Homer Simpson is not a representative of the next stage of human evolution.
The Progressive Catholic Voice has a new post about a trip to interview Hans Kung taken by organizers of the American Catholic Conference. ACC is organizing a national meeting of reform minded Catholics to be held in Detroit in June of 2011. The following short excerpt gives Dr. Kung's view of the future of Catholicism.
In a relaxed atmosphere, Dr. Küng expressed his views about the future of the Church. As he sees it, the institution we know will die soon, to be replaced by communities following the gospel of Jesus, with informal liturgies and a sacramentality related to life in community. He is very devoted to developing relationships between Christianity and non-Christian religions, the attempt to discover a global ethical commonality, and ultimately, a global understanding of God. What he sees emerging is a spirituality related to the human condition and stages of life, to replace institutionalized rigidity.
Dr. Kung is describing a vastly different Catholicism from the one currently in place. I find his take on the future to be the highest probability for Catholics in many global locations if only because the priest shortage leaves very little alternative. His idea of communities with informal liturgies was successfully demonstrated in Brazil in the idea of Base Communities, and then as successfully suppressed by the Vatican under JPII. I imagine that of all the headaches the Vatican curia currently faces, the rise of successful community based Evangelical communities in South America may be higher on the list than the Vatican is willing to express. At the rate Evangelicals are eating into the Catholic population, Catholicism could be a minority religion in less than fifty years. It seems to me this is a very heavy price for maintaining the doctrine of our current sacramental priesthood.
Dr Kung also mentions the importance of developing a global understanding of God with a global ethical commonality. This idea will have just as profound an impact on traditional notions of Catholicism as the idea of locally based sacramental communities. This influence can already be seen in theological trends coming from India and the Orient with their different understandings of spirituality and emphasis on both/and thinking. It can also be seen in the American continents with the influence of Indigenous understandings of cosmology, liturgical and sacramental practices, and shamanism. The push for these global understandings are not coming from the top down, but from the bottom up. As such they are a direct threat to any hierarchical religious structure based in static dogmatism.
There is also another idea contained in the above trends which is not always explicitly mentioned but is definitely implied. This is the idea that we are on the brink of another leap in human consciousness and human capability. A leap perhaps as important as the one evidenced in the evolution of self awareness and the concomitant ability to think in context of past and future which allowed for a different relationship with time and material reality. It could very well be that this evolution in consciousness is the reason homo sapiens is the sole representative species of humanity. The next step, according to some future thinkers, is homo transcendent.
The advent of homo transcendent is not just an idea being tossed around in spiritual circles, it's also being tossed around by scientists studying human consciousness, theoretical physics, and neurophysiology. Rather than scoffing at the tales of Mayan shamans or a Padre Pio they are asking serious questions about the neural mechanisms which might be involved. They may not yet have definitive answers, but there is a growing amount of research which indicates mystical experiences are directly related to unique patterns of neural activity. Something is happening in the brains of some people and it's recordable. Oh yea and in some cases that something produces changes in material reality and/or accesses unique information.
This brings up all kinds of other questions. Some of them having to do with the kinds of information accessed and the kinds of manifested events. For instance Padre Pio had very different experiences in the mystical realm than an Indigenous shaman even though both manifest similar abilities. It seems that we can only understand the mystical realms via the world view we have entrained in our brains. Padre Pio had a stated and confirmed desire to become a 'perfect victim soul' and his experience confirmed this understanding, complete with physical demonic attacks. An Indigenous shaman has a very different world view and would see these kind of attacks as a product of unexamined fears drawing this reality to the dreamer. This is why the shamanic tradition has a training process that takes decades. One of the main thrusts of the training is to clean up and protect the ego from disintegrating through the fear generated by mind bending alternate realities. In a sense one point of the extensive training is to foster a kind of super sanity.
Padre Pio, in the monastic tradition experienced a similar kind of notion, except in his case it was not evolving a form of super sanity, but super sanctity. In the difference between those two words, sanity and sanctity, lies the potential for a great deal of tussle over the spiritual future of Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular. More to come.
Monday, September 6, 2010
I hope everyone is having a restful labor day. I for one can certainly use a restful labor day. Last week was enough labor for me to last at least the next month. But in the end, I am safely moved and have my latest abode pretty well shaped up. Even the three cats have settled in, having survived two days of continuous driving courtesy of loopy pills from a kindly vet. I thank God for kindly vets. I also thank God for the US Postal Service. I was shocked that all twelve boxes I shipped parcel post arrived before I did, and even though the boxes showed some wear and tear, the contents did not. All in all it was a busy but successful week.
I've spent the past two days catching up on all the things I missed in the Catholic world, and there is quite a bit I could write about, but I will save those thoughts for later. For now I want to relate two personal stories. The first happened the day before I left for Montana when I was packing up the last of my boxes to ship. The youngest of my cats bopped through the bedroom window to share her latest catch with me. It turned out to be a humming bird. This was the second such gift she had managed to catch. The first she had brought three months previously and it did not survive the giving. At the time I had this sinking feeling because humming birds represent joy in many Native cultures. It did turn out that next three months were not full of joy for yours truly. So being brought another apparently dead humming bird, right before I am to embark on another stage in my life, did not inspire a lot of confidence.
I managed to retrieve the humming bird which lay comatose in my hand and proceeded to take it to the front of the house with the intent to bury it. Along the way I get the distinct message that maybe I shouldn't be so quick to bury it. So I do a little intentional energy work and as I'm doing so the beak begins to open and close with the rhythm of my hands. I straighten out it's feathers and place it gently on the ground where it cheeps once and then zooms off, apparently none the worse for wear. In my head I hear the comment "Joy resurrected." It seemed to be a very good omen. Not to my cat though.
The next day as I began my drive back to Montana I did my standard meditation for a safe journey. In this meditation I visualize a cone of protective energy around my vehicle. This time I hear: "That's pretty selfish".
I'm seriously stopped in my tracks. What?, I ask. The response comes back that I could, if I wasn't being so selfish, extend the cone of protection out to about a fifty mile radius and include everyone sharing the road with me. I'm like, I can do that? The answer came back "No, but we can through you. We can use you and your vehicle as the center point and extend the cone out to more or less that radius." Since I didn't have any particularly good reason to deny the request I agreed. My version of a protective cone includes no accidents and no breakdowns. In the two days and over twelve hundred miles, I saw no accidents and no breakdowns, and I thought a lot about this particular interaction.
While I was driving through Denver I was hyper alert for accidents or breakdowns because statistics would indicate it was this time on the road where I would see accidents or breakdowns. I saw none and blew through Denver without even having to slow down. So I'm thinking to myself if this whole thing is actually true it would be quite a gift for a lot of unsuspecting drivers. At which point the same voice says: "Imagine what this 'trick' of ours would be worth to an auto insurance company? They might pay good money to make sure people with this kind of connection were always on the road in high traffic areas---that's just a practical observation."
Again I found my own musings brought to a halt by this observation. I can't say that I would ever have conceived of the effects this kind of thing would have on insurance companies. But it wasn't this practical application that contained the real lesson of this exercise. It was the spiritual. It was brought to my attention that this gift was extended to everyone who shared the road with me. Given the roads I was driving encompassed one of the major drug routes it meant the gift was extended to criminals, drug runners, abusers, drunks, druggies, the generally irresponsible, Protestants, Natives, Jews, Moslems, true Catholics, lapsed Catholics, and all and sundry without exception. Without exception. Just as Jesus fed the multitudes without exception or extended healing to all without exception, these kinds of gifts were meant to be given without exception--or merit or judgment. Just given. Period.
