Monday, August 31, 2009

Coyote Lessons, Billionares For Wealthcare

In the Indigenous tradition there are a group of people called Heyoke (Souix) or Kokopelli (Southwestern Peoples) who have as part of their mythology the task of presenting themselves as backward or oppositional. In a small closed society they had the important task of calling those who were an ego problem back to the greater good and away from ego.

The Western tradtion has this mythology embodied in the Jester. In both traditions they did this through humor and very often satire. The object was not necessarily ridicule but to point the powerful towards more than their ego.

I've come across a group of people who are doing this same mission in the health care debate. When a Heyoke does his/her job well it's both funny and unsettling. I think this group meets the criteria, and I have nothing to add.

Unlearning The Old Cosmology As A New Light Dawns

This awesome photograph is from the website. Follow this link to get their perspective on the changing cosmology.

Yesterday I wrote about the difficulties involved in unlearning, and posted an article by Fr. Ed Hayes about how necessary the skill of unlearning would be in the future. In my mind yesterday's post was to be a lead in to today's post, in which I intended to write about the drastic change in our cosmology and what a challenge it poses to traditional theological and spiritual paradigms. Today I find that Sister Joan Chittister, in the National Catholic Reporter, has already written a post on the changing cosmology. Since it's on topic and much better than I would have written, I offer the following excerpt. The entire article can be accessed here:

The God of creation, the religious world determined, was all-knowing, all-powerful, all-present and all-holy. The problem lay in the fact that a God of these proportions failed, it seemed, to exercise such power when it came to the creation this very God had created.

This God did not save the world from evil, did not exercise blatant power in behalf of the good, did not save the righteous from the unrighteous, did not act in behalf of the oppressed. This was a God whose merit theology, whose rule-driven scorekeeping, trumped care, compassion and love.

The faithful, we were taught, got the God they earned, or, conversely, lost the God they didn’t, if they were unable to figure out what that God really wanted in every situation and how to pass every spiritual double-bind test. (Losing God was a much bigger seller than meriting God.)

Instead, they could, at best, only hope for eternal life and everlasting peace somewhere else. This life was out of their hands. This world was a mysterious jumble of good and evil meant to tempt and try them. This was not a subtle God; this was a God whose “will” too often looked more like malice than it did like mercy. The ways of this God with creation were straightforward and manifest. The creator God was patriarch, lawgiver and avenging judge.

Not only was this God not a “subtle” God but how could we say with certainty that this God was not a malevolent one, except that our hearts tell us that God, to be God, must be more than that.
As a consequence of theology like that, we enthroned maleness. We exalted a “rationality” that was far too often deeply irrational. We created the distant and unemotional God of the Greek philosophers who affects our life at every stage and every moment since. This creator God exercised power over everything, we said. But then we got confused trying to explain that God’s failure to use that power in order to save us from what endangers us.

We talked about “free will” but got tangled up again in the implications of what it means to be the weanlings of an all-knowing God. If God really knew everything before it happened, how could we possibly have free will?

We chafed under the burden of the “perfectionism” that the will of an all-perfect God must, of necessity, require of us, but of which, it was clear, we were patently incapable. The inferences of this kind of God for our own well-being were heavy indeed. (Essentially we learned we were likely doomed to failure before we started. This is the whole idea behind original sin, a sin committed by very distant relatives for which God was making us all accountable.)
But then came Darwin and evolution and an entirely new way of seeing both creation and the world. In this world, every act of creation is not the unique act of an eternal God.

Instead, the God of creation becomes the God of ongoing creation, of life intent on its own development, and of life involved in contributing to its own emerging form.

From this perspective, creation, life itself, is a work in process. It grows from one stage to another. It is immersed in both possibility and mistakes. It is a creature of imagination on the way to the unimaginable. The God of grand but hidden designs becomes the God of evolution, of the working out of creation as we go. Suddenly free will, the choices we make as we labor at the project of life, becomes important. Decision-making becomes universally significant, and selection of our actions determines the shape of an ongoing evolving world.

The humble God

A self-creating universe becomes co-creator with the humble God who shares power and waits for the best from us and provides for what we need to make it happen. We become participants in the process of life and the development of the world that is not so much planned as it is enabled. As nature grows, experiments, unfolds, selects and adapts, so then must we. Growth, not perfection, becomes the purpose of life. Ongoing creation, not predestined fate, becomes the purpose of life. (This is a paragraph packed with important concepts.)

The very process of human growth, not human puppetry in the hands of a disinterested and demanding God, becomes the purpose of life. And God becomes the God of a universe on its way to growing into glory, of becoming one with its creator. Life ceases to be a program of expectations tied up in a black box, the purpose of which is to tease us into unlocking and unraveling the mystery of our lives before it gets to be too late to achieve it.

In an evolving world, then, God becomes “becoming.” God is the one who stands by as we grow from one self to another, from one level of insight to another, from one age and awareness to another. God, we come to understand, is not the God of fixed determinations now. The past is no longer a template of forever. God becomes instead the God of the future. God, we come to see in the model that is evolutionary, is promise and possibility and forever emerging life.

The spiritual implications of a creation that goes on creating are major.

We are meant to create with the creator. We are here to discover the rest of ourselves in an equally evolving cosmos. We are not about perfection. We are about always selecting the better, about entering into the transformation of the world as it experiments with life, chooses for life, sees mistakes not as failure but as one more learning on the ladder of spiritual success.

In this world, the God of evolution becomes God the mother as well as God the father. God the mother understands pain. She bears us and then lets us grow from error to solution, from failure to success. She loves us for trying. She not only sets the standard, she helps us over the bar.

She is the rest of the image of the biblical God that Abrahamic religions have largely ignored to the peril of true spiritual development but that the spirit knows and seeks forever. She, the biblical God, “Cries out as a woman in labor” (Isaiah 42:14). She is the one whom the psalmist sees as “a nursing woman” (Psalm 131: 1-2), who in Hosea (11:3-4) is a cuddling mother who takes Israel in her arms, and who, in Proverbs as wisdom, “is there with God in the beginning” (8:22-31).

In a world in evolution is there purpose in the universe? The answer must certainly be: Never more so than now. Evolution is, in fact, a great spiritual teacher. We learn from the fossils of the ages that development is most often a slow and uncertain process, a precarious and breakneck experience that demands both time and trust in the future that is God, and in the God of the future. Evolution teaches us that movement from one stage of life to another is often both cumbersome and painful but that the pain is prelude to a better self.

We learn that failure is a necessary part of life, not its misdoing. It is simply a holy invitation to become more than we are at present. Time is grace and trying is virtue. Struggle is a sign of new life, not a condemnation of this one.

Evolution shows us that the God of becoming is a beckoning God who goes before us to invite us on, to sustain us on the way, rather than a judging God who measures us by a past we did not shape.

Now human beings can begin to revel in what is meant by growing to full stature as a responsible and participative spiritual adult whose work on the planet really, really matters. Life, suddenly, is more a blessing both to the universe and to the self than it is simply a test of a person’s moral limits. To be alive, to be a person in the process of becoming, it becomes clear, is a blessing, not a bane. We are, alone and together, significant actors in the nature of life and the strengthening of the fibers of humankind.

Evolution gives us a God big enough to believe in.


Jesus gave us a God big enough to believe in, but we might have missed part of His point. When Jesus chose to call God His Father, and his fellow humans His brothers and sisters, His point might have been more along the lines of human biological and social maturity than set in stone family relationships describing a hierarchy of roles.

As individuals we progress from one undifferentiated cell through to birth, childhood, adolescence, parenthood or adult hood, and finally accrue (theoretically anyway) enough wisdom to be an honored elder. Each of these stages represents more complexity and more diversity. Each provides for more and more interaction with the world and the opportunity to have more impact with in it.
Jesus as Son, and God as Father, may very well describe our human relationship to the life of our Creator. Jesus points to and represents God's ultimate hope for where humanity will choose to evolve itself. Jesus is God's greatest gift and recognition for His delight in how His cosmos evolved because God Himself Incarnates to further the evolution of man towards God's abundant creative life. In my thinking Jesus truly is, the Way, the Hope, and the Life and He truly is God.

