Into the Deep

Holy Fire

It’s easy to aggregate links on Travis Clark and Pat Wattigny without getting into any of the larger issues at hand. But it’s worth spending some time considering (at least some of) the issues present. May as well be healthy about things.

Sexuality, chastity, lifestyle, public persona, and arrogance, integrity, are some of the immediate issues that come to mind. And they’re worth taking some time to parse out.

Sexuality

Sexuality involves who you’re attracted to and what you do about it. As our friends at Merriam-Webster put it, sexuality is the “expression of sexual receptivity or interest especially when excessive.”

In Catholic teaching, sexuality is derived from natural law. But the Church itself is confused about sexuality these days, and the natural law itself is seen as a subject of current debate.

From LifeSite News, regarding a new teaching that goes against the natural law: 

Pope’s change to Catechism contradicts natural law and the deposit of Faith

August 2, 2018 ( LifeSiteNews) – In the boldest and most reckless move to date in a pontificate that was already out of control and sowing confusion on a massive scale, the Vatican has announced Pope Francis’s substitution, in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, of a new doctrine on capital punishment.

“Lest there be any doubts on this matter, Edward Feser and Joseph Bessette published a comprehensive overview of the subject: By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed: A Catholic Defense of Capital Punishment (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2017). In this hard-hitting book, Feser and Bessette present the natural law arguments in favor of capital punishment, furnish a veritable catalogue of citations from Scripture, Fathers and Doctors of the Church, and Popes that uphold its legitimacy, and mount a critique of the logical fallacies and doctrinal contradictions—be they those of American bishops, or even of the Bishop of Rome—who attempt to wiggle out of this unanimous witness of faith and reason.“

And, from the Catholic World Report, who argue also for the natural law, noting its demise in the public sphere in favor of what they call preference satisfaction. Preference satisfaction is a subjective thing and allows for gender choice, sexuality options, etc.  

But how can that be done, when our governing institutions have staked their authority on the rejection of natural law in favor of preference satisfaction, and all respectable public authorities—and indeed the current understanding of public rationality—back them up? Any answer will have to be very general, but we need to begin somewhere. …

It seems evident that the situation requires us to raise the most basic questions. What is natural for human beings? Not natural in the sense of modern physics, where whatever actually occurs is seen as natural, but in a sense more like that of biology or medicine, where what is considered natural is the normal healthy functioning of living systems.

In the Church, many times we’re not open to discussions about sexuality and lifestyle. A lot of priests openly support gay marriage and gay lifestyles over and above what the church teaches and anxiously await the redefining of the natural law. If that’s what they want – why can’t we acknowledge it and talk about it. The priesthood isn’t a place to hide out – we ran into that problem with pedophiles, which no doubt helped attract Pat Wattigny.

We see priests having gay relationships that are fully supported by the heirarchy even while heterosexual relationships are vividly frowned upon. In such a confusing environment, if a younger priest – or any priest – is not able to communicate in a healthy way, he is no doubt then easily led astray, questioning why he is not allowed some type of variance in his choice for a celibate life while others are.

Who knows the reality of the situation for Travis, but it’s worth having the conversations if it helps priests in the future.

Chastity

Chastity doesn’t matter to some priests, and to many faithful. Basically, as in any area of life today, there are those who have sex and those who don’t. Pat Wattigny and Travis Clark clearly fall into the category of men who have sex. 

Any sexual relations outside of marriage are contrary to Catholic teaching, even sex with one’s self, or masturbation. All of that stems again from the natural law (and of course supernatural revelation, the case of marriage,) and to that end you see adherents of the natural law (whether they realize it or not) coming to the same conclusions as the Church in their views against abortion (pro-life pagans), masturbation (the rise and prominence of no-religion-involved “no-fap” groups), etc. (See such articles asAccording to Science, It’s Time to Stop Masturbating So Much“).

Hormonally speaking, chastity helps keep a healthier hormonal balance in the body. The sex Travis is alleged to have been having is not the type that would produce oxytocin, which is what is so reassuring and healing, the love hormone. It would be a dopamine rush and other associated pleasures such as can be associated with pornography and masturbation, and that can leave you feeling irritated and depressed for up to two weeks as there is no oxytocin being produced. Oxytocin is what he feel when we feel loved, accepted, around warm and loving family and friends. It is also produced when a man and a women make love naturally, slowly, pleasurably. 

