Monday, December 15, 2008

It's always fascinating to me how similar ideas seem to come up simultaneously in posts amongst people who have otherwise limited connections. I found the following post on the National Catholic Reporter website this morning. It's written by a fellow NCR blogger, Sylvester Steffen, whose blog site is called the Second Enlightenment.

Sylvester is a brilliant, compassionate man whose writing is always worth reading. In this post he makes the same point a commenter did on this blog yesterday. Patriarchy has advanced on the exploitation, domination, and abuse of all things feminine. In the case of Catholicism Sylvester makes the point that our sacramental system has become divorced from the truth which gives it any power at all. It's become representational, rather than natural. Another way to put this is our sacramental system is in our heads, not our hearts, a product of mental abstraction and not concrete realism. It is not one with nature, but separate and 'above' nature. It is too left brained and imbued with the Spirit of Domination:

A persisting “heresy” (choice) of Roman Catholicism, of Christianity in general, has been to institutionalize and over-emphasize representational reality and alienate the community of believers from natural reality, thereby enabling the waste, sacrilege, of Natural Sacrament.

In his presentation before the Theology of Land Conference (Collegeville, MN, 1985), Walter Brueggemann enunciated the critical wrongdoing of Western Christian culture, namely, the sanctioned exploitation (rape) of land and women, and the inseparable connection of land and women: (I would say sanctified, not just sanctioned.)

“Adam, that is, mankind, has a partner and mate, adamah, land. Humankind and land are thus linked in a covenantal relationship, analogous to the covenantal relationship between man and woman …unfortunately, in our society we have terribly distorted relationships between man and woman, between adam and adamah, distortions that combine promiscuity and domination.… Likely, we shall not correct one of these deadly distortions unless we correct them both”. [Bernard Evans & Gregory Cusack, Editors, “The Theology of Land”, 1987, The Liturgical Press,

In the ecclesiology of Roman Catholicism, Representational Sacrament has been theologized and emphasized to the point that the faith required of the faithful values Representational Sacrament (liturgy) above the reality of Natural Sacrament.

“Reality” endures in Natural Sacrament (the Naturalis Sacramentum Ordinis) which is sacred by reason of divine instance, i.e., the presence of divinity as expressed in natural prevision and provision, and celebrated in understanding Divine Providence. Grace and authenticity come from fidelity to nature, to female reality, the ground-state of all vitality. The profound degradation of nature is a failure of human prevision/ provision, of “religious” disregard and exploitation of nature, of women.

The rape and prostitution of ecozoic nature (femininity) are about exploitation, for profit, of nature’s vital resources, what are “favors of female gratuity”. All the fruits of natural vitality are fruits of female sexuality, not a gratuity belonging to patriarchal dominion but to the vital wellbeing of the communities of interdependent life.

If priesthood isn’t about service to universal Order in Natural Sacrament, it misses the point of service responsibility and functions as a demon of cultural ideology and social mischief. Unless institutional priesthood attends first to symbiotic fidelity in the Order of Natural Sacrament, it defeats its true-to-life sense of purpose and responsibility. The obsessive, male myopia of dominion theology has lost its common sense of purpose and conscience. (The Native concept of warrior, as expressed in warrior societies, is all about service to the feminine, and to the future, as expressed in living children.)

It's interesting that in Catholic angelic theorising, Michael the warrior is always portrayed in service to Mary---the warrior in service to the feminine principle. This concept has been effectively destroyed and buried in traditional Christian theology, in favor of twisted concepts of complementarity in which the feminine exists to serve the masculine through her fertility and generosity. This notion of complementarity is not supported by many mystics or spiritual visionaries. It is also not supported in any definition of clerical ministry given in the New testament by Jesus himself. In fact, Jesus takes on the role of the feminine at the Last Supper and specifically states the apostles are to be servants to the servants.
Jesus's notion of complementarity recognizes that while women are in service to their children, humanity's potential future, men must be in service to women--servants to the servants. It's about service, not domination.
Indigenous spirituality on the other hand, places the feminine front and center, recognizing it's the energy on which humanity is dependent for it's survival. This is the exact reverse of Western Christianity which more often that not blames the feminine for introducing sin and all matter of other evil. The mysterious divine feminine is to be controlled, exploited, or made subservient to male authority.
This last is why every single Marian apparition must pass the test of orthodoxy before official sanction is given. It's also the reason Joan of Arc met her fate. In her trial, when she was asked what was more important obedience to the Church Triumphant, (the voices of Michael and her Sainted mentors Catherine and Margaret), or the Church Militant, (the Bishops and Pope), Joan made the mistake of saying obedience to the Church Triumphant. So she, amongst thousands of other female mystics and visionaries, met her fate on the pyres of the Inquisition.
The scars left by the witch persecutions are still felt by spiritually talented women who are terrified of what will happen should they come out of their 'spiritual/psychic' closet and confess to 'knowings' and experiences which transcend normal reality. The Inquisition may have happened centuries ago, but it's message is still very very powerful and relevant for today. When feminine ability, whether it be fertility or spirituality, threatens patriarchy it is exploited and/or persecuted.
Whether the Church likes it or not, the fact is, women far more so than men, stand in between this reality and any other reality. This is consistently depicted in placing Mary between heaven and earth.
Men and women are complimentary, but not in the sense in which the Church tries to teach it. It is a complementarity more analogous to the differences between Quantum Physics and Newtonian physics. Newtonian physics does not exist without the creative potential of the quantum reality. In other words quantum potentiality is the uterus which births tangible reality. Women are far more connected to this truth, than men.
It's why Michael serves Mary, and in this picture, a Mary who is standing on the earth and holding a child. They are both fighting a serpent. The serpent known as the Spirit of Domination.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Legend Of White Buffalo Calf Woman

Art work by Native artist Marcine Quinzer

As I wrote yesterday, today I bring you the Lakota story of the White Buffalo Calf Woman:

Legend of White Buffalo Calf Woman and the Sacred Pipe

The plains people had a religion, given to them long before the Euro-invasion. The religion had spread throughout the land to all people and Nations. It was first given to the Teton Sioux back when Standing Hollow Horn was a chief in the Lakota Nation. This religion promoted brotherhood and peace through the solemn rite of the sacred pipe. It came to the people in this manner. (Some estimates place the genesis of this story about 2000 years ago, well before the horse had been introduced by the Spanish.)

One summer so long ago that nobody knows how long, the seven sacred council fires of the Sioux came together and camped. The sun shone all the time, but there was no game, and the people were starving.

Standing High Hollow Horn, leader of the people, sent two young Lakota men on foot to hunt. The men were returning empty-handed when they climbed a high hill to scan the whole country. In the distance they saw a beautiful young woman who floated as she walked toward them. She was very beautiful, her long hair hanging down, and she wore a fine white buckskin dress.
She was so beautiful, that one young man desired her and said so. The other hunter said that he should not talk so as this was a Wakan woman, a Holy woman.

As the woman arrived she knew their thoughts and she beckoned the Evil minded young man to come to her where a cloud overcame them. When the cloud lifted, she stood alone and at her feet were a pile of bones with horrible snakes crawling over them. (It seems this Holy Woman seeks 'pure' hearts as well. I also note the concept of the Holy Woman and snakes at her feet.)

She then told the man with the Good mind to return to his people and tell them she was coming. When she arrived, the woman carried a sacred bundle that was wrapped in sage. She gave to the people seven sacred rites, among them the rite of the sacred pipe which she carried in the sacred bundle. She gave this to the people and taught them how to use it. (The numerous parallels between Catholicism and the Lakota religion were noticed by both the Lakota and the original French missionaries.)

