Thursday, April 29, 2010

New Biblically Oriented English Translation of the Mass Approved!

Huge news for Catholics! The English translation of the Mass that you've known for the past forty years is now officially going to change! The translation approved by the primary English speaking national conferences of Catholic Bishops around the world has finally received the green light from Rome. The US Conference of Catholic Bishops was the last body to cast their ballot, voting in favor of the changes last year.

This is exciting news. The Washington Times reports:
The Vatican has approved and is ready to release a new English translation of the Mass and its associated prayers and texts.

Pope Benedict XVI spoke Wednesday at the Vatican to Vox Clara, a special committee of Catholic bishops and consultants from English-speaking countries convened to assist with the translation.

"I welcome the news that the English translation of the Roman Missal will soon be ready for publication, so that the texts you have worked so hard to prepare may be proclaimed in the liturgy that is celebrated across the anglophone world. Through these sacred texts and the actions that accompany them, Christ will be made present and active in the midst of his people," Benedict told the assembly.

The Roman Missal is the official Latin texts for the Mass promulgated after the Second Vatican Council, commonly known as the Norvus Ordo or Paul VI Mass. The latest update was approved by Pope John Paul II in 2000 and the International Commission for English in the Liturgy (ICEL), consisting of bishops from all over the English-speaking world, has been working on the translation since.

The ICEL's work needs formal and final approval by the Vatican's Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, which Vox Clara has been aiding.

While the Vatican-approved text of the Missal translation has yet to be released publicly, various changes proposed by the ICEL have been. Some sections already have received Vatican approval. The aim has been to translate the Latin texts more exactly and literally into English.

As an example of the style of changes, before receiving Communion, the parishioners are to say "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof," instead of the current "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you."

Read the rest.

I realize, as the article quotes the Holy Father as explaining, some people are going to be upset about the change--there always are those. But this new translation is far better than what we've had.

In fact, this new translation will underscore the biblical allusions in the Mass, the way the Old Testament is seen to be fulfilled in the New, and the continuity between Jewish and Christian worship.

Case in point: the prayer mentioned above, "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof". That of course is a direct quotation from the centurion's words to Jesus in Matthew 8. Notably, the scene ends with Jesus talking about how many will come to sit at table in the kingdom. Of course, this corresponds to what happens after this prayer is prayed in the Eucharistic celebration; that is the last prayer that is said together by the faithful before reception of Holy Communion.

In short, the New Missal is a biblically focused translation.

I'll have more to say on this news in the days to come. St. Joseph's Communications is sitting on a new CD set of presentations I have done on the new English translation of the Missal. In this series I go through each and every prayer and rite looking at the biblical allusions and similarities to Jewish prayers and traditions about the temple.

For example, at the Offertory the priest prays: "Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received the bread we offer you: fruit of the earth and work of human hands, it will become for us the bread of life."

This prayer has largely been formulated in consultation with Jewish tradition. Consider the table prayer described by the ancient rabbis in the Mishna: "Blessed are thou. . . who bringest forth bread from the earth. . ." (m. Ber. 6.1).

I'll have more soon. Stay tuned!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Scott Hahn on Benedict's Biblically Focused Pontificate

National Catholic Register has a great piece up by Scott Hahn celebrating the fifth anniversary of Benedict XVI's election to the papacy. In the article Hahn discusses how the Holy Father has especially devoted his pontificate to calling the faithful to the study of Sacred Scripture.

While this priority of the pope is not something you'll hear much about in the mainstream media, make no mistake about it, this pontiff has been uniquely focused on calling the faithful to renew their faith in the Bible:

As I write this, I’m looking at the cover of one of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s books, now reissued under his papal name. The book is titled God’s Word, and the cover shows a photograph of the Holy Father.

He’s slightly off-center because he’s holding up the book of the Gospels — covering himself, as it were, with the word of God.

For me, that cover is emblematic of his pontificate thus far. His hallmark is the centrality of the word of God. That’s where he has kept our focus — not on fads or scandals or the world’s alarms. Christ, the Word Incarnate, is the solution to every world crisis. Pope Benedict has invited us, insistently and consistently, to encounter Christ in the word inspired, the sacred Scriptures

You can read the rest here.

Of course, here once again I want to mention Dr. Hahn's amazing new book on Pope Benedict's Biblical Theological vision. I've talked about it already here. I love it so much I'm now using it as one of the texts for my Biblical Hermeneutics course.

Bob Cargill's UCLA Jerusalem Class On-Line


Bob Cargill mentioned that his UCLA course on Jerusalem would be posted over at iTunes University and that excerpts of it could be found over at YouTube. So I downloaded the course from iTunes. I can't turn it off. This is great stuff.

One disclaimer: Bob explains at the beginning that he is going to edit out certain things from the lectures such as "sex-jokes". I haven't listened to them all yet, but so far it looks like he has been true to this. Thankfully, he avoided the opportunity to exploit the name of the "cheese cutter" gate for crass humor. I expect that he will continue to keep the material "classy," as the subject matter really deserves it (i.e., a class on the "Holy City"). Personally, I think crude humor is inappropriate for a classroom; students deserve to be treated with professionalism. Though the temptation to get a cheap laugh from immature undergrads may be strong, I think such talk cheapens the professor and the course.

I'm loving this material, and I think you might too--go check it out. Here's the YouTube channel. Here's the link to iTunes University.


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Two Great Posts by Mike Bird

One of my favorite bloggers, Mike Bird, has two important posts I wanted to draw attention to.

First, check out this post on the authorship of Mark's Gospel.

Second, check out this post on the Canonical and the Historical Jesus.

Acts of the Apostles: Luke-Acts Parallels (Part 3)

Be sure to read parts 1 and 2.

Talbert’s work highlights the way these similarities between Luke and Acts works not only at a micro level but also on a macro level. I’ve highlighted much of the similarities between the first few chapters, but consider some of the rest:

A centurion. . .

Luke 7:1–10: A centurion, well-spoken of by the Jews, sends servants to Jesus to ask him to come to his house.

Acts 10: A centurion, well-spoken of by the Jewish people, sends men to Peter, asking him to come to his house.

Stories featuring Widows and Resurrection

Luke 7:11–17: Here we have a narrative which involves a widow and a resurrection. Jesus raises the dead, saying, “Arise.” Upon doing this we read that the dead man "sat up".

Acts 9:36-43: The narrative involves widows and, again, a resurrection. Peter says, “Rise.” The dead woman then “sat up.”

Criticism from Jewish Leaders

Luke 7:36-50: Jesus is criticized by a Pharisee for being touched by a sinful woman.

Acts 11:10–13: The circumcision party criticizes Jesus for his association with Gentiles.

Journey to Jerusalem

Luke 9:51-19:28: Jesus journeys to Jerusalem, which is ultimately to end with his passion (9:31; 9:51; 12:50; 13:33; 18:31-33), doing so under divine necessity (13:33). Throughout the journey the disciples’ lack of understanding is underscored (14:45; 18:34).

Acts 19:21-21:17: Paul journeys to Jerusalem, also a kind of “passion-journey” (20:3; 20:22-24; 20:37-38; 21:4; 21:10-11; 21:13), which he undertakes under divine necessity (20:22; 21:14). The trip is marked by his friends’ lack of understanding (21:4, 21:12-13).

The Way to Jerusalem

In fact, the similarities between Jesus and Paul can be further underscored: For example, in the “way” narrative of Jesus’ trip to Jerusalem, there are seven references to journeys to Jerusalem. Of course, like Jesus, Paul makes a journey to Jerusalem in the book of Acts. Not surprisingly, there are seven important references to this journey.

1. Luke 9:51 Jesus “set his face to go to Jerusalem.”
Acts 19:21 “Paul resolved in the Spirit to . . . go to Jerusalem.”

2. Luke 13:22: “. . . [Jesus] was journeying toward Jerusalem.
Acts 20:22 “. . . I am going to Jerusalem.”

3. Luke 13:33 “I must go on my way. . . for a prophet cannot perish away from Jerusalem.”
Acts 21:4: “. . . they told Paul not to go to Jerusalem.”

4. Luke 17:11: “On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee.”
Acts 21:11-12: Agabus tells Paul that the Jews at Jerusalem would bind him.

5. Luke 18:31: “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem.”
Acts 21:13: Paul says, “. . . I am ready. . . to die at Jerusalem.”

6. Luke 19:11: “[Jesus] was near to Jerusalem.”
Acts 21:15: “we made ready to go to Jerusalem.”

7. Luke 19:28 “. . . [Jesus] went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.”
Acts. 21:17: “When we had come to Jerusalem.”

