Archive for November, 2010


Dear friends of St. Junia’s House,
It is hard to believe that we’ve been “up and running” only since the beginning of July, 2010. We are newcomers to this internet world and it has been very interesting.

July was expectedly light as we just got started: 48 unique visitors and 115 visits. In the next two months (August and September) we had roughly 200 unique visitors with an average of approximately 450 visits per month. We realize this is very small in the cyberworld, but to us, every single visitor is important! St. Junia’s House has been brought out of its isolation in the previous four years to beginning to exchange with other communities.

In October and November, traffic picked up substantially. There were about 350 unique visitors in each of these two months, but this was only through 11/24/10 for November, with yet another week to finish out the month. And there were about 700 visits in October and thus far 632 in November. From July to now, the number of unique visitors has increased 7-fold and the number of visits 6-fold!

In addition to the increased traffic volume, there are many more states and several foreign countries represented. I can watch the traffic as it flows through the blog as we can see the location or origin of people dropping by. Especially prior to and since the ECC Synod in St. Louis near the end of October, there have been many people from various states and significantly more foreign visitors as well. We’ve had conversations with some of them on Facebook from European groups and also met them at Synod  who may well join the ECC.

Just a minute ago, I checked the traffic feed and I noted visitors from Elliston (state not indicated), Beaufort, SC, Russian Federation, and Lisbon, Lisboa.

Of course, there is a huge amount of SPAM that has to be filtered out.  The above statistics do not include the spam. Some of the traffic was difficult to decipher its purpose, in that notes would be posted that seemed positive although usually vague.  Motivation of these individuals was unclear as some had obviously commercial websites or email addresses, and I politely reminded them of our guidelines for posting, and edited out commercial information. If they returned, I permanently deleted them. And of course, there are the obvious ones that are easy to delete  — drug sales and pornographic in nature.  They never seem to give up.

On September 11th (of all days), we weathered our only truly hostile respondent, a person who gave a pseudonym and pretended to be just passing by, but she was readily recognized and dealt with. I really appreciated how the wagons circled around me on this site. It is not that I need to be protected from opinions that challenge our work, and in fact I expect I would benefit from such. This was, however, not an issue-based assault but an extremely personalized attack. This  is part of how we recognized her identity (in addition to IP data and other information available to us). By the way, that person has visited us one time in the last month but did not say anything this time, which is good.  I still pray for her healing.

If I have any disappointment at all, I’d say it comes in the limited amount of real discussion of issues. I’d love some good, juicy controversy! Or even someone saying “I think you’re all wet” on a given issue! At least something is happening! I realize, however, that there is a saturation point and overload of much good information on the internet and we are mere neophytes. And of course, many of you have your own websites, blogs, and FB pages with plenty to do for your own ministries.

Still, overall, my assessment to date is that I’d term this project a modest success. As networks grow among people across the ECC and other Christian communities, it is important to be found. And that we seem to have achieved. We also aspire to be a repository of resources that people can use in their ministries and to facilitate sharing and being a support to others. For example, we’ve been able to loan audiovisual materials to a few communities to use in their ministries. We aspire to be a presence that represents the ECC well and particularly to be able to highlight local ministries at St. Matt’s,  St. Junia’s House, and other ECC communities.  So, I’ll settle for this  modest beginning and will be excited to see what unfolds next!

Next Friday, we have a gathering of all the southern California ECC parishes and ministries at the Pathfinders community in Bermuda Dunes. It will be a sizable gathering with several presentations regarding various forms of ministries that are going on. Plus there will be a Mass with three more priests being incardinated into the ECC! I’ll bring a report and will post photos on our website next weekend!

Blessings, M-J+

Awhile back, I wrote a response to an article that appeared in the newsletter of FCM (Federation of Christian Ministries).

If you’d like to see the original article to which I responded, go to http://federationofchristianministries.org/Newsletter/diaspora5-6-10.pdf

My response was not published, but I thought it might be of sufficient interest to post it here. I subsequently saw a much more succinct statement that I think capsules the problem well:

“Sexual activity of the widest variety is tolerated within the system if it is kept secret. Submitting sexual activity to the seal of confession is a major vehicle to solidifying the power of the culture and forming a clerical identity (too frequently pathological).

