Monday, May 31, 2010

A Medical Model Has Lessons For The Catholic Priesthood

The "saintly' Dr. House and his fellow medical enablers. Narcissism is narcissism in clerics or doctors, and abuse is tolerated and enabled--and all for the cause of the greater good.

Vatican's sex abuse prosecutor says church must amputate to heal
by John L Allen Jr on May. 29, 2010

When the innocence of children is “trampled upon, broken, sullied, abused, and destroyed,” then “the earth becomes arid and the whole world sad,” the Vatican’s top sexual abuse prosecutor said this morning in Rome.
Monsignor Charles J. Scicluna indirectly critiqued the clerical culture in which abuser priests were routinely given second chances.

Christian friendship, Scicluna said, is “submitted to the law of God,” so if a member of the church is an “occasion of sin,” then a believer “has no other choice … but to cut this tie.”

Weeding out abusers, Scicluna implied, is a form of “divine surgery” intended to save the body by amputating a diseased part.

Scicluna, a Maltese priest who serves as Promoter of Justice in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, spoke as part of a service of reparation for abuse committed by priests and for healing within the church organized by students at Rome’s pontifical institutions. The service took place this morning in St. Peter’s Basilica, at the Altar of the Chair of Peter.

Scicluna delivered a homily for the service. Widely considered the Vatican’s top expert on the sexual abuse crisis, Scicluna rarely speaks in public – making his comments this morning all the more significant.

Tapped by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, today Pope Benedict XVI, to handle the canonical response to charges of sexual abse against priests, Scicluna is widely seen as the architect of the more aggressive approach to the crisis which emerged in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith after 2001. (Really? Wasn't it just last month that you yourself wrote that Joseph Ratzinger was the architect of this more aggressive strategy? Why do I suspect the honor of who owns this strategy has changed because part of the strategy necessitates casting blame on POPE JPII?)

This morning, Scicluna delivered a largely spiritual meditation on the relationship between Jesus and children, saying that “the church, the spouse of Jesus, has always had a special care and solicitude for children and the weak.”

According to the fathers of the church, Scicluna said, a child was “the eloquent icon of innocence.”
In that light, Scicluna argued, destroying the innocence of a child makes the entire earth “arid” and “sad.”

Quoting St. Gregory the Great, Scicluna suggested that such sins are especially heinous when committed by priests. (Absolutely true.)

“After having taken a profession of holiness, anyone who destroys others through words or deed would have been better off if their misdeeds had caused them to die in secular dress, rather than, through their holy office, being imposed as an example for others in their sins. Without doubt, if they had fallen all by themselves, their suffering in Hell would be easier to bear.” (I know this homily was given to seminarians, but the language is so Trentan priesthood, and that's a notion of priesthood which has great appeal to narcissists with a religious bent. Note to Brooklyn diocese. You be should screening for narcissism, not orientation.)

Scicluna contrasted the innocence of children with arrogance and careerism in the church.
“How many sins in the church [have happened] because of arrogance, insatiable ambition, abuse of power and injustices committed by those who abuse their ministry to advance their career?”, Scicluna asked.

He denounced the “futile and wretched motives of vainglory.”

The remedy to such scandals offered by God as the “Divine Surgeon,” according to Scicluna, is to “cut out [disease] in order to heal,” and to “amputate in order to restore health.”

Beyond such drastic measures, Scicluna also proposed the “preventive medicine” of solid formation for future priests, calling on them to be on fire with the faith, making them salt and light for the world.

This morning’s service of reparation included an hour of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, a period of guided prayer meditation led by Scicluna, and concluded with a solemn benediction. Students who organized the event said they decided to do so “in the wake of the media attention given in recent months to abuses perpetrated by priests. and in response to the Holy Father’s call to penance in his Letter to Ireland.”


A lot more than amputation of abusive priests needs to be done. A bone marrow transplant would be a better approach. The scandal is more symptomatic of a blood born leukemia, rather than an isolated cancer in one body part.

Sometimes the hierarchy's approach to this scandal reminds me of Gregory House's approach to the amputation of his leg on the TV series House. Dr. House is too body fixated and narcissistic to tolerate the total loss of his leg, so he insists only some of the muscles be removed. He then spends most of his life limping around with chronic pain and suffering from the consequences of various inept strategies to deal with it. This in turn leads to seriously flawed relationships with patients, staff, co workers, and friends. Projection, projection, projection leads to enable, enable, enable. No one wants to believe Dr. House truly has virtually no capacity to empathise with the pain of others precisley because he's in so much pain himself.

I love this show for all kinds of reasons, not the least of which is how it portrays House's ability to manipulate all those around him because his unique charismatic brilliance is the excuse others use to justify or blind themselves to his manipulation and cover up all his excesses--especially other doctors. Just in case anyone thinks women bishops might have handled the abuse crisis differently, Dr Cuddy's relationship with House is a legitimate portrayal of how that might not be true. Narcissists seem to instinctively know how to manipulate all kinds of relational and sexual issues in others.

I encourage readers to check out the link in my comments in the above article. It leads to a New York Times article on weeding gays out of seminaries. There is a quote from a male Catholic psychiatrist on the panel which screens applicants for the Brooklyn diocese. After assuring the journalist that there are no gays in the seminary system, he then says: "I'm pretty sure of it."

Then there is this quote:

“The best way I can put it, it’s not black and white,” said the adviser, the Rev. David Toups, the director of the secretariat of clergy, consecrated life and vocations of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. “It’s more like one of those things where it’s hard to define, but ‘I know it when I see it.’ ”

In the final analysis it comes down to personal 'gaydar'. Great. My advice to the USCCB is to spend the next week watching House. The clerical abuse problem is not in your 'gaydar'. It's in your inability to detect narcissism in a priestly system which enshrines it.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Quebec's Cardinal Marc Ouellete has a totally different sacrificial altar in mind for pregnant raped women. Certainly not the one that he is blessing with his superior priestly power.

Abortion uproar astounds Marc Ouellet
Quebec cardinal underlines he was just repeating church's teaching
Western Catholic Reporter - 5/27/10 - Deborah Gyapong-Catholic News Service

OTTAWA - Cardinal Marc Ouellet says he is surprised at the magnitude of the overreaction to his recent interventions against abortion.
"I have no power," the archbishop of Quebec and primate of Canada said in an interview. "The Church in Quebec has no power anymore."
"Why such a big reaction? Because I am just reminding people of the teaching the Church," he said.

Ouellet faced a wave of negative media attacks, including a popular La Presse columnist calling him an ayatollah and extremist and wishing the cardinal would die of a slow, painful illness for saying abortion was a moral crime, even in cases of rape.

Provincial and federal politicians denounced his remarks, culminating in a unanimous resolution May 19 in the Quebec National Assembly, affirming a woman's right to free and accessible abortion. The resolution also demanded the federal government end its ambiguity on the issue and stop de-funding women's organizations.

The resolution surprised Ouellet.

"At least it was not oriented against me directly," he said. "I know they were not happy about my comments. They want the federal government to clarify its position about abortion. That's their political play." (I wonder what the Cardinal really believes about forcible rape followed by the Church's demand for forced pregnancy. Would he follow this teaching himself? He never does state his personal opinion, only Church teaching. He's using the old "My mom says so" explanation.)

The cardinal said he is reflecting and consulting on a response. "I will not leave things the way they are," he said.

"There is a legitimate debate about promoting human life, about respect for the unborn," he said. "Our country is very weak on that."

The cardinal defended the legitimacy of his speaking out in the public square even if he is a member of the clergy.

"The Church has to teach the truth of the Gospel and the understanding of the human being from the Gospel of Christ," he said. "And the Church has to care for the formation of conscience."
"What I see in the country is the fact that we have for 40 years legalized abortion without any restriction, it has a great effect on conscience," he said, referring to the role the law plays as teacher. There are about 30,000 abortions a year in Quebec, more than 100,000 in Canada as a whole.

