Sunday, January 31, 2010

Using Our Free Choice To Cement Ourselves As Slaves

It is incomprehensible that a loving Creator would desire self imposed physical slavery and the physical bondage that that notion implies. That's the thinking of the other side of the spiritual equation.

Just a short post to let folks know I'm taking a short sabbatical. I realised I have been at this blogging thing for almost three years and maybe it was time I took a break and recharged the batteries. I want to thank the people who have made these past three years such a pleasure and let you all know that I will be back at it in the near future. It always good for people to break their routine once in a while.

Before I extend my break, I do have one thing to comment on. I found the recent revelations about JPII and his penchant for self flagellation unsurprising. It is consistent with his inconsistencies. What I have found surprising in the lack of commentary is how his own treatment of his own body stands in stark contrast to his writing in Theology of the Body. Reminds me of a bulimic who extols on the virtues of nutritious healthy eating and then runs to the bathroom to forcibly expel that nutritious healthy food. The message of course is two fold. One the bulimic is addicted to the endorphin release and subsequent lessening of physical anxiety, and two, the lectures about healthy food apply to everyone else but the bulimic. Somehow their universal rules for others do not apply to their personally unique situation.

In reading the NCR article on JPII I found it very fascinating that JPII would make it look as if he slept in his bed on those nights he prostrated himself on the cold floor and used a 'normal' looking belt to flagellate himself, and that none of the witnesses to his self abuse were named. This penchant for secrecy is a huge red flag which every bulimic I've ever talked with has become masterful at maintaining. It's their 'dirty' little secret shared between them and the porcelain goddess they sort of worship. They know it's not healthy or normal--period.

The question which really needs to be meditated on is why we are to find this behavior of JPII's saintly. This is especially important in that he came of age in a period of time in which totalitarian leadership of both communist and fascist persuasions had no regard for physical suffering and used it to their advantage specifically to underline the point that individuals were not in control of any aspect of their lives. This is a lesson JPII apparently took to heart. Beating himself bloody was a mechanism in which to deal with a fundamental sense of having no control.
Are we being prepared for some type of suffering by being re accustomed to the thought of the benefits of enforced suffering for our own good? Is that why we are being told the devil is alive and well and we are in a virtual war with the powers of evil? Is that why Catholicism's most influential lay apostolates are obsessed with issues of control and authority and the inherent spiritual benefits of personal suffering. Is that why they so infrequently speak of compassion and love. Are we being prepared for something in which negating our own value is important?

Here's what I think. I think we're in a war all right, but it's a different kind of war. It's all about a choice we have to make about where we put our trust. Is it in authority figures like JPII, or Rush Limbaugh, or Barack Obama, or Wall Street? Is it in the value of personal suffering and purifying ourselves of personal autonomy? Or is it in our own capacity to reason to truth and make informed choices? Is our spiritual evolution to be one of submission to an external authority or one of maturing in personal responsibility and love?

This spiritual decision has practical consequences. Will we place our trust in the continued search for technology which mimics our innate capacities and enslaves us to those who control those technologies or will we understand what Jesus was teaching about the real ability of humanity and how we can effect change on the quantum level through intentional focus and the real power of love?
Whipping ourselves with a tool of self flagellation into an endorphin rush is not spiritual. Instead it's an admission of feeling out of control and powerless. It's the act and the choice of a slave. It is not the act of someone who feels liberated and empowered in Christ.

Until next time.


  1. Colleen, thank you for such thought- and prayer-provoking blogging. It's a treat to read your work, to chew on it through the day, to find it creeping into the work I do here. You enrich my life and ministry. May this time away be healing and refreshing.

  2. We will miss your thoughtful words and inspiration. Take care and nurture yourself. Hope you will be back soon!

  3. Excellent posting. I will miss seeing your daily articles, but look forward to your return.

  4. The medical text books would concur that this type of flagellation is disordered and really is sadomasochism. It is interesting where a Charismatic, but sadomasochistic leader takes those who choose to follow this type of disordered mind. Sadomasochism does not equate holiness any more than does the privation of leading a celibate life. In fact these lead to character disorders in so many that follow this kind of self debasement. It is no wonder that our church continues to implode from within. There is a time bomb that does not recognize the need for growth and development in the institution but rather claims the infallibility of what was thought in the past.

    This type of mind uses deductive reasoning to “prove” their thinking forgetting that the observation of what is happening in the present is what the Spirit is here to show us. While we all need to use some deductive components in our reasoning the inductive components of learning from experience is the the Spirit at work in the current day prophets. Too bad our leadership is focused on preservation of a Medieval Empire rather than the observation of what the Spirit is asking of us in the present. It is a very grave state of affairs when a Church leadership fails to listen to the Spirit speaking in the present, but thinks it holy to flagellate its members with past thinking. This is the sadism of the sadomasochist.

    Colleen thank you for all of your thoughtful presentations. They were very helpful, some were real pearls, and I hope you find that you want to return to your blog soon, but do it in your own time.

    My we all continue to find our small prayerful groups, some for meditation but others for expression. I think they will make a big difference in our present and hopefully in the future of our grandchildren. dennis

    R. Dennis Porch, MD

    May we have peace and understanding and better leadership!

    R. Dennis Porch, MD

  5. Will be thinking of you during your well deserved bit of R & R.

  6. I'm not a frequent poster but read your blog daily. I'll miss it, already do. Looking forward to your return.

  7. "They know it's not healthy or normal--period."

