Sunday, June 20, 2010

Visions of Change

First things first. My days as a daily blogger have ended. Although I will continue to post sporadically, after 650 some posts I have more or less come to a place where I need to move on.

Part of that is economics and part of it is spreading my wings. I feel called back, but also forward, to do what is essentially my primary vocation, and that's not necessarily writing.

These past three years have been really rewarding for me. They have also been truly 'enlightening', in the good sense of that word. The conversations in the comments have led me to countless hours of research and even more countless hours of productive thought. I have been led to other blogs whose content have had a profound effect on my life. I thank each and everyone of you who have added your energy and thought to this effort of mine. Your energy kept me going much much longer than I had ever intended. It's now time to take that energy and spread it into different areas. Hopefully I'll be able to maintain Enlightened Catholicism on at least a weekly basis--most probably weekends. So onto this weeks installment.

One of the metaphors a couple of my Native mentors would use had to do with why it was so difficult to effect change on the rez. They compared the current rez system to a diseased forest. When individual trees escape a diseased forest and then return healthy, there is nothing in the diseased forest to support the healthy tree, and so it to succumbs to the disease. Only those trees which have adapted survival strategies are able to survive. In the rez system the adaptive strategies are actually maladaptive strategies that only further the disease process. Each generation becomes less and less connected to the original primal health.

In this same vein on a more personal level, it's seen in the concept of the 'dry drunk'. The underlying pathology which fostered the drinking is still present in the sober individual, so a drunk mean controlling man becomes a sober mean controlling man. As one medicine man observed, our women prefer the drunk because at least then there is the appearance of an excuse for the mean controlling behavior. Real change can not happen unless there is a real change in the person, not just one behavior. Change involves all aspects of the personality. That means the mental, the physical, the emotional, and the spiritual aspects must all be impacted before there is real lasting change. The question then becomes, how do you achieve that?

In the Native tradition elders would send the seeker on a vision quest. The belief is that change can not be achieved if it is not based on a personal vision. It's the strength of the vision which gives the energy to achieve the change. Frequently the vision sends the seeker on a quest, and the quest becomes a kind of all consuming treasure hunt with many clues found and many tasks completed. Eventually it dawns on one--here I'm speaking personally--that the real end goal of this vision is that it is the process of questing itself which is the lesson. It's always fascinated me that the coyote is such an instrumental animal in many native traditions and always embodies the same message: Coyote is about lessons in which coyote is both the messenger and the message. We keep getting coyote lessons because we fail to see the path is about being the path.

Catholicism and Christianity in general is a diseased forest. If it wasn't, this statistic quoted in John McNeill's latest post would not be true: "In a recent poll among young Christians in the USA between the ages of 16 and 29, 91 percent said that their first association with Christianity is that it is anti-gay."

It beggars the imagination to believe that while Jesus was hanging on the Cross he had a vision in which His church would be primarily associated in the minds of it's youngest generations with anti gay bigotry. The fact we have gotten this far away from His central vision of love says a great deal about how diseased the Christian culture has become. We don't need to recapture Benedict's vision of the priesthood. We need to rediscover Jesus's original vision about love. We need to get back to our real roots, not the perverted vision handed down by the Council of Trent.

Vatican II fathers saw this need, but what they didn't see (and most of us don't) was that Coyote was lurking in the shadows of their vision. They missed the part about the messenger being the message and their vision was lost. They went home and left the Vatican to interpret and enact their vision. The Vatican unfortunately was full of bureaucrats and not true spiritual visionaries. It was full of disease, not medicine people. The individual healthy trees were overcome by the diseased forest and now the primary message of Christ has been supplanted with gay bigotry. The primary association with the Catholic priesthood is sexual abuse.

If Catholicism wants to change these two facts we need to try to recapture Jesus's original vision and work to bring that vision meaningfully into the post modern reality. That won't be done by papal decree. It will only be done through personal vision, communal dreams and the understanding that visions and dreams are not static events. They are the first steps in an endless and ever evolving process.


  1. Dear Colleen,

    Thank you for creating Enlightened Catholicism. Your work is superb and obviously an expression of love.

    Although I've only been here a few short months I really appreciate your wisdom and that of the this community.



    Word verification guru: coldrez

  2. Thanks p2p. One of the reasons I've decided to blog weekly is because too often daily posts killed great conversations in the comments section.

    Dialogue really is a process, and I kind of feel it shouldn't be be limited by an arbitrary time frame. Part of my hope is that the comments section becomes the focal point of the blog.

  3. Best wishes, Colleen! I completely understand your sense of needing to move on. I too find it far easier to comment than to write blogs any more. And even my commenting is falling off. The "real world" beckons, does it not?

    Peace to all....

  4. Colleen, there truly is so much wisdom & food for thought in every blog you have written & of which I have read & have tried to understand over these past few years. I must admit my struggles to comprehend so much, & getting overwhelmed at times, especially when there was more than one posting per day & believe that a once a week blog will bear much fruit & enable more contemplation & comments.