In a very real sense our biological and neurological maturity is a microcosm of the greater cosmic reality of progressing from the simple and somewhat chaotic to the more complex, organized, and beautiful. We may die as individuals, but the greater social organism we were part of continues to grow and progress in complexity, organization, and more often than not, beauty. It doesn't mean that this will always be a smooth straight line progression, but it does mean we will eventually get with the program because at it's core the cosmos is ordered along these lines and we are part of the core.

God is not up there somewhere keeping score. That's not His function in this cosmos. He's a guiding force which Jesus called love and through Jesus He shares our path. We can accept or reject this love just as Jesus taught us. The choice is ours, but so are the consequences. We can choose to further our evolution and bring forth the Kingdom, or we can opt to stand pat and go the way of the dinosaur. Jesus suggested we choose life and love. Makes perfect sense to me.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Thoughts On Golf And The Art Of Unlearning

Are You Illiterate?

My Irish great-grandfather was illiterate, a result of imperial Britain’s ban on the education of the Irish. He immigrated to America in 1840, and in the place on his immigration papers requiring his signature he made an “X.” Today in the twenty-first century, the majority of adults can read and write. But even if you can, you may still be illiterate! According to Alvin Toffler, “the illiterate of the twenty-first century will be…those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”

More painful than learning is unlearning; it is more difficult than teaching new tricks to an old dog. It requires kicking out from beneath you old structures that give you a secure sense of support. This century’s new unfortunate illiterate ones will be those unable to unlearn what they were taught by schools, the state, and their church. For only those who are able to unlearn will in turn be able to learn new ways to live in a complex evolving age of change.

Force me to strenuously use an eraser
to remove my mind’s old knowledge
that stymies my soul and stagnates me,
so I’ll be eager and ready to learn new ways.


"More painful than learning is unlearning." This is such a profound truth. I actually learned the truth of this when teaching golf , not with beginners, but with people who had played the game. It's much easier to teach beginners precisely because they have nothing to unlearn. Those who had already played for awhile had all kinds of things to unlearn, and usually their resistance, both overt and covert, was the most difficult thing to overcome.

Sadly, one of the most frequent excuses used to hang on to abysmal swing faults, was the fact it was how their dad/husband/uncle/brother/mother/friend or who ever, had taught them. A close personal association gave these well meaning amateur teachers more credibility than any professional. The second biggest obstacle were TV or magazine experts. Usually people just added the experts advice onto an already flawed swing, making that flawed swing even more flawed.

I got so tired of hearing, "Yea, but, so and so, said this thing I'm doing makes all the difference in the world." The fact that the 'thing' the student was doing actually made no significant improvement in their performance never computed. When it came to the advice of friends, family, and TV experts, there was no such thing as a reality check. It was never that the advice was wrong, it was the erstwhile student just wasn't executing it correctly.

Reteaching a correct swing took three to four times the amount of time it took to take a true neophyte to the same level. This differential was strictly because of all the unlearning and the resistance to that unlearning that a person had to endure. Believe me, it was an endurance test. (For me too.)

I've always felt golf was a particularly spiritual sport for a number of valid reasons. There's an unstated axiom that a person's golf handicap reflects their sense of self worth and self confidence as much as their athletic talent. This has been born out in a number of studies with both amateurs and touring professionals.

For instance, a professional is far more apt to make a twenty foot putt for bogey or par than they are birdie or eagle. For amateurs, they may never sink that twenty foot putt for birdie, but they will for double bogey. Essentially, scoring is directly affected by what you think you deserve based on what you think about yourself. Even knowing this, I too fell into the same trap. I would make 8 foot putts all the time, as long as they weren't for birdie. When it was for birdie the failure ratio doubled. For me, knowing the dynamic only made the truth of the dynamic more frustrating. It's in this area of golf that Tiger Woods blows his competition away. The man is incredible.

Advancing in the spiritual path is as susceptible to the same issues of unlearning, relearning, self worth and self judgement as is the game of golf. Tiger's confidence in himself is such that he does not fear retooling his golf swing. I think he's now on his third retool. His sees his swing as a tool he uses, not a reflection of himself. As such he can drop one swing and pick up another almost as easily as he does clubs.

With the spiritual path too many of us see a particular religious or theological interpretation as an extension of ourselves and call it TRUTH, rather than a tool or a set of guiding principles. I'm perfectly aware of the fact I'm being simplistic here. Changing one's religious understanding is far more complicated than changing one's golf swing, but the principles are the same. For a golfer the goal is to get better at golf. For a spiritual believer the goal is to get closer to God. In both cases the primary obstacle to progress is the difficulty with the unlearning the new learning may require. Jesus said this Himself, and I used it all the time when I taught golf. "You can not put new wine into old wine skins."

Sometimes it would happen that students just did not want to put the effort into the unlearning and stopped the lessons. Golf wasn't important enough to them for that kind of effort, but at least now they knew it. They learned something about themselves. I was always OK with that. These decisions were made from self knowledge and self honesty. I had total respect for that.

What I have a tough time respecting, is Catholics who claim their Catholicism means a great deal to them and then won't do the work required to progress on the path. They claim they have no more to learn, all the rules, regulations, doctrine, and dogma are already written. They have them memorized and besides EWTN, Bishop so and so, or the Pope agrees with them.

The real truth is the Pope himself would be the last one to make such a claim, because he knows it isn't true. We don't have all the truth and all the answers. We are a pilgrim church. I'm not sure certain bishops or the talking heads at EWTN share the same understanding. Maybe Pope should get them out on a golf course.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Bishop Tobin On Archbishop Weakland

Archbishop Weakland’s Perplexing Pilgrimage
BY BISHOP THOMAS J. TOBIN--The Rhode Island Catholic 8/27/09

Summer always affords me more time for reading, and one of the books I read this year was “A Pilgrim in a Pilgrim Church,” the memoirs of Archbishop Rembert Weakland. You may be familiar with Archbishop Weakland – a Benedictine priest, former archabbot of St.Vincent Archabbey in Latrobe, PA, abbot primate of the worldwide Benedictine Order, and, most famously, Archbishop of Milwaukee from 1977-2002.

Archbishop Weakland’s tenure as Archbishop of Milwaukee came to a tumultuous end when in May of 2002 it was revealed that many years prior he was involved in a homosexual liaison with a young friend, was later threatened with a civil lawsuit, and eventually used $450,000 of archdiocesan money to pay for a confidential, out-of-court settlement. The fact that this sordid arrangement came to light during the height of the sexual abuse scandal added plenty of fuel to the already raging fire. (Bishop, I would respectfully like to point out that AB Weakland paid back every dime to the diocese and that his accuser chose this particular time to come out of the wood work. It was the accuser's choice to use the sexual abuse scandal to further his own ends and further embarrass AB Weakland in the hopes of getting even more money.)

Archbishop Weakland’s memoirs provide fascinating reading for several reasons – first, because he himself is a multi-talented, colorful, and accomplished figure of historic proportions; next, because the book is well-written – detailed, but not ponderous; and finally, because the narrative is interesting, especially for ecclesial wonks, since Weakland’s personal story is interwoven so tightly with most of the major themes that have dominated the life of the Church during the past fifty years or so.

For a couple of decades, Archbishop Weakland was one of the leading voices of the “liberal wing” of the American Hierarchy. He proudly calls himself a “Dearden Bishop,” referring to the more liberal bishops who were strongly influenced by the ideology of the late Cardinal John Dearden of Detroit. Weakland quietly questioned and sometimes publicly challenged the teaching of the Church on hot-button issues such as homosexuality, clerical celibacy, the ordination of women, the primacy of the Holy See, and the role of episcopal conferences.

Understandably, the Archbishop’s memoirs have generated a tidal wave of reaction on ecclesiastical shores. No surprise there, for after all, the book is an intriguing combination of theology and gossip, Aquinas and Oprah, you might say. I’ve come across two reviews of the book in other Catholic publications. One was extremely harsh, and accusatory in tone; the other far more positive and forgiving. I suppose my reaction is somewhere in the middle.

