Saturday, February 28, 2009

Whatever Happened To This Fr. Ratzinger?

Fr Ratzinger and Father Karl Rahner at Vatican II. My how times change.

The following is from a longer article in Commonweal written by John Wilkins entitled "Why I Became A Catholic". The entire article is worth reading, but the author's description of Vatican II and it's effect on so many people makes it especially worth while reading.

"What was happening in Rome was inseparable from his person. (John XXIII) From the start, despite the risks of the adventure he was taking, he radiated confidence and assurance. Humanly speaking, I doubt whether I could readily have discerned Peter the Fisherman in the figure of Pius XII. But in his successor it shone out. You could almost see him throwing out his nets to catch all people of goodwill.

Suddenly the Catholic Church was making news everywhere. Secular papers that previously might have had the same journalist to cover religion and sports now reported the council in depth. Thrust and counterthrust on the floor of the council hall-the nave of St. Peter’s-made good copy. It was this very public debate that perturbed the future Pope John Paul II, then Archbishop Karol Wojtyla, when he attended the council with his colleagues in the episcopate. In Poland they did things differently, discussing behind closed doors so that a front of unity was maintained against the Communist regime. (This particular aspect of JPII can not be stressed enough. In many respects his papacy reflected this same 'us against the world' mentality, especially towards any left leaning thinking.)

I followed the media accounts with astonishment. This church was not as I had imagined. It was a church of personalities. It was not like General Motors, a multinational organized from headquarters according to a blueprint for all the branches. The pope and the bishops were not above and outside the rest, as if on the top of a pyramid, but rather at the center of the circle constituted by the whole body. This was a communion of the servants of God, and the pope was the servant of the servants. Looking at Pope John, you saw that in action. (I just love this description, the hierarchy as the center of a circle constituted by the whole body.)

I was struck by the boldness of the proceedings in Rome. Here was a church, I saw, that felt itself to be intimately connected with the Upper Room where the first Christians received their calling, as if by an umbilical cord. It was as though it owned the tradition and safeguarded it, as well as being subject to it. So it felt able to develop that tradition and correct past interpretations of it and deductions from it, with a freedom that I found astonishing. It looked to me like a Reformation, Roman style. “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us,” was the apostles’ formula at the first council in the church’s history, held in Jerusalem about AD 49, according to the biblical account in Acts 15:28. The Catholic Church could still say that two thousand years later. It did, and change snowballed. (In other words tradition itself empowered the bishops to expand on it. It did not reduce them to defending it.)

Of course the church did not become something different. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism. But the river flowing from the source in the Upper Room toward the sea of the Omega Point took a series of turns. Some of them were U-turns.

This church now announced that it understood itself to be traveling with all men and women of goodwill. It was reaching out to people like me. It no longer defined itself as a lighted castle on a hill, set above the murky flux of history, from which Christian knights would sally out to save whomever they could from secular evils and errors. It was a pilgrim with us on the road, ready to learn as well as teach. It had turned its back, said Pope John in his opening speech, on “those prophets of doom, who are always forecasting disaster, as though the end of the world were at hand.” After a period when it had seemed afraid of the modern world, it had regained its confidence, secure in the faith, as Pope John put it, that “Christ is ever resplendent as the center of history and of life.”
(This last sentence is what saddens me the most. The Church seems to have been reformed back into an institution afraid of the modern world, no longer believing that "Christ is ever resplendent as the center of history and of life", and dire predictions about the end of the world are back with us.)


The impetus for John Wilkin's reflection was Benedict's pastoral gesture to SSPX. At the end of his reflection, John asks some very pertinent questions:

The pope has asserted that the Lefebvrist bishops, who remain suspended from celebrating the sacraments licitly, must now show true acceptance of Vatican II. But how could they ever do that? The only practical possibility would be an ambiguous formula that would allow them to sign while continuing in the same belief and practice as before. It would not matter so much if this brought these bishops back within the embrace of the church universal. It would matter a great deal if it brought the church universal closer to them.

Were those like me deceived when we saw a vision of what the church truly was at Vatican II and followed it? Was the council a flash in the pan, a hiccup in the church’s life, as it were, before the Catholic organism, challenged, closed back in on itself? I could never believe that. The currents of renewal have affected the river of Catholic belief too deeply and strongly to be denied. But what has happened to the wholehearted affirmation of the council that Joseph Ratzinger memorably expressed in his brilliant little book Theological Highlights of Vatican II, published in 1966 just after the bishops had finished their work?

Benedict's brilliant little book was a positive analysis of Vatican II, especially it's notions of ecumenism and the nature of the Church. It was not well received by traditionalists, especially Marcel Lefebvre's group. Their contention was that the Church's entire tradition had always stated their was no salvation outside of Catholicism. There were no legitimate ecclesial churches outside of Catholicism, and Catholicism held the total truth about Jesus Christ and his intentions for mankind. This link will take you to an analysis of Benedict's book from the SSPX perspective. The basic thrust of the analysis is that Vatican II was not an extension of traditional thinking on the true nature of the church, but was in direct opposition to tradition, making it a form of heresy.

Like John Wilkins, I see no way for the SSPX to affirm the teachings of Vatican II. Their opposition is the reason for their existence. Vatican II documents do leave open plenty of room for salvation outside of the Church. For Traditionalists there is no such thing as ecumenism, there is only conversion. There is no such thing as Truth outside of the Church, there is only heresy. These are not positions from which one dialogues, they are positions from which one bullies. This is why I think Wilkin's second option is far more likely, that Benedict's open hand signals a shift towards the thinking of SSPX and away from Vatican II.

If this turns out to be true, then Benedict has done exactly the same thing as Archbishop Chaput, gone from a humanist progressive to an authoritarian traditional conservative, and not just liturgically but in his conception of what the Church actually is.

Why, I wonder? Does all of this actually reflect an enormous lack of trust in the People of God, in the power of the Holy Spirit, in the ability of Jesus to work His love within the greater world? I think it does, because one of the hallmarks of a lack of trust is the need to assert authority to maintain a semblance of control. In other words, it isn't about faith in Jesus, it's about a lack of faith in the living Jesus, in the Resurrected Jesus. It forces the Church to operate from a position of existential powerlessness which is then manifested by having to force itself on the flock and the culture in which it is situated. Can anyone say 'Martino'.

The good news is in the end Jesus reserved our final judgement to His hands. Thank God.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Sort of describes me and JPII. Opposite Poles.

I've been doing a lot of thinking about a paragraph I wrote yesterday in which I said that somehow Archbishop Chaput and I started out exactly the opposite of each other in the political religious sense, and after experiencing the seventies and eighties, moved to the exact opposite ends of the spectrum. He is now where I started and vice versa.

Theologically I had moved from traditional conservative to a more progressive liberal by the time I left undergraduate school. I had great theology teachers who opened up a theological world I had no idea even existed. These men were not all Vatican II liberals, in fact, some of them would have been right at home in the Legion of Christ, but what they all had in common was a strong desire to pursuit theological truth and to give their students the means to do so themselves. In other words they had a commitment to doing theology, not teaching us the catechism.

I remember my last semester when I was taking one course called 'Christian Secularity' and another on demonology. My faculty adviser, who taught the Christian Secularity class, could not for the life of him understand why I would waste my time on a class on demonology. I tried to explain to him that demonology pointed to a much bigger cosmos than secularists were want to entertain and that I found the whole topic fascinating because historically it tied into my Clinical Psychology major.

I don't know that he bought into my reasoning, but the ironic thing is that the priest who taught demonology sort of cracked up in the middle of the semester and my faculty advisor wound up having to teach the demonology class. He was so not comfortable giving any credence to the whole concept of demonology, so it was fun to sit in class and watch him squirm.

