This passage from Ezekiel struck me this evening:
What sorrow awaits you shepherds who feed yourselves instead of your flocks. Shouldn’t shepherds feed their sheep?.. You have not tended the sick or bound up the injured. You have not gone looking for those who have wandered away and are lost. Instead, you have ruled them with harshness and cruelty. So my sheeph have been scattered without a shepherd, and they are easy prey for any wild animal. They have wandered through all the mountains and all the hills, across the face of the earth, yet no one has gone to search for them…
For this is what the Soverign Lord says: I myself will search and find my sheep. I will be like a shepherd looking for his scattered flock… I will search for my lost ones who strayed away, and I will bring them safely home again. I will bandage the injured and strenghten the weak. Book of Ezekiel 34.
It seems appropriate for all sorts of reasons. Last week the priest of my wife’s Catholic church shut it down under false pretenses (see savestmarys.net/blog), the culmination of a long plan to close it and ultimately most of the small Catholic churches in South Jersey. There are sheep that will be scattered by these acts. I’m also just so acutely aware of religious of all denominations who are so caught up in the human forms of our church body that we’ve lost sight of those who are wandering in the wilderness, easy prey for the wild animals of our worldly lusts. I take solace in the promise that the Lord’s Shepherd is out looking for us.
Just finished: Kenneth S.P. Morse’s “A History of Conservative Friends” from 1962. Like most histories of Conservative Friends, it’s both heartening and depressing. It’s great to read the quotes, which often put the dilemma very clearly, like this one from Iowa Friends in 1877:
In consideration of many and various departures in Doctrine, Principle and Practice, brought into our beloved Society of late years by modern innovators, who have so revolutionized our ancient order in the Church, as to run into views and practices out of which our early Friends were lead, and into a broader, and more self-pleasing, and cross-shunning way than that marked out by our Savior, and held to by our ancient Friends.… And who have so approximated to the unregenerate world that we feel it incumbent upon us to bear testimony…and sustain the Church for the purpose for which is was peculiarly raised up.
I love this stuff. You’ve got theology, polity, culture and an argument for the eternal truths of the “peculiarly raised” Quaker church. But even in 1962 this is a story of decline, of generations of ministers passing with no one to take their place and monthly and yearly meetings winking out with disarming regularity as the concept of Friends gets stretched from all sides. “It is certainly true that most of those who call themselves Friends at the present time are only partial Friends in that they seem not to have felt called to uphold various branches of the Quaker doctrine.”
Putting the book down the most remarkable fact is that there are any Conservative Friends around still around almost fifty years later.
The task of sharing and upholding the Quaker doctrine is still almost impossibly hard. The multiplicity of meanings in the words we use become stumbling blocks in themselves. Friends from other traditions are often the worst, often being blind to their own innovations, oftener still just not caring that they don’t share much in common with early Friends.
Then there’s the disunity among present-day Conservatives. Geography plays a part but it seems part of the culture. The history is a maze of traditionalist splinter groups with carefully-selected lists of who they do and do not correspond with. Today the three Conservative Yearly Meetings seem to know each another more through carefully-parsed reading of histories than actual visitation (there is some, not enough). There’s also the human messiness of it all: some of the flakiest liberal Quakers I’ve known have been part of Conservative Yearly Meetings and the internet is full of those who share Conservative Friends values but have no yearly meeting to join.
No answers today from me. Maybe we should take solace that despite the travails and the history of defeat, there still remains a spark and there are those who still seek to share Friends’ ways. For those wanting to learn more the more recent “Short History of Conservative Friends” (1992) is online and a good introduction.
As the evidence accumulates on the Follieri/Galante church-for-beach-house developer scandal, it’s become something of a parlor game around the kitchen table to speculate on who will play all the characters in the upcoming mini-series. It’s only a matter of time really. We’ve got a glam Eurotrash huckster, a Hollywood actress, the Sopranos-like mob vice president, Bill Clinton shady dealings with his all-but-pedophile drinking buddies–and of course the Diocese of Camden’s Bishop Galante and at least one diocesan priest with a fondness for playing dress-up. It will only become more truth-is-stranger-than-fiction when a few more details work their way from open secret to FBI documentation and NY Post headlines.
So while it’s not a surprise, there is a certain satisfaction in the latest media rumor that “Law & Order” is planning one of their classic “ripped from the headlines” dramatization of the scandal:
Raffaello’s arrest was and still is the buzz in New York City’s social circles.…He was the ultimate con man; handsome, rich, smooth and with a celebrity girlfriend to make him seem legit. I’m sure this will be the highest-rated Law & Order episode next season.
There’s enough angles to this story to fill an entire season of television so we don’t know how prominent the Bishop’s part will be. But L&O creator Dick Wolf grew up an altar boy at St. Patrick’s cathedral in New York and the L&O costume department has more clerical outfits that Raffaello Follieri’s closet. Wolf rarely misses the chance to throw a priest into the script. Whole seasons of the show were devoted to ripped-from-the-headlines pieces on the priest/bishop sex abuse scandal in the early 2000s and I’m sure a follow-up look at the web of financial fraud fueled (or at least justified) by the settlement payouts would be a big ratings hit.
I just wish Lennie Briscoe was still around to make the collar. BOMP BOMP.
Well the Department of Justice must be a Quaker Ranter reader because they followed yesterday’s advice and confiscated the private papers of actress Anne Hathaway, ex-girlfriend, board member and business partner of con man Raffaello Follieri.
But yet again her publicity machine rolls on. Most news outlets are calling the papers her “diaries” in oblique reference to her appearance in the 2001’s “Princess Diaries” movie. One tongue-in-cheek headline read “The FBI knows whether Anne Hathaway dots her ‘I’s with hearts.” Financial papers, photos, documents, etc., are reduced to “diaries”. Boy oh boy. I wonder if the celebrity blogs will start describing the D.A. as a “fire breathing dragon.” Poor little Anne bilking millions of dollars from investors, how was she to know?
The NY Daily News article says the papers included photos of Follieri with the Clintons, Pope John Paul II and John and Cindy McCain. Down here in South Jersey we can’t help but wonder whether a few chummy shots of the Italian con man with pal Bishop Joseph Galante. Such pictures certainly exist somewhere, whether in Anne’s collection or in the photo shoebox of some South Jersey priest. I would love to see them.
One of the things I don’t get about the press treatment of the Follieri/Galante scandal is their attitude toward actress Anne Hathaway. Until a few weeks ago she was the dapper Italian’s girlfriend and they were constantly photographed together. But they broke up the week before the scandal hit the tabloids, and all we’ve gotten are these silly human interest stories. We hear speculation she must be heartbroken, we hear how she’s moving on with her life, we even hear details about getting her dog back from her old apartment with Follieri. She’s lost a lot of weight of her latest movie promo tour and mysteriously showed up at a Cape May bar singing Journey songs this weekend with a photographer conveniently in tow.
Hello? She was on the board of directors of the Follieri Group’s charities. The New York penthouse they shared was paid for by conned money as were their lavish trips and high flying lifestyle. Boyfriend drama is the last thing she needs to be worried about right now. I sure hope the FBI is carefully going through her checkbook and date book right now. She both solicited and received stolen money. No wonder she’s lost a lot of weight.
And what’s up with her getting off the plane from London and driving a couple of hours to the southern tip of the New Jersey? The Cape May County house Follieri bought from the bishop was reportedly just sold again. Could Anne Hathaway be on the deed or authorized to sign for Follieri? Idle speculation of course but I do wish her publicists weren’t making fools of the popular press like this.