I should say up front that I have pleasant personal memories of Archbishop Weakland. My few brief coffee-break encounters with him at USCCB meetings were enjoyable. He was always respectful and kind to me, at the time, a young bishop. And we share some common roots. His hometown was in Patton, Pennsylvania, and my dad’s family was from Cresson, a neighboring village. If memory serves me, Rembert and I spoke about our common Pennsylvania heritage on more than one occasion.

It strikes me that critics of Archbishop Weakland should be at least a little restrained in their umbrage, for after all there are many redeeming qualities of the Archbishop’s life and ministry. He responded willingly to the Lord’s call to the consecrated life; he has served the Church generously in a variety of difficult leadership positions; he has shown a determined commitment to the progress of the Church and the implementation of the Second Vatican Council; and he has consistently reached-out to the poor, the weak and the disenfranchised members of the Church and society. If his service has been marred by human imperfections, so be it. So is mine, and so is yours.

On the other hand, supporters of Archbishop Weakland should also be able to recognize the self-serving inconsistencies and contradictions contained in his story. (I am always fascinated by the fact it's mostly only the left which suffers from self serving inconsistencies and contradictions.)

For example, although the Archbishop always took pride in his liberal theological tendencies and his public pronouncements on controversial issues, he seemed to be genuinely puzzled, even hurt, when others labeled him a dissident. (This would make more sense if labeling him a dissident was the only adjective used to describe him. Unfortunately, the labels got far more vicious than this.)

He passionately promoted the dignity of the laity and their role in the governance and ministry of the Church, but had little hesitation about quietly using their money to cover-up his egregious sexual offense. (At least he paid the Archdiocese back, which certainly didn't happen with any other bishop who used the money of the laity to cover up clerical sexual abuse scandals and to pay off victims and lawyers. Where was their hesitation? )

He disparaged the secrecy of the Holy See but for twenty years hid his own indiscretions behind the walls of the chancery, indiscretions that were not just a matter of personal behavior but also profoundly affected the reputation and welfare of the Church. (Like every other bishop, who also hid sexual indiscretions behind chancery walls, Weakland was following orders. I personally fault him for following these orders, but certainly do not limit the fault to him.)

He railed against what he considered the authoritarian pontificate of Pope John Paul II, but clearly used his own persona and authority to impose his vision of the Church upon his own fiefdom in Milwaukee, easily dismissing those who opposed him as conservative, right-wing nuts. (I guess it's OK to run your diocese like a fiefdom and impose your authority if you are a conservative. At least Weakland didn't impose his authority by excommunicating all the 'right wing nuts', like a certain conservative bishop in Lincoln, NE excommunicated all his left wing nuts.)

In short, like many dissidents in the Church, throughout his life Archbishop Weakland benefited generously from the support of the institutional Church, but never hesitated to criticize the Church whenever it served his own purposes to do so. (Which is no different than conservative bishops who have benefited from religious sisters and the generosity of the laity, and who have heavily criticised them when it serves their own purposes to do so.)

Archbishop Weakland concludes his memoirs by writing, sincerely I’m sure, “My story now comes to an end . . . Like all the other tales of human pilgrimage it must end with a fervent prayer for God’s gracious love and mercy on such a flawed but grateful pilgrim.”

Without a doubt the Archbishop’s pilgrimage has been perplexing; it’s taken a lot of twists and turns along the way. Nonetheless, there’s much the rest of us pilgrims can learn from his travels including this: that whenever a pilgrim wanders off the track and away from the group, he runs the risk of getting hurt or lost, and in so doing, impedes the pilgrimage, and diminishes the peace and joy of his fellow travelers.


I get so tired of conservative clerics using a stunningly righteous and myopic view point to chastise progressives. Take for instance, the last sentence of Bishop Tobin's review of Archbishop Weakland's book. The implication is that only those who are of a progressive persuasion diminish the joy and peace of their fellow travelers. Conservatives never apparently upset the joy and peace of their fellow travelers. In one sense this is absolutely true, because the tendency with conservatives is not to recognize any other fellow travelers except those of like persuasion. I suppose that's why the rest of us are so frequently told to leave the church for other pastures. We're not considered fellow travellers.

Bishop Tobin is a card carrying member of the righteous right. He's not afraid to call a spade a spade, at least as he sees it. I actually appreciate that quality as I have more than a tendency to do the same thing myself but from another view point.

He writes a blog for the Rhode Island Catholic called "Without a Doubt" and he leaves no doubt about where he stands and why he has no doubts. Given some of his other articles, for instance this one on gay marriage, his review of Archbishop Weakland's book can be considered middle of the road and charitable--for him anyway. Here's a sample of the above linked article on gay marriage which illustrates his less charitable tendencies:

Here let me explain the “champagne principle.” Not every wine is champagne. Champagne has certain very specific, universally recognized characteristics. If someone were to take a bottle of Chianti, label and sell it as champagne, they’d be arrested for fraud. In the same way, those who seek to redefine marriage – with its specific characteristics – and to usurp the title “marriage” for their morally bankrupt relationships, are committing an act of fraud. It’s insulting to those who have entered the authentic, sacred and time-honored institution of marriage over the years.

When I read the above quote I felt incredible compassion for any Catholic parent of a gay child who saw this tripe about morally bankrupt fraudulent relationships and how insulting these relationships were supposed to be to their own marriages. I felt great compassion for the children of gay parents, millions of whom are biological children from failed 'sacred' heterosexual marriages. It seems to me that marriages in which one partner desperately pretends to be what they are not, in order to conform to the blessed sacred image, are the marriages which actually fit the definition of fraudulent.

The entire article makes no effort to separate the human individual from the 'gravely immoral' sexual acts which 'are offensive to Amighty God'. In his eyes, at least judged on his writing, gays are not really human as they are immoral humans, and God forbid that his diocese ever be put into position where his good Catholics would have to tolerate gay God parents at baptisms, hire gay employees in spite of their immoral lifestyles, or grant family benefits to gay couples. (I guess Bishop Tobin expects the children of gays to also have to pay the price for their immoral human parents.)

What I find interesting is that in his article about Archbishop Weakland, Bishop Tobin goes to great lengths to find the human in the gay Archbishop, in spite of the strong words about Weakland's 'egregious sexual offense'. This is in direct contradiction to his attitude to the nameless and faceless gays forcing their agenda down the throats of Rhode Island Catholics. Why is this? Is it because Weakland is an Archbishop and to completely dehumanize him somehow diminishes the standing of Bishop Tobin as a bishop? Or is it something else?

Weakland's life isn't near as perplexing to me as Bishop Tobin's individual treatment of the gay liberal Weakland versus Tobin's universal denunciation of gays or his dismissing of liberals as self centered and opportunistic. On some level, Archbishop Weakland got to Bishop Tobin. Weakland put some cracks in Bishop Tobins 'without a doubt' shell. Tobin defends Weakland as having succumbed to human weakness, as he has, as we all have.

Bishop Tobin is right, we all succumb to human weakness. It's how we learn and grow. How we become more human, more Christ like. It's why we need to forgive and quit judging each other. I suspect it was the human face of Archbishop Weakland which got to Bishop Tobin. Now if only Bishop Tobin would see the same human face in other gays. He might better understand what all the fuss is about.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Rumors, Resginations And The Reform Of The Reform

Does the 'reform of the reform' really mean all the decision making about everything starts and stops here?

Pope has no plans to reverse Vatican II reforms, says Cardinal Bertone
Vatican City, Aug 28, 2009 / 10:06 am (CNA).-

The Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, said this week that the reports of supposed plans to roll back changes to the Church’s liturgy that began with the Second Vatican Council “are pure fabrication.”

In an interview with L’Osservatore Romano, the cardinal was asked about the “reservations” or “fears” of some who think the Holy Father is going “against” Vatican II, when the reality is actually the opposite. (This is a CNA article so editorial opinion passes for news.)

In order to understand Benedict XVI’s manner of governing the Church, Cardinal Bertone explained, one has to consider his own personal history as a protagonist in the conciliar and post-conciliar Church. Other items to note are: his inaugural speech as Pope, his speech to the Roman Curia on December 22, 2005 and the changes he has personally called for, enacted and patiently explained. (Actually, I think his funeral homily for JPII is far more indicative of his true leanings. Interesting that Cardinal Bertone left that one out.)

