Subject: “a number of ‘things’ lacking”

Yesterday I addressed my son John’s site: Before his “to be continued – “ post scriptum, he says:

I would hope that my blog page will not so much allow for a point-counter point view but rather to allow for the greater truth to be uncovered – and may there be healing in that uncovering. For myself – I continue on my journey - all I ask of God is that I do so ‘sans novacaine’”

Hopefully I can contribute to the “greater truth to be uncovered” by addressing “a number of ‘things’ lacking” at Mt. Hope, of which John supplies a few:

“           There were a number of ‘things’ lacking at the Mount Hope Foundation commune, including

1) the Sacrament of Penance (also referred to as Confession, Penance, or Reconciliation) – while not non-existent – this was ‘supplanted’ by what was called ‘talking privately with Herbert Schwartz. I cannot understate the harm done here.

2) ‘a proper discernment’ – and for my thoughts I am not so much thinking of vocational discernment as much as recognizing right from wrong. There was far too much allowance for Herbert Schwartz to be the one who determined what was right and what was wrong. At 126 Tally Ho Road – there were a number of people – both Catholic clergy and laity - who were intelligent to a degree that should have provided them with the capacity to question much of what was taking place there. They failed to do so. This lack of discernment and allowing Herbert to determine right from wrong also resulted in great damage.”

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Interestingly enough, the Moscow Patriarchate is currently, in the still lingering aftermath of the Soviet period, attempting precisely the same rectification of a radically secularized culture that Herbert also discerned. And the Vatican – finally emerging from the trauma of the scandals which testify precisely to the Godlessness of prominent strains in our culture, even within the Church itself – concurs with this purpose. There was the absence of an authentically Christian formation in the Mt. Hope people who turned against Herbert, especially after his repose, although some, notably our daughter Laurie, did not wait for this. When she came back to Mt. Hope for visits after running away when she was still under-age (she was so determined to leave, and it was such a hassle for me to have to be always collecting her from the police station or whatever, we consulted a lawyer to see if we were legally required to keep her at home until legal adulthood; assured that we were not, we let her go) – so on her return visits, she proudly touted the myriad – uh, let’s say “exotic” quasi-religious - uh, “fancies” she was into. I avoided being drawn into such discussions, but I couldn’t but overhear her detailing all this lurid stuff, and no doubt my reaction registered on my face, because she bawdily threw it in my face that Herbert did the same thing, going out and finding his own religion, so she was just exercising the same rights he had!!! From me she got: no comment.

But Laurie was nothing if not persistent …… In time she went after her youngest sister, who ended up in a mental hospital. Although in God’s providence Liz and her beautiful family – her husband, their 3 children, as also the remarkable Portuguese Grandma on the other side of the family – are today an unqualified success story! No mother-in-law problem for my Liz, she calls us both Mom and the children all call us both Grama. I, myself, call her my Sister Grama. Talk about trouncing the devil!!!

Here is the relevant Vatican post:



VATICAN CITY, NOV. 12, 2010 ( Benedict XVI's post-synodal exhortation "Verbum Domini," published Thursday, is an invitation to encounter the living Word of God, says a Vatican spokesman.
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi … asked, "Why a new document, so full, on the Word of God?"
and explained that "45 years ago the council published the constitution 'Dei Verbum,' which … brought to light the original source of the life and mission of the Church, and had a fundamental role in the conciliar renewal, … but "with time there was 'a slackening' with the consequence of 'indefiniteness or vague spiritualism or, on the contrary, of arid technicalities on the part of specialists.'" Father Lombardi noted that Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, spoke with clarity of "a deficit to be filled in the spiritual life of the People of God."

The priest noted that "the Scripture is a book of the faith, which is born from the faith of the People of God and can be adequately understood only in the perspective of this faith." He pointed to the need "to live and practice listening to and service of the Word in the daily life of the Church to help the faithful and the whole of humanity to encounter God through Jesus Christ."

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Herbert did teach us to live and practice the Word in our daily lives – but the people who turned against him were so ignorant of Holy Scripture, they had no idea that there was any scriptural foundation for anything Herbert said! And this notwithstanding the fact that Herbert often had the Psalms, especially, with him, and would read them and write commentaries in the margins when we had to wait, for instance, for someone coming to Herbert whom we were picking up, or in the doctor’s waiting room – I can remember sitting on benches in the supermarket as we waited, for what I don’t recall, and Herbert would be meditating on the Psalms and jotting down his thoughts. I kept my own Bible in his room – and I didn’t notice it at the time, it wasn’t the Bible I used most, but in time I looked into it, and there were Herbert’s marginal comments in a number of places!

Some of the Mt. Hope people even claimed, after Herbert fell asleep in the Lord, that he never read the Bible! It just so happens that I had a very Bible-reading Protestant upbringing, and when the woman who claimed to be “Dr. Schwartz’ successor” (Sis Mellet to the Dominican Provincial of the Eastern Province of St. Joseph), was rolling back what Herbert taught us and said that “another thing she never wanted to hear again was ‘hate your own self’”, it was not in my power of self-control to remain silent, and I said to her: “That’s just tough that you don’t want to hear it, because Jesus Christ said that, it is recorded in all 4 Gospel accounts, and more than once!”