Ouellet said as a bishop he had a duty to teach Catholics the moral law. The Church also has to call for justice in society, he said. "For the unborn, there is not justice. He is the weakest human being; nobody is protecting him.

"After these four decades the moral state of our culture, it has become unthinkable to revise the law, it is also symptomatic of the effect of the law on the culture," he said. "In the future we should be more prudent on what kind of laws we pass in Parliament." (This is the first time I have read a ranking bishop admit changing abortion law after forty years is a no win proposition. One wonders if an American bishop would ever be so honest.)

The cardinal recognized, however, merely passing a law would not solve the problem. "I am aware that in Canada, in Quebec in particular, you will not reform society at the moral level by teaching morals first," he said.


"It will be through a new evangelization. If you do not meet Jesus Christ, it is very difficult to accept the teaching, the moral teaching of the Church. I am aware of that, even if what we teach is coherent at the rational level." (The problem with the abortion teaching is it's not coherent at the rational level and is far from coherent in traditional church teaching. It's assumed coherency is based strictly on denying women any right to their own procreative process up to and including her own right to life.)

The cardinal was saddened that he has been accused of condemning women. "I have condemned nobody, not even the women that go to abortion." (This understanding depends on which definition of 'condemned' one is using. Condemning a woman to hell is one definition, condemning her to death in favor of her fetus is another.)

Ouellet said the consequences of abortion are difficult for women, even if they are not commonly recognized. "Women go to abortion not because it is funny," he said.

"It is not funny at all; they are distressed. It is a very difficult decision to take."
"We should be more sensitive to all the factors that are bringing them to this decision," he said. He urged there be support and dialogue, not to pressure women, but to help them "to see what is at stake in such a decision."
"What they need afterwards is support, understanding, compassion, all kinds of dialogue," he said.


Cardinal Ouellete's remarks certainly struck a chord up north of the border. The backlash has been strong, loud, and official. I suppose the timing was rather poor, given that the Canadian Church is dealing with more fall out from clerical sexual abuse. It probably wasn't a good idea to moralize on raped women going through with pregnancy as moral demand of Christ Himself, when the Canadian hierarchy has not done exemplary work in dealing with children raped by their own priests. The New Testament actually contains specific words from Jesus about harming living children, but says nothing at all about abortion.

What struck me about this article was not the quotes about abortion, but the more factual observations of the Cardinal. The first was his admission that the Church in Quebec has no power any more, and the second that it was not possible to change a law with a forty year history of acceptance. These are the words of a culture warrior who knows the legal battle is lost. It has been for quite some time. These are the words of a culture warrior who is finally admitting his primary weapon--his teaching authority--is a weapon loaded with blanks. Pope Benedict experienced the same lesson in Portugal when the governmental authority passed gay marriage as soon as he was out of the country.

There was one other statement in the above article which also has great significance. Cardinal Ouellete is quoted as saying one cannot reform the morals of a country by teaching morals first.
That's true. As any parent knows moral behavior is effectively taught when one acts consistently moral. There in lies the lesson of the abuse crisis for the Catholic Church. I would advise Cardinal Ouellete to start his re evangelization program with himself and then extend it to the full College of Cardinals including the Vatican.

In his personal re evangelization the first thing the Cardinal might want to reflect on is that Jesus offered healing, not condemnation, to everyone but the hypocritical religious authorities of His time. If the Cardinal and others of his religious caste--Olmstead comes to mind--would cease attempting to maintain their moral authority through regulating the bodies of women and girls, they might have time to actually discern what it was Jesus was actually teaching about living an authentic Christian life. Or about exercising authentic moral authority.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

An Interview With Archbishop Gomez Of LA.

In LA it's the return of the 'old' in the guise of the new.

The following is an interview with LA's newly installed Coadjutor Archbishop Gomez. He will toe the Opus Dei line even if he has to use copious amounts of double speak to make it look as if he isn't.

Archbishop Gomez analyzes future of Hispanics in US Catholic Church
Los Angeles, Calif., May 28, 2010 / 06:02 am (CNA).-

CNA: What is your own background?

Archbishop Gomez: I grew up in Monterrey, Mexico. My father was a medical doctor in Monterrey. My mother was raised in San Antonio, Texas, where she completed high school. She also went to college in Mexico City, and although she completed her course, my mother married my father instead of graduating. Education was always very important in my family.

I am both an American citizen and an immigrant, born and raised in Monterrey, Mexico. Some of my ancestors were in what’s now Texas, since 1805. (At that time it was still under Spanish rule.) I’ve always had family and friends on both sides of the border.

CNA: As the next Archbishop of Los Angeles, you will be the most prominent Hispanic prelate in the Catholic Church in the United States. What is your view of the state of Catholicism among U.S. Hispanics?

Gomez: The number of Hispanics self-identifying as Catholics has declined from nearly 100 percent in just two decades, while the number who describe themselves as Protestant has nearly doubled, and the number saying they have “no religion” has also doubled.
I’m not a big believer in polls about religious beliefs and practice. But in this case the polls reflect pastoral experience on the ground.

CNA: What questions do you see as key for Catholic ministry to U.S. Hispanics?

Gomez: As Hispanics become more and more successful, more and more assimilated into the American mainstream, will they keep the faith? Will they stay Catholic or will they drift away—to Protestant denominations, to some variety of vague spirituality, or to no religion at all?
Will they live by the Church’s teachings and promote and defend these teachings in the public square? Or will their Catholicism simply become a kind of “cultural” background, a personality trait, a part of their upbringing that shapes their perspective on the world but compels no allegiance or devotion to the Church? Hispanic ministry should mean only one thing—bringing Hispanic people to the encounter with Jesus Christ in his Church. (Always the addendum about the Church and allegiance to it as equal to faith in Christ.)
All our pastoral plans and programs presume that we are trying to serve Christ and his Gospel. But we can no longer simply presume Christ. We must make sure we are proclaiming him.
We should thank God every day many times for the good things we have been given. But we also need to give thanks to God through service, through works of mercy and love.

CNA: What is the most serious problem Hispanic Catholics face in the U.S.?

Gomez: The dominant culture in the United States, which is aggressively, even militantly secularized. This is a subject that unfortunately doesn’t get much attention at all in discussions about the future of Hispanic ministry. But it’s time that we change that.
“Practical atheism” has become the de facto state religion in America. The price of participation in our economic, political, and social life is that we essentially have to agree to conduct ourselves as if God does not exist. Religion in the U.S. is something we do on Sundays or in our families,
but is not allowed to have any influence on what we do the rest of the week. (Not true at all. Official religious leaders are not to use their positions to directly influence government. Big difference.)
This is all very strange for a country that was founded by Christians—in fact by Hispanic Catholics. Indeed, in San Antonio, the Gospel was being preached in Spanish and Holy Mass was being celebrated by Hispanics before George Washington was born. (Some parts of the country were dominated by Spanish Catholicism, others by French Catholicism, and others by the Protestant reformation. The US is a big country without the homogeneity of Mexico or Spain--or their influence by elitist monarchists and their clergy counterparts.)

CNA: You have said these secularizing forces put even more pressure on Hispanics and other immigrant groups. Why?

Gomez: Because immigrants already face severe demands to “fit in,” to downplay what is culturally and religiously distinct about them; to prove that they are “real” Americans, too. We might feel subtle pressures to blend in, to assimilate, to downplay our heritage and our distinctive identities as Catholics and Hispanics.

I believe that in God’s plan, the new Hispanic presence is to advance our country’s spiritual renewal. To restore the promise of America’s youth. In this renewed encounter with Hispanic faith and culture, I believe God wants America to rediscover values it has lost sight of—the importance of religion, family, friendship, community, and the culture of life.

CNA: What are other challenges facing Hispanics in the U.S.?