Power

Beyond the issues of prudence and discretion, there is the overarching issue of power. To even consider having sex with a minor is to display no concept of the power one is wielding over that person’s young life. To actually do that, as a leader in faith, is to simply destroy their life. You can have sex with them as long as they go to the March for Life, don’t have abortions, don’t lead a gay lifestyle, and confess their sins? How does that justification even work in the rational centers of the mind? The mind is living a lie.

For Travis, the issue of power would not be present with a dominatrix, (or dominatrices as the English have been so fond of saying.) He’s no doubt aware of other priests acting out sexually, or is aware of them. Many get a free pass because they’re given a wink and a nod, or are simply prudent. But how would he be free to act out if he knows no women who aren’t under his spiritual authority? The wise and obvious answer is to simply not have sex and to find some other outlet for frustrations, also looking for some type of healthy community support.

Lifestyle

Most people give their priests a wide berth and a lot of understanding. But there’s also the issue of integrity, as noted below. One can only lead a false life so much of the time if that’s the route one chooses. No one’s perfect, and no priest wants to call out a brother priest on his imperfections as every priest has them. It all leads to our lifestyle choices.

Celibate lifestyles of the poor and lowly is not an attractive lifestyle choice, but it’s one every priest makes to some degree. Imperfections that lead to the front page and scandalize the faithful are something we should be challenged on by our brother priests and by those with our best interests at heart. Being challenged all the time is no doubt irritating, but appreciated.

Public Persona

The public persona of anyone is something that’s easily manipulated. A diocese can start cranking out propaganda either in favor of or against any given priest according to the whimsies of the current hierarchy at a moment’s notice, coating any given situation in pre or post-dated agitprop in the twinkling of any eye. 

In both cases, Travis and Pat, the public persona was evidently more important than the person at the heart of the persona. Who is at the center of what the public perceives in any of us? It has to be Jesus Christ at the center of our lives. It can be challenging, amidst the busy lives that priests lead, to remain truly prayerful and Christ-centered amidst not only the busyness, but also public perceptions of what we should be doing, how we should be acting, and what we actually need to do.  

Why really should a priest be overly concerned about his public image? Most people will hate them anyway or simply look at them objectively. “Oh, he’s a priest.” They often don’t see the man who’s going through life in all its sublime glories and agonies, just the man who shows up for Mass, Confessions, the Wedding, Baptism, Funeral, etc. At many points in a priests life, he’s called to be amazingly unpopular. As Charlton Heston said in Planet of the Apes (for no other reaosn that the quote is apropos), “It’s a fact … buy it, you’ll sleep better.” 

Maybe a sense of apathy regarding public perception helped to motivate both of them. People will hate them no matter what they do – so does it matter? (Yes, it does.) 

Arrogance

Merriam-Webster defines arrogance as “an attitude of superiority manifested in an overbearing manner or in presumptuous claims or assumptions.” 

In the isolation that can happen in the priesthood, as in any way of life, arrogance can be an easy thing to happen under the cover of privacy and given that one is in authority over so many people who want things to go smoothly and to go well. What’s done in private should remain in private when it’s done amongst mutually consenting adults. But what about when it gets into sex with minors? 

The Archdiocese was a bit heavy-handed in dealing with Fr. Pat Wattigny’s case of texting as it said that texting a minor about his 18th birthday isn’t a sexually related issue. Perhaps not, if the texts were about arranging a party with the youth group and included another adult in the text. But that wasn’t the case.

The texts were in the context of ongoing inappropriate texting with a minor involving gifts, private meetings, and were completely out of context with anything remotely appropriate. Any person of reason would question why it’s OK for a 53-year-old, overweight and graying man to be texting their minor son about his coming of age. Abuse from the clergy and within the Archdiocese is about more than covering one’s backside legally. 

Integrity 

“But you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matt 5:48 

Again according to Merriam-Webster, a definition of “perfect” is complete, and a definition of integrity is also “complete” – the quality or state of being complete and undivided. 

How do we maintain integrity as followers of Jesus Christ, when it’s literally impossible to be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect? 

In the Septuagint we see the word “hamartia” being used to describe the concept of sin. It means. “missing the mark”, as when a field goal kicker misses that field goal, especially in the last minute or two of the game (for our football oriented society.) Hamartia is also descended from Greek usage to mean, in literature, a “tragic flaw”. Both terms apply to Travis and Pat – they have a tragic flaw and they missed the mark.