I am not intending to state that this scenario was actually in effect. One of my personal maxims is that one can not extrapolate from a data of point of one. All I know is that on this one trip I saw no accidents and no breakdowns and had a really fascinating mile eating mental conversation with some interesting ramifications.
Tomorrow I want to address some aspects of Catholic mysticism and some statements from Catholic mystics which do not necessarily fall into the usual categories of doom and destruction and hell and damnation. In researching some recent visionaries I came across this quote from Padre Pio as recorded by his fellow Capuchins:
Question: Padre, some claim that there are creatures of God on other planets, too.
Answer: "What else? Do you think they don’t exist and that God’s omnipotence is limited to this small planet Earth? What else? Do you think there are no other beings who love the Lord?"
Question: Padre, I think the Earth is nothing compared to other planets and stars.
Answer: "Exactly! Yes, and we Earthlings are nothing, too. The Lord certainly did not limit His glory to this small Earth. On other planets other beings exist who did not sin and fall as we did." (Maybe they didn't have quite the same free choice dynamic we do.)
One wonders if in Pio's 'travels' he didn't make some serious connections with other intelligent beings, or if he came to a different conclusion about the nature of angels and other 'supernatural' beings.
Sunday, August 29, 2010
Archbishop Martin of Dublin gave a speech in Italy to the members of the Communion and Liberation movement. The speech dealt with Cardinal Newman's time as rector of Ireland's first Catholic University. Most of the commentary has dealt with Archbishop Martin's comments on the state of Catholicism in Ireland and it's apparent dearth of theological maturity. However, I had a different reaction to this speech. This link will take you to a full translation, but the following short extract really hit home to me:
"In the Catholic university Gazette of 9 February 1855, Newman quotes from an earlier speech: "One of the greatest disasters of modern times is the separation between religion and science, and the perfection of knowledge is a combination of both ... which makes men not only educated but good Christians."
Directly after this quote, Martin shifts Newman's point entirely:
The question of relationship between faith and reason was particularly delicate at that time — maybe less in Ireland than the rest of the United Kingdom and continental Europe — with the increase of the sceptical attitude toward religion. Newman wanted to show his contemporaries that faith and reason do not conflict, but also that “reason could not be the sole arbiter of all truth”.
This substitution of Archbishop Martin's is done all the time by Catholic teachers. Newman was referencing faith and science, not faith and reason. There is a huge huge difference between the two concepts. In Newman's time, as with our own, there are major conflicts between traditional faith and scientific understandings, gaps which reason is hard pressed to reconcile. Equating reason with science is a nice trick, one which the teaching authority attempts to do with regularity. Reason is an intellectual tool both science and theology use to arrive at truth. The difference is science uses reason to rule out false assumptions, theology all too often uses reason to justify false assumptions. Where as there may not be an inherent conflict between faith and reason, depending on one's starting assumptions, there can be a huge conflict between faith and science.
At no point in his entire speech does Archbishop Martin refer to Newman's original point about reconciling faith and science. It's faith and reason which must be reconciled, which in too many cases means ignoring scientific evidence which contradicts underlying unexamined faith assumptions. Some tenants of Natural Law morality come to mind.
I am personally very frustrated by the dearth of theologians who are delving into the latest scientific advancements, especially in quantum theory and human consciousness. I don't understand how an honest person trying to reconcile faith and science can ignore whole fields of science which describe an incredible reality of enormous potential. Maybe it's too frightening, but to continue to ignore these kinds of scientific advances is to admit traditional Christian understanding can not be reconciled with scientific reasoning. I happen to think that's not true, but reconciling the two will take the courage to read the Gospels with fresh eyes, minus the accretions of centuries of false assumptions as to how the universe really works.
Short personal note. I should be back up and posting regularly by the end of the week. I sincerely want to thank the people who have donated to the support of this blog. It's been both affirming and humbling, giving me a real boost when I needed one.
Sunday, August 22, 2010
I had a tough time visualising JPII as the major player in this role, even though he truly believed this was a good metaphor for the relationship of the Church with Jesus. Notice I haven't mentioned cappa magna.
Latley there has been lots of discussion of JPII's Theology of the Body. Enough that I went back and tried to muddle my way through the original Wednesday talks this signature writing of JPII is taken from. I have to admit I just couldn't get through it. I don't know if it's a function of translation or what, but JPII seems to have engaged in an unbelievable amount of convoluted and dense thinking. In the end I couldn't help think most of it was covering the fact he was essentially making the same points over and over again.
What struck me most forcefully about this exercise is that JPII seemed to expend a lot of verbiage justifying traditional marriage as a legitimate metaphor for the Church as the bride of Christ. Quite frankly I have never ever bought that metaphor. Maybe it's because I'm a mother and a woman and don't see how males quite fit the bridal/mother image, and since clerical males are the most important representatives of the Church, they carry the burden of this representation. That's quite a yoke. Actually I was tempted to write another word that rhymes with yoke.
But, if we give credence to this image of the bridal role of the Church, then I guess it could be a fair assumption to take the image even further and state that the polarization evident with in the Church is equivalent to divorce. An ugly divorce in which abuse and exploitation plays a critical role and the children of this divorce have to decide which parent they will support or whether they will break off from both parents.
Trouble with this divorce is the so called 'brides' are the only party being heard from and they are dictating to the children what daddy wants of them. It seems the Catholic family can only stay in tact if the 'brides' get their way. This is quite the role reversal--not traditional at all. I suppose this is why I get so confused with all the babble about orientation and gender roles. Is the pope a father or the most important representation of the bride?
The bottom line for me with the Theology of the Body is whether an opus based on the second creation story in Genesis is even credible, since Genesis itself is not credible as a literal creation description. Seems to me that JPII read back into it a great deal of subsequent abstract theology which incidentally ignored a great deal of historical development which didn't fit his noble concept's of complementarity--things like women being considered a class of property for most of the last two millenia. And as to his understanding of female sexual response, well, let's just say women are equipped to enjoy sex in ways that don't involve male reproductive deposits. A fact JPII seemed to ignore for one reason or another.
It seems I will be able to keep posting sporadically, but it will be sporadic for the next couple of weeks. I will make a serious effort to do so if only because the comment section gets way too long. Speaking of which, there are some serious issues being debated and I hope that continues. It's such a pleasure to read debate over issues and understandings without the salient features of the kind of debates that happen on other sites.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
This photo from the Cleveland Plains Dealer, of the new St Peter's parish, may be worth far more than a thousand words for the Archdiocese of Cleveland and the halls of Rome.
The new break away community of St. Peter's in Cleveland is perhaps a more threatening situation for hierarchical authority than St Stanislaus Kostka in St. Louis. In this case a parish community and it's priest has more or less said 'take your church building and shove it', we'll keep our living church. This is both a simple but very radical understanding. Once a person has gotten past the unexamined mental connection of church building equals valid parish, and makes the connection that a congregation is in fact centered in it's people, one is free to begin questioning a whole boat load of other unexamined connections and assumptions. A person begins to see that there really is a hierarchy of spiritual understandings that the Institutional Church has done it's best to commingle and subsume to clerical authority and tangible signs of power--like church buildings which they control and can close with impunity.
