Saturday, August 13, 2011

In The Timeless Now The Illusions Of The Clerical System Are Running Out Of Gas

The Great and Powerful have brought back indulgences for WYD. 

There are trends popping up in Catholicism regarding lay relationship with the priesthood which should be raising alarms in the Vatican.  I have selected two comments which speak to two of these trends, while the final piece by Eugene Kennedy speaks to a major reason for the cracks in this relationship.

First up is a response to a comment on Phyllis Zagano's most recent NCR column.  It is a response not to the article itself, but to a comment from a recent convert who gave the Church's standard traditional response as to why sacramental spirituality still works in the very sinful ordained.  For this commenter, the answer Rome gave to the Donatists is not the final word.

Your answer is technically and legally correct, pursuant to the doctrine of "ex opere operato.' This doctrine was the Roman response to Donatus.
However this is not the end of the matter . . . There are the more important issues of legitimacy and pneumatic integrity to deal with.(Absolutely true.)

What all of us need to understand very clearly is that the Holy Spirit is not some celestial bellhop - capable of being "commanded" by the Mass-celebrant to descend on the Holy Gifts and transform them into the Body &;  Blood of Christ - simply at the words of institution - the Canon of the Mass! At all times, the Holy Spirit retains the sovereign choice as to whether to descend or not, transform or not. Or even *when* and at what point to transform.

The Holy Spirit will not be "coerced" by the doctrine of 'ex opere operato' into sanctifying the moral turpitude of the celebrant through granting a blanket-consecration of the contents of that altar.

What we may well discover is that for the true faithful, the consecration-moment for the Holy Gifts at a Mass where the celebrant is manifestly unworthy, is, in fact at the point when They enter the mouth of that true-faithful communicant. (Or when that faithful individual gives consent--hence the priesthood of the people through baptism is the ultimate operative in the spiritual efficacy of priesthood.)

Thus, in this "mixed multitude" Mass, there will be two groups of people who take the accidents (of bread and wine) into their mouths:
A) The true-faithful who will be legitimately Communing - independent of 'ex opere operato' - for these both accidents and substance will walk together, independent of the celebrant, and
B) The compromised "mixed multitude" (which will include the celebrant) who will NOT be legitimately Communing - despite 'ex opere operato' - for these, there will be no "substance" to the accidents. (This is too strong in my opinion.  People, including compromised celebrants, can still experience a real Communion with Christ by virtue of desire---just like they can with Baptism.)

I am prepared to prophesy that for the duration of this abuse scandal (&  possibly other scandals of similar magnitude), and wherever it has happened, this "two-group" scenario has existed.
I further prophesy that if clerical doublethink over this and related scandals goes on for much longer, the Holy Spirit may well decide, out of a sense of sustained frustration with respect to the legalities and niceties of Canon Law and the declarations of the Magesterium, to operate extra-murally with respect to these two, and grant "real-presence" in a Mass independent of any sanction from "unworthy" clergy.  (This is of course precisely what the Vatican has to fear will be the final outcome of their convoluted attempts to maintain the status of the current priesthood by minimizing it's responsibility for all of it's abuses.)

For the sake of the poor clergy, I sincerely hope and pray that it does not get this far, but I remain pessimistic over whether this can be avoided. (For the sake of the poor priestless laity, I hope it does get this far.)

Our Lord and Master, as recorded in Matt 25:31-46 said "Inasmuch as ye did (or did it not) to the least of these my brethren, ye did it to Me." (paraphrased). For these poor little abused ones, I was given a vision beyond the veil where He had His arms around them in comfort, saying to them "Come unto Me and find rest, I love you, for you (abused as you have been at the hands of My unaithful shepherds) are the quintessence of My Kingdom.
"And those unfaithful, abuser-shepherds who have so hurt you will be cast into outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
I trust that this assists. (I had a somewhat different vision regarding a known class IV pedophile.  I saw him taken through the experiences of every single one of his victims (which happened in real time)-- and live these episodes as the victim, until he got to his own initial sexual abuse at four years old. At that point he was held by a very incredible loving energy. It was a profound experience for me and a profoundly healing experience for him.)


On to another interesting point which is being made more and more frequently:
The Holy Spirit may likely be driving people to prophetically draw attention to our shortcomings. We can't spiritualize to avoid accountability. People are not leaving the Church, they are taking leave of the current state of leadership.  (People are finally beginning to get beyond the indoctrination that defined the hierarchy as the sole voice of the Church, akin to Jesus Himself.  This too is not a trend that bodes well for the future of the existing ordained hierarchical structure.)


This final quote is from Eugene Kennedy's latest article at the NCR.  It's topic, plenary indulgences,  is another perfect example of a Vatican living in denial.  It's no wonder the two trends exemplified above are not just taking root, but spreading through out the Catholic land.  But Kennedy also makes other very important points.

