September 2006

Soon To Be Catholic

I'm thrilled about your website. I am a Protestant (Southern Baptist), and will soon be a Catholic. I went to Southeastern Theological Seminary in North Carolina. As soon as I have the funds, I'm going to subscribe. Your website deals with many aspects that I find to be very important, such as gnosticism. When I was in seminary, I didn't realize how gnostic the Protestant movement was until I studied the early Church Fathers. I've been to different Catholic websites that show the differences between Catholics and Protestants, but never once has anyone really shown the gnostic element.

The moral and philosophical issues your website tackles are of great importance -- neoconservatism, Trotskyism, and Zionism. I'm blown away by your insights. I only have a few friends who know about that stuff. I'm glad you didn't sell out to the neocons and their foundations.

I'm happy to find Catholics who take a stand.

Charles Kennedy
Garner, North Carolina




Do Not Dismiss My Letter

From time to time I read your magazine; while there are many good things, it is always so enmeshed with evil that I am unable to read it regularly. Maybe I am just an overly sensitive Slav, but yours is the worst kind of arrogant, self-righteous, and aggressive Catholic journalism that I know of.

Why are you so obsessed with the liberals, neocons, modcons, and other cowardly enemies? Attitudes like yours have always brought much more evil than good.

Please, consider virtues such as humility, meekness, and gentleness. Please, do not dismiss my letter.

Pavel Janik
Buffalo, New York




THE EDITOR REPLIES:

We remember your letter (Dec. 2005) where you defended Fr. Marcial Maciel, the founder of the Legionaries of Christ, saying: "Are you [the NOR] sure you want to bet your eternal salvation on these stories [accusations]?" As a very sensitive Slav, may we tenderly suggest that you were wrong about those accusations? The accusers were very aggressive. If they had followed your course of "humility, meekness, and gentleness," Maciel would never have gotten his just deserts.





I Could Be Out of Work

I admire your guts. I find it easier to shut up and say nothing. If people at my work knew that I subscribe to the NOR, I would be in danger of being out of work. I feel like an undercover agent. I'm grateful that I'm not alone.

(Name Withheld)




The Mormons Have Renounced Polygamy

Thank you for your continued work of not "watering down the wine."

In a New Oxford Note (May, p. 20), I note a reference saying that "the Mormons are still not allowed to practice their religion freely (i.e., polygamy)…." The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) renounced polygamy in October 1890.

I trust this will be accepted as a gesture of fellowship and high regard for your moral principles, and not a criticism or attack of your position.

Gary J. Coleman
The Church of Christ of Latter-day Saints
Salt Lake City, Utah




THE EDITOR REPLIES:

Hey, we don't mind being attacked. But we do appreciate your "gesture of fellowship."

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled polygamy illegal in 1890. Only then did the Mormons renounce it. The Mormons in Utah were eager to be admitted to the Union, and they achieved that goal in 1896, while they "watered down their wine" (of course Mormons don't drink wine).

By the way, there are still excommunicated fundamentalist Mormons who do practice polygamy. They follow the founder of Mormonism, Joseph Smith, who advocated polygamy. And polygamy is promised to Mormons in the afterlife.

The way things are going, same-sex "marriage" will probably be legalized eventually (maybe by the Supreme Court). Neocon Catholic Bill O'Reilly has no objections to "gay marriage." His mantra is, "It's good for the country," and presumably he thinks "gay marriage" is "good for the country." If same-sex "marriage" is legalized, we don't see why polygamy wouldn't also be. In that case, we would imagine that many more Mormons would revert to polygamy -- i.e., would be able to practice their religion freely.





You Can't Be Serious

My answer to the guest column by Angus Sibley, "Dives the Tax-Evader" (June): Give to the poor! You can't be serious! Who would administer the tax? Leave me the joy of my tithe to my parish and giving to the needy.

Mrs. Ralph A. Bennitt
Augusta, Georgia






Apparently the NOR, the superb, premier Catholic watchdog, must occasionally stumble. Your guest column "Dives the Tax-Evader" is trash. The writer tackles the problem of material inequality in the world, a subject worthy of attention. He makes a strained and contorted case for the welfare state as the correct solution to the problem by drawing from The Encyclopedia of Judaism and a teaching of Maimonides. He extols tax-based redistribution and appears to equate tax paying with almsgiving and charity or perhaps even preferable.

The guest columnist denounces the free market as a culprit and looks for government to solve the problem largely by progressive taxation and redistribution. In other words, what is stealing if done by an individual is magically a virtue when done by government! In my entire lifetime I have never known government to do anything well. Government screws up everything it does, and that definitely includes the alleviation of poverty. The free market, with all its faults, has given us the richest poor people in the world. This is not to say that it has no faults to be attended to, but do not look to government for the solution.

When we face our final judgment, I doubt that it will do us any good to plead that we paid our taxes, or that we voted for the candidates and the party that was noted for taxing the rich more and increasing welfare spending. On the other hand, our good works for the needy and charitable financial contributions will be to our credit. The higher our taxes, the less we have to be charitable with.

James Kussy
Granite Falls, Washington




Putting the Cart Before the Horse

An article titled "Pope Benedict XVI Appeals for a Commitment to Christian Unity" appeared in the National Catholic Register (Feb. 5-11, 2006). To try to bring unity to all Christians is like putting the cart before the horse. Christian unity can never be attained until we attain unity in Christ's Holy Roman Catholic Church. It is a fact that unity of faith in Catholic teachings has deteriorated since the 1960s. Unabated dissensions have and are still causing a loss of Catholic unity and identity. Dissenters deceive themselves when they continue to call themselves Catholic.

Andrew Williams, Jr.
Roach, Missouri




Are All Means Permitted to Fight Evil?

Regarding Joe Wall's "Murder in the Cathedral" about the Allies' indiscriminate bombing in World War II (Nov. 2005), and all the letters that followed, pro and con: I'd like to point to Christopher Dawson's Judgement of Nations written in 1942, where he said, "As soon as men decide that all means are permitted to fight an evil, then their good becomes indistinguishable from the evil that they set out to destroy."

Benton A. Mardor
Palm Beach Gardens, Florida




Revising the New Mass, Again & Again

After reading about the various bishops' meetings that have been held and all the committees and subcommittees that have been created in order to revise the New Mass again and again, one word comes to mind: "pathetic."

If the Traditional Mass had been retained, think of all the time and money that would have been saved, and also think of all the pain and suffering that would have been avoided.

