Thursday, September 30, 2010

Philippine Bishops Are Seriously Shaking Their Croziers At President Aquino

President Aquino, who enjoyed Catholic support for his recent election victory, is now being threatened with excommunication over his support for birth control.


CBCP reminds Aquino about excommunication
By Philip Tubeza - Philippine Daily Inquirer - 09/30/2010

MANILA, Philippines—The president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines on Wednesday reminded President Aquino III that providing contraceptives to poor couples who opt for artificial birth control face excommunication from the church.
Speaking on the Church-run Radio Veritas, Bishop Nereo Odchimar of Tandag, Surigao del Sur, the current CBCP president, said that even Mr. Aquino may be covered by excommunication. Mr. Aquino, a practicing Catholic, has stood by his position that Filipino couples who choose to use artificial contraceptives should be allowed to do so.

"Well, being the President of all, you must consider the position of the Catholic Church because we are approaching these issues from the moral aspect like the unborn. Abortion is a grave crime. Excommunication is attached to [it]. That is an issue of gravity, that is a violation of God's commandment," Odchimar said. (President Aquino said nothing about legalizing abortion.)

When asked if Aquino might be excommunicated if he insists that government should distribute artificial contraceptives, Odchimar said: "That is a possibility.... Right now, it is a proximate possibility." (It does seem to be the current strategy of the Hierarchy to conflate birth control with abortion.)

The Church reserves excommunication, its highest punishment for erring members, for those who assault the Pope or are involved in abortion. Catholic groups claim that some artificial contraceptives are abortifacients.

"But right now, we are open for dialogue," Odchimar said.

Unfortunately, according to the CBCP president, there has been no reply from MalacaƱang to the bishops' call for a dialogue.

"As a matter of fact we opened that already before his (State of the Nation Address). The CBCP issued an open letter stating our position that there should be a dialogue," Odchimar said. "We do not have any feelers. We don’t want to be confrontational. We want a dialogue. We are just waiting,” he said. (Threatening someone with excommunication is an interesting means of opening a 'dialogue'.  Sounds like a monologue to me.)

Odchimar said he has talked to bishops in Mindanao and the Visayas and they were supportive of calls by lay Catholic groups to hold protests against the government’s plan to distribute artificial contraceptives.

When asked if he still trusted Aquino, Odchimar said: "Aahhh... we will exhaust all peaceful means. I mean for means of dialogue. We will be discussing that when I go to Manila."

But the bishop added that the President's rallying call for Filipinos to take the "straight path" should be taken "with a grain of salt" because of his position on the use of artificial contraception.

"Because the position of the Church (is) that human life is conceived at the beginning of the conception, with contraceptive pills that are abortifacient, that is killing of the fertilized ovum," Odchimar said. (Condoms do not kill ovum, nor do many other forms of artificial birth control.)

He reiterated the Church’s opposition to the passage of the reproductive health bill, which has been re-filed in Congress.

"We have been consistent with our position that we are against it. Because if the reason is the population problem connected to poverty alleviation, I don’t (think population increase) is a problem. (That) is not an issue," Odchimar said. (Maybe the reason is because poor people can not responsibility provide for unlimited children.)

"There are also other things to be considered like the migration of people flocking to the cities and they cannot find work. Ours is an agricultural country. Agriculture should be enhanced," he said. "But it is ironic that the (International Rice Research Institute) is in the Philippine but we are importing rice from Vietnam which was ravaged by the Vietnam war. Vietnam is exporting rice to the Philippines."

Odchimar said the bishops were "aware that there is much money (for the) lobby for the passage of the reproductive health bill."

"It's an open secret that the pharmaceuticals and laboratories will be the ones who will benefit, because they are the ones supplying the pills and other contraceptive devices," he said. "We will be planning our next move....We do not have police power, we don’t discount the possibility of mobilizing the lay organizations," he added. (Who benefits from over population and poverty is the better question.)

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In threatening President Aquino with excommunication over politically supporting access to birth control, the Philippine bishops are most definitely upping the ante in the Catholic culture wars. Here is an example of Catholic reproductive morality being subject to relativistic interpretation or a slippery slope.
 
The bishops also appear to be  threatening civil disturbance over the issue:  "We don't want to be confrontational. We will exhaust all peaceful means,".  Demonstrations are one thing, but the recent calls in Mexico City for demonstrations against the gay marriage decision turned very ugly on the part of the demonstrators. 

The Philippine faithful are not buying the Bishop's view on artificial birth control.  62%, or close to two thirds, want access to artificial birth control.  Is President Aquino supposed to use the  power of the State to force Filipino's into adhering to Catholic doctrine? What kind of 'true' doctrine could this be if the secular state is needed to enforce it because the faithful flat reject it?  The Church has a very ugly history of coercing states into enforcing rejected doctrine.  This tendency did much to spur on the Protestant reformation and the Enlightenment.  Does Catholic history have to repeat itself in the Philippines?

There is another important story being developed over on Talk 2 Action By Rachel Tabachnik concerning Bishop Eddie Long.  This one is not about his alleged sexual proclivities, but about the financial and governance structure of his religious empire.  What's fascinating about it is Bishop Eddie seems to be creating a Catholic like hierarchical structure with himself as Pope.  What's more fascinating is there are a whole host of Evangelical Eddie Longs carving out their own 'archdioceses' and anointing themselves as their only accountable authority.  Long himself wrested control of New Birth Ministries from the democratic governance structure it had when he was first hired. What ever Long maybe now, he is no longer a hireling. 

Like the glue that has held the Catholic version of a pyramid scheme together for eons, the major virtue in Long's scheme is the total obedience and trust demanded of his flock.  It's a direct appeal to his "Apostolic Authority".  Where have we all heard that before?  I suspect President Aquino is going to get thoroughly sick of hearing that particular appeal from his own Philippine bishops. 

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

What Community Do I Have To Go To?


I am something of a gay activist not necessarily because of adult gay rights, but because of the effect of the gay rhetoric on our teens. The following three stories occurred in the last two weeks in different sections of the US.  They are a very sad reminder that the political game playing of secular and religious leaders are not games to some of our teens.  They create a culture of death for which there are no consequences for those who perpetrate the abuse or the adults whose responsibility it is to stop it.  For me the most disturbing aspect of these stories is we don't even know if these young men were actually gay,  but just the perception alone was enough to make their school lives hell on earth. 


A Kern middle school student was taken off life support and declared dead Tuesday afternoon, nine days after he hanged himself after being bullied, friends say, because he was gay. He was just 13.

Seth Walsh, the Tehachapi 13-year-old who hanged himself from a tree in his back yard after years of being bullied, died Tuesday afternoon after nine days on life support.


Tehachapi police investigators interviewed some of the young people who taunted Seth the day he hanged himself and determined despite the tragic outcome of their ridicule, their actions do not constitute a crime.


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Asher Brown’s worn-out tennis shoes still sit in the living room of his Cypress-area home while his student progress report — filled with straight A’s — rests on the coffee table.


The eighth-grader killed himself last week. He shot himself in the head after enduring what his mother and stepfather say was constant harassment from four other students at Hamilton Middle School in the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District.

Brown, his family said, was “bullied to death” — picked on for his small size, his religion and because he did not wear designer clothes and shoes. Kids also accused him of being gay, some of them performing mock gay acts on him in his physical education class, his mother and stepfather said.

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He was a teenager who didn’t quite fit in. His classmates said Billy Lucas was bullied for being different.


The 15-year-old never told anyone he was gay but students at Greensburg High School thought he was and so they picked on him.

“People would call him ‘fag’ and stuff like that, just make fun of him because he’s different basically,” said student Dillen Swango.

Students told Fox59 News it was common knowledge that children bullied Billy and from what they said, it was getting worse. Last Thursday, Billy’s mother found him dead inside their barn. He had hung himself.