...."Now, while Catholics burn with the shame inflicted on them by this crisis, Rome seems so pre-occupied with re-entering the shadowed yesterday of clerical domination that it has no interest or enough spiritual energy to lead the church to a fresh dawn of self-examination and self-cleansing. (This is a very important point.  The clerical system has run out of spiritual energy. This is a very serious state of affairs and one the Vatican either doesn't compute, or won't seriously look at.  Benedict's Year of the Priest, featuring St John Vianney was not the solution to this very real problem.)

The latest example is found in promising plenary indulgences to those who fulfill certain conditions when they attend World Youth Day in Madrid, Spain, Aug. 18-21. BUT WAIT -- as they say on infomercials -- partial indulgences are also available to those who pray appropriately during this gathering even if they cannot attend in person.

As part of the Reform of the Reform, this unfortunately rings like a church bell with associations of selling such indulgences during medieval times when bartering for grace and time off from Purgatory with cash scandalized Catholics and helped bring on the Reformation. (Those who will not change are doomed to repeat their past.)

It is worse now because it confounds the mystery of Time and Eternity in which Roman officials should have an interest even if they lack any understanding of them. These are also critical variables in the human experience of the sexual abuse crisis and confusing them can only increase the suffering of the victims of sex abuse.

Indulgences are airily explained as lessening the temporal, or in time, punishment for sin that actually takes place beyond the reach of time, or the application of its parameters, in eternity. Where there is time, as Joseph Campbell has expressed it, there is sorrow. That is a function of time not of eternity and indulgences make no sense, sold 500 years ago or promised now, as any kind of spiritual currency to bail us out of the timeless sphere of eternity. (This is just another example of the bankrupt level of spiritual energy in Rome.  If you can't do the real thing, sell an illusion and base that illusion in confusion.)

Time, with its sorrows, has a meaning for sex abuse victims because there is no time in the human unconscious; it is always NOW. That means that a wound that was seemingly inflicted on a certain date breaks free of the calendar's grip and is always as fresh in the victim as the moment it was inflicted. There is not statute of limitations for victims and their suffering, no plenary or partial indulgences to relieve them of their wounds.  

By turning back to the concept of giving "Get Out of Purgatory" cards to those who attend an event in time demonstrates how estranging to human experience this return to another age really is. The world's victims are burning with suffering that is not cured by the passage of time and Rome fiddles, neglecting to plumb the depths of the still continuing sex abuse crisis, while talking irrelevantly in the language of plenary and partial indulgences.

To promise to relieve the so called temporal punishment due to sin through indulgences while failing to understand the timeless nature of the suffering of the sexually abused makes one think that Nero may have had it right when he did the fiddling while letting Rome do the burning.

The point Kennedy makes about the timeless nature of the sexually abused is precisely why I was able to experience in real time what had happened in the past with the pedophile I wrote about above. He relived all of it in real time, just not as the predator but as a repeated victim precisely because he was repeating his own victimhood on others. It was an utterly profound experience for me in understanding how love and forgiveness work in the eternal now.  All things are possible in that eternal now.  It is where healing happens.  Change whether good or bad, always happens in the present, not the future, and not the past.  As Kennedy points out, indulgences violate this truth about time and eternity.  This whole indulgence idea is pretty much a naive (or cynical) bankrupt spiritual concept.
It is however,  another perfect example of how little spiritual energy is left in this concept of an ordained priestly hierarchy---and this story on the continuing saga of Fr Roy Bourgeoius and the over the top punishment meted out to those who speak to women's ordination is another glaring example of how desperate the Vatican is to hide the truth about how spiritually bankrupt the system really is.



  1. "...punishment meted out to those who speak to women's ordination [groups] is another glaring example of how desperate the Vatican is to hide the truth about how spiritually bankrupt the system really is."

    Is this sort of backbiting really the best way you can find in which to serve the Church?

    I hypothesise that it may not be.

  2. Invictus,

    Of course it is colleen in her blog who is pointing out what is truly backbiting.

    Service to the Church--- I thought it was the Church who was supposed to shepherd the flock. It is not the lambs that serve the shepherd and it become problematical when the People of God are lambs with minds that search out truth when a magisterium believes Only it has the truth.

    Certainly Colleen’s recent blog points toward an understanding that the idea of a clerical priesthood that does not indeed serve its flock is not so problematical when "the flock" understands and realizes that the clerical priesthood has little meaning when priests and Episcopacy do not act as a consequence of Christ’s loving nature.

    Clarifying the fact that it is the priesthood of Baptism that is far more important for each of us, IS a great service to the People of God. It becomes problematical when people think that “to serve the church” means to serve the Episcopacy in such a time that this group of would be leaders are so struggling with their own inner demons. It would be problematical anyway as long as this group believes its way of life fast tracks clerics toward God or to heaven.

    NOT So! These are clerical delusions of grandiosity that simply do not help People of God nor the leadership or ideas of an ordained priesthood. The current clerical unfortunate and even crazy mode of leadership does nothing to lead people in The Way of Christ.

    It is freeing to humanity to understand that the Priesthood of Baptism is indeed the most important form of priesthood and offers the group of believers different possibilities for worship and existing (or being.)