St Peter's represents a very possible future for Catholicism. More and more Catholics who cherish their sacramental, communal, and spiritual life are going to decide that those aspects of their faith are more important than obeying hierarchical decisions. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that the Vatican's failure to put lay sacramental access above mandatory clerical celibacy and the all male priesthood is one of the root causes of parish closures and consolidations. This position is in fact insulting to the faith of the laity. There will be more and more parishes like St Peter's who go their own way, and for those whose priests won't follow, these groups will find other sources of priesthood.
These parishes will undoubtedly manifest different styles of worship and doctrinal conformity. Some will be traditionalist in the extreme and some far less so. They will however share the Living Jesus in all His manifest forms. It could even be the somewhere down the line there will be a truce called between the various factions of Catholic understanding because all sides will share the same freedom to express their unique understandings. One thing both sides already share, even if one side seems loathe to admit it, is listening to Rome doesn't imply one will go directly to hell for not obeying Rome. There is a big difference.
Most Catholics when pushed to articulate why they are Catholic or why they care about being Catholic, don't wax eloquently on about the triumphant infallible papacy. Rome does that. What lay Catholics can wax eloquently about is the spiritual connection they have with Catholicism. That's true for both trads and progressives. That they have differences of opinion in how that spiritual connection is fed should not be surprising because that has been a very traditional aspect of Christianity from the get go. For instance it's hard to imagine the Johanine community which produced the Gospel of John would have derived a great deal of spiritual insight from many of the early Gentile Jesus followers who produced Luke. These two Gospels, reflecting two different early groups of Jesus followers, speak to two different levels of spiritual understanding. Just as the whole conflict between the Jerusalem Jewish view and Paul's trans Jewish view was another example of not every follower of Jesus being on the same page. And yet the Church flourished, somehow managing to encompass and finally validate all these diverse spiritual views to some extent or another. If only the modern Institution could somehow take this lesson from it's Apostolic origins.
It won't though, because two thousand years later the emphasis is not on spiritual growth, but economic and secular power. Uniformity and inculcating obedience to central authority are far more important now than they could ever have been to groups of Jesus followers who essentially had nothing of this sort and didn't care if they did. Just like Jesus taught.
The 'exodus' from the controlling tentacles of the Institutional form of Catholicism will escalate as more and more people give themselves permission to exit. All the Burkian threats will go unheard because they are not about authentic Catholic spirituality. They are about inauthentic institutional control and Catholics of all persuasions are beginning to develop eyes to see and ears to hear.
Personal update about this blog. I have pretty much come to the end of my financial ability to sustain Enlightened Catholicism. In the coming weeks I will be relocating back to Montana and won't have the resources to keep the Internet connection which makes this blog possible. I am hopeful that given a few months to generate some actual income I will return. EC and the community which shares their thoughts mean too much to me to end in any permanent sense. Until then, keep the real faith burning.
Sunday, August 15, 2010
Which of these two men is the real agent of heresy? Archbishop Burke or Fr. Bozek?
The New York Times has a feature on St. Stanislaus Kostka and it's trials and tribulations with the Archdiocese of St. Louis, with in itself, and with it's current laicized and excommunicated pastor, Marek Bosek. This story has intrigued me for five or so years because it encompasses a number of issues with in Catholicism.
It didn't start out as a battle between progressives and traditionalists, as it seems to have since become. It started out as a typical brazen corporate raid for assets led by then Archbishop Raymond Burke. From the Times article:
For more than a century, St. Stanislaus has enjoyed a rare role within the archdiocese. A lay board of directors governs the parish, and church property and financial assets are owned by the congregation. That relationship began to shift in 2003, when the archdiocese proposed that St. Stanislaus’s property and assets — then estimated at $8 million — be brought under an archdiocese-managed trust.
Fearing the archbishop would close the parish and use its proceeds to combat the sexual-abuse scandal, the congregation balked. As negotiations dragged on, Archbishop Raymond L. Burke, arguing the parish was out of compliance with canon law, turned up the pressure on the church by removing its archdiocesan priests — effectively denying communion to parishioners. (In language not covered in Canon Law, this move would be called 'spiritual extortion'.)
With its isolated congregation withering under censure, the board reached out to several archdiocesan priests who surreptitiously conducted Mass. Eventually, the congregation approached Mr. Bozek, a young Polish-born priest from the neighboring Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau.
“The people of St. Stanislaus had been abandoned for almost two years,” said Mr. Bozek, 35, who said his first Mass at the embattled church at a 2005 Christmas Eve service that attracted an estimated 2,000 people. “As a Catholic priest I felt responsible to provide the sacraments to people who have been spiritually starved by their shepherds.” (These are people who were intentionally spiritually starved by their shepherd in order to access their money and assets. This could easily be considered heresy on the part of the Archbishop.)
In anticipation of the 2005 Christmas Eve Mass, Archbishop Burke turned up the extortion by excommunicating Bozek and the parish governing board. He declared them in 'schism' from the Church. The Vatican subsequently affirmed Burke's excommunications and laicised Bozek last year. In view of formally being cut off from the Church it's not surprising the congregation felt free to redefine their understanding of Catholicism. One could make a very compelling case that it was not Fr Bozek who led this parish into heresy and schism, but Archbishop Burke, as essentially there was absolutely nothing left for them to lose.
As is usual with these kinds of cases in which the Institution can never be at fault by it's own self definition, the official Vatican position is that the Marek Bozek and the parish are at fault: The victims are actually the perpetrators and the perpetrator is the victim:
“His actions have caused great harm, scandal and sadness within the Church,” Bishop James V. Johnston of the Springfield-Cape Girardeau Diocese, wrote in a statement announcing the Vatican’s decision. “While Marek Bozek no longer has the status of a priest, I continue to hope for his reconciliation with the Catholic Church.”
While the story of St Stanislaus Kostka is a case of asset abuse rather than sexual abuse, the same dynamics are in place. Ecclesiastical authority is never accountable for any of it's actions, no matter what consequences may ensue. What is even more scandalous about this particular case, is the Vatican has now made Burke prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, the church’s highest judicial authority. It looks to me like a Canonical heretic has been put in charge of determining canonical heresy. Only in the Vatican, where ecclesial heresy is becoming an art form, would this be possible.
For another look at the potential heresy in our bishops, I recommend this article written by victims advocate Vinnie Nauheimer. Perhaps Mr. Nauheimer is dead on in his analysis. What Catholics are facing in the upper levels of the hierarchy is not just corruption, self protecting behavior, and fear, but out right heresy. It wouldn't be the first time this has happened, as Martin Luther pointed out, but maybe it can be the last time.
Saturday, August 14, 2010
If actual real people could be treated as if they were static ingredients for a recipe, this version of Catholicism might work. The Vatican is working overtime to make us believe it does work.
John Allen felt compelled to use his Friday column in the National Catholic Reporter to attempt to justify the Vatican's action in not accepting the resignations of Irish Auxiliary Bishops Raymond Field and Eamonn Walsh. I'm glad he did because I trust his reporting is objective in this instance. It gives Catholics a great opportunity to look at the kind of reasoning under which the Vatican operates when it comes to the episcopal hierarchy--at least the surface reasoning.