Donna Kruger
Lincoln, Nebraska




Altar Girls Are Not 'Insults'

I disagree with two of the issues in Thomas Hughes's letter (June). Hughes refers to altar girls as "insults." Who does he think he is? I am extremely offended by his remark. Girls are just as special, in the eyes of God, as boys are. They deserve the same privilege as boys have to serve at Mass. Remember, it was not only men who stood at the foot of the cross. Those who oppose altar girls should ask what would Jesus say. I don't think that Jesus meant only boys when He said, "Let the children come to me…for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."

I also take issue with what Hughes calls the "ugly" vernacular Mass. While growing up in the 1950s, studying high school Latin, I had no problem following the Latin Mass, using my St. Joseph Daily Missal. However, when I first heard the Mass said in English, I was struck by the beauty of the prayers. The Mass suddenly took on a new meaning and relevance to me. My spirituality has been greatly enhanced and my love of the Eucharist has deepened.

With all the serious problems the Church is experiencing today, I don't think that Hughes's objections to vernacular Masses and altar girls should even be on the horizon.

Rosemary Farrell Roberts
Waterbury, Connecticut




What Takes Place at Private Confession?

As an orthodox Episcopalian, would someone spell out for me just what takes place at Roman Catholic private confession? Do clergy, errant or not, go to confession, as lay people do? If someone admits to a sin and is absolved, and sins again, and again -- if indeed there is an established habit of transgression -- what is the Church's policy, if any? There are well-publicized cases of serial adultery among Catholics, including past royalty and recent and present political leaders, all seemingly remaining in good standing with the Church. And what of serial child abuse by clergy, abuse in some cases prolonged over decades? Do these clerics not themselves have confessors? Do the latter not have influence over the confessees?

Barbara N. Baur
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania




Ed. Note:

We'll let our readers answer these questions.

Respond now.





Little Did I Know

The June issue brought a rude awakening, concerning the article by F. Douglas Kneibert titled "Homosexuality Is Bad? But Where's That in the Lectionary?" I proclaim God's Word twice a week at weekday Masses and at Sunday Masses twice a month. I am ashamed to admit that I have not noticed the Lectionary's virtual silence about the sin of homosexuality. I'm afraid we are lemmings following the Episcopal Church off the cliff.

Cecil Donaho
Mesquite, Nevada




Stabbing Us In the Back

Regarding your Editorial (June): I regret having to lose my trust in our priest and our hierarchy since it is so hard to identify those who are traitors and those who are not. I refer to the collusion to hide the homosexual clergy in our Church. They expect us to sit quietly, while they stab us in the back.

The NOR is acting as our scouts by scanning the battlefield and pointing out the enemy. We need to gird our loins and fight back.

One of my friends said matter-of-factly, "Jesus was a homosexual because He kissed one of His disciples." This heresy flabbergasted me until I learned that his son is a homosexual.

The homosexual agenda is driving our priests and our hierarchy.

Lt. Col. Charles N. Valenti (USA, Ret.)
Rehoboth Beach, Virginia




Homosexual Couples at Catholic Schools

Regarding Fr. Hugh Barbour's lengthy letter, "The Homosexual Couple at St. John the Baptist School & the Norbertines" (June) and the replies by Michael S. Rose and the Editor (June): For a number of years I was a volunteer at a local Catholic school. During that time, I assisted a teacher in second grade, where children are often prepared for First Confession, and where in the Ten Commandments it's noted that marriage is between a man and a woman, among other things.

In this same grade, there was a young girl who had two mommies. These matters are often not kept secret. The young girl was teased by other students because she had two mommies.

Upon speaking with my own pastor, I was told the child should never have been admitted into the school.

To retain the Catholicity of the school, it is important to defend Catholic teachings and refrain from accepting students who can only disrupt those teachings. It is almost impossible to teach what the Church teaches when young students are living in a home environment that is so depraved. I've seen and heard what happens. How could a teacher be expected to prepare the children for First Confession when he is aware of parents who are living in an open homosexual relationship? Can you imagine what a teacher must go through if he teaches that the Church only allows marriage between a man and a woman, and condemns homosexuality? The homosexual parents might just want to sue the teacher, the school, the school board, and perhaps even the bishop!

Strong measures should be taken by all Catholic schools before admitting students, and one of the rules must be that the parents are faithful to the teachings of the Church with regard to homosexuality and marriage, and not be living in a co-habiting situation of any kind. In fact, this should be a directive from all our bishops to all principals and pastors of Catholic schools under their jurisdiction (as well as the religious orders).

Sodomy is one of the four sins that cry out to Heaven for vengeance.

Mrs. Nancy R. Evers
Tucson, Arizona






On my way to believing Fr. Hugh Barbour's account of the affair (oops) at St. John the Baptist School in Costa Mesa, Calif., I think I will pop up to New York and put a substantial deposit on the Brooklyn Bridge.

John Paul Hayes
Havertown, Pennsylvania






After reading the article on the homosexuals at St. John the Baptist School by Michael S. Rose (NOR, Dec. 2005), the letter from the Rev. Hugh Barbour, O.Praem., and both replies by Rose and the Editor (June 2006), I would like to make some additional comments.

Rose obviously spent many hours researching the circumstances at St. John the Baptist School. If one is not familiar with the Norbertines or the Diocese of Orange, the article appears to be substantial coverage of the situation. Unfortunately, available information was neglected and the resulting overall tone of the article was an undeserved negative judgment on the Norbertine Community in general and the St. John the Baptist priests in particular.

I found Fr. Barbour's letter regarding Rose's article to be thoughtful, prudent, and most charitable without skirting the issues. One point made by Father which I find curious to a seasoned journalist was the fact that Rose didn't take the time to talk to any of the priests involved or their superiors. Rose claims he didn't need to because of the extensive amount of public press releases, statements, and memos, etc., which he had collected. But without talking to any of the clergy involved, Rose can hardly claim to know any of the thinking or action taken behind the scenes which may have had a direct bearing on these "statements." When considering all that was said and done in this matter, it would be beneficial for your readers and Rose to be aware of another set of circumstances that exist at this parish.

The fine priests at St. John the Baptist answer to their superiors because, of course, they are members of that religious order. However, in addition to this, they must also answer to the Bishop of Orange because St. John the Baptist belongs to his Diocese -- not their religious community. This fact was a serious omission. In all likelihood, Rose would have had a very different perspective on the situation had he contacted any one of the Norbertine priests, or better still, the Bishop of the Diocese of Orange.

