October 7, 2018

I am writing this article in the midst of the controversies surrounding the accusations of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford , who says that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her during a party when they were both in high school. This has completely upset the nomination process for Judge Kavanaugh, who was thought to have rather clear sailing to becoming the ninth Justice for the Supreme Court, but trying to determine whether this accusation is sustainable and to do it under extreme circumstances and timelines has caused quite a ruckus within the political landscape of our country. It has also brought out both the good and the bad of various people’s comments concerning the issue of abuse and sexual harassment in our country.

 

Just days ago the Cubs’ shortstop Addison Russell was placed on temporary leave from the baseball team because of accusations of a similar nature that were leveled against him by his ex-wife. She has detailed a number of ways this seemingly has occurred—emotional, mental, verbal and physical—but he has stated that her comments are unfounded and absolutely false.

 

At the same time, a spokesman for Senator Chuck Grassley, who heads up the Senate Judiciary Committee that is responsible for conducting the Supreme Court nomination process, has resigned due to a former accusation that has surfaced while he was a North Carolina State Representative and another now during his present employment.

 

In the Church we are dealing with the fallout from the Grand Jury Report of the State of Pennsylvania which looked at abuse accusations against priests in all the dioceses of Pennsylvania over the past 70 years. What has been reported is staggering for people both within and without Church circles.

 

With all of the sexual abuse and sexual harassment stories in the media, our heads are spinning—some in disbelief and all in pure disgust. The abuse did not begin with Harvey Weinstein, but his insidious treatment of actors just came to the forefront. We’ve all heard stories of the casting couch, and now we are hearing testimonies of beloved actresses and actors reporting their abuse from Weinstein and other entertainment industry notables. It’s understandable that movie performers did not step up years ago for fear they would never work again. Talking about sexual assault is not only painful, but the victim feels shame for letting it happen, when in reality it was not their fault.

 

Let’s be clear with our terminology. Sexual Abuse is a form of mistreating children and is mainly used to describe behavior toward children, not adults. All 50 states have laws that recognize that children are not capable of giving informed consent to any sex act. In the United States, the age at which consent can be given ranges from 16 to 18 years.

 

Sexual abuse can include many different things, from touching a victim in a sexual manner to forcing a victim to touch the perpetrator in a sexual way, to making a victim look at sexual body parts or watch sexual activity. Sexual abuse of a child is a criminal act.

 

Sexual Assault: Sexual assault and rape have been used interchangeably in coverage of events leading to the #MeToo movement, and this practice, though unintentional, is confusing. In contrast to the specific criminal act of rape, the term sexual assault can describe a range of criminal acts that are sexual in nature: from unwanted touching and kissing, to rubbing, groping or forcing the victim to touch the perpetrator in sexual ways. But sexual assault overlaps with rape because the term includes rape.

 

Social and behavioral scientists often use the term “sexual violence.” This term is far more broad than sexual assault. It includes acts that are not codified in law as criminal but are harmful and traumatic. Sexual violence includes using false promises, insistent pressure, abusive comments or reputational threats to coerce sex acts. It can encompass noncontact acts like catcalls and whistles, which can make women feel objectified and victimized. It includes nonconsensual electronic sharing of explicit images, exposure of genitals and surreptitious viewing of others naked or during sex.

 

Sexual Harassment is a much broader term than sexual assault, encompassing three categories of impermissible behavior. One is sexual coercion—legally termed “quid pro quo harassment”—referring to implicit or explicit attempts to make work conditions contingent upon sexual cooperation. The classic “sleep with me or you’re fired” scenario is a perfect example of sexual coercion. It is the most stereotypical form of sexual harassment, but also the rarest.

 

A second, and more common, form of sexual harassment is unwanted sexual attention: unwanted touching, hugging, stroking, kissing, relentless pressure for dates or sexual behavior. Note that romantic and sexual overtures come in many varieties at work, not all of them harassing. To constitute unlawful sexual harassment, the sexual advances must be unwelcome and unpleasant to the recipient. They must be “sufficiently severe or pervasive” to create an abusive working environment,” according to the U.S. Supreme Court.

 

Most sexual harassment entails no sexual advance. This third and most common manifestation is gender harassment: conduct that disparages people based on gender but implies no sexual interest. Gender harassment can include crude sexual terms and images, for example, degrading comments about bodies or sexual activities, using words that are demeaning or meant to be hurtful, etc. More often than not, however, it is purely sexist, such as contemptuous remarks about women being ill-suited for leadership or men having no place in childcare. Such actions constitute “sexual” harassment because they are sex-based, not because they involve sexual activity.

 

Now is the time for all of us to do something about this problem. Our moral compass is deteriorating. America’s children suffer from a hidden epidemic. Every year over 3 million children are victims of violence and neglect, and those are the only ones that are reported. The actual number of children being harmed is probably 3 times greater. For children and adults, every 98 seconds a person is sexually assaulted in the United States. It is estimated that only 6 out of every 1000 perpetrators is indicted.

 

For anyone who thinks that sexual harassment is just locker room talk, or jokes by comedians, they are wrong and so is the harassment. No one should be made to feel uncomfortable by anyone’s verbal sexual advances. It is degrading and demoralizing. When others stand by and say or do nothing, they are part of the problem. Rather than being part of the problem, we must all stand up and be part of the solution. Now is the time. Let’s join together to change that moral compass back to where it should be!