Cardinal Bertone noted several key points of the Council that the Pope has constantly promoted, including fostering “a more understanding relationship with the Orthodox and Eastern Churches” and entering into dialogue with Judaism and Islam. These efforts, the cardinal said, have been met with responses unseen up to now. (I can agree with this for the most part, while noting some of the progress came because of incredible PR screw ups. But it's also of note that Bertone doesn't mention any emphasis on collegiality or decentralization of power, which were critical aspects of Vatican II.)

After noting the positive relationship the Pope has with the bishops, Cardinal Bertone said that when it comes to the reform of the Church, “Benedict XVI has called us back to the source of the Word of God, to the evangelical law and the heart of the Church’s life: Jesus, who we know, love, adore and imitate.” (He mentions Peter a whole lot as well.)

The Vatican's Secretary of State also pointed out that the Pope has given the Church a great gift with his book “Jesus of Nazareth,” in which he reminded us that his desire is “to make Christ the heart of the world.” (Since Christ (in many forms, but especially love) is already the heart of the world, the issue is to open people up to that knowledge, not make Christ into that which He already is.)

Cardinal Bertone noted the tendency in the secular media to ascribe to the Pope, or to the Vatican, the responsibility for everything that happens in the Church or that is said by any member of the local Churches, institutions or ecclesial groups, “and this is not right.” (Maybe not, but it is the fruit of the papacies of JPII and B16, whose major reform of the reform is to reemphasise the central authority of the Papacy and Vatican curia.)

It would be more accurate, he said, to attribute to each person responsibility for his or her own actions or words, “especially when they patently contradict the teachings and example of the Pope.”

The way that the media covers such cases depends on reporters and media professionals having good intentions and a love for the truth, Bertone observed. (Are you listening CNA? The operative word is truth, not opinion. I on the other hand, do not claim to be a journalist and can have all the opinions I want.)


Here's another interesting CNA piece:

Bishop of Scranton to step down next week
Scranton, Pa., Aug 28, 2009 / 11:12 am (CNA).-

Most Rev. Joseph F. Martino, Bishop of Scranton, will resign as head of the Diocese of Scranton next week, sources within the diocese confirmed to the local press today.

The sources did not explain the reason for the 62-year-old bishop’s decision. The sources also did not specify if the Bishop’s resignation was going to be presented or if it had been already submitted and accepted by the Vatican.

When asked by CNA to confirm Bishop Martino's resignation, diocesan spokesman William Genello said that the diocese will hold a press conference next Monday for media members only.
According to Canon law, a Bishop can present his resignation to the Holy Father for reasons other than the age limit (75), but he remains the head of the diocese until his resignation is accepted.

Speculation about the bishop's future began earlier this week when the local press in Scranton reported that his belongings were being moved from the rectory of St. Peter's Cathedral, to a retreat house in Dalton, Pa.

Joseph Martino was installed as the ninth bishop of the Diocese of Scranton in October, 2003, and rapidly became one of the stronger pro-life voices in the U.S. episcopate.
In a pastoral letter issued last year before the presidential election, Bishop Martino wrote, “To begin, laws that protect abortion constitute injustice of the worst kind. They rest on several false claims including that there is no certainty regarding when life begins, that there is no certainty about when a fetus becomes a person, and that some human beings may be killed to advance the interests or convenience of others.”

On February this year, he wrote to Pennsylvania U.S. Sen. Bob Casey concerning his vote against the Mexico City Policy, expressing his “deep concern” that the senator’s staff was misrepresenting the vote as "pro-life."


The NCR take on this resignation is somewhat different from the CNA take. Bishop Martino was not big on pastoral compassion, and real big on his own authority as a bishop. To say his style was confrontational is an understatement. See Senator Casey, the USCCB, various colleges and theology departments, Scranton voters, the organizers of the St Patrick's day parade and Notre Dame-- that's just the last 9 months.

Like Roberto Duran, there didn't seem to be a fight Bishop Martino wanted to miss. Is he also, like Duran, saying 'no mas'? Speculation is rampant as to the reasons for this sudden resignation. Did that silent majority of USCCB bishops petition the Vatican to remove him? Did his diocese revolt against him? Did Casey use his influence with the Vatican? Is the Vatican recognizing a pastoral mistake? Is there some sort of major scandal in the offing? While I think there may be some truth in all of the above, I wouldn't be surprised if all the fighting and all the attendant stress finally did him in, and the official reasons will be health related.

For some reason, I think it's curious that just as Archbishop Sheehan is proposing a completely different model of authority, one based in collaboration, the next day the one bishop who most modeled the opposite approach suddenly resigns.

I find it just as curious that as the Catholic world is rife with rumors of a unilateral Curial decision to change the rubrics of the Mass, the next day Cardinal Bertone is saying no, no, no, it's all rumor and isn't going to happen. Pope Benedict isn't going to do that. Which still implies that Pope Benedict believes he has the authority to completely over ride anything an individual bishop might decide to do in his own diocese. Since Martino believed very strongly in his authority to do what ever he wanted in his own diocese it would have been very interesting to see the outcome of these two butting authoritarian heads. Maybe they did, and Bishop Martino found out just how far his authority extended.

In the meantime I guess Cardinal Bertone wants us to see Pope Benedict as the good guy who isn't going to force the Church back into the rubrics of the pre Vatican II Mass. Maybe this rumor mongering was all a big PR strategy designed to make it appear that Benedict is listening to the more progressive wing of the Church. When the reality is, all he has done is maintain the status quo while deflecting from the fact he still retains all the meaningful authority in himself.

If that's true, than the Martino resignation may be just one more example of flexing the muscle of the central authority of the Vatican. That in reality, neither of these situations represents anything more, and that's the central message of the 'reform of the reform'. At it's core it's about re centralizing all ecclesiastical power and has nothing to do with the wishes of progressives or conservatives---much less the Holy Spirit.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Reflections From My New Archbishop--Sheehan of Santa Fe

The spirit of St Francis alive and active in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe

First off I made it to New Mexico is good time with no hassles. I had to drug the cats though, they were not too excited about bouncing around in a U Haul in their cat cages. I sort of had my own little 'valley of the dolls'.

Last night I finally hooked up the PC and low and behold the first thing I read is an NCR article by Tom Roberts about my new Archbishop. I had to read it twice for his words to really sink in. Archbishop Sheehan seems to be exactly what this diverse Archdiocese needs. Someone who understands collaboration and doesn't judge people's spiritual life or individual conscience. To do otherwise would be a recipe for disaster in an area with the Catholic history and Catholic personalities which make up his Archdiocese. The following is an edited version of the NCR article.

In the Aug. 12 interview, Sheehan said the Catholic community risks isolating itself from the rest of the country and that refusing to talk to a politician or refusing communion because of a difference on a single issue was counterproductive. He described such actions as a “hysterical” reaction. (Finally a bishop admits the single issue strategy is counterproductive for the whole of Catholicism. I'm not entirely sure it's hysterical as much as it is premeditated in certain circles.)

The comments came in the course of an interview on a range of other topics, most of which will appear in subsequent stories in the ongoing series, In Search of the Emerging Church.
The archbishop was forceful in describing the manner in which church leaders should handle significant disagreements with elected officials. He said his approach – whether dealing with civic officials or church members, relied heavily on collaboration, a technique he said he learned from the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago......

“I believe in collaboration,” he said. “I worked under Cardinal Bernardin and he taught me how to collaborate, how to consult. So I am very committed to the concept called shared responsibility. I think involving people in the process all the way along – my priests, my lay people, I am open to talking to them, working with them. Consultation, collaboration, building bridges not burning them. And you can get so much done when you have collaboration and you build the bridge with other people, whether it’s priests or laypeople, deacons, whoever.” (Not only does this approach get more done, it's a lot less stressful.)

Sheehan said that in June he told his fellow bishops, “I don’t feel so badly about Obama going [to Notre Dame] because he’s our president. I said we’ve gotten more done on the pro-life issue in New Mexico by talking to people that don’t agree with us on everything. We got Governor Richardson to sign off on the abolition of the death penalty for New Mexico, which he was in favor of.” (Why is this so difficult to understand. You don't accomplish anything on a given issue by talking solely with people who agree with you.)