I will not comment in detail on the slanderous and vicious attacks made by Rose and the Editor on Fr. Barbour's letter, person, and the Norbertine Community. Suffice it to say, I was shocked and extremely disturbed at the false accusations leveled against this very fine priest and the outstanding religious community of which he is a member.

In God's loving Providence, we have been blessed with the Norbertines. I can assure you that they are the salt of Orange County and should always be gratefully treated as such. I would invite the Editor and Rose to become acquainted with the Norbertines and learn about all the gracious and self-sacrificing contributions that they make to our Diocese of Orange.

You have published some great articles in the past; however, due to your most disrespectful treatment of Fr. Barbour and the Norbertines in general, I am canceling my subscription to your journal.

Linda L. Hughes
Irvine, California




THE EDITOR REPLIES:

To Linda Hughes: You found Fr. Hugh's letter to be "most charitable." He called Rose such things as "a detractor" and "a calumniator," referred to "his gratuitous attack," said that "he defamed," is "doubly sinful," and "I ask him to examine his conscience." Fr. Hugh called the actions of the concerned parents such things as "deceptions of the devil," said they should "feel this remorse soon, and repent," that they should feel "holy dread," and they are "haters." And you found this "most charitable"?

Do you really believe that the Norbertines would have given Rose access to what was "behind the scenes"?

As for Rose contacting the Bishop of Orange: It's one of the worst dioceses in the country (see, for example, The News You May Have Missed entry in this issue titled "Stand By Me"). All they would offer would just be spin.

Then you accuse us of "slanderous and vicious attacks," but you refuse to name them.

You accuse us of "disrespectful treatment" of Fr. Hugh. As far as we know, Fr. Hugh has not been canonized. Priests make mistakes, and when they do they should be called on the carpet. Fr. Hugh says, "True, the Savior cleansed the temple…. [But] only the Great High Priest and His Vicars…alone have the power and the duty to purify God's temple…. Woe to self-appointed universal lay reformers…. [They] contact the secular media…." Imagine if the laity in conjunction with the media did not go after pederast clergy. Before then, Pope John Paul and most of his bishops certainly did not.

You are trying to find fault with Rose, but you will not confront the appalling situation at St. John the Baptist School.





An Attorney Repolies to Fr. Hugh Barbour's Letter

I have read Fr. Hugh Barbour's letter (June) as regards the St. John the Baptist homosexual couple/adopted children scandal, and as the attorney representing the so-called "self-appointed lay Catholic activists" involved in this scandal, I must respond to the many false assertions raised in Fr. Hugh's letter.

Before I respond, however, I preface my comments with an acknowledgment that, to the extent the Norbertine Order in Orange County suffered because of this scandal, I am profoundly saddened, in that the St. Michael's Norbertines and Truth are synonymous 99 percent of the time.

With regard to the debacle at St. John the Baptist, Fr. Hugh and I do have one thing in common: Neither of us was there during the summer of 2004 when the children in question were first enrolled in the school. We both heard what happened second-hand. I only know what was told to me by numerous faithful Catholics at St. John's who mustered enough nerve to talk to Sister Vianney, the school Principal, and Fr. Martin Benzoni, the Pastor, about the "gay" men's children's enrollment. Based upon all of the quotes from Fr. Martin I was given by these concerned parents, if he would have been placed on trial before 12 jurors on the issue of whether or not he knew full well about, and acquiesced in, the children's enrollment months before school opened, a guilty verdict would be unanimous. He was "sufficiently aware of the situation" to pastorally counsel the couple with the requirement that the two men not present themselves as a couple on the school grounds long before the fall 2004 school year began. He had enough time to demand that the parish/school directory showing the two men as "father and father" be reprinted. Had he done that, the "activists," the Los Angeles Times, and Michael S. Rose would have never heard of the scandal.

In any event, Fr. Hugh in no uncertain terms has chastised Michael S. Rose for not speaking with any of the confreres of his Abbey before completing his article. I can assure him that if Fr. Hugh would have taken the time to speak personally with just five or six out of the thirty concerned parents regarding statements made by Fr. Martin once school began, Fr. Hugh would be utterly embarrassed by his statement in his letter that "[Fr. Martin] was moved to act consistently and firmly from the very beginning, and he did so." Instead of at least placing a copy of the recent Vatican teaching addressing this very issue, "Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons" (hereinafter "Considerations"), in the parish bulletin, or preaching just one sermon on the subject matter, he relegated that teaching to the obscure parish website. Could one seriously deem this response to be "acting consistently and firmly"? Did Fr. Martin have any idea how many parishioners in that parish don't even own a computer, or have access to the Internet? That parish was under a spiritual attack that required quick and decisive action and a firm pastoral response; not some token posting on a seldom-referenced Internet site. Imagine if President Bush would have remained silent after the 9/11 attacks; and then, when criticized for his silence, directed his press secretary to insist that he responded with a "firm hand" by posting, without comment, the text of Federal anti-terrorist legislation on the White House Internet website!

While Fr. Martin refused to distribute "Considerations" in the parish bulletin, he instead hastened to insert the quote from William Donohue's unfortunate press statement, which Fr. Hugh concedes was not helpful, within the bulletin itself. Fr. Martin also met the "gay" parents' supporters at one of their home meetings, yet refused to meet with the group of concerned parents. Was Fr. Martin's seeking out various parishioners, and asking them what their "opinion" was about the admission of the "gay" couple's children in school the action of a pastor acting consistently and firmly? Did Fr. Martin's remarks to at least three of the parents, "It's a done deal," "Don't take it up with me, take it up with [the Principal]," and "Oh, you know how conservative they are up on the hill [St. Michael's Abbey]," demonstrate a consistent and firm hand from the very beginning? Did Fr. Martin's comment to several people that the acceptance of the "gay" couple as just another family was "a gray area" demonstrate the reflections of one acting consistently and firmly from the very beginning? I think not.

I could also recite numerous problematic statements made by the school Principal in her staunch defense of this "gay" couple's right to act as a "family" on the school grounds -- some of them were sad indeed. The comment, however, that is most memorable is her amazing statement to one of the moms: "I'm not sorry for what I've done [admitting the "gay" couples' adopted children into the school] even if I have to go to hell for it."

