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05 May 2010


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frank durkee

No insults. In your church , mine and many diverse others people like thes are not just the 'other side of the coin', they are the guts and height of the Gospel. It is they who incarnate its depest meaning and give expression to its promise. They show in a profound way the true meaning of Christian Humanisim. Like you I've known some and my life has been altered and enriched by their passage through my life.
The tragedy in the 'scandals' is not just the betrayal and harm done to others but the covering over of these kinds of actions all over the world.

The Twisted Genius


I can't thank you enough for posting this. Kristof's editorials and the further reading it spurred me to do has been comforting and uplifting. It's good to lay the doubt and cynicism aside once in a while and contemplate the good and beauty that exists in this world.

Long ago I felt I had a vocation to become a Maryknoll missionary priest. Instead, I chose to raise a family, join the Army and Special Forces and continue on to other government service. Oh well. No regrets here, but I remain in awe of the shining examples of these priests, nuns and laity and their missionary vocations. I found the web page that gives a brief description of Maryknoll lay missioners and their work. I invite all the SST family to visit the page and see what some Catholics who are striving to be more Christ like are doing.



People at cocktail parties hardly need an excuse to be derisive about religion.

I'm willing to bet that the the ratio of Father Michael Bartons to male chauvinist, homophobic and out of touch priests is huge.

There are rotten apples in every barrel but we still persevere in getting the barrel home, simply because the good apples make the whole thing worth it.


I will avoid making a long statement by mentioning a single word, DONATISM. Those really curious about the Church either know it or may look it up in Wikipedia.


I honor good deeds whatever the source of the inspiration.

An institution has to be judged on its net impact. The barriers to contraception that the Vatican has succeeded in instigating have caused more suffering than an army of millions of priests could ever relieve.

SubKommander Dred

I've already insulted you previously, so that as I have gotten that out of my system, I see no need for more. As for the people you mention, they show the Catholic Church at it's finest, and what a great institution it can be. This ongoing sex scandal is the insult to their hard work and religious values...values these incredible people truly live in their every day lives.

Pete Deer


Far too many are too concerned with the opinions of the NYC cocktail circuit (and the D.C. cocktail circuit). Father Michael and Sister Cathy certainly aren't, and neither should we. As to NYC, and Mr. Kristof reference to Jesus, it should be pointed out that Jesus threw the money changers out of the temple. The secular equivalent would be to throw the money changers of Wall Street out of that temple of democracy, the Congress.

Medicine Man

How slyly ironic is Kristof, as he sniffs derisively at the stereotypical effete, New York city, cocktail party-set, who he imagines in turn are sniffing derisively at the stereotypical RCC apologist. My only reply to Kristof would be that most everyone has some tradition, congregation, or amalgamation of people they dislike. Often enough, that dislike is based on incomplete information. Yes, I think we all get it.

For our host on this site, I have no insults. I feel that there are certain traditions and beliefs that have been responsible for the continued survival of the church. There are people who labor mightily to embody those beliefs. My consideration of those people does not walk lockstep with my consideration of the people who are responsible for the church's public face at this time.

s nadh

To quote Vivekananda:

The greatest men in the world have passed away unknown. The Buddhas and the Christs that we know are but second-rate heroes in comparison with the greatest men of whom the world knows nothing. Hundreds of these unknown heroes have lived in every country working silently. Silently they live and silently they pass away; and in time their thoughts find expression in Buddhas or Christs; and it is these latter that become known to us. The highest men do not seek to get any name or fame from their knowledge. They leave their ideas to the world; they put forth no claims for themselves and establish no schools or systems in their name. Their whole nature shrinks from such a thing. They are pure Sattvikas, who can never make any stir but only melt down in love...

In the life of Gautama Buddha we notice him constantly saying that he is the 25th Buddha. The 24 before him are unknown to history, although the Buddha known to history must have built upon foundations laid by them. The highest men are calm, silent and unknown. They are the men who really know the power of thought; they are sure that even if they go into a cave and close the door and simply think 5 true thoughts and then pass away, these 5 thoughts of theirs will live throughout eternity. Indeed such thoughts of theirs will penetrate through mountains, cross the oceans and travel through the world. They will enter deep into human hearts and brains and raise up men and women who will give them practical expression in the workings of human life... The Buddhas and the Christs will go from place to place preaching these truths... These Sattvika men are too near the Lord to be active and to fight, to be working, struggling, preaching and doing good, as they say, here on earth to humanity...


And I am sure that there are several low level employees at BP who are passionately devoted to preservation of the Gulf's ecosystem.