Gov. Bill Richardson, in explaining why he reversed his long-standing support for the death penalty, said he was persuaded in part by discussions with church activists and with Sheehan.
“We talked to him, and we got him on board and got the support in the legislature,” Sheehan said. “But you know, he’s pro-abortion. So? It doesn’t mean we sit and wait, that we sit on the sides and not talk to him. We’ve done so much more by consultation and by building bridges in those areas. And then to make a big scene about Obama – I think a lot of the enemies of the church are delighted to see all that. And I said that I think we don’t want to isolate ourselves from the rest of America by our strong views on abortion and the other things. We need to be building bridges, not burning them.” (And some of these enemies of the Church are actively fomenting these big scenes because Catholic Social Justice teachings are major threats to their exploitation of the rest of us.)

Asked if there were any other bishops who agreed with him, he said, “Of course, the majority.”
He was asked why none of the bishops who disagreed with the protests that dominated the news for weeks had spoken up. (That's my question too. It seems to me they are forming their own version of Nixon's 'silent majority'.

“The bishops don’t want to have a battle in public with each other, but I think the majority of bishops in the country didn’t join in with that, would not be in agreement with that approach. It’s well intentioned, but we don’t lose our dignity by being strong in the belief that we have, but also talking to others that don’t have our belief. We don’t lose our dignity by that,” he said. (In point of fact, one gains more respect and trust. Something sorely needed by American Bishops.)

“We’d be like the Amish, you know, kind of isolated from society, if we kept pulling back because of a single issue.”

He acknowledged the loudest voices were creating what appeared to be the Catholic position for the general public.

“Of course. I mean that’s always been the case,” he said. “That’s news, you know.”
He said that in speaking to the other bishops he wondered aloud what was so bad about inviting Obama and giving him a degree. “Last month,” said Sheehan, “the pope made the president of France an honorary canon of St. John Lateran’s -- and he [President Nicolas Sarkozy] is pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage, married invalidly to an actress, and the pope did that. It doesn’t seem that [the Vatican] had quite as big a concern about this matter of Obama and Notre Dame as some of us.”

Noting that the Vatican has consistently been more positive about Obama than some of the leading critics among the U.S. bishops, Sheehan said, “The Vatican is a little more diplomatically sensitive. But you’ve got to have the big picture.” (Which means you have to be open to entertaining a bigger picture than you currently have. That's a very scary proposition for some people.)

He also said given Obama’s association as a young man with priests and nuns during his time as a community organizer on Chicago’s South Side that the “issues of social justice that we teach and preach would resonate in his own work and in his own mind.”

If Sheehan disagreed with the tactics of some of his fellow bishops, he believes at least that Obama may have “a greater awareness now of how passionately and how deeply the church people feel” about abortion. “I think he probably had to come to grips with it in a way that, I suspect, has had a positive effect.”

He said the bishops might revisit a controversial statement on Catholic politicians but he said he opposes withholding communion based partly on the church’s own historic experience. Making reference to Giuseppi Garibaldi, who campaigned to unify Italy in the mid 1800s and who advocated abolition of the papacy, Sheehan said the church then said Catholics would be excommunicated or refused communion if they voted for him. “Well, it didn’t work.”
“Using sanctions – you have to be very careful about doing that.” (Revisiting a failed strategy is not exactly a creative thing to do.)

He said he was cautioned in seminary to be very careful when even considering refusing communion to someone. “And I’ve had occasions where I was wondering whether I should give communion to this person who had been in a quote bad marriage. I gave him communion and after Mass he came up to me and said Archbishop, I have such good news. Our marriage case was settled.”

With a bit of emotion, Sheehan said, “And if I would have refused him communion.
“You have to be very careful. The Vatican doesn’t do these big sanctions, you’re out of the church if you vote this way. They’ve tried it, it doesn’t work, and I try to learn from what the Vatican has to teach and to use that myself,” he said. “The primary responsibility for someone receiving communion is the person himself or herself and their conscience, to come forward to receive. The priest shouldn’t be like a watchdog, looking around and finding out who’s unworthy.”

Asked if he was concerned about reaction from those who seemed to consider opposition to Obama’s appearance at Notre Dame or refusing communion to a politician who differed from the church’s view on abortion strategy as proof of orthodox Catholicism, he responded:
“I seek to teach, to teach, and not to use sanctions. To teach, to talk to people. Like I say, we got more done this year with the state legislature by connecting with people and by saying our piece in a hopefully reasonable, and not an emotional and hysterical, way. Hysterical activity doesn’t bear fruit, and there’s been some hysteria in these areas.” (Jesus was not a priest or a bishop, He was a teacher. He did not brow beat or condemn, He taught and let people accept it or not. He lived His teachings, many people saw their fruit, and many people experienced a conversion---not unlike Governor Richardson.)


A week or so before I left for New Mexico, a Native friend of mine had me over for dinner. We had a great time reminiscing and talking about this that and the other thing. As I got up to leave she grabbed my hands and told me very intensely that I was embarking on a spiritual mission which would have major consequences for my life. One of the things she said, which I found interesting at the time, was that not only would I make important connections with the Navajo and Pueblo Natives, but also with in my own tradition from both the Anglo and Hispanic ends of Catholicism. She warned me I would be in for a ride, but to look for support in unlikely places and don't be afraid of where my path might take me.

I haven't been here three days and have already found spiritual support in one of the places I wouldn't have looked, the office of the Archbishop of Santa Fe. I knew very little about Archbishop Sheehan before reading Tom Robert's article. I had little interest in finding out about him because I was far more focused on Fr. John Dear and Fr. Richard Rhor. The idea that the Archbishop of Santa Fe would be of any interest was not on my radar. (note to self, remove beam from radar).

Of course, the big message for me is this whole notion of collaboration, and for all intents and purposes Archbishop Sheehan has identified the biggest obstacle in Catholics collaborating with each other, and that's abortion. Until the hysteria is removed from this area, well meaning Catholics who differ on various aspects of abortion will be walled off from each other. Catholicism doesn't benefit from this at all--- and neither do the unborn. No body wins except the enemies of Catholicism who use this issue to further the destruction of the Catholic voice on other issues. I hope other bishops take heed of what Archbishop Sheehan is stating here and take a glance at the bigger picture. It strikes me that Benedict has, and he does not exactly like everything he sees.

On another note, I also saw that the bishop of Tulsa, Edward Slattery, has opted for the ad orientam position for saying Mass. This has always struck me as being the school bus orientation with the priest as driver and the rest of us sitting in our rows as dociley as possible. Native spiritual ceremonies also use a form of ad orientam, with the principle celebrant facing a particular direction for some similar reasons as outlined by Bishop Slattery. The big difference is everyone else sits around in a circle which makes a completely different statement about the relative importance and contribution of all the participants. In my opinion some of the best of the new church architecture has featured a circular orientation. Whether we like it or not, we are all in this thing called life together, and also whether we like it or not, that's the way God designed it.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Lutherans Vote To Accept Monogamous Partnered Gay Clergy And Another Conservative Ghetto Is In The Making

Us Catholics still uphold the old faithful line in spite of these wishful protesters. In the meantime we get smaller and purer and smaller and purer.

Lutheran Schism In the Making?
Jim Burroway August 21st, 2009

Leaders of Lutheran CORE (Coalition for Reform) responded to the church decision to accept partnered gay clergy with a press release calling on “faithful Lutherans” to meet in Indianapolis in September to begin an “expanded ministry that draws faithful ELCA congregations together”: (Faithful in this sense is faithful to the traditional definition of gay sex as always and everywhere sinful, oh, and also faithful to upholding the traditional interpretation of the scriptures.)

“We are encouraging individuals and congregations to join us in Indianapolis to discuss what the future for faithful Lutherans in the ELCA might look like and how faithful congregations and individuals can work together ,” [Lutheran CORE chairman and bishop Paull] Spring said. “It is crucial that those ELCA Lutherans who uphold the authority of Scripture work together. We need each other. We urge people to come to Indianapolis.”