Students said on that same day, some students told Billy to kill himself.


"They said stuff like 'you're like a piece of crap' and 'you don't deserve to live.' Different things like that. Talked about how he was gay or whatever," said Swango.

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When thirteen year old boys are driven to understand the fact they are perceived to be gay means their life isn't worth living, we have a problem in society.  It's not a gay problem.  It's a societal problem.  Check this story from August 26th of this year. It's about the Annoka-Hennepin school district in Archbishop Neinstedt's state of Minnesota. The article covers the anti gay group called the Parents Action League. Like NOM and Archbishop Neinstedt, this group refuses to discuss it's funding sources or it's membership, but it is hell bent on keeping the Annoka-Hennepin school district as anti gay as possible.  This is the same school district who had three teen suicides from gay bullying last school year and had two teachers cited for discrimination against a perceived gay student.

Sometimes I wonder if the straight community really understands why so many gay kids kill themselves.  I often hear, "why didn't they get help before they did this to themselves and their parents".   Here's the reason as expressed by a recent graduate from the Annoka-Hennepin area:

"Megan, another 2010 graduate, took issue with the school’s policies. “It says that it is better for students to go to their home or their community or their church. I can’t go to any of those. I go home and my parents tell me I am cursed. I go to my church and I am rejected and condemned. I go to my community? What community do I have to go to?”


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Laity In The Phillipines Spoke, And The Government Listened

Maternity ward in Manilla.  Reuters photo taken in 2008.


Philippines to provide birth control despite church ban
MANILA (AFP) - 09/27/2010

The Philippine government will provide contraceptives to poor couples who request it despite strong opposition from the dominant Roman Catholic church, President Benigno Aquino said Monday.


Speaking in a satellite television interview from the United States where he is on a seven-day visit, Aquino stressed that the number of children a couple had was a matter of personal choice.

"The government is obligated to inform everybody of their responsibilities and their choices. At the end of the day, government might provide assistance to those who are without means if they want to employ a particular method," he said.

"I believe the couple will be in the best position to determine what is best for the family, how to space (the births), what methods they can rely on and so forth," said Aquino at a "town hall" style meeting with expatriate Filipinos.

"They face the responsibility for the children that they bring in and government is willing to assist them."

Aquino, a 50-year-old bachelor and a practising Catholic, was responding to questions about how he planned to curb population growth in the face of opposition from the church.

The church wields considerable influence in the Philippines, where more than 80 percent of the population are Catholics, and has used its clout in the past to attack officials who champion artificial methods of birth control.

The church and its allies have also successfully blocked the passage of a proposed law, first introduced in 2008, that would require the state to provide its citizens with "natural and modern family planning" means.

However, a survey conducted by a research group in January found that as many as 68 percent of voters believed that government should provide couples with all legal means of family planning.

In February, then-health secretary Esperanza Cabral incurred the wrath of the Catholic Church when the department handed out free condoms in Manila on Valentine's Day.

Three bishops demanded that she be fired but she remained in her post until a change of administration.

The Philippines estimates its 2010 population at 94.01 million, up from 76.5 million in the 2000 census and making it the 12th most populous nation in the world.

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The photo that accompanies this piece says everything there needs to be said as to why President Aquino's position is the only sane and humane position when it comes to the issue of birth control in the Philippines.  Sadly,  it reminds me of Tyson Farms large scale chicken operations. 

How does this situation remotely dignify the humanity of women and their children?  I wish every one of our Catholic media talking heads who waxed so eloquently about Pope Benedict's trip to England and his compassionate defense of the truth of Catholic sexual morality would meditate on this photo.  They should visualize their wives in such circumstances and then decide if they want to uphold or remain silent about traditional Catholic teaching on birth control.  I say meditate on their wives, because there are still very few women whose voices are heard in the Catholic world.

Thank God President Aquino heard the voice of the Catholic laity of the Philippines, because their spiritual leaders heard only the Vatican's voice and there is no maternity ward in Vatican City.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Is There Really No Place For Reason Informing Faith?

For these two spiritual leaders it's reasonable to have Faith informed by Compassion


I agree with Pope Benedict's insistence that faith has a part to play in secular society, or to put it in his terms, that faith can inform reason.  Where I run into real problems is his selective application of the reverse of this proposition,  that of faith being informed by reason.  In that part of the faith/reason equation, secular humanists, scientists,  and even atheists do have an important part to play. Not all tenants and dogmas of religious systems are reasonable in a secular or scientific sense and some of them cause all kinds of problems for secular states. 

Egypt is currently experiencing this kind of situation over remarks made by Fr. Bishoy of the Egyptian Coptic church.  Fr. Bishoy questioned whether some remarks attributed to the Prophet Mohammad in the Quran, ones pertaining to Christians, were really stated by the Prophet.  He suggested they could be later 'add ins'.  This concept of tinkering with authoritative texts is hardly unheard of in Christian biblical scholarship and Fr. Bishoy may not truly have thought he was stating anything revolutionary.  If so he was mistaken.  The Coptic Church and the secular Egyptian government are now under serious attack by Islamic literalists.

In the West sex, gender, and the family are the big battle grounds between faith systems and secularism.  One of the comments I read in reference to the Bishop Eddie Long mess was written by a Black sociologist who stated that it always amazed him that Black believers could go on and on about adhering to the sexual letter of the law in the bible as it pertained to homosexuals, while overlooking the fact their own oppression from slavery was justified by whites claiming biblical authority for slavery.  There are, he wrote, a great many more verses in the Bible justifying slavery than there is condemning homosexuality.  Given some of the responses he received, for literalists this kind of reasonable question is an attack on the veracity of the Bible prompted by Satan.  They were not amused by his argument and apparently blind to it's reasonableness.

Then there was this from Rowan Williams the Archbishop of Canterbury in an article on gay Anglican bishops:

“There’s no problem about a gay person who’s a bishop. It’s about the fact that there are traditionally, historically, standards that the clergy are expected to observe,” he said.


When asked what was wrong with a gay bishop having a partner, the Archbishop said the scriptural and traditional approach “doesn’t give much ground for being positive about it”.

The scriptural and traditional approach didn't give much ground for being positive about outlawing the slave trade either, but secular England did away with slavery anyway.--- and not with the help of his predecessor of the time, nor the one sitting on the Throne of Peter.

The funny thing is that faith did play a huge part in changing attitudes towards slavery and pushing human rights forward.  It was the inspired faith of believers who heard a message about moving beyond literal interpretations and seeing the over all trend in God's relationship with humanity.  They saw a Jesus who opened up His kingdom to everyone.  They saw a new covenant based on universal and timeless attitudes of love, compassion, humility and inclusion.  They did not see a covenant based on the primacy of right behavior or some form of god approved class distinction which put heterosexual white christian males on the top of God's pyramid.  For these Christians, God didn't have a pyramid of people.  God just had people.  God cared for us all the same.  That's the kind of  faith interacting with reason that has historically propelled secular society forward on a fairer and more inclusive path. 

To get to that universal inclusive understanding one has to give permission for reason to inform their initial faith formation, and that threatens traditional authority.  I suspect that's the problem African Anglican clergy have with the West and Benedict has with secular relativism.  It's really not about homosexuality and relativism, it's about undermining the strength of traditional and exclusively male authority.  For a lot of folks in the West there's nothing unreasonable about expecting change in these authoritarian religious structures. More than that, they see no compelling biblical case for the maintenance of a uni gender authoritarian structure with it's attendant male centered world view. It's neither reasonable nor particularly faith inspiring because it is no longer how the world works. 