The attitudes, values, and practices of clerical culture are bound by secrecy. Sexual secrecy is the key to the clerical culture. It beats at the heart of the crisis. Currently clerical culture, on balance, is corrupt. Priests — even good priests — live, breath, and have their being in a culture of hypocrisy. Sexual secrecy dominates the culture from seminary training through the episcopacy to the Vatican. There is a great deal more at work in the operation of clergy and the clerical system than “passion for the Gospel” that the pope extols.”
A.W. Richard Sipe (Mirabiledictu)

And here, I add my own extended commentary:

Priestly Pedophilia and Hebephilia: A Systemic Result
I’d like to add some thoughts to the conversation in the FCM Newsletter (May-June, 2010, Volume 4, issue 3) by Clem De Wall about priestly pedophilia and hebephilia (a sexual preference for pubescents and adolescents). My perspectives come from having evaluated hundreds of sex offenders in the federal and state court systems over the past 30 years. For reasons that I still do not fully understand, religious individuals seem to be more prone to become involved sexually with minors. They could be from any group regardless of its polity, including clergy, youth pastors or leaders, teachers, or lay people who may be married, single, celibate or not. And, yes, some are women, although they probably represent less than five percent of the total.

While some are so-called “fixated” pedophiles, whose deviant sexual interests typically evolved very early in their lives, most offenders did not start out thinking about molesting children. They had good intentions, genuinely believing that they loved children and were interested in their spiritual welfare. They were unaware of their own potential for abuse. And, no, most of them were not abused as children:  This idea fails as an explanation because the vast majority of people who have suffered abuse do not go on to abuse others. But along the way they became increasingly focused on children, usually in lieu of developing or maintaining solid satisfying and meaningful adult relationships. Somehow, they were less socially adept with same-age peers of either gender. Their typical histories are that they are most comfortable with a generation older than themselves and those who are younger and more ill-at-ease or superficial with those in between.

In time, they found themselves blurring boundaries, overidentifying with the young, feeling more attuned and increasingly looking to them for their own emotional gratification. They didn’t keep pace with the stages of emotional maturation that most adolescents and young adults go through in learning to develop intimate friendships. Somehow, they were stunted and foreclosed at a younger age, so the children to whom they were most attached mirrored the level of functioning that the abuser himself/herself had attained. More and more time spent alone with particular children then seems to lead to the inevitable.

I don’t think religious systems create the abuse, but those who become abusers are actually drawn to religious systems which have colluded in their developmental arrest. For those out of systems with conservative sexual standards, there is the expectation that there will be no sexual experience prior to and only within a heterosexual marriage. I frankly believe that living up to this standard is unrealistic for many, but those drawn into ministry may be more prone to try to live out this myth. Then, mistakes are hidden and denied even to one’s self. The left hand must not and does not know what the right hand is doing, so integration of one’s physical, emotional, sexual, and spiritual selves fails because of this secrecy and self-delusion. Is there a true calling of celibacy that is based in a mature choice? I believe there can be. But it seems that many more accepted celibacy as the price for becoming priests or religious because an external religious system demanded it. And being able to live as a celibate person was an impossible dream for many because celibacy is not a natural choice, no more than choosing to be heterosexual or gay is a real choice. Nor do I think that celibacy is necessarily a more “holy” choice.  For some, however, a standard of celibacy was attractive as a way of opting out of the emotional turmoil and stress that most people go through as adolescents in finding out who they are. If one happens to be gay, the situation is even worse, because societal pressures and religious systems together reinforce denial of who one is. Religious systems have colluded to keep men and women from attaining the stature of complete personhood by forbidding and denying them the process of learning who they are. Their development is stunted and foreclosed but perhaps such status is even rewarded by religious systems.
Secretiveness and lack of openness about who one is continues to be fostered and reinforced in the formation process of many clergy. They are taught how to better keep the left hand from knowing what the right hand is doing. This self-delusion is fostered by the system because it is not safe to expose one’s self if one hopes to be ordained or to receive choice assignments. And after being denied becoming a whole person and then entering into a position as a priest responsible for guiding others in their family and spiritual lives, more unreality is visited upon subsequent generations. Countless generations of children and young believers have been deprived of wholesome, complete, reality-based spiritual parenting from their priests and clergy. Until we address how clergy, adult laity, and children are mentored and formed spiritually, this cycle of abuse will not be broken. It is the responsibility of all of us, not merely bishops and clergy, to hold one another accountable.