“We intend to gather the largest possible body of faithful Lutherans so that we might collectively plan a united common future. For that reason it is important that congregations and individuals not make hasty decisions about their future in the ELCA,” Spring added. “We want to work together to do what will be best for all of us and for the continuation of faithful Christian teaching.” (I just love this use of the word faithful. It so implies that the Lutherans who voted for inclusion for gay ministers have no faith.)

Lutheran CORE also announced that they are renouncing their recognition by the ELCA as an Independent Lutheran Organization. Spring said, “We can no longer in good conscience participate in this relationship with the offices in Chicago” He also encouraged congregations and members to direct their financial support away from the ELCA.


Bill Lyndsey has been tracking this story over on Bilgrimage and details the strategy used by these fair and faithful Core Lutherans to change the rules of the game to force their desired outcome on the rest of the ELCA. As Bill reports, they attempted a rules change which would require a super majority vote, (2/3 majority) rather than the simple majority vote previously used with such issues.

I guess that's the kind of thing you try when you know you can't muster the votes for a simple majority victory of your own. You up the ante, hoping the other side doesn't have enough votes for a super majority. In this case the bet was called, and CORE lost. The simple majority vote was used and the actual vote was 559 -451 for allowing individual congregations to call partnered gay ministers to pastoral positions. This was the culmination vote in quite a series of votes: The following is from Box Turtle Bulletin:

Today the denomination addressed the four step process outlined by their task-force, though the ordering has shifted to 3, 1, 2, 4:

Step three asks this church whether, in the future implementation of these commitments, it will make decisions so that all in this church bear the burdens of the other, and respect the bound consciences of all. This step was confirmed 771 - 230.

Step one asks the assembly whether, in principle, this church is committed to finding ways to allow congregations that choose to do so to recognize, support and hold publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships. This step was confirmed 619 - 402. (This is just over 62% who voted in favor of blessing same sex unions. I think it's important to note that this step does not force congregations to act against their consciences.)

Step two asks the assembly whether, in principle, this church is committed to finding a way for people in such publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships to serve as professional leaders of this church. This step was confirmed 559 - 451. (This is 56% voting in favor of allowing those blessed couples to be Church leaders.)

It is official. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America will accept as ministers - for those churches who so desire - gays and lesbians with partners.

Step four proposes the specifics of how this church can move toward change in a way that respects the bound consciences of all.

The details of this step are yet to be announced.

CORE is determining it's steps on it's own. It's going to take it's faithful Lutherans and their bound consciences to Indianapolis and who knows what, probably vote to remove themselves from ELCA, or vote to join the Southern Cone province of faithful Anglicans, or form their own sect. Whatever it is, it won't include those gays. So much for respecting the bound consciences of other Lutherans.

It's kind of amazing to me that the vote percentages weren't even close in approving gay blessings and gay clergy. Maybe this is exactly why CORE will not stick around their fellow Lutherans. The reality is they came very very close to going down to a super majority on the gay blessing issue. That would have been very ironic-not mention embarrassing- since they fought so hard for the super majority vote.

Times in this country are certainly changing and while I can see where the change is difficult for some people, I'm not sure walling themselves off in their own little Lutheran ghetto is going to do them much meaningful good. Truth is they are doing to themselves what they want to do to gays--marginalize and ghettoize. Hmmm, maybe there's a lesson here.

Today's post comes to you through the need to practice house packing avoidance behavior. Tearing down my office is truly like ripping up my heart. I'll get to it tomorrow when the truck gets here. Sigh.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Eric Prince Supporter Of The Legion Of Christ, And Black Covert Operations

Eric Prince is a financial supporter of the Legion of Christ. Of course, he's into way more than that and none of it surprises me.

Sometimes, you just don't want to follow the evidence. I have stated twice this week, that if Archbishop Chaput will do a real investigation into the Legion of Christ he will be apalled at what he finds about the rich supporters of this group. Maciel was, and the Legion still is, involved with quite the group of Evangelical Christians and Crusdader Catholics. Right wing Catholicism is being hi jacked for all the wrong reasons. Not all black ops are aimed at infiltrating national governments. Sometimes they are aimed at infiltrating religious institutions. Maciel and the Legion were ever so close to John Paul and they had ever so many people around them who potentially benefited from that closeness. Jesus weeps.

Blackwater’s Free-Market Crusade
By Nathan Schneider August 19, 2009-Religion Dispatches

New testimony from Blackwater whistleblowers alleges that the notorious military contractor murdered Iraqi civilians and destroyed the evidence, all in support of founder Erik Prince's vision of an epic battle for the defense of Christendom.

Erik Prince discovered a passion for freedom long before founding Blackwater.
Freedom is a mighty thing. Its exercise unleashes, its defense galvanizes. In the imagination, it conjures a dream that meets reality only in glimpses: an open field, a decisive choice, or a long-held desire finally in reach. Freedom, such ecstasy reveals, is the principle (or anti-principle) that organizes the whole universe. It is simple. But grasping it for oneself, without slipping into a new sort of bondage, is hard. (What a brilliant statement.)

The athletic, adventuresome son of a Michigan car-parts billionaire, Prince experienced the benefits of free-market business firsthand. After a short spell at the Naval Academy, he finished his undergraduate years at Hillsdale College, renowned in conservative circles for its stubborn libertarianism. Later, after returning to the Navy as a SEAL and inheriting from his father’s riches, he co-founded Blackwater and became a pioneer in the freewheeling growth industry of private military contracting. (didn't we used to call these guys and organizations blood sucking parasitic mercenaries?)

This turned out to be a fortuitous move. Only a few years later, a worldwide war on terror began in defense of—you guessed it—freedom, which the US government was ill-equipped to execute. In exchange for their help, Blackwater and its siblings won wide-reaching deliverance from the constraints of military and civilian oversight while implementing American government policy at home and abroad. Lucrative Pentagon and State Department contracts meant that, now a free-market businessman in his own right, Erik Prince had come full circle. (When you are outside the usual chain of command, the chain of command will use you to do what it can't. There was no civilian oversite-as in congressional-because they were never in the chain. This is hardly a novel approach.)
Prince’s freedom, however, may not last. On August 4, Jeremy Scahill reported in The Nation that the night before, a pair of anonymous former Blackwater employees had filed sworn affidavits (John Doe #1 and #2) against Prince and his company in a Virginia federal court. Neither informant feels at liberty to reveal his identity for fear of retribution. (I strongly suspect they fear not only for themselves, but for their families.)

The former employees allege that, during ongoing federal investigations, Prince “murdered, or had murdered” informants to keep them from testifying. Both say that Blackwater employees injured and killed Iraqi civilians without cause, at times with restricted weaponry, then destroyed the evidence. Prince’s private planes were used, says John Doe #2, to smuggle weapons into the country. He also alleges that Blackwater maintained a “wife-swapping and sex ring” at its North Carolina compound (which Prince seems to have encouraged), and that his men were in the habit of using child prostitutes. (Employees of another contractor, DynCorp, were found in 2000 to have been organizing a child sex ring in Bosnia.) Freedom to fire at will, the statements suggest, mixes in Blackwater’s culture with experiments in sexual liberation. (This fits the same profile used by the CIA in it's MK ULTRA program, and if you care to do the research, this is on the congressional record.)

Battle for the Defense of Christendom

John Doe #2’s testimony makes particularly troubling claims about more cosmic aspects of Prince’s leadership at Blackwater. Prince, he alleges, “views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe.” He adds, “Mr. Prince intentionally deployed to Iraq certain men who shared his vision of Christian supremacy, knowing and wanting these men to take every available opportunity to murder Iraqis. Many of these men used call signs based on the Knights of the Templar, the warriors who fought the Crusades.”
These remain unverified contentions, and anonymous ones at that. But they’re hardly surprising. Scahill is also the author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army, a book full of troubling revelations about the company and its founder. The fascination with medieval bloodshed appears to run deep; Scahill reports that some Blackwater bosses boast membership in the Sovereign Order of Malta, another Crusader brotherhood. “Some,” he observes (well before seeing John Doe #2’s affidavit), “appear to believe they are engaged in an epic battle for the defense of Christendom.” (The SMOM is a Catholic organization with quasi status as an 'extra territorial' soveriegn entity. Which means it has no real land claim to be a nation, but it does receive recognition by 103 other nations as a entity worthy of ambassadors. The property it does have is situated predominately in Rome. It's list of members is replete with intelligence operatives and government people. GW Bush is a member, as are various members of the Dulles family. This is one very unique organization with it's own military wing under the auspices of the Italian Army. It's stated charism is world wide medical charity, and it most certainly does a great deal of that. It's detractors maintain that this charism is the perfect front for all kinds of other things in any country in which it operates.)