I wrote a final paper on Padre Pio, in which I speculated on whether Padre Pio was a delusional psychotic or a mystic connected to an entirely different reality demonstrating untapped human potential. I opted for the human potential thing, and my adviser opted for the delusional psychotic. When I asked him why, he said mystics like Padre Pio scared the crap out him because there was no legitimate theology in which to place people like him other than atonement theology. Atonement theology was not at all about human potential, except in the dark evil sense of things. It was a theology he did not agree with and felt mankind, at least in the educated West, had move beyond it. His implication was that perhaps my fascination with Padre Pio indicated I had not. That wasn't true, I had moved considerably beyond atonement theology.

What he didn't know was the real reason I was fascinated with Padre Pio. I had had a couple of mind blowing alternate reality occurrences which rattled me to my core. I couldn't deny them because there were rational witnesses, but I also knew I had no world view which would contain them and the only one available was in demonology and mysticism. I was heavily vested in opting for the human potential explanation for Padre Pio and not at all interested in affirming the delusional psychotic explanation. I may have been a little delusional, but I was not psychotic.

As I kept experiencing these occurrences of an alternate reality I found myself being driven into quantum physics, other spiritual traditions, searching for any Catholic theologian who even began to address any of my concerns. Not surprisingly I found myself reading Teilhard De Chardin and Thomas Merton and even some tantalizing references to things Padre Pio himself had experienced which led me to believe that he saw the cosmos much differently than his followers would credence. Things which affirmed my own experiences. Things which ennoble and affirm humanity and our place in the cosmos rather than denigrate humanity as victims of an ontological first mistake.

I began to see Jesus and his teachings in an entirely different light. I saw Him as teaching a world view in which mankind would be capable of effecting change in this reality by extending our consciousness into other realities, but the key to it was the two great laws, love of God, and a ego less love of one's fellow man. These are the same teachings which are the ground of all effective spiritual traditions.

I also learned something else. Catholic atonement theology, with it's emphasis on fear of hell and the active involvement of the demonic, is the perfect mental framework to create the very fearful things it seeks to control. That which we fear is that which we attract for ourselves and our societies. This is why I sometimes cringe when I hear some of the advice given to people on EWTN. Neither Jesus nor his followers were terrified by dark energy. They understood the real power of love and the effect that love has on the greater universe.

Back to Archbishop Chaput. Politically I turned left during the Reagan years for two reasons. The first was the farce of 'trickle down' economics. Rather than wealth trickling down, it was kept in the family by one corporate take over after another. My own company underwent a raid by T. Boone Pickens when he attempted to corner the silver and gold markets. Although the company managed to fend off the takeover bid, it eventually cost us 10% of our work force of which I was amongst those who drew the short straws. So you could say I was trickled down and out.

The second reason was Reagan's blatant use of the fear card. People seem to forget that under Reagan the real war between the Soviet Union and the US was fought with money being pored into military armaments. While it triggered a recession in the US, it bankrupted the Soviet Union, and unfortunately for the Russian people, organized crime was the first beneficiary of Western style capitalism. The fear card always attracts the darkest elements. The Bush years are a Reagan de ja vu. The fear card has wreaked it's havoc again.

So while the Church and American culture was moving to the right, back into the politics and theology of fear, I was spiritually and theologically moving away from the coercive politics of fear and into freedom based in integrity and love. I don't know that that exactly makes me a liberal and it sure doesn't make me a pragmatist, but it might make me a Jesus follower and I've found that's a good place to be.

For another interesting take on this same time frame check out today's post on Bilgrimage in which Bill Lyndsey addresses a reader's comment about what happened to Vatican II? Personally I think it's become another victim of the interests playing the fear card.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

I like to read Archbishop Charles Chaput because he has a unique way of articulating the Catholic Identity point of view. He will even flip the other side of the coin occasionally which makes his remarks more powerful. The following excerpts are taken from a speech he gave in Toronto this past Sunday.

"But as Catholics, we at least need to be honest with ourselves and each other about the political facts we start with. Unfortunately when it comes to the current administration that will be very hard for Catholics in the United States, and here's why. A spirit of adulation bordering on servility already exists among some of the same Democratic-friendly Catholic writers, scholars, editors and activists who once accused prolifers of being too cozy with Republicans. It turns out that Caesar is an equal opportunity employer."

I agree with this assessment to some extent, but the Archbishop can not deny that the accusation of pro lifers in bed with the Republican party was dead on true. Caesar was and is an equal opportunity employer.

Archbishop Chaput then goes on to analyze this past election which brought Barack Obama the presidency. In the process he carves out his agenda for the opposition party, which is not necessarily the Republican party, it's true Catholics:

"Second, in democracies, we elect public servants, not messiahs. It's worth recalling that despite two ugly wars, an unpopular Republican president, a fractured Republican party, the support of most of the American news media and massively out-spending his opponent, our new president actually trailed in the election polls the week before the economic meltdown. This subtracts nothing from the legitimacy of his office. It also takes nothing away from our obligation to respect the president's leadership.

But it does place some of today's talk about a "new American mandate" in perspective. Americans, including many Catholics, elected a gifted man to fix an economic crisis. That's the mandate. They gave nobody a mandate to retool American culture on the issues of marriage and the family, sexuality, bioethics, religion in public life and abortion. That retooling could easily happen, and it clearly will happen -- but only if Catholics and other religious believers allow it. It's instructive to note that the one lesson many activists on the American cultural left learned from their loss in the 2004 election --and then applied in 2008 -- was how to use a religious vocabulary while ignoring some of the key beliefs and values that religious people actually hold dear.

First, President Obama has bent over backwards to extend a hand to religious believers to the extent that he is alienating his own base. Archbishop Chaput's insistence that Obama is acting on some mandate to retool American culture, and that it clearly will happen, is not borne out in most of Obama's first month in office. Any democratic candidate would have repealed the Mexico City agreement, just as President Clinton did previously.

Secondly, this almost sounds as if Archbishop Chaput is angling towards a third party, rejecting both the democrats and republicans, based on religious similarities. He further credence's this at another point in his speech.

But as I say in the book, one of the lessons we need to learn from the last 50 years is that a "preferred" Catholic political party usually doesn't exist. The sooner Catholics feel at home in any political party, the sooner that party takes them for granted and then ignores their concerns. Party loyalty for the sake of habit, or family tradition, or ethnic or class interest is a form of tribalism. It's a lethal kind of moral laziness. Issues matter. Character matters. Acting on principle matters. But party loyalty for the sake of party loyalty is a dead end.

I actually happen to think he's right about party loyalty for the sake of habit or family tradition. I also think it's kind of funny that he and I have taken the exact opposite political maturation. He from social democrat to Catholic conservative, and me from Catholic conservative to social democrat. We're the same age, grew up in the same cultural stew and wound up on the exact opposite side of the fence. We must have crossed somewhere in the middle, and I bet it was with Reagan's second term in office.

I say that because, Reagan's second term in office spelled the end of my upwardly mobile path and the Archbishop was just getting launched on his. Someday I'd like to sit down with him and discuss our divergent life and Catholic experiences. I'm sure we'd both find it enlightening.

A great deal of this speech pounds the abortion issue. Sometimes I wonder if he ever takes into consideration his own state completely rejected the life begins at conception notion. If Archbishop Chaput ever wants to make a cohesive argument for his case he needs to seriously deal with the biological reality of which he speaks. The real biology of conception runs counter to his claim. There is no real potential life until implantation in the uterus. In this sense a skin cell has as much life potential as a blastoceol (until implantation) and no rational person would advocate for the sanctity of skin cells. That nasty little biological truth has all sorts of ramifications which go well beyond abortion. Perhaps in this case Archbishop Chaput is falling into his own observation:

"I've learned from experience, though, that Henry Ford was right when he said that "Two percent of the people think; three percent think they think, and 95 percent would rather die than think."