There is a power element that inevitably enters into relationships where clergy abuse children. We see the same dynamic played out where health care professionals, teachers, coaches, parents, neighbors, or others who have some kind of authority misuse the trust that they have been given to care for the young or other vulnerable persons. This same immature personality needs adulation which s/he has failed to get — or has lost — from peers. Not uncommonly, there has been some kind of disappointment or loss of status preceding the onset of abusing children. There may be frustration and anger where s/he regains control and compensates for a deflated ego by using and violating others.

I tell every religious person whom I evaluate for sexual offenses in the court system to seek healing and then to return to their religious communities to tell their story and open the door for others who are suffering in secret. Those of us who have gone through failed marriages, affairs, out-of-wedlock pregnancies, one-night stands, abortions, prostitution, closet sexuality (gay or straight), on-line pornography, chat-room sex, promiscuity, and other forms of self-abuse or abuse of others can be healed through the sacraments and the church plus psychological help all working together. And if being fully healed takes time, in the meanwhile, we can contain and manage our behaviors so that no one else is harmed. We all need to be supportive of people living with such struggles. If healing can be shared, we will go a long way toward helping the next generation.

There’s another element in large religious systems that fosters the secrecy underpinning abuse. They are so large and so impersonal where bishops are selected for and rewarded for being administrators of a religious corporation — not for being shepherds or pastors — nor are the clergy able to know their own people. When spiritual care becomes an assembly line, there is a greater risk of people of any age becoming objects rather than being spiritually nourished. The resulting emptiness and isolation of no true spiritual father or mother is an impediment to wholeness and leaves one more vulnerable to being compromised in many ways by others. These are the folks who are anonymous in worship services and parishes. If the religious system has become impersonal, and is being maintained for its own sake and promotion of its self-interest rather than taking care of its spiritually young or fragile ones, then it no longer functions as Christ’s church. In such impersonal systems, secrecy and misuse of power go hand in hand. The left hand no longer wants to know what the right hand is doing.
We as the people of God must recognize how we have unwittingly helped maintain a fiction and, yes, at times, consciously colluded with dysfunctional systems; we must now come into Christ’s Loving Reality in our continuing formation and in our polity. And those who were or are subservient in such religious systems must rise up. If I had the talent of a novelist, I would write a novel about how one day, the estimated 83% of workers in churches who are female will put on those boots made for walking and the system implodes upon itself, no longer able to continue being oblivious and unresponsive to the needs of the people.

If there had been women priests or deacons helping to mind the store, I don’t believe the tragedies we have seen unfold before us would have been so pervasive or tolerated for so long. If there had been married parents as priests and openly gay and lesbian priests, there would have been a much greater emotional acuity and recognition of the nuances and changes in our children when they were being subjected to distorted power relationships by their abusers. The whistle could have been blown a lot sooner. Polity is an undeniable factor in abuse in the churches, but merely getting rid of bishops is no panacea. From what I’ve observed, in those religious systems where there is no line of authority or accountability, abusers act out with impunity, and the situation may in fact be worse. In certain religious communities, particularly closed or isolated ones, we’ve seen how one highly disturbed person can damage so many, one of the worst examples being the Jonestown disaster. But there are many others that did not attain this kind of notoriety.

Let us seek to be alert, responsive, and responsible for our young — at every level of calling within the church. It is a problem for all of us. In every denomination. In every community. In every church. In every home.