Posted in church, Raised Catholic

God is Cleaning House!

Or should I say “Goddess?” As the horrors of the priest sex abuse scandal continue to make headlines I can’t help but celebrate the truths finally being made known.  I’ve seen the horrors first-hand (I’m not only speaking about sexual abuse!) and it is only right that the sins of the Institution be made known and that the hierarchy be held accountable to the grievous harm they have inflicted on humanity for thousands of years.  I suspect (hope) that this current wave of truth-telling marks the end of the priesthood as we have known it and the end of the patriarchal/hierarchical structure built on fear, power and control. The Divine (by whatever name we call Her) is CLEANING HOUSE!  Amen!  Amen! Halleluiah!  (Cue Handel: )

In light of all of this, I found it hilarious (God has a great sense of humor…..or is it timing?) that this reading came up in my daily scripture feed this morning:

The word of the Lord came to me:
Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel,
in these words prophesy to them to the shepherds:
Thus says the Lord GOD: Woe to the shepherds of Israel
who have been pasturing themselves!
Should not shepherds, rather, pasture sheep?
You have fed off their milk, worn their wool,
and slaughtered the fatlings,
but the sheep you have not pastured.
You did not strengthen the weak nor heal the sick
nor bind up the injured.
You did not bring back the strayed nor seek the lost,
but you lorded it over them harshly and brutally.
So they were scattered for the lack of a shepherd,
and became food for all the wild beasts.
My sheep were scattered
and wandered over all the mountains and high hills;
my sheep were scattered over the whole earth,
with no one to look after them or to search for them.

Therefore, shepherds, hear the word of the LORD:
As I live, says the Lord GOD,
because my sheep have been given over to pillage,
and because my sheep have become food for every wild beast,
for lack of a shepherd;
because my shepherds did not look after my sheep,
but pastured themselves and did not pasture my sheep;
because of this, shepherds, hear the word of the LORD:
Thus says the Lord GOD:
I swear I am coming against these shepherds.
I will claim my sheep from them
and put a stop to their shepherding my sheep
so that they may no longer pasture themselves.
I will save my sheep,
that they may no longer be food for their mouths.

For thus says the Lord GOD:
I myself will look after and tend my sheep.

EZ 34: 1-11

What was true for Ezekiel (622 BCE) is true for us today. The “shepherds” (priests) have sinned against their people and against their God.  They have brought harm upon the people of the flock (us) and the Divine says NO MORE!  The truth is coming to light and as God said to Ezekiel, “I myself will look after and tend my sheep.”  What need have we for human shepherds (priests) when we have God/dess to guide us?  As Jesus chose God over the institution and his disciples did the same, this is the invitation we are currently being given as the outside perceived authority of institutional religion (here symbolized by the Catholic Church) comes crashing down around our feet.

As I have come to know in my own journey, we do not need an outside perceived authority (the Church) when the only true authority is the Divine within.  This is the truth Jesus came to know and what he then went on to teach his followers.  Mary Magdalene got this and held true to the Divine within.  The male disciples had to re-learn this truth after getting expelled from the Temple, and then somehow forgot this along the way when they appointed themselves “Bishops” and “Priests.”  But as I have said a million times over, “God/Love always wins!”  She is reclaiming what is hers; casting out all those who did not heed Her words and who did not care for Her people and inviting all of us to return to the only “Church” we will ever truly need – the “Church” that is in our own heart where we are One with the Divine (Love) that dwells within.

P.S. If you don’t yet know that “Church” within, I am happy to help you find it.

Posted in church, Raised Catholic

Priest Sexual Abuse – There are No Words

Actually….there are a whole lot of words! On Tuesday the Pennsylvania grand jury report was released with a list of over 300 priests accused of sexual abuse  –  300 in Pennsylvania alone and that number accounts for only those who have been named.  This doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of all those who have suffered in silence, or the centuries upon centuries of clerical abuse that preceded this investigation.  In reporting priest sexual abuse, the media tends to highlight the abuse that was inflicted upon young boys, completely missing the girls, nuns and women who have been and continue to be the victims of clerical abuse – sexual or otherwise.  The sheer magnitude is staggering!

priest sex abuse, sex abuse scandal, clerical abuse,

The culture of clerical privilege and clergy abuse is nothing short of evil – condemnable evil. Thank God someone is finally doing something to bring the truth to light and that the Church will finally be made to pay for centuries of abuse. Unfortunately, none of this does anything to heal the grave damage done by the Institution to its victims; neither does it do anything to change the culture that created the environment in which priests could get away with, and even be celebrated for raping women and children.