"First, the Vatican doesn't want to feed impressions that public opinion and media hostility can bring down a bishop. Rome wants bishops to be willing to say and do unpopular things, on matters ranging from abortion to immigrant rights, and it would obviously be a deterrent if the bishop has to worry that Rome might capitulate to pressure campaigns seeking to run him out of town on a rail. (These resignations had nothing to do with taking unpopular moral stands. This is a diversionary excuse.)
Such blowback, of course, is a special risk in the early 21st century, when the Internet and 24-hour cable news channels have created a whole new industry of outrage generation. (A situation from which you yourself and CNN and NCR have derived a great deal of benefit.)
Second, allowing a bishop to resign, even if it's entirely merited, can create an avalanche which buries other bishops who don't share the same level of responsibility. If that happens, a good chunk of a country's episcopacy could be wiped out -- further destabilizing an already volatile situation, not to mention creating pressure to find replacements quickly and perhaps without sufficient thought. ('What if' and slippery slope arguments are both based in accepting a notion of the future which is as valid as the reality of the present. The Church's history in Eastern Europe and China indicate bishops aren't as critical to the local church as the Vatican would have us believe. Local Churches can manage without them.)
Third, the Vatican also tends not to remove problem bishops because, in the institutional culture of the church, retirement has traditionally been seen as a reward for a job well done. A retired bishop has all the privileges of rank and few of the burdens, so the tendency is not to let a man walk away until he has cleared his desk. (In more ways than this one, this Vatican decision is all about the institutional culture and has nothing to do with the actual good of the Irish Church.)
The case of former Cardinal Michele Giordano of Naples offers an illustration. Giordano, who finally exited the scene in 2006 after turning 75, twice faced criminal charges for shady accounting, and once was actually convicted and sentenced to house arrest. Both times, rumors abounded that Giordano would be removed, and both times the Vatican instead let him stew in his own juices. Officials later said, on background, that they never had any intention of letting Giordano off the hook. That's how they held him accountable: Not by firing him, but by forcing him to stay on the job and clean up his own mess. (It is possible for one to 'clean up' one's own mess without retaining episcopal authority. This mentality sends the message that it doesn't matter what you do you will still retain your prestige and position. This is crazy.)
Fourth, and perhaps most fundamentally, the Vatican does not like the idea of a bishop resigning for poor performance because, in their view, it's bad theology. As they see it, a bishop isn't a corporate CEO or a football coach, who should be sacked when profits sag or the team goes on a losing streak. The episcopacy isn't a job but a sacramental bond akin to marriage, with the bishop as the father of the diocesan family. In the early centuries of the church, it was considered almost heretical for a bishop to move from one diocese to another on precisely this basis. (Millions of Catholic women and children through out the global church are aware of this 'pater familias' mentality and have suffered enormous repetitive abuse because of it. This mentality, which overlooks the behavior in favor of some abstract fantasy, is itself BAD THEOLOGY.)
The above is another illustration of the kind of thinking that relates to an abstract objectification of a class of people. In other words, the definition of the class as noun is more important than the actions undertaken by the class as beings, or verbs. It doesn't matter who or what a bishop does in his being or actions, the operative relationship is with the description for the noun bishop. This is very bad theology and even worse psychology.
A person can not have a meaningful relationship with a definition, nor can they act authentically when they substitute a definition of themselves as a noun for their actual being. This is precisely what the Church actually requires of gay people, that they define themselves by the Church's definition of homosexuality and then act as if this definition was the true overwhelming reality of themselves as beings. This gives the Church the freedom to relate to gays as a defined noun. This definition equates the defined noun (person) with the acts the definition is based on. It justifies the church relating to gays on the basis of acts they may not have committed just exactly as it permits the hierarchy to relate to bishops as if acts which don't fit the definition of bishop were never committed.
In the case of gay bishops, the definition of bishop relationally supersedes the definition of homosexual. Hence Catholicism can logically have a significant number of gay bishops who are free to be sexually active because they know they will not be expected to pay a price for their activity. Unless that is, they are dumb enough to get caught red handed and exposed in the media. In the case of the priesthood, the definition of priest is not far enough up the noun hierarchy to protect them from the gay definition. Hence, a gay priest can be celibate but if he admits to being gay he will be treated by definition as sexually active and chucked out of the priesthood--without perks and benefits and the opportunity to clean up his mess.
I believe one of the most important steps a given Catholic can take on an authentic spiritual path is to stop relating to people as catechismically given definitions, and start relating to them as people. It is then that ideas like accountability and transparency take on real meaning, and an understanding of why Christians are called on to 'see' themselves in others and 'see' Christ in others becomes operative. "Seeing" is a verb and implies an active real time relationship. We may over look this, but Jesus continually stressed the importance of seeing people as they actually are, not as some class defined noun or a reduction to a given behavior.
Jesus refused to 'see' or relate to the Temple Priests and Pharisees as self defined authoritative nouns. He didn't relate to any defined class of people as if they were nouns. He asked Peter, "Who do you say that 'I am'". Peter says "You are the 'living' God." Neither Jesus nor Peter are relating to Jesus as some kind of defined static category based in past events or future speculation. Jesus is the undefined 'living' God in the present moment.
To stay in the moment and relate to people as beings rather than nouns is difficult to do and takes a great deal of energy. To do other wise is easier and takes less energy. The Vatican's insistence in relating to the entire church on the basis of definitions of law, past history, and a consistent refusal to engage with the present are symptomatic of a tired depleted spiritual energy. Returning to a fantasy liturgical past and reasserting the preeminence of classes of canonically defined nouns is not going to bring a resurgence to the Church. It will not restore the 'living' God as the center of the Church's 'BEING'.
The only noun that realistically defines a state of 'being' is death--the absence of life. Jesus came to overcome that definition of a state of being. That's why He is called the 'living' God. It is that dynamic notion of a 'living' God that fueled early Christianity. It's time to make this Being real and present in modern Christianity before dead is the last true descriptive word for the Church.
Friday, August 13, 2010
Archbishop Burke celebrates the TLM in St Peter's. OH MY GOD--is that a woman I see way back there?
Here's a fascinating clarification from Archbishop Raymond Burke on the rights of laity and altar girls when it comes to the Tridentine Latin Mass. They have none. I suppose it goes with out saying that the following is an extract from the Chaput News Agency, CNA.
According to Vatican Radio, the archbishop explained in the preface that due to the motu proprio's papal origins, it is not just an act of legislation brought about as a "favor" to a specific group for the celebration of the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite, the Mass in Latin, but one that applies to the entire Church.(Which I guess means that Benedict as Pope can favor the entire church with his personal preferences.)
Archbishop Burke wrote, "it is about a law whose finality is the protection and promotion of the life of all the mystical body of Christ and the maximum expression of this life, that is to say, the Sacred Liturgy."
It implies an obligation of the Church "to preserve liturgical tradition and maintain the legitimate celebration of both forms of the Roman Rite, that preceding the Second Vatican Council and that which followed it," he said.
Archbishop Burke pointed out that the Holy Father himself explained that for the communion of the Church in the past and the future, "universally accepted uses of uninterrupted apostolic tradition" must be observed. (It would seem to me Archbishop Burke must have a very interesting definition of universally accepted. Maybe he means by his like minded clerical friends.)
This, he he pointed out should be done "not only to avoid errors, but also to transmit the integrity of the faith, so that the law of the prayer of the Church might correspond to her law of faith."
The American archbishop went on to point out that certain elements may need to be clarified in this regard. For example, he wrote, among the "rights" of the baptized, assistance by "persons of the feminine sex" at the altar is not included. Additionally, serving as a lector or as an extraordinary distribution of communion is not a right of the laity, he noted.