Throughout, the book explores Prince’s longstanding ties with reactionary religion. Prince’s father, whose business success was referred to as “a boom built on Biblical principles,” by Republican operative Gary Bauer, bankrolled Bauer and James Dobson’s Family Research Council. The younger Prince converted to Catholicism in 1992, but his old ties with evangelical organizations has made him a bridge-builder among conservative Christians of both stripes.

Prince’s personal philanthropy goes through his Freiheit Foundation (freiheit is German for “freedom”). In addition to conservative think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute, many of its beneficiaries are expressly religious, including the embattled Legionaries of Christ, Charles Colson’s Prison Fellowship, and Christian Freedom International. These are decidedly not militant organizations. But in the imagination of Erik Prince, freedom of militancy and freedom of religion go, literally, hand in hand. He once described his liberated militia thusly: “Everybody carries guns, just like Jeremiah rebuilding the temple in Israel—a sword in one hand and a trowel in the other.”
It’s a fabulous prospect, to a certain habit of thinking, where freedom is the substance of things hoped for and its evidence can be seen in the wonders of free enterprise and powerful weaponry. The grace of an Invisible Hand falls upon its chosen ones with riches, as if proclaiming, “These are my beloved, with whom I am well pleased; listen to them!” Free-market war, like all free markets, promises to exceed the prospects of the alternative, creating more wealth for more people beyond our wildest imaginations. But it may be that warfare isn’t a wealth that we need to increase. Our imagination of it is already quite wild enough. (Eric Prince and his family were major beneficiaries of how world war impacted the auto industry. War makes people wealthy. War continues to make people wealthy. It always has, but hopefully it always won't. The current estimated cost of the war in Iraq is 675 billion. Blackwater surely has received their share of that cost. Like his father, war has made Eric Prince wealthy--or should I say wealthier.)

Through their arrangements with the Pentagon and the civilian government, Blackwater and companies like it achieved quite nearly the “armed and dangerous” epitome of market-driven freedom. If they flub up, there are no consequences to bind them except losing the contract or, as for Blackwater-turned-Xe, a public-relations makeover. So empowered, private armies can spread like viruses, everywhere the market they create can sustain them. For their employers, they become an addiction. In 2006, the Department of Defense officially began including contractors as part of its “Total Force.” Blackwater celebrated. “Hiring mercenaries was no longer an option,” Scahill writes of this sea change; “it was US policy.” (The sad thing is they are frequently playing to different agendas than they are paid for, and they get away with it because their extra curricular activities are not monitored. That they frequently create the need for their own presence is never noticed because it's hard to prove.)

There are currently about as many private contractors in Iraq as there are active-duty soldiers. And while much is made politically of plans to pull back frontline troops, the kinds of support and security roles contractors play suggest that they are likely to remain behind a good deal longer. Last week, Scahill reported that, despite losing their operating license with the Iraqi government, the US State Department continues to allow Blackwater/Xe to maintain an armed presence there. Wherever these contractors go, one can be assured that they will (freely) pursue their own interests ahead of their employers’, and the two might not always coincide. (This is so sick. How is it possible that Blackwater can still operate in Iraq when they have lost their license to operate. Is it diplomatic immunity under the State Department?)
Prince speaks of biblical swords, but what about ploughshares? There are other freedoms, other visions of liberty than what he learned at home and models in his company. One can long for freedoms from, as well as freedoms to: from never-ending wars for profit, from sexual exploitation, from fear of retribution for speaking out, and from murderous religious intolerance. These I find, in preference to Prince’s, to be the more splendid. (And one can long for freedom from double dealing, influence peddling, and terroristic intimidation.)


Who is funding the Legionares and why are they funding them? I've asked that question before and now we're starting to get some more answers. Why wouldn't you fund the Legion when their charism specifically requests them to focus on people in the media? I bet you might get some good exposure, or at least mitigate the bad exposure. No one needs better press than government sponsored mercenaries, some of whom are fighting a holy war of their own.

Eric Prince is another funder with ties to the Legionares, the Knights of Malta, and the Evangelical New Apostolic Reformation, made wealthy by the evangelical President Bush. Apparently right wing folks with fascist tendencies will get in bed with each other no matter their actual religious affiliation. So much for the singular salvific mission of Catholicism. It's not about Jesus, it's about dominating the world for Jesus and Blackwater is doing it's part. Eric Prince is a crusader against Islam in a war no pope ever called. Maybe the Legionaires got a different memo.
When you start to tie all this together, you also find out that Eric Prince, like Sarah Palin, has ties to the "C" Street house and it's mostly Republican congressman. The central clearing agency appears to be Colorado Springs where James Dobson and the leaders of the New Apostolic Reformation have their headquarters. That would be in the same state Archbishop Chaput has his archdiocese. Colorado Springs, and it's open emphasis on family values, is Archbishop Chaput's idea of ecumenism.
In the Legion investigation, Archbishop Chaput will certainly be forced to confront who he really is and what he is really about. If it's Christ and the Church He founded, Archbishop Chaput will refuse to go along with the rubber stampers of ostensibly Roman Catholic individual and their organizations which do not exist to represent the Church or it's founder's message. If he's under the financial influence of the Colorado Springs bunch or right wing Catholics like Eric Prince, the Legion will keep it's leadership and be exonerated of any taint of Marcial Maciel. Which of course will be a white wash cover up of immense proportions.

The existence of Blackwater sickens me as an American because we paid for it's existence. That Eric Prince is held up as some sort of Catholic icon sickens me even further. American Catholics who truly care about the Church Jesus founded need to get their heads out their asses and take a real good look at what their naivete is fostering.

I will have my eye on Archbishop Chaput as he delves into the funding and leadership of the Legion. The LCWR investigation is a smoke screen to divert attention away from the activities of the Legion in the US and other Catholic right wing groups like the Knights of Malta. Maciel's personal legacy has forced the Vatican's hand, and the uppity LCWR sisters may be nothing more than a diversion.

Oh and gee wiz, Maciel too, was involved in sex with minors. How totally novel that Blackwater would be involved in sex with minors. Is there a pattern here, or am I just being a paranoid psychologist?

On a totally other note, I am seriously in the midst of packing up my house in order to move the whole mess to Southern climes. It will be a mess too. I can only take organized packing for so long and then it's throw stuff in a box and label it miscellaneous.

I will make a real effort to keep posting, but there will be days that doesn't happen. Like Saturday and Sunday and Monday and most likely Tuesday. In the meantime, I wish all my readers a great week end and will keep you in my prayers. There will be a lot of those as highway hypnosis and prayer go hand in hand for me. It's amazing how fast the miles go when your mind is firmly planted elsewhere and some other part of yourself is doing all the driving.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Oh Oh, The Right And The Left Are Finding A Common Cause--Or The Elephant In The Papacy Of JPII

I wrote earlier this week that the Maciel debacle could be a kind of nuclear bomb for the Vatican and that it should have a serious effect on the canonization process of John Paul II. To mix bomb metaphors, the fuse is smoking. The following is an excerpt from Damian Thompson's blog in the UK Telegraph. For those who don't know, Damian Thompson does not personify the definition of a flaming liberal.

Why some conservative Catholics want to stop Pope John Paul II being made a saint

For a long time now, some conservative Catholics – most of them hardline traditionalists – have been discreetly slagging off the late Pope John Paul II.

One priest I know grimaces every time his name is mentioned.
“Oh, you mean, ‘John Paul the Great’,” he says,” rolling his eyes. He does not want him to be made a saint – not because he thinks he was a bad man, but because he thinks that, despite his heroic witness against Communism, he damaged the Church.