Jesus and Paul in Jerusalem

Finally, as Talbert observes, not only is the journey to Jerusalem similar. There are further parallels in the details of what happens to Jesus and Paul in the city. These similarities are too uncanny to be written off as coincidence or insignificant.

Welcomed at Jerusalem

Luke 19:3: Jesus is welcomed by the people at Jerusalem, who praise God for his works.

Acts 21:17–20a: Paul is welcomed and they glorify God for the things being done through him.

A Temple Visit

Luke 19:45–48: Jesus goes into the Temple.

Acts 21:26: Paul goes into the temple.

Opposed by Sadducees, Acknowledged by Scribes

Luke 20:27–39: The Sadducees, who do not believe in the resurrection, oppose Jesus. Some scribes take a friendly attitude to Jesus.

Acts 23:6–9: The Sadducees do not believe in the resurrection oppose Paul. Some scribes say they find nothing wrong with Paul’s teaching.

Breaking Bread

Luke 22:19: “[Jesus] he took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them. . .”

Acts 27:35: “[Paul] took bread, and giving thanks to God. . . broke it and began to eat.”

Seized by a Crowd

Luke 22:54: A crowd seizes Jesus.

Acts 21:30: The people ran together; they seized Paul.

Slapped by the High Priest's Assistants

Luke 22:63–64: Jesus is slapped by the priest’s assistants.

Acts 23:2: Paul is slapped at the high priest’s command.

The Four Trials of Jesus and Paul

Luke 22:54; 23:1; 23:9; Luke 23:11: The four trials of Jesus (the high priest and the council; Pilate; Herod; Pilate).

Acts 23; 24; 25; 26: The four trials of Paul (Sanhedrin; Felix; Festus; Agrippa).

Thrice Declared Innocent by Gentile Authority

Luke 23:4, 14, 22: Pilate declares Jesus innocent three times.

Acts 23:9; 25:25; 26:31 Three times the pagan rulers (the king, the governor and Bernice; Festus; and Agrippa) declare Paul innocent.

Before Herod

Luke 23:6-12: Pilate sends Jesus to Herod for questioning.

Acts 25:13-26:32: Herod hears Paul with permission of Festus.

Rulers set to Release

Luke 23:16, 22: Pilate says he will release Jesus.

Acts 26:32: Agrippa says: "This man could have been set free"

To be continued. . .

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Acts of the Apostles: Jesus' Life and the Life of the Church (Part 2)

Note: Be sure to read the first post in this series (go here).

Sounding Familiar
In his important book, Talbert carefully analyzes Luke-Acts and detects a carefully planned out structure between the two books. Essentially, for the one who knows the Gospel of Luke, Acts is a sort of déjà vu experience. The narrative in Acts virtually replicates what is found in Luke. In sum, the life of the Church in Acts mirrors―in often striking ways!―the public life of Christ in Luke. Consider the following.

1. Baptism and the coming of the Spirit

In Luke, Jesus is baptized in the Jordan and, after he prayed, the Holy Spirit comes down upon him in visible form, the form of a dove (Luke 3:22). In Acts, Jesus’ promise that the disciples will be “baptized with the Holy Spirit” (cf. Acts 1:5) is fulfilled as, after having been gathered in prayer (Acts 1:14), the Spirit comes upon them at Pentecost, appearing over them in visible form, i.e., tongues of fire (Acts 2:1–4).

2. Ministry commences with a speech
In Luke, Jesus’ public ministry commences at Nazareth with Jesus speaking in a synagogue (Luke 4:14–21). The message is clear: he is bringing fulfillment to Isaiah’s prophecy. The people speak well of him and wonder at his words (Luke 4:22). There however he is ultimately rejected yet Jesus is delivered from the hands of those who want to kill him (Luke 4:28–30).

In Acts, the Church’s ministry commences on Pentecost as Peter speaks in the temple (Acts 2:14–36). The message is clear: Jesus, the Messiah, came, yet despite being rejected, he has been exalted by God. Many accept Peter’s message (Acts 2:37), though, as the narrative unfolds we read that Jewish leaders reject the apostles and seek to destroy them. They are, however, miraculously delivered (cf. Acts 12:6–11).

3. Healing
In Luke, Jesus’ ministry begins with a series of miraculous events, e.g., the healing of a man who is unable to walk and who must be brought to Jesus carried on his mat (cf. Luke 5:17–26). In Acts, the apostles’ ministry begins with miraculous signs. Peter, in fact, heals a lame man (cf. Acts 3:1–10).

4. Conflict with Jewish leaders
In Luke, as Jesus’ public ministry continues, he runs into conflict with the Jewish leaders (cf. e.g., Luke 5:29–6:11). In Acts, as the apostles’ ministry is opposed by the same Jerusalem establishment (cf. Acts 4:1–8:3).

5. Appointing leaders
In Luke, Jesus goes on to appoint twelve apostles (Luke 6:12–16) and then, later, seventy-two disciples (Luke 10:1). In Acts the apostles appoint, not only a successor for Judas (cf. Acts 1) but also seven deacons (Acts 6:1–6).

5. Jesus and St. Stephen
One of the most striking similarities between the narrative of Luke and the story of Acts is found in the account of what happens to one of the seven deacons appointed by the apostles, St. Stephen. Just as in the end Jesus had been arrested, made to stand trial, is questioned by the high priest, accused by false witnesses who charged he stated he would destroy the temple, and executed, so too is Stephen. Stephen is arrested, made to stand before the council, accused by false witnesses of claiming Jesus would destroy the temple, questioned by the high priest, and executed.

The climactic moment of Jesus’ trial comes as Jesus tells the high priest he will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven and reveals his identity as the Son of God (Luke 22:69–70). After this he is condemned to death (Luke 22:71). Likewise, Stephen’s trial climaxes with his statement: “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:56). After this, he is killed.

Of course, Stephen is even described like Jesus in death. Just before dying Jesus prays, “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit!” (Luke 23:46). Stephen likewise prays, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” (Acts 7:59). Moreover, when Jesus is crucified he prays, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Similarly, Stephen prays for his accusers: “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:60). In fact, here I have to mention St. Augustine’s line: “Had Stephen not prayed, the Church today would have no Paul”.

6. Peter’s deliverance

The story of Peter’s deliverance from prison in Acts 12 also seems to parallel the story of Jesus in a certain way. Jesus was delivered from death. In Luke, it is women who are the first witnesses to the resurrection. Instructed by angels, they go and tell the disciples that Jesus has been raised from the dead (Luke 24:1–10). However, the disciples do not believe them (Luke 24:11). In Acts, Peter is delivered from prison, having been arrested after the martyrdom of James. It seems clear that he about to be executed (cf. Acts 12:1–2). Peter is then delivered by an angel―in a certain sense, he is delivered from death too. The first witness to his deliverance is a woman. She goes and tells the disciples that she has seen him but they do not believer her (cf. Acts 12:15).

[Continue to Part 3]

Pope Benedict On Why St. Paul Seems Harsh

Here's a fantastic excerpt from Pope Benedict's address today:
Maybe some of you will say to me, Saint Paul is often severe in his writings. How can I say that he was spreading a message of love? My answer is this. God loves every one of us with a depth and intensity that we can hardly begin to imagine. And he knows us intimately, he knows all our strengths and all our faults. Because he loves us so much, he wants to purify us of our faults and build up our virtues so that we can have life in abundance. When he challenges us because something in our lives is displeasing to him, he is not rejecting us, but he is asking us to change and become more perfect. That is what he asked of Saint Paul on the road to Damascus. God rejects no one. And the Church rejects no one. Yet in his great love, God challenges all of us to change and to become more perfect.

--Meeting with Young People on the Waterfront in Malta (April 18, 2010)
In other words, as Scott Hahn has put it: "God loves us as we are--but he loves us too much to let us stay that way!"


Saturday, April 17, 2010

My Two Sons: Two Great Videos

Michael is a year and a half now. Here he is, fascinated by the video camera. He is really smart. His vocabulary is growing by leaps and bounds. He is working on reading and learning his alphabet; he gets to "H" with ease--after that his success varies. In this video my wife has just said to him, "Hello, Sweetie" and he immediately repeats it. His favorite song is "Amazing Grace". Here's a glance. . .

Matthew is 6 months now. He is getting cuter by the day. He has the kindest disposition. He is always good for a smile and he loves to laugh. He loves other people and is always eager to play games. He can entertain himself for long periods of time just smiling and laughing away at something. Again, here's a great look. The video ends with Michael asking for "Help, please."