As such, out of respect for the integrity of the liturgical discipline within the Roman Missal of 1962, these more modern modifications are not observed in the extraordinary form.
This clarification comes just a week after L'Osservatore Romano writer Lucetta Scaraffia published an article on the altar server pilgrimage to the Vatican which drew thousands of boys and girls alike. She drew some attention as she proposed that the introduction of girls into the position of serving at the altar "meant the end of every attribution of impurity to their sex ... it meant a different attention to the liturgy and an approach to the faith in bringing it near to their very hearts." (Apparently this poor misguided woman was wrong.)
Archbishop Burke clarified, however, that the reality of the matter is that neither the presence of girls at the altar, nor the participation of lay faithful "belong to the fundamental rights of the baptized."
I'm kind of curious as to just what rights Archbishop Burke assigns to the baptized. It certainly isn't any right to the sacraments because huge swaths of the faithful have been left priest less by the Vatican. The Vatican retains its right to insist the the all male celibate priesthood supersedes the laity's right to sacraments. I think we are still under the obligation to attend Mass even if it's more or less impossible. One would think access to the Sacraments would be the fundamental right of Catholic laity, but then I'm not even sure Catholic laity actually have a right to think. I do know we have an obligation to obey, but I don't think obligations equate to rights.
I wonder why we rarely hear any talk from the Vatican about their obligations to the faithful? Maybe those who think this rights/obligations thing is a one way street have it pretty much correct. The clerical caste of bishops and above have all the rights, the lower clergy, religious, and laity have all the obligations. Women having the most obligations and children -especially girls-the least rights. In my reading of the New Testament, Jesus seemed to reverse this entirely. Children had the most rights and men the most obligations with male religious leadership having the most obligations of anyone. Hmmm this could be considered an inversion of Jesus's direct teachings. Inversion, as a frequent commenter on this blog points out, is the hallmark signature of negative plane energy.
I read another article this morning on RH Reality Check in which the author reviews the immediate past history of Vatican proclamations and teachings. It's hard not to agree with the conclusion that women and children pay the brunt of the price for Vatican teachings and have historically. In this sense it's tradition. Her last paragraph really struck home to me because it addresses why this has been so and why it's changing now:
"For now, I see the church continuing to "bleed women," as Sister Joan Chittister once put it. Those who remain will be subject to a hierarchy that is clinging desperately to sexist man-made laws and sexist interpretations of tradition and Scripture, then passing their sexist messages onto young Catholic girls.
A cradle Catholic, it took me a long time to develop a voice inside that was loud enough to drown out those messages. It saddens me that many Catholic girls will spend years of their lives doing the same. But that is the inevitable consequence of institutionalized diminishment and discrimination. And that is not ending in the Catholic Church any time soon.
The line I have in bold is the prime reason the Vatican teaches us from a very early age that they are the only voice of truth. Entraining that concept early in neural development means it will take that much longer to develop one's own independent voice that has enough authority to over come original entrainment. For women this notion of male authority was entrained by the entire culture. That's not true any more and is why there is hope that women can develop their own authentic internal voice. This is one big reason the Vatican sees the LCWR as a threat. This group of women has essentially been on a path whose search was for an authentic internal spiritual and religious voice. They were also historically the group of Catholics who did the most to entrain us to believe the uni voice of the hierarchy was our sole authentic internal moral voice. The previously totally compliant sisterhood of the LCWR is a big loss to the Vatican and it's future survival in some very big ways. The boys in the Vatican are way too late to change this situation in meaningful way.
The Burkes and Rodes and Bertones and Benedicts of the Vatican world can stomp their red loafers and shake their gold crosiers. They can continue to tell girls and women, lay men, and lesser clergy and religious that God has decreed we have few rights and all the obligations for the maintenance of God's self chosen messengers and we should thank their god this situation exists. They can try that is, but more and more of us are seeing they are talking at us about their god. The God we have found, that gives authority to our inner voice, tells us something totally different. That voice tells us Jesus was right when He said to look with in.
Thursday, August 12, 2010
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin is learning the Vatican does not share his worldview when it comes to bishop accountability.
Does this story which came to light two days ago have anything to do with this story? I suspect it might.
The first link announces that plaintiffs in a law suit against the Vatican had decided to drop their law suit. The following excerpt explains what the basis of their law suit was:
"Unlike other suits against the Vatican, which typically charge Rome with direct responsibility for priestly misconduct, the O’Bryan case focused instead on Rome’s relationship with local bishops. It asserted that the bishops are “employees” or “agents” of the Vatican, and hence the Vatican is liable for their negligent supervision of abuser priests.
A couple of days later, the Vatican announces in a paragraph at the end of letter from Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin to the priests of the Archdiocese that the resignations of two bishops who were implicated in the Dublin abuse investigation were not accepted by the Vatican:
In a letter sent this week to priests and other Dublin church officials, Dr Martin said: “Following the presentation of their resignations to Pope Benedict, it has been decided that Bishop Eamonn Walsh and Bishop Raymond Field will remain as auxiliary bishops.”
A spokesman for the Catholic Church in Ireland confirmed last night that both bishops would remain as auxiliary bishops with new duties.
“This means that they will be available to administer confirmation in any part of the (Dublin) diocese in the coming year,” he added.
Needless to say this has caused an uproar in Ireland and not just amongst survivors of clerical abuse and their supporters. It's also caused speculation that Archbishop Martin himself is being reigned in as in this opinion piece from today's Irish Independent:
In May, the sense that more goes on than meets the eye intensified when Dr Martin told the Knights of St Columbanus, in an address, that "strong forces" in the Catholic Church wanted the truth about clerical sex abuse scandals to remain hidden. The Archbishop of Dublin confided then that he had never felt so disheartened and dejected since assuming the post six years ago. It is unlikely that he has had reason to cheer up in the past day or two.
I've written in the past that the Vatican treatment of Archbishop Martin would tell more about how seriously the Vatican was willing to take reform of the hierarchy than any uttering from Pope Benedict. We have our answer. The Vatican walk is the opposite of the Vatican talk. Of course they won't walk this walk if nasty little law suits implicating the Vatican are still in force. Or maybe the timing of these two stories is just a coincidence.
There are now hints that Benedict will meet with another group of survivors when he goes to Britain in September. So hints Archbishop Nichols. The question is exactly what difference do these meetings make, other than to appease the guilty consciences of the true believers. As far as accountability in the hierarchy, the answer is none. The show will go on the way it's always gone on, that is unless a bishop is caught red handed in actual abuse and his activity is exposed in the media. As far as the collusion and cover up, that activity still has the green light as there has been no statement from any conference of bishops or the Vatican itself that holds bishops accountable for this behavior. That precedent was set by the USCCB at it's Dallas convention in 2002. Anyone who still truly believes this Vatican is capable of real reform is delusional. I feel badly for Archbishop Martin. Reality sucks.
Speaking of reality, here's an update about another conservative Catholic cult formed around a very sick Spanish cleric that was allowed to foster unchecked by the clerical overseers in the Vatican. Miles Jesu superiors. I have written about Miles Jesu previously. I think it's safe to say the way Miles Jesu has been dealt with has been a test run for the Legion. It should come as no surprise that Bishop Olmstead of Phoenix and Cardinal George of Chicago were absolutely no help for the victims of this group. In fact it was just the opposite. Shock and awe.