In some sense, we’re all, always, going to be missing the mark.  But we have to be prudent and caring in our actions so that “missing the mark” doesn’t become our “tragic flaw” and destroy the Faith of either ourselves or either the faith or lives of others. 

A Culture of Personality verses a Culture of Virtue 

In her book Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain writes and documents US society’s progression from a culture of virtue to a culture of personality. That has a bearing on what we’re seeing in the Church today. It’s completely impossible for anyone to fulfill the needs and role of a priest perfectly, and no man should ever be expected to. In fact, the role of Priest, Bishop, Pope, should all be diminished in the public eye away from personality and back into the alter christus, speaking from a simple life relatively unnoticed in the world. 

The culture of personality is especially noticed when referencing the Holy Father – it’s all about who the Pope appears to be, not really whether what he’s teaching makes sense in light of Catholic teaching, which is all debatable now anyway. It’s no offense to our current Holy Father as the same has been happening for a while now. The roles of the priest and bishop follow similarly, with approval numbers often dictating what’s right and what’s wrong, instead of being the rock around which the ever-changing whimsy  of human thought is forced to flow. 

And so it goes

In a state of grace, the soul is like a well of limpid water, from which flow only streams of clearest crystal. Its works are pleasing both to God and man, rising from the River of Life, beside which it is rooted like a tree.” 

St. Teresa of Avila

It takes daily sacrifice, and the lowering of one’s own ambitions, desires, and wants, to remain in a state of grace. It can be like taming a wild lion, a bucking stallion, or like training a puppy dog – but it has to be done. It’s how we choose to do it that determines the adventure at hand. 

The Church in the world today is many things, most importantly it is the Body of Christ, Jesus Christ who is the Beginning and the End – ever ancient and unchanging, ever new, vital, and present.

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Ken-AYE

Random life

When you’re named Kenneth it doesn’t really matter what you prefer, because people make their own decisions on what your name is. (In the same way, the cover picture on this post doesn’t really matter as to the content of the post. But Fox Squirrels are fascinating creatures. Less fascinating than us, but still… More on that later.)

Kenneth

For instance, growing up my family always called me Kenneth which to this day most of my grammar school friends and all of my family still use.

My grandparents were pretty formal on both sides and called me Kenneth. The Monsignor in my Parish growing up also called me Kenneth, as did all of my teachers.

I love it.

I still remember Monsignor Melancon coming into class with our Report Cards, sitting down in the middle of the room as the entire class was rearranged, and calling our names to come up and get our reports, as we trembled in fear and expectation.

“Kenneth?”

*tremble*

“Very good.”

*reflect*

Kenny

Some of my friends shortened that to Kenny. That transferred to music, and all of my music friends have and still call me Kenny. The Archbishop of NOLA is friends with some of my music friends and has always insisted on calling me Kenny.

I love it.

Ken

The business side of the world has always decided they can’t call someone Kenny, and that Kenneth is too formal, and Kenny too informal. So they call me Ken.

I’m OK with it.

At times I’ve encouraged it because I don’t really have the time to deal with people’s personal issues over my name. I can’t help but feel that anyone named Kenneth goes through the same thing.

“What’s your name?”

  • “Kenneth.”

“What would you like to be called?”

  • “?”

Call me what you will, but don’t call me late for dinner. ;-]

But the thing is, my brother eventually took to calling me “Ken-aye”! (A for Allen of course, and a play on Kenny.)

So, to this day I often sign my name as Ken A.

I know you’re fascinated by these tidbits of info. But I’m actually fascinated by the tidbits of info which you all share with me. It’s not that I have a low threshold of excitement, it’s that you are all fascinating people. I’m just trying to share and be open while we’re all going through this COVID shutdown mess. My heart goes out to all who are struggling.

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KenA

Mid the Bleak Midwinter

oranges

In the middle of winter, when the sky is dark and the rain is falling all around so that it feels like you’re in the middle of an ocean – life is perfect. I am just nuts about winter weather here in Louisiana. If I lived in Wisconsin I doubt I could take it, though. I mean, I have my limits. And we have oranges.

True, winter has only just started.

