Matt C. Abbott
April 22, 2010
Readers sound off on Obama, 'excessive criticism,' clergy abuse scandal, dissenters
By Matt C. Abbott

The following is a selection of (slightly edited) e-mails recently received by yours truly.

Nancy Donaldson of Kansas:


    'Matt, speaking personally, President Barack Obama does not irritate me [April 20 column]. I'm afraid of him. Irritation, in no form or fashion, describes my reaction to the man, his beliefs or his actions. I'm 68 years old and never in my lifetime have I seen our nation in danger as it is today. Our president and Congress are bankrupting our nation, as well as showing total disregard for our Constitution and Declaration of Independence.

    'It's like saying there's an arsonist in my neighborhood and he's 'irritating' me. That doesn't begin to capture the situation. Barack Obama has the power not only of the presidency, but he has made it abundantly clear that he holds in disdain all that I hold dear. I'm fearful of what he's going to do next. And, by the way, my beliefs and concerns are in agreement with the Catechism and teachings of the Catholic Church.

    'Are you comparing Barack Obama to Jesus? Are you saying he's like a poor fellow being unfairly attacked by the Pharisees? Surely not! I don't think it's excessively critical to speak when good is being overrun by evil.

    'I'm watching the president and Congress dismantle our nation, our way of life, our opportunities and my grandchildren's future. Have you really studied the facts? I don't want our nation to become Cuba, or worse. I've worked for 55 years, and will continue to work. I love living in a free society, and I contribute generously to the poor. Why should I, or generations to come not be afforded this opportunity? I firmly believe our Founding Fathers would agree with me, and Jesus would agree with me, too.

    'I want to do charitable giving to those I believe are in need, not have every penny go to the government or them to disburse as they see fit. But this is only one of many issues. I find it very irritating that I'm not allowed to speak freely of my fear and disdain for the actions of a government without being called a racist, even though our 'leaders' no longer represent the will of the people.

    'President Obama and most of the members of Congress have forgotten that they are the people's representatives, they tell lies, right to our face, and they behave like arrogant self-aggrandizing thugs and bullies. I'm not irritated; I'm afraid, very afraid for my children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I'm watching our civilization decline and our nation and way of life destroyed. I'm very hopeful that the upcoming elections this year will begin to turn the tide, but they've done so much damage already, can it really be reversed? I don't think anyone knows for certain.

    'I do know God is still in control, and can bring forth good from our suffering, of that I have no doubt. But I also believe we are called to speak when we see evil in action, whether it's destroying our economy, or being alarmed at having a president who says he would kill his unborn grandchild rather than 'punish his daughter with a baby.'

    'Do I sound like a Pharisee? I don't believe so. I'm speaking against evil! I speak the truth and Jesus likes that! He spoke against evil. He even got angry at the money changers in the temple! I was born a few months and few miles from Barack Obama's mother, and I pray for her son.

    'But I'm afraid, very afraid.'

Bob French of Alexandria, Va.

    'I find myself both agreeing and disagreeing with the latest posting, 'Beware of excessive criticism.' On the one hand, I agree that bashing the president and the Democrats can become kind of an end in itself. I live in Washington, D.C., and sometimes the rhetoric gets pretty heated around here, especially lately.

    'On the other hand, I wonder if Father Santa is too distanced from the news. He says, 'Now, I understand that this president irritates some people. The previous president also irritated some people, and undoubtedly the next president will too. I suppose all of this irritation is a normal part of our national dialogue.'

    'I would disagree. I don't think that what's happening today is normal at all. I think this president has taken some actions that go beyond the level of 'irritation.' Some days I wonder if there will even be another president. I think that it's perfectly understandable that a rather large segment of our population is upset and yes, maybe even enraged at Obama and his policies. You'd have to be somewhat of a robot or be completely unaware of the facts not to be at least a little angry at what he's done. And God gave us the emotion of anger so we could be moved to righteous and constructive action when necessary.