Not that what I said cut any ice! Although such was not my purpose. After they accused Herbert of such sexual depravity that it was no longer with pride that anyone would claim to be Herbert’s successor, association with him was deemed so shameful that they wanted to distance themselves at all costs, vying with one another for who “saw through it all” first (our Laurie was basically re-habilitated for her run-away’s, and awarded first prize on that score) and I was just relieved and happy that I had Herbert’s legacy to myself, the only one willing and ready to risk being “tainted” by association with him!!!

The current effort within the Moscow Patriarchate is also instructive here – a recently reported gathering reminded me of Mt. Hope in the early days when we were still a rather unremarkable group of offbeat intellectuals:

On 10 November 2010, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, currently on a visit to Ukraine with the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, met with intellectuals in Donetsk. Faculty and students of the higher education establishments, workers of culture, including those of theatres and museums, and journalists gathered at the large hall of the Donetsk Regional Philharmonic Society.

Metropolitan Hilarion shared his views on culture, education, and relationship between culture and the Church: “The word ‘culture’ is derived from the Latin ‘cultura,’ meaning ‘to cultivate.’ We cultivate the earth in order to have harvest; we should likewise cultivate our souls and hearts… At the same time, ‘culture’ is related to ‘cult.’ Meaning divine service.

For many centuries, all culture “was kneaded on religious leaven.” Secular culture has appeared quite recently, in the Age of Enlightenment, but the close connection between culture and faith has lasted up to now. Attempts to create a non-religious culture have brought about anti-culture that has a disastrous effect on the shaping of individuals.

One of the dangers of modern mass culture lies in that it does not give clear aesthetic land marks. [Hence a major element in our spiritual formation was Herbert’s piano.] If children watch animated cartoons with monsters as main characters, they will become accustomed to abnormality. If we want to foster moral principles in human beings, we should also foster aesthetic principles in them, this being an educational role of culture.”

Talking about the history of culture, including the history of music in the 20th century, Metropolitan Hilarion noted with appreciation that the ‘cult of abnormality’ disseminated by avant-gardist composers is been replaced by the return to religious themes that inspired such renowned composers as Arvo Pärt [whom I have noted as playing a role akin to that of Herbert]. I smoothed the translation some – you can check the url if need be.

The issue, therefore, of ‘a proper discernment’ in the list provided by my son John – is that we were drawn to Herbert precisely because we recognized that the society we were fated to live in had lost the sound discernment of right from wrong. I honestly do not see how, in the wake of the sexual deviations found in our society and even on a massive scale at the very heart of the Catholic Church – nor has Orthodoxy been spared – anyone could possibly question that such was the case in the 60’s and 70’s, remaining an unresolved calamity to this day.

In such a climate – how fares the Sacrament of Penance (also referred to as Confession, Penance, or Reconciliation)? According to my son John, Confession, while not non-existent – was “supplanted’ by what was called ‘talking privately with Herbert Schwartz”.

Yet the Orthodox confessor typically begins by “talking privately” with the penitent. This is precisely what is recommended by the instruction booklet I was given in Jerusalem – by the “dukhovnik” in the monastery of the Moscow Patriarchate, although the manual was printed by Byzantine Catholics as was the common practice in Soviet times. The penitent is helped by the priest in recalling his struggles and temptations “in order to have the right contrition for the sacrament”. Thus it is not a matter of – as is all too common in Catholic confession to this day – grading one’s sins on a scale of 1-to-10 and then getting a “penance” considered to accord with the gravity of the transgression – for the gravity of sin is in truth that it is against God – not something determined by our measuring tape!!! Herbert had his own confessor, Fr. Cyril Osborn, O.P., and when we were still in Ridgewood, he would pile us into the station wagon and we would spend the afternoon confessing to Fr. Cyril. After we moved to Mt. Hope, Herbert continued to keep in close touch with Fr. Cyril, and his falling asleep was mourned by all of us. However, none of our Mt. Hope priests, Fr’s Rover and Schepers, and others who visited us, possessed the discernment needed for the sacrament. I, myself, at the present time as I travel, have a problem finding a trustworthy confessor – I just do the best I can.

Catholics are addressing this matter of priestly discernment – or the lack thereof – in connection with exorcism: how can we tell if someone is really possessed when “a lot of people experiencing what they think is possession just aren't taking their medicine”?!! Fortunately, the Church today is taking the matter seriously and addressing it.

I will just paste in the beginning of the report; here is the url:

Catholic clergy confer on exorcism rite

By CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor Eric Marrapodi

A group of Catholic bishops and priests are gathering in Baltimore, Maryland, on Friday and Saturday to examine what Scripture and canon law have to say about exorcism. Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois, spoke with CNN during a break in the Friday session to explain why the clergymen are meeting about this titillating, yet rare, rite in the Catholic tradition.

"It's an effort to try and provide some pastoral training for bishops and priests, to try and provide a pastoral response with people who may or may not be having demonic activity," he said. "The reality is there really have not been regular courses, or even a class, on how to do [exorcisms] because it is a rare thing.”

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What irony that Herbert who so providentially provided precisely those needful things lacking to the Church and to our society – is nevertheless accused of doing the opposite!!! No further comment from me.