Friday, April 16, 2010

Jesus in England? Scholarship Fail!

Jim West has a post up on this--but I had to cover this here. I just read this aloud to my wife and couldn't finish reading it because I was laughing too hard.

Okay. . . here's the story.
"A recent book and a new documentary film suggest the story [of Jesus' visit to Britain] is both possible and plaus­ible. . ."
Um. . . not really. Trust me, it's not.
"and they provide an explanation as to why the young Jesus might have made the 6,000-mile round trip from his homeland to the edge of the known world."
In other words: "A scholar who has convinced themselves that Jesus must have been to England is now trying to come up with a reason why he must have gone there--because it will sell books and get in the headlines."

Why might Jesus have gone to Britain?

I'm at the edge of my seat. Aren't you? What is this great insight that explains why Jesus must have been to England?

And who is exactly is the scholar who has made this remarkable discovery?
One scholar [there aren't too many others!] who has taken a fresh look at the stories and concluded that they are not as fanciful as might at first appear is Dr Gordon Strachan, a Church of Scotland minister who for many years lectured in the Department of Architecture at Edinburgh University.
What?! Hold on!

Did you catch? This is a minister whose qualifications are listed as a lecturer in the "Department of Architecture"! Architecture?! Yeah. . .
"His book, and the subsequent film based on it, draw on the latest archæological evidence from the Holy Land and take an innovative look at the early history of the Christian church, reaching a challeng­ing conclusion."
Okay. . . are you ready? Here it comes. And the answer as to why Jesus went half-way around the world to go to England is. . .
"That purpose was to study with the Druids."
And there you have it.

I suppose that teaching about the "stone rejected by the builders" refers to Jesus' efforts in building Stonehenge.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Happy Birthday, Pope Benedict!

Today Pope Benedict XVI turns 83. Happy Birthday, Holy Father.

I mean, seriously, he's my hero. I was reading and following him long before he became pope--and now I think even more highly of him than ever before. For those interested, Scott Hahn's new book, Covenant and Communion (Brazos, 2009) is the finest overview of his thought.

In honor of his birthday, please read this fine article from a paper in the UK defending him against all of the outrageous and misinformed charges about his supposed mishandling of child abuse cases. Again, child rape is beyond horrible--anyone guilty of such a crime or of covering it up should be swiftly and harshly dealt with. But the more you look at it, the more it becomes clear that the charges against the Holy Father are completely off-base.

In fact, the irony here is that, truthfully, no cardinal has done more to address the scandals than Cardinal Ratzinger. This article sums it all up very well!

Happy Birthday, Papa! I know I speak for all of us here at, when I say: we love you!

Acts of the Apostles: Insights and Implications of Talbert's Work (Part 1)

One of the most important monographs I have read on Luke-Acts is Charles Talbert's, Literary Patterns, Theological Themes (1974).[1] Here I’d like to share some insights drawn from Talbert’s work. I’d like to go on and then talk about the implications of his analysis for other issues, such as dating the book and our understanding of the apostles’ ministry.

Of course, liturgically, this is the right time of the year to be looking at Acts. During the Easter season the lectionary readings are drawn from this important, though often neglected, book.

This is going to be a multi-part series so: stay tuned! Frankly, I’m also hoping that by stretching it out a bit over a series of posts this might give time for others to spread the word about this series.

So, please, help me get the word out. Thanks!

Luke-Acts as a Unity

First, let me give some backdrop. As most people know, the author of the Gospel of Luke is the only New Testament writer who wrote a sequel to his Gospel.[2] Acts is written as a follow-up to the Gospel of Luke. The book relates the history[3] of the early Church beginning with Jesus’ ascension and ending with Paul’s preaching in Rome.

The important unity of the works is clear from simply reading the introductions to the two books:
Luke 1:1–4: Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things which have been accomplished among us, 2 just as they were delivered to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word, 3 it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent The-ophilus, 4 that you may know the truth concerning the things of which you have been informed.

Acts 1:1–3: In the first book, O The-ophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2 until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commandment through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 To them he presented himself alive after his passion by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days, and speaking of the kingdom of God.
The similarities in the introductions are significant, e.g., both books are written to "Theophilus," and play into the larger similarities between the two books I will discuss further down the road.
Here though let us notice a key element in the introduction to Act. Acts 1 explains the purpose of Luke as relaying “all that Jesus began to do and teach”. Richard Burridge puts it well: “. . . the description of the first book as ἤρξατο ὁ Ἰησοῦς, what ‘Jesus began to do and teach,’ suggests that Luke’s second volume recounts what ‘Jesus goes on to do and teach’ in the continuation of the same story.”[4] As we shall see, Acts, in a certain sense, shows us how Jesus continues his ministry in the life of the Church.

Why Do you Persecute Me?
The close relationship between Jesus and the Church is highlighted in the story of Paul’s conversion. Saul/Paul, on his way to Damascus sees a great light and is knocked to the ground on the road. He hears a voice speaking to him: “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” 5 And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. . .” (Acts 9:4-5).

Note here Jesus’ exact words: “Why do you persecute me?” Saul could have easily answered, “I’m not persecuting you―I am going after your disciples.” However, it seems Jesus’ words illustrate precisely the critical point which is emphasized over and over again in the book of Acts: Jesus is to be identified with his Church. I think Paul reflected on the significance of these words his entire life. The ecclesiology of the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ seems to flow from reflection on this thought. As Paul says elsewhere, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2:20).

Thus, as Christ lived in his earthly body, he now lives in the Church. What he did in his earthly body he now does in his Mystical Body. This thought is fleshed out throughout the book of Acts as Talbert especially underscores. Let me explain. . .

[Continue to Part 2].

[1] Missoula: Society of Biblical Literature and Scholars Press, 1974.
[2] Some have tried to make a case that Luke should not be considered the author of the two works (cf. A.W. Argyle, “The Greek of Luke and Acts,” NTS 20 (1973–74): 441–45; J. Wenham, “The Identification of Luke,” EvQ 63 (1991): 3–44. I have discussed Martin Hengel’s work elsewhere regarding the authenticity of the superscriptions of the Gospel (see "Naming Names" near the bottom of this post). I am not going to rehash all that here. In sum, I see no reason to deny the unanimous testimony of the early church regarding Luke’s authorship of either the third Gospel or the book of Acts. In fact, truth be told, I think arguments against Lukan authorship fail on a number of grounds. Thus here I side with the vast majority of scholars who think Luke indeed is the author of both books. See the important convincing recent discussion in Darrell Bock, Acts (BECNT; Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007). I largely agree with Bock’s conclusion: “In sum, the external evidence strongly favors Luke as the writer of Acts. That no other Pauline companion was ever put forward as the author of this work when many such candidates existed is key evidence. It is true that the internal considerations and theological emphases raise questions about whether Luke is the author; but not to a degree that cancels out the likelihood that he was the author and that the tradition has the identification correct.” I might add here that the given the strong evidence favoring the authenticity of the superscription of Luke’s Gospel, the “internal” evidence is far less ambiguous than even Bock suggests here. Other scholars who favor Lukan authorship include, e.g., Martin Hengel, Between Jesus and Paul: Studies in the Earliest History of Christianity (London: SCM, 1983), 97–128; F. F. Bruce, The Book of Acts (rev. ed.; NICNT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988), 7. See also the fuller bibliography in A. Wikenhauser and J. Scmid, Einleitung in das Neue Testament (6th ed.; Freiburg im B.: 1973).
[3] Here I will not give a long discussion on the genre of Acts. I side with those who have argued―I think rather definitively―that the work should be classified in the genre of Greco-Roman history, though it certainly has certain overlaps with other kinds of writing. Again, the most recent discussion offered by Bock (Acts, 1–3) should be consulted by those interested in learning more.
[4] Richard Burridge, Imitating Jesus: An Inclusive Approach to New Testament Ethics (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007), 228.

Flew's Last and Best Book

I forgot to recommend Flew's last book, in which he details his reversal of opinion:
"There is a God: How the World's Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind," by Antony Flew and Roy Varghese (HarperOne: 2008).

I read it last year, and in my opinion, it's one of the great books of our generation, a must-read for those interested in Western intellectual history.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Antony Flew, Unatheist, Dies at 87

Antony Flew, world's most famous ex-atheist, has passed away at age 87.

Not everyone may remember Flew or his significance. I do, because Flew was the "Richard Dawkins" of my childhood. Actually, Flew was never "Richard Dawkins," because he was never as crass and philosophically illiterate as Dawkins; but when I was younger, Flew was the key voice for atheism in the English-speaking world, as Dawkins appears to be now.