    'As citizens, and as Christians with immortal souls, we don't want to be consumed by a critical spirit, but hopefully we won't be dulled into passive compliance and indifference either.'

Donna Horn of Glen Rock, Pa.

    'I appreciate it that you shared Father Santa's spiritual perspective about criticism. I believe his words are valuable when used in discerning our actions on a daily basis. However, one must retain some mechanism to differentiate between truth and lies. When lies and manipulations are uncovered in leaders, who we should be able to trust, what method does Father suggest that we use to warn others, especially when we perceive blatant dishonesty?

    'Diligent work has been done, by many faithful believers, to expose the fact that the current White House administration members are using immoral, Marxist, Saul Alinsky tactics, as well as unconstitutional methods, to lead this country into a transformed state of socialized democracy. This makes us vulnerable to have a totalitarian government with a dictator. Must Americans sit down and be silent so as not to be perceived as 'critical'? I think not!

    'Using the past as a perspective, hasn't there been a lot of unjust criticism against the Catholic Church for having done little to criticize and oppose the killing Regime of Hitler? My point is this. The facts of this president's radical agenda and his radical associates have been gathered and proven. We do not need to merely criticize him for his unfortunate choices of fellow leaders (czars) and his sadly mistaken, unconstitutional agenda for our United States of America.

    'We have the right as Catholic Christians and Americans to identify evil actions in our midst and to stop the propagation of lies that is leading souls astray into an immoral and godless society. To choose one but important issue, I ask, is it 'critical' to say that this president is the most pro-abortion 'leader' America has ever had? This is not a criticism. It is a sad fact that must be addressed by believers who understand that abortion is intrinsically evil.

    'Our current and late Holy Fathers, the descendants of St. Peter, have spoken against Marxism, socialism and 'liberation theology,' which Obama's past and present spiritual advisors Jeremiah Wright and now Jim Wallis have promoted and are promoting under the guise of 'social justice.' To them, we Catholics must charitably explain that there are no acceptable social justice activities which distort and falsify the true teaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

    'The truth of what is happening in our U.S. government must not be crushed by a written or preached chastisement that diverts Catholics into believing they are bad for speaking the truth. The truth is never bad. The truth may be difficult to accept but it is not hate speech and it is not racist. The truth must be shouted from the rooftops. Our survival as a nation, and especially as practicing Catholics, depends on exposing the evil plots of powerful men and women who seek to deprive people, not only in America, but all over the world, of their freedoms and dignity as human beings.

    'My prayer is that all our priests and bishops will follow the lead of Pope Benedict XVI and be active in teaching the truth about the dangers of socialism/communism and relativism. The characteristics of evil forms of government, and those who seek to impose it, must be identified and opposed without hesitation. Exposing these dangers is not criticism.

    'For all who have not learned through the many persecutions by dictators of history, and for those who sit by and allow evil to happen through a mistaken interpretation of 'non criticism,' be assured that we will have ample opportunity to practice charity and non- criticism to our fellow imprisoned citizens when we are arrested and carted away for 'crimes of opposition' to a totalitarian government.

    'May God have mercy on us.'

Harry Meekins of Riverton, Wyo.

    'I just finished reading your column which included a reprint of an article by Father Thomas Santa. I wish I had something positive to say, but for the most part, I disagree almost completely.

    'Excessive criticism and complaining is not always a sign of a paranoid anti-government provocateur. Sometimes it is legitimate frustration about a representative form of government that is anything but representative, but instead, is rife with corruption and self-interest. It is frustration because no one will at least listen, let alone address concerns. It is similar to the plight of faithful, God-loving Catholics who make an honest, sincere and loving effort to follow Church teaching, but are frustrated by some bishops who are ambivalent to life, covenant family, and look the other way at monstrosities that have taken root.