Rain is a good thing and you’ll never – well, rarely – hear me complain about it. If it never rained, the place wouldn’t be so green.

That being said, I’m not quite sure why I’m not cozy in bed with a good book on this rainy morning, and am instead jittery with caffeine posting pictures of oranges – unedited at that because photoshop is not responding to my promptings – on my strange little website.

It has to do with prayer. Because in the last few weeks I’ve become aware of the need to reorient my life ever more towards Jesus Christ. And it has to do with Faith, because I’ve come to consider that the Church is very confused right now. For a time I’ve let that confusion cloud my mind. But, in respect to the integrity of my state in life, and my station here, there can be no confusion.

We (the clergy of the Archdiocese,) took a workshop awhile ago which focussed on the differences amongst the various generations of clergy. Which are huge. It’s obvious to any observer that the differences are huge between someone ordained to the Priesthood in, say, 2004, and someone ordained to the Priesthood in, say, 1978. So, we have one priest saying one thing, one saying another – one bishop saying one thing, one saying something completely different – one Pope saying one thing and one saying something another.

Priests here have said that a reason Deacons were so avidly introduced back in the day was to pave the way for married clergy. Some have said “We’re not going back! If you don’t like what we’re doing you’ll just have to wait until we die!”

I mean, this is crazy talk. No one can dwell seriously on it. Except for the fact that they’re deadly serious when they say it and it affects all of us.

So. I do what I can out here on the peripheries at our sprawling ruralish parish, filled with the full breadth of human experience on any given day. And I’m filled with wonder when considering the scriptures, the sacraments, the promises of life itself.

I’m certainly not waiting for anyone to die. That’s crazy talk.

I’m off to listen to the rain, though. And to give thanks for so many blessing in this life.

The Christmas Season

Christmas Family

O God, Who have brightened this most holy night with the splendor of the true light, grant, we beseech You, that we may know in heaven the joy of that light which we have known mystically on earth.

Sometimes I realize I have no business keeping a weblog.   Though I do get a fair amount of visitors, I’m a very self conscious blogger.   While on Facebook or Twitter I usually just say what I want to say (with appropriate filters,) when I blog I tend to be like, “Here’s a picture from of my daily life. Um… buh bye!”

With that being said, here are a few things on my minds the last week, month, year…

  1. Questions about Pope Francis.   People will often ask me what the Holy Father means when he says things like, “And since people have a tendency towards the sickness of coprophagia, it can do great harm.”

    I don’t know.   Coprophagia sounds completely disgusting to me, I have zero tendency towards it, and as much as some people have said this expression is commonly used in South America,  I’ve never heard it used there despite my 6 visits, and being taught all the dirty words (to the great hilarity of my teachers,) on my first visit of 2.5 months.

    I honestly don’t know, but it’s obviously in the realm of the bizarre.

  2. What about the dubia?

    Cardinal Burke is the voice of those presenting the dubia to the Holy Father.   It’s a normalized, though rarely used part of Church practice.   Since Pope Francis has not answered the dubia, one can only look to what Cardinal Burke has to say about them.   He’s pretty concise in this interview from EWTN:

  3. “Father, what about your family?”

    I had a great time with my family this Christmas Season. I tend to stay busy, and realized I haven’t spent a lot of time at all with my niece and her children. In fact, the picture up top of is of Alyssa the Lovely, my great niece.  While it a long story the point of it is, we all got together Monday, the day after Christmas Day, and had a grand time. I’m always preaching about families, and realized I needed to get back to my own. Time flies when you stay busy.

  4. “Father, we’re so worried about you being transferred.”

     

    Yes, well, I don’t see that happening anytime in the near future.    I don’t know why there are rumors circulating about that I will be transferred,  but they are completely without foundation.   While it’s vaguely possible that the Archdiocese may decide that my charmingly eccentric personality and brilliant management skills (work with me here, people….) may be direly needed somewhere else, the fact is that there are many truly wonderful Priests who could fill any need the Archdiocese needs; and I feel they are entirely happy with my being out here in the hill country.   As am I.  It’s one of the best places on Earth to be

  5. “Father, what do you do with all the photo you take?”

    I often post them on Facebook, Twitter, or here.   The photos on the Parish website are from my cameras. A lot them are sitting on hard drives waiting to be turned into books to leave in the Parish archives for future use.

With all of that being said…   Merry Christmas!

Nativity