Gomez: In our Hispanic ministries, we must understand that we are preaching the Good News to the poor. The second and third generation of Hispanics are much better educated, much more fluent in the dominant language, and are living at a higher economic standard of living than the first generation.
But still about one-quarter of all Hispanics, no matter what generation, are living below the poverty line. Combine that with high school drop-out rates of about 22 percent, and a dramatic rise in the number of Hispanic children being raised in single-parent homes—both strong indicators of future poverty—and I worry that we may be ministering to a permanent Hispanic underclass.
We have moral and social problems too. Our people have some of the highest rates of teen pregnancy, abortion, and out-of-wedlock births, of any ethnic group in the country. These are things we don’t talk about enough. But we cannot write these issues off as just “conservative issues.” (These statistics are mirrored in the religiously conservative protestant South. Think there might be a message here?)

To my mind, these are serious “justice” issues. If we want justice for our young people, if we want what God wants for them, then we need to find ways to teach our young people virtue, self-discipline, and personal responsibility. (Birth Control and legitimate sex education would help and they too can be considered a personally responsible decisions.)

CNA: What do you tell Latino leaders?

Gomez: Don’t be intimidated by the truths of our faith. They are a gift from God. Let these truths touch your heart and change your life.
You should own copies of the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. If you spend a few minutes each day reading these books and also reading from the Gospel, you will notice a change. You will look at the world and your own lives with new eyes.
“Be proud of your heritage! Deepen your sense of your Hispanic identity, the traditions and customs of our ancestors!” I tell them. “But you are Catholics. And ‘catholic’ means universal. That means you can’t define yourself —nor can you let society define you—solely by your ethnic identity. You are called to be leaders—not only in the Hispanic community, but in every area of our culture and society.”
As Catholic leaders and as Hispanics, we must reclaim this culture for God.
Being a leader means, first of all, accepting Jesus Christ as the ruler of your life. The martyrs of Mexico all lived—and died—with these words on their lips: Viva Cristo Rey! (“May Christ the King live!”) To be true leaders, the living Christ must be your king. ( Wow, just a tad bit of monarchist thinking in these statements.)

CNA: What is the role of the Church in the political debate over immigration?

Gomez: The Church is not a political party or interest group. It is not the Church’s primary task to fight political battles or to be engaged in debates over specific policies. This task belongs to the laity. (Oh my, you could have fooled me. Was the USCCB involvement in health care just my own personal delusion?)
The Church’s interest in immigration is not a recent development. It doesn’t grow out of any political or partisan agenda. No. It is a part of our original religious identity as Catholics, as Christians. We must defend the immigrant if we are to be worthy of the name Catholic.
For bishops and priests, our job as pastors is to help form our peoples’ consciences, especially those who work in the business community and in government. We need to instill in our people a greater sense of their civic duty to work for reforms in a system that denies human dignity to so many.
(Does this include non Catholic immigrants and gay immigrants?)
While we forcefully defend the rights of immigrants, we must also remind them of their duties under Catholic social teaching. Chief among these duties is the obligation to respect the laws of their new country.
We need to help ensure that these newcomers become true Americans while preserving their own distinctive identity and culture, in which religion, family, friendship, community, and the culture of life are important values.
I’m not a politician. I’m a pastor of souls. And as a pastor I believe the situation that’s developed today is bad for the souls of Americans. There is too much anger. Too much resentment. Too much fear. Too much hate. It’s eating people up.
In this volatile debate, the Church must be a voice of compassion, reason, and moral principle.
The Church has an important role to play in promoting forgiveness and reconciliation on this issue. We must work so that justice and mercy, not anger and resentment, are the motives behind our response to illegal immigration.

CNA: How should Catholics respond to immigration?

Gomez: Unfortunately anti-immigrant sentiment and anti-Hispanic bias is a problem today, even among our fellow Catholics. I don’t want to over-dramatize the situation. But we do need to be honest and recognize that racial prejudice is a driving factor behind a lot of our political conversation about immigration.
In the bitter debates of recent years, I have been alarmed by the indifference of so many of our people to Catholic teaching and to the concrete demands of Christian charity.
It is not only the racism, xenophobia, and scapegoating. These are signs of a more troubling reality. Many of our Catholic people no longer see the foreigners sojourning among them as brothers and sisters. To listen to the rhetoric in the U.S. and elsewhere it is as if the immigrant is not a person, but only a thief or a terrorist or a simple work-animal.
We can never forget that Jesus himself and his family were migrants. They were forced into Egypt by the bad policies of a bad government. This was to show us Christ’s solidarity with refugees, displaced persons, and immigrants—in every time and in every place.
We all know these words of Jesus: “For I was a stranger and you welcomed me . . . As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Matt. 25:35, 40). We need to restore the truth that the love of God and the love of neighbor have been forever joined in the teaching—and in the person—of Jesus Christ.
Many of these new laws on immigration are harsh and punitive. The law should not be used to scare people, to invade their homes and work-sites, to break up families.
I would like to see a moratorium on new state and local legislation. And, as the U.S. bishops recently called for, I would like to see an end to federal work-site enforcement raids.
The bottom line is that as long as workers can earn more in one hour in the U.S. than they can earn in a day or a week in Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America, they will continue to migrate to this country. Immigration has to do with peoples’ rights to share in the goods they need to secure their livelihoods. (The problem with this policy is the employers are let off free to hire more illegals and have the government break up even more families.)
We need to come together and find a solution to the complicated economic, national security, and legal issues raised by immigration. (Maybe you could also add a comment or two about the inherent injustice in the predominately Catholic countries from which all these illegal immigrants are coming.)

CNA: But how would you respond to those angered by illegal immigration? Shouldn’t those in the country illegally face punishment?

Gomez: As we stress the Church’s moral principles, we need to be more sensitive to people’s fears. The opponents of immigration are also people of faith.
They are afraid. And their fears are legitimate.
The fact is that millions of immigrants are here in blatant violation of U.S. law. This makes law-abiding Americans angry. And it should.
We have to make sure that our laws are fair and understandable. At the same time, we have to insist that our laws be respected and enforced. Those who violate our laws have to be punished.
The question is how? What punishments are proper and just? I think, from a moral standpoint, we’re forced to conclude that deporting immigrants who break our laws is too severe a penalty.
Now, this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t enforce the laws. It means we need to find more suitable penalties. I would suggest that intensive, long-term community service would be a far more constructive solution than deportation. This would build communities rather than tear them apart. And it would serve to better integrate the immigrants into the social and moral fabric of America. (And yet again the Archbishop does not deal with accountability for employers nor the social justice problems in the countries of origin.)


Readers of this blog probably know that I strongly support immigration reform and am vehemently opposed to SB 1070 recently passed in Arizona. One of the reasons I am opposed to that bill is precisely because many Hispanic and Indigenous families have been in this area far longer than white protestant families have been in New England. It is at heart racist in it's implications. No different than the Irish laws of the 1800's.

What irritates me about Archbishop Gomez is his silence on addressing this massive immigration at it's cause, and that's the social injustice and oppression in the Catholic countries south of our border. What he is essentially proposing as a solution to poverty in the southern hemisphere is not social and economic change in those countries, but the helter skelter relocation of their poor to the North to be used as cheap labor for US employers and apparently kept that way by Catholic teaching about 'obedience to rulers' and sexual morality. The opposition to this plan is the US educational system which does not place a high value on mindless obedience and a US culture that considers sex education, female equality, and access to birth control critical components of a responsible sexual ethic--or in Vatican speak, secular relativism.

I am not impressed with any immigration plan which does not place a high priority on dealing with the issues at the source of the problem. The source of this problem is not a leaky US border with Mexico or poor US immigration law. To pretend that's the source of the problem is plain disingenuous.

As to the rest of this interview, I feel for LA Catholics. Archbishop Gomez could very well be an Hispanic version of Cardinal McIntyre with a more polished pastoral face.

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Center Can Not Hold Because It's Disappearing

It' getting harder and harder to find a Catholic parish whose priest doesn't have a comb-over. Not true with coffee.