"With this holy pipe, you will walk the Earth; for the Earth is your Grandmother and Mother, and she is sacred. Every step that is taken upon her should be like a living prayer," she said.

"The bowl of the pipe was made of the red stone. It represents the earth that bears and feeds us. On one side was carved a bison calf which represents the four legged on the earth. The stem of the pipe is wood and represents all that grows upon the earth. These twelve Eagle feathers hanging from the stem mean the sky and the twelve moons. The feathers are for the Spotted Golden Eagle and represents the winged peoples in the air. All these peoples and all the things of the universe are joined to you who smoke this pipe--all send their voices to the Great Spirit."

"This Earth which He has given to you is red, and the two-legged who live upon the Earth are red; and the Great Spirit has also given to you a red day, and red road. All this is sacred, so do not forget! Every dawn as it comes is a holy event, and every day is holy, for the light comes from your Father Wakan-Takan; and also you must always remember that the two-legged and all the other peoples who stand upon this earth are sacred and should be treated as such.…… Wakan-Takan has given you seven days to send your voices to Him."

The woman also told the Sioux about the value of buffalo, women and children. "You are from the Mother Earth," she told the women. " And like the Mother, women bring forth the continuance of life. What you are doing is as great as what the warriors do."

The sacred woman then started to leave the lodge, but turning again to Standing Hollow Horn, she said: "Behold this pipe! Always remember how sacred it is, and treat it as such, for it will take you to the End. Remember, in me is there are four ages. I am leaving now, but I shall look back upon your people in every age, and at the End I shall return.

Moving around the lodge in a sun-wise manner, the mysterious woman left, but after walking a short distance she looked back towards the people and sat down. When she rose, the people were amazed to see that she had become a young white buffalo calf, then this calf walked farther, lay down, and rolled, and become a black buffalo, then the calf walked farther, lay down, and rolled, and become a red buffalo, then the calf walked farther, lay down, and rolled, and become a yellow buffalo, then the calf walked farther, lay down, and rolled, and become a white buffalo. This buffalo then walked farther away from the people, stopped, and after bowing to each of the four quarters of the universe, disappeared over the hill.

Through the pipe ceremony, all men would become brothers and peace would exist in them and between them. (Hence the significance of the Woman turning into the colors of the four major races.)

The following words from Black Elk, an Ogalala Holy Man, best express the intent behind the gift of the Peace Pipe, and closely echo the intent behind many Marian apparitions.

"In the great vision which came to me in my youth, when I had known only nine winters, there was something which has seemed to me to be of greater and greater importance as the moons have passed by. It is about our sacred pipe and its importance to our People."

"We have been told by the white men, or at least by those who are Christian, that God sent to men His Son, who would restore Order and Peace upon the Earth: and we have been told that Jesus the Christ was crucified, but that he shall come again at the Last Judgment, the end of the world or cycle.

This I understand and know that it is true, but the white men should know that for the red people too, it was the Will of Wakan-Tanka, the Great Spirit, that an animal turn itself into a two-legged person in order to bring the most Holy Pipe to His People; and we too were taught that this White Buffalo Calf Woman, who brought our sacred pipe, will appear again at the end of the "world", a coming which we Indians know is now not very far off…"

"Most people call it a "Peace Pipe," yet now there is no Peace on Earth or even between neighbors, and I have been told that it has been a long time since there has been Peace in the world. There is much talk of Peace among the Christians, yet this is just talk. Perhaps it may be, and this is my prayer that through our Sacred Pipe, Peace may come to those peoples who can understand, an understanding which must be of the heart and not of the head alone. Then they will realize that we Indians know the One True God, and the we pray to Him continually…"

"I have wished to help my people understand the greatness and truth of our own tradition, and also to help in bringing Peace upon the Earth, not only among men, but within men and between the whole of creation. "

"We should understand well that all things are the works of the Great Spirit. We should know that He is within all things; the trees, the grasses, the rivers, the mountains, and all the four-legged animals, and the winged peoples; and even more important, we should understand that He is also above all these things and peoples. When we do understand all this deeply in our hearts, then we will fear, and love, and know the Great Spirit, and then we will be and act and live as He intends."


Some days when I start the process of writing for this blog, it's like Christmas. I never know what I will learn or where I will be taken in the numerous Google searches I need to do in order to write some of the articles.

I expected an easy time of it today, because I was very familiar with the legend of the White Buffalo Calf Woman. The article, however, is not my writing, but that of the artist whose painting graces this post.

While navigating her website I came across something I did not expect. It was in the explanation she gave about the genesis of this painting:

"I had planned this painting for two years but when I sat down to painting it, it evolved into something totally different than the planning I had done. As I worked on it, I became aware that Mother Mary was the same personage as White Buffalo Calf Woman. Two years later when I obtained a copy of "Learning Journey on the Red Road" by Floyd Hand, I received validation of this. This piece was a gift of spirit and even the cost of printing was supplied by spirit.

Obviously, I was sort of hinting at this same thing yesterday. It's why I stated I would post this story today. What makes it even more interesting is that the Sundance I attend, Floyd Hand is one of the ceremonial leaders. I had no idea Floyd's thinking ran along these lines.

He and I have a fun relationship. He frequently tries to scare the crap out me, and has offered to monitor me in a vision quest, amongst other things. So far I've failed to accept his invitations, as they seem to lead directly to my dancing in the Sundance, or being scared senseless. Neither of which appeals to me at the present time. Floyd says it's only a matter of time.

He may be right, because now that I've read this, I'm beginning to understand some of his teachings in an entirely different light. The two of us may have a stronger connection than I've thought, one not of this world. This is certainly an interesting time to be alive.

I do know this though, Floyd would agree completely with Dr. Clarissa Estes when she has this to say about the Virgin of Guadalupe, which also involved a Holy woman appearing to an Indigenous man.

"Guadalupe is the quintessential mother... and she does not encourage her sons and daughters who have been broken to walk as weaklings in this world... but rather for broken beings to walk as warriors... who are devoted to speak of her and for her in this world, to enact her holy heart by unfurling the ancient virtues of strength and sheltering, speaking up, standing up and doing... for the sake of goodness." And for the sake of peace.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Two Little Known Marian Apparitions

I was given a head's up by a reader about an American nun, to Sister Mary Ephrem (Mildred Neuzil), of the Precious Blood Sisters (1933-1979), who had a series of Marian visits in which Mary requested she be referred to as Our Lady of America. These visitations started in 1956 in Rome City, Indiana. This title was to be distinct from Mary's title of Empress of the Americas referenced in her visitations to Blessed Juan Diego at Guadalupe, Mexico.

One of the requests Mary made in this US visitation is that the National Shrine of The Immaculate Conception become a pilgrimage site. Mary also stated that the United States was specially chosen to lead the world towards peace: "Dear children, unless the United States accepts and carries out faithfully the mandate given to it by heaven to lead the world to peace, there will come upon it and all nations a great havoc of war and incredible suffering. If, however, the United States is faithful to this mandate from heaven and yet fails in the pursuit of peace because the rest of the world will not accept or cooperate, then the United States will not be burdened with the punishment about to fall."

As with other personal revelations, Catholics are under no obligation to credence any Marian visitation as dogma or doctrine unless the Vatican says so. Such has been the case with the Marian dogmas of her Immaculate Conception, and Assumption. Although the visitations of Sr Mary Ephrem received the imprimatur of Bishop Paul Liebold of Cincinnati, there hasn't been to this date any Vatican recognition of the apparitions. Bishop Liebold died in 1972 after serving as Sr. Ephrem's spiritual advisor since 1957. You can read more about this Marian apparition at this website .