As one who worked in the Church when the sex abuse scandal first erupted in the late 1990’s and as one who has watched in horror as the Church has given lip service to the “changes” they are making to prevent clerical abuse, I can assure you that nothing has actually changed. Yes, band aids have been put in place, but the culture that created the environment in which abuse could happen in the first place has not changed.

I suspect the Church might not survive this layer of truth-telling. At one time I may have had pity or compassion for a Church that is suffering from its own woundedness, but no more.  The Church has had ample time and opportunities to take a good hard look at the culture of patriarchal privilege and power that makes it “ok” for priests to abuse, but again, the Church has done nothing.  Instead, they have systematically worked to protect the abusers, silence those who have been abused, and ignore (and even condemn) the voices of those who might actually be able to help the Institution transform the culture that has allowed sexual abuse to happen in the first place.  In short, the Catholic Church has made its own bed….and now it will have to lie in it.

The healing and reform of the Catholic Church is no longer my concern. The Church is dying.  It is long-past time for end of the tyranny brought forth by the Catholic Church.  It is time that this patriarchal, hierarchical Institution based in fear, power and control, which has used the name of Jesus to kill Jews, Muslims, and “witches;” and which has used God as the justification for their “holy wars,” and the subjugation of women, to  come to an end so that something new might come forth.  What that something new might be, I do not know, but I suspect it will have a lot more to do with what Jesus taught and Mary Magdalene lived out than what we are currently seeing.  At least I hope so, because what Jesus taught is really quite simple:

  • Love God.
  • Love one another.
  • Love your neighbor as yourself.
  • Everyone is your neighbor.
  • Feed the hungry.
  • Clothe the naked.
  • Set prisoners free.
  • Care for the widows and orphans.
  • Share what you have with those who have not.
  • Give money to the poor.
  • Give sight to the blind.
  • We are all one – with God, with each other and with all of creation.
  • Love is who we are and who we are meant to be.

It really is that simple. As Jesus taught, love is truly all there is, all we are, and all we are called to be and do. As Jesus taught, love heals all that is broken within us, thereby eliminating the cause of “sin.” Love is the answer.  It saddens me that the Church, in its quest for power, forgot this simple truth.  But like the phoenix that arises out of the ash, may the new that is brought forth out of the death of the Catholic Church be rooted in love, bringing forth the fulfillment of what Jesus originally taught and was lived out through Mary Magdalene.  Love is all there is and all we need to know.  When we know love, the rest flows effortlessly out of us.  It really is that simple.

Posted in church, Raised Catholic

Why The Catholic Church (as we currently know it) Must Fall

Danger:  If you are clinging to the current form of Roman Catholicism….you might not want to read today’s post.  Change is a comin…..and the invitation is to step aside, let the carnage fall where it may, then watch as the phoenix of new life arises from the ashes.  In order to do this, we need to let go of our attachment to what we know and have known the Catholic Church to be and to be open to something new and unexpected.


The Sex Abuse Scandal is NOT Over

Last night I was at a friend’s house reading the latest issue of Rolling Stone Magazine which features an exhaustive investigation into the Catholic Church and the sex abuse scandal, specifically, the secret sex crimes files.  (here’s a link to the article: ) In the article, New York Archbishop, Timothy Dolan (formerly of our own Archdiocese of Milwaukee), was quoted as waving off the priest sex abuse scandal and saying, “That’s over with.” Are you flippin’ kidding me?   OVER With ?????  I realize that the Catholic hierarchy burying their heads in the sand is not new information….but really?  The priest sex abuse scandal is over?  NOT HARDLY!!!!!   In fact, is has only just begun.  What Dolan’s response illuminates to me, however, is the very reason that the Catholic Church (as we currently know it) will and MUST fall.  As long as the hierarchy clings to denial, self-protection and defense, the issues that created a culture in which priests have been allowed to sexually abuse children will never be dealt with.  Change and reform will NOT be coming anytime soon from the old-boys club and for those of us in the pew, we’d better just get used to this idea.  Instead of authentic reform, we will be pummeled with distractions – liturgical reform, investigations of women religious, new translations of the Roman missal, new guidelines on music, the restoration of vestments, vessels, etc. that set the priest apart as “more special” than the rest of us, hard-line insistence on upholding “the one true faith,” coming down on issues of morality, setting the Catholic Church apart as “better than the rest.”  Vatican II has been set aside in favor of a Church that wants us to pray, pay and obey (which is ironic considering the current state of the hierarchy) and keep our mouths shut!

