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Concerns About the e5 Movement

SEE THE NEW NOTES AT END OF POST

fullofhimself.jpgBefore I begin, I have to acknowledge that the tragedy of the Macfarlane breakup and Habisohn’s involvement (he is the founder of e5) has colored my remarks about the e5 movement. I am a hardliner against divorce and have an immediate knee-jerk reaction to anyone or anything that seems to compromise the indissolubility of marriage.

Here is an email that has become part of the record (which elicited a response from Cardinal George and his theological advisor, Rev. Lodge):

I have a friend whose husband regularly corresponds with Habisohn and has signed up for his e5 group. My friend is having serious marital problems and in a personal message from Habisohn to my friend, he wrote, “Stop with the selfish pursuits of your own desires. Your desires might just be the worst thing for you. And ultimately its his [your husband’s] duty under God to discern such things. He has to answer to God for you.” (7/3/03)

The “e5” fasting program is taken from Ephesians 5: “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her.” Here is how this regimen from Steve Habisohn is explained by Bud MacFarlane, Jr.: “Jesus gave up his body for his bride, the Church, and we give up our bodies for our brides through fasting. It’s a perfectly chivalrous act, and it will make the woman in your life feel like a princess.”

It is not clear how such a penance “directly” builds up or supports a marriage. While certainly there are benefits to fasting as part of our mortification and penance as Catholics, many of us are left scratching our heads as to how it can cause a drastic transformation or how it signifies “a man taking on suffering to help a woman.” The middle term in all of this seems to be missing. The sacrifices to which the Letter to the Ephesians alludes come with ordinary fidelity and human mortality– these are connected with the cross of Jesus. The husband is told that he should be as willing to lay down his life for his wife as Christ did for his Church. However, this does NOT deny reciprocity on the wife’s behalf. St. Paul’s understanding of the wife’s subjection or submission is a reminder that she must also be willing to sacrifice everything for her beloved. The teaching about the husband’s headship does not deny the wife’s complementary sacrifices for her husband. It is an important point where I find the purported e5 perspective to be somewhat shallow and one-sided. In any case, if we are only talking about once-a-month fasting, then it seems to be a harmless business; but, is it more than this?

Macfarlane cites a series of themes in the e5 movement:

NO TALK – He contrasts this step with being a man of action.

I would submit that men should both talk and act. Action can be misconstrued without clear communication, first. Men err in removing themselves from their wives and in trying to solve their problems unilaterally. This almost never works. While we certainly need quiet time for prayer, do not underestimate constructive talking (dialogue) with the spouse. Many times marriages fail because of poor communication skills.

We should avoid the “passive-aggressive” route in dealing with our shared problems. An example of this is when one spouse is silent because of rage or disappointment. One can also “punish” the spouse in indirect ways. Imagine a response like this: “Having a wife like you forces me to do extra penance and fasting just to stay with you!” Dialogue that does not tear down the other, sometimes orchestrated by a third party counselor, can be quite helpful in opening the lines of communication for healing and growth. It is okay to be a man of action, but the action must be appropriate. The man of action is also one who communicates clearly and appropriately– with the beloved and with God.

I am a big fan of married couples praying together, offering up petitions of love and caring for one another. Why not?

When I went to the e5 Website, I read this:

“Do I tell my wife? There are two answers No and Yes. It really depends on your situation. By telling one’s wife one might risk spiritual pride or she may even discourage you. However, in other situations by telling one’s wife you are allowing her to participate in the e5 Women part of e5 Men. She can actively pray to receive God’s graces merited for her. Often wives are greatly encouraged and gain new hope by knowing that their husband is laying down his body for her. I’m sure there are infinite reasons for both approaches depending on the situation. These are just examples to help you start thinking of the specifics of your situation. It’s ultimately your call.”

Isn’t this a bit crazy? What about the family supper table, the meal that in a Christian home is a “figure” pointing to the Eucharist? What about the wife’s concern over the details of that meal and her concern for her family?

CALLING ALL MEN – I would acknowledge that most of us have hurt the women in our lives but is the e5 strategy really a comprehensive curative? As I said before, fasting as part of our prayer life is fine, but it is not in itself sufficient to heal marital problems and there is no direct or immediate tie-in with Ephesians 5.

threedandies.jpgBANDS OF BROTHERS – Maybe I am misconstruing this movement, but as I read Macfarlane’s article I am increasingly anxious with the rationalization that fuels it. Is it merely an all boys’ club of men fasting for their wives, future wives, and girlfriends? Fasting may sometimes be the easy road out and not a true scaling of the cross at all. You can fast all you want and still let your women down.

TENS OF THOUSANDS – Macfarlane becomes a virtual cheerleader for the e5 Men. He writes, “Imagine the power of having such a vast army suffering for your bride.” It may be an exageration on my part, but he speaks as if a marriage can be saved by supernatural intervention alone.

Marriages are saved neither by committee nor by warfare. They are saved by love, mutual respect, and genuine interpersonal sacrifice. Suffering means loving your spouse even when he or she does not seem all that lovable. It means working long hard hours to keep a roof over your heads, clothes on your bodies, and food in the stomachs of your children. For the husband, his joy is his wife’s happiness and the wellbeing of his children. You do not need an army of men suffering and fasting for your wife. You need one man, husband and father, to sit at the table with her for dinner and thank the good Lord for all that he has done for you.

FORTRESS OF FLESH – Fasting can mean a degree of suffering, but so can dieting. What changes their meaning is the intention.

The devil hates true mortification and prayer. We sacrifice in the flesh to live more in the spirit. But, it is not magic. Further, the devil can take advantage of this mentality and reverse matters if we are not careful—urging us to hate our flesh or to substitute fasting for other obligations in our faith and family life.

Macfarlane writes: “When you fast, you and Christ form a fortress that protects the woman you love.” It is a sweet sentiment, but theologically how does it work? I still do not see it. How does it protect her? If anything, the way this e5 business is explained in the article, it seems to cut her out of the equation.

SUPERNATURAL FIREPOWER – Yes, adopting the military analogy in vogue here, we do need spiritual ammo. As Catholics this armory is replenished by God from many sources: fruitful prayer, the depository of grace merited by the saints, the sacramental life, and ultimately the redemptive sacrifice of Christ on Calvary. We are alerted to the dangers posed by the devil, the flesh and the world. As with his books, Macfarlane sees things in sweeping apocalyptic terms. This is okay as one element, however, the personal battles we face are rooted in the practical here-and-now.

We must be careful not to focus our attention so deeply into the metaphysical and eternal that we lose sight of the physical and temporal. Practically speaking, too often, lacking what one needs in him- or herself, we look elsewhere.

Yes, we trust in God’s protection and we cooperate with it. But look at what he says in his article:

“Our Lord did not merely suggest that some demons can only be driven out by prayer and fasting. Guys, listen up. As a man you will find it extremely satisfying to pull back that bolt, calmly load a Wednesday of bread and water into the chamber, then start pumping round after round into the soft white underbelly of the Dragon of Death. This is war, and you and I were made for war. It never gets easy, but that soft thud you are going to hear is the sweet sound of the dragon, which has been hurting your wife, hitting the ground.”

Cough…swallow…say, what? He concludes by saying that this dragon might be either your anger or the devil; however, until he makes this qualification, one might wonder if he is talking about his wife?

I have done a lot of counseling over the years and can attest that not all dragons are demonic, many of them are human, male and female. Admittedly, I am perplexed how Macfarlane’s own public actions toward his wife and family can be reconciled with what he says here. But enough has been said about that, if not too much.