When I was in fourth grade I read a book entitled "Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?", a debate between Flew and Christian apologist Gary Habermas. The general consensus was that Habermas won the debate; I certainly thought so, after reading the book. It was a key point in my own intellectual development, because it convinced me that one could make solid rational arguments for the veracity of Christian faith.

I was completely taken aback just two years ago when the news broke that Flew had changed his mind. After dialoguing with a Catholic proponent of intelligent design theory for years, Flew finally came to concede that the marvelously complex features of the universe--like the fine tuning of cosmological constants and the information content of DNA--were inexplicable without positing a Mind behind them. Therefore, Flew became a Deist. He never--so far as I know--became a Christian, although he counted Christians among his friends.

So long, Professor Flew. You were a model of the intellectually honest gentleman scholar. You always treated your opponents with respect, and tried to follow truth wherever it lead you, even when that was someplace you didn't want to go.

May you find that the God you knew as your Designer is also your Father. I pray you have discovered it to be so.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Death of Historical Jesus or the Eclipsing of Form-Critical Views?

McKnight vs. Keener

A bit of a debate is ranging on the pages of Christianity Today about the significance of doing historical Jesus research.

It all started with a piece from Scot McKnight, who, echoing statements he has made elsewhere, declared that historical Jesus research is "dead." I've been wanting to interact with this piece since it can out three days ago. Unfortunately, I've been just a little swamped.

Suffice it to say, with great respect to McKnight's scholarship, I think he is wrong on this one.

Now, Craig Keener--whose outstanding recent book on the historical Jesus should be must-reading for all interested in the field--has responded. Check out the exchange.

I heartily agree with Jim West's assessment of the debate: in this bout it's Keener by a "TKO."

The Eclipsing of Form-Critical Assumptions

In fact, I think McKnight is correct about the fact that a major paradigm shift is occurring in scholarship. However, I do not think he has correctly identified the precise movement taking place. In short, what I think we are witnessing is not the death of historical Jesus research but the death of historical Jesus research reliant on the older form-critical model. A certain approach to historical Jesus scholarship has been dependent on certain assumptions made by older form-critics. These assumptions--e.g., the anonymous nature of the transmission of the Jesus tradition; the view that in the oral transmission stage the community exercised a highly creative tendency--are finally being questioned. I've touched on such issues in the past on this blog.

In my view, approaches to the historical Jesus based on these views has run its course and is passing away. The reason the historical Jesus section at SBL wanes is because the excitement of the subject in the 90s was largely due to the controversy launched by the Jesus Seminar and the response of people by people like N.T. Wright. The argument of the Jesus Seminar that the Gospels were actually in large part wrong about who Jesus was made headlines. Yet such approaches are no longer news-worthy.

In fact, I think Keener, whose work more carefully integrates more recent work on the genre of the Gospels and other recent issues in Gospel studies, has much more to offer. It may not make headlines to say, "The Gospels' portrait of Jesus is more historically plausible than reconstructions offered by scholars." But that's the truth.

But I digress. . .

Friday, April 09, 2010

Newsweek: Priests Unfairly Targeted as Abusers

Finally, some sanity! PLEASE, SPREAD THIS AROUND! I'm going to embolden key elements in the story and add some comments in red ink. Tip of the hat to

Mean Men: The priesthood is being cast as the refuge of pederasts. In fact, priests seem to abuse children at the same rate as everyone else.

The Catholic sex-abuse stories emerging every day suggest that Catholics have a much bigger problem with child molestation than other denominations and the general population. Many point to peculiarities of the Catholic Church (its celibacy rules for priests, its insular hierarchy, its exclusion of women) to infer that there's something particularly pernicious about Catholic clerics that predisposes them to these horrific acts. [You see, it all comes back to those peculiar Catholic customs. Forget Saint Paul and 1 Corinthians 7.] It's no wonder that, back in 2002—when the last Catholic sex-abuse scandal was making headlines—a Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll found that 64 percent of those queried thought Catholic priests "frequently'' abused children. [And so the vast majority of clergy, innocent priests--extremely good men who have sacrificed everything including having a family of their own in order to serve God by serving others--are victims of libel, and slander. They are mocked and derided. Even worse, any claim ever made against a priest--regardless of the merits--is assumed to be true.]

Yet experts say there's simply no data to support the claim at all. [Finally, a major news outlet is pointing this out! Deo gratias!] No formal comparative study has ever broken down child sexual abuse by denomination, and only the Catholic Church has released detailed data about its own. [That's right--the Catholic Church is the only religious institution that actually is attempting to be transparent!] But based on the surveys and studies conducted by different denominations over the past 30 years, experts who study child abuse say they see little reason to conclude that sexual abuse is mostly a Catholic issue. "We don't see the Catholic Church as a hotbed of this or a place that has a bigger problem than anyone else," said Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. "I can tell you without hesitation that we have seen cases in many religious settings, from traveling evangelists to mainstream ministers to rabbis and others."

Since the mid-1980s, insurance companies have offered sexual misconduct coverage as a rider on liability insurance, and their own studies indicate that Catholic churches are not higher risk than other congregations. [None of this is new information for must of us in the know. How has it taken so long for this to appear in the mainstream press?!] Insurance companies that cover all denominations, such as Guide One Center for Risk Management, which has more than 40,000 church clients, does not charge Catholic churches higher premiums. "We don't see vast difference in the incidence rate between one denomination and another," says Sarah Buckley, assistant vice president of corporate communications. "It's pretty even across the denominations." It's been that way for decades. While the company saw an uptick in these claims by all types of churches around the time of the 2002 U.S. Catholic sex-abuse scandal, Eric Spacick, Guide One's senior church-risk manager, says "it's been pretty steady since." On average, the company says 80 percent of the sexual misconduct claims they get from all denominations involve sexual abuse of children. As a result, the more children's programs a church has, the more expensive its insurance, officials at Guide One said.

The only hard data that has been made public by any denomination comes from John Jay College's study of Catholic priests, which was authorized and is being paid for by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops following the public outcry over the 2002 scandals. Limiting their study to plausible accusations made between 1950 and 1992, John Jay researchers reported that about 4 percent of the 110,000 priests active during those years had been accused of sexual misconduct involving children. Specifically, 4,392 complaints (ranging from "sexual talk" to rape) were made against priests by 10,667 victims. (Reports made after 2002, including those of incidents that occurred years earlier, are released as part of the church's annual audits.)

Experts disagree on the rate of sexual abuse among the general American male population, but Allen says a conservative estimate is one in 10. Margaret Leland Smith, a researcher at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, says her review of the numbers indicates it's closer to one in 5. But in either case, the rate of abuse by Catholic priests is not higher than these national estimates. The public also doesn't realize how "profoundly prevalent" child sexual abuse is, adds Smith. Even those numbers may be low; research suggests that only a third of abuse cases are ever reported (making it the most underreported crime). "However you slice it, it's a very common experience," Smith says.

Most child abusers have one thing in common, and it's not piety—it's preexisting relationships with their victims. That includes priests and ministers and rabbis, of course, but also family members, friends, neighbors, teachers, coaches, scout leaders, youth-group volunteers, and doctors. According to federal studies, three quarters of abuse occurs at the hands of family members or others in the victim's "circle of trust." "The fundamental premise here is that those who abuse children overwhelmingly seek out situations where they have easy and legitimate access to children," he said. "These kinds of positions offer a kind of cover for these offenders."

Priests may also appear more likely to molest children because cases of abuse come to light in huge waves. One reason is delayed reporting: less than 13 percent of victims abused between 1960 and 1980, for example, lodged a complaint in the same year as the assault. Two thirds filed their complaints after 1992, and half of those were made between 2002 and 2003 alone. "Offenders tend to be manipulative, often persuading children to believe that this is their fault," said Allen. "As a result, the children tend to keep it to themselves. There are countless victims who thought they were the only one." So what looks like high concentrations of abuse may simply reflect long and diffuse patterns of abuse that mirror those among all males.

Another reason is that the church has historically been bad at punishing (or preventing) molesters, so that many cases might come to light when just one priest is finally exposed. [Of course, this has dramatically changed so that with simply an allegation against him a priest, even without any evidence, is almost always immediately restricted.] A single predator priest with ongoing access to children might be responsible for an immense raft of abuse cases. (Marie Fortune of the Faith Trust Institute, which focuses on clerical-abuse issues, says Roman Catholics tend "to have many more schools and other programs that involve children." "Plenty of other congregations have these problems, for instance, if they have a youth ministry.") That helps explain the 200 children who were abused at a school for the deaf. It didn't happen because the school was full of rapists; it happened because one man was never stopped. Overall, the John Jay study found that 149 priests were responsible for more than 25,000 cases of abuse over the 52-year period studied.