If the world and humanity truly are in some measure a reflection of God's image, then it just seems reasonable to think that God doesn't work from a uni gender uni sexual world view.  I think it's also reasonable to wonder why the Catholic teaching authority does insist God desires such a male unisex world (except for the actual sex part).  The further the Church moves from Vatican II the less it seems to want a Faith informed by reason.  I have a hard time believing that is truly about the Will of God. It seems more reasonable to attribute that thinking to the will of the men who benefit from the thinking.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Deifying Pastors--A Recipe For Betrayal

                                   Rumor has it Bishop Long may be presiding at his own pastoral funeral this morning.

The following editorial is from the Black e-zine Root.  It contains a universal message about why deifying our pastors is the undoing of our children--especially deifying our male pastors.  When I read this the first time, in some part I couldn't help but substitute Catholic leadership and Catholic laity for Bishop Long and his congregation.  The following was edited for length.

A Sermon for Bishop Eddie Long
Root.com - 9/23/2010

If we learn nothing else from the biggest and messiest black mega-church scandal ever, it is that truth cannot be silenced, no matter how many refuse to speak it or conspire to hush it up. It will find a way to manifest. It does not need to be spoken to reveal itself. So as the story of Bishop Eddie Long swells from Facebook to CNN, engorged by our lust for fallen giants and monsters, let us not lose our heads. Let us learn the lessons that the legion and their leader willfully chose to ignore. (I have found it very disheartening to read comments from the congregants about Bishop Long that are identical in nature to the rationalized denials used by some Catholics in reference to Catholic leadership. And of course, there is very little compassion or sympathy for the victims.)

While it is a shock, it should be no surprise to anyone who watched. Long's potent combination of charisma, bling and prosperity gospel, in the tradition of Father Divine, helped him amass considerable wealth and celebrity status. Like several of his white counterparts, Long pandered to the anxieties and desires of his flock at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church with a potent blend of social conservatism, materialistic worship and anti-gay rhetoric. (Does this sound familiar?)

Not content to build the largest black congregation in the Southeast, Long sought currency with the political right by advocating for anti-gay marriage legislation through his infamous Reigniting the Legacy march in 2004. In doing so, Long parroted white right-wing misappropriation of Martin Luther King Jr. to deepen political wedges between blacks and the LGBT community. His minstrel antics have drawn stinging denunciations from the likes of Al Sharpton and respected theologians James Cone and the Rev. Irene Monroe. Besides a small demonstration, however, little local public outrage materialized........

For many young people, the reality is that they are sacrificed on the altar built for pastors we have deified. We must dismantle the cult of the clergy and other leadership frameworks that place male leaders above reproach. We must stop regarding our cowardice as loyalty and take the risks to support our young when they are victimized........

One who cannot face aspects of himself that he despises will train that animus on another whom he regards as his opposite. Did he sell out countless individuals in order to throw congregants off the scent of his own hunt, the exploitation of young men? Was there a point when, at first, a few and then many knew what was happening and said nothing? How long will we enable the abuse perpetrated in word and deed by our pastors? When will we dare to speak the ugly, inconvenient truth even when we are afraid? (How long will we place the responsibility for our own salvation, our own actions, and our own thoughts on the shoulders of someone else--and tell our children to do the same?)


This story of this sullied bishop serves overdue notice to Christians across the nation who have bought and sold snake oil presented as holy water. It is a foreclosure warning to every black male pastor who deems the church his castle, and the women, gays and young who build it as no more than chattel to serve his appetites. It is a subpoena, a calling to account for all black men who endorse patriarchy as the most legitimate form of power in our communities. It is a stained diary page brought to light. It is truth. Amen.  (This isn't just a black male problem by any means.)

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As I write this Bishop Long is responding to the four law suits currently pending.  He is doing so in front of his flock, from the altar they provided.  In that flock will be young gay men who will be attempting to deal with the fact that their Bishop made a huge part of his reputation and wealth at their expense, while simultaneously using others of them for his own pleasure.  I imagine they will be more than a little confused and angry.  It's hard to reconcile the God of love with the actions of the pastors of lust.  It's even harder when the two ideas have been purposely conflated in this whole business of deifying our pastors.

Also in that flock will be Bishop Long's wife and family.  How does one deal with adultery and betrayal on this scale?  I think we overlook the fact that Jesus never talked about sex.  He talked about adultery.  At it's core adultery is about the betrayal of a vow made before God about fidelity to another human being.  It's a vow about the sacred character of a relationship.  It is a person taking their own soul in their own cupped hands and making a commitment. Betray the vow, open the hands, and where does one begin to find one's soul again? How does anyone trust that person again on any real meaningful level.  The truth is people will trust the betrayer if they can't trust or have never been taught to trust their own inner guidance. 

This phenomenon almost guarantees Bishop Long, like Ted Haggard, will be back.  It's the same kind of thing Pope Benedict and the Vatican are ultimately counting on to keep Catholicism's clerical culture in tact and unreformed.  It's up to us to forgive and forget because our individual salvation and spiritual journey demands we do so.  So we're told over and over and over again.  In the meantime we give tacit license to continue being abused and used.  We are complicit not just in our own abuse, but worse than that, the abuse of other innocents.  And for this we believe we will enter the Kingdom. 

The question is, whose kingdom?  That of the pastor or bishop or pope whose palaces and kingdoms we've bought and paid for.  Or the Kingdom of Jesus who told Satan to shove this same idea of kingship where the sun doesn't shine?  How many more failed pastors and clerics must be exposed before we all stop confusing charisma, clerical bling, and targeted hate for the Kingdom of Jesus?



Update:  In this video of this morning's service, Bishop Long engages in mental reservation, dodges real answers, and defers to the advice of his attorneys.  He vows to fight on and find justice in the court of law.  This quote is as close as he got to dealing with the issue of guilt or innocence:

"There have been allegations and attacks made on me. I have never in my life portrayed myself as a perfect man. But I am NOT the man that's being portrayed on the television. That's not me."

OK he's not the man portrayed on television, but that doesn't say anthing about the man accused in the law suits. True to form there was a section of his sermon in which he stated his church would continue with it's mission,--and shock--he specifically stated the mission in the political arena as this was an election season--which makes me wonder for whom this sermon and it's message was really intended.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Why Is Archbishop Nienstedt Blaming Gays For The Failures Of Heterosexual Marriage?

This gathering was instigated in 2007 by Archbishop Nienstedt's view that family members and friends who support the their LGBT relatives and friends are cooperating in 'grave evil' and commiting mortal sin. 


Archbishop John Nienstedt on Catholic Church's opposition to same-sex marriage

by Tom Crann, Minnesota Public Radio - 9/22/2010

St. Paul, Minn. — Archbishop John Nienstedt discussed the DVD and Catholic Church's opposition to same-sex marriage during an interview with MPR's Tom Crann on Wednesday.

Tom Crann: How much did this DVD mailing cost and who paid for it?

Archbishop John Nienstedt: I personally do not know the cost of the DVD or the mailing. It was an anonymous person -- who asked to remain anonymous -- came forth and said that they would be very happy to support this project.  (How terribly convenient.  I am so sick of this kind of purposeful 'ignorance'.  Since gender is never assigned to the 'person', it could be a PAC.)
Crann: Summarize for us, the content of this DVD, if you could, please.

Nienstedt: The bishops of the state have an obligation by ordination to be teachers. And we all know the state of marriage in our society today -- the fact that ... four to five out of every ten marriages ends in divorce, the rate of cohabitation has gone from half a million in 1965 to over 5 million couples today. One out of every three Americans over the age of fifteen has never been married. And there are 19 million children being raised by single parents.

So the state of marriage is not very healthy in our society, and marriage is inherently something that involves our faith. It's a commitment for life, a life-giving commitment that is open to the procreation and the raising of children.