As a seminarian, my friends and I used to fast on Monday nights. However, we never saw it in such violent and militant terms. We called our efforts a FASTING FOR PEACE. We remembered all those who were suffering injustice and we prayed for the right to life of the unborn. We fasted for holiness, praying that God might wean us away from his gifts so that we might better focus upon the giver.

Macfarlane sees everything in Apocalyptic terms—even his marriage—and the enemy are “the forces of evil”. Many Catholics, including dear friends, were caught up in this but assuredly relieved when the “three days of darkness” hailed for the millennium failed to materialize, a peculiar fascination that reminded me of the faulty timetable espoused by the Jehovah Witness cult.

Imagery and symbolic language has great value but can sometimes be used for avoidance and misdirection. Many disappointed fans, for instance, are quick to suggest that Macfarlane is under demonic oppression and may need exorcism. His own personal family tragedy seems utterly unbelievable to them. While we can never totally discount the work of Satan, I find that concupiscence and selfishness are the essential culprits in our lives. I can offer no real explanation to soothe their concern for a man so admired and for whom we all care about. What we can do is pray, that at least, is one intrusion that our Lord does allow us into the personal lives of others.

Conversely, I shudder to think that being critical of e5 might get me charged with demonic entanglement. Other than the struggle with my own venial sins, I can assure the reader that I am not involved with the conspiracy of cosmic powers and evil men who seek to keep men of faith “impotent”.

Forget the dragon for a moment. Forget the loaded gun. Marriages are not principally about powers and principalities, they are about dirty diapers, crying babies, doctors’ bills, making beds, fixing the car, going to church as a family, sleeping as husband and wife naked together under the covers, and so much more. There, I have said it.

missterese.jpgSPECIAL FORCES – Other than the first Wednesday of the month, he argues that men can fast for other women on subsequent Wednesdays.

The connection to Scripture is still sketchy and the benefits inconclusive. I am surprised that this article remains on his site given his own witness. Again, notice the military view– fasting men are compared to military special forces, as if a SWAT team is the answer to marriage problems.

It might sound silly, but some wives might just prefer to have their husband at the family dinner table. I have found that wives and mothers are acutely concerned about the bodies of their charges, the husband and children. A wife might readily become concerned, if her husband’s fasting practices expanded and he risked his health. It seems to me that the e5 regimen is something about which a husband and wife must agree and should not be adopted by men unilaterally. Would not a weekly family fast be better, even if not as severe as that proposed by e5?

RECEIVING THE BODY – Notice once more how the spouse is discussed as someone who up to now has been excluded from this regimen of fasting and supposedly prayer, although the article does not mention it so far. He writes: “Your wife will soon discover that a major change is taking place and will want to know how she can be a part of e5 Men.”

This is very presumptuous to say the least. He says that their contribution is profound and complimentary, but what is it? He writes: “Many e5 Women therefore attend Mass on the first Wednesday to mystically receive the sacrifice of our body [e5 Men] by receiving Christ in the Eucharist.”

As a priest, I offer the Mass every day and yet this is an odd twist I have never encountered before. I would suggest that men and women alike would do better to more frequently attend Mass and receive Holy Communion. Both can fast when they would like and do so for each other, while safeguarding their health. The strange business here is that Macfarlane says that the women are receiving the body of these e5 fasting men when they receive our Lord in Holy Communion. I would not say that. They receive Jesus, body, soul, humanity and divinity. The sacramental presence is real. Any kind of “mystical” reception of others, even the husband, clouds the issue and does not have Church sanction as Catholic teaching. The closest thing to it is from St. Augustine when he says that in holy communion we receive our own mystery. But, he is talking about our membership in the the mystical body of Christ.

The sacrifice of the flesh in marriage is in the toil that family life entails. Ideally, any spiritual donation of the body should come along with the physical union of the spouses. Sexual union of husband and wife signifies the true self-donation. They are saying to each other, “I belong to you. I am yours. These arms and hands, these legs and feet, these locks of hair, these eyes that adore you, these lips that hunger to kiss you– everything that I am– is yours.” Our Lord identifies himself with the beloved so that the love of husband and wife finds true sacramental expression. It is raised to the level of prayer.

BEAUTIFUL CREATURES – MacFarlane says something that critics might judge as sexist, but such is a charge that has been leveled at me, too: “The truth is women are the most beautiful creatures in God’s universe. We men know it. Women need our strength and protection.”

This is all fine and dandy, but would not a mother of a son say that her baby boy is the most beautiful creature in the universe? Assuredly so and thus it is best to avoid this kind of general license. Scholastic philosophers judged males as better reflecting an ideal humanity. Such claims do not fare well when examined objectively. They depend upon subjective aesthetics and changeable worldviews. Further, I have known some strong women who defended their husbands and nurtured and protected their children against great odds. Women may be even more capable and thus beautiful beyond the measure of skin and figure, than readily appreciated.

warriorprincess.jpg

Yes, it is true that men and women are not the same, and as much as society tries to lie about it, everything from clothing to books to perfume to movies to home-decorating makes it preeminently true that we are not. However, there is a common humanity and God-given dignity. We know equality in grace and are all called to holiness. Yes, the Scriptures speak of the man as the head of the home, but as Dr. Scott Hahn reminds us, the wife and mother is its heart.

YOU ARE A KING – Macfarlane writes: “The fact is, through baptism you were adopted into a royal family.” This is true, but not just men, but women, too.

We are anointed, “priest, prophet and king.” All of us are called to offer sacrifice, to witness and proclaim the truth, and to recognize the sanctity of life and our dignity as adopted sons and daughters of the Father, brothers and sisters to Christ the King.

A man may be appointed lord of his home, but his wife is the Queen. All families should be modeled upon the Holy Family. Husbands should show the same respect and offer the same support that Joseph gave Mary. Joseph was going to divorce Mary quietly until the meaning of the child of promise was explained to him by an angel in a dream. Mary and Joseph raised their Son in their home, together.

The Macfarlane divorce is a teaching moment. But it is important that we take from this public tragedy the right message.

  • Can you imagine Joseph trying to take Jesus away from Mary?
  • Would he forbid Mary to witness to her Son the lessons she knew as a daughter of Israel?
  • Would he abandon her and then strip her of dignity with a divorce that faulted her for “extreme cruelty” and “gross neglect of duty”?

Definitely not, and neither are these grounds for an annulment.

Couples who marry in the Church make a promise before God to remain faithful, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, until death do they part.

  • A real EPHESIANS 5 MAN does not follow a cult interpretation of inspired Scripture.
  • A real EPHESIANS 5 MAN knows that life is sometimes messy and that true love can bring joy and take us to the cross.
  • A real EPHESIANS 5 MAN lets his wife know every minute of every day that she belongs to him and he belongs to her.
  • A real EPHESIANS 5 MAN does not simply fight “for” his wife but “WITH” HIS WIFE—to make their marriage last and to help their children grow healthy, holy and wise.
  • A real EPHESIANS 5 MAN does not commit physical or verbal adultery with women or spiritual adultery with a ban of brothers.
  • A real EPHESIANS 5 Man does not seek to divorce his wife and the mother of his children– particularly against her will.

Men do not need an army of Kings, as the e5 men call themselves. Rather, they need to know that they share their crowns with their wives, one as king and the other as queen. There may be many thorns in those crowns, but if a marriage is real, none may take them off while there is still life. Even the crown of thorns worn by Jesus was not removed until he had breathed his last. And yet, the kingdom of Jesus is everlasting. We find some glimpse of it in every Christian home because the family is the little Church.

Macfarlane speaks of “men crucified with Christ for the women we love.” But men and women can also play the wrong part in the Greatest Story Ever Told.

Jesus was betrayed with a kiss and abandoned by those he loved. How many marriages have a spouse abandoned, even after public acclamations of affection?