Allen suggests a final reason we hear so much more about Catholic abuse than transgressions in other religions: its sheer size. It's the second largest single denomination in the world (behind Islam) and the biggest in the United States. (Fifty-one percent of all American adults are Protestant, but they belong to hundreds of different denominations.) "When you consider the per capita data," says Allen, "I don't think they have a larger incidence than other faiths." [Let's be clear: this isn't just his opinion--this is based on the best evidence available.]

© 2010


Now, will someone compare the rates of clergy abuse with public school teachers please? Anybody?

More Bogus Charges Against Archbishop Gomez

Yep. . . here they come.

Three days after Archbishop Gomez was named the head of the largest, arguably most influential archdiocese in the largest state of the most powerful nation in the world he's been accused of trying to cover up a sex scandal. He has been named as a defendant in a civil lawsuit that was just filed in court.

Coincidence? Yeah. . . I'm sure the timing is totally unrelated.


Obviously, if abuse happened outrage and feelings of betrayal are completely justified. But did Archbishop Gomez himself break the trust of his people? Are the claims that he covered-up something here justified? Again, no.

Making Responsible Accusations

Here once again we have a sweeping conspiracy theory: the Archbishop was involved in a cover-up. The problem here is the problem with most conspiracy theories: the details get in the way.

As I said, let's make sure the guilty are punished--and only the guilty. Let's make sure the right people are implicated--not simply the ones who will get the lawsuit the most press.

So here let's distinguish between two issues:

1) the actual criminal behavior, i.e., the abuse

2) the Archbishop's handling of the case

Clearly, the criminal behavior is sick, horrifying and reprehensible. The victims deserve justice. But, as tragic as it is, it doesn't seem that the Archbishop himself acted irresponsibly. He deserves to be treated justly too.

Details, details, details. . .

In this case, all one has to do is read the article itself. Despite the cloud of suspicion it suggests the Archbishop is under, there are a few crucial points that must be observed. Reading the details I can guarantee you that in the end, whatever is determined about the priest in question, the Archbishop himself will be shown to have acted--once again!--completely responsibly. Look more carefully at the story.

1) As in the other cases mentioned above, this is not a diocesan priest but, once again, a member of a religious community. Recall what I explained in my earlier post: bishops run dioceses not religious orders. Members of religious communities are not simply under the jurisdiction of the bishop, they report to a superior (e.g., "the Superior General," "Mother Superior," etc.) and it is the superior who is responsible for the community's members. Certainly, the bishop has certain authority in his position--as we shall see, Archbishop Gomez did all he could in his capacity as the head of the diocese and properly responded when allegations were made.

2) While Archbishop Gomez was in San Antonio the man in question was under investigation but no charges had been filed against him. The accusations were being investigated by authorities, but so far the priest has not been arrested or in any sense--by any standard of evidence--found guilty of a crime.

3) Even though no formal charges have been filed and there is no proof of his guilt the priest was removed from ministry once the charges were made known. Archbishop Gomez took the only action he could take against him as bishop of the diocese back in 2008: he saw to it that the priest in question was removed from ministry. He also reported the charges to the places where he had worked and informed his religious community. Again, all this on the basis of allegations whose veracity had not yet been confirmed by a investigation! Only now, 2 years later, are charges finally being presented before of a grand jury.

4) The police have nothing but nice things to say about Archbishop Gomez and his diocese. This is clear in the story:
[The County Sheriff Donald] Letsinger said he was contacted in 2008 by a family member of the teen with an initial claim of interference with child custody, but that it grew into an investigation of sexual abuse.

He also said the archdiocese has “been more than helpful” in cooperating with his requests.

Note that: "more than helpful". Not, "difficult". Not even simply "helpful". Does this sound like a cover-up?

5) The charges originally had nothing to do with child abuse. This all started out in relation to a custody battle. The charges of child abuse against the priest only evolved out of that. Clearly, this raises suspicion about the veracity of the charges. That doesn't mean the charges are not true. It just means that the situation of the victim is very complicated. Under such circumstances one can understand why the investigation has taken so long.

6) The Archbishop has been named in a civil lawsuit and not in a case presented by the state. Again, the police don't seem to have any complaints about the way the Archdiocese have cooperated. So why is the Archbishop included in the suit just filed? Just filed right after his appointment to the largest see in the U.S.? Hmmmm . . .

So, once again, I'd say, despite the effectively provocative soundbite ("New Suit: Archbishop Accused of Mishandling Sex Abuse Case"), the actual details vindicate the Archbishop. There it is--those persistent little details that ruin the conspiracy theory.

But seriously, let's not slime a good man with accusations of a cover-up when, again, the evidence in no way supports such a charge. Remember: anybody can file a lawsuit. Let's see how well its charges against the Archbishop hold up. I wonder if we'll ever even hear. I doubt it.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

In Defense of Archbishop Gomez's Handling of Abuse Scandals

SNAP, a group representing victims of child abuse by clergy, is making some pretty serious charges about Archbishop Gomez. I was only just informed of these allegations by the kind people at the radio show I was on this afternoon, "Which Way, LA?" The producer let me know about the accusations a few hours before I came on to do an interview about the appointment of Archbishop Gomez. The accusations were new to me. I've been doing some investigating since learning of them.

Let me report what I have found.

Suffice it to say, a close examination of the evidence (as opposed to rumor) reveals that the charges are really baseless. In fact, the more I've read about the cases in question the more impressed I am by the way Archbishop Gomez has handled these situations. As I'll explain, in one case cited by SNAP the victim herself has told the press that while the religious order involved appeared to drag their feet in answering her charges, it was the Archdiocese of San Antonio that helped expedite the investigation of her case. I wish I had known all of what I know now before I was interviewed.

I should add that I'm rushing to get this up. I've got classes to prepare for tomorrow and I number of other things on my plate. I apologize in advance for any embarrassing typos.

Before I move on, I must make a major tip of the hat to the blogger, "James H" who writes the blog The Opinionated Catholic. James wrote an extremely helpful post detailing all of what has transpired. I am drawing largely from him, and I'll quote some of his commentary below.

The guilty must be punished

Before I move on, let me just say that I am absolutely NO apologist for child-abusing priests are church officials who cover-up such crimes. Such evil deserves must be dealt with and the guilty must pay for their crimes.

Let me be clear: I have no interest in protecting criminals. I have no interest in hedging, spinning or massaging messages. As Jesus said, "Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me; 6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea" (Matt 18:5-6).

The need to be thoughtful . . .

Having said that, we need to be thoughtful and balanced here. Just because some priests and bishops have acted inappropriately does NOT mean that all have! Most priests are good men who have dedicated their whole lives, sacrificing a great deal, including having families of their own, to serve others. We cannot simply jump to conclusions. In fact, sociologists are urging greater caution here, identifying an increasing tendency to "moral panic". See, e.g., this piece by the Italian sociologist Massimo Introvigne. Suffice it to say, each case needs to be judged on the merits--we can't simply implicate all priests and bishops in the scandal.

Of course, given the cover-ups committed in some places and the betrayal of trust we have seen in the past, I can completely understand why some victims may be distrustful. But, I think, again, we've got to try to be fair.

The charges against Archbishop Gomez

To avoid the impression that I am somehow creating a "straw man" argument I am going to post SNAP's press-release in full, as it was passed on to me by the producer of the show I mentioned above. It has since appeared elsewhere.

New Archbishop

Statement by Barbara Garcia Boehland of SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests 210-621-2177; Cell: 210-725-8329

With Gomez, the Pope is promoting a bishop with a troubling record of recent secrecy and risk regarding child safety. If the Pope is trying to convince us he’s “tough” on abuse, he’s shooting himself in the foot by elevating Gomez.

Just last year, Gomez kept silent about two clerics whose religious supervisors deemed ‘credibly accused’ of sexually abusing teenagers. One of those clerics now apparently works in Rome.

One is Brother Richard Suttle of the Claretian Missionaries, who Gomez is letting live and study in San Antonio. “He sexually abused a teen in the early 1980s in Arizona, according to a public notice from the Phoenix diocese,” wrote the Express-News last year.