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Archbishop Ranjith On What All Those Bishops Were Really Thinking At Vatican II

Vatican liturgical official makes new plea for 'reform of the reform'
Feb. 23, 2009 ( -

A key Vatican official has called for "bold and courageous" decisions to address liturgical abuses that have arisen since the reforms of Vatican II.

Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith, the secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship, cites a flawed understanding of Vatican II teachings and the influence of secular ideologies are reasons to conclude that-- as then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger said in 1985-- "the true time of Vatican II has not yet come." Particularly in the realm of the liturgy, Archbishop Ranjith says, "The reform has to go on."

Archbishop Ranjith, who was called to the Vatican personally by Pope Benedict to serve as a papal ally in the quest to restore a sense of reverence in the liturgy, makes his comments in the Foreword to a new book based on the diaries and notes of Cardinal Fernando Antonelli, who was a key figure in the liturgical-reform movement both before and after Vatican II. (This kind of smacks of cronyism and indicates others in the Vatican are not on board with this idea of the reform of the reform.)

The writings of Cardinal Antonelli, Archbishop Ranjith says, help the reader "to understand the complex inner workings of the liturgical reform prior to an immediately following the Council." The Vatican official concludes that implementation of the Council's suggested reforms often veered away from the actual intent of the Council fathers. As a result, Archbishop Ranjith concludes, the liturgy today is not a true realization of the vision put forward in the key liturgical document of Vatican II, Sacrosanctum Concilium (doc).

Specifically, Archbishop Ranjith writes:

Some practices which Sacrosanctum Concilium had never even contemplated were allowed into the Liturgy, like Mass versus populum, Holy Communion in the hand, altogether giving up on the Latin and Gregorian Chant in favor of the vernacular and songs and hymns without much space for God, and extension beyond any reasonable limits of the faculty to concelebrate at Holy Mass. There was also the gross misinterpretation of the principle of "active participation." (These issues are all about the proper place and influence of laity with in liturgical celebrations.)

The Sri Lankan prelate argues that it in order to carry out a "reform of the reform," it is essential to recognize how the liturgical vision of Vatican lI became distorted. He praises the book on Cardinal Antonelli for allowing the reader to gain a better understanding of "which figures or attitudes caused the present situation." This, the archbishop says, is an inquiry "which, in the name of truth, we cannot abandon." (There aren't too many bishops left alive from Vatican II to dispute his interpretation of what all those bishops were thinking.)

While acknowledging "the turbulent mood of the years that immediately followed the Council," Archbishop Ranjith reminds readers that in summoning the world's bishops to an ecumenical council, Blessed John XXIII intended "a fortification of the faith." The Council, in the eyes of Pope John, was "certainly not a call to go along with the spirit of the times."

However, he continues, the Council took place at a time of great worldwide intellectual turmoil, and in its aftermath especially, many would-be interpreters saw the event as a break from the prior traditions of the Church. As Archbishop Ranjith puts it:

Basic concepts and themes like Sacrifice and Redemption, Mission, Proclamation and Conversion, Adoration as an integral element of Communion, and the need of the Church for salvation--all were sidelined, while Dialogue, Inculturation, Ecumenism, Eucharist-as-Banquet, Evangelization-as-Witness, etc., became more important. Absolute values were disdained.
(In other words the laity were given an inflated sense of their place in the Church, no longer seeing themselves as inferior sinners in need of outside salvation.)

Even in the work of the Consilium, the Vatican agency assigned to implement liturgical changes, these influences were clearly felt, the archbishop notes:

An exaggerated sense of antiquarianism, anthopologism, confusion of roles between the ordained and the non-ordained, a limitless provision of space for experimentation-- and indeed, the tendency to look down upon some aspects of the development of the Liturgy in the second millennium-- were increasingly visible among certain liturgical schools. (When all is said and done, it's this confusion of roles between the ordained and non ordained which is the real biggy.)

Today, Archbishop Ranjith writes, the Church can look back and recognize the influences that distorted the original intent of the Council. That recognition, he says, should "help us to be courageous in improving or changing that which was erroneously introduced and which appears to be incompatible with the true dignity of the Liturgy." A much-needed "reform of the reform," he argues, should be inspired by "not merely a desire to correct past mistakes but much more the need to be true to what the Liturgy in fact is and means to us and what the Council itself defined it to be."


The march backwards, under the guise of reforming the reform, looks to be ramping up to double time. This is just one of a number of articles on the web today in which the reformers are front and center.

Spain's Cardinal Ruoco is opening up a case of canonization for a Spanish married couple who were early members of Opus Dei and had eight children. They would become the third married couple to be accorded this status. It is incredible to think that in the entire history of the Church only three married couples have merited sainthood. However, lest one think this is strictly to honor a saintly couple, consider this quote from the postulator of their cause: “The Church asks us now to show that their lives in the Prelature of Opus Dei, during so many years, were truly heroic.” Is this then really about Opus Dei?

Additionally Cardinal Ruoco and his fellow Spanish bishops received a message from Benedict thanking them for their support during the SSPX fiasco. Benedict invoked "abundant divine graces on Your Eminence and on all the Spanish bishops to encourage and sustain you in your pastoral service to the people of God." I seriously doubt the Austrian and German bishops were sent any such similar message.

In Benedict's striving to foster unity with in the Church he seems to be purposely courting just the opposite. He's pitting Spanish influenced Catholicism and it's supporters against the rest of the Church at the very time Spain itself is rejecting this type of Catholicism. Is it just me, or is there something wrong with this picture?

Virtually everything Cardinal Ranjith opposes in the liturgical reforms initiated at Vatican II can be linked back to the previously exalted position of the ordained clergy. Back to the time when the priest held absolute authority over parishes and their laity and the idea of a saintly married couple was unthinkable. So unthinkable, the other two couples were beatified in 2001 and 2008.

I guess for two thousand years there was no room in the pantheon of saints for sexually active people, in spite of all the recent brouhaha about the sanctity of marriage. The objective reality is there was no officially recognized sanctity in marriage until way after Vatican II--unless you could be canonized as a martyr like St. Thomas More.

The next pope will be forced to address the issue of the position of ordained clergy vs the laity. In a world which is becoming less and less stratified maintaining a clerical caste system and the theology which sustains it is the road to irrelevance.
There will always be a segment of any population which seeks the security of this kind of divinely ordained authority because they need to believe in it for their own sense of security. Self styled Gurus and various other cults make a good living off of this tendency. Catholic notions of salvation, received through the powers of the ordained, predispose Catholics to this mindset of personal powerlessness.

The only real difference between clerical Catholicism and a personality cult is the power is vested in a generic office and not usually in a specific individual. Fr. Maciel and a few others are the purposeful exception to this rule, but in my book, they derived a great deal of their power from the inbuilt training Catholics receive regarding the priesthood.