Our Lord was cursed and called all sorts of names. Are not cruel and defaming charges part of the ordeal when marriages fail?

Jesus is stripped of his clothes and is virtually naked upon the cross. How many spouses have been reduced to poverty by divorce and large settlements?

Has not even Bai Macfarlane, for whatever reason, suffered the loss of her children? It is because of her situation that there is a tentative appraisal of e5 from the Church, albeit the Archdiocese of Chicago. Here are those documents as well as a few remarks from a brief interview.

Archdiocese of Chicago / Office of the Archbishop (Selection)
http://users.ameritech.net/webdocs/FrancisCardinalGeorge.htm

January 16, 2004

“Anyone can post information on the Internet – without any license or check for accuracy. This applies to interpretations of Scripture and to information about Church teaching as much as it applies to products that are advertised for sale. I am glad that you are asking about Mr. Habisohn’s ideas, since the fact that they are being communicated over the Internet give’s them no special credibility. Your letter was referred to me by Mrs. Else Radtke of our Family Ministries office, who has also spoken with the wife of the friend to whom you refer in this letter. I am very sorry to hear that a Catholic who claims to follow Mr. Habisohn’s way of living is now in the process of seeking a divorce from his spouse. I believe that the Holy Father’s commentary on Ephesians 5 makes it very clear that St. Paul’s intention was to draw husbands and wives closer to one another and to Christ in his Church, not to drive them apart. In this case, the harm done to spouse and children by divorce is far greater than any damage that could be done by a disagreement over a passage of Sacred Scripture.”

Sincerely yours in Christ,
Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I.
Archbishop of Chicago

REV. JOHN G. LODGE Responds at Cardinal George’s Request
http://users.ameritech.net/webdocs/Notes.htm

Should a wife orient her will to her husband’s will?

Most exegetes of Ephesians 5 — including Pope John Paul II — would not speak of an orientation of wills that was one way. The Pope is careful to discern the difference between the Church’s relationship to Christ and the wife’s relationship to her husband (Mulleris Dignitatem, 24):

This is especially true because the husband is called the “head” of the wife as Christ is the head of the Church; he is so in order to give “himself up for her” (Eph 5:25), and giving himself up for her means giving up even his own life. However, whereas in the relationship between Christ and the Church the subjection is only on the part of the Church, in the relationship between husband and wife the “subjection” is not one-sided but mutual.

A bit further on in the same section the Pope continues:

The apostolic letters are addressed to people living in an evironment marked by that same traditional way of thinking and acting. The ‘innovation’ of Christ is a fact: it constitutes the unambiguous content of the evangelical message and is the result of the Redemption. However, the awareness that in marriage there is mutual “subjection of the spouses out of reverence for Christ”, and not just that of the wife to the husband, must gradually establish itself in hearts, consciences, behavior and customs. This is a call which from that time onwards, does not cease to challenge succeeding generations; it is a call which people have to accept ever anew.

The Pope, then, is very careful to show how Eph 5:21 teaches an innovation in the relationship between men and women, a new way of reciprocity which has yet to fully take hold in many of today’s cultures. Any ‘orienting of wills’ should be reciprocal and mutual.

Is Steve Habisohn correct in that it is a husband’s duty to discern if his wife’s desires are good for her?

No. The gist of the argument in Ephesians 5 and in the thought of the Pope is that husband and wife should have a mutual sense of care for one another. At times that might mean respectfully and lovingly challenging or questioning the other, but neither spouse has a greater responsibility here than the other.

Mr. Habisohn has simply put out his shingle on the Web and asked for money. He has no special training or background other than his personal study of the Pope’s ideas surrounding the theology of the body. On the one hand, I agree with Mrs. Radtke that, when one looks over the material on his sites, there doesn’t seem to be too much with which to argue. He promotes material related to the Pope’s “Theology of the Body” and Natural Family Planning. Still, if (OMITTED) are accurate in their reporting of Habisohn’s letter to their friend, he over stepped his bounds. He should stay out of the marriage counseling business. Furthermore, his language in the letter he wrote their friend is no where supported in either Ephesians 5 or in the writings of John Paul.

ZENIT Interview with Steve Habisohn on the e5 Men’s Movement

In his interpretation of Ephesians 5. Habisohn states “In a complementary response of total self-gift, the wife orients her will to her husband’s to allow for his gift of self to be given freely. She becomes submissive — which literally means ‘under’ his ‘mission’ — to serve her needs.”

There you have it, I gave the founder of e5 the last word.

********************

My remarks about the Macfarlane matter, the issue of divorce, and an article about e5 have caused a flood of comments that I cannot continue to monitor. Some of them have called me irresponsible and in league with Satan. I am going to save a previous comment in the body of the post, but disable the comment feature. You can still send me emails, but I am increasingly uncomfortable with this discussion. It amazes me that people would fault Bai Macfarlane for fighting for her sacramental marriage and against the evil of divorce, particularly the no-fault variety.

As for the e5 business, it may have its merits, but I took “honest” exception to some things I read about it. I would certainly be willing to revisit the matter or even post honest and sympathetic material that would show how it is usually effective and in agreement with Catholic teaching. But, frankly, there is little information to be found and much of it dating back to 2003.

forrealfamily.jpgI will share with you one exceptional article about it that I discovered on the web. Published in a small area newsletter, it is the best that I have read on e3 so far.

PLEASE KNOW, that while I may come across as overly critical of e5, it is mostly because I am unhappy with how it is explained in the few sources nationally available. However, there is a beautiful essay by Dennis Murphy in LIFE CYCLES that presents a picture of e5 with which I could whole-heartedly accept and make my own.

He writes:

“We join our small suffering with the sufferings of Christ on the cross not only for the intention of being chaste for our wives but for being chaste for other good reasons. I, for example, also offer my fasting for the intentions of Mary, the Mother of Jesus. I try to follow the example of Saint Louis De Montfort by giving all to Mary, especially being chaste. I thought it was good to do something simple, and I knew that something like the fasting was coming for me…I wanted to participate in something meaningful especially regarding the sacredness of intimacy, which so much in our culture wants to trivialize. I struggle some Wednesdays more than others, but I don’t find it difficult to do especially when I think of Jesus suffering and crucified. My fasting is such a drop of water in His infinite ocean of love, but it is still my drop of love. It’s amazing that the Son of God and His Mother would even notice it, and they do.”

This is not only beautiful but spiritually meaty. Here is the substance and the middle term that I could not find clearly enunciated either by its founder or by Macfarlane. It also reflects something of simplicity and humility, which makes theology and a true appreciation of faith possible.

He goes on to say:

“As I have offered up my simple 24 hours of fasting on bread and water, I think of those not only in e5, but anyone who has fasted because the Lord said that some healings need prayer and fasting. The Lord also said that when He was gone, there would be time for fasting. Certainly the assault against chastity in our own wounded culture demands the response of prayer and fasting in order to beg healing from our most chaste Lord and His most chaste Mother. I believe that the e5 men and women who quietly offer up their little suffering join in God’s plan to counter the scandal of evil against chastity.”

This perspective upon e5 is one upon which I can whole-heartedy concur. He convinces me of its utility, at least in the manner that he understands and pursues it:

“Certainly the focus and motivation for any acts are rooted in the gifts of the sacraments, especially in the Eucharist and confession. I go to Confession weekly and Mass or Adoration of the Blessed Eucharist daily as does my wife, Mary Grace. I don’t know what I would do without the blessedness of the Eucharist and the forgiveness of Confession.”

I am tearing as I read this. This is the stuff that should be posted on the e5 website. There is nothing here of men imaged as SWAT teams, but as sinners who seek to be holy men and beter helpmates to their wives as fellow pilgrims. He gives a short but convincing explanation about how the mortification dynamic works with prayer, the sacraments, and in the larger context of a community of faith. There is nothing here of an eletist group or a boy’s club. Whatever he read, this man filled in the gaps for himself, and now he does it for us.