The other, Father Charles H. Miller of the Society of Mary “worked at St. Mary's University for more than two decades and was let go in 2007 after his religious order found a claim that he sexually abused a teen in 1980 to be credible. Last year (2008) he was moved to Rome,” the Express News wrote in 2009. Evidently Miller still works for the Marianists there.

In both cases, Gomez let religious orders quietly transfer credibly accused clerics into the San Antonio diocese in recent years. Neither Gomez nor the religious orders apparently warned parishioners or the public.

Then there’s Fr. Larry Hernandez. His religious order suspended his faculties in early 2008 because of credible abuse allegations. Gomez kept it quiet until March 2009.

Furthermore, Gomez hails from the Denver archdiocese which has and continues to distinguish itself by its particularly harsh legal maneuvers against clergy sex abuse victims.

We're very saddened and disappointed by this choice.

Statement by David Clohessy of SNAP (314 566 9790,

There are plenty of US bishops who have acted recklessly and secretively in one or two cases during 2009. Unfortunately, the Pope is promoting one who has acted recklessly and secretively in three such cases during the last year.

(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 22 years and have more than 9,000 members across the country. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is

Contact David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, 314-645-5915 home), Joelle Casteix (949-322-7434), Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747), Peter Isely (414-429-7259), Barbara Dorris (314-862-7688 home, 314-503-0003 cell)

Taking the cases, one at a time

There is a lot here and it deserves a careful treatment. I'm going to take each one at a time.

However, before we move on there is one detail that must be underscored--all of the priests in question are members of religious communities, they are not diocesan priests. Remember that a bishop is the head of a diocese (e.g., the archdiocese of Los Angeles), they do not run religious communities. Members of religious communities report to their "superiors" ("Superior General," "Mother Superior", etc.), who are responsible for those under them. Bishops cannot snap their fingers and make religious communities do whatever they will. Their jurisdiction is over their diocese, and over diocesan priests.

The media might like to make it seem like bishops are "kings" with absolute power--in fact, they are not!

Of course, the response to all of this is: "Well, the Archbishop must at least make such cases public knowledge and work to ensure the safety of his flock." As we'll see, the charge that Archbishop Gomez has kept this information secret is flatly false.

1. Brother Richard Suttle

The story of Brother Suttle begins not in San Antonio but in Phoenix. Here's the report from the Phoenix diocese, which posted this notice on its official website back in 2008. I'll let the brief fill you in on the details. I'll italicize a few points that are especially important to underscore and make some comment in red ink along the way.

The Claretian Missionaries of the U.S. Western Province have notified the Diocese of Phoenix that their review board has found a report of sexual abuse of a minor to be credible against Br. Richard Suttle, a religious brother of the Claretian Order. Credibility does not imply either guilt or innocence but rather that the allegations made in the report are possible. [Notice the investigation was done by the religious community. This is not a matter of a cover-up--they wanted to get to the truth. This was not somehow mandated by legal officials.]

In that report, Br. Richard Suttle, CMF, is accused of engaging in sexual abuse of a minor during the 1982-83 school year while at Sacred Heart School in Prescott, AZ, where Br. Suttle was a teacher and a coach. After becoming aware of the report during the fall of 2008, the Diocese of Phoenix promptly conducted a thorough investigation into the charges and forwarded its findings to the Claretian Missionaries for their review and disposition. [Note the swift action and thorough action taken by the Diocese of Phoenix, which was clearly done in an objective matter--there is no cover-up here.]

To date, the report of the 1982-83 abuse at Sacred Heart is the only report of sexual abuse of a minor against Br. Suttle that is known to the Diocese of Phoenix. Likewise, the Claretian Missionaries have confirmed that they are not aware of any other allegations of sexual abuse of a minor against Br. Suttle. [In other words, while the charge is "credible" it has not been definitely proven. The fact that there has only been one report is significant here--there is no evidence of a pattern of misconduct.]

The Claretian Missionaries have officially informed the Diocese of Phoenix that Br. Suttle no longer resides in Arizona and will not be assigned to the Diocese at any time in the future. The religious order has removed him from any ministry involving minors and has placed him on a plan that restricts and monitors his movements.[Again, it is the religious community who assigns their members, not the bishop.]

The Diocese of Phoenix has confirmed that Br. Suttle was also employed at Bourgade Catholic High School in Phoenix from 1988 to 1998, where he was a teacher and coach, and that he served as principal of Sacred Heart School in Prescott between 2006 and 2008.

The Diocese urges anyone who may know of any sexual abuse or other improprieties by Br. Suttle or who may have any other such information about him to contact the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office at 602-506-3411, the Yavapai County Attorney’s Office at 928-771-3485, or the Claretian Missionaries at 626-289-2009. [Does this sound like a cover-up?]

As always, Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted and the Diocese of Phoenix encourage anyone who has experienced sexual misconduct or abuse by a member of the clergy or by any worker of the Church to make a report to local law enforcement and to contact Jean Sokol at the Office of Child and Youth Protection at 602-354-2396.

Okay, so we've covered what transpired in Phoenix. Now the story picks up in San Antonio, Archbishop Gomez's diocese. What happened next is this: Brother Suttle moved to San Antonio three months before the accusations were leveled. He was not transfered in order to get him out of dodge.

His move to San Antonio made big headlines there. Let's pick up the story as it was covered in the local press. Again, for the sake of clarity I'm including the entire article, lest anyone think I am simply "cherry-picking". Again, I'm italicizing important lines and adding some notes here.

Brother Richard Suttle, a member of a California-based religious order who is accused of child molestation, has moved to San Antonio [note: he was not invited by the diocese; as a religious he reports to his superiors who decides where he is sent], igniting a campaign by a victims' advocacy group demanding he be stripped of his religious credentials and forced to leave.

The local director of SNAP, or Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, and her husband protested Suttle's relocation Thursday in front of the Archdiocese of San Antonio's headquarters.

Suttle, a member of the Claretian Missionaries of the U.S. Western Province, denies the allegation of abuse, and his order says he came here in July from Arizona to study for a doctorate. He lives at a residency along with five other Claretians on the campus of Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church, 617 S. Santa Rosa St., downtown. [Is this a secret? No. It's in the mainstream press!]

The allegation was made public in December when the Diocese of Phoenix issued a statement that a “credible” claim of sex abuse had been made against Suttle. It also said this conclusion didn't mean he was either innocent or guilty, but that the claim was “possible.”

The abuse is alleged to have taken place during the 1982-83 school year at Sacred Heart Parish School in Prescott, Ariz., where Suttle was a teacher, coach and principal.

SNAP Director Barbara Garcia-Boehland said she believes Suttle's emergence here reflects a strategy to conceal the allegation and questions why the archdiocese and the order did not make public his whereabouts sooner. “Obviously, they are not sticking with their own policies and doing background checks,” she said. “We need this guy out of the city. He's a danger.”

The order's provincial superior, Father Richard DeTore, defended Suttle in a phone interview Thursday, citing the public notifications made in Arizona to the police and Catholic communities and the restrictions placed on him while living here. He added that Suttle has not been charged with a civil or criminal offense. [This is entirely reasonable. Note, for that there has been no attempt by the state to prosecute this case. Whether this is because the statute of limitations has run out or not is unclear to me. But realize that this has all transpired as part of the new policies regarding transparency enacted by the religious order itself and diocesan officials.]

DeTore said Suttle came to San Antonio in July exclusively to study for a doctorate — three months before the allegation was made. At that point, DeTore said he put Suttle on a “restrictive safety plan” that keeps him away from children and young people by banning him from all ministry. He is also required to sign in and out of the residence and declare where he's headed and for how long. [This is an extraordinary measure. He has not been convicted a crime--yet he agrees to live, of his free accord--in the religious community and abide by all of these limitations!]

DeTore said there was a brief period when Suttle was helping to distribute Communion as a Eucharistic minister at Immaculate Heart parish, which is run by
the Claretian community. DeTore said that once he learned of the situation, he put a stop to it. [He can't even distribute communion at a Mass in public!] “We are currently putting together an investigation for ourselves and allowing Richard, who claims he is innocent of these charges, to bring forward a defense against these charges,” DeTore said. [C'mon, really. Does this sound like a cover-up to you?]

Deacon Pat Rodgers, archdiocesan spokesman, said the religious order is primarily responsible for handling the matter since Suttle is living with them and he has no ministry assignment for the archdiocese to manage. And so far, Rodgers said, the order's actions have been appropriate. “We have a long history with the Claretians, and there is no reason to think the safety of the parish is threatened,” he said. [It certainly seems clear to me that the diocese has good reason to think that this man is being carefully restricted and watched by his religious community. Of course, and let's underscore this, the bishop runs the diocese and not the religious community to which this priest belongs. Furthermore, the order had already informed the police and the local community of the charges and of his whereabouts. And, again, his guilt has never been proved. The authorities here are simply taking the word of the accuser because his charges were deemed credible.]