    The dirty little secret hangs, hidden in the Pope's closet, amidst the pure robes of an earthly prince. Alas, the spirit in the belt that pains not the mind or heart to stretch past in faith to move mountains with intentional love. Blood is spilled instead and splattered and one kneels in slavery to one's own blood and quickly cleans up its own dirty little secret of a mess, for wiser men and women see and know that blood spilled in such vanity the Lord does remorse as ignorance and futile faith in oneself as a slave to suffer in vein glory, in violence against one's own flesh.

    Twisted minds would think that violence upon oneself is living holy, but by inflicting such violence upon oneself they are in preparation to be violent against others and violent towards life and violent to God in everything that lives and breathes. It goes against nature. It is in solidarity with violence.

    That one would choose to whip oneself and shed one's own blood rather than choose to love thy neighbor as thyself creates the pathological conditions for one to allow one's neighbor's blood to spill, for suffering has become rationalized and a part of one's Faith, replacing the true Faith that Jesus teaches to "love one another."

    Scourging oneself prepares one to scourge others. It is a culture that can only breed blood, death and destruction. It is not holy, nor Christ-like, but it is sickness that breeds an even deeper sickness to desiring to see others suffer and/or being numb and stupid to the suffering of others.

    If Jesus thought that suffering was good He would have left man to his own devices and never would have healed anyone but would have told them that they must suffer for Him. This is not what Jesus did in His life. Jesus suffered from the ignorance and stupidity of men and religious rulers who laid burdens upon others and it seems He continues to suffer from their blows and burdens of ignorance.

    Colleen, have a wonderful and blessed sabbatical. I am thankful for your great wisdom and Faith that is Hope and Love in the true Jesus.

  8. Enjoy the break. I really appreciate what you do. Have missed you.

    I'm a struggling blogger and have some idea what your commitment means.

    Looking forward to your return.

  9. You will be sorely missed Colleen! Although I may not agree with your analysis on the late Ven. John Paul II and how it coralates to his sanctity I do understand where you're coming from.

    I do indeed hope that the future of Catholicism will inspire all of the faithful to place less hope in the leaders of the Church when it comes to defining their faith and more so on their own sense of reason and rationality in accordance and in the spirit of the Gospel.

    It may seem superficial, but the poll numbers recently continuously seem to suggest such a trend!

    I wish you all the best on your brief retreat, may God truly bless you and grant you peace and tranquility!

  10. I'm really missing your blog, Colleen.

    Your voice is one of the most insightful, intelligent, and spiritually challenging ones to be heard in the Catholic world.

    I understand and honor your need for a sabbatical.

    But that doesn't stop me from missing the sound of your voice!

  11. Ditto to Bill's comment!

    Also, I'm growing a little weary of seeing that bloody back each time I check in to see if you've written something new.

  12. I don't know, Colleen. I'm willing to give JP2 the benefit of the doubt on this for a few reasons. One: he kept this a personal spiritual/physical/whatever practice. He didn't publicize it in a manner that would have encouraged imitators. Two: i'm hesistant to totally condemn practices that have been used by mystics for thousands of years even if they sound sort of nutty; after all, he wasn't hurting anyone other than himself. there was no victim here. And, third: I could understand how someone who is completely celibate would want to feel something physical, anything. Lots of men play rugby, go to mosh pits to dance or have fist fights deliberately 'cause it gives them some sort of super engaged feeling physically. Anyway, there are so many things I'm unhappy about with JP2, but this one doesn't affect me so I'm letting it slide.

  13. I want to add, however, that I agree that JP2's self-flagellation does conflict with what he preaches in Theology of the Body.
    And I'd like to add a point about Jesus, too: Jesus went into the desert after his baptism by John and deprived himself of food for weeks on end. This could easily be seen as self abusive also, as you point out in regard to bulemics.

  14. Matt, I thought about Jesus in the desert when I wrote this. He is not recorded to have repeated this self denunciation. In fact the opposite is recorded. He was accused of drunkeness and gluttony. Apparently for Him, it was a one time occurence.

    Your point about John Paul keeping this whole thing private is true for a lot of saints. The problem is it wasn't kept private by John Paul's canonization promoter. That makes JP's private spiritual practice a purposeful teaching moment in my book. It should never have been done because it violate JP's privacy, but the fact it was makes it fair game for comment. Precisely because JPII never advocated this practice for anyone other than himself.

  15. Yes, the canonization promoter did make it sort of fair game, Colleen. I'll give you that. But you know those "santo subito" people are like the townspeople in The Stepford Wives. It was indeed a teaching moment for them, though not for the late pope.
    Here's what's really getting on me lately:
    I'm very dissillusioned about the Benedict's comments regarding British civil rights legislation as it effects LBGT people and the irony that he's going to England to beatify Cardinal Newman who's disintergrated remains were removed from his almost final resting place because he was buried with his longtime same-sex companion. oy, vey. what are we, as a church, saying to young gay men and women? pretty much that they are unworthy. and the pope is giving a level of moral cover to people who commit hate crimes. the church really has to do some soul searching here. this is a very terrible thing.

  16. Matt, I have refrained from commenting on Benedict's latest gay statements because I am still trying to come to terms with my own anger.

    It's the same reason I haven't said anything about Cardinal George and his take on New Ways Ministry.

    The utter hypocrisy in the Church's position on Newman is another example of power of denial. I'm beginning to think Newman's canonization has become personal for Benedict. Newman may very well be a saint with whom Benedict himself closely identifies. I'm not talking theologically either.