Thursday, June 26, 2008

Howling With The Lone Wolves

An excerpt from an article on Catholica Australia by Tom McMahon. It can be read in full here:

"Much has been favorably written about Bishop Robinson's presentation and there is his book on SEX and POWER in the Roman Catholic Church; I listened to his powerful and carefully prepared expose, with much of my energy observing the audience and their reactions to the classical lecture by an expert parent figure and the classical children who listen with diligence; People seemed to be mesmerized by the fact that a cleric was raising issues that exposed the internal dysfunctionality of the institutional church. The American Catholic does not want to wash the church's dirty linen in public and I wondered how many there were willing and capable of taking Robinson's message to a confrontation with roman powers … how many will sign their John Hancock on a protest letter to Archbishop Neidenaur for his cowardly condemnation of Robinson? As an innocent bystander who has educated myself in clerical abuse I sensed there was little anger in the room. Anger is the gasoline that powers the engine of doing something; the chaotic collapse of the roman priesthood is catastrophic and episcopal leadership is bankrupt … caput!

Did anyone think of a study group to pursue further what the bishop addressed or to discuss his book? Where does one go from here? Or do we wait for the Wizards of Oz to recomb their hair and form another committee? The parish is paralyzed with ignorance and fear and complacent docile membership. America would still be a colony of England if there never had been a Boston Tea Party and a king would rule France today if it weren't for the storming of the Bastille … and the peasants only had pitchforks! As I write I recall Fr. Bill O'Donnell leading a procession of 60 clerics out of the funeral of a priest who had jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge; Willie turned to me and in loud voice … really loud … shouted out "the man jumps off the god damn Golden Gate Bridge and they haven't got the guts to acknowledge such … we're in serious trouble" Ah Willie, how do we get your spirit back? (Crude language at times does get a bit of attention!)

Crisis for me indicates a possible new direction. The word sex to me is a neutral; society has two genders, male and female and daily as a male I have sexual encounters and social exchanges for which I will not be arrested. For decades in the Roman priesthood I witnessed male clerics abusing women by ignoring them or using them around the parish as lowly serfs. Genital activity is a different breed of cat; abuse by male genitals on innocent children is ugly and criminally insane. I wait for the day the hierarchy admits to using street language to give us the horrible picture of now deceased Oakland's Monsignor George Francis repeatedly fucking a four-year-old girl and then blessing her with holy water. Don't get off the subject by talking about the man being pathologically sick … yes, sick, sick, sick! As well as the system that produced this demented Frankenstein. Meditate for two minutes on the criminal activity and perhaps one can appreciate the anger that is forever stored in the victim. Where is the anger of the people?

I appreciate Geoffrey Robinson's honesty and I sensed in him, especially in his refusal to quit his lecture tour, a suppressed anger that was gilded with protecting the office of priest and bishop. Like an upset terrier we heard a bishop in clerical collar yapping at the heels of an offending pathological brute … and the people clapped Robinson on, hoping to mark their calendars for the next talk by a gladiator champion. Catholics are nice guys and polite women … for heaven's sake McMahon do you have to use four letter words; you have been an angry boy since seminary days. An angry Jesus paid a heavy price when he took on the temple gang. The American bishops in collusion with Rome are a secret mafia family that is up to no good."


A little background on Tom McMahon, he is a married priest in his early eighties who lives in the San Francisco area. He's a licensed therapist. He contributes to other progressive publications and websites and pulls no punches in his assessement of the current state of Catholicism. Catholica Australia runs a weekly commentary from Tom and it's worth checking out, because Tom is still on pilgrimage and his writing reflects this.

Now my own thoughts. I think Tom has put his finger on one of the reasons that the left wing of the Church is more or less ignored. We're too polite. Still too caught up in the respect and awe and submissive attitudes we were taught in our youth. We're still waiting for the Champions from the hierarchy to lead us onward, like the obedient Christian soldiers we've been trianed to be. We apparently aren't called the Church Militant for nothing. We seem to need someone in authority to empower us, instead of empowering ourselves.