Fr. Martin did "endure a genuine persecution" -- not becausee of his requirement that the two men not present themselves as a couple, as Fr. Hugh contends, but because he did nothing, and made it very clear to the concerned parents that he intended to do nothing -- but only when the polarization of the two sides was complete, many, many months later. Giving Fr. Martin every benefit of the doubt, and without judging his motives, his lack of action was the catalyst for the faculty members and school administration to fill the vacuum, and ratify this couple's status as heroes in the parish. Edmund Burke said it well, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." Fr. Martin did nothing; then he compounded the disaster by trying to appease first the "gay" couples' supporters; and then he attempted to placate both sides, which, to no one's surprise, did not satisfy anyone. Notwithstanding his mishandling of the scandal, not one "orthodox activist" parent ever pronounced any hint of sustained "hatred" for him. In fact, to my knowledge, nearly all of them kept in constant communication with him and would state that they were praying for him. No, in contrast to their one written letter to the school Principal, and their interviews with the press and media, the only acts of animosity occurring at that parish were the angry and openly hostile comments, letters, and attacks made upon Fr. Martin and the concerned parents by the supporters of the "gay" couple. Despite this fact, Fr. Hugh's letter creates a false impression that the concerned parents were also an angry mob calling for the head of Fr. Martin. Nothing of the sort ever happened.

In his letter, Fr. Hugh emphasizes the fact that the media attention sought and obtained by the concerned parents impeded Fr. Martin's ability to take care of the souls of the "gay" couple in question. How long would one expect this hoped-for metanoia (conversion) of the hearts of the "gay" parents to take? One semester? One year? Two years? Three years? In the meantime, what about the souls of the other eight hundred or so school children who were being taught by living example that a hand-holding "gay" couple with adopted children was just another type of family that was not only acceptable, but exemplary in the St. John the Baptist Catholic community? Early on, the school Principal and several of the teachers applauded and supported the presence of this couple and made it clear to the school children their thoughts on the subject. Certainly the spiritual formation of these other eight hundred impressionable children should have counted for something during that metanoia. Fr. Hugh's letter does not even address the fact that this "gay" couple, one of whom had earlier that year gone public in true "activist" fashion, willingly being interviewed by The New York Times ("Two Fathers, With One Happy to Stay at Home," Jan. 12, 2004) about his role as the stay-at-home partner in this "gay"-adopting "family," doggedly refused to deny or admit that they belonged to the Family Pride Gay Activist Coalition, a group from which they were receiving literature, and attending "family" functions. It should surprise no one that if they are indeed members of that organization, they are only necessarily following the call of their group's publication, Opening More Doors: LGBT Parents and Their Impact on School Policy, which is a "primer for parents on effecting policy change to create safe and inclusive schools for their children." Was it too judgmental or presumptuous for the concerned parents to conclude that this couple had just such an agenda? Would one be rash in surmising that when it comes to the spiritual formation of literally hundreds of impressionable onlooking Catholic school children versus the rights of two of this "gay" couple's "kids," it was better to err on the side of caution -- after all, wasn't it Jesus who told us to be meek as a dove, yet wise as a serpent? Upon whose neck did Jesus reserve the millstone for the sake of just one child, let alone eight hundred? Yet Fr. Martin, who was shown all of this information prior to the publishing of the Los Angeles Times article, pooh-poohed it as though it meant nothing.

With regard to Fr. Norbert Wood, Fr. Hugh praises him as "conscientiously fulfilling his duty…to reconcile." Fr. Norbert was given a most difficult situation with which to deal. Be that as it may, the reality is Fr. Norbert fell far short of acting as "an observant religious, and thoroughly, uncompromisingly orthodox" (as Fr. Hugh calls him). Has Fr. Hugh reviewed the imperious memos directed to the concerned parents from Fr. Norbert and the full extent of what he demanded from the parents in addition to their apologies? Fr. Norbert referred to the "harsh and condemnatory tone of the letter" sent by the concerned parents. The words in their letter were nowhere near as harsh and condemnatory as those of our last two popes, who respectively referred to the phenomenon of homosexual unions as the "ideology of evil" (Memory and Identity) and the purported adoption of children by such couples as "[that which] would actually mean doing violence to these children…[and] gravely immoral…" ("Considerations," Section 7, Paragraph 3). With the possible exception of one paragraph of the concerned parents' letter, it could not be characterized as anything other than that of "emphatic opposition" and/or "conscientious objection," both of which have been mandated directly to bishops and politicians, and in the case of conscientious objection, to "everyone" by then-Cardinal Ratzinger himself ("Considerations," Section 5, Paragraph 3). Yet by Fr. Norbert's standard, one would be forced to conclude that both Pope John Paul II and (now) Pope Benedict XVI should have been censured for hate speech toward homosexuals.

With regard to Fr. Norbert's assertion that the parents were "passing judgment on the school principal's internal motives," there was nothing internal about her motives. Several of the signing parties to the letter had lengthy discussions with the school Principal wherein she was overtly supportive, not particularly of the children in question, but of the sexual orientation and lifestyle of the two homosexual men, going so far as to say that their lifestyle should be accepted at the parish and the school because "they can't help it, they were born that way." The school Principal treated these concerned parents with such contempt and hostility that she appeared to act as if the only real "ideology of evil" was the complaining parents' non-acceptance of the openly "gay family." Certainly the tone of the parents' letter would have been different had the school Principal's attitude toward this issue been remotely connected with, or even slightly sympathetic to, Church teaching on the matter. Instead, the tone of the concerned parents' letter merely reflected a response to the theologically disastrous yet defiant and arrogant attitude of the school Principal, who has to this day regrettably refused to give any of the parents who signed the letter any hint that she believes the active homosexual lifestyle is "disordered and gravely immoral." And Fr. Norbert demanded that the concerned parents apologize to the school principal? For what, the Truth?

What a good example, healing gesture, and act of humility it would have been for the school Principal to offer some token conciliatory olive branch to the concerned parents for all the turmoil, as Fr. Martin humbly did, much to his credit. Instead, she failed to express to any of the parents even the slightest hint of regret over (1) the controversy in general, or (2) the possibility of the parents' misperception of her theological support for the "gay" couple. Yet Fr. Norbert locked arms with her as if her defense of the "gay" couple's lifestyle was beyond reproach; then he vilified most of the concerned parents simply because of their letter to her. This was an iniquitous act on his part devoid of any pastoral prudence, which smacked of clerical/religious cronyism at its worst, and to which Truth wasn't even an afterthought. Yes, these concerned parents were prepared to be persecuted for their stance, but they never expected the persecutor to be the Norbertine Prior of St. Michael's Abbey.