I wish there was more emphasis on the liturgy itself as the fundamental aspect of Catholicism and not on the 'ordained' power of the priest as reflected in a given liturgical style. Jesus instituted a Eucharistic banquet in which He said, "Take this all of you and eat. Do this in memory of me." I don't believe He is quoted as saying only some of you can do this in memory of me. It's one of those underlying assumptions which need to be really really looked at because there just aren't enough of the 'some' to go around. Catholicism can't sustain it's mission in the world on even less of the 'some'. We need more of the 'all of you'.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Wake For The NCRcafe

In the summer of 2006 the National Catholic Reporter started an Internet initiative called the NCRcafe. I had my doubts as to whether it would be successful because my experience had led me to believe that most discussion boards degenerated into screaming and SHOUTING matches in which conservatives derailed commenting to their own agendas, which in turn led progressives to do likewise. Dialogue never seemed to really work. (This phenomenon can be seen right now on the main NCR website where the same voices repeatedly hi jack commentary, from the left as well as the right. I can understand they have axes to grind, but c'mon, need those axes be ground on every article?)

to my surprise though, the NCRcafe did in fact become a place where dialogue and conversation actually happened. People were able to develop meaningful relationships with each other, points of view were broadened and even changed. I found myself a part of a core group of Catholics who were asking questions and receiving, maybe not answers, but good places to find answers.

From my perspective, at that time (2006), the NCRcafe was one of the few places in which progressives were not shouted down and out. In fact, it usually happened the other way. Conservatives got frustrated by the persistence of progressives insisting on dialoguing with them on their comments.

For instance, I would sit back in utter amazement reading Bill Lyndsey's responses to commentators on his threads, wondering how in the world he could stay compassionate and civil when my knee jerk response was neither. Bill taught me a lot about meeting people where they are at, and not where I want them to be. As a commentator and blogger this was an invaluable lesson. I realized I had to take the attitude I used in therapy sessions and put it to work in my writing. To do otherwise violated the whole concept of the cafe.

I could list so many people who meant so much to me. There was Frannie Schaefer whose pithy comments so frequently made my jaw drop. I've never read anyone who could put that much insight into a few short words and make you laugh in the process.

There was Sylvester Steffen whose writing I sometimes didn't get, but I certainly got his vision about the inner connectedness of man, nature, and God, and how critical it is for us to recapture and act on that knowledge. It dovetailed perfectly with everything my Native mentors had been teaching me, even at times, using the exact same language. This was a synchronicity I couldn't ignore.

There was AnnieO and her long and gentle conversations with B7M8 which gave me great insight into a different perspective on traditional Catholicism. In my mind this was the classic example of two people with different world views reaching for common ground.

There was the Rev Dr McCoy whose Episcopalian perspective gave me the impetus to follow all things Anglican, and allowed me to see that their road could very well become Catholicism's road. There was Joer, who very cleverly skated around the source for some of his insights, but whose steadfast defense of women never wavered and I for one appreciated it.

Which leads me to Dennis, whose vision of church was mine and far better articulated. I can remember one time I was responding to someone--this is before the insufferable moderation began--quite inappropriately. Right away I caught his response indicating I might want to back off a little. Coming from Dennis I figured I better take his advice seriously. Comment was deleted. (Personal message to my ex hockey playing Canadian friend Dennis--REDWINGS RULE! and Datsyuk is better than Crosby.)

There was HT and Thomas who I really do think were trying to figure out where progressives were coming from and most often utterly failing in the endeavor. I don't know that they ever understood we were mostly coming from a place that started where they currently were, and in the end that proved insurmountable. Progress is not a workable notion when you think the church has all the definitive answers. They saw regression where I saw maturation. In the end I couldn't deny they truly did care about the state of our souls. Probably too much.

Enough of memory lane except to say that I really appreciate the cafe members who have become main contributors to this blog and so this is not a wake for you guys. So you don't get mentioned.

I hope though, that other cafe members drop in here. Blogspot doesn't give a great deal of flexibility in a lot of things, but it's better than nothing. Commentary is never moderated, except for obvious spam and the very rare verbally challenged observation. Should anyone feel like starting their own thread, I can accommodate that through email. My address can be found in my profile.

In fact, I would encourage anyone who wants to submit something to do so. That's another thing I will miss most about the cafe is the threads started by individuals. Who knows, if there's enough interest, I might entertain the thought of hosting a website.

In the meantime, I will update the links on the right side of this blog to include the blog sites of other members of the old cafe, because as of one hour ago, the NCRcafe officially closed, and with it, access to all the threads. What an incredible loss.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Solitary Life In The Ivory Tower

Cardinals Turn On Pope Invisible

By John Follain, Sunday London Times

IN the hushed Apostolic Palace off St Peter’s Square, Pope Benedict XVI starts the day with a 7am mass in his private chapel, followed by a lone breakfast.

No press summary is brought to him.

He meets a few visitors in the morning and then, after a lunch served on gold-rimmed plates bearing his seal, retires to his study to write speeches and read theological works throughout the afternoon and evening.

The Pope’s daily routine, as described by Vatican insiders, is being blamed for a series of blunders that have prompted a rare show of dissent from exasperated cardinals.
Critics claim he is leading the church and its 1.2 billion faithful like a monarch cut off from the world outside his palace windows, helped only by loyal but inept advisers. (Sounds more like a professor in an ivory tower surrounded by perpetual grad students.)

“People feel disoriented,” a senior Vatican official confided last week. “It’s a feeling common to both traditionalists and reformers. Our impression is that there isn’t anyone at the wheel.” (There is in the morning---sort of.)

Hailed by his peers as “the most intelligent” candidate when he was elected Pope in 2005, the 81-year-old German pontiff has provoked outrage and a rebuke from Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, by revoking the excommunication of four breakaway bishops from the ultra-conservative Society of St Pius X.

They included a British bishop, Richard Williamson, who has denied the existence of Nazi gas chambers.

Benedict then named Father Gerhard Maria Wagner as the Bishop of Linz, in Austria. Wagner had preached that Hurricane Katrina was retribution for the activities of abortionists, prostitutes and homosexuals in New Orleans.

Simmering discontent within the church exploded with the debacle over Williamson, who was subsequently removed from his post as head of a seminary in Buenos Aires and ordered to leave Argentina.

German Cardinal Walter Kasper, in charge of Jewish relations, denounced “misunderstandings and management errors in the curia” (the Pope’s civil service) – an implicit attack on the Pope himself.

Upset by the Williamson and Wagner decisions, Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schönborn met the Pope in Rome earlier this month. The audience failed to reassure Schönborn, who called a meeting of Austrian bishops. They in turn urged the Vatican to learn from past mistakes and respect the rules for appointing bishops. They demanded “scrupulousness” and “sensitivity” in future.

Violating the custom that cardinals do not criticise one another, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, head of the congregation of bishops, launched a loud denunciation of his Colom-bian colleague, Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, who was in charge of relations with the Society of Pius X.

On a bus carrying dignitaries to a religious ceremony in Rome, Re was overheard protesting that Castrillon Hoyos had forced colleagues to take a hasty decision. “He only gave me a few hours to sign. All because Castrillon will soon turn 80 and retire. If he hadn’t solved the problem right away, it would have been too late for him,” Re fumed. (Cardinal Hoyos must have put a gun to Cardinal Re's head. Or maybe Hoyos just took Re for a high speed spin in his Maserati and threatened not to let him out until he signed.)

For many inside the Vatican, the issue is the Pope’s style of leadership.
“People feel that the Pope is governing in a very monarchical way. He fails to consult bishops and he has isolated himself by ignoring advice which could stop him making mistakes,” said Marco Politi, a leading Vatican analyst.

“The Pope believes he doesn’t need to take account of public opinion. He studies the files that are brought to him and decides very much on his own. The atmosphere around him is that he mustn’t be disturbed by criticism or visitors.” (This does not describe someone with a great deal of self esteem.)

Benedict offended Muslims with a 2006 speech quoting a Byzantine emperor who described the prophet Muhammad’s teachings as “evil and inhuman”.
He upset Israel and Jews by saying he wanted to make a saint of Pope Pius XII, despite criticism that Pius had failed to speak out against the Holocaust during the second world war.
Then he offended homosexuals by saying that their behaviour was a “destruction of God’s work”.