    'No doubt criticism and complaining is a sign of dissatisfaction, although not always unwarranted. Some who do voice their opinion are ostracized and come to the realization that they are like 'a voice crying out in the wilderness.''

Robin Slate:

    'I find Father Santa's article interesting, except unbalanced. I believe we need to watch what is going on around us, pray about it, and see what we can do to change it if we need to. We also need to see evil for what it is; this can be done in a balanced way. But if we don't see the wrong and let others know, the next time we may not have the right to say anything; our God-given rights could be taken away.'

Susan Zappa:

    'Thank you for saying so clearly in your April 7 column what so many faithful Catholics would like to say right now. I am 52-years-old and cannot remember a time when our archdiocese had a bishop whose primary mission was to teach the Catholic faith and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all people. Every bishop we have had (I worked as a religious education director for many years) was primarily interested in money, money, and power. All of them also had, as a hobby, persecuting the few faithful priests we have.

    'After years of dismissing as a 'conspiracy theory' the story of communist infiltration of the Church in the 1940s and '50s, I tried to obtain Dr. Bella Dodd's testimony before several different U.S. House committees. When I was in college, I was a library science major and worked in the government documents section of the St. Paul Public Library. I had spent months organizing all the volumes of testimony from the hearings on communist infiltration of government, so I knew they were there. Sadly, they have all been destroyed.

    'Three other depository libraries in Minnesota never responded to my request for Dr. Dodd's testimony. I finally had to get it through the National Archives with the help of our U.S. Representative, John Kline. However, when I received the documents, I found out Dr. Dodd had asked that her testimony regarding infiltration of the Catholic Church by communists be 'off the record.' I could have cried! And everyone who was in the hearing room at the time she testified that day has since died.

    'The problem, of course, is that if Dr. Dodd's reported assertions are true, we have a Church filled with bishops and priests who are not validly ordained, and thus the sacraments they are administering are also not valid. And, this has been going on for decades now! If a bishop does not intend to ordain a man a priest (because he's a communist), then the man is not ordained. And other bishops who are consecrated bishops by a bishop who does not intend to do so again, he's not a bishop. See what a mess we may have on our hands if the communists truly did infiltrate the Church? However, it would go a long way towards explaining the present crisis in the Church. With a serious shortage of sacramental graces due to a lack of validly ordained clergy what can we expect?

    'It still sounds like a conspiracy theory to me because I don't want to believe that something like this could happen to the Catholic Church I love. But, at the same time, my latest experiences with bishops whom I thought were my friends has shown me that something is very, very wrong, and these men are the cause of it.'

N.D. Kline:

    'Thanks for printing Bishop Joseph Perry's sermon, which is excellent. I agree with the bishop's reasoning with regard to ongoing criticism of the Church; however, the bitterness and criticism persist yet also because those bishops who aided and abetted this problem either ignored it or reassigned the ephebophiles to other parishes and have yet to be punished even within the church. Some of those bishops retain their positions and many have received 'promotions.' This is not often confessed by those who discuss the problem. Also, there exists a homosexual subculture within the clergy which is not presently vigorously opposed. As these trends continue, so will the criticism. And rightly so.'

Pete Saracino:

    'Talk is cheap, but facts are pesky things. So, before you publish articles like this, please consider the following: The only reason the world even knows of the horrible tragedy of clergy abuse is precisely because the free press has exposed it. The mechanisms the Church has now put into place (at least in the U.S.) are there precisely because Church leaders were shamed into doing it, exposed for what they were: individuals who cared more for their reputations and treasures (and abusive colleagues) than they were for children. And the very folks who did the exposing were the press, survivors like me, and the courts.