As with most Marian apparitions, if you take the time to read the entirety of Mary's messages, you will find many warnings about the pending disaster facing mankind if we don't repent and mend our ways. But a closer reading will lend itself to some interesting differences. Mary seems to be stressing a personal internal conversion and connection with herself and her son, not necessarily obedience to an external authoritarian source. And it's all about forgiveness, compassion and love---'pure' compassion, forgiveness, and love, not the kind tainted with any self interest.

While researching Our Lady of America, I came across another contemporary visionary. This one happened in Nicaragua, to a peasant rancher Bernardo Martinex in 1980. It's a great story about a man overwhelmed with his experiences. Although this apparition is virtually unknown, it does have the approval of the local bishop.

In these messages Mary stresses the proper praying of the rosary, developing faith with in families, and, again, the importance of love and forgiveness: "Do not be grieved. I am with all of you even though you do not see me. I am the Mother of All you sinners.
"Love one another. Forgive each other. Make peace, because if you don’t make it, there will be no peace. Do not turn to violence. Never turn to violence.

In one part of this story Bernardo asks Mary if she wants a church built. Why wouldn't he, it seems to be a standard request. Mary answers:

No! The Lord does not want material churches, He wants living temples which are yourselves. Restore the sacred temple of the Lord. In you is the gratification for the Lord. Love each other. Love one another. Forgive each other. Make peace. Don’t just ask for it, make peace. From this day on do not accept even one cent for anything." (By the way, this never accepting one cent for any healing or other intervention is standard practice with truly spiritually gifted healers--well, at least not asking for anything.)

These latest Marian visions are quite fascinating. At Fatima, we were told to pray the rosary, and make First Saturdays, but in Nicaragua Mary is stressing not just doing it, but HOW you do it correctly, with intent and focus. At Fatima we were told to pray through her for Jesus's intercession, especially in Russia. That peace on earth was a process of petition and repentance, but now she is saying, "don't just ask for it, make peace" with in ourselves and with each other.

She's telling us we are no longer her dependent children, we are active participants in our own future. What we believe, and how we act on those beliefs are powerful and really do effect things. Like any really caring mother she is telling us "Don't expect me to give you what you won't work for yourself, what you won't be yourself. Beggars can't be choosers."

She's also telling us the rosary is not just a prayer device, it's a powerful spiritual tool when used and prayed correctly. It's the Catholic version of the Native American's peace pipe and should be treated with the same respect and honor with which Native's treat their ceremonial pipes. Praying the rosary is truly a spiritual ceremony. Sometimes I think Catholics forget that or don't realize it. It's not an exercise to be taken lightly or rotely. (Tomorrow, I'll write about the Souix legend of how they received their pipe and pipe ceremonies. It's pretty fascinating.)

To end this, I really did find this research exercise to be rewarding and want to thank the reader who gave me the heads up on Our Lady of America. One last thing, Archbishop Raymond Burke is a big supporter of our Lady of America and would probably disagree with some of my take on both of these apparitions, but that's the nice thing about personal revelation. It's personal.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Putting The Child First In Sexual Morality

I have spent some of my morning reading pro life posts dealing with death and murder. In one such post, written from a very personal perspective, the author relates three stories. One deals with a jury deliberating execution for a cop killer, one tells of her relationships with a grandmother who died of Alzheimer's, and one of her acquaintance with a 'crack' mother whose child was taken from her by the state. All three examples deal with separation in some way or another. The interesting thing was in the commentary associated with the article. None of the comments deal with the 'crack' mom story or her sick premature infant.

This represents the thing I find really scary about the pro life movement, and the sexual morality of the Church. Where is any concern shown for the fruits of pro creation? It's as if all sexual morality ends with the ejaculation of sperm into a uterus, followed by the birth of said pro creative product. But what about the morality associated with raising that said pro creative product?

I use the term pro creative product, rather than child, because that to me is the Church's attitude toward born children. Once the product is off the assembly line all concern for it stops. It's not the product which counts, it's the assembly line.

This is taken to such lengths, that it becomes more moral to rape a woman than to masturbate. Since patriarchy perceives sperm to be the start of the assembly line, it's proper placement takes precedent. This makes the receiving uterus, or the actual production line, a subordinate player, at the mercy of the fact sperm is in the area.

I find it interesting that there are never any sermons directed at the phenomenon of male abandonment. I suspect that's because the Church places responsibility for the nurturing and raising of the pro creative product a very distant second in the natural morality associated with males. It's their sperm which counts. Complimentarity says this is the way it is. Men don't have breasts.

Women on the other hand, are morally entrained to be completely at the service of the pro creative product. It's their baggage, their breasts, their fruit. This is their prime reason for existence. They are both the production line uterus and the party primarily responsible for the product, and they are morally culpable for failure in any aspect of this system.

But what if the pro creative product was the start, rather than the finish of our sexual morality? We might have developed a very different sexual ethic. We might have decided it is far preferable to masturbate rather than engage in a procreative act when one has no intention of taking on the responsibility of raising the child.

We might have decided that it is morally acceptable to use RU48 after being raped, rather than forcing a woman to take on the life long responsibility of a child she didn't want and will have no father to help her support.

We might have decided it's a much higher moral good to use any means possible to control births rather than have children one can't begin to raise in a way which truly does cherish their existence as something more than pro creative product.

We might have decided that it is better for children to have parents, no matter their configuration, than to limit parenting to one particular version of traditional family.

We might have decided it's far better to tell our pubescent children what exactly all that hormonal raging entails, in terms of responsible use of their nascent sexuality, than 'don't do it'.

We might have decided, based on anatomy, that sex does serve other functions than just procreation. It's also an endorphin rush about bonding, and that rush, even for women, is just as much about external orgasm as it is internal.

We might have had a really really different attitude about actual pro creative sex: It is a far greater evil to engage in heterosexual activity without any intention to raise a child or bond with your partner, than any other form of sexual sin.

I've often wondered if Thomas Aquinas was alive today if he would place sperm at the top of the natural law sexual morality pyramid. It's hard to imagine he would formulate his theology thinking women were 'malformed' males, and that sperm contained complete little humans looking for fertile soil. I've often wondered if he isn't in heaven somewhere totally appalled that his sexual theology hasn't been updated to reflect the knowledge of our reality.

He might even be nauseated, suspecting that his theology is really being used to maintain heterosexual male supremacy in society, and that's the real reason it hasn't been updated.

Given all of the above, I guess I'm not surprised that the 'crack mom' and her baby weren't mentioned in the comments. Except the crack baby is the perfect symbol for everything that's wrong with our current notions of natural law.

It's of no moral consequence that exploitative heterosexuality frequently produces children born into awful circumstances. Circumstances which all too frequently raise antisocial humans who think nothing of killing cops. Apparently pro lifers feel fine with these pro creative products becoming the state's business. Not worth commenting on---until they kill cops, and then it's morally justified to kill them. A sort of state sanctioned late term abortion.

Unfortunately, this 'leave the procreative products for the state to clean up', is happening way too frequently, and will get even worse in this economy. It's way past time to put the live baby at the front of any notions of natural law sexual morality. Way past time. I really think Aquinas would agree.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Tradition, The Path From Fishermen to Potentates

The above photo is of Cardinal Pell of Sydney Australia celebrating a Traditional Latin Mass on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, this past week. The service was held in Rome.

The picture to the left depicts Jesus calling Peter and Andrew to be his apostles. They were simple fisherman.

The history of Roman Catholic tradition is supposed to explain how the Holy Spirit inspired our leadership to progress from simple fishermen to Imperial Cardinal.

I have a problem with believing the Holy Spirit inspired the Church to take on Imperial trappings and a Romanesque military hierarchy, and make them dogma.