Benedict is ruling the church “from the top of the mainmast, he doesn’t have experience of holding the rudder”, said Gian-carlo Zizola, a writer on Vatican affairs. “He performs the duties of a pope in the mornings, but in the afternoon and evenings he’s a theologian.”

Benedict meets far fewer people than John Paul II and does not share his predecessor’s habit of inviting guests to lunch and dinner. On the top floor of the Apostolic Palace he is flanked by Georg Gänswein, 52, his personal secretary.

“Father Georg is very strict, he selects who does and doesn’t see the Pope and keeps everyone punctual,” a Vatican observer said. (Perhaps Msgr. Georg is the one who is really in charge.)

Several insiders fault Benedict’s choice of advisers, most of whom he has known for years.
“The Pope has surrounded himself with collaborators who act more like obsequious subjects than real advisers,” said Zizola. (Sounds like a bunch of grad students.)

His main adviser, secretary of state Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, 74, has the Pope’s ear but little political or diplomatic experience. (Which means he doesn't threaten Benedict's inadequacies.)

Church leaders are praying for a more harmonious leadership by the Pope, who will seek to mend relations with Israel on a visit to Jerusalem in May.

At the Vatican last week Gordon Brown invited Benedict to Britain later this year or next, which may also help to bolster the pontiff’s reputation.

Bertone is expected to make new appointments to strengthen his team soon.
“Sacking people would be like asking the Pope to go back on his decisions and that doesn’t happen,” Zizola said. (Is this a form of creeping infallibility or self esteem issue?)

“I expect the blunders will continue unless he decides to launch real reform of the way the church is run. Even in the Vatican you can’t just rely on the Holy Spirit.”
(If it's a self esteem issue, the blunders will continue.)


For me this was a fascinating article because it's the first glimpse I've ever read into Benedict's daily life. Given the amount of writing he does I wondered how much time he actually spent governing the Church. From the sound of this, governing the church is a 'duty' he would prefer to engage in as little as possible. I don't find that particularly surprising because his life and identity are wrapped up in being an academic theologian.

Even as head of the CDF he was with in this comfort zone, and he had the additional authority to place his theology at the head of the list. Academics would kill for this kind of power. Talk about the ability to stifle academic debate. I don't know that I've ever been around a more passive/aggressive cut throat group of people than professional academics. There is a lot of ego and self esteem wrapped up in promoting and defending one's personal pet theories. Convince yourself that you are defending and promoting God's truth with your theology and it gets even more convoluted.

What I want to know is who is Georg Ganswein and why does he have this kind of authority on the Pope's behalf? Benedict is entitled to pick his own advisers. I don't have any problem with that, but the kind of influence this man has on how the Papacy functions is kind of alarming. I would have liked to have known if his prioritizing of people and time is a product of Benedict's or his own reasoning. In either case, it's causing real problems with in the Vatican, relationships with in the world, and for the College of Cardinals. The Church is supposed to be more than the vision of one or two people. That's spelled out quite clearly in a number of Vatican II documents.

Benedict is now in his early eighties. I seriously doubt there will be changes in the way the Vatican under this pope does business. Older people are usually not noted for accepting changes in their routines. Change is a matter of energy and Benedict seems to have his personal energy allocated just the way he wants it. This Pope is not John Paul II who seemed to derive a lot of his energy from relating to other people, something this Pope is studiously avoiding.

In that respect the two Popes are very different people. The Church they envisioned are two very different Churches even though their theological bent is similar. JPII revelled in relationships and Benedict avoids them. JPII fostered apostolates which focused on community building, albeit not necessarily healthy community building, and Benedict is focusing on a theology of the head centered on one relationship--that of the other worldly one we have with Jesus Christ.

In many respects Benedict's theology is top down and isolative. The problems he's engendering are direct consequences of his theology. The problems will continue and most likely get worse. Depending on what happens in Israel we may see his travel itinerary curtailed, most likely due to fatigue and age issues. All of those feelings are compounded when one chooses isolation, and this Pope does an awful lot to maintain his aloofness and isolation. What may work well for him, is not working well for the Church. Writing to people is not the same as interacting with people.
It's a one way communication.

Maybe that's why Jesus never wrote anything and taught by relating with people.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

A Voice From The Past Speaks To The Present

Directly below is a quote from one of the founders of Italian communism and it is still very pertinent for today. By the way, in late November of last year, the Church claimed that Anonio Gramsci came back to the sacraments on his death bed.

"The strength of religions, and of the Catholic Church in particular, has lain, and still lies, in the fact that they feel very strongly the need for the doctrinal unity of the whole mass of the faithful and strive to ensure that the higher intellectual stratum does not get separated from the lower. The Roman church has always been the most vigorous in the struggle to prevent the “official” formation of two religions, one for the “intellectuals” and the other for the “simple souls” … That the Church has to face up to a problem of the “simple” means precisely that there has been a split in the community of the faithful. This split cannot be healed by raising the simple to the level of the intellectuals (the Church does not even envisage such a task, which is both ideologically and economically beyond its present capacities), but only by imposing an iron discipline on the intellectuals so that they do not exceed certain limits of differentiation and so render the split catastrophic and irreparable." (Antonio Gramsci)

In his condemnation of Fr. Hans Kung, the then Cardinal Ratzinger makes Gramsci's point when he stated that the simple faithful must be protected from intellectuals. If Gramsci's paradigm is still in operation then it makes perfect sense for Benedict to bring in the SSPX, which shares his notions of Church, and continuously silence the voices of progressive thinkers.

The only change I might make in Gramsci's observation is to substitute the word 'educated' for intellectuals. It's education which is the threat, not gross intelligence. The real split in the Church today is occurring in it's educated laity who are no longer the 'simple peasants' of yor. For the most part this split is not organizational, it's an exodus. People give up and leave.

However, what's happening in St. Mary's Brisbane and with St. Stephens in South Minneapolis is far more dangerous to Benedict's notion of Church. These are two congregations which are living a different kind of Catholicism. It's a Catholicism which directly threatens the third leg of the Church in Gramsci's thinking, and that's the established clerical structure. These are not parishes of 'simple faithful', they are parishes of dangerous 'intellectuals' practicing a social justice Catholicism which directly contradicts official church teachings about divorced couples, reception of the Eucharist, the place of gays, and ecumenism. These parishes also take lay involvement seriously. Their liturgies reflect a very different Catholicism from the one espoused by Benedict.

In the case of Saint Stephens, there the biggest majority of the congregation pulled up stakes and left. They have formed their own parish using different property. In the case of St. Mary's it remains to be seen what will happen. I'm sure the Vatican would prefer they all leave before it has to resort to excommunication. But in either case the result is the same, a preference for an empty church building rather than a vibrant left leaning parish.

This is similar to the history of base communities in Latin America. Base communities were a good idea until their lay leadership started to see themselves as equal with the clergy. Oh, and then there was that little matter of Liberation Theology. Which brings us back to Antonio Gramsci who was one Marxist who understood the importance of spirituality in a culture and did have a little influence on Liberation Theology.
I think his observation about the Church is dead on. The current clerical model can only sustain itself if it silences and stifles the progressive left because the real threats to it's authority come from the left. The reason it won't work is because most people are now educated well beyond the people of Gramsci's time, in many places courtesy of the Church and this idea of 'simple' people is mostly a figment of some people's imaginations.