The big question now for the survivors of Miles Jesu is whether or not the Vatican's concern will be extended to past members abused by this group, or whether it will only be extended to current members. My advice is don't fire your lawyers just yet. Lawyers seem to be the only People of God for which the hierarchy has ears to hear.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
So much for the importance of males protecting and defending the dignity, health, and sacredness of women. Synchronicity can be so much fun--unless you are the target of the foul ball--or embarrassed by your own actions.
Worst date ever: Boyfriend bails as foul ball hits girlfriend
By 'Duk - Yahoo.com - 8/11/2010
Many women would do anything for a boyfriend who likes to dance.
But as one woman unfortunately learned on Monday, a man who decides to do the Texas two-step and electric slide away from your side as a foul ball screams toward you into the stands is far from a dream date.
In one of the funnier foul ball mishaps I've seen, a woman named Sarah was struck with a foul ball at the Houston Astros game after her male companion named Bo ducked out of the way.
Watch the play on MLB.com
As most of the blogosphere is noting this morning, chivalry is officially dead.
After all, if a man can't abide by the simplest rule of a baseball date — don't let your company get hit by a foul ball — what hope can women hold for things like flagging down the beer vendor or having their scorecard kept when they head to the ladies room?
On the bright side, Sarah's only injury was a bruise and Bo's strict interpretation of the term "dodgeball" earned the couple a lighthearted moment in the spotlight. Sarah later told the Astros television reporter that she, unlike her boyfriend, saw it coming:
"As soon as we got here and I saw where we were sitting, I said 'Baby, I'm going to get hit," Sarah said. "He said, 'No, you won't. I'll catch it if you do.' We just had this conversation and sure enough, the ball comes at me. He just bailed."
So what was Bo's excuse for his comedic act of temporary cowardice? Well, he claimed to have lost Chris Johnson's(notes) drive in the lights at Minute Maid Park.
Of course he lost it in the lights. Here's hoping that the couple stopped at a sporting goods store for some eyeblack. You know, just after their postgame trip to the florist.
What's really funny about this is that 'Bo' was given a heads up straight from his girl friend's mouth. Which proves that having female intuition is not necessarily useful even if it's acknowledged.
Maybe there's just something about foul balls and the male gender. I vividly remember attending a game at Fenway Park in Boston which was televised nationally. A foul ball was hit behind the third base dug out where I happened to be sitting and I went for the ball. I was steamrolled, flattened, pretty much crushed by a guy who was at least 150 pounds heavier than me. He was wearing, more like bursting the seams, of a Boston College football jersey. I got neither the ball nor an apology.
Later that night my husband called and said he'd seen me on TV, at least the part of me not being smashed by a football jersey. We both laughed about it then, but at the time it happened, I was not particularly jolly. I firmly resolved the next time I went to a game at Fenway I would take a bat instead of a glove---to defend myself.
For more serious fare, the NCR has a number of really good articles. I'm sure this one, from Sr Joan Chittister is sure to draw a lot of comments given the number of comments this one about Sr Theresa Kane has already drawn. Speaking of foul balls, one wonders how badly flattened the LCWR will be when the Vatican men in red dresses are finished. Perhaps they will do more or less what I did as 'a woman of spirit in our own times'. After getting flattened, I picked myself up, straightened my shirt, and flipped the guy off. That particular gesture did not make America's TV screens as the cameras went back to the field of play. Since the LCWR is the field of play, I sincerely hope their gesture is equally as spirited but perhaps in a more gender appropriate way.
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Judge Walker's over turning California's Prop 8 has spawned a number of articles with some interesting justification for heterosexual marriage and why it should be left alone. Bill Lyndsey has done a wonderful job of critiquing Russ Douthat's musings in the New York Times. This piece of Douthat's argues that marriage is really about leveling the sexual playing field and protecting the gene pool by reducing the predation of some males and preventing women from pursuing only powerful males.
I was still trying to assimilate this view of marriage when I came across the same sort of argument in the Christian Science Monitor. The author, Sam Shulman takes the 'alpha' male argument even further by insisting marriage exists to protect and defend women from heterosexual male predation. The following is an extract:
Marriage is about defending women
Among the many different versions of marriage in human history, very few of them have supplied the high-minded qualities that the plaintiffs feel is their right. The vast majority of marriages in the past, perhaps a majority even now, were dictated by families, clans, holy men or magicians, and enforced on the bride and groom by social pressure, enforced if necessary with brutality and violence.
Marriage is a necessary defense of a woman’s sexuality and her human liberty from determined assault by men who would turn her into a slave, a concubine – something less than fully human. Human communities need to give women some additional degree of protection – through law, custom, religious decree, or sacrament – generally some combination of all three, neatly summarized by the plaintiffs, who demanded the sacred and the eternal from the state of California. (And for most of marital history these noble goals were accomplished by making the woman contractual property--something a bit less than fully human.
Of course, marriage’s power to protect women is far from perfect, but no human institution is. Parents, too, sometimes do awful things to their children.
Unions of men and women are unique
That’s why it has never occurred before to lawmakers (or any human society of which I am aware) to offer marriage to pairs of lovers that happen not to include a woman, or that involve only women and not a man. (Educate yourself. Try a google search and you might be unpleasantly surprised.)
Relationships that involve a man and a woman are a matter of public concern in a way that other relationships are not. Of course, single people and gay people can be parents, and their equality with married couples as parents can and should be crafted by legislation.
Walker asserts that Prop 8 is motivated partly by “a belief that same-sex couples are simply not as good as opposite-sex couples,” and concludes that the law’s intention is to enact “a moral view that there is something ‘wrong’ with same-sex couples.”
The fact is very nearly the opposite. Heterosexual relationships need marriage because of inferiority: the physical inferiority of sexual defenders to sexual attackers and the moral inferiority of male sexual attackers. (If I were a heterosexual male I might be just a tad bit offended with this line. Talk about reductionist.)
Marriage is not about couples or lovers – it’s about the physical and moral integrity of women. When a woman’s sexuality is involved, human communities must deal with a malign force that an individual woman and her family cannot control or protect.
Modern marriage is only the least worst version of marriage that has emerged from all this – but it is still necessary for women. What protects women, ultimately, is that marriage laws and customs confer upon her independence something extra – dignity, protection, sacredness – that others must respect. And if this quality can be bestowed upon anyone, even those not in intersexual relationships – it reduces, even dissolves its force.
Marriage can't be reduced to esteem
That’s why so many – even the most secular, gay-admiring, civil-rights-conscious among us – feel that something more is going on with the movement to turn marriage into a device to give couples self-esteem – or, in Walker’s terms, status in society.
For Walker, the state of California has an overriding interest in ensuring that a same-sex couple should feel good about themselves. Walker and others are certainly right to want straight people to have a positive view of homosexuals – I want this, too.
But hard as it is for Walker to believe, most of us who prefer to leave marriage (with all its defects) as it is are not concerned with homosexuality at all.
We are merely voicing a sensible desire to preserve an institution that recognizes and protects the special status of women. If marriage becomes a legislative courtesy available to everyone, like a key to the city, it will be women who will lose.