I don't see the rough and tumble fisherman in Cardinal Pell and his entourage. I do see boatloads of fish in the cost of their vestments.

I don't see love operating in Masses in which the pomp and circumstance become more important than the truth of the Eucharist. Where form matters more than content, where the devotion and awe is purposely centered on the celebrants and not the Mass itself.

I grew up with the Latin Mass and the gold filigree and the mountains of lace. It left me feeling insignificant and confused. How was I supposed to connect with the humanity of Jesus and see his face in the poor when I was presented with images which were completely the opposite of His message.

As I got older, took a few psychology classes, some church history, it became readily apparent that I was never supposed to connect with the human Jesus. The Jesus which is part and parcel of my interior life. I was supposed to feel insignificant and less than because the authority of the clerical caste depended on me being dependent. My relationship with Jesus was supposed to go through them and be external to me. But that's not what Jesus actually taught. He taught the exact opposite. His kingdom was WITH IN us, not external to us.

The church could very easily have taught the Gospel without the Imperial trappings. It did successfully for it's first three centuries, and it works spectacularly well for Evangelicals now.

Dragging the Church back to the 'drag' will not be successful. It is jarring, it is out of touch with reality, and it's message is not love and transcendence, but ego and control.

Rumor has it the Vatican is planning to move the Kiss of Peace to the beginning of the offertory. Distancing it from communion where it is seen as disruptive to the 'correct' personal preparation for reception of the Host. For some people this won't be a big deal, but it is because it's one more step backwards. One more step where the theology of community is lessened. One more step away from communal nature of the Last Supper for the sake of old notions of personal piety.

It's been announced that Cardinal Arinze's replacement for the Congregation of Divine Worship will be Spain's Cardinal Antonio Canizares. Traditionalists are ecstatic, as they foresee that Cardinal Canizares will enthusiastically continue with the 'reforming' of the Novus Ordo. Cardinal Canizares was also one of the most outspoken Spanish prelates in it's attacks on Spain's socialist government. Benedict certainly seems to be surrounding himself with hard core right wing Bishops and Cardinals. I guess that let's him take on the kindly pastoral face of Rome.

Be that as it may, this has nothing to do with inspired fishermen and everything to do with preferred Imperial tastes. There's very little in all this which is spiritual or inspired by the Holy Spirit. If this is the kind of church Jesus envisioned, if these are the kinds of leaders He wanted, then the Church should just ditch the New Testament or at least those passages in which Jesus defined leaders as servants to the servants. It might not improve the church, but at least it would ditch most of the hypocrisy.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Love, A Strong Nuclear Force

The photo directly to the left is of a water crystal formed after tap water had been exposed to the Martin Luther King speech, I Have A Dream.
The photo above it, is of a water crystal formed after being exposed to the words, "You make me sick, I want to kill you." This link is to a website which explains how these photos are taken and why this phenomenon happens.
I have written in the past about the work of Dr. Masaru Emoto and how his work seems to prove that the crystalline structure in water is effected by human thought and consciousness.
Higher forms of thought and consciousness create more complex, organized, and beautiful crystals. In one sense these crystals, in that they are individually unique, can be considered visual representations of complex thoughts and feelings. Just like petroglyphs.
As can be seen from the above photos, aggressive hateful thinking causes disorganization and ugliness. This crystal didn't even form, and so it looks like microscopic mud.
Jesus taught about both the power of love and the power of exclusion, hate, exploitation and other forms of negativity we lump under the word sin. He wasn't kidding. Our thoughts and actions have a profound influence on the make up of our reality at sub the atomic level and those levels will then manifest in the greater reality. Love has real power, just like gravity. Hate has real power, just like magnetic attraction.
I wish leaders in religious institutions would meditate on these two photos. Some of them may just come to the conclusion that their fundamentalism, which defines 'others to exclude' in order to foster their own sense of righteous superiority, is doing great harm to those 'others', to themselves, and to the society in which we live.
Martin Luther King had a dream. It was a beautiful dream. It forms beautiful crystals. Jesus had a vision, and his vision was based on a core truth of this reality. Love does make the world a better place. It's not some ephemeral notion, it's a real force in how our material reality manifests.
The Kingdom Jesus spoke of is within us. It's in our very fundamental quantum structure. To find it we need to go within ourselves and our own consciousness. We need to use to power of love to change the ugliness inside. We need to actively seek conversion to a Faith in the power of love. It's what Jesus asked us to do. It's why his essence and Mary's essence is still so much a part of our material reality. Make connections, go with in, trust in Love, and change happens. Dr. Emoto's water crystal photos show it's all true.
For our reality, and how it's organised and manifested, God, the Creator, is Love.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Mary, Benedict, and Lilliputians

Life as a Catholic can be so interesting. Last week I posted Benedict's enlightened musings on original sin. This week, in celebrating the Immaculate Conception, Benedict seems to be back sliding. I guess that's what happens when Tradition sticks you with something that's based on a literal interpretation of Genesis.

The dogma of the Immaculate Conception affirms that Mary was preserved from "original sin."

"The existence of what the Church calls 'original sin'," Benedict XVI explained, "is, unfortunately, overwhelmingly obvious, if we only look around ourselves, and above all within ourselves. The experience of evil is, in fact, so consistent that it raises within us the question: where does this come from? Especially for a believer, the question is even deeper: if God, who is absolute Goodness, has created everything, where does evil come from?

The first pages of the Bible (Gn. 1-3) respond precisely to this fundamental question, which tests every human generation, with the story of creation and of the fall of the progenitors: God created everything for existence, and in particular he created the human being in his own image; he did not create death, but this entered the world through the envy of the devil (cf. Wis. 1:13-14; 2:23-24), who, rebelling against God, also drew men into deceit, inducing them to rebel. This is the drama of freedom, which God accepts completely for the sake of love, while promising that there will be a son of woman who will crush the head of the ancient serpent (Gn. 3:15)." (Benedict seems to want it both ways. Last week he said of Genesis: "How this happened, the Bishop of Rome contended, "remains obscure."Images have offered explanation, like those of Chapter 3 of Genesis, but "it cannot explain how much in itself is illogical. We can guess, not explain." Unfortunately, this week Benedict says the devil made us do it, because the theology of the Immaculate Conception is based on Genesis.)

"From the beginning," the pope continued, "'the eternal counsel', as Dante would say, has a 'final aim' (Paradiso XXXIII, 3): the Woman predestined to become the mother of the Redeemer, the mother of Him who humbled himself to the utmost, in order to restore in us our original dignity.

This Woman, in the eyes of God, has always had a face and a name: 'full of grace' (Lk. 1:28), as the angel called her when visiting her in Nazareth. She is the new Eve, wife of the new Adam, destined to be mother of all the redeemed. As Andrew of Crete wrote: 'The Theotókos Mary, the common refuge of all Christians, was the first to be liberated from the primitive fall of our progenitors' (Homily IV on the Nativity, PG 97, 880 A). And today's liturgy affirms that God has "prepared a worthy dwelling for his Son, and in anticipation of his death, has preserved her from all stain of sin' (Collect Prayer)."

(I'm not sure what Benedict is referring to here when he calls Mary wife of the New Adam. She wasn't Jesus's wife, she was his mother. He must be speaking symbolically or something.

Worthy dwelling for His son? Is Mary mostly just a perfect uterus with perfect ovum? In anticipation of his death? Why not in anticipation of His resurrection? This is a very confusing illogical paragraph.)


I don't know that there's a better example of how convoluted one's thinking has to be as a Catholic than when it comes to Mary. Even Benedict seems incapable of explaining the various doctrines concerning Mary without recourse to literal interpretations of Old Testament biblical passages.