And so the church is very concerned about the state of marriage. The church also knows that in this state, a year ago, two pieces of legislation were introduced to the legislature suggesting that the definition of marriage should be changed. And so given that climate, we intend to and have been teaching what we believe is the God-given reality of marriage. Marriage isn't something that we create as human beings. It's already a given from the work of creation by almighty God.

Crann: If I could, I want to ask about the timing of this and this issue. Of all of the many of the issues the church champions, issues like social justice and poverty and speaking out against abortion, why this issue, and specifically why now?

Nienstedt: Well, this is one piece of an overall teaching that we've been doing here in this archdiocese... Since a year ago, we've had 37 gatherings of people around the archdiocese in various parishes directing ourselves to this teaching. And we've had thousands of people who have been in attendance.  (Which teaching; the one that calls for opposing gay marriage, or the one that calls for straights to be faithful to their own sacrmental commitment and stop using birth control.)

Crann: Parishioners, as well as clergy?

Nienstedt: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. These are primarily all lay people. And I wrote an op/ed piece in the Star Tribune in April calling for a constitutional amendment on marriage to protect marriage as defined as a relationship between one man and one woman. Last year, in the Catholic Spirit, I wrote a column on the reality. The bishops themselves have been doing a catechetical piece, which they hope to put out soon, on this reality.  (Which reality is that?  The fake one that uses gay marriage for political points, or the real one that deals with the breakdown of heterosexual marriage?)
So it's just one piece of a series of things that we're doing to raise this issue before our people so that they can be aware that this is a critical question. Obviously, we do the same on the questions of life, on abortion and euthanasia. We do the same on the questions of poverty and that sort of thing. This is the first time we've done a DVD because it's the first time that we've had the opportunity to use this form of media, but I suspect in the future we'll be doing more of that on other topics as well.

Crann: Your position at the end of your statement on the DVD is remarkably like an email I received today telling me about an ad that's been released by the National Organization for Marriage supporting Republican candidate Tom Emmer and his position. And so I'm wondering how is this position not partisan politics, especially timed as it is, six weeks before the election?

Nienstedt: Well, we, and I'm particularly, are very scrupulous about not endorsing any candidate of any party. That's not our position. That's not our right. We would certainly never tell people who to vote for, but the issues themselves are critical issues. And as a religious leader in this state, as a pastoral leader, I have a right to raise the issues and bring that to the attention of my people.  (But you have no problem using 'remarkably similar' language to the PAC National Organization for Marriage which is supporting a Republican candidate.)

Crann: In the DVD, you call same-sex marriage a 'dangerous risk to society.' Those are your words. Why is that?

Nienstedt: Because it confuses the very notion of marriage and the complementarity which marriage has always been founded upon between the two sexes, the man and the woman, the husband and the wife. And by expanding the definition of marriage, I mean where do you begin to stop? Who has the right to marriage? ...  (Not Roman Catholic priests, which is turning out to be a real problem for gays.)

We've been labeled as discriminating against gay people. There's no discrimination when there isn't a basic right to something. And those who have the right to marriage are men and women who want to enter into a life-long, mutually supportive and procreative relationship. (Then broaden your legislative goals and add non procreative heterosexual couples to your 'non discriminatory' policy of who doesn't have the right to marriage. And dump the whole idea of 'mutually supportive'.)

Crann: If same-sex marriage is a 'dangerous risk,' as you put it, in society, wouldn't also divorce, as well, be such a risk?

Nienstedt: Obviously. That's obvious. And it has been a dangerous risk and it is a dangerous risk to our society today.

Crann: And yet there has been no effort from the Catholic Church over the years to outlaw divorce.

Nienstedt: No, the church doesn't permit divorce. I don't know - the use of your word 'outlaw.'

Crann: In a civic sense.

Nienstedt: But divorce is not acceptable. Divorce is not part of our teaching, no.  (Answer the question.  It wasn't about Catholic teaching on divorce.  It was about civil policy.)

Crann: No, but in a civil sense. And I suppose what I'm saying is there has been a difference historically in the secular and civil world with marriage and divorce and in the context of the Catholic Church and other churches, too. And I'm wondering if there always will be that difference or do you want to see the civil definition of marriage be more aligned with your church's definition.

Nienstedt: There is no difference between the civil and the religious definition of marriage because marriage comes to us by virtue of creation and our creator. And so the state does not establish marriage. Marriage came long before there was any government. (The question is about divorce, not marriage.)

And so this is a natural reality, and it's defined by the natural law, what we call the natural law. And so it precedes any government. And government is meant to support marriage between a husband and a wife in order to give it a context for the raising of children and the protection of children.   (The 'good' archbishop never answers the question about civil legislation to outlaw divorce. How stupid does he think we are?)

Crann: You also make a political statement at the end (of the video segment) that you feel that this issue should come before the voters of Minnesota.

Nienstedt: Well, that's not so much a political statement as it is saying that, as other states have done, we need to bring this to the people, rather than have it decided by the judiciary or by the legislature... We need to let the people say what the reality of marriage is going to be. I don't see that as that big of a political statement.

Crann: Let's hear that, if we could.

Audio excerpt from Nienstedt's remarks: The archdiocese believes that the time has come for voters to be presented directly with an amendment to our state constitution to preserve our historic understanding of marriage. In fact, this is the only way to put the one man, one woman definition of marriage beyond the reach of the courts and politicians. (Not the Federal courts.)

Crann: Is that, in fact, a political statement?

Nienstedt: I don't believe so, no. I think that's a reasonable, common sense thing.

Crann: And you're calling for something to be put to a vote. Isn't that a political action?

Nienstedt: That is a political action, yes, but I think it also, in the context of the whole video, I think it makes sense. (Especially if you want the same people to vote for a Republican gubenatorial candidate who has made the gay marriage issue central to his candidacy.)

Crann: What do you want the families who receive the video to take away from it ultimately?

Nienstedt: Well, I want them to realize that this is a very serious issue ... We need to remind our people, our Catholic people what it is we believe, why it is we believe what we believe, and thirdly, why it's so important that we believe it. And so this just reinforces the teaching. As I said, this is one piece in a whole process by which we're trying to educate and catechize our people.  (And the teaching seems to be that gay marriage is somehow worse for straight marriage than straight divorce and it has nothing to do with the Republican party......Moving right along.....)

Crann: There is the issue, as I'm sure you're aware, that in your pews in parishes there are homosexuals, there are gay couples, there are in the homes receiving this, or certainly their friends, their family members, their own children. And what is your message to them? (Don't forget about the gays in bishop's residences.)

Nienstedt: It would be the same message that I would give to young people who are not married that everyone, all of us, are called to live a chaste life and a chaste lifestyle and that sex is specifically meant to be expressed in a marriage relationship, a long-term commitment of a man and a woman, that is able to be reproductive in type, I think they use that expression, that it is open to the transmission of life.

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For more on this story out of Minneapolis/St Paul, check out the Wild Reed's coverage.  Michael Bayley, the blog's author, has had his share of fun and games with the Archdiocese and it's spokespersons.  I personally really admire Michael for his persistence in articulating other perspectives of Vat II Catholics in Archbishop Nienstedt's Minnesota fiefdom. It's would also be worthwhile to read about the recently concluded Synod of the Baptized on the Progressive Catholic Voice website.  They too have a fascinating relationship with Archbishop Nienstedt.  One might call that relationship hypersensitive on the Archbishop's part.  He seems to worry quite a bit about the idea that Minnesota Catholics might think PCV speaks in some way for him.  Apparently only NOM and KofC can speak for him.

And he won't speak on divorce because divorce is all about heterosexuals being responsible for the disintegration of their own heterosexual marriages.  It's way better for his political friends that gays be blamed for the breakdown in heterosexual marriages. That helps keep the spotlight off serial monagamists like Newt Gingrich. How it is that gays marrying each other are somehow responsible for straights like Newt repeatedly divorcing is never explained.  Kind of like where all the money for this DVD campaign is never explained.