I strongly suspect the future of the Church lies in the direction of Base Communities and parishes like St. Mary's and St. Stephens. The Spirit seems to be moving more and more from the bottom up, and the top no longer has the control it imagines it does. One bishop who started out opposed to Base Communities was Oscar Romero, that is until he actually experienced their sense of community and saw how vibrant the Catholicism was, he then became a big supporter. The same could happen in Brisbane. If it's really about the good of Catholicism, Archbishop Bathersby could take the time to actually experience St. Mary's, but if it's really about asserting clerical superiority and control then it really doesn't matter. It wouldn't change anything.

And if it's all about asserting clerical superiority and control then it isn't about Catholicism. Too many of us are coming to the conclusion real Catholicism doesn't need clerical superiority and control to be real Catholicism. Real Catholicism just needs real people doing real things like the real Jesus did. This is probably way too much reality for the Vatican.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Updating Some Stories

First there are two stories about the SSPX. It seems Bishop Williamson no longer has either a job nor a country to live. Perhaps Benedict will give him asylum in the Vatican City States. I doubt he will be welcome in Switzerland, head quarters of the SSPX, but he may also find a home in his old stomping grounds in Minnesota.

Bishop Richard Williamson ordered to leave Argentina

An English bishop who denies the holocaust has been ordered to leave Argentina.
Bishop Richard Williamson has been give ten days to leave the country or face expulsion after global controversy over his views and the Vatican’s attitudes towards them.

The Argentine Interior Ministry said Bishop Williamson’s statements on the Holocaust “profoundly insult Argentine society, the Jewish community and all of humanity by denying an historic truth”. ( Argentina must be coming to grips with their own past involvement with the Third Reich as one of the few places Nazi's were able to find asylum. This is kind of ironic.)

An international furore erupted last month after Pope Benedict XVI lifted the excommunication of Bishop Williamson, along with three other bishops of the ultra-conservative sect, the Society of Pope Pius X.

Bishop Williamson denies any Jews died in gas chambers - calling such claims “lies” - and says that no more than 300,000 died in Nazi concentration camps. The commonly accepted figure is six million.

Bishop Williamson had been head of La Reja seminary in Buenos Aires since 2003 but he was removed from that job last week.

The Argentine interior ministry said that Bishop Williamson had not declared “his true activity” as the director of the seminary on immigration forms, and had “concealed the true motive for his stay in the country” by claiming to be an employee of a non-governmental body.
The government said it had been unaware of Bishop Williamson’s position until recent publicity, but added that his views were a factor in the decision to expel him.

Guillermo Oliveri, the government’s secretary for religious affairs, said: “I absolutely agree with the expulsion of a man residing in our country following his statements [denying] one of the greatest human tragedies.”
Christian Bouchacourt, the director the Latin American branch of the Society of Pope Pius X, said at the time of his dismissal that Bishop Williamson’s views “in no way reflect the position of our congregation”.

Tonight the Vatican said it had no comment on the Argentine decision. Bishop Williamson is thought to still be in Argentina and it is unclear where he might go.


The following article is the first I've read that directly documents the anti semitism expressed by SSPX itself. I've been kind of surprised at this because it takes one all of about 5 minutes on the US site to discover an 'attitudinal' problem with Jews. That Benedict claims ignorance of all of this is mind boggling.

If SSPX is supposed to be upholding the values of the True Church as epitomized under Pius XII, they aren't a very good advertisement for the apologists of Pius XII.

The traditionalist Society of St. Pius X, whose excommunication was lifted by the Vatican in January, openly propagates virulent anti-Semitism, according to an investigation published Thursday by a Jewish magazine in Belgium.

Research by the Antwerp-based “Joods Actueel” weekly magazine has revealed a “slew of anti-Semitic content” on websites of the St. Pius X society in five languages.

The research comes to the conclusion that Pius X is “an extreme conservative Catholic group that rejects the Second Vatican Council and propagates the worst kind of anti-Semitism.”

For the research the international overarching site of the society was consulted and also a host of national sites such as those of the US, Brazil, Ireland, Asia, Austria, South-Africa and Poland.

The magazine found that the society's US Web site described Jews as "the enemy of man, whose secret weapon is the leaven of the Pharisees which is hypocrisy," adding that "heads of Jewry have for centuries conspired methodically and out of an undying hatred against the Catholic name."

The South African site said that "Jews have come closer and closer to fulfilling their substitute-Messianic drive towards world dominion."

The Irish site asks whether "the Jews are guilty of Deicide," answering: "We must say yes."

The site from Germany said that "contemporary Jews are for sure guilty of the murder of God, as long as they don't recognize Christ as God."

The Belgian site accuses Jews of "still believing they are the chosen people" while "awaiting world domination."

Michael Freilich, chief editor of Joods Actueel, commented his research: “This is in many ways worse than the outrageous statements of bishop Williamson denying the Holocaust and the existence of gas chambers.”

“Williamson is a lone fool and not taken serious by the masses, whereas here we are talking about an entire society comprising thousands of priests spreading hatred against the Jewish people to hundreds of thousands around the world”. (This over looks the fact that Bishop Williamson was in charge of an SSPX seminary for over 5 years. He may be a lone fool but he was also the fool in charge of the formation of the very priests who may be spreading hatred against the Jewish people.)


And finally and update on St. Mary's Brisbane:

THE former Gold Coast priest sent to rescue a Brisbane congregation faces a direct challenge from the maverick clergyman he replaces in a unprecedented face-off on Sunday morning.

Father Ken Howell, formerly of Burleigh Heads, is the Vatican's man to take over from rebel Brisbane Priest Father Peter Kennedy who was sacked yesterday for breaching church rules 'out of communion with the Roman Catholic Church'. (In reality Fr. Howell is the Archdiocese's man, not directly the Vatican's.)

Fr Howell expects to conduct mass on Sunday at 7am but then faces a bizarre situation at the 9am service Fr Kennedy has declared he will lead, despite being removed from his position by Archbishop of Brisbane John Bathersby yesterday.

Fr Howell has extended the hand of forgiveness to his controversial colleague who offered an apology yesterday after labelling his replacement a 'religious scab' on Wednesday.

Speaking to The Bulletin yesterday, Fr Howell said his first priority was to ensure there was a process of healing.
"I'm confident everyone can come together and I have always believed in the goodwill of people," said Fr Howell, who will lead prayers for victims of the Victorian bushfires on Sunday.
"It is important that the mass be a time of prayer and not protest.
"My hope is that in time we can move forward as a vibrant united community."

Fr Howell will serve in the position while maintaining his role as Dean of St Stephen's Cathedral until a replacement is appointed.

Fr Howell said he wanted to ensure the church continued reaching out to people at social and economic disadvantage.

Fr Kennedy, who is seeking the advice of a barrister on an appeal, said yesterday he intended to celebrate the 9am mass.
"I am determined to go ahead and hold mass," he said.
Fr Kennedy said he expected about 1000 people to crowd into the church.

Archbishop of Brisbane John Bathersby issued Fr Kennedy with the decree this week, which set a deadline of noon on Wednesday for him to step down.

It was the most severe punishment seen in the church since the 1929 Mungana Affair.
Fr Kennedy had come under fire for unorthodox practices such as allowing women to preach and blessing homosexual couples. (Are these the new 'Jewish blight' of the modern Roman Catholic Church?)

Catholic authorities have also raised questions about the validity of baptisms at St Mary's.
The row has created a rift, with members of his congregation vowing to fight the move to sack the priest and saying they will rally against the Archbishop's action.

"The community at St Mary's Catholic Church in South Brisbane is deeply disappointed with the way they have been treated by the Catholic Archbishop of Brisbane John Bathersby," said a statement from the church community yesterday.

"The community also reiterates its support for Fr Peter Kennedy as priest, visionary, leader and man of faith, integrity and compassion."