The genesis story of Eve somehow compels God to envision the perfect woman in order to be the perfect vessel for His perfect son to be perfectly vesseled in so that Mary can then be the New Adam's perfect New Eve. Why can't Mary just be Jesus's plain old fashioned mother?

Could it be because that really does turn genesis on it's head? Instead of woman coming from man, as Eve supposedly does from Adam, our Savior comes from a woman, without any male contribution. This is more than just genesis in reverse. At least Adam contributed a rib in the creation of Eve. A male contributes zilch in the creation of Jesus. Do you suppose failure to emphasise this singular act of the lack of male contribution is just an over site?

Here's some of my interesting speculation based on genesis and Mary. Could it be that original sin came with the rib of Adam, and that's why a male was not involved in the creation of Jesus? Could it be that Mary was conceived without original sin because she was female and the fecund earth comes before the seed? (Wouldn't that notion set our sexual morality on it's head.)

Don't forget, those interfering angels were involved in the story of her conception as well. Who knows what else God's messengers were carrying other than messages. Maybe they had XX and XY chromosomal material free of original sin.

All speculating aside, I don't think we do Mary any justice with some of these doctrinal and dogmatic pronouncements which take her way beyond human, making her a caricature of some guy's romantic fantasies about his perfect sexless mother.

The reality of her life as recorded in the New Testament is that of a mother whose son had to have given her lots of premature grey hair. Jesus may have died to redeem us, but his death for Mary had to have been nothing more than a personal hell. Ask any Gold Star mother what it's like to lose a son on behalf of others.

This link is to a brilliant essay on Mary written by Dr. Clarissa Pincola Estes. I love Dr. Estes' writings because she understands, in spades, Native Indigenous spiritual understanding. She knows just how real it all can be, but so can Catholicism be real, when it's unleashed, unencumbered, not corralled.

Here's just a part of her essay, but it spoke volumes to me on what the Church has tried to do with not must Mary, but with all it's gifts of the Spirit:

"I often think of Guadalupe, Blessed Mother, with regard to an illustrated novel by Jonathan Swift that carried a picture of Gulliver, the traveler, pinioned to the ground. Gulliver had become a quasi-prisoner of the Lilliputians, a tiny people only 6 inches high. They critiqued Gulliver, among other things, for being in several ways “too big.” So, they tied him crisscross over all his limbs, and took him down with ropes then wrapped around brass nails and driven into pallet and ground.

The tiny Lilliputians stood on Gulliver’s chest and felt they had tied down the leviathan, the behemoth. But Gulliver just simply sat up ... and all his bonds burst, and all the tiny Lilliputians fell off, tumbling into the grass.

The giant lumbered off with the trivial rope-strings trailing behind. The Lilliputians shook their heads -- as usual -- trying to make sense of the Gulliver figure that was, in form, similar to themselves in body ... but in an entirely other way, so very unlike themselves.

I think many can understand this push to pare down the numinous, the unfamiliar, the unknown. What is truly divine mystery can be overwhelming at first. Yet it would seem in a culture that likes to minimize true magnitude of talents, for instance ... and to magnify the minimus, “the little man,” that is, the flimsiness or meanness or not well- formed qualities of matters ... that it is not only our calling, but our troth, our sacred promise given from the very first moment we ever saw the soul be assaulted in anyone, by anyone ... to untie the Strong Woman now. And forever."

Way too often, the only relationship we’ve been taught/told/offered to have with Blessed Mother ... is either none, through silence about her rich bloodline with us ... or else one in which we must agree to bind her down into a small and handle-able form ... diminishing her, by making her be the quiescent “good girl” ... in phony opposition to having another woman, The Magdalene, be the less quiescent “bad girl.” These are distortions of both women’s origins and gifts. Untie them both, then.

I have listened to some few theologians talking about Our Lady as though she is an appendage to a group of historical facts. Neither is she, as some charge, a superstition. She is not an obedient building made of cement, marble or bricks. She is not to be used as a length of holy wire to bind us all into docility, severing the other hundreds of traits given by God for being beautifully and reasonably human. She is not meant as a fence, but as a gate."

I wish Benedict would not let his best thinking get tied down by the Lilliputians, because the truth is, the best thinking can't be tied down.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Some Words From The Papal Preacher

One of the contemporary priests whose work I enjoy reading is that of Father Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher of the Pontifical Household. He has a unique ability of expressing traditional Catholic beliefs in contemporary ways. This link is to his sermon on the First Sunday of Advent to the papal household. It deals with the conversion of St. Paul and Paul's understanding of his conversion, but more than that Father Cantalamessa speaks eloquently on why Christianity is different from other spiritual systems.

In his sermon he speaks about Paul's willingness to give up everything Paul had achieved in his own religious world--that of being a well respected Pharisee--for what Christ offered him on the road to Damascus--a different understanding of the role of law in Paul's spirituality and a different relationship with God.

"Every religious proposal begins by telling men what they must do to save themselves or to obtain "illumination." Christianity does not begin by telling men what they must do, but what God has done for them in Christ Jesus. Christianity is the religion of grace."

In the rancorous climate of today's Church, I think we either overlook, or outright forget what makes Christianity truly different from other systems. It's not about the rules, it's about the gift of Grace, freely given and unearned. It's such radical idea, and is so counter cultural, we keep giving it back, or worse yet, attempting to take it away from others.

I suspect this notion of Grace freely given and unearned, is why it is so often metaphorically expressed by Jesus with references to parents and children. As children we aren't aware of so many of the gifts freely given to us by our parents, or the fact that we don't earn most of those we are aware.
As parents, whether of children (or pets for that matter), half the time we don't even think of the gifts we so freely give. We just do it, giving love freely, hoping the gifts will guide our erstwhile charges on a good road, on a beautiful road. It's what Jesus is about too. He's about love freely given in the hopes we can find a good road, a beautiful road that leads to the Kingdom. A Kingdom which is already here, and has many roads leading to it.

I hope readers can take the time to read Fr. Cantalamessa's sermon. As his Advent meditations become available I will continue to link them with this blog. The man is worth reading, and he's also reputed to by a mystic!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

A Pastural Statement To Gays From Cardinal Mahony

Similar pastural offering

Friday, December 5, 2008

A pastoral message to homosexual Catholics in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles
By Cardinal Roger M. Mahony and the Auxiliary Bishops of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

As Bishops of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, we are addressing this message first of all to the homosexual members of our Church. Given the controversy generated by the passage of Proposition 8, we want to reassure each of you that you are cherished members of the Catholic Church, and that we value you as equal and active members of the Body of Christ. At the same time, we would like to address this message to all the members of the Catholic Church in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, and to all men and women in the wider community. (Excluding of course, for the priesthood. Believe me Cardinal Mahony, I do not feel welcomed nor cherished and never have, and neither has any gay Catholic friend of mine. Especially those who are working for this 'caring' church, and know they will lose their jobs if they ever come out.)

The passage of Proposition 8 in the State of California does not diminish in any way the importance of you, our homosexual brothers and sisters in the Church. Nor does it lessen your personal dignity and value as full members of the Body of Christ. The Church's support of Proposition 8 was our effort to resist a legal redefinition of marriage. Our support for Proposition 8 was in defense of the longstanding institution of marriage understood as the life-long relationship of a man and a woman ordered to the good of the spouses and to the procreation and education of their children. (These statements are absolutely true. It is impossible to diminish from a starting point of zero.)