That kind of thing used to work in the good ole Catholic days--this never explaining  penchant of Bishops--but that's no longer the case.  I'm one of those people who isn't going to buy a teaching that makes no sense and there for seems to be designed for other purposes entirely.  I really want to know what individual paid for this campaign and I know Nienstedt knows.  But more than that, I want to know why he feels it necessary to practice 'mental reservation' about his knowledge.

One of the teachings given by a Navajo elder has stuck with me for a long time because it explains a great deal of what is happening in religion and politics.  He said the last 400 years or so has been about a battle between two competing energies.  The new energy is about the pre eminence of personal choice and individual responsibility, the old energy is about maintaining group control through authoritarianism.  That's what I find so disconcerting about the Church's teaching on natural law.  If it's truly written in our hearts than trust the teaching.  Individuals will be guided to similar understandings.  The fact they don't trust the teaching to work as they say, says a whole lot about the validity of their teachings as derived from natural law. The fact they are disingenuous about logical inconsistencies says even more.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Mysticism In Our Time


Dr. Jean Houston has written a really nice piece on spirituality and mysticism and the core stages one experiences.  I have edited the article for length, opting to concentrate on the stages she describes, but this first paragraph is really important.  The traditional ways of thinking and experiencing religious and spiritual life are undergoing a rapid deconstruction.  The path forward seems to point to a form of mystical union heralded by individuals across all spiritual traditions. There is a consistent experiential process to the seeming madness:

Spirituality and the Meaning of Mysticism for Our Time
Dr Jean Houston - Religion - Huffington Post
 Mysticism, and spirituality in general, seems to rise during times of intense change and stress. Add the sufficiency of current shadows and the breakdown of all certainties, and we have the ingredients for the current universal pursuit of spiritual realities. We live in a time in which more and more history is happening faster and faster than we can make sense of. The habits of millennia seem to vanish in a few months and the convictions of centuries are crashing down like the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York. And yet, the deconstruction of traditional ways of being may invite the underlying Spirit, of which we are a part, to break through.

So how can we birth this miracle within ourselves? How can we foster our natural birthright of spiritual presence? (This idea of communion with the Spirit as a natural birthright is almost the exact opposite of the traditional Christian understanding of the effects of original sin.)

Many have written of the mystic path and tracked its myriad adventures and planes of development. I have found Evelyn Underhill, writing early in the twentieth century, to be one of the finest guides to the experience. In her great work Mysticism, she presents the mystic path as a series of eight organic stages: awakening, purification, illumination, voices and visions, contemplation and introversion, ecstasy and rapture, the dark night of the soul, and union with the One Reality.  (As you read the following keep in mind that these are not necessarily sequential stages and that frequently a person revisits stages as they gain further understanding.)

In the first stage, "awakening," one wakes up, to put it quite simply. Suddenly, the world is filled with splendor and glory, and one understands that one is a citizen in a much larger universe. One is filled with the awareness that one is a part of an enormous Life, in which everything is connected to everything else.

The second stage of mystical development is called "purification." Here one rids oneself of those veils and obstruction of the ordinary unexamined life that keep one from the knowledge that one has gained from awakening. One is released from old ways of being and recovers one's higher innocence. In traditional mysticism it can take the form of a very intense pursuit of asceticism. It can also take other forms of trying to create purity and beauty in the world, as, for example, the path of Saint Francis of Assisi, who rebuilt a church as part of his purification, or Hildegard of Bingen, who planted a garden so that God's nose might be engaged. (I tend to see this one as a sort of necessary constant stage.)

The traditional third stage is called the path of "illumination": one is illumined in the light. The light of bliss -- often experienced as actual light -- literally pervades everything. One sees beauty and meaning and pattern everywhere, and yet one remains who one is and able to go about one's daily work. The stage of illumination is also one that many artists, actors, writers, visionaries, scientists, and creative people are blessed to access from time to time. (This is why Jesus states He is the way, the truth, and the light.  It helps to remember that light itself is first and foremost a wave of information which is why we literally have vision.)
The fourth stage is called "voices and visions." One sees, hears, senses with more than five senses -- an amplitude of reality including things one has never seen before, such as beings of different dimensions, angels, archetypes, numinous borderline persons, or figures from other times and realms. It is a state of revealing and interacting with a much larger reality -- including those spiritual allies that lie within us. (This stage is very often determined to be pathological in Western psychiatric science.  One person's Padre Pio is another persons scary nut job.)

The fifth stage is what Underhill and others call "introversion," which includes entering the silence in prayer and contemplation. It is a turning to the inner life, wherein one employs some of the vast resources of spiritual technology to journey inward to meet and receive Reality in its fullness. It results in daily life as a spiritual exercise, bringing the inner and the outer life together in a new way.

The sixth stage is referred to as "ecstasy and rapture." Here the Divine Presence meets the prepared body, mind, emotions, and psyche of the mystic, which, cleared of the things that keep Reality at bay, now can ecstatically receive the One. It involves the art and science of happiness. (I would also add that the person has given permission for the experience with the very acts of the preparation.) 
But, alas, after all this joy and rapture, the next stage, the seventh, is what is termed the "dark night of the soul," obeying the dictum that what goes up must come down. Suddenly the joy is gone, the Divine Lover is absent, God is hidden, and one is literally bereft of everything. Here one faces the remaining shadows of old forms and habits of the lesser self, preparing one to become more available to the final stage.  (In many cases people choose to turn off the experiences whether they are aware of this or not, usually because of fears or feelings of inadequacy.)

The eighth and last stage is called the "unitive life." Here one exists in the state of union with the One Reality -- experiencing the Oneness Laszlo claims is the hallmark of deep spiritual experience. One is both oneself and God. For those who enter this state, it seems as if nothing is impossible; indeed, everything becomes possible. They become world changers and world servers. They become powers for life, centers for energy, partners and guides for spiritual vitality in other human beings. They glow, and they set others glowing. They are force fields, and to be in their fields is to be set glowing. They are no longer human beings as we have known them. They are fields of being, for they have moved from Godseed to Godself.
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Jean Houston is well worth reading as she truly is a leading light in the field of human consciousness and mysticism.  My own interest lies in the area of mystical experiences vs psychopathology.  Partly this is due to my own experiences working in the mental health field, but it was given a huge boost in working with Native elders who see Western mental health practices and philosophy as hugely detrimental for their talented mystics.  This is especially true for native children who demonstrate mystical stages at a young age.  As one elder said, you are drugging our gifted ones into insensibility when you are not locking them up.  This same elder said that these children would be much better off if they were left with traditional elders who could give them the training necessary to interpret their visions and voices, but more importantly, the training which would help them develop the boundaries necessary to survive in this reality.

In his world view, psychopathology was not a matter of brain chemistry per se.  It was a matter of the person being lost between realities.  To accept this view means one has to accept the experiences generated in the mystical realms are every bit as real as anything we experience in this reality.  In the most powerful experiences, a person has to accept that what happens in these alternative realities can change matter in this reality.  In other words, a seeker eventually has to accept that our general consensus reality is a manifestation of a greater encompassing and interconnected reality.  Physicists call this greater reality the quantum field, mystics might use Paul Tillich's idea of the Ground of Being or Chardin's idea of noosphere. It's all of that and probably more.

About six months after this conversation, I'm co facilitating a group for bi polars who tended to be non med compliant.  Like many others, they would stabilize on their medications, feel good for awhile, and then stop taking their meds.  The group was initiated to explore and deal with this behavior.  At first the conversation dealt with the fear of major side effects (totally legitimate) and then progressed to disliking some of the less threatening side effects like dry mouths or sleep issues. Most of this conversation was initiated by the more energetic people, as others were back on medication and displayed little affect and a lot of lethargy. 