You Don’t Have to Be a Prophet

You don’t have to be a prophet to figure out where this is all leading.  The Institution cannot keep up the facade of giving a damn about the sex abuse scandal forever.  We are not that stupid.  As secret files emerge and more charges against priests are made, it becomes painfully obvious that nothing is being done and nothing will be done to heal the wounds or work toward authentic reform.  The Institution has nothing to gain and everything to lose by owning their own sins, holding themselves accountable and working toward change.  In the meantime, all the work of creating distractions does nothing but create disillusionment and frustration in the hearts of those who want to see a happy and healthy Catholic Church (I count myself among those people).  In the end, what the Church will be left with is a flock of blindly obedient members content to look the other way as priests continue to abuse while those who want a healthy church will simply walk away….either retreating to private devotion or finding refuge in another denomination, while secretly pining for what they had to leave behind in the sacraments and rituals with which they had previously found comfort.

There is Good News

I know that I can tend to be uber-cynical and perhaps a little jaded when it comes to issues on Roman Catholicism, and I own that.  I found that working in the Institution does one of three things: creates bureaucratic puppets, frustrated reformers or jaded cynics.  I guess I fall somewhere between the latter two.  That being said, I boldy and passionately LOVE many things about my Catholic faith.  And….I am a 100% Vatican II baby and believe in the authenticity and vision of that council.  I want to see the reforms of Vatican II fully manifested in the Church and I look forward to seeing what the Holy Spirit has in mind for Vatican III.  I believe in the redemptive action of the Holy Spirit and I believe that even in the midst of what seems like the imminent death of the Institution (as we have known it) that something new and magnificent will rise from the ashes.  And while there is grief in witnessing the death of what I have known, it is in the on-going redemptive and life-generating action of the Divine that I place my trust, knowing that something new and wonderful is coming to pass.

Lauri Lumby

Authentic Freedom Ministries

Posted in church, Raised Catholic, Spiritual Formation

Special Edition – Sexual Abuse by Priests

Heeding the Spirit

Apparently the Holy Spirit is not going to let me rest until I write this post.  After reading an article in today’s National Catholic Reporter on a new policy recently released by the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City regarding issues of sexual abuse:, my Catholic undies got all up in a bundle and I find I have to concur with the other readers of NCR who are wondering, “Really, how about owning and fixing the problem?”  So I’m going to beg pardon for my ego which admittedly may be partially to blame for this post, and I might run the risk of getting up on my Catholic soapbox, and waving the flag of my moral self-righteousness…..BUT…..the abuse of innocent children, teens, young adults AND women by Catholic priests HAS GOT TO STOP!  No matter how many regulations or guidelines are developed and put into place by the Catholic Bishops around the world, the issue still remains: priests are abusing people and they are getting away with it.

Why I can speak with some authority on the subject

For those of you that don’t know…..I was raised Catholic.  Went to nearly 12 years of Catholic School.  Studied theology and Spiritual Direction through the Catholic Church. Was commissioned as a Lay Minister.  AND served as an official, paid, lay ministerial employee of the Catholic Institution for 10+ years.  I’ve been there and I’ve seen it.  While the veiled illusion of Catholic impecibility remained, the Church was god and could do no wrong in my eyes.  Then I worked within the Institution.  Talk about an awakening.  After working within the bureaucratic establishment of the Institution, I have developed a few theories about why priests abuse and why they keep getting away with it.

1) Because they can.  Diocesan priests are taught that they are the representative of Christ on this earth and that they are above all others.  In fact, one priest told me that they get to go to “heaven” before the rest of us…simply by virtue of their ordination….regardless of their sinfulness or lack thereof.  In other words, they get the “get out of jail free card” while the rest of us have to burn our way out of purgatory.  Now, I don’t personally believe any of this….but other people DO!  The priest is god…can do no wrong….”would never touch a child…”  And no one questions their moral character or lack thereof.  In fact, when rumors are going around about “Father…and that young boy,” instead of doing something about it, Catholics are taught to look the other way.