We are disappointed that the ballot information about Proposition 8 stated that the purpose of the initiative was "to ban gay marriage." From the very beginning, this was not our purpose. (Really Cardinal, then why didn't you make an attempt to clarify this issue? In fact, you and your supporters dragged up every fear based argument you could come up with, and most of them were FALSE.)
When the United Nations was established in 1948, it proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which set in place some 30 Articles to embrace all rights of all peoples on the earth. Article 16 deals with marriage. In the context of the time when it was written, it is clear that the basic understanding of the family, as envisioned by the United Nations Declaration, was one founded on the marriage of one man and one woman. (I beg to differ. Polygamy was certainly the preferred form of traditional marriage in many countries in 1948. Perhaps article 16 was meant to address polygamy and all the injustice towards women and children inherent in polygamous marriages.)

Subsection 3 states: "The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State." It is this universal understanding of marriage and family which Proposition 8 desired to guarantee in California. (Except for the families and children of gay people of course. You don't care what this message says to them. Come to think of it, their very existence kind of undercuts the 'universal understanding' of marriage and family. Come to think of it, SO DOES THE EXISTENCE OF MILLIONS OF SINGLE PARENT AND MIXED FAMILIES.)

Such an understanding of marriage is found in at least three major religious traditions which have described the origin, meaning, and intent of marriage in their sacred writings. In the Hebrew Scriptures, we find explicit reference to marriage between a man and a woman in 51 verses located in 19 books. The Christian Scriptures have 14 verses dealing directly with marriage in six books. The Muslim Koran records 14 passages dealing with marriage. (Cardinal, how many of these cited verses are referring to polygamy? I guess it's OK if a man marries multiple wives in separate ceremonies. Mohamed was a polygamist, Joseph Smith was a polygamist and they were the writers of their scriptural books. The Old Testament is full of polygamists and their writings. Are we to ignore all this? What you really all have in common is traditional polygamy and male homophobia.)

Thus, our faith communities and their sacred writings are in agreement about the application of the term "marriage." And there are other faith communities which, in their own sacred writings, concur with this understanding. Our faith communities have never understood this term to be applied to other types of relationships between people. (Lies, lies and more lies.)

These sacred writings and traditions, spanning thousands of years, support the fundamental truth that God created the human family as male and female, sending them forth to be fruitful and multiply. This is the understanding of marriage which has prevailed throughout human history, and has been enacted in the laws of peoples, nations, races and religions everywhere. It is this truth that is at the heart of Proposition 8. (Marriage has historically been a contractual obligation having more to do with property rights that sanctity. That's my problem Cardinal, prop 8 was based on lies and inventifacting and homophobia, and that's the real truth.)

Proposition 8 was not crafted as a concern for civil rights but as an effort to resist a redefinition of marriage. "Marriage" is not a merely religious concept, but is so fundamental to human experience that it cannot be redefined legally. (That's absolutely true, Cardinal. You and your supporters had zero concern for the civil rights of a particular group of citizens as legally established in the California constitution. )

The Catholic Church has historically opposed attempts to deny or to limit the exercise of the basic rights which are known through the natural law and which are expounded in Sacred Scriptures and in the charters and declarations of world bodies. Our efforts in this country to espouse equal rights for all citizens have frequently created adverse reactions for our Church: our somewhat belated efforts to prohibit slavery; our insistence on equal educational opportunities for all children; our strong support of immigrants' rights; our struggles on behalf of unborn children and those at the end of life's journey, and so many others. (Somewhat belated? Wow it's starting to stink around here. I noticed you didn't add equal rights for women.)

In 1997 the United States Catholic Bishops' Committee on Marriage and the Family published Always Our Children: A Pastoral Message to Parents of Homosexual Children and Suggestions for Pastoral Ministers, urging the Christian community and especially parents of homosexuals to offer them understanding and pastoral care. (And then the USCCB completely gutted it in 2006. Let's see, 1997 was before you decided to blame the 2002 pedophile crisis on gays, and 2006 was after. I get it. No wonder you cherish gays. We're very useful aren't we?)

Proposition 8 was never intended, directly or indirectly, to lessen the value and importance of gay and lesbian persons. Your intrinsic value as human beings and as brothers and sisters continues without change. If we had ever thought that the intent of this proposition was to harm you or anyone in the State of California, we would not have supported it. We are personally grateful for the witness and service of so many dedicated and generous homosexual Catholics. We pledge our commitment to safeguard your dignity. (Look my daughter in the face, Cardinal, and try this crap on her. Every single child of every gay family has been grievously hurt. Every gay child in every church who had to sit through this campaign has been grievously hurt. What did they ever do to you Cardinal? Where is the dignity for them?)

Here in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles we began our spiritual and pastoral outreach to homosexual people over 20 years ago. And we were pilloried by many for doing so. We began the various Serra Residences for victims of HIV and AIDS when the public understanding and fear of this illness repulsed so many. ('Pilloried' must be the new code word for the Church being tortured for their ever so generous and caring understanding of homosexuality. Poor church.)

As we have come to learn over these past decades, there are many groupings of people residing under one roof across California. Some of these groupings are related family members, while others are companions and friends. There are now 17 rights for such companions and friends specifically included in the State of California's legal structure. (As Fr. Geoff Farrow says on his blog, imagine some guy telling his prospective wife: "Let's forgo marriage for a civil union." I'm sure she'd be ever so willing to go along with that one.

We are saddened that some people who opposed Proposition 8 have employed hurtful and accusatory language, and even threatening actions, against those who voted for Proposition 8. This is most unfortunate since such strategies obscure the basic matter at issue: the preservation of the ordered relationship between man and woman created by God.
Supporting marriage as it has always been understood diminishes none of us. (The onus is on you to prove that gay marriage somehow diminishes marriage, something you turn on it's head with this statement. What prop 8 did do, is diminish the family experience and legal safety net for every child of gay parents. It hurts real children--millions of them.)

We welcome thoughtful and civil dialogue with you so that we can deepen our realization that all of us cherish God's creative life which we equally share. We are committed to find ways to eliminate discrimination against homosexual persons, and to help guarantee the basic rights which belong to each of us. (Isn't this the whole point of your marriage argument, that gay marriages do not have CREATIVE life, that they are not EQUAL. Quit with the bogus double speak, it's sickening.)
Cardinal Roger M. Mahony
Bishop Thomas Curry
Bishop Gerald Wilkerson
Bishop Edward Clark
Bishop Gabino Zavala
Bishop Alexander Salazar
Bishop Oscar Solis
I have nothing more to say. The picture at the top of this piece says it all.

An Ages Old Battle Continues

I've been studying St. Paul and the early battles between the Jerusalem Church of James and Peter, and the Pauline Church of Antioch. It seems some things never change.

This original dispute centered on whether or not converts to Christianity had to accept Jewish law, including male circumcision. This was felt necessary in the Jerusalem church of James and Peter, which tended to see Christianity as another Jewish sect. Paul and his 'law free' church felt one could be a member of Jesus's church without accepting Jewish customs and laws. Paul did not see Christianity as another Jewish sect. Jesus taught a relationship with God which fulfilled and transcended Judaism.

It's hard to tell from Scripture how or if this was ever settled. Paul seems to have been sort of exiled from Antioch, taking his version of Christianity further afield. In the end Paul won out. It seems his message of inclusion and equality held more appeal for gentiles.

In one sense this can be seen as a battle between those who think obedience to traditional law is a primary requirement to a relationship with God, and those who think obedience to the spirit of the law is more important.

In my scheme of things Jerusalem versus Antioch was a clash between the Stage II spiritual thinking of Peter and James, and the Stage IV spiritual thinking of Paul.