It seems like extraordinary individuals like Father Michael, are the last ditch for those who are trying either to defend the Catholic church. Every discussion I've seen the same question is asked, "How can you still be a Catholic?". I've never seen anyone respond to this by mounting a cogent defense of the leadership of the church, or of it's dogma. It's one of two answers the first is sheer inertia, "I've always been Catholic, and so are my friends and loved ones" the second is and the answer comes back "Because of Father or Sister or Brother so and so".

Now, I'm not here to denigrate the work of anyone who is called to a life of service, even if I disagree with their motives or their beliefs. They deserve respect, admiration and assistance wherever possible. However, I will say I find it odd that accusations of crimes committed by of the church hierarchy and of destructive and wrongheaded church dogma, are answered with the good works and sacrifice of these people.

Phil Giraldi

The problem is that there are two Catholic Churches. One is the self-protecting bureaucracy which exhibits the faults of every other bureaucracy in history. The other is the people of faith who make up the Catholic community and many of whom do remarkable things. Thank you for sharing the Kristof story.


Col, I think the problem that a lot of people (the kind of people who might hurl insults) might have, if they don't have a certain kind of critical insider's experience of the Catholic Church, is that there is no singular Church in the physical sense. There is a great deal of skepticism and criticism scattered all throughout the Church heirachy and leity, but it is invisible because it is often quiet and because the official line is that the pinnacle of the hierarchy is monolithic and completely representative. This is of course a far cry from the truth.

Meanwhile, the abundant great and humble service provided by many of the servants of the Church is completely overlooked.

All that said, as long as the Church Fathers feel that the only constituency they need serve is in heaven (and that no one is fit to judge their service thereof), they will continue to wander in an ignobly impoverished state through this world.

There must be some reverence allowed for this mortal coil and the world of nature. Without it, the world of spirit is dry and dessicated. The people whose service you highlight understand this in at least some way.

As always, thank you for providing space for these discussions.



Thank you for an inspiring post. You may find also truth and beauty in this site:


Carl O.

This posting recalls to me a former state NAACP president I once was privileged to know, who's answer to hatred was always to love his fellow man. Though not a member of the clergy of his church (as far as I remember), he was surely a man of God.


What insults?

I known lots of wonderful Roman Catholic Clergy. Your story doesn't surprise me at all.

There is no crisis in the RCC. Well, no crisis beyond the constant crisis that began when Peter argued with Paul.

The Church has always produced its share of knaves. But the Church itself produces infinitely more good than bad. And that is why it has survived for 2,000 years. Sorry that the lapsed and disinclined don't share that view. But the pews are always full at my church. With--or without--Andrew Sullivan's blessing.


If I am not mistaken, Catholic priests and nuns were targeted in 70's and 80's in our COIN efforts in Central America. Their courage and martyrdom should also be a part of this story. Liberation theology is not at all welcome by what has now become a bizarre Catholic Church.


You could also say that the Church has survived for 2,000 years as a very rich and highly authoritarian organization because it resorted to some pretty nasty measures to silence dissidents and maintain the unity required to dominate and prosper.

Having said that, there's no question that there are many priests and nuns out there that follow their faith's tenets of love, charity, and poverty, which makes the betrayal of them by their church's leadership all the more hideous. Not to mention the people in the pews. In all sincerity I don't know if the good the Church does is outweighed by the crimes outlined in the Ryan Report, which blighted the lives of generations of children, most of them disadvantaged.

William Hart

How odd. Strawmen like Secular Liberal Cocktail Party Sniffer being invoked here and by Kristoff as well. Is it that the rest of us/them/whoever is presumably not made of straw, are perfectly fine with "a few bad apples" and think everything is great in the Catholic Church? Certainly not, no more than SLCPS's can't make the distinction between a pedophile and genuine works of charity - perhaps only the Boston Globe can?

My point is, this angle does nothing for the story or the truth. Snarkiness about pedophile priests is a rather more widespread phenomenon than can be confined to cocktail parties (or secularists! - and that's already a rather wide net). It is also the kind of scoundrel's refuge the Neocons resort to at the hat's drop: "Don't like our insane wars dreamed up by careerist, soul-less generals and President's looking for an easy payday? Why do you hate the troops?"

With great respect to both of you gentlemen, who's experience and voices are critically important, sane, correctives to the opinionews that obtains these days - you don't need the gimmick.

Hawk Of May

As deeply dedicated agnostic the best advice I ever received while growing up was from a catholic priest in the military.

For JLCG who mentioned Donatism, I'll offer my favorite heretic: Pelagius.


If only the NYT news pages made an equal effort at being "fair and balanced" in their reporting. See "Church of the New York times (updated). http://www.getreligion.org/?p=32459

frank durkee

My favorate heretic is Jesus.

Fr. Frank Durkee


I know of no better people than the priests and nuns who humbly live their Christian ideals.

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