2) COMPLETE lack of sound Spiritual Formation – I think this is actually the root cause of sexual abuse by priests.  I can’t say that this is true of all priests (and certainly not so for religious order priests), but in the diocese in which I worked, priests received 7+ years of theological training in preparation for their ordination.  In those seven years….they received NO spiritual formation.  But isn’t religious formation (ie theology, dogma, doctrine, rites, etc.) the same as spiritual formation.  NO NO NO ….  and here is part of the problem, most people think they are one in the same.  Religious formation is learning the teachings of a particular faith tradition.  Spiritual Formation is learning – Who am I?  How do I understand God and what is my personal relationship with this God? and What are my gifts and how am I being called to use them?  When sound spiritual formation is made available we learn such things as:

  • What is my sexual orientation and how am I called to live that out?
  • Am I called to celibacy or marriage?
  • What causes me anxiety, fear, stress and how do I respond when in a stressful state?
  • What do I need in the way of support, nurturing, healthy intimacy and how am I called to seek that out?
  • How do I stay out of my ego and rely on God?
  • How do I discern what is of God and what is of the ego?

Get the picture?  If sound spiritual formation were provided in priestly formation……tendencies toward pedophilia, acting out in inappropriate sexual ways, the call to healthy, sexual, intimate partnering would all be discovered…and the priest candidate would be turned away……AH HA….probably the reason spiritual formation IS NOT provided.  Who wants to lose a potential candidate in an already declining field?

3)Lack of Accountability See #1, but also recognize that a Catholic priest is accountable to no one but their bishop….and no bones about it, it is a good ole boys club.  They do everything they can to protect their own.  One priest I know asked for a leave of absence to discern a potential call to marriage.  The bishop’s response, “Why don’t you make her your housekeeper?”  WHAT?????  ARGH!!!!!  Gag me!   Another priest when he retired was reported in the diocesan newspaper as moving into his vacation home with his long-time companion and housekeeper.  Accountability?  NOT.  And as we have seen by the news reports, when questions are raised, the hierarchy tries to hide it, sweep it under the rug, or worse yet, move the priest to another parish where he can start raping other children.  The saddest thing is that the laity (the people in the pew) have no say in any of this.  Their hands are tied.  They are powerless.  Yes, they can speak, yell, demand change….but nobody is really listening.

4) OVER WORK and UNDER SUPPORTED Here, I have to give one over to the priests.  These poor guys.  Because of the unwillingness of the Vatican to change their rules on ordination (allowing women, married men to be priests), the poor few who have responded to the call and are trying to do an honest job are worked to death!  6-7 days a week from sun up to sun down (less the Pastor’s nap), they are on call…every minute of every day…AND they are expected to be able to do it all – preach, teach, heal, counsel, run a business, entertain, promote, market, evangelize, do works of service, etc. etc. etc.   And guess what….not all of these men have all these gifts…so they muddle along trying to make an impact….and then they get burned out.  To make matters worse, they are supposed to be cultivating healthy, intimate, supportive relationships OUTSIDE the parish.  When are they supposed to do this?  There is literally NO time.  The only people they know are their parishioners…and in a moment of weakness, vulnerability, anxiousness…who are they supposed to turn to?  Get the picture.  The Catholic Church is killing the few decent priests we have left….and that is a horrible shame.

No Answers Here

In the end, I do not know how the Vatican is ever going to solve the problem of sexual abuse by their priests.  With an institution based in power and control, run through fear and intimidation, what else do they expect?  Top down power runs the show and the men are in charge.  As long as it wants to hang on to its power, the Vatican has no motivation to ever make any effective or lasting change.  All will remain the same until every last celibate priest is dead or in jail and the laity are standing there with hands open going, “Now what?  Who is going to say the mass for us?  Who is going to teach, preach, heal, minister to the poor?”  HHHMMMMM   Maybe we will be the ones doing it….and perhaps this has been the Holy Spirit’s plan all along!

Lauri Lumby

Authentic Freedom Ministries