I admit I was stunned when I read this piece yesterday. I am still stunned this morning. Am I now to believe that marriage isn't really about pro creation, it's about protecting women from the predations of the big bad alpha wolf? Or is it as Douthart implies, protecting beta males from being sexually excluded by the big bad alpha wolf? Are these writers admitting to some sort of atavistic male fear about other males and projecting it on marriage and women? Could it be that they are admitting that Western mores are designed to control the predation of alpha males and give status and meaning to other males? To perhaps give these 'lesser' males a sense of 'self esteem'.
Maybe I really am just a little too far out on the margins, but these new arguments for the exclusivity of heterosexual marriage are mind boggling. Or maybe it's I just don't understand this kind of male psyche, and if that's true, I don't see how complementarity between the sexes can exist in any meaningful sense. How does a woman compliment the agenda of a partner they don't understand? Any good therapist will freely admit what breaks up most marriages is that the two people entering into the marriage are operating from very different agendas as to what their marriage means to them and as to how it will play out. Many times those agendas are hidden from the individual until they are faced with a situation which conflicts with the hidden agenda. In these situations one finds healthy complementarity is not dependent on gender roles, it's dependent on self awareness and communication.
If this is the new strategy around which heterosexual marriage will be defended, the culture warriors need to drop it in a big hurry. Reducing marriage to predatory control is about as reductionist as it gets. Might just as well have the animal control people conduct marriages and be done with it.
Monday, August 9, 2010
This graph show shares of US income from 2003. The distribution is even worse now.
U.S. Economy Is Increasingly Tied to the Rich
by Robert Frank - Wall Street Journal - Sunday, August 1, 2010
Who cares how the rich spend their money?
Well, perhaps everyone should these days. Consumer spending accounts for roughly two-thirds of U.S. gross domestic product, or the value of all goods and services produced in the nation. And spending by the rich now accounts for the largest share of consumer outlays in at least 20 years.
According to new research from Moody's Analytics, the top 5% of Americans by income account for 37% of all consumer outlays. Outlays include consumer spending, interest payments on installment debt and transfer payments.
By contrast, the bottom 80% by income account for 39.5% of all consumer outlays.
It is no surprise, of course, that the rich spend so much, since they earn a disproportionate share of income. According to economists Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty, the top 10% of earners captured about half of all income as of 2007. (Captured is a very good discretion, as opposed to using the word 'earned'.)
What is surprising is just how much or our consumer economy is now dependent on the rich, and how that share has increased as the U.S. emerges from recession. In the third quarter of 1990, the top 5% accounted for 25% of consumer outlays. That held relatively steady until the mid-1990s, when it started inching up past 30%. It dipped in 2003 and again in 2008, but started surging in 2009 amid the greatest bull market rally in history, with the Dow Jones Industry Average rising nearly 50% in the last nine months of the year.
Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody's Analytics, cites two main reasons for the increase. First, the wealthy panicked during the financial crisis and stopped spending. When markets rebounded, they came out of their shells and started spending again. "I think that pent-up demand was unleashed," he said. "It was an unusually high rate of spending." (Or the markets were manipulated in order to provide the wealthy with more liquid as opposed to paper assets.)
The second reason is that those people in the middle- and lower-income groups are struggling to pay off debt and stay afloat amid rising unemployment, as Friday's data reminds us. That has crimped their spending.
The data may be a further sign that the U.S. is becoming a Plutonomy–an economy dependent on the spending and investing of the wealthy. And Plutonomies are far less stable than economies built on more evenly distributed income and mass consumption. "I don't think it's healthy for the economy to be so dependent on the top 2% of the income distribution," Mr. Zandi said. He added that, "In the near term it highlights the fragility of the recovery."
In fact, the recent spending of the wealthy may be unsustainable. Their savings rate has gone from more than 26% in 2008 to a negative 7% in the first quarter of 2010, according to the Moody's Analytics data. They still have lots of savings. But the massive draw on that in the past two years is unlikely to continue at the same pace.
"I think we're already seeing a slowdown in spending by this group," Mr. Zandi says.
And that should be a worry for all of us.
The big surprise for me with this article is not it's statistics, but that it's from the Wall Street Journal. That worries me. If the big boys are starting to point out our current level of wealth distribution is not good for the rich, then the US is in some serious trouble.
Given my own financial situation at the moment, it's kind of hard for me to generate a great deal of sympathy for the rich. However, I am not blind to the fact that if the rich fall too far, the chances of me rising are about nil. It angers me though, that this country has blithely walked down this path led by the very people who could very well permanently destroy economy for all of us. As in all of us in a global sense, not just in a US sense.
There is something about the Wall Street Journal calling the US economy a plutonomy that is mind boggling. Is this the same Wall Street Journal that was all on board with Reaganomics and Bush II's tax cuts and has been a very big shill for the expansion of military spending?
In reading the comments after the article no one is mentioning a very important facts about how we got to be a plutonomy. Our defense spending equates to about 25-29% of the total federal budget, but an estimated 38-44% of the total tax revenue. The number is hard to pin down because other governmental agencies like Homeland Security have their own budgets but also spend a ton on military equipment, development, and training. Even NASA's budget is almost 50% defense related. And then no one knows how much is spent on black ops because they aren't subject to much congressional over site. The estimated over all budget for defense purposes is 1.0 to 1.22 trillion for fiscal year 2010. This figure includes the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. So how many people draw a paycheck from all that money, about 5.3 million which is not a very large percentage of the work force, but adding in their dependents it means somewhere around 20% of the US population is dependant on military and defense spending.
Here's the other fact not getting mentioned--global corporations. For instance, the defense industry employs about three times as many people as Walmart and their estimated budget is about three times Walmart's gross revenues. Walmart had gross revenues of 406 billion in 2009. It is hard for me to get my head around the fact that one corporation, Walmart, is this big. It is now about one third the total of our entire military industrial complex in terms of share of revenue and employment. No wonder Walmart can steam roll it's competition, but the fact it's pay scale is no where near a living wage, means it has a hugely detrimental impact on American earning potential. And this is separate from the whole question of it's global impact. One could say Walmart itself is a big reason a lot of us have to shop at Walmart.
There is no question that Wall Street speculation and greed is a huge reason we now have a plutonomy, but it isn't the only huge reason. If the US is going to get serious about addressing this wealth distribution issue, everything needs to be put on the table and that includes virtual monopolies and blank checks for defense spending. In the meantime payday loan sharks and pawn shops will continue to show bullish growth. Yippee.
Sunday, August 8, 2010
St Francis was not a left brained professional academic cleric. Maybe that's why he understood preaching was about religious acts and not theological thoughts.
The Anne Rice defection: It's the tip of the religious iceberg
By William Lobdell - LA Times - August 8, 2010
Novelist Anne Rice's surprise post last week on Facebook — she announced she had quit Christianity "in the name of Christ" because she'd seen too much hypocrisy — brought cheers and smug smiles from critics of institutional faith, and criticism and soul-searching among believers.
But there's something more at play here than one of America's most famous Catholics — Rice re-embraced the faith of her youth in 1998 and published a memoir just two years ago, "Called Out of Darkness: A Spiritual Confession" — walking away from the church.
Rice is merely one of millions of Americans who have opted out of organized religion in recent years, making the unaffiliated category of faith the fastest-growing "religion" in America, according to a 2008 study by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.
The Pew report found that 1 in 6 American adults were not affiliated with any particular faith. That number jumped to 25% for people ages 18 to 29. Moreover, most mainline Protestant denominations have for years experienced a net loss in members, and about 25% of cradle Catholics have left their childhood faith, the study showed.