How church shopping is polarizing the country
By Naomi Cahn and June Carbone, Special to CNN

A report this month on who gets abortions showed some surprising results: Catholic women are about as likely as any other woman to terminate a pregnancy. Then again, the striking thing about American Catholics is that they look almost exactly like the average American.
According to the Pew Research Center, for example, Catholics supported Obama in the 2008 election by 1 percentage point more than the general public. Even when it comes to abortion, which the Catholic Church strongly opposes, American Catholics are only 2 percent more likely than the general public to favor making it illegal.

What explains the divergence between church teaching and political poll responses? A large part of it is the difference between those who check a religious box in a public opinion poll and those who show up at a church on Sunday. If we look at only white Catholics who attend church at least once a week, they favor making abortion illegal by 76 to 27 percent.

The figures underlie a striking change in the characteristics of American churches of all denominations: in the '60s, those showing up in church on Sunday might have represented a cross-section of American viewpoints; today, they are more likely to reflect traditionalist views, further driving modernists away from religion altogether - and intensifying what some have called the “devotional divide” in American politics. (The traditionalist mind would never agree that they were 'driving' others from churches. The 'others' are choosing to leave on their own because they have fallen prey to secular relativism.)

The difference in viewpoints between traditionalists and modernists is profound - and has dramatic effects on today’s culture wars. David Campbell, a Notre Dame political scientist, explains that traditionalists believe in an eternal and transcendent authority that “tells us what is good, what is true, how we should live, and who we are." (Personally I prefer the stages of spirituality to explain this gulf of which the need for an eternal and transcendent authority is part of stage I.)

Modernists, on the other hand, would redefine historic faiths according to the prevailing assumptions of contemporary life. They are less dogmatic, more tolerant, more open to change. Both might prefer that their 17-year-old daughters not sleep with their high school boyfriends. Modernists, however, would have an easier time saying, “But if you do, be sure you use a condom.” (Or come up with something more convincing than "You will go to hell.")

In the era following World War II, both groups attended the same churches. They were likely to subscribe to their parents’ religion, to attend the church down the street, to include their children in community activities the church sponsored. Today, we are more likely to shop for churches that express our individual values, and traditionalists - those searching for “an eternal and transcendent authority” - are much more likely to attend church at all.

The result, according to journalist Bill Bishop, is the “collapse of the middle” in American church life. Mainline Protestant churches, which tended to be more moderate and inclusive, have been losing membership for decades. The churches that have shown the greatest growth have been the large-scale megachurches, where eight in 10 are traditionalist.

During the same period, Catholics have become more likely to choose parishes on the basis of something other than geography, and 72 percent said that “the traditional or conservative nature of the church” was an important or very important reason for choosing their parish.

In the meantime, modernists, who are less comfortable with churches dominated by traditionalists, have become less likely to attend church at all. During the '90s, the number of Americans reporting “no religion” doubled, and sociologists believe the shift reflected the desire of many Americans to distance themselves from the increasingly close association between organized religion and conservative politics.

That association is the result of a set of reinforcing factors. Traditionalists are much more likely to attend church. The Republican Party has adopted more traditionalist rhetoric and policies, locking in the political support of those most in search of fixed rules and uncompromising principles. The association between religion and conservative politics and policies alienate the modernists, who distance themselves from religion. This leaves church attendees talking to the converted - those who share both their religious and political beliefs. (Unfortunately one of the other trends is they talk to the converted consistently about the sins committed by the unconverted. Hence one hears far more sermons on the evils of abortionsamesexmarriage than on the evils of adultery.)

Studies of group psychology show that when people with similar views talk to one another, they end up at even more extreme positions. The very ability to choose - neighborhoods, cable TV stations, websites, churches - increases the risk that we will hear only those with whom we already agree.

As a result, the middle may be dropping out of American politics the same way it did from Protestant churches. The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that those who attend religious services more than once per week voted Republican more than those who never attend religious services at all.

Notre Dame’s Campbell adds that, in interpreting these results, traditionalism may matter even more than church attendance. In 2004, for example, only 24 percent of the top quartile of modernists voted for Bush, compared to 84 percent of the highest quartile of traditionalists. Campbell concludes that in explaining the devotional divide “it is clearly traditionalism that makes the difference.”

Catholics as a group may accordingly be quite capable of reaching consensus views. The traditionalists who dominate Sunday mass and the modernists who have become less likely to attend church at all, however, are increasingly unlikely to talk to each other.


I promised myself I would spend a lot of time this week thinking about this gulf between traditionalists and progressives. One of the common denominators in the pre Vatican II Church was that progressive questioning thinkers and traditionalist believers were pretty much placed in the same boat--"We were all going to hell". Hardly a one of us hadn't eaten meat on Friday or missed Mass on Sunday and so all those other buzz sins of today didn't hold anyone's attention. Didn't much matter how one earned their ticket to hell, it seemed we all had that ticket in common. That might have generated more camaraderie amongst us in that we were all equal in that going to hell respect.

I maintain we still are equal in that respect. I might not believe we are all going to hell, but I certainly believe we all have a ton of personal shadow stuff we haven't dealt with and that makes us all equal. I'd love to hear one bishop give a sermon on the truth about spiritual/psychological maturation. Here's the short version of that truth. Some people can find their security and faith in a very straight line, while others take a very circular path and can still return to find themselves behaving in a similar straight line--albeit for different reasons. It doesn't make those different reasons less Catholic than those reasons which appeal to the straight line types.

We used to have a Church that understood that. I don't know where that Catholicism went. It's no longer enough to practice Catholicism in union. Now it has to be practiced with the same mind set as if we all had the same experiences, education, family structure, natal culture, and language. Sadly, that's exactly the kind of Church Catholicism is becoming in the West. The numbers are reflecting this. Once the last of the centrists leave or, depending on one's point of view, forced out, the numbers will stabilize around 15% of the baptised Catholic population.

There's little question left that Benedict is counting on that remnant to take Catholicism into the future in the West and sustain the Church in the developing world. That's a heavy yoke. It also flies directly in the face of human progress which is relentlessly marching towards an understanding of our connectedness, not our separateness. In my estimation, this program of Benedict's is not Christ like. It is highly manipulative. It does not value the traditional mindset so much as it panders to it, in order to use it. And for some people, that works both ways.

This process is usually far more obvious in our current politics--see Republican party or Rahm Emanuel --than it is in our religious institutions, but that might be changing as well. I find it difficult to believe that even the most traditional of traditionalists thinks Eucharistic Adoration is an adequate form of Vatican repentance for the clerical sexual abuse scandal. (Sure is a lot cheaper though) Perhaps the Vatican has forgotten all those words from Jesus about not approaching the altar if one is not reconciled with one's accusers. Even John McCain understands he can't go forward without old enemy Mitt Romney.

Monday, May 24, 2010

A Short Note About Transformation And A Short Break

Actual photo of actual coyote taken by my actual daughter. Yours truly was too busy picking my chin up off the ground to take an actual photo.

Just a note to let readers know I am going to be taking a short break to kind of catch my breath and catch up on some things I have been putting on hold. It seems multi tasking has not been my strong suit lately.

Until I return later this week, here's a thought to ponder. It seems to me the spiritual quest is not about disciplining the body and it's natural functions. It's about maturing emotionally. That means transcending one's fears and all the emotions associated with fear. Only then, when we start to work through our fears are we able to experience the fruits of love. First peace, then love, then joy.

I had the above thought yesterday while hiking in Bandelier National Monument. Bandelier is a Pueblo Indian Archaeological site, but I didn't travel to Bandelier for the ruins. Not this time anyway. I went because my daughter and I took this same hike last summer. It shocked me into finally admitting I was totally out of shape.

The first half of the hike is relatively benign with a gradual down hill drop of over 700 feet to a water fall. I did this half pretty easily and was feeling quite pleased with my fat out of shape self. Just as we turned around to start back we ran into a coyote on the same trail going in the opposite direction. We were so close we could easily have reached out and pet it. I've been around enough Natives to know coyote lessons are always at your expense. Hiking back became an exercise in survival. I got the message. It was past time I either got in shape or gave up delusions of hiking.