Then all of a sudden one the lethargic guys said he hated taking meds because they totally stopped his voices, and not all of his voices were bad, in fact, most of them were good and tried to help him deal with the bad command voices.  The proverbial dam broke.  Every one of the group started telling their stories about how much they hated taking meds for this very reason.  They screwed up dreaming.  They stopped pre cognition, mental telepathy, dried up creative insight (critical to the artists) and generally turned off the beauty in their world.  Yes there were bad voices, visions, and dreams, but the price meds cost them to cut out that part was too high.  They wanted to figure out some other way to deal with these issues.  They were asking for a way to set better boundaries between realities.  We had none to offer them.  End of group session. 

It was actually the end of the group.  The powers that be thought it had gotten out of control and all we accomplished was to feed their delusions and reinforce their med non compliance.  All I could think of was that in this medical model Padre Pio would have been seriously medicated if he hadn't been protected by his monastery and their world view.  That world view actually encouraged Pio's talent while providing for his needs in this reality.  Pio was able to do what he did precisely because he lived in a traditional Catholic monastery which was able to support him in both of his realities.  He had what the Native elder described when he talked about gifted native kids being raised in the traditional world view where they would get the support they needed to live and work in both worlds.

One of the problems I have with the Church is that they are not providing for the needs of their talented psychics/mystics.  They offer the same two approaches:  the western medical model or the Padre Pio model.  Neither one is going to work very effectively for most people in the post modern world. 

The secularized third path is a hodge podge of New Age thinking and mix and match techniques from other spiritual traditions.  We have to come up with something better than this because I suspect most of our gifted lay Catholics are hiding their light under a bushel, searching and learning in isolation, fearing the condemnation of both the medical and traditional Catholic models, and less than impressed with the money driven New Age movement.  Fr. Richard Rohr and some others are making a good beginning, but we have a long way to go.

Mysticism is not just some personal head game randomly gifted on rare people.  It can be learned if the student is willing to work and sacrifice a great deal.  It has real effects on this reality.  It can be a source for real hope and real solutions to our very real problems. 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Oh Shock, The Vatican Is Implicated In A Money Laundering Scheme

Somewhere in there is the scandal plagued Vatican Bank.  JPI was determined to do something about this bank, but then he conveniently died.

It might be that on Benedict's next foreign trip to Spain, he will have to provide a few more smiles, make a few more apologies, and kiss a few more babies.  I'm sure his Opus Dei spin meisters (and money managers) will help him refurbish his and the Church's image once again.  However, one can only hide so many things for so long before what's below the tip of the iceberg becomes plainly visible.
 

Italian police seize $30 mln from Vatican in probe
Nicole Winfield - AP - Rome - 09/21/2010

VATICAN CITY – Italian authorities seized euro23 million ($30 million) from a Vatican bank account Tuesday and said they have begun investigating top officials of the Vatican bank in connection with a money-laundering probe.


The Vatican said it was "perplexed and surprised" by the investigation. (Amazing how the Vatican is always 'perplexed and surprised' when evil secular authorities investigate their less sanctified actions.)

Italian financial police seized the money as a precaution and prosecutors placed the Vatican bank's chairman and director general under investigation for alleged mistakes linked to violations of Italy's anti-laundering laws, news reports said.

The investigation is not the first trouble for the bank — formally known as the Institute for Works of Religion. In the 1980s, it was involved in a major scandal that resulted in a banker, dubbed "God's Banker" because of his close ties to the Vatican, being found hanging from Blackfriars Bridge in London.

The Vatican expressed full trust in the chairman of the bank, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, and his director-general, identified by the Vatican directory as Paolo Cipriani. It said the bank had been working for some time to make its finances more transparent to comply with anti-terrorism and anti-money-laundering regulations.

"The Holy see is perplexed and surprised by the initiatives of the Rome prosecutors, considering the data necessary is already available at the Bank of Italy," it said in a statement.

Gotti Tedeschi told state-run RAI television that he was "humiliated and mortified" by news of the probe, which he said had arrived just as he was implementing new transparency procedures at the bank. (Easy for him to say this now.)

News reports circulated more than a year ago that Italian investigators were scrutinizing millions of euros worth of Vatican bank transactions to see if they violated money-laundering regulations.

In Tuesday's case, police seized the money from a Vatican bank account at the Rome branch of Credito Artigiano Spa, according to news agencies ANSA and Apcom. The bulk of the money, euro20 million ($26 million), was destined for JP Morgan in Frankfurt, with the remainder going to Banca del Fucino.

According to the reports, the Vatican bank had neglected to communicate to financial authorities where the money had come from. The reports stressed that Gotti Tedeschi wasn't being investigated for laundering money himself but for a series of alleged omissions in financial transactions.

Prosecutors declined requests seeking confirmation of the reports.

Gotti Tedeschi was named chairman of the bank a year ago after serving as the head of Italian operations for Spain's Banco Santander. A member of the conservative religious movement Opus Dei, Gotti Tedeschi frequently speaks out on the need for more morality in financing and is a very public cheerleader of Pope Benedict XVI's finance-minded encyclical "Charity in Truth." (no comment)

"It's not difficult to show that applied ethics produces more wealth," he wrote in a July piece for the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano. "Ethical behavior means lower costs — just thinking about control measures alone — and allows for more value thanks to transparency and trust, which alone produce more certainty and fewer risks."

News of the investigation came just after Benedict wrapped up a difficult trip to Britain and as the Vatican still reels from the fallout of the clergy sex abuse scandal.

The Vatican bank, located in a tower just inside the gates of Vatican City, isn't a typical bank. Its stated mission is to manage assets placed in its care that are destined for religious works or works of charity. But it also manages ATMs inside Vatican City and the pension system for the Vatican's thousands of employees.

The bank is not open to the public. Depositors are usually limited to Vatican employees, religious orders and people who transfer money for the pope's charities.

Its leadership is composed of five cardinals, one of whom is the Vatican's secretary of state. But the day-to-day operations are headed by Gotti Tedeschi and the bank's oversight council. (This would be Benedict's right hand man from the CDF Cardinal Bertone.  This could explain questions about why he was appointed Secretary of State when he had little diplomatic experience.)

The Vatican bank was famously implicated in a scandal over the collapse of the Banco Ambrosiano in the 1980s in one of Italy's largest fraud cases.

Roberto Calvi, the head of Banco Ambrosiano, was found hanging from Blackfriars Bridge in London in 1982 in circumstances that still remain mysterious.

London investigators first ruled that Calvi committed suicide, but his family pressed for further investigation. Eventually murder charges were filed against five defendants, including a major Mafia figure, and they were tried in Rome and acquitted in 2007.

Banco Ambrosiano collapsed following the disappearance of $1.3 billion in loans the bank had made to several dummy companies in Latin America. The Vatican had provided letters of credit for the loans.

While denying any wrongdoing, the Vatican bank agreed to pay $250 million to Ambrosiano's creditors.

The late Archbishop Paul Marcinkus, an American prelate who headed the Vatican bank at the time, was charged as an accessory to fraudulent bankruptcy in the scandal.

He left a villa in Rome two hours before police arrived for the safety of the Vatican, an independent city-state. Italy's Constitutional Court eventually backed the Vatican in ruling that under Vatican-Italian treaties Marcinkus enjoyed immunity from Italian prosecution. Marcinkus long asserted his innocence and died in 2006.

Last year, a U.S. appeals court dismissed a lawsuit against the Vatican bank filed by Holocaust survivors from Croatia, Ukraine and Yugoslavia who alleged it had accepted millions of dollars of their valuables stolen by Nazi sympathizers.