The charge sheet against JPII goes something like this:

1. He allowed truly terrible appointments to be made in Rome and to diocesan sees around the world. England and Wales was bad enough, but some bishops in Germany and France are what you might call “Vatican II protestants”. These bishops are now intent on wrecking the pontificate of Benedict XVI. (Terrible appointments are in the eye of the beholder. What is consistent is that both conservatives and progressives toed the Vatican line on the sexual abuse scandal. That makes them all terrible together.)

2. As a result of bad appointments, especially in America, the scandal of clerical sex abuse gathered pace, and for one reason or another – perhaps because he was so busy travelling – John Paul II failed to act swiftly (or at all, in the early days). He allowed guilty priests to be moved to parishes where they carried on abusing minors. (He also allowed them to be moved out of country in order to avoid prosecution, and transferred folks to Rome to avoid embarrassing testimony and/or criminal prosecution. See Cardinal's Law and Levada)

3. He tried to improve the liturgy, but in practice allowed bishops and priests to do their own thing, turning the sanctuary into a sort of talent show for women “eucharistic ministers”. And the papal MC, Archbishop Piero Marini, set a terrible example by dressing the Pope in Star Trek outfits and adding a touch of Butlins to international jamborees. (None of these are exactly in the same class as participating in what can be considered an international criminal conspiracy.)

4. John Paul’s attempts to reach out to other faiths effectively celebrated and validated non-Christian religions. Conservative Catholics still feel outrage at the memory of the Pope praying with the Dalai Lama et al at Assisi, and kissing the Koran on a visit to Syria
Until now, most anti-JPII sentiment has been expressed prviately. But take a look at this post on the website RenewAmerica, from Eric Giunta, a conservative law student.

"Once again, the Catholic world has been rocked by yet more allegations of sexual impropriety by Legionnaires of Christ founder, the late Fr. Marcial Maciel. It seems the now-disgraced founder-cum-pervert fathered more children than previously suspected; the latest claimants to his paternity purport to have evidence that the late Pope John Paul II knew of Maciel’s sexual dalliances, and turned a blind eye to them …

The allegations highlight what for all too many Catholics is the elephant-in-the-room when discussing the ills which beset the modern Church: the extent to which the late Pope John Paul II was an enabler of these perversions, from sexual and liturgical abuse to theological dissent and the scandal of Catholic politicians who support the most immoral of social policies with the tacit or express blessings of their Church. (And some of those politicians were right wing fascist dictators who bled their people dry while supporting the Church's stance on abortion. You know guys like Pinochet, Doc Duvalier, and she of the hundreds of pairs of shoes whom Newsweek called "One Of The Greediest People Of All Time" That would be Imelda Marcos, and all of these paragons of Catholicism were Maciel supporters.)

One does not need to deny or disparage the personal sanctity, thoughtful conservatism, or religious orthodoxy of the late Pontiff in order to acknowledge that his Pontificate, by all accounts, was a glorious failure. Yes, he aided in the fall of Eastern European Communism, but the Pope of Rome is not primarily a mover and shaker of state politics, but a Christian pastor whose mission it is to save souls, convert the lost, and govern his church in such a way that it resembles, as best as possible, the city on a hill, the light of the world …" (Mr. Giunta appears to be a 'high tension' kind of Catholic)

Giunta does not want to see the feast day of Pope St John Paul II added the calendar:

"Though Catholics and others are loathe to admit it of an otherwise beloved Pope, John Paul II oversaw a church which deteriorated in both its inner and outer life. His callous indifference toward the victims of priestly sexual abuse in refusing to meet personally with a single one of them, and his stubborn refusal to compel the resignation from office of any of the bishops who aided, abetted, and covered-up the abuse, are testamentary to his utter failure: not as a Catholic or a theologian, but as a Pope. (Here, here, well said.)

And this is precisely why he should not be canonized. For in the Catholic (and popular) understanding, canonization is not simply a technical decree indicating one’s everlasting abode in Paradise; it is, in addition, the Church’s solemn endorsement of a Christian’s heroic virtue. The question the Catholic Church must ask herself is: Was John Paul II a model of “heroic” papal virtue?" (Not consistently, that's for sure, but back to the views of Mr. Giunta.)

"Contrary to leftist media reportage, the late Pope was not an authoritarian despot, bent on enforcing Catholic orthodoxy on an unwilling church. Quite the contrary: theological liberals and dissenters flourished in all of the Church’s structures, from lay politics and Catholic universities, to the ranks of priests and bishops. Not a single pro-abortion Catholic politician has been excommunicated from the church; only a handful of openly heretical priests were asked to stop teaching theology, but were otherwise permitted to exercise their priestly ministry unhindered. The Church in Austria openly dissents from orthodox Catholicism with papal impunity. Fr. Richard McBrien, Sr. Joan Chittiser, Roger Cardinal Mahoney of Los Angeles, Hans Kung, Charles Curran, Notre Dame University, dissenters galore: the overwhelming majority of prominent far-leftist, theologically modernist Catholic organizations, speakers, and theologians are Catholics in good standing with their church, and are frequently given an official platform at church-sponsored institutions and events. To give just two more examples, several Catholic parishes and universities flaunt themselves as “gay-friendly” in a directory published by the Conference of Catholic Lesbians. These speakers and institutions are in just as good standing with the Church as so-called “orthodox” Catholic pundits and writers." (OK, at least we agree on the Maciel thing and it's implications for the Papacy of JPII. We'll just have to agree to disagree on the rest, but I do respect your right to stay in the Church. Now back to Damian Thompson.)

I don’t endorse these views: in fact, it seems perfectly obvious that the reign of John Paul II was one of slowly growing orthodoxy in the Church, nurtured by his Catechism and a series of magnificent encyclicals. And those Catholics who want to draw a sharp distinction between the agendas of John Paul and Benedict are overlooking the fact that the theological direction of the last pontificate owed an enormous amount to the current Holy Father, who would be horrified by Giunta’s article.
Yet this debate is clearly gathering pace. JPII loyalists are also on the warpath. (George Weigel is using the Maciel scandal as a stick with which to beat this administration, not the last one.) (And George Weigel has egg all over his face for his own personal support of Maciel when the Hartford Courant first aired the story. Benedict need not fear George Weigel--at least not as much as a real investigation of Maciel and his inner circle.)


This debate will gather even more steam if Archbishop Chaput and company really do their job. Looking into who were the Legions wealthier financial supporters, and what exactly Maciel did with all the money which is unaccounted for, is as critical as any other part of this investigation. From looking at what information is available, Maciel wasn't just a sexual predator, he was an all around seriously accomplished predator.

There is absolutely no way that his inner circle and his Vatican supporters weren't aware of his personality and proclivities. They colluded with and protected him. Why? Who else were they protecting--themselves? Was Maciel also engaged in blackmail? What kinds of deals had Maciel been making and with whom did he make them? To answer these questions honestly, the visitation board should be hiring legitimate criminal investigators as part of their expert panel, as this man was in fact, an international criminal.

I am well aware of the fact that the hierarchy is loathe to bring legitimate outside investigators into what they see as Church business and their little dirty secrets. This case is different. This case involves not just those victims Maciel sexually abused, which is bad enough, but the tens of thousands of honest dedicated Catholics who joined the Legion and Regnum Christi, the parents who sent their children to Legion schools, and all the Catholics who got run over by Legion methods.

Protecting the legacy of John Paul II or Benedict XVI is not a legitimate reason to sweep this particular clerical scandal under some obscure Vatican rug. I think Benedict knows this, which is why he was the one who reopened Maciel's case and followed through on it in 2006 and called for this investigation this spring. I just hope he has the will to see it through to it's real end, because if it's thorough and legitimate, it won't be pretty.

I've always seen this case as hugely symbolic of the real issues facing Catholicism. Those issues are unchecked clerical power, maintenance of that system at the expense of the rest of us, cults of personality masquerading as charisms, a poorly understood psychology of sexuality, gender discrimination, and not to be left out, influence peddling.

If following the leads in this particular case brings down the legacy of John Paul II and exposes some serious rot in the Vatican, so be it. When future historians judge this era of the Church, they might just determine that it was also the most powerfully beneficial consequence of John Paul's papacy. After all, God does work in mysterious ways.