So I spent the last seven months working the fitness program I mentioned a while back. Yesterday was the test to see how far I had actually come. I had come a long long way. The hike was really easy both coming and going. Here's the magical part. I was about a quarter of a mile from the end and had completed the up hill climb when I stopped to take a photograph of a blossoming cactus. I was suddenly confronted with a huge monarch butterfly circling my face at eye level. I could have reached out and easily caught it. The butterfly represents transformation in Native lore. I simply laughed at the sheer joy of my hard work being recognized.

Transformation on any level is possible for those who don't let fear hold them back. The trick is confronting your current reality honestly and not letting fear dictate the outcome. This is precisely where the Church finds itself at this moment. It's a moment pregnant with transformational possibilities. So from me there will be a little silence, and a great deal of hope that the Church will choose transformation. That further coyote lessons won't be necessary.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

It's Going To Take Much More Than Just Adding Women To The Clerical Mix

Eugene Kennedy has written another provocative essay for the National Catholic Reporter. I post it here because I think it deserves discussion and that doens't happen on the NCR over any week end. Besides, I don't competely agree with his conclusion.

If the church ordained women, there would be no sex abuse crisis
by Eugene Cullen Kennedy - National Catholic Reporter - May 21, 2010

Some years ago I asked in a column, "If the church ordained women would there be fewer abortions?" I suggested that recognizing women as fully equal with men would have obviated centuries of the repression, injustice, and pain inflicted on women and cleared the air of the edgy suspicion and anxiety with which many men, including church leaders, have regarded women throughout the centuries.

In the last century, women sought equal rights for themselves as human beings from the men who had grown up believing that they constituted a second and lesser sex whose main role was, in ways too many to number and too scandalous to name, to take care of them. Had the church ordained women it would have automatically changed history, making them equal in all ways, and striking off the emotional chains that had bound them, voiceless, in time's dungeon. Men would have had to relate to them on the same footing and much of the longing for independence that is symbolized in the abortion struggle would have been lessened.

This is beginning to sound as improbable as "Avatar," but duck away from the cascade of unconvincing arguments dumped on women (e.g., "Women don't look like men so they can't represent Jesus,"} by the usual suspects of the curial all-star theology team. Imagine instead that the church had affirmed their human equality by welcoming women into the priesthood. What would the results be?

Such action would have killed Clerical Culture: Like a noxious species wiped out by a meteor before it could evolve into a monstrosity, Clerical Culture would never have come into being. Women would not have stood for it. To grow, it needed an all-male environment, an agar plate as smooth as a fairway on which women were forbidden to play.

Some women were granted visiting rights to Clerical Culture -- the mothers of priests who were also necessary for its flourishing. These women had enormous influence on little Johnny's going to and remaining in the seminary, and were happy to spoil him on his vacations and later on his days off. They were, we might say, enablers who were glad to have their priest sons hanging around the exclusive clerical club house. They could be boys forever.

Priests' mothers cannot be faulted for accepting the honored place, right next to the statue of the Blessed Mother, where Clerical Culture placed them. Their revered presence -- symbolized by their hands being bound at death with the same linen cloth that bound their sons' hands at ordination -- meant that other women were not welcome, at least not as close range, another prerequisite for a booming Clerical Culture.

In classic Clerical Culture, women were handmaids of the lords, allowed in by the servants' entrance and regularly reminded by men, from the pope on down, that they were inferior by nature and, much like slaves cruelly counted as half persons, they were expected to know their place and meet male demands without making any of their own.

Priests liked to make jokes that you could not have women priests because they couldn't keep the secret of the confessional and Pope John Paul II became so exercised over the issue that he instructed then Cardinal Ratzinger to fashion a prohibition in the form of an infallible declaration. Not surprisingly, led by sensible women, Catholics paid little attention to this.

Would sex abuse have occurred if there were adult women in the priesthood standing up to and confronting the troubled male priests who preyed on the children in their care? Indeed, would Clerical Culture, with its locker room ambience and it odors of cigar smoke, bay rum, and Bushmill's whisky, have survived the clear eyed gaze of women who made clerics put away their toys and grow up?

Clerical Culture was the essential breeding ground of the sex abuse crisis. This crisis was also hidden in the violet trimmed folds of this unique social milieu. It conferred respect, esteem, and the benefit of the doubt on those priests who could not earn it on their own and who carried out furtive erotic raids on the innocent in its maze-like structure. This culture allowed the unhealthy to pass for healthy and lead secret lives whose corrupt form they themselves did not understand.

Women priests would not have allowed this tragic feasting on children to go on for an hour without taking action to end it. Healthy women do not put up with unhealthy men and this crisis would have been averted had the priesthood had enough healthy women in it to make the unhealthy men either grow up or get out. (The problem with this whole argument is it assumes the presence of healthy women. Much more than the ordination of women would have been needed to insure a clerical culture that would attract healthy people. Adding women while leaving the historic theology would only have attracted equally unhealthy women.)

The church would have been wise to adapt the old advertising slogan, "Do you want him to be more of a man? Try being more of a woman." Did the church want to avoid the sex abuse crisis and guarantee the manliness of its priests? It should have tried letting women do the job.


There is an awful lot in this essay I like, especially Kennedy's analysis of the influence of the mother's of priests. I suppose this is a sad statement, but some of the most healthy priests I've had the privilege to meet, only got that way after the death of their parents--especially their mothers. I often wonder if this dynamic isn't why Jesus warned His disciples that if they were to follow Him they had best be prepared for dissension in their families and to ultimately leave them behind. Sometimes the real personal battles aren't fought over deciding between God and Mammon, but deciding between God and family.

Early Church Fathers certainly recognized the pull and influence of families on the future adult believer. The analogies of Catholicism as the spiritual religious equivalent of one's biological family are all over the place, starting with the words of Jesus Himself. Unlike Jesus though, the Church has seldom warned that there is the very real issue of being overly influenced by one's family and by extension one's religious family. Mother, whether it be mom or Mother Church, is not always deserving of one's undying allegiance. Jesus recognized this universal truth. Sometimes in the interests of following His way, it was better to take a hike.

We have such powerful connections with the family that the mere thought of being ostracised by our families can literally be experienced as a fear worse than death itself. One only need look at the incidence of suicide amongst gay teens to see this truth. When teens come to the conclusion it's better to abort themselves than suffer potential rejection, it's a sad statement about the nature of maternal love. And that sad statement is as true for Mother Church as it is for some biological mothers. What's even sadder is it is Mother Church that is giving all the permission Catholic mothers need to set up that dynamic for their gay children---out of love no less.

Jesus said it was perfectly reasonable for children to reject their families for their own spiritual good. He had the exact opposite opinion about parents rejecting their children, as He so beautifully demonstrated in the parable of the prodigal son. What's often lost in that story is that the father accepted his son back on his son's terms, not on some arbitrary standard of re admittance.

It is for reasons such as these that I don't have the same assumptions about the influence of women on clerical culture that Eugene Kennedy does. He may be right, that if the Church had added healthy women from day one, things would now be vastly different. I just don't know where those healthy women were going to come from given the culture in which the Church was born. Yes, the Gospels are full of examples of this kind of healthy woman, but they seem to be the exception, the fruit of Jesus's direct teachings, not the products of their society. Once the men took over His mission, the teachings quickly changed and women were again relegated to, and enculturated in, accepting their less than manly status. It's just plain old human nature to repeat one's enculturation.

It's easier to go with flow than row against it. Jesus knew this and it's why He challenged Peter to walk above the flow. Peter almost did it too. Almost is the operative word. It's also the operative word for how the early Church got many of the things Jesus taught. The results, compounded after two millenia, is what we have now: a very flawed misogynistic church. To add women to this clerical mess without changing a great deal of the underlying theology will not result in much healing, The official church would eventually select it's pool of female candidates on it's own existing terms, and those terms have never been very healthy for women--or some of their children.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Rewriting History Doesn't Make it True.

Pope Benedict on his Vatican II throne as he rewrites Vatican II history and it's message. No gold on this throne so he must really get Vatican II.