I am aware that during this scandal, the Norbertines at St. Michael's took all the steps within their power to seek clarification from the appropriate dicastery in Rome of the application of "Considerations" to the issue at hand, but were unsuccessful. That their Abbot sought guidance from the Holy See is a very good sign. Yet it raises another troubling question. If this is true, how can Fr. Hugh's order on the one hand seek clarification of that which it felt to be uncertain, and on the other hand permit one of its confreres to demand under penalty of expulsion that parents sign a humiliating admission which expressly stated that "Considerations" had absolutely no application to the St. John's scandal?

Regrettably, Fr. Hugh's letter simply glossed over the fact that the primary practical problem was the lack of teaching at the parish by the Pastor and at the school by the Principal, on the issue, coupled with the celebrity-status-type acceptance of the two homosexual men. Despite Fr. Hugh's attempts to claim otherwise, the crux of the problem was not the denial of the homosexual couple's adopted children's right to a Catholic education. Nevertheless, Fr. Norbert's threatened expulsion of the concerned parents' children unless the parents "confessed" and admitted that "Considerations" did not apply to the school setting was a tactic right out of a KGB handbook. For whose benefit was this? The school Principal, who is apparently still willing to "go to hell" in defense of "gay rights"? Our local bishop? By then the "gay parents" had decided to leave the parish instead of simply honoring the request that they not appear on the school grounds as a couple. What was to be gained by Fr. Norbert's heavy-handed inquisition? It makes no sense. I hope and pray that it was not done as a reprisal for the embarrassment suffered by the Norbertines due to the scandal. One thing is certain, however. Can Fr. Norbert reference just one sentence from the Vatican which supports his very narrow interpretation of "Considerations"? Indeed, if his view of the scope of the teaching turns out to be erroneous, his degrading retraction demand of the parents was as much an affront to Truth as it was to the dignity of the concerned parents he was "disciplining."

Fr. Norbert's conduct toward one parent in particular was especially vindictive. She was informed through a meeting between her husband and Fr. Norbert that St. John's would only allow her children in school if she completely stayed off the school grounds -- and she was forbidden even from attending school Masses! Other than causing some discomfiture to the Norbertines by defending Church teaching when Fr. Martin didn't, what terrible sin or crime did she commit to warrant this unholy and humiliating banishment? Without commenting on the blatant canonical problems with Fr. Norbert's ultimatum, would a truly "observant religious" forbid one from attending Mass and/or from being an active participant in one's own children's Catholic education? Would Fr. Hugh sign an apology letter which states that he would agree not to attend Mass? Fr. Norbert's retraction demand was much more degrading than a request for a simple apology, as Fr. Hugh implies in his letter.

Throughout this tragedy, many of the parents involved in this fiasco became more and more disillusioned with Fr. Martin and Fr. Norbert's handling of this crisis, and even more convinced that the preservation of an Order's reputation appeared to take precedence over all else. Whether this was reality or not, only God and the Norbertines will ever know. Admittedly, neither I nor the concerned parents will ever be privy to the extent of the complexities in dealing with our bishop and the superintendent of Catholic schools during this scandal. Yet, when a priest fails to act ab initio (from the beginning), as a pastor should act in defending Truth (whether he's a Norbertine or not), is not maligning those who do speak out in support of that Truth another form of defamation?

Whether "convenient or inconvenient, in season or out of season," Truth is paramount. It was Pope St. Gregory who said, "It is better that scandals arise than for the Truth to be suppressed." Ultimately, the concerned parents spoke the Truth. That is all they did. They weren't rude. They pounded on no doors. They made no threats. They held no rallies. They called no one by uncharitable names. They posted no vindictive e-mails. One letter, much prayer, and the willingness to take the issue to God's main weapon as of late against the "filth" -- the media -- was all they did. May God bless each one of these people.

The scandal and its aftermath were not caused by officious, intermeddling "activists," the L.A. Times, Michael S. Rose, or the New Oxford Review. The scandal was not even caused by two "gay" men trying to push their "effective policy change" on a Catholic parish and school, because the homosexual agenda has had the Catholic Church in its sights now for decades. The fact of the matter is, this mess and its fallout came about by-and-large as the result of one priest who grossly underreacted, and another who arbitrarily and unfairly overreacted -- both of whom happened to be Norbertines. Trying to lay the blame at the feet of others ostensibly in an effort to preserve the reputation of the Norbertines only serves to prolong the scandal.

Michael J. Sundstedt
Huntington Beach, California




Another Defense of the Norbertines

When I read Michael S. Rose's December 2005 NOR article, "Homosexual Activism Meets Catholic Kindergarten: 'Joey Has Two Daddies,'" I was looking for some sort of disclaimer. Surely, I thought, he had contacted both sides in the sad tale he related. It must be that the Norbertines refused to speak with him. However, I read the article in vain. Nowhere did he state that he had spoken to the Norbertines or even tried to contact them.

This is a strange omission for a journalist with Rose's reputation. I have nowhere near his fame, but I have been a lay Catholic journalist for almost 12 years as Managing Editor for the Los Angeles Lay Catholic Mission and the San Francisco Faith. As an editor, I insist that writers contact "the other side," because I know there are always two sides to any story. I also know that good-intentioned people, when relating a controversy in which they have been involved, get things wrong -- they misunderstand actions and words. No matter who the "other side" is, it is a matter of justice and charity to let them speak for themselves.

It was with some dismay, then, that I read Rose's admission, in his response to Father Hugh Barbour's letter in the June 2006 NOR, that he never attempted to contact the Norbertines over the situation at St. John the Baptist in Costa Mesa, Calif. Said Rose, "As I reported, the Norbertines made their 'side of the story' known in both a public and private way through the course of that year [2004-2005]. Contrary to Fr. Hugh's claim, I quoted the Norbertines and the school administration in the article from documented evidence: their press releases, school memos, correspondence made available to me, and from previously published news reports in the Los Angeles Times…." Beside the fact that Father Hugh's complaint was that Rose had never spoken to any of the Norbertines, the writer's defense here, I think, lacks cogency.