    'The sexual abuse of our young people is an international, cultural, societal horror. It affects every religion, country, family, job, profession, vocation, and ethnic group. But what the bishop fails to tell his listeners is that of all the entities mentioned, none are as good at cover-up, enabling, denying, obfuscating and placing reputation and treasure ahead of God's little ones than Catholic leadership. As a March 26 editorial by the National Catholic Reporter recently commented:

    'For those who have followed this tragedy over the years, the whole episode seems familiar: accusation, revelation, denial and obfuscation, with no bishop held accountable for actions taken on their watch. Yes, there is a depressing madness to this story. Time after time, this is a story of institutional failure of the deepest kind, a failure to defend the Gospel of Jesus Christ, a failure to put compassion ahead of institutional decisions aimed at short-term benefits and avoiding public scandal. The strategies employed so far taking the legal path, obscuring the truth, and doing everything possible to protect perpetrators as well as the church's reputation and treasury have failed miserably. We now face the largest institutional crisis in centuries, possibly in church history. It is time, past time really, for direct answers to difficult questions. It is time to tell the truth.

    'Catholic leaders (Dolan in New York City, Perry in Chicago, and so on) have recently been heard to say that Catholics have for a decade apologized, cried, reached out, shouted mea culpa, and engaged in a comprehensive reform that has met with widespread acclaim. This is true to a point, at least in the U.S. But what he fails to tell his listeners is that as of this writing, the bishops of New York State, where I live, continue to spend thousands of dollars to defeat the Child Victims Act, a bill that would give survivors like me a one year opportunity to identify predators currently in ministry. The bill targets both private and public institutions. A similar window in California identified 300 clergy predators, 200 of whom were/are currently in ministry! Thanks to their opposition, many Catholic children and their families remain in danger, including those in the New Jersey parish where the Capuchin priest who abused me as a boy of seven currently ministers. None of the parents in that parish even know of his past, despite my notifying the Capuchins a good while ago.

    'I just love how the Church is so fond of asking for the understanding and support (including financial) from the very folks whose children they are still unwilling to protect! I am ashamed of Bishop Perry deeply ashamed for a number of reasons. To begin with, as a practicing Catholic, I resent his turning the Church into the victim; the true victims are the may thousands of children and their families around the world who have experienced felony rape at the hands of Catholic clergy. I should also mention that many of these same children/families have been re-abused when they naively approached church officials thinking they would be helped not only here in the U.S. but in Ireland, Germany, Canada, Australia and wherever else the rape occurs.

    'I am also ashamed by his disingenuous attempts to trick his listeners into thinking that the world is attacking the Church. Any clear thinking person knows the truth: this is not about attacking the Church; rather, it is about holding the men accountable who lead the Church, including the pope. After all, we are not talking about 'inappropriate touching' here; we are talking about the felony rape, sodomy and sometimes murder of many thousands of children. As a Catholic man and the parent of four children, I think Church leaders like Perry should be on their knees begging the forgiveness of the families they've hurt.

    'Instead, what he ends up defending (in the words of another survivor) is not the Church, but the silence of power, the sin of willful ignorance and the sin of omission by those who turned a blind eye to the torture and horror at the hands of 'men of God.' What he ends up defending is the murder of the soul. And the greatest theft came from the very cardinals and bishops and authorities who were soundless accomplices to the murder of these souls. They stole truth from those who needed its protection most. They stole the right to be heard and to be believed. They stole love and hope and the sanctity of the Church. They stole God. To defend any of this is to steal the last vestige of dignity and honor and justice from those who deserve it most.

    'Pretty reprehensible stuff. As a practicing Catholic, I should think you would be alarmed especially if you have children of your own. Which leads me to my last comment that I would like to address to every Catholic in the world, you included. To you folks I would like to say this: Long ago, a reformer and doctor of the Church by the name of Catherine of Siena wrote: 'Cry out as if you had a million voices, it is silence that kills the world.' The tragedy that has ravaged the lives of many thousands of Catholic American and European children and their families is still to unfold in Asia, Africa, and Latin and South America. The time to speak truth to power is long past. I urge you all to heed the words of St. Catherine and find your voices. Refuse the silence that is complicity with evil. Speak up, instead, on behalf of children. Tell the leaders of the church enough! Remind them our children are more precious than the Church's reputation and treasure. Tell them concern themselves with their safety instead of protecting the identity of predators. And inform public officials who support these bishops you will no longer elect those who tolerate the criminal endangerment of children.