Vatican II: Benedict rewrites history
Diarmaid MacCulloch, Thursday 20 May 2010

On 12 May Pope Benedict XVI spoke about truth, history and the church.His backdrop was the surreal and voluptuous Gothic of the Portuguese monastery of Belém, overlooking the great river-mouth of the Tagus, from which the first explorers of medieval Europe sailed to circle Africa and India and eventually to encompass the new world they called America.

It was an appropriate setting for this learned and subtle theologian to lay aside vexing stuff about sex scandals and say something about what the Catholic church is today.

That turns out to be just what it always has been: no nonsense about lessons learned from the Enlightenment, still less the 16th-century Reformation.

On the way, we caught a fascinating glimpse of how the pope views Iberian Europe's bloodsoaked ventures into new continents, that global enterprise which massacred Hindus and Muslims in Goa and captured countless millions of Africans for the Catholic slave-markets of Cartagena (as well as for Protestant plantations in the Caribbean and Deep South).

Apparently, what the pope styled "the adventure of the discoveries" was inspired by "the Christian ideal of universality and fraternity". Not by a search for silk or sugar, then. (I had this same take about this statement. It was right up there with Benedict's comment in Brazil about Native Americans secretly desiring their forced and bloody conversion, which of course also included their use as slaves for "Christian Europe.")

But the pope was at his most interesting when he jumped from the 15th to the 20th century at the culmination of his address, because he came out fighting for his own view of that most controversial and ambiguous of ecumenical councils, the second Vatican council of 1962-65 (Vatican II).

For some Catholics, this revolutionised Roman Catholicism, pointing to new decentralisation, actively involving the whole congregation of the faithful in decisions, and jettisoning Tridentine triumphalism, opening the church to new humility in listening to alternative voices in the quest for the divine.

To others, the council did some tinkering, reaffirming old certainties with a little adjustment of language (in more senses than one, since its one absolutely unignorable result was to turn most Catholic liturgy into the vernacular). The latter party would mostly have preferred the council not to have met at all, or at least to have stuck to a script written by Vatican bureaucrats if it did meet. These are two utterly irreconcilable views of an historical event.

What would Pope Benedict say?

This. At Vatican II, "the church, on the basis of a renewed awareness of the Catholic tradition, took seriously and discerned, transformed and overcame the fundamental critiques that gave rise to the modern world, the Reformation and the Enlightenment. In this way the church herself accepted and refashioned the best of the requirements of modernity by transcending them on the one hand, and on the other by avoiding their errors and dead ends."

It's difficult from this to know what the pope might count as "the best" of modernity's requirements, but apparently even those can be transcended, and plenty of errors and dead ends just get avoided – a bit like a sacralised version of Lara Croft dodging through the nasties.
You could hardly get a more defensive vision of the council than this. It sounds for all the world like that most unfortunate and embarrassing of Pope Pius IX's public statements, the Syllabus of Errors of 1864, which famously culminated in the proposition that it was wrong to believe that the pope "can and ought to reconcile himself with progress, liberalism and modern civilisation".

What it does mean that the pope has put himself at the head of the small-earthquake-in-Chile-not-many-dead view of Vatican II? This is entirely to be expected.

Neither he nor his predecessor John Paul II liked the direction which Vatican II took, though a veritable industry of official Catholic historiography has assiduously promoted the view that they were all for it and its results. (This has been as good a product as any propaganda put out by either side during the Cold War.)

The reality is that soon after the Council, leading Catholic theologians like Hans Küng, Edward Schillebeeckx, Karl Rahner and Yves Congar (whose now published journals do not reveal great enthusiasm for the future Pope John Paul II), complained that the Roman curia was putting brakes on reforms envisioned by Vatican II.

That process much accelerated under John Paul.

He worked with the curia consistently to police reforming theologians, dictated agendas for episcopal synods, and refused to allow bishops to discuss such matters as compulsory clerical celibacy.
Küng was one of the theologians disciplined in his second year as pope. John Paul made it known that he did not like communion received in the hand, refused to laicise priests (as his predecessor had done) and marginalised local bishops by his actions on his frequent worldwide journeys. (This constant globe trotting, more than any other act helped cement in people's minds the absolute centrality of the Papacy to Catholicism. It was a brilliant move on John Paul's part.)

He also commissioned a Catholic catechism, which neither the council nor its convenor Pope John XXIII had wanted, and revised the code of canon law (likewise not wanted at the council). The theology expressed in both documents goes in a very different direction to Vatican II. (While JPII had the world focused on him and his globe trotting, the real dismantling of Vatican II went on with little fan fare and little light.)

One crucial principle so prominent in the council's thinking, "collegiality" in making decisions on the future of the church, has been set aside during both John Paul II's and Benedict's pontificates. (Not when it involves them in secular legal systems. Then bishops are free agents.)

All this has happened while the Vatican has consistently spoken of its faithfulness to the principles of Vatican II.

There have been two ways of opposing those principles: one to express opposition openly as some ultra-conservatives have done, the other to rewrite Vatican II's history, as curia officials and their admirers have been doing over the last quarter-century and more.

This is what Our Lady of Belém was treated to last week.

Well, she's full of grace, so I expect she smiled.


I hope Mary smiled because she knows Pope Benedict is only deluding himself and his followers. Catholicism as we now know it is going to change. The center will not hold. It can not resolve the tension between these contrasting views of the Church, of Christology, of clerical service, of Church government. More that that, the center can no longer cover up the corruption that the traditional theology and myth of the priesthood has engendered and enabled.

There are very few enablers of John Vianney's type of the priesthood in the Vatican, but there are plenty of enablers of the Maciel's type of priesthood. It matters not how many times Benedict brings up the mythology of St John Vianney, it won't make the reality of Marcial Maciel go away.

It is no irony that in this Year of the Priest the abuse scandal has blown up in it's true global scope. There's a message in this about the priesthood, and about Mary, under whose protection Benedict entrusted this mission: "Be careful what you pray for. You may not get what you want. Instead you may get what you actually need."

The need at moment is not reaffirming some mythical priestly past. The need is dealing with the ever so real corruption of the priesthood-at all levels- and the sheer incompetentency of the bishops who have been foisted on the Church in the interests of upholding the revisionists view of Vatican II. There are signs that some of our current leadership is getting this true message. Just as there are signs that the laity are not hearing the false messages. After all it took less than 24 hours for Portugal to ratify gay marriage, even though Benedict wanted the Portugese to buy into the very false message about the insidious threat gay marriage represents. I'm sure Mary was smiling that day as well.


In other news of note:

Here's another bit of disinformation propagated by Focus on the Family. I don't doubt the timing of this 'study' is to counter act the 'gay witness' of Reverend George Rekers. Focus on the Family says this study helps prove that lack of stable families and lack of regular church going increases lesbian activity and helps prove the Freudian tradition of the genesis of homosexual activity as a product of dysfunctional parental relationships. Girls need both exposure to fathers, and God the Father, to avoid falling into the sin of lesbianism.

When you really look closely at the numbers, you find girls certainly don't need step fathers. The presence of step fathers in a girls family significantly increase the amount of reported lesbian activity. The presence of step fathers correlates with the presence of other kinds of immoral sexual activity too, like incestuous rape. But even I won't go so far as to say being in a step father relationship is the cause of incestuous rape. It may be correlated, but it is not causative. Focus on the Family researchers must have flunked their basic research classes to so confuse correlation with causation. Of course, they could be engaging in the confusion on purpose. Shock.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Pope Benedict's Lawyers Have It Right. The USCCB Answers Not To Rome, But To Deal Hudson

USCCB hallucination. Where I see Deal Hudson, they see a Pope, and act like it.

It's becoming way too obvious just whose orders the USCCB actually follows, and it doesn't seem to be Rome's. The elephant in the USCCB living room is looking suspicisously like a Republican elephant.