He closes by saying:

“It was so great to read about e5 and the direct defense against all these atrocities against women [attacks on our virtue of chastity] through fasting especially to foster respect for the wife that I love, even though in my weak humanity I fail, the children whom we conceived, who have taught me to understand the depth of the need for maturity and holiness in all areas of life and the Church, without whom I would be lost and overcome in the struggle against sin, and the people of God, whom I am called to humbly serve one person at a time.”

If you want to read the whole article, here is the link:
http://mysite.verizon.net/vzeoqpd6/pnfpn/lifecyc/Lifecycles4-18.pdf

Those wanting to read more about e5 men can follow these links:

e5 Men Website
http://www.e5men.org/pages/

Habisohn: How Real Men Sacrifice for Their Brides
http://www.catholicity.com/commentary/e5men1.html

Macfarlane: Husbands Crucified
http://www.catholicexchange.com/vm/index.asp?vm_id=2&art_id=17344

OSV: A Fast way for Husbands to Pray for Their Wives
http://www.osv.com/periodicals/show-article.asp?pid=786

Belief Net: The Fasting Masters of the 21st Century
http://www.beliefnet.com/story/122/story_12233_1.html

New Oxford Review: Sensitivity for Sensitive Guys
http://www.newoxfordreview.org/note.jsp?did=0703-notes-sensitive

COMMENTS

Eric Scheidler | squarezero.org |

To lay this [Macfarlane] debacle at the feet of Steve Habisohn and the e5men is shockingly unfair. Thousands of men (BTW, I am not one of them) have been participating for several years in the e5 program of fasting and prayer. The marital woes of one of these men hardly constitute a case against the entire program.

Steve Habisohn has never suggested that fasting alone is enough to secure a strong marriage. He has never suggested to men that they not communicate with their wives or share a family dinner. And is one day of fasting per month really destructive of the family meal?

There may be criticisms to be made about the e5 approach, but you offer nothing but a caricature. If you had contacted Habisohn yourself, you might have gotten a more nuanced perspective on what his group is about, including the many men — and women — who have benefited from the once-a-month fast.

Instead you re-hash the attacks against Habisohn and e5 that Bai Macfarlane has already offered far and wide, including the response of a diocesan official to a series of leading questions.

Eric Scheidler | squarezero.org |

Father, I want to make a further comment about your criticism of the e5 Men program. First, I should disclose that I am good friends with Steve Habisohn. He would be the first to agree that he and I do not see eye to eye on all matters, including the headship issue. Indeed, I am disappointed to see a critique of Habisohn’s approach so flawed by bias and sloppy documentation.

The evidence you present here is, in my view, deeply flawed. First, the e-mail quoted at the top or your article. We have NO CONTEXT for this e-mail message whatsoever. We do not know who the “friend” is, or what that person’s relationship may have been to Steve Habisohn — what he may know or believe about the situation which informs his words.

Absent any context, his words look like irresponsible, even misogynistic counsel. They are given the color of grand generalizations about the authority of a husband. But he may very well have intended those words to a particular women about whose situation he knew something WE do not.

Which again points to the singular character of this whole business: what the public knows about the Macfarlanes it knows from only one of them. How, for example, did this e-mail fall into the hands of Bai Macfarlane or her associates? Was permission granted by Habisohn for what clearly is a private communication to be broadcast far and wide on the Internet? Could it be that the “friend” is none other than Bai herself?

Likewise, the critique from Cardinal George’s assistant Fr. John Lodge: How was the e5 Men organization presented to Fr. Lodge? Were, as it appears, statements made to one particular person construed as general laws advocated by Habisohn? Who is the “wife of the friend” involved in this communication? Why were these letters made public, and again, was permission given to do so?

A final remark on the question of demons and marital strife. There is the legitimate problem of a certain kind of pious Catholic seeing a demon behind every challenge or squabble. It’s particularly unsettling to have one’s own role in a dispute attributed to demonic influence!

You say that “Marriages are not principally about powers and principalities, they are about dirty diapers, crying babies, doctors’ bills, making beds, fixing the car, going to church as a family, sleeping as husband and wife naked together under the covers, and so much more.”

I put it to you that you are presenting here a FALSE DILEMMA. These simply aspects of marital life are the very plain upon which the battle between good and evil takes place, where one’s guardian angel and those devils whose special task it is to seek the ruin of one’s soul struggle for decisive influence.

Satan hates marriage, just like he hates each one of us, and he’s going to try to break through every chink and crack he can. Changing diapers! How easy it is for a man to leave this to his wife — selfishly. And how easy for a wife to resent him for it — bitterly. Even this seemingly mundane thing can be matter of real spiritual battle.

To say that a paritcular issue doesn’t involve the “cosmic battle” is, in fact, to say that it doesn’t involve grace. If the battle between good and evil doesn’t involve diapers, then there’s no GRACE involved in diapers, and any mother or father could tell you — and I speak here as the father of seven — that it’s ONLY through grace that you survive the diaper years.

Fixing the car! I know all too well how Satan tempts me when I’m working on a mechanical repair. He would love nothing more for me to lose my temper, swear, rudely rebuke the son who’s too slow getting me the wrench I need. Doctor bills! A man is a fool not to pray for patience before discussing doctor bills with his wife; and no, not because she tries his patience, but because he is a hot-headed fool whose real worry for his families financial state is perverted all too easily into angy words.

And is it necessary to say that the spiritual battle is waged in the midst of that nakedness between the sheets. Pope John Paul II of happy memory said just that — “Becoming one as husband and wife, they find themselves in the situation in which the powers of good and evil fight and compete against each other” (Wed. Audience, 6/27/84).

He connects this fight directly to the marital embrace itself, noting the prayer of Tobiah before lying together with Sarah as her husband.

John Paul II knew that Satan wants nothing more than to undermine the harmony of husband and wife in the marital bed. Tobiah knew it. You ought to know it too.

Mr. Sean Hannity vs. Fr. Thomas Euteneuer

I wrote this commentary back in April of 2007. Given that we are coming up to the March for Life in a week’s time, I thought I would repost it.

Mr. Sean Hannity: “I have no problem with birth control. It’s a good thing.”

It was this statement and attitude that was to result in a sad spectacle of dissent on Church teaching and disrespect to a Catholic priest. It should be noted that Mr. Hannity claims to be pro-life, although he makes exceptions for abortions in cases or rape, incest, or for the life of the mother. A rule is only as strong as its exceptions, and thus this really reflects a moderated pro-abortion stance. A child conceived through rape is still innocent and cannot be understood as an unjust aggressor. A child of incest or sexual abuse is still a human being entitled to the right to life. A child’s life and that of the mother cannot be measured on a scale as to which one is more deserving to survive. All human life is incommensurate.

Mr. Sean Hannity invited Fr. Thomas Euteneuer of Human Life International to the television show, supposedly to discuss the matter of dissent on contraception by high profile Catholics, particularly in the media. It turned out to be a setup forum for Hannity to enact revenge against the priest for questioning his Catholicism and judging his dissent.

Regarding the recent public clash between Mr. Sean Hannity of FOX News and Fr. Thomas Euteneuer, I must come down on the side of the good priest. Compounding the matter, the “sometimes” FOX News analyst Fr. Jonathan Morris scolded Fr. Euteneuer and inadvertently aided dissenters on birth control. He said that Fr. Euteneuer “exercised, on this occasion, shockingly poor judgment,” and was mistakenly “brandishing law without palpable love.” However, the truth be said, Fr. Euteneuer hardly got a word in edgewise. I do not think undermining Church teaching was Fr. Morris’ intent, but it has been the result. As one purported Regnum Christi member said, “If a Legionary of Christ supports Hannity, then he must be in the right!” Personally, I think a general clarification from the Legionaries is required and Fr. Morris should be directed to terminate his formal association with FOX News. He was ordained to be a priest for Christ and the Catholic Church, not for Murdock’s neoconservative news propaganda machine. He has compromised himself.