The press releases and memos Rose cites in his article, of course, shed some light on the situation at St. John the Baptist School, and are valid sources. But he only selectively quotes the memoranda sent by Father Norbert Wood to certain parents (or one memorandum sent to one parent); Rose never gives an extended quotation, only citing certain phrases. And then Rose in his June reply adds another detail not mentioned in the article -- that Father Norbert threatened to ban a parent in question from "any school function, including school Masses" (emphasis in original). One wonders why the detail was not included in the original article. Too, Rose in his June reply fails to address Father Hugh's contention that each memorandum was tailored to the particular family involved. Further, the memoranda, it appears, do not speak to the allegation that Father Norbert called the parents names such as "Pharisee" and "hypocrite." This, one presumes, Rose gleaned from conversations with the parents. Would it not have been proper and just, not to mention charitable, to attempt to contact Father Norbert to get his account of what transpired?

The same goes for Father Martin Benzoni's reported statement to concerned parents that the presence in the school of the homosexual couple's adopted children was a "done deal." Surely no memorandum or press release spoke to this event, and Rose never claims that it did. And further, there is an apparent discrepancy between Rose's account of this exchange in his June reply and his December 2005 article. In the his June reply, Rose says, "As I reported, those parents did express their concerns to Fr. Martin even before the school year began, only to be told, 'it's a done deal'" -- implying that Father Martin was not accepting the fait accompli, where the children were already in school, but that he approved of the situation when he had the opportunity to hinder it. But in his article, Rose notes that parents did not know of the enrollment of the couple's children in the school until after the school year began. Says Rose's article: "St. John parents became aware of the couple's living situation after Farina and Morelos [the homosexual couple] 'very visibly' began to show up at the school, often together arm-in-arm with their younger children, to pick up their 5-year-old kindergartners at the end of the school day." The phrase, "at the end of the school day," suggests that the situation was not known until after the school year began. So how could the concerned parents have alerted Father Martin to the situation "even before the school year began," as Rose's June reply says they did?

Doubtless, this was an oversight on Rose's part, coming as it did so long after he wrote the article. Memory does fade and become confused over time. A similar oversight appears in Rose's June reply, when he speaks of a Los Angeles Times news report "in which Fr. Martin Benzoni, Pastor at St. John, is quoted defending his position to support the homosexual activist couple: 'I firmly believe that this policy is in line with the teaching of the Catholic Church' -- a defense which is patently false when compared to the Church's teaching in the 2003 Vatican document 'Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons,' referenced in my article." Here Rose makes it sound like Father Martin was approving of a homosexual union or of homosexual unions in general. But this is far from what Father Martin said, according to the January 2, 2005, Times article, which quoted a statement the priest issued. Therein, Father Martin says, "we do not approve of homosexual unions nor of the law that permits adoptions." But, the statement continues, "the children have been baptized Catholic and the adults who are responsible for them have an obligation to raise them in the Catholic Faith," especially since "they live within the boundaries of St. John the Baptist parish…." It is clear that Father Martin was here only defending the right of the children to a Catholic education; he specifically condemned homosexual unions and adoption.

Rose contends that the concerned parents in no way wanted the expulsion of the children in question -- an assertion Father Hugh in part concedes, though he notes that at least some of the parents were demanding this. But, regardless, this seems to have been the burden of Father Martin's defense. One might disagree with it, and right-thinking people do, but it is not a position obviously unorthodox.

I have a disclaimer of my own to make. I learned of the situation at St. John's at the time it was occurring. I thought the Los Angeles Mission might look into it, but before assigning the story to anyone, I called Father Hugh to get his side of the business. This was in November or December 2004. You see, I know the Norbertines fairly well; I know their orthodoxy and strict adherence to Catholic morality. I had the confidence born of personal knowledge of their trustworthiness. Father Hugh accurately portrayed the situation as it had been reported to me; noted (as he does in his June letter) that Father Martin was not sufficiently attentive to enrollments at the school; but then he told me that Father Martin was personally meeting with the couple in question, counseling them according to the teachings of the Church regarding homosexuality, so-called homosexual marriage, and homosexual adoption.

This is significant, since it corroborates what Father Hugh says in his letter -- that Father Martin met with the couple, striving "to fulfill his obligation to instruct and call to conversion. He made the most recent teachings of the Holy See available to parishioners on the parish website, including the very clear instruction on same-sex unions and adoption." In his response to Father Hugh, however, Rose says, "And really, are we expected to believe that Fr. Martin, who supposedly had no knowledge of the same-sex couple and their adoptive children at the parish and the school, was privately working in some sort of pastoral role with these men, educating them about the Catholic Faith, as Fr. Hugh suggests? This smacks of a convenient excuse to explain away Fr. Martin's missteps." Since Father Hugh indicates that these meetings occurred after Father Martin was apprised of the situation, what does Rose find so unbelievable in the claim? Is he accusing Father Hugh of lying? If so, how does he know? Do Rose's sources know that these meetings never occurred? Does he?

In his response to Father Hugh, Rose opines that the St. John's "school administration, the pastor, and some members of the parish were used as dupes…by homosexual activists." Here and in his article, Rose seems to contend that Father Martin should have known the homosexual couple were activists, using the school for political ends. However, while the evidence for the couple's alleged activism, as detailed in Rose's article, should have given anyone a reasonable suspicion of the couple's motives, it still left room for doubt. It did not prove that the couple chose St. John's school for activist reasons, though it showed they probably support the furtherance of "homosexual rights." As a pastor of souls -- not only the souls of the orthodox parents and their children but the souls of the homosexual men -- Father Martin seems to have done the right thing in counseling the men privately, assuming an ignorance of Catholic teaching on their part that was perhaps not there. Rose and others might think him at least naïve in this, but, given the state of catechetics in the Diocese of Orange and the Los Angeles Archdiocese, ignorance or at least confusion about Catholic moral teaching is a very real possibility.

Rose's article makes it appear that Father Martin "crafted a surprising change" in admissions policy in the spring of 2005, because "a group of parishioners voiced its concerns in writing to the Vatican's Prefect for Catholic Education." However, I learned in late fall 2004 that such a policy was already in the works. If Rose had contacted the Norbertines, his article might have included this balancing testimony. However, he did not, rendering the reader incapable of exercising his judgment as to the truth of the matter.

In his June reply, Rose does rightly correct Father Hugh, who in his June letter said Rose's December 2005 article did not mention new language inserted into the parish school's 2005-2006 handbook. Rose does quote this language -- "no one in the context of the St. John the Baptist school community is to give witness to a lifestyle that is in conflict with the morality of the Gospel." Rose perhaps got this from the same source where I read it -- a June 14 Los Angeles Times article. But he does not quote the entirety of the new language, as the Times reported it. After the section just quoted, it continues, "a coherent witness to Catholic moral teaching is expected at the school, especially in behavior which is evident and public. Any other kind of behavior needs to be addressed and may need to be corrected. The Pastor is the final judge in applying this principle."