USCCB Belongs to Pro-Abort Coalition Supporting Kagan with Video Ad
By Kathleen Gilbert - 5/18/2010 -

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 18, 2010 ( - A civil rights coalition that boasts the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) among its members has published a 30-second ad endorsing Solicitor General Elena Kagan, who is pro-abortion and homosexualist, for the Supreme Court. (How does anyone know this? As far as I can tell Elena Kagan has spent her entire career not stating or writing a position on any controversial issue.)

The advertisement, which lists Kagan's various achievements while President Obama describes the ideal Supreme Court nominee in a voiceover, is available on the website of The Coalition for Constitutional Values, a project of the Leadership Counsel for Civil and Human Rights (LCCHR). The Coalition for Constitutional Values also re-published a statement praising Kagan from the Human Rights Campaign, a leading homosexualist group in the U.S.

The pro-abortion and homosexualist lobbying activities of LCCHR, whose members must pay a $1000-minimum annual membership fee, are well-documented. On its website, the group lists the "right to privacy and choice" of abortion as among women's rights, and pushes for same-sex "marriage" and other homosexualist legislation as a matter of civil "rights."

Along with the U.S. Bishops, among LCCHR's coalition members are listed top pro-homosexuality and abortion groups, including the Human Rights Campaign, Lambda Legal, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the National Organization for Women, the National Partnership for Women and Families, and Planned Parenthood.

Bishop Robert Vasa of Baker, Oregon expressed concern in February after Deal Hudson of Inside Catholic pointed out the USCCB's membership in the organization, saying: "I am not well enough versed in the 'politics' of such associations to make any criticism of the motives or justifications which might be provided but, on the face of it, I would have to agree that support of this organization and an active endorsement of its principles and purposes would appear to be problematic.” (Great piece of double speak, including the ubiquitous but statement which negates everything stated before it.)

The USCCB did not respond to a request for comment as of press time.
After the Kagan video was released, Hudson again called on the USCCB to end the scandal.

"The avid support for Elena Kagan, whose support for abortion 'rights' has been widely documented, must be regarded as the final straw, a clear signal that the USCCB needs to withdraw from membership in the Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights," remarked Hudson.


It took the USCCB all of 24 hours to march to Deal's orders----I mean observations.

US bishops withdraw from coalition that backs Kagan for Supreme Court
Catholic World News - 5/19/2010

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has withdrawn its membership in the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition of more than 200 organizations.
“In light of recent events, it has become increasingly clear that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ continued membership in the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights is not possible because of the LCCR’s expanded and broadened agenda,” said Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre NY, chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Peace..
“The interests of the Leadership Conference and those of the USCCB have diverged as the LCCR has moved beyond advocacy of traditional civil rights to advocacy of positions which do not reflect the principles and policies of the bishops’ conference.”


The Pope's lawyers in the Kentucky case could surely make great use of this move on the part of the USCCB. It would help make their case that bishops are independent agents and not employees of Benedict. The USCCB sure appears to be independent of Benedict, because they look more and more like Republican operatives taking their orders from Republican political activists who happen to write for conservative think tanks under the guise of Catholic publications.

The message I get from Republican operatives like Deal Hudson is that adultery, for some unknown and secret reason, is a more acceptable sexual life style than a committed gay life style. It seems adultery, which is the stated primary reason in some thirty per cent of heterosexual divorces, is neither a threat to traditional marriage, or abusive, or selfish, or any of those things the USCCB spews about gay marriage. (See Representative Souder et al.) Since 75% of that adultery is committed by men, I guess the secondary message is straight sex by straight men, no matter who gets hurt, is far preferable to gay sex by gay men whose sexual activity hurts no one. So sayeth the USCCB every time they march to Deal's observations.

No wonder the prime religious relational aspect of traditional marriage is not hinged on male fidelity, but on female obedience to male authority. The USCCB certainly seems to follow that relational mode in it's dealings with the Republican party---and they aren't the male authority.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Retrieving The Pieces Of One's Soul

I've written quite a bit about the concept of disassociation and how many abuse victims will be trapped by this process. I've sometimes described the results as leaving a "hole in the soul". Other spiritual writers have called clerical sexual abuse "soul murder". In Shamanic traditions, practitioners refer to the process of healing as "retrieving pieces of the soul". Conventional psychology talks about healing as the 'reintegration' of the dominant ego.

Rarely have I come across writing from a victim of abuse which so vividly describes the experience of disassociation from the victim's perspective. The following is a written reflection from a male abuse victim and comes directly after a session with his therapist.

In my session today I was explaining yet another incident which happened to me at school between me and another boy - one of the tough and popular ones - it was an extremely humiliating experience for me and embarrassing - I always felt the runt of the litter being one year younger than everyone always. But I decided to mention this event because I was fascinated by something else - my mum often reminded me of that day or about what I looked like when I came home - she always said how I was white as a ghost and something obviously very upsetting had happened to me. But can I remember the emotions? I have since relegated the event to 'normal' and that my reaction was more a reflection of my patheticness.

I mentioned this in the context of the two sexual assaults I experienced as a teenager - for both I can remember clearly just before (leading up to them) and then after the event but nothing in between though there was never any doubt as to what had occurred was sexual and unwanted. He (again) explained about dissociation and then mentioned another client who had worked through his abuse and said that when he first regained contact with the emotions and pain of his abuse it was as if his soul re-entered his body - he felt it almost as exactly that.

I think I am starting to understand what that means.

For all my life I have constructed what I believe to be 'normal' only to now start realising how ab/non-normal things, my behaviours, thoughts are. There is swimming around me a disembodied collections of emotions and memories from many events - but they are not yet IN me.

I spent yesterday working in my garden, cleaning up my chook pen and my junk (man) shed and pottering with plant cutting in my hot house - all the while I was listening to music with my headphones on and really getting into it and basically enjoying myself. But then a wave of emotion would come over me and I would want to sit down in the middle of the lawn and rage against God and life , and then cry - but I can't: All a part of the disembodied emotions, I guess.

But, you see, I have seen being like this, acting like this, thinking like this as 'normal' - life. I have grown up thinking that children being molested by adults, family friends, priests is somehow normal, that a peer thrusting his hands down my pants and telling everyone in the class watching that I had no hair and mocking me while at that very same time in my life I was being molested by an adult family friend. How else can I have worked this out - it had to be normal because it was happening and when I looked around me at the faces and saw that they could see nothing wrong with this then I suppose I saw that I was the weird one and that all this was normal life. (There was no other way to work it out because his experiential rolodex didn't have enough cards, and so his 'brain' literally threw out experiences that couldn't be catalogued. That doesn't mean they go away. They literally hang around needing to be acknowledged and integrated.)

But it hurt so crushingly and was so confusing given what the church constantly told us about sexual purity, and it just didn't feel right - so what does a child do? Dissociate, block out the painful confusing, frightening memories/emotions, but they stay somewhere, outside like buzzing flies, or like shadows that you think should be yours (and they are) but they seem to be someone or something else's, or, inside like illness, body pains and depression, the origins of which lie hidden underneath them.

So, I want to learn what is normal, what is/was acceptable in my childhood, school-life, upbringing, teens because I don't think I really got to learn this: It's why I am almost shocked when Brian, for example, expressed so much abhorrence and anger in his first posts on this thread - I didn't know how to react, I was almost embarrassed but I could also feel it triggered some deep anger and hurt of my own - I think that's why I appreciated it so much - here was another man saying what had happened to me and so many others wasn't right or normal, but disgusting and very, very wrong and it felt so good to hear someone saying this and so strongly. Things I have seen as normal for decades especially in regards to what it means to be me, to be a man, a human being in society - I thought I knew, I am learning otherwise - and my long and much loved church and religion is all very much part of that.


I have participated in a Native ritual called the "Washing of the Hands" which is a three day ceremony whose object is to help victims of abuse or PTSD put the pieces of their souls back in their bodies. It is one of the most powerful healing ceremonies I have ever been associated with, even though the results do not appear to human eyes to be as spectacular as some other healing ceremonies in which MRI's and CAT scans prove spontaneous healing of a physical disease.