Fr. Euteneuer reveals that he sought a private meeting about the subject with Hannity back in 2004. Nothing came of it.

Even a number of people who disagree about artificial contraception admitted to me that the priest was treated pretty shabbily after being invited upon the television show. There was no real discussion of the matter at hand. The priest was kept on the defensive and given no opportunity for a proper response. Mr. Hannity contended that the priest had no right to judge him and that he should worry about the outrageous cover-up of pedophile priests before coming after him. Of course, Mr. Hannity makes such judgments on his television and radio shows regularly. This was not the real problem, just that he disliked being under the gun, himself. Further, a priest is not any Christian. He is appointed by Christ as a minister of reconciliation. This role requires that he be a judge of souls and that he speak clearly about what is right and wrong.

Mr. Hannity argued falsely that Fr. Euteneuer had not spoken out forcibly about sexual abuse and the scandal of bishops who did not take it seriously. What Mr. Hannity did was to take the attention off him and to move it elsewhere, insinuating that Fr. Euteneuer was being hypocritical. Mr. Hannity also quickly appealed to the fact that not everyone is Catholic, as if that is an excuse for a Catholic in the public forum to renounce an important element of our moral teaching. Such an appeal to relativism is tragic from a figure who purports to be a political conservative. He had apologized for eating meat on a Friday of Lent. Fr. Euteneuer rightly observed that there is a big difference between the inadvertent violation of a Church discipline and the repudiation of a doctrinal or moral teaching, as here touching upon the Theology of the Body and the openness to human life that must be present in every instance of the marital act.

Mr. Hannity asked again and again, more in a rhetorical fashion than in actuality, “Do you know me?” He said he had been in seminary and had studied Latin. When I heard this I began to scratch my head, so what? The news anchor was becoming incoherent in his tirade against the priest. Were we suppose to give him a gold star for being an altar boy? Fr. Charles Curran, the great dissenter on contraception, abortion, homosexuality, etc. also went to seminary and studied Latin…such things did not make him right or insure that he had the mind of the Church about all matters.

NOTE: When challenged by Fr. Euteneuer, Hannity made a big deal out of being a former altar boy and “seminarian” who studied Latin. Actually, his “seminary” training consisted of attending a boys’ Catholic High School called St. Pius the X Preparatory Seminary in Uniondale, NY. Most of its graduates, like Hannity, were not headed for the priesthood. He was a college drop-out and his “theology” courses were nothing more than high-school and grammar school catechism.

Let us cut to the quick, Mr. Hannity is a neo-conservative in the political arena who leans toward liberalism in the area of Catholicism. It is fine and good that he has urged his children to be chaste and celibate until marriage. He might be anti-abortion, and about this we should all be pleased, but he is not consistent given his stance in favor of certain exceptions and artificial contraception. He even went so far as to mock the priest with what he saw as an inconsistency on Catholicism’s part, a so-called Church-approved birth control, i.e. contraception, Natural Family Planning. But, of course, NFP is not true contraception, it is simply periodic abstinence based upon a knowledge of the body and how it works. It is a way to regulate or space births. Further, unlike the pill or condom, NFP can be used to help couples get pregnant, since they know the times of maximum fertility. If one were to use NFP in a selfish way then it could also be turned into a sinful practice. One may space births but not turn against the meaning of the marital act.

The priest was able to squeeze in the truth, under the mantra of Hannity’s unending assault, that a majority of those who have abortions do so because of contraceptive failure. Artificial contraception is indeed the handmaid to abortion. This is what the priest knows and what Mr. Hannity refuses to admit. It creates a contraceptive mentality which fuels the holocaust of abortion. Nothing was said about the fact that certain forms of contraception are also abortifacient. But, as I said, the interview was not a civil exchange of ideas, but an opportunity to malign a priest who wanted to help Mr. Hannity to be consistent and to insure that Catholics know that contraception is a grievous matter not to be flippantly handled.

In writing to Fr. Jonathan Morris, who chastised a fellow priest and gave solace to Hannity, Fr. Euteneuer writes:

The question that comes to mind is an obvious one: if you are a Fox analyst on Catholic matters, wouldn’t you have been the one to have had those “private conversations” on birth control with Mr. Hannity? How about discussions on his abortion exceptions? When you told Sean “in person” that you “disagreed with him,” was it on the issue of birth control? If you had done that, I applaud you, but your powers of persuasion may need a little honing—Sean has only gotten more vocal on this issue over time. If you did not speak to him about his public dissent, then I ask you, “Why?” While we are on the subject, have you also analyzed and disagreed with Bill O’Reilly’s perfectly horrible disdain for the Holy Father and the Church that you represent?

The church sex abuse scandal was not just about homosexual and predatory priests. It was about clerical negligence and silence on issues that not only affect people’s souls but also ruin people’s lives. It is highly unusual that you or anyone else would want a priest to be silent on issues that affect the salvation of souls. We used to recognize “admonishing the sinner” as one of the Spiritual Works of Mercy, and I consider my admonishment of Mr. Hannity to have been done in that spirit. I might also add that in doing so I have fulfilled my duty as a priest which is a requirement for my salvation.

Further evidence that Mr. Hannity suffers from a poor faith formation as a Catholic is the following notation at the HLI site:

Mr. Hannity is not backing down, saying on Monday’s radio program that if he were excommunicated he would call the Rev. Jerry Falwell and ask to join his Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Va.

No one, of course, is talking about excommunication; that is just his continuing hysterics about this matter. But note that he would join a Baptist Church, no doubt because of their “political” conservatism, but one that is silent on a weighty moral matter like artificial contraception. Doctrinal differences between them and Catholics are enormous. He would reject the Pope, much of the deposit of faith, and the sacramental life, particularly the Eucharist, to maintain his dissent. He would embrace a Protestant sect and forever turn his back on the sacrifice of the Mass and the real presence of Jesus’ body and blood in the Blessed Sacrament in exchange for grape juice and loaf bread. Even a knowledgeable Catholic excommunicant, if his faith be real, would want to come home to the sacraments and to the true Church established by Jesus Christ.

ADDENDUM

Fr. Jonathan Morris

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,258291,00.html

As I watched a fellow Catholic priest spar with you on the March 9 edition of Hannity and Colmes, I hung my head in shame and sadness. My colleague in religion (whom I’ve never met) used the public airways and Internet to call you a heretic and hypocrite. Because he chose to do this in a public forum, I want you and your viewers to know, publicly, that as an analyst of this television network, I believe this good priest, who does great work, exercised, on this occasion, shockingly poor judgment. I consider his willingness to give his personal opinion about your status within the Church inappropriate and ill-considered, to say the least.

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,258501,00.html

While Fr. Thomas Euteneuer and I may disagree on how best to attain this lofty goal in certain venues, like on a secular television network, we are of one heart and mind on substance.

The Father Cutie Scandal

cutie9Given the recent publication of Fr. Cutie’s self-justifying book, I thought it worthwhile to publish these revised reflections at my BLOGGER PRIEST site:

There are some critics who contend that the scandal in Miami with Father Alberto Cutie is providential. While God can certainly write straight with our crooked lines, I would stress that he never directly intends evil. There I have said it. I have used the big “e” word, EVIL. I am not judging anyone’s soul. However, I can make a judgment upon scandal and the actions of people in the public square that might lead good Catholics astray. I am not entirely sure what happened with Father Alberto Cutie. He appeared on the news with details we did not need but which have further confused and complicated matters. Now he writes a “tell all” book which attacks the teachings and disciplines of the Catholic Church.