The complete quotation is important, since it spells out the right of the pastor (and thus those he so directs) to correct the behavior of those who send their children to St. John's School. This implies the authority to apply sanctions against those who remain obstinate. And it does not single out homosexual behavior but applies to any and all behavior falling under the censure of Catholic teaching. Thus, the new Pastor, Norbertine Father Hildebrand Garceau, and the school's Rector, Father Norbert (as the Pastor's agent), have the authority to demand conformance of the homosexual parents (could this be the reason why they pulled their wards from the school?) and of any parents who might behave in ways that seriously violate Christian charity. Hence, perhaps, Father Norbert's memoranda to the concerned parents, calling upon them to correct their behavior and apologize for it, and threatening sanctions if they did not. Of course, Rose asserts in his article that the parents were not guilty of such breaches of charity; but, then again, he got only their side of the story. Too, when he references their 2004 letter to school Principal Sister Mary Vianney (which Father Norbert reportedly said had a "harsh and condemnatory tone" and used "exaggerations"), he gives only selective quotations. The reader is left to wonder whether the remainder of the letter does or does not violate the rule of charity, and thus whether some of the parents at least might be worthy of rebuke.

I realize I open myself to the charge of clericalism by stating the possibility of wrongdoing on the part of the parents. So be it. If it is clericalism to support one's "true fathers," as Father Hugh put it -- and from my experience, the St. Michael's Abbey Norbertines are true spiritual fathers -- then I accept the epithet. The current crisis in the Church cannot be simplified as "clergy against laity." The clergy are not automatically suspect because they are clergy. Rather, the current crisis is one of orthodox against heterodox, of Catholic morality against secular expedience. But even the heterodox deserve decent and fair treatment, along with public opposition, since they are men, created in the image and likeness of God. They deserve the opportunity of self-defense. And if this is true of such as attack our Holy Mother Church, how much more true is it of those, like the Norbertines of St. Michael's Abbey in Silverado, Calif., who strive, despite their sins and weaknesses, to conform themselves to the image of Christ, our High Priest? Such as these, of course, cannot be given a free ticket, but they deserve a decent respect and even the benefit of the doubt. They are our fathers and so deserve our pietàs, even when they merit our public challenge. Michael S. Rose, both in his article and in his June reply, displayed none of this piety.

Christopher Zehnder
Tehachapi, California




MICHAEL S. ROSE REPLIES:

Christopher Zehnder says that when he learned of the situation at St. John's "at the time it was occurring," he thought his Los Angeles Mission might "look into it." So, what does Zehnder do? He calls Fr. Hugh Barbour to get "his side" of the story. Let me say this: I spent nearly 100 hours researching and writing my December 2005 NOR article, and pored through well more than 100 pages of documentation relating to the scandal. Never in that time did I run across even one mention of a priest by the name of Fr. Hugh Barbour, the Prior of St. Michael's Norbertine Abbey. Why? Because Fr. Hugh Barbour, as far as I can tell even to this day, had nothing to do with St. John the Baptist School and the scandal I wrote about. So why, then, would Zehnder go to Fr. Hugh? When I contacted Zehnder to ask him if Fr. Hugh was a close personal friend of his, he told me -- and I paraphrase -- "that's irrelevant."

But, you see, it has every relevance here. Zehnder, by his own admission, contacted Fr. Hugh "to get his side of the business" despite the fact that Fr. Hugh was not personally involved in the affair. Furthermore, Zehnder implies that after talking with Fr. Hugh he concluded the St. John scandal was not worth further investigation. And, Zehnder says, he already "had the confidence born of personal knowledge of [the Norbertines'] trustworthiness." If Fr. Hugh is Zehnder's good personal friend, as I am told he is (again, a point that Zehnder refused to confirm or deny), and if, as Zehnder indicates, he already holds up the Norbertines to be the font of trustworthiness, there would be at the very least a conflict of interest in Zehnder's investigation of any matter involving Norbertine priests. In the small town of Tehachapi, Calif., where Zehnder lives, there are Norbertine Sisters (connected to the St. Michael's Norbertine Abbey in Silverado, Calif.), and I am told that Zehnder goes to Mass there. Yet another conflict of interest. It would be difficult indeed for him to maintain any sort of objectivity.

Though Fr. Hugh's name never came up in my research, Christopher Zehnder's name did. I was told that when concerned parents contacted him with details of the St. John's scandal, they felt he treated them as if they were crackpots, and later told them he wasn't interested in pursuing their story. After all, his Norbertine priest confidante assured him there was no legitimate scandal to investigate. That would suggest that Zehnder never did any comprehensive research on the St. John's scandal, but rather, merely listened to Fr. Hugh's side of the story, so confident in his priest friend's assurances that he didn't bother to hear out what the concerned parents had to say. Nevertheless, Zehnder is compelled to pen a lengthy letter heaping accusations on me, the journalist who actually did the legwork. In doing so, he proclaims that "Father Hugh accurately portrayed the situation." If Zehnder declined to research the story, how would he know? It's like saying, "there are no bigfoots because the unicorns told me so."

When Fr. Norbert called the concerned parents "Pharisees" and "hypocrites," Zehnder wanted me to contact Fr. Norbert to get his account. Perhaps I should have. But Zehnder didn't give the concerned parents the time of day, so confident was he of Fr. Hugh, who had no ostensible involvement in the situation. What is the greater offense?

After being contacted by Fr. Hugh following the publication of my original article, the NOR offered him as much space as he needed to give a response from the Norbertines' perspective. (Honestly now, does anyone know of any other periodical that would have made that offer and followed through with it?) Even after Fr. Hugh responded with a letter that was nearly as long as my original article, Zehnder has the gall to say that the Norbertines were not allowed to tell their side of the story! To that end, Zehnder reiterates many times that I did not contact the Norbertines. As I explained in my response to Fr. Hugh, I felt that quoting Fr. Martin Benzoni and Fr. Norbert Wood from their written statements -- public and private -- would be the strongest type of evidence possible, verifiable and irrefutable. After all, they created a paper trail. Why not follow it? Oddly, both Fr. Hugh and Zehnder pooh-pooh this. Again, for the record: The Norbertines and the school administration are quoted throughout my original article from documented evidence: their press releases, school memos, correspondence made available to me, and from previously published news reports in the Los Angeles Times. Zehnder insists that reporters contact "the other side," so that they will not be "misunderstood." But phone calls and interviews can also be "misunderstood." Reporters relying on phone calls and interviews do get things wrong. The interviewee might say he was misinterpreted, was quoted out of context, etc. I relied on public and private documents that cannot be misunderstood.