And in a 2008 study by Trinity College researchers, 27% of Americans said they do not expect a religious funeral.
American Christianity is not well, and there's evidence to indicate that its condition is more critical than most realize — or at least want to admit.
Pollsters — most notably evangelical George Barna — have reported repeatedly that they can find little measurable difference between the moral behavior of churchgoers and the rest of American society. Barna has found that born-again Christians are more likely to divorce (an act strongly condemned by Jesus) than atheists and agnostics, and are more likely to be racist than other Americans.
And while evangelical adolescents overwhelmingly say they believe in abstaining from premarital sex, they are more likely to be sexually active — and at an earlier age — than peers who are mainline Protestants, Mormons or Jews, according to University of Texas researcher Mark Regnerus.
On the bright side, Barna's surveys show evangelicals (defined by Barna as a subset of born-again Christians, which he sees as a broader group with more flexible beliefs) do pledge far more money to charity, though 76% of them fail to give 10% of their income to the church as prescribed by their faith. Various studies show American Christians as a whole give away a miserly 3% or so of their income to the church or charity.
"Every day, the church is becoming more like the world it allegedly seeks to change," Barna has said. (In the Evangelicals, this can be seen by the prevalence of the 'prosperity' gospel, making Jesus out to be some sort of super Wall Street Broker and an uber American patriot.)
Barna isn't the only worried evangelical. Christian activist Ronald J. Sider writes in his book, "The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience": "By their daily activity, most 'Christians' regularly commit treason. With their mouths they claim that Jesus is their Lord, but with their actions they demonstrate their allegiance to money, sex, and personal self-fulfillment."
How to explain the Grand Canyon-sized gap between principles outlined in the Gospels and the behavior of believers? Christians typically, and rather lamely, respond that shortcomings of the followers of Jesus are simply evidence of man's inherent sinfulness.
But if one adheres to the principle of Occam's razor — that the simplest explanation is the most likely — there is another, more unsettling conclusion: that many people who call themselves Christian don't really believe, deep down, in the tenets of their faith. In other words, their actions reveal their true beliefs. (I think this is because Christianity has historically been mutated to be a set of intellectual abstracts. Intellectual abstracts aren't known for changing behavior because they are never fully integrated into the belief structures from which people actually act. An example of this would be the huge amount of energy expended by historical Christianity on notions of the Trinity. The truth is no one's behavior is changed by what they believe about the abstract construct of the Trinity.)
That might explain why Roman Catholic bishops leave predator priests in ministry to prey on more unsuspecting children. Or why churches on Sunday mornings are said to be the most segregated places in America. It also would explain why most Catholic women use birth control even though the practice is considered a mortal sin.
Culturally, America is still a Christian nation. The majority of us still attend church at least occasionally, celebrate Christmas and Easter, and pepper our conversations with "God bless you" and "I'll be praying for you."
But judging by the behavior of most Christians, they've become secularists. And the sea of hypocrisy between Christian beliefs and actions is driving Americans away from the institutional church in record numbers.
Some, such as Anne Rice, are continuing their spiritual journey on their own, unable to reconcile the Gospel message with religious institutions covered with man's dirty fingerprints. Others have stopped believing in God. Those with awareness who remain Christians are scrambling to find ways, like St. Francis of Assisi, to rebuild God's church.
But remember, St. Francis offered a radical example during a time when the institutional church had grown corrupt and flabby. He was a wealthy young man who took a vow of poverty and devoted himself to the poor. His motto: "Preach the Gospel at all times — and when necessary use words."
A well-informed hunch says American Christians aren't ready for the kind of reformation that will realign their actions with biblical mandates. And in the meantime, the exodus from the church will continue.
(William Lobdell, a former Times staff writer, is the author of "Losing My Religion: How I Lost My Faith Reporting on Religion in America — and Found Unexpected Peace.")
The last sentences in the above article don't take any prophetic ability to utter, especially concerning Catholicism. The reformation of Institutional Catholicism is not about to happen no matter how much we might wish and pray and hope and dream for it. That's not just true for Catholicism, it's true for most Christian denominations. What we will see is what organized Christianity has traditionally done and that's change certain doctrines or dogmatic conceptualizations to acclimate to the current secular trends in culture. The changes will be determined by which of the secular powers a given denomination determines is best for their continued survival. The determinations will be made on the basis of continued denominational survival and have nothing to do with what Jesus actually taught. In the sense I'm using denominational survival, I mean the survival of the institutional and governing structures.
This propensity to change for the sake of institutional survival is used by both progressive and conservative denominations. The issue has very little to do with making the reality of Jesus and His teachings more tangible in culture. For both sides it has far more to do with preserving the institutional structures which provide sustenance for the ceremonial careerists. Change then becomes a job preservation strategy enacted by those whose jobs are to be preserved.
To be honest this is the reason I don't become an Episcopalian and that my support for women's ordination in Catholicism is luke warm at best. On a very fundamental spiritual/religious level I do not see how self perpetuating institutional structures have much to do with the Sermon on the Mount or the Way as Jesus taught. We put a lot of money into preserving institutional structures who clerical professionals do not do as Jesus did. I suspect one reason we do that is because then we are not under a great deal of pressure to live as Jesus lived. The fact those who profess to embody the teachings, and are paid to do so, very often fail miserably just proves we are all sinners in need of the salvation they sell to us.
Most Christianity, as a source of real religious experience, fails the kind of reality test that makes religion an important and useful experience for humanity. The connections with the greater reality that religious practice has always been grounded on provided answers about immediate important questions to it's community. Holy people got real answers to real problems when they prayed or connected with their spirits. They healed, they engaged in prophecy, they could come up with technological improvements, knowledge of the healing properties of plants, have some control over weather, demonstrate our perceptual reality was part of a greater reality, manifest material goods when needed, interpret dreams, and cast out interfering spirits. Jesus demonstrated every single one the above and so did his disciples. We even have a book about these first disciples entitled "Acts". Notice it's called "Acts", not "Thoughts". Now all we get are "Thoughts" called Encyclicals. Thoughts are nice, acts are far more useful.
The pentecostal and charismatic branches of Christianity are the only ones demonstrating any growth at all, and in some locations, it's astronomical. Whatever one wants to believe about such groups, what matters is that they are providing in some sense real religious experiences and fostering dynamic communities. There is no question the leadership of the New Apostolic Reformation has taken the lead in exploiting this longing in disenfranchised groups of people. A lot of their growth is coming at the expense of Roman Catholicism and because Christians have been conditioned to pay for professional clerics, their pyramid scheme structure entices a lot of narcissistic fraudulent opportunists. We ignore this movement at our own peril, and I suspect it's convenient to ignore it because institutional churches with their intellectual academic professionals have no way to counter it on any terms but 'thoughts', and thoughts, no matter how well conceived, are not acts.
In truth, professional Catholics both lay and clerical need to study the phenomenon of Catholic pilgrims flocking to sites like Medjugorge, Fatima, Lourdes, and San Giovanni Rotondo where Padre Pio lived and is buried. We are talking millions and millions of pilgrim seekers looking for real religious experiences. These places will host more Catholics in one month than will ever read one of Benedict's encyclicals. That would seem to me to signal a major disconnect between the professional Catholics and the average Catholic. Jesus Himself made this disconnect a major part of His teachings. Maybe that's why most of His teachings are ignored.