The court said the bank was immune from such a lawsuit under the 1976 Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, which generally protects foreign countries from being sued in U.S. courts. (Anybody still wonder why the Vatican insists it is a foreign state?)

In its statement Tuesday, the Vatican also said it was working to join the so-called "white list" of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which keeps tabs on financial openness on the exchange of tax information. (I imagine working on 'Vatican time' this will take another century or so.)

The OECD divides countries into three categories: those who comply with rules on sharing tax information (white list), those who say they will but have not acted yet (gray list), and nations which have not yet agreed to change banking secrecy practices (blacklist)

Currently the Vatican bank isn't on any OECD list.  (How terribly convenient.)

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I really feel badly for Catholics who truly want to believe this pope and this Vatican are pure as the driven snow.  They aren't, haven't been for a long long time, and God is not pleased.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Rights of Catholic Women In The Public And Private Square



The Philippine bishops exercise their voice in the Philippines Public Square and it's a lot louder than most others. Bishop Olmstead has the only voice in his private square.

Two stories today, each involving an aspect of Catholic theology and the rights of women.  Bishop Olmstead of Phoenix excommunicated a priest over ordaining a woman.  It's amazing to me how fast some bishops can work on some issues and how slow to act on others.  The second story comes from the Philippines where the debate is hot and heavy about a reproductive health bill.  It appears some women are making a macabre statement, or is it really a cry for help?

Priest excommunicated for ordaining woman in Arizona
By Michael Clancy, The Arizona Republic


PHOENIX — A Catholic priest has been excommunicated because he participated in ordaining a woman last month.  (Olmstead was surely quick with his axe for this act.)

The Rev. Vernon Meyer, who had submitted his resignation to the bishop of Phoenix earlier this summer, becomes at least the fifth priest to be ousted from the church under Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted. He was not defrocked, which is a separate penalty.

Meyer was penalized because of his participation in the ordination of Elaine Groppenbacher in Tempe, Ariz., last month.

"Actions such as these are extremely serious and carry with them profoundly harmful consequences for the salvation of the souls participating in this attempted ordination," Olmsted said on the diocese website. (I'm not so sure God cares as much about this as Olmstead does--and no matter the ostentatious theology, Olmstead is not God nor God's voice.)

Meyer, 58, is a longtime pastor and educator in the diocese. He most recently served at St. Patrick's Church in Scottsdale, Ariz.

He founded the Arizona Center for Theological Studies, which offers religious-studies classes.

Meyer said he never doubted his vocation until Olmsted came to Phoenix.

One of the bishop's initial actions was to order nine priests to recant their support of a statement supporting gay rights within churches. Meyer said he removed his name from the statement but began to question the bishop's actions.  (This is the less publicised function of actions like that of Bishop Olmstead.  They force people to look at their own beliefs and make choices they otherwise would prefer to avoid.  They also take away the complacent hypocrisy of those in the center because in Olmstead's case there is no center.)

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Fetus dumped in trash heap in QC found with rosary

 GMANews.TV - Phillipines - 9/20/2010
A day after a Catholic archbishop warned of excommunication for those engaging in abortion, another fetus was found abandoned near a trash heap in Quezon City.

Ironically, even though abortion is a no-no for Catholics, it seems that the mother of the abandoned fetus is a Catholic as a rosary was found inside the box where the fetus was placed.

On Sunday, Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales voiced alarm over the abandonment of fetuses in Metro Manila, some near churches.

In a pastoral letter read in churches in the Manila Archdiocese, Rosales said the fetuses indicated abortion remains rampant and is a sign of a “grave moral decadence" that threatens the country.

Radio dzBB's Paulo Santos reported child scavengers found the fetus inside a box thrown into a trash heap along San Mateo Road, Batasan Hills, Quezon City at around 1:00 a.m. on Monday.

Village officials who rushed to the site described the fetus as male, about five to six
months old.

Aside from the rosary, a P5 coin was found inside the box where the fetus was placed, the officials said.

The police are now trying to track down the mother who abandoned the fetus.

Excommunication

Rosales said a deliberately procured abortion is a moral evil and the Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication on those who procure and helped obtain it. (How does he know these fetuses aren't due to miscarriage?)

“Abortion is a grave sin against a defenseless life; and for this the severe canonical penalty to perpetuator/s is excommunication," he said.

He added unwanted pregnancies could be avoided if only people are “less selfish, and more disciplined and capable of self control, exercising a strong will, and capable of making sacrifices." (It's really difficult for women to practice 'discipline' in a society which gives all conjugal rights to the male.)

“These are virtues that are much needed in a country of disciplined people," he said.

“The placing and exhibiting of aborted human fetuses in public places are not favored in other cultures, and decent people refuse to do the same," he added......  (Except these are desperate women and sometimes decency is a luxury the desperate can't afford.)

Church partly to blame?

However, a representative of the Reproductive Health Advocacy Network indicated that the Catholic Church hierarchy, which has strongly opposed the reproductive health (RH) bill in the Philippine congress, is partly to blame for the problem.

"The root cause [of abortions] is that these women were not prepared for pregnancy and giving birth," said Beth Angsioco. "The best way to really address the problem is to prevent unwanted and unplanned pregnancies."

She added that "the RH Bill will help women, especially poor women, to plan their families and time pregnancies , pregnancies that they want and are well prepared for."

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Bishop Olmstead's penchant for exerting his control through excommunication is a somewhat limited phenomenon in that individuals are paying the price for individual actions.  What's happening in the Philippines is vastly different.  This is a case of the Catholic Bishop's Conference of the Philippines exercising so much influence in the public square that it might just as well run the country, a sentiment expressed by Beth Pangalangan a law professor at the University of the Philippines: 

"I think the problem is that legislators allow themselves to be swayed by the church. They forget that they were elected into office by Filipino people for them to pass laws that will be good for everyone."



"We have very weak legislators who think they cannot survive politically if it were not for the church's support," she said. "What happens is our legislators yield whenever they are threatened by the church. I've said once that it's not really a problem of a powerful church but a problem of a weak state."

Pangalangan added that the problem is not the Catholic church per se but the Roman Catholic hierarchy.

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The common thread for me in these two stories is how they put to rest JPII's notion of complimentarity between the sexes.  There isn't any real complimentarity.  In sexual morality there can't be any complimentarity for women when the entire theology was written by celibate males. This is an insane a proposition as if celibate women had written the Church's sexual theology.  What in the world would celibate women actually understand about male sexuality, or for that matter, pregnancy and child birth as these sexual aspects pertained to other women?  They wouldn't, but they would have the self assigned total authority to do so if they held all the episcopal power. 

Married men also have no say in our current system and this is another shame, as it is married men who share the inherent risks women take in pregnancy and child birth, and the responsibilities for raising the children. It's probably no coincidence that the Christian denominations who first sanctioned some form of artificial birth control also have married clergy.  And I won't even get into gay sexuality because that has become the foundational issue used to blind married heterosexual men to their own 'impotency' in defining Catholic sexual morality or their paricipation as full sacramental ministers in the Church.  They too have been assigned a a from of secondary status - deacons only - with no meaningful input in the power structure.

The one line in the above story from the Philipines which speaks volumes is this one: "child scavengers found the fetus inside a box thrown in a trash heap'.  Child scavengers, in a trash heap.  Eleven women per day die in child birth in the Phillipines. Malnutrition is rampant in the poorest women,  fueling miscarriages and infant mortality statistics,  but Philipine Catholics are being asked by their celibate male bishops to adhere to the bishops' concept of a culture of life.  Make no mistake, when it comes to birth control, it is the bishops' concept of the culture of life.  Where ever artifical birth control is available,the vast majority of lay married Catholics use it,----and not always and everywhere for selfish reasons.