The truth seems to be that results in both psychological and physical healing come from the same source--the reintegration and restoration of the totality of what Catholics call the 'human soul' or secular sources sometimes call the totality of human consciousness.

In Shamanic healing, there is a defined technique from a theory of human consciousness in which the kinds of conversions and miraculous cures associated with Catholic healing sites are expected as a result of the technique of soul retrieval. As an aside observation, I've never worked with any native practitioner who felt one of the constants in the paradigm was a particular spiritual or religious belief system. Shamanic healing can work results no matter if one is Catholic or Native or Shinto, just as scientific theory crosses cultural lines and works even if a person doesn't believe in it. But just as with scientific theory, shamanic technique can be used to harm as well as heal. The principles can be used to dis-integrate a soul as well as re integrate a soul and the process doesn't have to be intentional. At this point humanity is much better at the disintegration part than it is the healing part.

The CIA's Project Bluebird, a part of the MKULTRA program of sixties and seventies, intentionally disintegrated the personality/soul complex of young children in an effort to create a kind of Manchurian Candidate or super psi soldier. They were successful in the disintegration part, but not all that successful in the end objectives. The psychiatric community has been dealing with the victims for the last forty years. The story of Project Bluebird is a perfect illustration of how fear of communism and the cash associated with it, co opted the professional ethics of many of that eras most lauded psychiatric professionals. Unlike the results of sexual abuse in Catholicism, the soul destruction promulgated in Project Bluebird was intentional and an outgrowth of techniques used in Nazi Germany. It was done with the co operation of scientists from the US, Britian, Canada, and of course, Germany and Argentina. It was evil.

I bring all this up to illustrate the point that we don't know much about how the energy of human consciousness interacts with human biology and neurological perception. We certainly know enough to force disintegration of the holistic link between the three, but our healing sciences are floundering when it comes to re assembling the three, preferring the Newtonian/Cartesian approaches of modern medicine with it's reliance on bio mechanical and chemical approaches. Our western spiritual approaches rely on a poorly conceived theology of sin and leave healing up to a kind of Godly random selection.

Drugging away the symptoms of a soldier with PTSD does not deal with the cause of the symptoms. It is not truly healing. It is symptom reduction. It is a life long maintenance program and it is expensive. As a counter to this approach, I have seen healing for victims of abuse and atrocities in war healed permanently when they underwent the process of soul reintegration through the Washing of the Hands ceremony--and it didn't work just for Native American soldiers or abuse victims. I have seen the same thing happen through Shamanic healing journeys. I have participated in such journeys and ceremonies. I have seen 'rational' psychiatrists completely befuddled by the changes in their clients and oncologists just as confused by the sudden remissions in stage four cancer. I don't believe for one second any of these changes are the result of spiritual magic, pagan woo woo, or God's random healing roulette wheel.

There is something real and verifiable going on that points far more to what we don't know about human consciousness and how it interacts with creation, than what we think we know. The real contribution from sexual abuse victims may not only be in reforming Catholicism's power structures, but may also lie in reforming our understanding of our individually unique human consciousness, how it is both harmed and healed and how mankind really works with and in creation.

Catholicism will lag behind in the study of human consciousness unless it modifies it's sacramental/ritual power structures and begins to take the literal power of love on the deeper levels of human consciousness very seriously. The TRUTH is Jesus tried to teach us about these facts of our earthly existence, but over time Western Christianity opted for sacrificing Jesus's truth about the power of love for the more tangible love of power. How many more abuse victims must Catholicism create before it returns to Jesus's command to create through love and not control through abuse?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Schönborn shares Iby’s concern about celibacy
Austrian Independent - 5/17/2010

Vienna Archbishop Christoph Cardinal Schönborn said Monday he shared the concern of Eisenstadt Bishop Paul Iby’s concern about mandatory celibacy for Roman Catholic priests.
"The concern that Bishop Iby expressed is shared by all of us (Austrian bishops), and I am happy to be in a Church in which there is freedom of speech and opinion," he said.

Austrian bishops had been expected to discuss celibacy at last week’s parish council conference in Mariazell, Styria, that they all attended but there has been no public confirmation that they did.

The cardinal added that the process of selecting Iby’s successor was proceeding "normally" and would be more transparent than in the past. Iby is to retire soon.

Schönborn cited the conference’s approval of the drawing up of guidelines for the handling of sexual-abuse cases in the Church for consideration by bishops at June’s meeting of the Austrian Bishops Conference as a "concrete achievement."

Wolfgang Müller, a spokesman for parish councils in Salzburg diocese, said the conference had been "an instance of democracy in the Austrian Church.

Austrian Roman Catholic bishops had said last week that they would refuse to comment on Iby’s controversial call for an end to mandatory celibacy for priests.

A media survey of bishops’ press offices produced the same "no comment" response in each case. One spokesperson said that bishops had agreed not to comment publicly on each other’s statements.

Roman Catholic lay organisations welcomed Iby’s call for an end to obligatory priestly celibacy.
Peter Hurka, chairman of the platform "We are the Church," said that Iby’s call would promote public discussion of celibacy. Both Herbert Kohlmaier from the "Lay Initiative" and he were sceptical, however, that change would occur.

Hurka said that it was "clear that the Vatican controls bishops and a resignation is one way of escaping from such control." (Actually, the Vatican is maintaining just the opposite in an abuse case in Kentucky.)

Kohlmaier claimed that Iby’s suggestion was reasonable even if it had come "a little late" and added he might have spoken out because he wanted to retire. (That is always the safest time to speak from your conscience--when it won't cost anything.)

Kohlmaier added that he expected no change as long as Pope Benedict XVI was in office since the Vatican did not "take bishops’ opinions seriously." It was positive, however, that more and more bishops were calling for an end to celibacy, he added.

Helmut Schüller from the Pastors-Initiative called on bishops who agreed with Iby to speak out. He claimed the Vatican’s authority was "exaggerated. The entire absolutist system built on a spiral of silence will rapidly collapse if the bishops work together for change." (That's pretty much how it worked in communist Eastern Europe and it did collapse rather rapidly.)

A politician also came out in support of Iby. Social Democrat (SPÖ) Defence Minister Norbert Darabos, who is from Burgenland, praised Iby’s "courageous suggestion, the first step on the way to a more humane Church."


I'm beginning to think the Vatican strategy of dumping on the bishops they themselves chose is starting to whiplash against them. The issue of changing mandatory celibacy is an obvious first safe step because the collapsing dynamics of the priesthood justifies the speculation, and celibacy is an issue of discipline, not doctrine. As a discipline it does not touch on the notion of infallibility.

However, since Benedict has consistently maintained celibacy will not change under his watch, the Austrian discussions do impact on how far these bishops are willing to take lock step obedience over non doctinal issues. They are pecking away at the outer edges of Catholic practice. More importantly, they are not maintaining the usual silence which surrounds these kinds of discussions on the ecclesiastical level.

It is this lack of silence, more so than the discussion of celibacy, which will cause a great deal of consternation in the Vatican. It might only be Austria at this point, and Austria has a history of speaking out, but this could be the first in a long line of outspoken national synods. Kind of like the dominoes fell in Eastern Europe, one after another, faster and faster.

For me this voice coming from Austria is an important reminder. It is so easy and so gratifying to throw the hierarchical baby out with all it's dirty bathwater. I need the reminder that so much of that dirty bathwater was not the result of active complicit behavior, but of silence in the stench of it's filth.

I often write about the necessity of walking one's talk, but the truth is lots of talk can shine light on the need to walk the talk. Words do matter. They can be the bloodless shot heard round the world. If this wasn't true the Vatican wouldn't put so much time and effort in attempts to control the Word and Cardinal Schonborn and his fellow Austrian bishops wouldn't be so free in making sure their words are heard.

Pope Benedict is 83, the Vatican is in disarray, it's a good time to get words past the keepers. Kudos to the Austrian Bishops and may more national synods speak their truth. Let the dominoes fall.