He insisted that for twenty-one years he absolutely preserved his celibacy intact and was not sexually intimate with anyone. That is fine and dandy. But then, what happened? During one TV interview he said he “believes” he has fallen in love. He said he “believes” that God might be calling him to marriage. He said he “believes” that celibacy is a good thing and does not want to be the poster boy for married priests. He denied a sexual relationship, told one interviewer he had been intimate with the woman in the photographs, but not sexually and yet he apparently said in another news program that he had been sexually intimate with her. He said that he did not go out of his way to make trouble for the Church. He said that he and the woman he cared about were almost alone on the beach and that they were not there long. But the compromising photos were taken, despite attempts at stealth. Okay, but still he sought to hide a romantic relationship to which he had long ago given up any right to have.

He preached and gave one message in his parish and on radio and television; but he lived another. Had he been an ordinary parish priest, there would have been a local scandal, but it would not be international news. It would not be the stuff of tabloids and anti-Catholic videos. After he was censured, this priest continued to speak about the matter in public. The problem grew. He gave countless interviews in both English and Spanish. He just would not stop talking. He still has not stopped.

A Reflection on Celibacy

What can we say to the enemies of compulsory celibacy for priests? Priestly celibacy is not outdated. It is a powerful sign of contradiction that neither the devil nor the hedonists of the present age can stand. They malign it as a fantasy or cover-up for hordes of homosexual and/or pedophile clergy. Priests forgive the sexual transgressions of other men and women all the time. However, if a priest should fall, there is only recrimination and exile.

There is nothing wrong with men and women expressing love to one another. It is natural and beautiful. But sexual congress belongs to the state of marriage alone. Priests like all men can make mistakes; but, unlike most men, the majority of priests in the Roman Rite are pledged to a lifetime of celibate love. Yes, while celibacy is a discipline, it is also a manner of loving others, albeit in a single-hearted way. The celibate priest knows a special solidarity with the brokenhearted, the poor, the suffering and those who are alone. His celibacy says that he belongs to the people he serves, without reservation or distraction. He does not belong to another person or even to himself. He belongs to the Church in which he serves. He demonstrates his love for God in how he pours out his life for others.

One early interview was particularly disturbing when it was asked if he would stay or leave the Catholic Church. He admitted that he was currently weighing his options. I was saddened. I thought to myself, if a charismatic priest, regarded by some as the Oprah of the Church, should defect, the harm he would inflict upon the Church could be enormous. He had been instrumental in drawing many people back to the practice of their faith. This scandal could further explode and cause an exodus of souls from the true Church.

He was handsome and seemingly filled with vigor and love of the Church. Such things are contagious in a good way. But hero-worship of any sort, particularly with celebrities, has a dangerous flip-side. They can do much good. But, they are also capable of terrible wrongs and damage. Younger people who easily related to him might now view the rules of the Church as arbitrary and heartless. They might say to themselves, if someone like Father Cutie can no longer tolerate the Church, then why should I?

Critics contend, “Isn’t the Father Cutie scandal just further evidence that it is wrong and dangerous for Catholic priests to suppress their natural desires for sexual intimacy with women?”

The priest in question admitted he had a long-standing serious struggle with his sexuality and need for a wife and family. It may be that he sought ordination without open full deliberation and resolution of this concern with those to whom he was entrusted for formation. He may have been chaste in his behavior for many years but failed to surrender dreams and hopes for a family of his own. The man who would be a priest must let these things go. His hopes and aspirations should revolve instead around his prayer life and his goals and service as a pastor of souls. Men in seminary must also be realistic about their drives. As St. Paul reminds us, it is better to marry than to burn. Priests must also be very wary of their fantasies regarding choices not made and how other men might live. The grass might seem greener on the other side of the fence; but priests must not trespass where they do not belong. They freely embraced celibacy so as to enter into holy orders and become priests. Had they become married deacons, they would still be clergy in the Church. They could have lived saintly lives as laymen. But they made a choice. They made promises. These promises should be kept. Before ordination is the proper time for deliberation and soul searching, not afterwards.

The business about Father Cutie should have no meaning beyond this one poor priest, himself. He is not representative of the thousands of other priests in the United States who have never compromised their promises or their celibacy. The impression from the question is that men cannot be expected to have any semblance of self-control. This is silly and shows just how far our society and its views have been contaminated and distorted by excessive nudity, immodesty, and eroticism. We even dress our little girls like whores and then wonder why there is child abuse. Teenagers have their bellies exposed and shorts up to their crotches. Parents sometimes object but then cannot find decent stuff in stores. Television and movies celebrate fornication and give us scene after scene of simulated sex acts. Pornography has gone main stream and sexual gratification is viewed as a necessary rite of passage. It is into this mix that we find the celibate priest. Mothers want their sons married because they cannot see how a man might otherwise be happy. Fathers want their sons married because otherwise everyone will think they are gay. The truth is that celibacy can be very rewarding and liberating. Celibacy is not a denial of love but a special way of loving.

The priest promises perpetual celibacy but even married men promise a fidelity to a spouse which will require periodic chastity. Those who follow Natural Family Planning would understand how one must be creative in love, perhaps reverting back from time to time to the romantic and chaste acts of courtship during fertile periods. Celibacy is not merely a matter of priests suppressing their sexuality; rather, it is redirected to a love of God and a love of neighbor in sacrificial service. Priests, who say their prayers and stay busy, have neither the time nor the interest to pursue an exclusive relationship. If men in general cannot be expected to control themselves, then what happens when a spouse is sick or incapacitated or away? If the husband has military duty abroad or the wife has to travel back home to care for an ailing parent or there is an extended business meeting, would the man control his sexual urges or be compelled to commit adultery? If his wife is sick and cannot have sex with him, does he necessarily turn to her pretty nurse as a proxy? An over-sexed society suffering from an epidemic of fornication, perversion, adultery, pornography, prostitution and child endangerment can hardly speak in a credible way about priestly celibacy and marriage. The trouble with these fallen priests is not the Church but the fact that they themselves are formed and affected more by the fallen world around them than by the Gospel. Secularists and hedonists criticizing priestly celibacy are like inebriated boozers telling teetotalers to take a drink.

Where Does a FIRED Catholic Priest Go?

Before he made his jump, I read one critic who argued that Father Cutie could defect to the Episcopalian Church, get married and continue his parish and media ministry. I wrote: “Yes, he could do this, but he might forfeit his soul in such a move. The moral state of people who were raised in the Episcopal or Anglican Church is one thing; the state of those who abandon Catholicism to join their ranks is another.”

The original Protestant reformers may have paid a terrible price in their break from Rome. They should have known better. The same cannot be said for those who were raised in the Protestant traditions. This is all they know. Those elements of Catholic faith preserved after the break may very well be meritorious for our Protestant brothers and sisters. However, those very same elements may convict former Catholics who were supposed to remain steadfast within the body of the Church and in the profession of all that we believe as true. Ignorance of the truth does provide some measure of excuse. Catholics in general and priests in particular, would have a more difficult time. They were one with the true Church. They professed its faith and received its sacraments. The conviction from the Fourth Lateran Council, Trent and in the margins of Vatican II cannot be escaped: there is no salvation outside the Church. Those who know, perfectly well, that the Catholic Church is the true Church, and then refuse to join or leave its ranks, might lose their place in the heavenly kingdom. In addition, the Holy Father has insisted that Protestant churches are ecclesial communities but not churches in the full Catholic sense. The Anglicans like to see themselves as a branch of Catholicism, but this sentiment is not shared by the successor of St. Peter. There are serious questions about apostolic succession and its priesthood and Mass. Non-Catholic communities suffer from many dire errors in teaching. Yes, the Episcopalians have married priests, but they also have openly gay clergy and (women) priestesses. They tolerate abortion, sodomy, fornication, contraception, divorce and remarriage, etc. I doubted Father Cutie could stomach such a so-called church for long; I guess he is proving me wrong.