I've often thought about the significance of Paul's conversion. Why would Paul be singled out as the Resurrected Jesus's hand picked apostle? Why did Jesus feel he needed another apostle? Did Jesus think His message was getting lost amongst the rules and regulations, and so he stepped in to correct the mistake?

He couldn't have picked a better example. As Saul, Paul was a Pharisee and no friend of the nascent Christianity. After his conversion he rejected strict law observance in favor of a spiritual understanding of law, and again, was no friend of nascent Jewish Christianity. Paul radically changed, but he was still a thorn in the side of the Church. Apparently there was something about the core of Paul's personality that was essential to Jesus and his mission for Paul. All that single minded focus demonstrated by Saul, was also core to Paul, and in his obstinate determination to hold to his point of view---even against Apostles that had actually experienced the living Christ and theoretically had more authenticity than Paul. It's all very interesting.

But now we come to today's example of how the more things change the more they stay the same. The same battle between the law believers and Apostolic authority, versus those who believe in the spirit of the message and a more law free church, is being played out in Brisbane, AU with the parish of St. Mary's.

I've posted about St. Mary's before, and I'll keep posting about St. Mary's because their situation serves as a real life example of the apparently endless conflict between Stage II thinking and Stage IV thinking. Just as St. Stanislas Kostka does in St. Louis, St. Mary's presents a challenge to the Vatican. Essentially both parishes are asking Benedict if they can 'walk his talk'.

The first link is a letter written by Archbishop Bathersby to St. Mary's asking for clarification on the parish's part about certain doctrinal issues, and the second link is St. Mary's response. It's fascinating reading. It really is shades of Jerusalem vs Antioch.

History shows us on whose side the Spirit was moving in the first 'law vs spirit' battle, and I have hope history will repeat itself. For those of you who may be new to this blog and don't quite get the references to stage II and IV spirituality, try this link for a short and succinct description of all four stages of spiritual development.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Finally The Righteous Right Comes To The Aid Of Their Sister Wife

Check out the new full page ad placed in the New York Times from the Beckett Fund . Seems the financially parasitic religious right has decided they need to 'stand in solidarity' with the LDS church after they used the LDS Church's financial resources and members as their shock troops in the Prop 8 fight in California.

One would think twenty million dollars and 80% of the ground troops ought to get one a little more support from one's fellow warriors, even if one is still considered a 'cult' in their ever so righteous eyes. Something more than a token full page ad and a website set up a full month after the election and after all the protests. How simply courageous of them.

Actually, this is sort of the way Mormon first wives treated the third or fourth or fifth sister wife. I hope the LDS Church doesn't think for one minute that any of the movers and shakers in the Catholic or Evangelical right really think of the LDS church as an equal. No, it's about the distant sister wife's substantial dowry.

Nothing like being invited to buy your way into the 'traditional marriage' crowd. Just don't expect the honeymoon to last.

Note to LDS Church: Gays aren't your real enemy sister wife, it's your manipulative fellow wives. Just like they use gays for their own purposes, they used you, your resources, and your desire to be seen as pretty like them. But they aren't pretty, and deep down in side you know it.

From Torture To Truth

The following is the story of Dianna Ortiz, an Ursuline nun from New Mexico, who worked with Indigenous Guatemalans in the eighties during the Reagan administration. This is an edited version of her statement. The full statement can be read here.

I want to be free of these memories. I want to be as trusting, confident, adventurous, and carefree as I was in 1987 when I went to the western highlands of Guatemala to teach young indigenous children to read and write in Spanish and in their native language and to understand the Bible in their culture. But on November 2, 1989, the Dianna I just described ceased to exist. I tell you this story only because it reflects the suffering of hundreds of thousands of people in Guatemala, a country ravaged by a civil war that began in 1960 and lasted thirty-six years. Most of the victims, like me, were civilians targeted by government security forces.

(Dianna still has few memories of her life before her attack.)

As I sat reading in the garden of a convent, where I had retreated to think about my options after receiving increasingly violent death threats, I heard a man’s deep voice behind me: "Hello, my love," he said in Spanish. "We have some things to discuss." I turned to see the morning sunlight glinting off a gun held by a man who had threatened me once before on the street. He and his partner forced me onto a bus, then into a police car where they blindfolded me. We came to a building and they led me down some stairs. They left me in a dark cell, where I listened to the cries of a man and woman being tortured. When the men returned, they accused me of being a guerrilla and began interrogating me. For every answer I gave them, they burned my back or my chest with cigarettes. Afterwards, they gang-raped me repeatedly.

Then they transferred me to another room and left me alone with another woman prisoner. We exchanged names, cried, and held onto each other. "Dianna," she said in Spanish, "they will try to break you. Be strong." When the men returned, they had a video camera and a still camera. The policeman put a machete into my hands. Thinking it would be used against me, and at that point in my torture wanting to die, I did not resist. But the policeman put his hands onto the handle, on top of mine, and forced me to stab the woman again and again. What I remember is blood gushing—spurting like a water fountain—droplets of blood splattering everywhere—and my cries lost in the cries of the woman.

The policeman asked me if I was now ready to talk, and one of the other torturers, the man who had threatened me on the street, mentioned that they had just filmed and photographed me stabbing the woman. If I refused to cooperate, their boss, Alejandro, would have no choice but to turn the videotapes and the photographs over to the press, and everyone would know about the crime I’d committed. This was the first I had heard of Alejandro, the torturers’ boss. But soon I would meet him.

I was taken into a courtyard and interrogated again. The policeman wanted me to admit that I was Veronica Ortiz Hernandez. Earlier he had shown me a photograph of a long-haired, indigenous woman. "That’s you," he’d said. "You are Veronica Ortiz Hernandez." She looked nothing like me. He was still insisting on this, and asking me the name of a man in another photograph he had shown me.

The policeman raped me again. Then I was lowered into a pit full of bodies— bodies of children, men, and women, some decapitated, all caked with blood. A few were still alive. I could hear them moaning. Someone was weeping. I didn’t know if it was me or somebody else. A stench of decay rose from the pit. Rats swarmed over the bodies and were dropped onto me as I hung suspended over the pit by the wrists. I passed out and when I came to I was lying on the ground beside the pit, rats all over me.

The nightmare I lived was nothing out of the ordinary. In 1989, under Guatemala’s first civilian president in years, nearly two hundred people were abducted. Unlike me, they were "disappeared, gone forever." The only uncommon element of my ordeal was that I survived, probably because I was a U.S. citizen, and phone calls poured into Congress when I was reported missing. As a U.S. citizen, I had another advantage: I could, in relative safety, reveal afterwards the details of what happened to me in those twenty-four hours. One of those details: an American was in charge of my torturers.

I remember the moment he removed my blindfold. I asked him, "Are you an American?" In poor Spanish and with a heavy American accent, he answered me with a question: "Why do you want to know?" Moments before, after the torturers had blindfolded me again and were getting ready to rape me again, they had called out in Spanish: "Hey, Alejandro, come and have some fun!"

And a voice had responded "Shit!" in perfect American English with no trace of an accent. It was the voice of the tall, fair-skinned man beside me. After swearing, he’d switched to a halting Spanish. "Idiots!" he said. "She’s a North American nun." He added that my disappearance had been made public, and he ran them out of the room.

Now he was helping me on with my clothes. "Vamos," he said, and he led me out of the building. He kept telling me he was sorry. The torturers had made a mistake. We came to a parking garage, where he put me into a gray Suzuki jeep and told me he was taking me to a friend of his at the U.S. embassy who would help me leave the country.

For the duration of the trip, I spoke to him in English, which he understood perfectly. He said he was concerned about the people of Guatemala and consequently was working to liberate them from Communism. Alejandro told me to forgive my torturers because they had confused me with Veronica Ortiz Hernandez. It was an honest mistake.