It would take me every last page in this issue to fully respond to each point of Zehnder's tendentious letter. At the risk of beating a dead horse, I do think readers deserve to be given at least a few examples of why Zehnder's insinuations and presumptions are fallacious, penned, I suspect, in haste by a good man whose judgment was clouded by the overzealous desire to defend Fr. Hugh and his Norbertines. Three examples should suffice.

Example One: Zehnder suggests some deviousness on my part in "only selectively quoting the memoranda sent by Father Norbert Wood to certain parents (or one memorandum sent to one parent); Rose never gives an extended quotation, only citing certain phrases." Of course I only partially quote this memorandum and others throughout my article! What journalist or journal can afford the space to quote every piece of written documentation in toto? The "memorandum" Zehnder refers to here, lest readers forget (since the original article appeared nine months ago), was issued to those parents who had formally voiced their concern about the presence of the hand-holding, same-sex activist couple at the school. In the memo, Fr. Norbert demanded a written retraction and apology to the avowedly "gay"-friendly Principal from each of the concerned parents; and, if they did not comply with his directive, they would not be permitted to enroll their children in the parish school. Thus, while the Norbertines were very concerned not to expel the adopted children of the homosexual couple for the actions of their "parents," Fr. Norbert had no reservations about threatening to expel the children of the protesting parents -- even after the ordeal was, for all intents and purposes, finished.

Zehnder blazes on: "Too, Rose in his June reply fails to address Father Hugh's contention that each memorandum was tailored to the particular family involved." Well, so what? (And, by the way, Zehnder, I have copies of the memo sent to several different families.) The "tailoring" of the letter to each family was so minimal it didn't bear mentioning -- with one notable exception. That's the one which Zehnder "wonders" why I didn't mention it until my June reply. That's easy; I received that particular memo a week after I submitted my article for publication. This is the memo where Fr. Norbert demanded, in addition to signing a written apology crafted by Fr. Norbert, that a concerned mother agree to being banned from school property and any school function, including school Masses -- a clear violation of this woman's canonical rights. For Zehnder's benefit, let me quote from the "acceptance of conditions for enrollment" document she was forced to sign:

"We, the undersigned parents, agree to the conditions enumerated below in order for our son…to be accepted into the 8th grade at St. John the Baptist Catholic School for the 2005-2006 school year. We understand that these conditions remain in force throughout the entire school year, and that any failure to adhere to these conditions is immediate grounds for St. John's to terminate [the student's] enrollment. We recognize that these conditions are in the best interest of the school and therefore also of our son." Among the demands, Fr. Norbert writes: "there will be no communication of any kind by [the mother of the student] with the school via telephone, letter, internet or other means," and the mother "agrees not to set foot on the school grounds or to attend any school sponsored events (including but not limited to parent/teacher conferences, athletic events, school Masses, etc.) except for the graduation ceremony in June. [The mother] may drop off or pick up her son in the parish parking lot opposite the Church, but will do so remaining in her car and not initiating any contact with school officials who might happen to be in the vicinity." Hey, Zehnder, is that a long enough quote for you?

Example Two: Zehnder judges there is "an apparent discrepancy between Rose's account of [an] exchange in his June reply and his December 2005 article." There is, however, no discrepancy -- apparent or otherwise -- except to the dull reader who sees bogeymen where there are none. At issue is when the concerned parents knew about the "gay" couple. The fact is that at least six parents expressed their concerns to Fr. Martin Benzoni about the enrollment of the children of the "married gay" couple during the summer before the school year began, only to be told, "It's a done deal." As for the rest of the school parents in general, they didn't know about the "gay" couple until the men "very visibly" began to show up at the school to fetch their children at the end of the school day. Again, Zehnder's nitpicking nets nothing.

Example Three: Zehnder asks, "what does Rose find so unbelievable in the claim" that Fr. Martin was working in some sort of pastoral role with the same-sex couple? And then he asks if I am "accusing Father Hugh of lying." Again, Fr. Hugh wasn't the priest involved, so how could he be lying about it? In this instance, Fr. Hugh may be acting the fool, but not the liar. What's so unbelievable about the claim? Hmm, let's see: Two homosexuals who consider themselves a "married" same-sex couple, even to the point of wearing wedding rings, enroll their adopted kids at a Catholic school and appear at parish Masses together as a "family." The couple apparently belongs to a "gay" activist group whose explicitly stated purpose is to "be visible and active in our neighborhoods, towns, schools, places of worship" and to effect "policy change to create safe and inclusive schools for their children." Zehnder may be correct that the poor state of catechesis in the Diocese of Orange accounts for the ignorance of Catholic moral teaching among rank-and-file Catholics, but the state of catechesis among "gay-rights" activists, at least on Catholic teaching about homosexuality, is far from poor. "Gay-rights" activists know very well what the Church teaches, and they oppose it -- vehemently. Furthermore, Fr. Martin saw no problem with giving Communion to an overtly same-sex couple in the midst of a parish Mass until after other parishioners complained to him about it. This would at least suggest that it was Fr. Martin who was confused about the Church's moral teachings, not the activist homosexual couple.

I must admit I don't see the purpose of Zehnder's nitpicking, especially since he himself admits that he didn't deem the events at St. John the Baptist worthy of serious investigation -- and consequently didn't investigate. I'm sorry he finds fault with what I uncovered in my research -- e.g., that at least one priest, one nun, school administrators, some teachers, and some parents were being used as dupes to advance the "gay" agenda in a Catholic school. One wonders how Zehnder would have reacted had all this involved liberal Jesuits rather than the conservative Norbertine priests he's so fond of.

Zehnder concludes by instructing me that "clergy are not automatically suspect because they are clergy." That's quite an odd reminder to a journalist who has authored an entire book (Priest, Sophia Institute Press, 2003) demonstrating that, contrary to media reports, priestly virtues continue to flourish in many rectories throughout the country today. Anyone who has followed my writing in the NOR and elsewhere over the past decade knows I am not anti-clerical, as Zehnder implies. I do, however, oppose clericalism and cronyism, two problems that exist in the Church today as much as in any age, even when it happens among reputedly orthodox priests.

Ed. Note: No doubt our readers are getting exasperated with the minutiae of this debate. The debate is now closed.




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