    'It is your choice and right to remain a Catholic, Matt. It is indeed a beautiful Faith, but you can't have your cake and eat it, too. If you choose to be Catholic, you must use your voice on behalf of children and their families to hold Church leadership responsible, in whatever country they are in. After all, your child may be next. Anything less is a betrayal of that Faith.'

Kris V.

    'Greetings, and let me first say I have enjoyed reading several of your posts over

    the last many months. As to your recent column regarding liberal media loving dissident Catholics, I could not agree more. Not that the media really care for dissident Catholics objectively, but that Catholics who have gone down this disconnected path are being used by those who have a stronger agenda than even the dissident Catholics.

    'Some dissident Catholics are capable of being as focused as the liberal media;

    however, many are truly led by the motive of wanting to recreate the Church for

    their own purposes. In your column you mention that these people belong to 'another church.' I could not agree more. In my archdiocese, we have been bombarded with dissident Catholics for the past 30 years. The previous archbishop was part of the infamous progressives of the Cardinal Bernardin era and allowed this archdiocese to become an alternative church.

    'Our former archbishop was scolded by his own brother, another bishop, who told him he would have many souls to account for. The great tragedy for the faithful Catholic who has to cope with this 'twin church' is the constant pressure to see this as a viable expression of the bigger Church. We hear, 'This is just another expression of Catholicism.' We are told that the Catechism of the Catholic Church is merely 'one expression of the Faith.'

    'Radical feminists run the parishes in the area in which I live to such an extent that the priests from the same order as Cardinal George are under obedience to never make any decision unless approved by the lay women who head up the local parishes. This includes allowing Eucharistic adoration, having devotions in the church, having adult catechesis programs that adults have asked for and will pay for themselves, and the list goes on. The operative word always heard from those in charge is that anything they do not approve of will be divisive and therefore can never be approved. The result is such intense frustration that has led to many Catholics just leaving the parish with the decision that this is not the Catholic Church.

    'To some extent they are correct. The theological underpinnings of what is taught,

    how it is lived out, all suggest a parish that no longer aligns itself with Rome. In fact, we are told that the local diocese is the 'highest authority' in the Church, that the pope is not a boss to the local ordinary just a consultant. People are leaving the Church from scandal, lack of formation, and so on. The administration tells us that we are growing because they keep having baptism at Easter. Yet the reality is that what is taught to these new Catholics is so limited, I really perceive it as a nice 'Protestant community' not much different from the Baptist church down the street.

    'I keep asking myself if this situation is not a repeat of some time in the history of the Church, but I don't know of any time when the Faith has been so attacked from within. Maybe you can comment on that. Of course, we must all pray and offer sacrifice for the holiness of the Church, and holiness begins with me.'

© Matt C. Abbott

 

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Matt C. Abbott

Matt C. Abbott is a Catholic commentator with a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication, media and theatre from Northeastern Illinois University. He's been interviewed on MSNBC, NPR, WLS-TV (ABC) in Chicago, WMTV (NBC) in Madison, Wis., and has been quoted in The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune. He can be reached at mattcabbott@gmail.com.


(Note: I welcome thoughtful feedback from readers. If you want our correspondence to remain confidential, please specify as such in your initial email to me. However, I reserve the right to forward and/or publish emails – complete with email addresses – that are accusatory, insulting or threatening in nature, even if those emails are marked confidential. Also, please be aware that RenewAmerica is not my website; RA's president and editor is Stephen Stone, who can be reached here. I'm just one of RA's columnists, for which I'm very grateful. I don't speak for the other RA columnists, so please don't email me to complain about what someone else has written. Thank you and God bless!)

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