Local Aborigines have vowed to establish a tent embassy on St Mary's land. (And this is the one issue which may cause all kinds of headaches for both the Church and the State.)


I sometimes wonder if Catholicism can't institutionally function with out identifying some particular group as THE ENEMY of Jesus and by extension Catholicism. For the SSPX, which is not the modern church, it's the ages old Jewish enemy. For the 'restored' Church of Benedict, it's pro abortion politicians, gays, and power seeking feminists. Jews apparently have suffered enough at the hands of Catholicism. John Paul II said so. Benedict says SSPX has suffered enough even though SSPX directly contradicts the aspirations of John Paul II. What's a good Catholic to do? I guess the answer is attack pro abortion politicians, gays, and power seeking feminists.

But where do you go if you don't want to attack anybody and if you really believe Jesus meant it when he said to forgive your enemies? St. Mary's Brisbane is finding out you don't find that answer in Catholicism. Wow, what a sad statement.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Perhaps An Issue We All Need To Agree On

Logo for Britain's Campaign to Put The Bunny In The Bin

Sometimes an issue will surface around me and I'm never sure at first what it means. The issue lately has been pornography. I've found this interesting because it's not an issue that's been high on my radar screen. I'm beginning to see it hasn't been very high on my radar screen because it's so pervasive. It's almost like pornography has become so much an accepted part of the American scene that it's mostly overlooked and there for it's consequences are overlooked. It might be time we stopped overlooking it. Of the things I've learned this one blows me away:

"The pornography industry is larger than the revenues of the top technology companies combined: Microsoft, Google, Amazon, eBay, Yahoo!, Apple, Netflix and EarthLink."

Porn revenues bury the mainstream film industry. In 2006 porn revenue in the US exceeded the combined revenues of ABC, NBC, and CBS. Porn then, is by far, our largest entertainment industry and medium. What in the world is this doing to our collective consciousness?

But it isn't just the United States. The US is actually 4th in porn revenue at 13.33 billion dollars which is almost 45 dollars per person. The leader is China at 27.4 billion followed by South Korea at 25.73 billion and Japan at 19.98 billion. South Korea's per person expense is 527 dollars. That's a lot of food.

If you look at some of the other statistics at the linked web page another stat jumps out at you.
There is a column based on key words which are entered into search engines. When the key words porn and free porn were used, 96% and 93% of the time it was a male. When the key word sex was used it was a 50-50 split. It does appear that the Vatican has it right. Lust is the top problem for men.

Given all we know about the consequences of frequent use of porn and it's detrimental effects on ones attitudes towards sex and sexual partners, maybe it's time this wasn't such an under the radar issue. Porn may be an unstated reason so many marriages are breaking up and the younger generations are avoiding long term relationships. In any event it's a lot of exploitative sexual energy polluting the body politic. It's not encouraging a mature sexual attitude in our men and it implicitly exploits men every bit as much as it explicitly exploits women and children.

About ten years ago I worked a part time job with a guy whose main job was distributing porn for a friend of his. We had quite the chat about porn. He conceded the point about the exploitation of children and didn't agree with that. Besides he said, it wasn't a big enough audience to interest him and his partner. They were interested in adults, specifically the untapped female population. The problem with women was you actually had to have a story which developed a relationship and that made things prohibitively more expensive. They wanted to try it but they didn't know if it would be profitable. In the meantime there was the good ole reliable lusty guy and a growing population of couples. He and his wife enjoyed porn together. In fact most of the time it was the only way they could get sexually aroused. For them it was a great marriage tool......and it was also one they hadn't needed until they started using it.

For a much longer analysis of the morality of the porn problem try this link. I disagreed with some of Mr. Reilly's analysis he makes some great points. There is also a heart wrenching comment at the end of the article explaining the effects of secret porn use on one marriage.
This link will take you to Anti Porn Feminists who just posted an interesting research study conducted at Princeton on the effects of porn dampening the part of the male brain which constrains violence towards other humans. (Which conjurs up a nightmare scenario for South Korea.)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Sins And The Sexes

Eve grabs at some pride, while Adam goes right to lust.

Two sexes 'sin in different ways'
From the BBC

Women are prouder than men, but men are more lustful, according to a Vatican report which states that the two sexes sin differently.

A Catholic survey found that the most common sin for women was pride, while for men, the urge for food was only surpassed by the urge for sex.

The report was based on a study of confessions carried out by Fr Roberto Busa, a 95-year-old Jesuit scholar.

The Pope's personal theologian backed up the report in the Vatican newspaper.

"Men and women sin in different ways," Msgr Wojciech Giertych, theologian to the papal household, wrote in L'Osservatore Romano.

"When you look at vices from the point of view of the difficulties they create you find that men experiment in a different way from women."

Msgr Giertych said the most difficult sin for men to face was lust, followed by gluttony, sloth, anger, pride, envy and greed.

For women, the most dangerous sins were pride, envy, anger, lust, and sloth, he added.

Catholics are supposed to confess their sins to a priest at least once a year. The priest absolves them in God's name.

Men --1. Lust; 2. Gluttony; 3. Sloth; 4. Anger; 5. Pride; 6. Envy; 7. Greed
Women --1. Pride; 2. Envy; 3. Anger; 4. Lust; 5. Gluttony; 6. Avarice; 7. Sloth

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that "immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into Hell".

Traditionally, the seven deadly sins were considered: pride, envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed and sloth.

The Apostolic Penitentiary, one of the Vatican's most secretive departments, which fixes the punishments and indulgences handed down to sinners, last year updated its list of deadly sins to include more modern ones.

The revised list included seven modern sins it said were becoming prevalent during an era of "unstoppable globalisation".

These included: genetic modification, experiments on the person, environmental pollution, taking or selling illegal drugs, social injustice, causing poverty and financial greed.

The report came amid Vatican concerns about the declining rate of confessions.
A recent survey of Catholics found nearly a third no longer considered confession necessary, while one in 10 considered the process an obstacle to their dialogue with God.

Pope Benedict, who reportedly confesses his sins once a week, last year issued his own voice of disquiet on the subject.
"We are losing the notion of sin," he said. "If people do not confess regularly, they risk slowing their spiritual rhythm."


This difference between the sexes is kind of fascinating. Is this nature, gender conditioning, or a product of both. The lists are almost reversed with neither side claiming too much greed--probably why the Vatican's new list seems to concentrate on various consequences of greed.

They conjure up images of beer bellied, lusty, male slobs, and shrew jealous Stepford wives. I've often wondered if priests hear in confession the same stuff I've heard in therapy sessions. My experience with men and women is quite a bit different than this. In therapy a lot of men work on esteem issues, communication difficulties, and relationship problems. Women will work on esteem issues, communication difficulties, and relationship problems. It's also true that these difficulties will lead to engaging in lust, gluttony, envy, sloth, and a bogus pride which covers a lot of humiliation and some defense strategies do tend to be favored on the basis of gender.

There were plenty of times in sessions when I wished I could have given absolution because I knew it would make a real difference. Suggesting clients go to confession too frequently fell on deaf ears. Clients wanted a real relationship with a real person rather than a rote form confession to a mostly complete stranger. When your self esteem is in a hole, I guess this makes some sense.

I had a Catholic psychiatrist in grad school who maintained confession is for the stronger in self esteem and counseling is for those without much self esteem. Both could achieve the same ends but the starting points were different. Needless to say he also felt childhood confession was an exercise in abuse. Children didn't have enough of a concept of self to be put through that particular exercise. I can remember sitting in class and having flash backs about my own first confession. It was not one of my better Catholic experiences. I have a sneaking suspicion the lack of confessions from adults has a lot to do with that early formation.