    I am so grateful to you for this blog & realize the tremendous sacrifice of your time & energy in researching, communicating so many heartfelt analytical details in subjects that have ranged from politics, religious groups, theologies, history, psychology, philosophy - you name it. You have never ceased to amaze me in the depth of your understanding & ability to connect the dots while remaining calm.

    I'm a little weepy now as I realize this has been a transforming experience for me in ways I cannot put into words or convey to you or anyone adequately.

    When you started your blog I had just read some of your comments at NCR which stood out as a bright light in the shadows. You have had the natural knack of being able to connect to others that makes us feel loved and real in a world that does not & can not. I was brand new to any kind of blogs or of blogging. I was just beginning to know I needed to find out more about what was going on inside the Catholic Church & to connect with others who might be on the same page or road of discovery. I have no doubt that my connecting to your blog was a reflection of the Holy Spirit guiding me. Little did I know of the fights that would break out or what darkness it would reveal, as well the light that kept pressing through despite it all. I've followed your blog religiously since then & will continue to do so.

    Communication via writing is an art form of which you have managed to truly master the ability to do so with ease, grace, heart, humor, integrity, with a love that is best described as enlightenment from the Holy Spirit. I thank you ever so much.

  5. I came--only very recently and through The Wild Reed--to value Enlightened Catholicism. This current post is so sad, but true. I think only with a thorough understanding of hermaneutics and the doctrinal development can I still stay in the Church. I choose to remain because its symbolic system, its mystical dimension and sacramental orientation simply are not to be found in other faith traditions.

    To preserve this richness I have had to ignore and, actually, mock the drivel that comes from the Vatican.

  6. Colleen,

    A sincere "thank you very much" for all the energy and time you put into your daily posts. I've really gained a lot of wisdom and knowledge by reading your blogs. I totally understand where you are and I still look forward to reading your weekly posts!

  7. kevin, you might try the Orthodox... I've found a home there. All the things you mention that keep you in the RCC, you can find them in Orthodoxy. There you don't have to bend your mind and your heart and spirit can stretch.

  8. A "dry drunk" sizes it all up very well. Been there. Thanks for the analogy. I believe those churches who think of themselves as 'the-one-true-and only' churches are particularly susceptible to this malady. Unfortunately, Rome isn't alone in these delusions. Just as the recover-ing alcoholic must learn true humility, so must arrogant church bodies. Will they ever learn this side of the grave?

    Thank you for the solace your words & blog have brought, Colleen. I hope you enjoy the pace of weekly postings.

  9. Saddened to hear this, Colleen, I had come to rely on your blog for so much "enlightenment,' and your commentary offered many of us a crash course in contemporary church politics. Of course I fully understand. After only a few months of intense blogging myself, it also felt 'right' to back off and concentrate on other things. The Spirit moves us where she will. I look forward to the weekly postings. Blessings and peace as you move onto new discoveries.

  10. Colleen, I can't tell you enough how inspiring your blogging has and continues to be for me. I'm glad you won't be giving up on it entirely.

    I resonate with what you say about the "official" church structure being a diseased system. I've heard others speak of it in those terms also.

    For instance, former Australian priest Paul Collins has written: “What happens is that everyone who works in the system, no matter how generous, saintly, and virtuous they are, has to struggle to avoid being inexorably caught up in a clericalism that misuses power and that is essentially deceitful and corrupt.”

    Of course, he's quick to point out that he doesn’t believe that priests themselves are necessarily corrupt. Many, he notes, are “men of considerable integrity”. Nevertheless, “they work in a diseased system and it is very difficult for them to avoid the consequences of clericalism.”

    Theologian Diarmuid Ó Murchú offers a similar analysis, observing that, “Innate to clericalism is a patriarchal, subconscious driving force which is much more about power in the name of religion, rather than about service in the name of spirituality.”

    Anyway, more of the thoughts of these two reformers can be found at



  11. Michael I really like O'Murchu's quote. There is a great deal in his synopsis. Spirituality is a process, religion sells a product is another way of putting this. Jesus is not a product and never will be.

    TheraP, I'm not really moving on, I'm slowing down. There are changes happening and I really need to let some stuff sort itself out before writing much more. It's sort of one thing to get a concept intellectually, but another to fully integrate. I'm slowing down to integrate rather than regurgitate. :)

  12. Coleen,

    Thank you very much for the research and the forum for conversation. Although in failing health these past few months, I have continued to follow the "work group" in the commentaries and your front page. We certainly have all learned from one and other these past few years. I think I have been an active contributor for over 15 months. Thanks once again and I hope that we can continue to be stimulated by you on the weekends. You are correct that there have been many times that not enough was said on certain of your posts because of moving on to a different topic.

    R. Dennis Porch, MD