Father Alberto Cutie Defects to Episcopal Church

I grieve for the Church. It was bad enough that Father Alberto Cutie was living a secret life. He seemed more apologetic about being caught than about having his scandalous doings with his lady-friend photographed on a Florida beach. But next we are told that he joined the Episcopal Church. My heart droped at the news.

The wayward priest spent his designated “retreat” time hanging out with his girlfriend. He did not even try to reform. We have all been deceived. While he asked forgiveness and said that he did not want to be the poster-boy for married priests, he has abandoned the true Church entirely. He has done the very thing which he promised he would not do. He has brought both Church doctrine and discipline to ridicule. He has hurt the faith of simple people. Given his popularity as a pastor and as a widely-known media priest, the danger of his defection is incalculable. Who knows how many will follow him out of the Catholic fold?

The Episcopal Bishop Leo Frade should be deeply embarrassed by his disrespect to the priest’s legitimate bishop, Catholic Archbishop John Favalora. Bishop Frade was not Father Cutie’s true spiritual father, but rather of a robber who came to steal from the flock. In this case, he did not get away with sheep but with the shepherd. Ecumenism was dealt a serious set-back. I was surprised not to see lightning bolts from heaven about this travesty. The good Archbishop would have us pray for his prodigal son in the hope that he might return to the fold.

Quickly defecting after the news of his infidelity broke, he was unwilling to give the matter the proper amount of time and distance for sober reflection. I have to wonder how much of this was premeditated. There was even speculation that his girlfriend may have had some prior involvement with the photographer on the beach. But I think it is reaching to suppose he was setup to force his hand. Regardless of the machinations behind the scenes, the blunt of the blame must be borne by Father Cutie.

Although supposedly orthodox in his teachings, this latest act shows quite the opposite. He broke trust with his bishop and brother priests but now refers to Episcopalian priests as his “many brothers… [who] serve God as married men and with the blessing of having their own families.” This act sickens me. Episcopalian priests may be good Christians, but he sees no difference between the authentic priesthood of Catholicism and the empty shell of Anglicanism. He is not the first. But, almost every one of them abandoned Roman Catholicism, not for deep-seated doctrinal reasons, but because of the desire to bed a woman and still retain a public or ministerial persona as a spiritual guru.

Catholicism receives many Episcopalian priests into her ranks, but they are drawn by doctrinal permanence over fluctuating instability, moral absolutes over relativism and humility coupled with obedience to God and his Church over a selfish and earthbound liberalism. Those who become Catholic often sacrifice much in the way of salary, standing and home. While a few married Episcopalian priests have been ordained in the Catholic Church; many have sacrificed their ministries entirely to be a part of the Catholic family. They placed a higher premium on divine truth than upon a capricious religion easily swayed by the fads and fashions of the day.

How could he give advice about faith and relationships to others on television, radio and in writing when he was so personally messed up? People came to him for life-giving water; but he was really an empty well. Many of his supporters seemed more “on his side” than in harmony with the mind of the Church. He made disciples, inadvertently I suppose, less for Christ and his Church and more for himself. Sometimes I think the Church should rotate clergy in media settings. Left too long in front of the camera or on the radio– and a personality cult frequently develops. We should not hero-worship our clergy. If a popular priest should fall, he might take many souls with him. This business with Father Cutie has re-ignited the married priest debate even though most active priests prefer the status-quo in favor of compulsory celibacy. Who knows how dire this will continue to be for the Church in Miami?

A television station showed parishioners of St. Francis de Sales Parish marching around their church in support of their former pastor. Evidently they did not care that their pastor had broken his promises and had lived a lie. When interviewed they compared Father Cutie’s transgressions favorably against the terrible crimes of pedophiles. The real comparison is with good and faithful celibate priests.

The situation was intensely precarious. Later it became a great deal worse. The woman was identified as Ruhama Canellis. She stood by his side at Trinity Cathedral where they both entered the Episcopalian church. The Episcopal bishop and priests in attendance dressed up for the event. They pulled all the stops. Even priestesses were in attendance. He was planning to marry his lover and to become an Episcopalian priest. He has now realized these aspirations. I suppose it is fitting. King Henry VIII stole the English people from the Catholic Church so that he might divorce and remarry. Canellis is a divorced woman. Did Father Cutie miss the class in seminary on basic Christian morality? Are not fornication and adultery still sins? This should matter to them both. In addition to these concerns, he is now a renegade Catholic priest. If he accepts Protestant teaching, and plans to expound upon it, then he will be a heretic as well. He is digging a big hole for himself. My fear is that thousands might fall into it with him.

Well, it is a sad thing, but if the Episcopalian church wants our rejects then that is their trouble. Look how quickly they grabbed this fallen priest. We would have taken more time with one of theirs. His legitimate Catholic bishop was not even notified about his reception into the Episcopal “church.” That shows how little respect Father Cutie had for him and the ROMAN Catholic Church. The Episcopal diocese should be ashamed of itself. But given the current fragmented status of the Episcopal communion, are they even capable of shame? This was all quite sleazy and I suspect it was in the works for some time. I have no respect for men who do such things.

Father Cutie described his new faith affiliation as “a new family” and yet we do not subscribe to any form of religious relativism. Father Cutie disowned his family. That should be the real headline. All churches are not the same. The Holy Father was clear. The Catholic Church is the true Church; Orthodoxy is a defective church; and all Protestant groupings are ecclesial communities, but not properly CHURCH. Many Protestant communities claim no priesthood or Eucharist; Episcopalians claim both but the Catholic Church judged their orders invalid and their Eucharist as false.

SEE APOSTOLICAE CURAE (Pope Leo XIII, 1896)

They are not a branch of Catholicism but a foreign misbegotten creature that has delusions of grandeur while feigning a pedigree it does not really possess.

What clouds the issue is the presence of former Catholic priests in the Episcopal community. They are still priests, even if in mortal sin and excommunicated. Father Cutie says that he will continue to proclaim God’s Word; but what is a Catholic priest apart from the Catholic Church? Will he preach the Word of God or the word of Cutie? Father Cutie is rejecting the Pope, the authority of his lawful bishop, the seven sacraments as clearly defined by Catholicism, our view of priesthood, our moral teachings on sexuality and marriage, the prohibition against divorce and remarriage, and the basics of Catholic ecclesiology. Will he be happy? Can he close his mind and heart to the many differences we have with Episcopalians? He will be obliged to accept women priests, gay bishops and same-sex unions, a tolerance for abortion, artificial contraception and divorce with remarriage. He is leaving the Church of commandments for the church of anything goes. He says, “I will always love the Catholic Church.” But, he did not love her enough. The Church was his bride. Now he has traded her for two paramours: the divorcee and the mistress church of Henry VIII and Cranmer the despoiler.

Andy Warhol, a Catholic?

CATHOLIC CELEBRITY PROFILE:  Andy Warhol (1928-1987)

This famous pop artist, avant-garde filmmaker and so much else was the darling of Hollywood celebrities and the wealthy. He delighted in what many of us would regard as tacky or mundane. I can still remember his Campbell’s Soup Can picture— ah, made me hungry to look at it! Although some thought his work was cheap, many critics today rank him in the same category of creativity with Picasso, although with more diffused interests.