I asked him how they could have mistaken me for a woman who did not resemble me in any way. And why were the threatening letters I had received addressed to Madre Dianna and not to Veronica Ortiz Hernandez? He avoided my questions and insinuated that I was to blame for my torture because I had not heeded the threats that were sent to me. I asked him what would happen to the other people I had heard screaming and saw tortured before my eyes. He told me not to concern myself with them and to forget what had happened.

In English again, he made it clear that if I didn’t "forgive" my torturers, I would face consequences. "We have the videotapes and the photographs," he said. Soon the jeep stopped in traffic. We were near an intersection and up ahead was a red light. I took advantage of the opportunity, jumped out of the jeep, and ran.

I thought that was the end of my torture. It was only the beginning. Because I didn’t "forget" about the other people being tortured, because I filed suit against the Guatemalan security forces instead of forgiving my torturers, and because I revealed that they were supervised by an American, I faced consequences. The Guatemalan president claimed that the abduction had never occurred, simultaneously claiming that it had been carried out by nongovernmental elements and therefore was not a human rights abuse. Only one week after my abduction, before any true investigation had been conducted, the U.S. ambassador suggested that I was a political strategist and had staged my own kidnapping to secure a cutoff of U.S. military aid to Guatemala.

Two months later, after a U.S. doctor had counted 111 cigarette burns on my back alone, the story changed. In January 1990, the Guatemalan defense minister publicly announced that I was a lesbian and had staged my abduction to cover up a tryst. The minister of the interior echoed this statement and then said he had heard it first from the U.S. embassy. According to a congressional aide, the political affairs officer at the U.S. embassy, Lew Anselem, was indeed spreading the same rumor. (What ever will they do when they no longer have the 'gay' excuse with which to blame their victims.)

In the presence of Ambassador Thomas Stroock, this same human rights officer told a delegation of religious men and women concerned about my case that he was "tired of these lesbian nuns coming down to Guatemala." The story would undergo other permutations. According to the Guatemalan press, the ambassador came up with another version: he told the Guatemalan defense minister that I was not abducted and tortured but simply "had problems with [my] nerves." (Now we have the old female 'nerves' excuse. I guess the lesbian tryst thing didn't fly very far.)

During this time, the United States was working arm in arm with the Guatemalan army to achieve a secret foreign policy objective–defeating the Guatemalan guerrillas. And my case was bad publicity for the army. Because I had mentioned the American boss, it was also bad publicity for the U.S. government, whose overt foreign policy objectives in Guatemala were promoting democracy, stability, and respect for human rights. In the ambassador’s words, my case could "damage U.S. interests." In a letter urging State Department officials not to meet with me to take my testimony, the ambassador put it this way: "If the Department meets with her...pressure from all sorts of people and groups will build on the Department to act on the information she provides...I’m afraid we’re going to get cooked on this one...."

The Organization of American States, after completing a four-year investigation of my case, found in 1997 that I indeed was abducted and tortured by agents of the Guatemalan government, that the details of my testimony were credible, and that the Guatemalan government had "engaged in repeated unwarranted attacks on [my] honor and reputation."
The Guatemalan justice system was not so forthcoming. I made three trips to Guatemala to testify against the government, something no torture survivor had ever been able to do. Again, my passport opened up possibilities for me that Guatemalans would never have. Pressing charges would mean certain death for a Guatemalan who managed to survive torture. I identified the place where I was detained and tortured, and participated in a reenactment of my abduction.

On my return to the United States, I received intimidating phone calls and anonymous packages. One contained a dead mouse wrapped in a Guatemalan flag. I suspect that Guatemalan military intelligence agents or members of a U.S. intelligence agency were behind these attempts to intimidate me.

The intimidation did not end with anonymous threats, but carried over into the courtroom. As I sought justice, I was cast as the criminal, much as women who file charges of rape are presumed guilty until proven innocent. The lawyers’ accusations against me and their aggressive interrogations triggered flashbacks. The case languished in the Guatemalan court system. No suspects were ever identified.

In 1996, I held a five-week vigil before the White House, asking for the declassification of all U.S. government documents related to human rights abuses in Guatemala since 1954, including documents on my own case. A few days into my vigil, I was granted a meeting with First Lady Hillary Clinton. Mrs. Clinton admitted what no other U.S. government official had dared to concede during my seven-year search for the truth behind my abduction and torture in Guatemala: she said it was possible that the American in charge of my Guatemalan torturers was a "past or present employee of a U.S. agency."


I don't suppose it comes as any shock that Sr. Ortiz's torturers and their boss, received training from the US School of the Americas located at Fort Benning, Georgia. This is the school which is picketed by thousands every November. This is the same rally which was the brain child of that 'heretical' priest, Fr. Roy Bourgeios. This is also happens to be the school on whose board of directors sits Roman Catholic Bishop Robert Morlino, a Bush appointee.

Sr. Ortiz's story is incomprehensible, but I'm certain, we will hear similar stories from detainees of Guantanamo and other Black Ops hideouts. As was the Reagan CIA, so is the Bush CIA.

Barack Obama made campaign promises to close both Guatanamo and the School of the Americas. He needs to deliver. He also needs to convene a special prosecutor to investigate personal culpability on all levels of the Bush Adminsitration. Our torture policy is not just a black eye for our definition of ourselves as a moral democracy, it has also been estimated to have been a major factor in the deaths of upwards of 2000 of our soldiers in Iraq and been the single biggest recruitment tool for our terrorist adversaries. Torture was not just a moral disaster. It was also a strategic and tactical disaster.

There are many aspects of Sr. Ortiz'z story which serve to illustrate the level of moral bankruptcy which our government functionaries will sink to in order to protect their and their administration's abuses of power.

Blaming the victim, using spurious claims of lesbianism, challenging the veracity of her testimony, claiming national security issues, are typical strategies of powerful men caught in traps of their own making.

Protecting the institutions which feed them is the primary mission of the bought and paid for party apparatchik. We've seen this whole thing played out in the Catholic hierarchy in the sexual abuse crisis for the last seven years. When the pursuit and protection of power becomes the sole focus of an institution, there are no rules of decency. There is no perception of the 'other' as worthy of human compassion.

Lest one think the Vatican is somehow different, think again. In their opposition to the French and European Union call for the world wide decriminalization of homosexuality, the Vatican is willing to allow for the torture and imprisonment of homosexuals in 85 countries in order to protect their notion of 'traditional marriage'. In eight of these countries men are executed for the crime of being homosexual. It seems homosexuality has replaced communism as the biggest threat to entrenched Catholic interests.

Cardinal Miggliore, the Vatican ambassador to the UN, even goes so far as the justify this imprisonment, torture, and execution of homosexuals as necessary in order to protect the state.

"If adopted, they would create new and implacable discrimination's," Migliore said. "For example, states which do not recognize same-sex unions as 'matrimony' will be pilloried and made an object of pressure," Migliore said. (Pilloried? isn't that kind of like tortured? How awful for these states.)

He also states that the Vatican in no way wishes to imply that they agree with any discrimination against homosexuals. Just like Guatemalan officials wished us all to know that they weren't torturing anyone, or disappearing anyone, or working with our CIA in these efforts, and the Bush administration wanted us to swallow their hogwash about not being engaged in torture---until the pictures came out. Until the truth came out.

In the end, Truth always wins out, but like the story of Sr. Ortiz proves, it won't come out unless it's forced out by people committed to a cause which goes beyond themselves, and this forcing doesn't involve torture. It just involves implacable integrity. Something sadly lacking in both the hypocritical Bush administration, and the Church's hypocritical stance on homosexuality.