    Thank you Colleen for doing us and people you touch a great service. Could you touch more of us? Or is that really an outreach toward grandiosity? Maybe you can define the difference for yourself. dennis

  3. Thanks Dennis, I appreciate your support.

    Invictus, I am probably approaching this from a different perspective than you many think. I am looking at the clerical system not just from a spiritual standpoint, but also from a systems analysis perspective. From a systems approach I see a management group who has itself mired in a mess of corruption, criminality, and abuse, both sexual and financial. It's stated mission is to serve it's people. There is an obvious and huge disconnect between it's actual behavior and it's stated mission.

    I will post again today on Cardinal Policarpo. Why, I wonder, was it necessary to call him to the Vatican woodshed, for very mild statements on the potential for women's ordination, while other Cardinals and Archbishops are being deposed in various child abuse, bankruptcy, and criminal conspiracy trials.

    The fixation on maintaining the purity of the male priesthood is utterly insane when the purity of the male priesthood is itself in the gutter. This whole attitude towards women's ordination is a clear statement about the spiritual bankruptcy of the whole system, and a major sign of system failure.

    The system itself is now breeding a coming global mutiny by ordained clergy. I call this action a mutiny because it isn't really going to be about dissent from dogma, but from utter frustration with the incompetency and mis direction of leadership.

  4. Colleen -
    Well put. A systems approach offers power in looking at complexity. (30 years ago yesterday, it enabled IBM to introduce the IBM PC, one of the major milestones on the global road to where we are today, for better and for worse.) It needs to start with understanding and acceptance of the system's _actual_ mission, whatever the system is. Then, coherent goals, strategies, and tactics suited to the real environment of the time and to recognized obstacles can follow.

    The clerical system today is crippled by two central incoherences. On celibacy and homosexuality, the Pope and rules solemnly declare one position, and the subordinate clergy as they exist today often demonstrate an opposite one. The Pope welcomes non-celibates. He tolerates at least the reported and observed homosexual component of the clergy, while declaring homosexuality incompatible with the priesthood. The clergy know what he says and does and live with both in a regime that is nominally strictly regulated and obedience-bound.

    Whatever a priest's orientation and continence, he can be expected to be aware of the internal clash. With inconsistency accepted institutionally for clergy on two such fundamentally human matters, it should be no surprise to find consequences of secrecy, perceptions of special status, and moralistic machinations in the clerical system.

  5. Exactly Jack. It's been my experience that the systems approach to sick institutional cultures is by far the best approach to take in determining a change in course.

    Part of what I see the Vatican attempting is to divert knowledgeable people from attempting a serious systems analysis. It's much better for the Vatican system to keep people focused on dissent from doctrine, or caught up in accountability issues than it is to suffer under the dispassionate gaze of people who know systems analysis.

    One of the broken systems is exactly what you describe, the double speak regarding the actual status and behavior of clergy. I can easily surmise that the worst expression of this hypocrisy is in the Vatican itself because so many of our hierarchy are educated in Rome and bring the dysfunction back to their home dioceses.

    I somewhere read where an elder cleric hypothesized that clerical pedophelia in the US was an import from Rome, and probably go started during the reign of Pio NoNo when candidates for American archdioceses began serving or studying in Rome and saw how the big boys operated with the little boys. To this day the age of consent in the Vatican city states is 12. Or course, institutional history is a core part of and systems analyis approach.

  6. thank you very much, your analyses and comments are really a help for all of us, clerichal system and spirituality, nothing to do... thank you

  7. Colleen,

    For a systems approach to work, would not the current leadership need to support such an effort. If someone were to use a completely outside the box group to run such an approach, they would not be allowed access to vital information.

    I see little likelihood that the Vatican would cooperated with such an approach. They probably would see it as a threat and call any attempt to have such an approach "anti-catholic." Perhaps the mutiny as you put it stands more a chance of success than does the idea that the Vatican would support a systems approach to help themselves and the Church.

    I believe we already have something akin to mutiny in the laity. But I do believe that in this group it is over both doctrine and horrible leadership. So perhaps it is more a general revolt. dennis

  8. This is a very important discussion. I am a woman who worked for the church for a number of years. A priest told me the following story about the flexibility of the system:
    A young American of Italian descent was ordained in Italy in the village of his family. The celebration lasted several days. The young priest, tired from travel and excitement went to his sleeping quarters and found a beautiful young girl naked and in his bed. He told her to get dressed and leave, and she did. The next night he found a handsome young man in his bed..........It's not only the clergy who are cynical beyond belief, but many times the laity also......


  9. Unfortunately that's not an unusual story from more sexually honest Catholic countries. It's a little different here in the State, and I suspect in Ireland and other Anglo countries. In these countries it's more along the lines I heard from a priest friend of mine who was ordained in the late 60's. I asked him once what he was taught in the seminary about chastity and celibacy. He laughed and said this older priest came in as a guest lecturer and told them that if they felt urges they shouldn't 'piss' in their own backyard. They should do it in some other diocese."