolish, passive, enslaved, lacking in reflection, in personal, strong ideas."
"Superiors should teach fellow members to reflect and be guided by principles... How many religious are subject to group influence, to exaggerated or de-personalizing influences! To grow as a healthy person one must know how to be alone at times, to decide for oneself, in a rod, to live as an adult. Decisiveness, vigor, tenacity, sound principles result in the best religious, the best spiritual directors."
"Sin lies behind the law of the body. It is a profound aberration and humiliates the whole of man, his mind, will, heart, body.... The greatest battles must be found and won or lost in the hidden, silent world of the mind. There are no witnesses to encourage or disapprove. Only God sees thoughts. And only examination of conscience and reflection on ourselves uncovers these in part. Only through true spiritual direction and in the confessional can they be brought to light. It is in the mind that the edifice of good is erected or shameful ruins pile up."
"We make atonement to Jesus Christ the Priest for the betrayals that have followed down the centuries since the time of Judas."Sometimes when I read the Passion, I find myself hoping against hope that Judas' story will have a different ending this time. When I saw Fr. Alberione's reference to that sad perfidy, I found an odd sort of peace, if not consolation. Judas assumed his responsibilities voluntarily when he said yes to the Lord's call. His betrayal of Jesus is as horrific as any in history. Nevertheless, when Jesus addresses him for the last time, it is as "Friend." What am I to make of that? How do I apply it to the current spate of betrayals?
"The future will be won with an army of well-formed vocations, and with the most modern and rapid means put at the service of the apostolate. It is a known characteristic of our times that a far-flung array of publications oppose the Church... A counter organization is needed, large, strong, of ancient spirit and modern form; it means the apostolate of publishing exercised not through a single undertaking but through an undertaking of universal character with an army of prepared persons at its service...multiplying its fruits in time and space."Alberione writes of "the most modern and rapid means" of communication to be put at the service of the apostolate. At the moment, our involvement with social media seems to fit the bill. Social media is without a doubt a double-edged sword. During this current crisis, social media has proven itself almost too addictive for me to use at the service of the apostolate. I couldn't stop pulling up Twitter and Facebook to look for the latest details of the unfolding story. I am ashamed to say that I relished the rancor spooling out across the forums and the comment boxes of the Catholic internet.
Alarmed by my own consumption of ill will, I seriously contemplated deleting all of my social media accounts. If I cannot control what I choose to read, what good am I to any apostolate? I have not completely discounted this idea. But I would like to close with some words of Blessed Alberione that I am trying to internalize during this time of trial:
"What would happen if the driver loses control of the car? He must stay alert and handle the steering wheel well. But to drive ourselves is much more difficult than to drive a car. We have to be in control of everything internal... We have to govern the heart, which can be foolish, the imagination, tongue, eyes, taste, hearing, touch. We must govern our whole being at all times: in church, on the street, travelling, in the book centers, at recreation, at table, from the moment we wake up in the morning to the moment we close our eyes at night. At whatever speed, we must always have control... as it takes but one drowsy instant to swerve off the road."I am determined not to swerve off the road. The Church needs me, the Pauline family needs me, my own family needs me. "Life passes and we come nearer to the end of our days. We will leave this world soon enough for heaven where everything is peaceful and serene. Let us prepare ourselves and prepare ourselves for heaven!"
 The States of New York and New Jersey have since convened their own grand juries to subpoena records from Catholic dioceses in order to investigate credible evidence of similar behavior in that state. Other states are likely to follow, leading to what one Catholic pundit has called "the death of a thousand cuts" for the Church.
 J. Alberione, Carissimi in San Paolo (CISP): letters,articles, essays and unpublished writings of Father Alberione from 1933 to 1969; 1032.
 J. Alberione, pr VO, 327. The "pr" texts are a large colllection of typewritten manuscripts of meditations given by Fr. Alberione and compiled by the Daughters of St. Paul at Grottoferrata, in preparatoin for their Special General Chapter of 1969-171. pr designates "preaching", the letters following it designate the topic; VO is "vow of obedience."
 J. Alberione, Ut Perfectus sit Homo Dei I (UPS I), 286.
 The most egregious of such alleged abuses have passed the statute of limitations, so it is too late to investigate and prosecute. The Pennsylvania Attorney General has asked that the statute of limitations be removed in order to investigate these allegations, in light of evidence that Church officials deliberately kept them from scrutiny by state authorities.
 Cf. "It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones." Luke 17:2.
 UPS I, op. cit., 286.
 UPS I, op. cit., 290-291.
 Blessed Alberione is making a distinctly Pauline reference here. "For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members." Romans 7:21-22.
 CISP, op. cit., 131-132.
 CISP, op. cit., 1476.
 V. Gambi, in Alberione (Photo Album), Rome, 1975, 21.
[13 ]J. Alberione, pr E (Examination of Conscience), 349.
 J. Alberione, Haec meditare II: a collection of meditations in various volumes, Daughters of St. Paul, Alba, Rome, 1939, 1 8.
Rae Stabosz has been a member of the Association of Pauline Cooperators since 2003. She and Bill Stabosz, her husband of 49 years, have six sons, three daughters, eleven grandsons and nine granddaughters; they eagerly await the birth of grand #21 in November. Rae retired in 2007 from the University of Delaware, where she was a technology and media specialist for 27 years. She is co-founder and past president of The Society of Catholic Scholars of Delaware and proprietor, since 2004, of the Pious Ladies Bookmobile.