Garcia-Boehland of the victim's group demanded that San Antonio Auxiliary Bishop Oscar Cantú meet with her in the archdiocesan lobby since Archbishop José Gomez was out of town. She wanted to hand-deliver a letter of concern. Rodgers assured her he'd give the letter to Cantú, but not before a tense exchange filmed by TV news cameras and watched by a couple of security guards.

Garcia-Boehland eventually left the letter at the front desk after chiding Rodgers and the archdiocese.“What are you waiting for?” she asked Rodgers. “For him to rape children here before doing anything?”

The Opinionated Catholic sums this up pretty well, making some key observations:

We have one allegation that has surfaced coming from 1982. It appears the sstem was working. We have a finding of "credible" which is described as this abuse possibly could have happened which is a much lower standard than Preponderance of Evidence which is used by Grand Juries to file a indictment. [Very important consideration.]

It appears the Order is working to find the truth of the matter.

It also appears that while this investigation is happening the Brother is just living members of his order while he attends school.

He is now it appears on something similar Bail requirement where he has to sign in and out and has restrictions where he can go. NOTE THIS WOULD NOT BE HAPPENING IF HE WAS OUT OF THE CHURCH.

Now this is the touchy issue. We are dealing with a complant that is "Possible" and appears to be under investigation still. What is the standard do we need to apply to "possible". Let us say that you were a LAY Catholic Youth Minister and are accused of something that occurred in 1982.

It is the only complaint and there has been no litigation Civil or Criminal. Lets say you moved to a different State where you attend Mass . Does the Church need to put an ad in the paper and announce to the Diocese and to the local church that have you been accused. If that happened to me I would be contemplating a huge ole lawsuit!! If we were talking School systems instead of Dioceses and Teachers instead of Priests [or] brothers that is exactly what would happen. [A key point!]

In summary, I don't think there is any reason to charge the Archbishop of San Antonio with covering something up. The Order has notified people of this man's presence. They are closely monitoring him. There is yet another internal investigation under way. At the present time, this man is largely living under a kind of self-inflicted house-arrest. The bishop, I think, has good reason to think that the Order has done everything correctly here. In short, there is no evidence of a cover-up or of his "mishandling" of the case.

2. Fr. Charles H. Miller

I'm not going to go into a lot of depth here. Let's just cover a few things.

1) Fr. Miller is also a member of a religious order. He is a Marianist.

2) Yes, he was moved to Rome. However, let's highlight something. In the case of Brother Suttle SNAP complained that he was allowed to live in the diocese of San Antonio. In this instance SNAP complains because he was sent to Rome. So which is it? Do they want the accused priests to remain in San Antonio or be moved? It seems to me, there's a great deal of inconsistency here.

3) Why didn't the story get bigger press? Why was he simply sent to Rome? According to the press, it was the victim herself who asked that the finding not be made public! The priest was moved to Rome to work in the Order's house and to be closely supervised. Here's how it was reported:
The order has kept the matter private, saying the victim wanted it that way. The woman, now 47, said that when the finding wasn't made public, as she requested, she came forward this week out of frustration.

In the letter, the order said it barred Miller, now 75, from public ministry, forced him to resign from St. Mary's and placed him on a “safety plan,” which includes monitoring his whereabouts and keeping him away from children and youths.

He was sent to the order's General Administration building in Rome to live and work, the order's spokeswoman said.

Sex-abuse victims aren't identified by the San Antonio Express-News. The woman has not sought criminal charges or a civil suit because the statute of limitations prevented it, she said. She also said she hasn't requested money from the order.

The woman first contacted the Marianist order in 2005. At the time, Miller was director of the Roamin' Rattlers, organizing overseas trips for former students and university associates.

During his roughly 25 years at St. Mary's, he was a theology professor and dean of the humanities department known for his expertise in the Holy Land.

In May 2007, the Marianists review board backed the woman and offered her therapy.
The article is long so I'm not going to include here it in its entirety.

Here however is the crucial part of the story I want to underscore.

Reviewing old family photos in 2005, she began to unlock her memories, she said.

Increasingly upset and feeling violated, she said she wrote Miller a letter that same year, asking him to acknowledge the abuse. She also wrote the Marianists a letter notifying them what happened, she said.

She said she assumed the letter would trigger a full investigation. Instead, the order didn't consider the letter a formal complaint until she wrote another letter in early 2007 specifically requesting its review board take up the matter.

She also wrote the Archdiocese of San Antonio, which she thinks helped expedite her complaint.

So what made the difference here? The answer: contacting the diocese of San Antonio. Is Archbishop Gomez involved in a cover-up? No. Just the opposite. The ball only started to get rolling after the archdiocese was brought in here. The victim thinks contacting the people working for Gomez helped "expedite" the process. Again, if you're looking for evidence of a Archbishop Gomez cover-up this is also a dead end.

3. Fr. Larry Hernandez

Once again we are here dealing with a member of a religious community, not a diocesan priest.

Did Archbishop Gomez keep this story a secret as SNAP suggests? While other bishops have been guilty of cover-ups, Archbishop Gomez is NOT one of them.

First off, the story about the allegations against Fr. Hernandez first broke back in 2008. The story ran in a Catholic paper in Washington, D.C. You can read the whole sorted account there. I'd just like to note that it underscores that the religious order immediately contacted the police and alerted them of the accusations. In addition, the Archdiocese of Washington D.C. handled the case extremely well. As soon as the allegations were made a letter was read at the parish level, alerting the people in the pews. The archdiocese asked any other possible victims to please come forward to help the investigation and to receive assistance from the archdiocese.

In 2009, after an investigation, the Archdiocese of San Antonio came out publicly and made it clear to the press that they found the accusations "believable". Again, the whole story was covered in the mainstream press. In short, contrary to the claims of SNAP, there was nothing secret about this whole episode. The Archdiocese of San Antonio, of its own initiative, publicized their findings regarding not only Fr. Larry Hernandez, but other priests.


In none of these cases is there evidence at all of a cover-up. On the contrary, the Archdiocese has gone out of its way to publicize such stories. In one instance, the victim credits the Archdiocese of San Antonio with expediting the process of investigation.

In summary, the charges against Archbishop Gomez do not hold up to close scrutiny. In fact, the good archbishop has acted in good faith and demonstrated a real commitment to transparency.

Archbishop Gomez: Everything you need to know

UPDATE (11:42PM): No, Archbishop Gomez, did NOT cover anything up! SNAP is charging that Archbishop Gomez helped cover-up a scandal in San Antonio. Really? The more I read about this, the more clear it becomes that these charges are unfair. I'm posting all of this in a separate place. See the exhaustive discussion here.

I'll be on NPR this afternoon talking about the appointment of Archbishop Gomez between 1:45pm and 2:10pm.

Since I've had multiple threads going on Archbishop Gomez, I'm going to consolidate everything here into one post. Consider this the exhaustive one-stop-shop for everything on the new coadjutor bishop of Los Angeles, the successor to Cardinal Mahony.

Keep coming back because I'll be refreshing the information.


Official press release

TV News Coverage in San Antonio

Los Angeles Times article

Catholic On-line

Whispers in the Loggia

Why Archbishop Gomez is like other Bishops Appointed by Pope Benedict

Archbishop Gomez fits the template of a typical Pope Benedict ecclesial appointment that I mentioned in my previous post in which I speculated about the identity of Cardinal Mahony's successor: he has experience in priestly formation, he has an academic background (a doctoral degree in theology), and he has, at least some, Roman experience (he has worked for the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, a Roman dicastery).

Archbishop Gomez's Background

Helpful sources:
--Archbishop Gomez's page at the Diocese of San Antonio's website.
--Pastoral Letter, You Will Be My Witnesses

Archbishop Gomez was born in Mexico. He is one of five children--the only boy. He earned a degree in business and philosophy in 1975 at the National University in Mexico. He went on to the University of Navarre in Rome and graduated in 1978 with a degree in Theology. That same year he was ordained as a priest in the Prelature of Opus Dei. He eventually earned a doctorate in Theology in Spain at the University of Navarre.

For twelve years (1987-1999) he served as a priest at a parish in San Antonio. During these years Archbishop Gomez emerged as a highly regarded national leader among Hispanic priests in the US. He has served as regional representative, president and executive director of the Association of Hispanic Priests.