 

TWENTY-SEVENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

 

Marriage was part of God’s plan from the very beginning of creation. Today’s First Reading opens with a religious reflection on the creation of woman. The context for her creation is the simple proclamation that “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a suitable partner for him.” Through the specific body imagery of this story, a clear message emerges that man and woman complement each other. Through the bond that joins them together they “become one body”: “This is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one flesh.”

 

In the Gospel, Jesus continues journeying toward Jerusalem. Some scholars of the Jewish Law pose a question to Jesus about divorce. In the Book of Deuteronomy 24:1, Moses allowed a man to divorce his wife if “he is later displeased with her and finds in her something indecent.” Legal scholars at that time argued passionately over what concrete circumstances would permit such a decision.

 

Without entering into the disputes, Jesus returns to God’s original intent in creating man and woman by quoting the passage in the First Reading. God intends “the two to become one flesh.” In effect, Jesus says that from the creation of the world, marriage is meant to establish absolute permanency and a deep unity. This bond is never to be broken. In doing so, Jesus makes a commitment to the equality of man and woman. While Jewish tradition allowed a man to divorce his wife, by returning to God’s original plan for man and woman to become “one flesh,” Jesus rejects divorce and raises the status of the woman, who is an equal partner to the man.

 

In the First Reading, as God seeks to keep the first man from being alone, the nature of God is revealed as well as that of humankind. Not only do human beings need to be in relationship with God and others, but it is God’s nature to be in relationship with humankind. The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church states, “The relationship between God and man is reflected in the relational and social dimension of human nature” (#110).

 

Once man was formed, God was concerned about social relationships. Not wanting man to dwell alone, he created various animals and birds that the first man named. Then God formed a woman from the rib of the man. The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church states: “The human person is essentially a social being because God, who created humanity, willed it so” (#149).

 

In the second part of today’s Gospel, we hear of people bringing their children to Jesus. Jesus’ embrace of the children is about more than his love for the young. When Jesus welcomed the children to him, he held close those who had no rights in that society. The Church Fathers note in Gaudium et spes that Christians are to be united with those who are troubled and oppressed. The Second Vatican Council document states: “The joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the people of our time, especially of those who are poor or afflicted, are the joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the followers of Christ as well” (#1).

 

For Your Reflection: The Lord God created woman out of man to be “a suitable partner.” How can the Church help husbands and wives form a partnership in their marriage? How can our faith community reach out to those society casts away to follow Jesus’ example of embracing the children? When do you thank God for having blessed you?

 

MEMORIAL OF ST. POPE JOHN XXIII

Thursday, October 11, 2018

 

When on October 20, 1958 the cardinals, assembled in conclave, elected Angelo Roncalli as pope, many regarded him, because of his age and ambiguous reputation, as a transitional pope, little realizing that the pontificate of this man of 76 years would mark a turning point in history and initiate a new age for the Church. He took the name of John in honor of the precursor and the beloved disciple, but also because it was the name of a long line of peopes whose pontificates had been short.

 

Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, the third of thirteen children, was born on November 25, 1881, near Bergamo, Italy, of a family of sharecroppers. He attended elementary school in the town, tutored by a priest, and at the age of twelve entered the seminary in Bergamo. He interrupted his studies for service in the Italian Army, but returned to the seminary, completed his work for a doctorate in theology, and was ordained in 1904. Continuing his studies in Canon Law, he was appointed secretary to the new bishop of Bergamo, Giacomo Rdini-Tedeschi. Angelo served this social-minded prelate for nine years, acquiring first-hand experience and a broad understanding of the problems of the working class.

 

With the entry of Italy into World War I in 1915, he was recalled to military service as a chaplain. On leaving the service in 1918, he was appointed spiritual director of the seminary, but he also found time to open a hostel for students in Bergamo. In 1921 he was called to Rome to reorganize the Society for the Propagation of the Faith. In 1925 he was appointed apostolic visitator to Bulgaria, where he concerned himself with the problems of the Easter Churches. He was transferred in 1934 to Turkey and Greece as apostolic delegate, and he set up an office in Istanbul for locating prisoners of war. Then in 1944 he was appointed nuncio to Paris to assist in the Church’s post-war efforts in France and became the first permanent observer of the Holy See at UNESCO. Finally in 1953 he became Cardinal Patriarch of Venice, where he expected to spend his last years in pastoral work.

 

Pope John stunned the world when he convoked an ecumenical council for the universal Church (the Second Vatican Council), enlarged the College of Cardinals from 70 to 87 so that there would be greater representation from all over the world, began a revision of the Code of Canon Law, created a new Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity, and wrote two magnificent encyclical letters Mater et Magistra and Pacem in terris. He died on June 3, 1963, was beatified by Pope John Paul II on September 3, 2000, and canonized by Pope Francis on April 27, 2014.

 

A CHUCKLE FOR THE FALL SEASON

 

After a day of fishing in the ocean, a fisherman is walking from the pier carrying two lobsters in a bucket. He is approached by the game warden, who asks him for his fishing license.

 

The fisherman says to the warden, “I did not catch these lobsters; they are my pets. Every day I come down to the water and whistle, and these lobsters jump out, and I take them for a walk, only to return them at the end of the day.”

 

The warden, not believing him, reminds him that it is illegal to fish without a license. The fisherman turns to the warden and says, “If you don’t believe me, then watch.” He then throws the lobsters back into the water.

 

The warden says, “Now whistle to your lobsters and show me that they will come out of the water.”

 

The fisherman turns to the warden and says, “What lobsters?”