I disagree with Benedict about the usefulness of confession. If he's talking about maintaining a spiritual rhythm that's one thing, but if the issue is maturing in a relationship with God and understanding the motivations behind the sin, that's another issue entirely. Frequent confession does not always lead to legitimate insight. As a priest friend of mine once said, frequent confession too frequently leads to repeating the same confession. I'm sure he's not the only priest who would say that same thing.

Sin, hell, and confession are areas in which left and right do not meet. The right sees things in terms of sinful acts to be confessed and the left tends to see things in attitudes which need to be adjusted. What we need is a theology of sin which relates the acts to the underlying more global attitudes. I doubt we'll see that under this Pope. In the meantime I'm off to work on pride or whatever it was I used to confess before I tuned up my attitudes.

Protecting Clerical Turf

Archbishop Burke will not get to display his Cappa Magna in Westminster Cathedral

Cardinal used Canon Law to Stop Vatican Official From Saying Mass

An English cardinal has used canon law to prevent a Vatican official from celebrating a Tridentine-rite Mass in Westminster Cathedral and instead has asked an auxiliary bishop to celebrate it.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor of Westminster refused to grant permission for U.S. Archbishop Raymond L. Burke, head of the Supreme Court of the Apostolic Signature, to celebrate Mass in the extraordinary form of the Latin rite, called the Tridentine rite, in the London cathedral June 20.

The cardinal used the Code of Canon Law to insist that the Mass be celebrated instead by Auxiliary Bishop John Arnold of Westminster.

Archbishop Burke already had accepted an invitation from the Latin Mass Society, a British Catholic group committed to promoting the Tridentine rite, but the invitation has since been rescinded.

Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor invoked Canon 838, which says that the diocesan bishop and the Holy See have competence over the liturgy.

A spokesman for Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor said in a Feb. 17 telephone interview that "the cardinal was keen for one of the local bishops to celebrate that Mass.""He doesn't want to give the impression that it is only bishops from abroad, foreign bishops, who come in and celebrate the extraordinary form, and that's precisely why he asked Bishop Arnold to do it," the spokesman said.

The cardinal, he said, has subsequently discussed the matter with the archbishop and has "apologized for any misunderstanding, and Archbishop Burke has understood the point."The spokesman added, "Clearly this is a misunderstanding down to the fact that the (Latin Mass Society) erroneously invited him in the first place -- erroneously because it wasn't their position to ask anyone to celebrate Mass in the diocese.

It is for the bishop of the diocese to invite people to celebrate Mass and not the (Latin Mass Society)."

John Medlin, general manager of the Latin Mass Society, confirmed in a Feb. 17 press statement that Archbishop Burke had accepted the invitation to celebrate the Mass.

He said that after a "most friendly and useful meeting" with the cardinal in early February, the society "gratefully accepted" the idea that Bishop Arnold should instead celebrate the Mass.

Archbishop Burke was invited as the society's guest because of his support for the traditional Mass. The archbishop, an experienced canon lawyer, was not immediately available for comment.

In 2007 Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor was among European prelates who tried to persuade Pope Benedict XVI not to lift restrictions on the celebration of the Tridentine Mass. He wrote to the Vatican arguing that such a relaxation was unnecessary because the provision of the traditional rite was adequate in England and Wales.

But later that year the pope published "Summorum Pontificum," which widened the use of the Tridentine Mass when groups of the faithful desire it and where a priest has been trained to celebrate it. The pope said the Mass from the Roman Missal in use since 1970 remains the ordinary form of the Mass, while the celebration of the Tridentine rite is the extraordinary form.

Last year the Latin Mass Society invited Colombian Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, president of the Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei," which works to help separated traditionalist Catholics return to the church, to celebrate a traditional Mass in Westminster Cathedral after the group's annual general meeting. None of the English or Welsh bishops attended.

I thought Archbishop Burke was a leading Canon lawyer. He must have missed the import of Canon 838. Or maybe he was going by the spirit and not the letter of the Canon. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor seems to be a stickler for the letter of the Canon. Seems to me I remember some other situation or two in which Archbishop Burke was a stickler for the letter of Canon Law. Maybe this is an example of Karma.
I'm glad though that the Latin Mass society in Britain will have one of their own say this Mass in their mother cathedral. I was beginning to wonder if any of their own actually knew how to say the Latin Mass. It seems at least one auxiliary bishop does.
I also kind of wonder if this isn't another example of a Cardinal Archbishop reminding some of his traditional followers, and maybe the Vatican itself, that a Cardinal Archbishop does have some real authority in their own archdiocese. It says so in Canon Law--- and that maybe that authority needs to be respected by the right as well as the left. It is after all a matter of obedience to authority. In this case, thankfully, it was just a reminder.
In Austria and Germany things are a little different. It looks to some observers as if the ultra right really got slapped down by the German and Austrian ecclesial authorities. In the main their complaint is the Vatican is exercising authority outside of normal ecclesial channels and favoring ultra conservatives in so doing. Hmmm, I wonder why they would think that.
These recent examples could be seen as clerics protecting their own clerical turf from other clerical predators. An issue the Anglican church is certainly familiar with and one Catholicism really doesn't need. Or maybe it's really just Karma.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Straights Jumping Off The Traditional Marriage Boat

Last year in France approximately 140,000 couples entered into civil unions. 92 percent of these couple were straight. When France legalized civil unions in 1999 there were 6000 civil unions and the majority of these were gay. My how things change.

The reason most observers give for these figures is that civil unions are easier to dissolve than France's civil marriages. All marriages and civil unions are state enacted in France. There is no legally recognized religious marriage ceremony.

When France enacted it's civil union legislation the wording was gender neutral. Legislators felt wording the legislation identifying it as for gays only would not pass European Union mandates on discrimination. However, it was precisely to answer gay marriage critics, like the Roman Catholic Church, that the civil union legislation was passed in the first place. Is this an instance where protecting marriage for heterosexuals has resulted in undermining heterosexual marriage? Sure looks like it to me.

This is a classic case of why separate but equal doesn't work to protect heterosexual marriage. As long as civil unions are perceived as being easier to void, they will also appeal to heterosexuals.

I don't know that we're asking the right questions or fighting the right battles. The real question should be 'why don't relationships of any sort, last any more?' Traditionalists will say it's because we have diluted marriage. But it may be that traditional marriages used to last longer because it was a legal hammer to keep lousy relationships in place. Notice I didn't say functional, because many of these long lasting marriages were not functional relationships.

What if the increase in divorce is not only a reflection of a more fluid society but also a reflection of just how many dysfunctional marriages were kept solvent through restrictive divorce laws? If the that's the case, then for the good of a lot of children, we may not want to revisit the past. Forcing two people to maintain a relationship which has become a perpetual hell is not good for anyone.

I've written before that I really believe the issue should be about parenting, not orientation. If we care primarily about the children, and that's why marriage is supposed to exist, then we should actually care about the children and make sure that the relationship producing those children will take care of those obligations no matter the legal status of the relationship itself.

Focusing on the evils of gay marriage does absolutely nothing to ensure that heterosexuals will parent their children. Why focus on supposed non creative relationships if you are all about children. It seems to me that churches should be focusing on issues which contribute to the failure of heterosexual marriage and the children who are caught in the middle of the divorces.

If the statistics about civil unions in France teach us anything it's that the Church's myopic focus on gay marriage has missed the boat entirely. The real boat is that heterosexuals are rejecting traditional marriage, and the real questions should center around why this is happening and what can we do for the children. We may find out that it's much better for traditional heterosexual marriage if gays are allowed into the same traditional boat. Then we might be able to blow away all the smoke and mirrors to finally ask if there might be something fundamentally wrong with the boat.