As long as our hierarchy is exclusively male and single, (I won't say chaste), the Catholic flock is at the mercy of a unique and non representative group of humanity.  This is especially true for women.  I might have a more charitable attitude about this state of affairs if the members of this uniquely self chosen group actually were service oriented.  But it just seems for far too many of them,  that the further up the food chain and the more isolated an ordained male gets, the less of a connection they have with the reality their flocks actually live.


Every time I read of a Fr. Meyer, or the meeting like the one involving 300 priests in Ireland, I have hope that rank and file Catholic priests are coming to the same conclusions---that the hierarchy is way out of touch, and that's the way Rome wants it in order to protect it's own perogatives.  This state of affairs has to end if only for the sake of Catholic countries like the Phillipines.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Benedict's Final Instructions For Britain's Bishops



State visits aren't usually known for exhibitions of humility.  This one was no exception.

Pope calls church to be 'humble' model on abuse

by John L Allen Jr on Sep. 19, 2010 NCR Today

The following is an edited version of John Allen's latest post from the NCR website.  It reports on remarks Benedict delivered to the Bishops of England, Scotland, and Wales and represented his last address before heading back to Rome.  I'm a bit confused if the paragraphs Allen first reports on were addressed to the whole Church or the Bishops' end of things.
In his final act before departing the U.K. for Rome, Pope Benedict XVI has challenged the Catholic church to “humbly” present itself as a model for all society in the protection of children and young people from abuse. (Wow, I bet this statement goes over well in Belgium.)

It marked the fourth time the pontiff has addressed the sexual abuse crisis during his Sept. 16-19 trip to Scotland and England. The crisis has not taken on the same dimensions here as in the United States, Ireland, Germany, and other countries, but it nevertheless formed an important subtext to the trip.

This was the first time the pope has explicitly suggested that the experience accumulated by the Catholic church over the last decade could be a model for the wider world.

“Your growing awareness of the extent of child abuse in society, its devastating effects, and the need to provide proper victim support should serve as an incentive to share the lessons you have learned with the wider community,” Benedict said. (The thing is open societies, (the evil secular liberal kind), were on to this whole abuse issue way before the Church. Notice how Benedict didn't say awareness of abuse in the Church?  Perhaps one of the lessons which should be shared is liars and spinners eventually get caught and it's not good for one's spiritual reputation.)

“Indeed, what better way could there be of making reparation for these sins than by reaching out, in a humble spirit of compassion, towards children who continue to suffer abuse elsewhere?” (Yes, for sure, why deal with the ones the Church created because admitting to those victims might cost the Church a whole bunch of money.)

“Our duty of care towards the young demands nothing less,” the pope said.

Benedict also acknowledged that the crisis has “undermined the moral authority of church leaders.”...... (It's that whole liar/spinner lesson I mentioned.  That's the lesson they really can humbly share.)

As he has throughout the trip, Benedict also once again took on secularism with the bishops. He urged the bishops to present the Christian message in its fullness, “including those elements which call into question the widespread assumptions of today’s culture.”

In that regard, he invited them to draw upon the resources of the new Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, whose mission is to reawaken the faith in traditionally Christian, but now broadly secularized, Western nations. (Operative words are 'traditionally Christian'.  Progressively Christian can just go to hell like the traditionalist kind keep telling us.)

Acknowledging the fallout from the global financial crisis, including high unemployment and the carnage caused by “ill-advised investment policies,” the pope asked the bishops to highlight “the needs of the poor and disadvantaged, who can so easily be overlooked in the allocation of limited resources.” He also called on British Catholics to continue to be generous in support of those in need.  (Benedict could make a real gesture along these ideas by closing the Vatican Bank to people engaged in those "ill-advised investment policies".  He could start with members of Tom Monaghan's Legatus group.)

Finally, the pontiff asked the bishops for help on two projects, both of which have drawn mixed reviews at both the top and the bottom of the Catholic community in the U.K.: Implementation of the new Roman Missal, the official translation of texts for the Mass, and his recent document Anglicanorum Coetibus, which created new structures (called “ordinariates”) to welcome former Anglicans seeking to become Catholics.

While the new missal has been criticized in some quarters for using an obscure “sacred language” and thus reversing the emphasis of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) on adapting the liturgy to the culture, Benedict urged the bishops “to seize the opportunity that the new translation offers for in-depth catechesis on the Eucharist and renewed devotion in the manner of its celebration.” 
Benedict also asked the bishops to be “generous” in utilizing the new structures for Anglicans, arguing that they represent “a prophetic gesture that can contribute positively to the developing relations between Anglicans and Catholics.”  (I doubt he means the relationship between Episcopalians, progressive Anglicans, and the Vatican.)

At the time the structures were first announced, some Anglicans complained of “poaching,” and also suggested that they could destabilize the Anglican Communion at an already difficult moment. Liberal Catholics objected to rolling out a red carpet for the most traditionalist elements within Anglicanism, while some bishops privately wondered if there was actually much real-world market demand for these structures.

The pope said the move is a reminder of the ultimate goal of ecumenism, which is “restoration of full ecclesial communion in the context of which the mutual exchange of gifts from our respective spiritual patrimonies.” (But ultimately on Rome's terms and conditions.)

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For all the reporting about Pope Benedict taking on evil dictatorial secular relativism and dueling with the British atheist dragon, I really did appreciate the fact he hit on the Evil Global Financial Crisis, and all that 'relative' speculation and deceptive dictatorial interest policies.  Not too mention the crass greed motivation and indifference to the rest of humanity. 

I really liked what Benedict said Saturday concerning financial institutions being 'too big to fail' and democratic governments dumping billions and billions of tax payer dollars into bailing them out. (Hardly an example of 'free' enterprise.)  Like Benedict said,  it's humanity itself that should be considered too important to fail.  One of the truly evil aspects of Western secularism is this whole idea of global corporations having the status of legal person hood in national and international law.  Forget the rights of the unborn, relative to these global giants, none of humanity has much in the way rights.  I so wish he would concentrate on that demon, and practice holy silence on what is becoming more and more obvious,  his personal issues with homosexuality.

His speech at Westminster Hall will undoubtedly be an important part of his historic legacy.  There is a place for spiritual/religious ethics in the public square.  Where his argument lost some steam is in his refusal to see that not only other spiritual and religious traditions have a right to be heard in the public square, but so do other interpretations of Christianity.

I had one other thought while listening to his approach on Ecumenism.  Benedict talks about re evangelizing Western Catholicism, but it's really reaching the point where it's not about re evangelizing, it's more about initiating an ecumenical dialogue.  One thing we do know about human neural wiring is once a person leaves behind a given world view, that person never goes back to the same world view.  They may go back to some of the practices, but not for the same reasons.  In a speech given by Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Hillarion at Lambeth Palace the week before Benedict's arrival in Britain.  Hillarion made no bones about the state of ecumenical talks between the Russian Orthodox and Anglican communions.  They are essentially dead.

"All current versions of Christianity can be very conditionally divided into two major groups - traditional and liberal. The abyss that exists today divides not so much the Orthodox from the Catholics or the Catholics from the Protestants as it does the 'traditionalists' from the 'liberals'.

Hillarion is right.  He defines the abyss as that between liberals and traditionalists, which is the standard description. I think it's a little deeper than that.  It's really an abyss between those who relate principally with the Bible and written dogma, and those who relate to a living evolving spiritual understanding of God.  This second approach usually has it's foundations in the first.  The first approach is static and stable and needs an external authority. The other is evolving and less stable with the individual conscience as the final authoritative source.  The second approach by definition includes the first.  It can't work the other way around, and this is why the re evangelization of the West is dead in the water if all it does is promote the agenda of the traditionalists. 

I think Benedict knows all this, but it looks good on paper to try--and it's good for one's papal legacy.