As a child, his family attended St. John Chrysostom Byzantine Catholic Church in Pittsburgh, PA. When he died, his two brothers had the body brought back to Pittsburgh. During the wake, he was posed with a small prayer book and a red rose. The Mass was held at Holy Ghost Byzantine Catholic Church. The eulogy was given by Msgr. Peter Tay. After the Mass, the priest and procession drove to the old family church cemetery where he was buried next to his parents. Another memorial service was later held at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York.

If his work was regarded as peculiar, his personal life was no less enigmatic. Many regarded him as a homosexual and yet it is also said that his personal virginity was unassailed.

I have to wonder if he did not purposely exalt the commercial and secular so that we might better see the naked truth about ourselves and our culture. His juxtaposing a religious message and consumerism in his last works seems to demonstrate this fusion and/or contradiction with which we live. Many of us did not like his work and many of his messages, I suspect, because he pushed up into our faces the artificiality and market-mentality that possesses us. Even Leonardo da Vinci’s LAST SUPPER, has become the stuff of home decoration, with cheap rip-offs but void of true meaning. He took this work and multiplied it over and over again with secular signs added. It was awful— it was our society held up against a mirror.

THE LAST SUPPER (1986)

Many people are surprised to discover that Warhol was a practicing Catholic, although of the Eastern or Byzantine rite. He often went to Mass at Roman Catholic churches. He saw himself as a religious person and personally volunteered at New York homeless shelters. A number of private religious works were discovered in his estate after his death. He went to daily Mass at St. Vincent Ferrer in New York. The pastor reported that he would kneel or sit in the back but rarely came up to the altar for communion for fear of being recognized. It is said that, given some of his art and films, he was afraid to bring scandal upon the Church. One of his brothers stated that he was “really religious” but also intensely “private” about his Catholic faith. The art historian John Richardson in a eulogy noted that he was devout, saying, “To my certain knowledge, he was responsible for at least one conversion. He took considerable pride in financing his nephew’s studies for the priesthood” (Wikepedia).

Fallen TV Priests

As I reflect upon the scandal caused by the Bud Macfarlane divorce, I am forced to face as well the legacy of disgrace that has been inflicted by famous priests.

Rev. Kenneth Roberts

I recall as a teenager picking up an IMAGE paperback in the back of the church one Sunday entitled Playboy to Priest by Rev. Kenneth Roberts. The work impressed me and along with several other books about priests, real and fictionalized, fueled my burning desire for a vocation. He would later become famous as the Medjugorie priest and he had several programs televised on EWTN on the Blessed Mother and a youth series based on one of his books, You Better Believe It. It was a great program and young people were really moved by it to study about and to live their Catholic faith. Upon my desk are other books he wrote, The Rest of the Week, Mary – The Perfect Prayer Partner, Fr. Roberts’ Guide to Personal Prayer, Pray It Again, Sam! and Nobody Calls It Sin Anymore. They were not particularly deep; but that was okay because they were popular works for the rank and file. He gave talks and conferences across the nation. His tapes and videos were bought and shared. He was loved. Then he disappeared and rumors spread.

A boyhood hero had fallen. When I had helped out in a Birmingham, Alabama parish in 1989, I actually met and had dinner with him. He was a regular on Mother Angelica’s Catholic television network. Now it turned out that he was continuing to wear clerics, function in public as a priest, and even did television work after he had been censured. Retired from the Dallas diocese for “health reasons” he had been suspended for violating restrictions placed upon him in 1995. His bishop made it very clear that he had to stop distributing his books and tapes and that he had to take down his website and Internet presence.

Dallas Bishop Charles V. Graham signed the decree of suspension on November 13 after verification that Father Roberts had violated restrictions. The English-born Father Roberts, ordained in 1966 for the Dallas Diocese, retired from the diocese for medical reasons on Sept. 1, 1995, and his faculties were restricted, barring him from exercising his priestly duties, wearing clerical garb and presenting himself as a Roman Catholic priest in good standing. His retirement followed public accusations of sexual molestation, though no civil or criminal charges were filed against him at that time. Now in his 70’s, civil charges were filed in 2004 where three are named in a lawsuit filed in November by John Doe. The suit alleges that the Rev. Kenneth Roberts, now retired, sexually abused Doe at St. Mary’s Catholic School in Belleville in 1984. The St. Louis Archdiocese and the Dallas Diocese have responded by asserting that St. Clair County Court has no jurisdiction over them because they do not do business there. St. Louis also says Roberts was never assigned or employed here, although he was allowed to live in three parishes in Florissant and was permitted to conduct some religious services here.

What happened? Was this for real? Fr. Roberts seemed so genuine and faithful; was it all a lie? I have kept him in my prayers because of his importance in my life and in the lives of so many. But, I doubt that the wound caused by these revelations will heal any time soon. There is also a lot of meanness about what happened. One nasty blooger said something like, “What do you think his revised autobiography will be titled, “Playboy to Priest to Pervert”? If the allegations are true, then we pray for the victims and perpetrator. The posture of the Christian is always on our knees in prayer and in petition for mercy.

All of Fr. Robert’s tapes and videos are off the market. His webpage is gone. His programs deleted from the EWTN schedule and some have said they have been destroyed. Is it right that a man’s possible weakness and sin should utterly destroy his legacy?

Rev. Laurence Brett

As a young priest, the pastor and I subscribed to monthly videos of a Paulist production called SHARE THE WORD. The Sunday readings were explained and many useful ideas were given for preaching. The host was an articulate and dynamic priest by the name of Rev. Laurence Brett. We were so impressed that he accepted our invitation to do three weeks of Friday talks and to lead the Stations of the Cross during Lent. He smoked constantly and affected a strong Irish brogue for effect during the Stations. I found the later a bit disconcerting. Why would he purport to be Irish when he usually had no such accent? It seemed like posturing and bothered me. However, his words were good and he proved himself knowledgable about the Scriptures and our faith.

I was transferred and the program, which was also on cable, eventually disappeared. For awhile the Paulists were toying with taking the tapes and re-editing a Sunday commentary series out of it. But, nothing happened. Later, I found out why.

Years before, Frank Martinelli was a 14-year-old altar boy attracted to Rev. Laurence Brett as a role model at St. Cecilia’s in Stamford, Conn. Martinelli claimed that Father Brett fondled him in a bathroom and that the priest urged him to offer fellation while feigning the blessing of Holy Communion. Thirty years passed before he and other young people spoke out. When the priest was finally censured, he became a fugitive. Church officials in Bridgeport and Baltimore called Brett a criminal and an “evil man.” Even the FBI had trouble finding him. He changed the spelling of his name to conceil his identity and settled in 1996 on the island of Anguilla, a short boat ride from St. Maarten.

These men were notable evangelizers through the modern communications medium. They reached out to millions. Little or nothing has been said to explain what happened or to heal the harm caused to believers. The Pharisees had no monopoly on hypocrisy. Hopefully people will remember the message and not so much the messenger.

Discussion

LAURENCE:

Do you think I should stop listening to Fr. Robert’s tapes? I joined the Catholic Society of Evangelists and they provide 4 of his tapes for donations. His teachings are theologically sound. Is it okay to let others listen to his work?

FATHER JOE:

The question you ask is hard to answer. A priest teaches, as we all do, by both what we say and by what we do. While a person could be moved by Fr. Roberts’ ideas and gentle teaching manner, the allegations of sexual misconduct with minors are so severe that I suspect they would likely cause too much scandal and cause more harm than good. The fact that he disobeyed his bishop makes the case even more serious. You can make use of the tapes, but I would not generally share them any longer with potential converts or returnees.

Do not loose heart and know that a good number of us in the ranks of the clergy are behaving ourselves and still proclaiming the Gospel.