So we do in some ways, clap on our heroes like the Bishops Robinson and Gumbleton, but all the while we secretly know they will have as much impact as gnats, and so while they may deserve our applause, we with hold our active commitment.

John Paul II seems to have begun the pull back from Vatican II before we laity really got a chance to assimilate we ARE the people of God. Benedict XVI is fully committed to making sure we never remember. Bring on the Latin, archaic English, and cappa magnas.

In the West, active participation has sunk to abysmal levels. The numbers look better in the States because they are bolstered by the Hispanic influx, but Hispanics seem to have a different mind set than those of us enculturated in Irish/American Catholicism. Over the long course of their interaction with colonialism they seem to have developed a Catholicism which is much more indifferent to the whims of the hierarchy, and far more personal and familial, taking much of their wisdom from the stories and elders with in their families and cultures. The articles in the NCR from Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes reflect this source of spirituality and wisdom. I'd like to take excerpt from one of her articles:, which is pertinent to this discussion because it deals with evil and how one confronts evil.

"Returning to the real center; that’s what the Master said to the devil who offered him all the kingdoms of earth if only the Master would fall down and worship him. The Christ said it pretty clearly: No, you withered thing. No worshipping flecks of evil. Only The One. No other.

No demon can withstand such constant return to center, to goodness, to a considered consciousness and particularly to being called out and named with such clarity. Evil must shatter eventually.

In Matthew’s story 4:1-11, about the devil taking Jesus to the highest mountain peak, saying all this will be his if he will only bow down to the devil, Jesus strongly refutes the devil. Then we’re shown one outcome of raising one’s voice to evil clearly, vociferously, with certainty and repeatedly:

Then the devil left ... and behold, angels came and ministered.

The old people say, too, call a spade a spade and run to the center in order to destabilize evil. The biblical story shows not only Yeshua raising his voice against the devil, but also a recapitulation of previous strong statements found in Deuteronomy. Yeshua standing, in a sense, on the voice of the ancients poured into modern times, drawing strength to speak from the ground notes of long ago.

It is clear, though not all ideals can be reached overnight, that many fall into the maw before we can force the issues. We are not working toward perfection, but toward progression. Though raising our voices might endanger us, it also calls others forward too, emboldened others, calls others to look and see, calls others not to stand down but to join.

I wrote in Women Who Run With the Wolves about finding one’s own pack, quoting the poet Charles Simic: "He who cannot howl, will not find his pack.” The same is true, I think, when evil is on foot overland, and it’s time for calling the angels."

"He who cannot howl, will not find his pack." I really think, as much as the vision of Vatican II still lives in any of us, it's time to stop clapping, and join our Champions in howling. A committed pack can take down anything---even a hierarchy which operates like the mafia.


  1. Where do we go from here?

    It would be easy to say there is too much corruption, too much entrenchment, too many hurdles for us to make a difference. It would be easy to say they are too many, we are too few. I do not believe it.

    I choose to remember the story of David, the story of how a boy and a small "rock" toppled a giant.

    There is an inviable universal law, "like attracts like". This universal law assures us that the corruption of the leadership will draw to itself more of the same, from all directions. What we are witnessing is the leadership collapsing under the weight of the corruption that they are drawing to themselves.

    Jesus has shown us in his example in the wilderness, that by nothing more than a simple declaration of faith, evil becomes powerless and impotent. I invite each one who is so guided to join with me in a continuing declaration of faith:

    "All forms of evil and corruption within the church are now impotent, powerless and exposed for all to see. They are either transformed or purged from all levels by the true head of the church, Jesus Christ as He restores the church to the holiness of love."

    An interesting foot note: the visiting priest who did morning mass today, included something very similar to this in his prayer for the leadership. One could feel the power of the prayer go forth. The purge/ transformation has already begun.

  2. I think you're right Carl. I've been told that the real issue is to shout the evil as loud as you can and utter a prayer very similar to the one you have written.

    Darkness does not exist when exposed to light. Shutters may work to block the light coming from without, but not the sound, and they certainly don't block the light within.