After serving as a priest in San Antonio, Archbishop Gomez worked in the Diocese of Denver. He was made an auxiliary bishop of Archbishop Chaput in 2001. There he helped to establish Denver’s Centro San Juan Diego for Family and Pastoral Care, which provides care to immigrants in the community as well as formation for lay leaders. While in Denver he also served as Rector of the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception as well as Moderator of the Curia and Vicar General for the Archdiocese of Denver.

In 2004, the then Bishop Gomez was appointed head of the archdiocese of San Antonio. In fact, his ties to the archdiocese long pre-date his earlier ministry there. His mother was apparently raised there and his maternal grandparents were married in the city.

Awards and Recognition

Archbishop Gomez's work has been widely celebrated and he is recognized as one of the rising stars of the Hispanic hierarchy. In 2003 he was awarded the prestigious "El Buen Pastor" award. In 2005 he appeared on Time Magazine’s list of the 25 most influential Hispanics in the United States. The article about him stated:
. . . Gomez is a natural conciliator admired for uniting rich and poor and Anglo and Hispanic Catholics behind Denver's Centro Juan Diego, a hybrid Latino religious-instruction and social-services center hailed as a national model.
In 2007 he was also featured on CNN’s list of “Notable Hispanics” in a web special celebrating “Hispanic Heritage Month”.

He has also served on the board of directors of the National Catholic Council of Hispanic Ministry as well as on the steering committee for Encuentro 2000, which commemorated the Jubilee Year of 2000. The event took place in Los Angeles and was sponsored by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Concern for Priestly Formation

Archbishop Gomez has also been very much involved in priestly formation and in building community among priests. He has written a book on the spiritual formation of priests, entitled, Men of Brave Heart: The Virtue of Courage in the Priestly Life (Our Sunday Visitor, 2009). He was instrumental in the founding of Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary in Mexico in 2000, a seminary which trains priests who serve in the United States. He has served on the United States Council of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) committees for priestly formation and priestly affairs.

Committees Archbishop Gomez has served on

In fact, Archbishop Gomez serves on a number of distinguished committees. His own site lists the following:

• Chair: Ad Hoc Committee on the Spanish Language Bible for the Church in America (USCCB), 2003 ‐
• Chair: Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church (USCCB), 2008 ‐
• Member: Committee on Doctrine (USCCB), 2003‐
• Member: Committee on Catechesis (USCCB), 2005 ‐
• Member: Subcommittee on Hispanics and the Liturgy (USCCB), 2005 ‐
• Board Member: Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.
• Board Member: Mexican American Cultural Center
• Board Member: ENDOW – Educating on the Nature and Dignity of Women
• Board of Trustees: The Catholic University of America
• Board of Trustees: San Fernando Cathedral Historical Centre Foundation
• Director: The John G. and Marie Stella Kenedy Memorial Foundation
• Episcopal Moderator: National Association of Hispanic Priests
• Episcopal Moderator: National Catholic Network de Pastoral Juvenil Hispana
• Spiritual Advisor: Catholic Life Insurance
• Founding Member: Catholic Association of Latino Leaders (C.A.L.L.)

Concern for Teaching and His Emphasis on the Importance of Scripture

Note that at the top of the list is his role as Chair of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Spanish Language Bible for the Church in America. This is an especially important post. Archbishop Gomez is deeply committed to helping Spanish speaking Catholics read the Bible. In fact, he reads the Spanish reflections on the Sunday Readings produced the St. Paul Center each week. For more, go here. These are excellent.

This sort of thing is not unusual for the good prelate. Last year he also headed up the effort to bring a teaching segment to the local population on AM radio.


The Bishop made national headlines last year when he expressed disappointment over the fact that a Catholic college in his diocese, St. Mary's University invited Hilary Clinton to speak. Bishop Gomez insisted, "Our Catholic institutions must promote the clear understanding of our deep moral convictions on an issue like abortion, an act that the Church calls ‘an unspeakable crime’ and a non-negotiable issue" (source). In addition, go here to see a TV news report, with excerpts from an interview with the bishop.

Archbishop Gomez also made news by coming out as an early critic of Notre Dame's decision to invite President Obama to receive an honorary degree and present a commencement speech, writing an open letter to Bishop D'Arcy who made waves by refusing to attend the ceremony. Archbishop Gomez wrote:
We are saddened by the circumstances that made you decide not to attend this year’s commencement ceremonies at the University of Notre Dame, and are writing in total support of your action and its motives. The unfortunate message sent to the nation by the university’s invitation to President Barack Obama to speak at their graduation ceremony is compounded by their decision to provide him an honorary law degree.
We understand and agree with the need to hold the office of President of the United States in high regard and with due respect. However, this action is in direct opposition to the statement published by the U.S. Bishops, "Faithful Citizenship: Civic Responsibility for a New Millennium." That document clearly states the responsibility of a Catholic institution to ". . . not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.”
President Obama has made it clear that his policies on abortion and the general protection of innocent life are in dramatic opposition to the teachings of the Catholic Church. At this critical time we cannot afford to send an ambiguous message to our leaders or our people.
We’re sorry that the Administration of the University did not inform you in advance of their intention to invite President Obama. It is our firm conviction that Catholic Universities must work in unity with the local Bishop for the good of the people of God and the Universal Church. We’re sure you recall the words of the Holy Father as he addressed American Catholic educators, that Catholic identity ‘is a question of conviction.
We join you in prayer for President Barak Obama. It is our hope that he will enter into an honest dialogue with Church leaders that will lead him to reconsider his positions on the critical issues in defense of human life at every stage."
The letter was co-signed by Archbishop Gomez's auxiliary bishop.

Support of the Latin Mass

Archbishop Gomez warmly embraced Pope Benedict's motu proprio encouraging the celebration of the pre-Vatican II form of the Latin mass, sometimes called the "Latin Mass" or the Traditional Latin Mass, but known more accurately as the Mass of the "Extraordinary Form" or as the Holy Father calls it, "the Mass of Blessed John XXIII."

At the time, Archbishop Gomez wrote the following to his flock in San Antonio, which is posted on the archdiocesan website:
I welcome the action taken in Pope Benedict XVI’s Apostolic Letter, Summorum Pontificum. I believe that it will open up great possibilities for reconciliation and unity with those who have shown great devotion to the Roman Liturgy prior to reform of 1970. I also believe this will provide Catholics with the opportunity to better understand the continuity between the Roman Missal promulgated by Pope Paul VI, the order of the Mass as we ordinarily celebrate it today, and the Roman Missal promulgated by St. Pius V and published and revised again by Blessed John XXIII. It is my hope that our people will be able to more clearly see the growth and progress we have realized since Vatican II, while at the same time preserving the rich heritage and legacy of the Church.

I trust that we will come to better appreciation that, when we are faithful to the Roman Rite and make it a prayerful celebration of adoration and thanksgiving toGod, it will always be a source of joy and peace, regardless of the language in which we celebrate it.

I have a great love for the Mass as we ordinarily celebrate it today. It meets the mandate of the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council, to simplify the rites and “more readily achieve the devout, active participation of the faithful.” The reverent celebration of the Mass brings people to a rich appreciation of their faith and unites our parish communities in love for the Eucharist.

The 1962 Mass has been celebrated in San Antonio for many years, and has been a special blessing to the archdiocese. Let us follow the leadership of the Holy Father in the spirit of unity and reconciliation, while meeting the varied pastoral needs of the people of the Archdiocese of San Antonio.
One priest who is an advocate of this form of the liturgy has written an account of what has transpired in the diocese of San Antonio, which you can read here.

Personal Encounter

I might also mention that I personally met Archbishop Gomez last year at a conference I was invited to speak at in San Antonio (I have never met the other bishops I write about here). I was especially struck by his warmth. I thoroughly enjoyed a homily he gave at the conference as well as his keynote address at the Saturday night dinner. He's a great bishop and his flock loves him.

Videos of the Archbishop in Action

Here is a link to a video of the Archbishop (which I cannot embed here) speaking about the Sacraments as something more than merely a cultural expression. In addition, take a look at this video in which he speaks about immigration--though once again I must add that the video does not fully explain the Archbishop's views (i.e., he believes that illegal immigrants should face penalties, though he urges that since deporation breaks up families, those who break immigration laws should be punished in some other way).

I also like this short little clip of the beginning of a talk he gave to a Catholic women's conference:

The talk apparently went well--it led this woman to want to do Bible study:

Finally, there is this video he did on the special offering for the Church in Latin America as the Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Church in Latin America: