Thursday, April 21, 2011

Did Jesus Really Die To Atone For Our Sins, Or Rise From Death To Show Us Our Truth?

Jesus gave a number of important commissions at the Last Supper.  This one about leadership seems to have gotten lost in translation.


The following is from an article written by Jesuit Kenneth R Overberg for the publication American Catholic.  The article deals with the alternative view of Jesus's death and resurrection.  This is the view that has been present within Catholicism since the Gospel of John, but under taught in favor of the atonement view.  In this alternative view, Jesus is not God's 'plan B' developed after Adam's sin, but Jesus is actually the purpose of creation and the reason for the existence of humanity.  In this view, God wants to directly experience His own creation because He loves it like He loves all of His creation.  For reasons of length, I have chosen the post the last paragraphs of Fr. Overberg's piece, in which he shows the difference this view of Jesus's mission can make in the lives of average believers.  The entire article is well worth the read for it's discussion of some of the historical development of this view.


What Difference Does It Make?
For almost 2000 years, believers have found hope and light in recognizing the primacy of the Incarnation. God’s overflowing love wants to embody itself in and for others. Jesus is the first thought, not an afterthought. Does this remarkable belief make any difference in our lives? Absolutely, especially for those of us whose faith has been shaped by images of atonement and expiation.

First, the perspective of creation-for-Incarnation highlights the rich meaning of Jesus. He is not Plan B, sent simply to make up for sin. As Duns Scotus emphasized so well, God’s masterpiece must result from something much greater and more positive (God’s desire to share life and love). Jesus is the culmination of God’s self-gift to the world.

Second, the focus on the Word made flesh helps us to appreciate the depth of our humanness and the importance of our actions. Rahner’s marvelous musings on our life in a world of grace give us renewed understanding of the biblical phrase “created in God’s image”—along with many implications for how we treat all our sisters and brothers in the human family and the earth itself.  (Jesus shows us how to be fully human, to touch and act from our own shared divine life, not necessarily to save us from our fallen humanity.)

Third and most important, our alternate view offers us a new and transformed image of God. Many people suspect that the dominant perspective of God demanding the suffering and death of the Son as atonement somehow missed the mark. (Ya think?)

Indeed, Rahner gently says that the idea of a sacrifice of blood offered to God may have been current at the time of Jesus, but is of little help today. Rahner offers other interpretations of how Jesus saves us, emphasizing that God’s saving will for all people was fully realized in Jesus through the response of his whole life.
Other contemporary scholars, including Walter Wink, are more direct. He states that the early disciples simply were unable to sustain Jesus’ vision of the compassionate and nonviolent reign of God. Overwhelmed by Jesus’ horrible death and searching for some meaning, the disciples slipped back into an older religious conviction that believed violence (sacrifice) saves. (This implies the early disciples never got the point of the resurrection, which is Jesus's culminating statement about the truth of humanity.)

The emphasis on Jesus as the first thought can free us from those images and allows us to focus on God’s overflowing love. This love is the very life of the Trinity and spills over into creation, grace, Incarnation, and final flourishing and fulfillment.

What a difference this makes for our relationship with God! We are invited into this divine dance. Life and love, not suffering and death, become the core of our spirituality and our morality. 

“In the beginning was the Word...and the Word became flesh.” Alleluia! 

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I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about these two very different views of Jesus.  They almost mandate two very different views of Church and priestly ministry.  We've had 17 centuries of the atonement Jesus and have wound up with a very dysfunctional church in the twenty first century.  Maybe it's time we organized around the Johanine view of Jesus and put atonement Jesus on the back burner.  The truth is the Church has very little to lose, and might just regain it's soul.



 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Cardinal Wuerl Swings Away---And Strikes Out

Here's a fine photo of Cardinal Wuerl swinging away and blowing a bunch of hot air.


Cardinal Wuerl has taken up his bat and tennis racket in order to defend the bishops' teaching authority against theologians the likes of Sr Elizabeth Johnson.  That is, when he is not claiming the bishops are also the referees:

“In an sporting match, football, tennis, baseball, there are referees and umpires. The game can proceed with the supervision of a referee. In a tennis match, it is not the player who calls the ball ‘out of bounds’ but the referee. The player may object that it was not his or her intention to hit the ball out of bounds. He or she may even question whether the ball is out of bounds. But it is the referee who must make the call. Otherwise, there can be no coherent game, no enjoyent of the match, no sense of progress in learning the sport; in short, the ‘tennis game’ would devolve into a fruitless exchange of individuals hitting the ball.” (Real theologians use spell check.)

I hate to tell him this, but in tennis side judges make in/out of bounds calls, and players appeal to the referee to have them overturned. Sometimes these referees even use pesky instant replay to reverse a poor call.  They do the same thing in baseball, hockey, basketball, and football.  Maybe Wuerl is so busy writing letters on behalf of America's bishops he hasn't been able to keep current with modern refereeing.  In any event, this was a really lousy analogy.  I can see where he might have wanted to stay away from the Inquisition analogy even though this concept of refereeing is far closer to what Wuerl and company are actually engaged in.


This whole letter was kind of mind boggling to me.  Wuerl maintains the bishops have to step in and make sure theologians whose books are used in classrooms are writing authentic Catholic theology--whatever that is.  I suspect he means authentic Catholic catechetics because he blames the poor catechetics of Catholics since the 70's as being the reason the bishops need to be a little more Torquemada like, and quite a bit less Jesus like.  Hmmmmm, but the problem is our bishops, most of them appointed during the wasteland time of catchesis were in charge of that wasteland of catechesis.  Maybe Wuerl has been watching too much EWTN, since that's one of their favorite shiboleths.  He really might be better off watching more ESPN.  At least his sporting analogies might hold more water.


I wonder if Wuerl popped off on his own initiative or if he actually is speaking for bishops other than himself. I can see where this letter might appeal to a certain subset of bishops, bishops whose handle on their own authority is fragile.  I don't think Wuerl fits into this category.  After all this is the same man who accepted a Vatican approved set of knives to stick in Archbishop Hunthausen's back.  This was back in the catechetical wasteland of the eighties when that kind of treatment of one's fellow bishop was apparently not only acceptable, but mandated by John Paul the Great Enabler--also under the guise of protecting the purity of SOME Catholic teaching.  The teaching about the immorality of nuclear weapons was not one of those teachings.  St Ronnie Reagan was not happy about Hunthausen preaching that particular teaching--an actual teaching of Hunthausen's fellow American bishops---and the Great Enabler was happy to oblige St Ronnie by sending in Wuerl and his knives, in exchange for a few million shekels for his Polish effort.  This was an amount which was probably no where near the cost of one nuclear warhead.  

It all did help communism though, so I guess this proves God can make lemonade out of a real lemon of a situation.  Even the worst of Donald Wuerl can be used by God to accomplish great things.  I wonder what God will make of Wuerl's latest foray into personal clerical advancement because that is what this letter really seems to be about.  It sure doesn't carry believable justification for attacking a prominent American theologian from way 'out in left field'.  But then nothing from our two most recent Cardinal appointees --Burke and Wuerl--surprises me anymore.  Between the two of them they demonstrate virtually everything that's wrong with our current leadership--and there is so much wrong, it takes two to demonstrate it all.  At least Benedict got that right.





Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Vatican Will Connect Face To Face With Catholic Bloggers----And I Get To Blog About It


Right after the Beatification of JPII, Rome is holding a conference for Catholic bloggers.  The hope is that many will be in town for the Beatification of JPII and can stay over a day or two to interact with Vatican officials.  One of the lucky 150 to be formally invited is Philomena Ewing, author of Blue Eyed Ennis.  Her blog is linked on the sidebar of this blog.  It's fun to think someone whose work I admire and appreciate will actually be in attendance.  I look forward to reading her posts about her experience, but until that happens, there is the following from Fr. James Martin of America's bloggers:

Teach us to blog
Fr. James Martin - America- 4/14/2011

The Vatican is hosting a blog conference.  Sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Culture and Social Communications, the invitation-only meeting, scheduled for May 2, will “allow for a dialogue between bloggers and Church representatives, to listen to the experiences of those who are actively involved in this arena, and to achieve a greater understanding of the needs of that community,” said the council in a statement.

 Not a moment too soon.  The Catholic blogosphere is an immensely powerful tool for evangelization. The best blogs point Catholics to news items that might be otherwise overlooked, to resources that might be underappreciated and to personal stories from Catholic individuals that can inspire, challenge and provoke.  At its worst, though, the Catholic blogosphere is an arena for a self-appointed magisterium to engage in snarky commentary, judge without evidence and condemn with nary a thought for a person’s reputation.  One wonders when reading these condemnations: I seem to have missed the conclave that elected you as pope.  Or: When were you appointed to the CDF?  Some Catholic blogs are also so vituperative that they barely seem Christian, and hardly present a good public face for the church.  Who would want to join such a group?  What’s more, a few bloggers seem solely interested in “inside-baseball” Catholicism (I'm guilty of this myself sometimes), which the Pontifical Council has noted. “One of the things we are a little bit aware of is that sometimes the Catholic blogosphere can become a bit of a ghetto…rather than engaging in the world outside,” said Richard Rouse, an official from the Pontifical Council.

So two good goals for Catholics bloggers (and for us here at "In All Things" of course!): Engage the world outside, be charitable to the world inside.  Actually vice versa is pretty good advice as well.


************************************

Now for the take of another of America's bloggers, Austen Ivereigh, who will undoubtedly be in attendance at said conference.  This is taken from a comment he wrote to Fr Jim's article, and this link will take you to his own blog thoughts on the topic.

For an vivid example of what Fr Jim means, see the comments under a sensible piece by William Oddie at the Catholic Herald in the UK:

http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/commentandblogs/2011/04/13/should-there-be-a-guild-of-catholic-bloggers-and-would-it-be-dominated-by-%E2%80%98taliban-catholics%E2%80%99/

A furious gathering of pharisees and Torquemadas, each rushing to be purer than the other. Oddie quite rightly asks them, as Fr Jim does: who appointed you to the CDF? (Ivereigh is not exaggerating.  The comments after Odie's article are classic 'we eat our dead' conservative Catholicism.)

What's missing is an obvious ecclesiological point. The principal purpose of the Magisterium is to resolve disputes and debates over purity and orthodoxy, precisely in order that Catholics can move together as a single body and evangelise the outside world.

When people label each other "dissenters" they are arrogating that role to themselves. It is perfectly reasonable to challenge people to consider whether they are putting across views which reflect settled church teaching - but not to excoriate them as dissenters. Only the Magisterium (mostly exercised through the ordinary jurisdiction of bishops) can and should do this.

One interesting irony of the rise of the Jansenism in the blogosphere is the way that the Vatican is now seeking to claim back the role that some have tried to wrest from them.

And speaking of Jansenists, it's good to recall the words a bishop used of them in eighteenth-cenyury France: "pure as angels, proud as devils".

Let's hope that in Rome the bloggers - who include many intelligent, thoughtful people who care about the Church - agree some rules for civility, charity, and  (why not?) Christianity.






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I'm sort of surprised the Vatican is branching out into the wild and whooly world of blogging, but maybe Austen Ivereigh has it correct, and the Vatican is beginning to understand it's the world of conservative Catholic blogging that is defining Catholic teaching and presenting the most visible face of the Church.  And it's not always a pretty face.  In fact, it can be a down right ugly face, and too much of the time the 'true teachings' are not.  Infallibility does not cover every act and thought mankind has conceived of or ever will conceive.  Telling us it does, to end conversations one is losing, is not the best use of blogging capabilities.


I have learned a lot about the Church, it's history, legal system, and traditions that were never covered in any of my theology classes.  The best blogs can do that for people.  Catholicism is a huge topic, and huge topics are what keep bloggers blogging.  It's kept me going for almost four years, and probably will for a whole lot more.  At their best, good blogs build interactive communities.  They allow for quiet lurkers or more interaction, which makes blogs different from reading a book or participating in a class.  Some blogs I read religiously and rarely comment, while others I comment on all the time, but I appreciate them all equally.


Some of the commenting about this upcoming conference speculates that the Vatican will send the message that real Catholic blogs will teach the real Vatican approved Catholic message, but they will ask that it be done in a less righteous and condemning manner.  Good luck with that.  

I think part of the problem with blogging in general is that writers have their own voices and blogging is not a method of writing that tends to foster self censoring or much in the way of grammatical editing.  This is especially true for commenting where too often emotion leads and rational thinking gets left in the dust.  For many bloggers the voice we hear in our heads is not the way it comes out in print. Same thing with humor.  It's really difficult to pull humor off with out it sounding cynical or snarky.  I tend to be very aware of all of that now if only because I've made some spectacular mistakes.  This is not to say I always get it right, but I am much much better. Now when I come across as snarky, it's usually because I intend to come across as snarky.  

There actually is a craft to blogging but it's one that is still in it's developmental stage.  I'd like to be going to Rome just to hang out with some other bloggers and get their perspectives on the craft part of this blogging thing rather than the theological part.  I think if more bloggers got the craft part down there would be a much better over all feel to the whole enterprise.  In the meantime the process continues to develop and Phil gets to go to Rome.  My prayers go with her and it's great to know at least one more progressive blogger will get to rub shoulders with the American Papist's and Anchoress's of the Catholic blogging world.





Saturday, April 16, 2011

Words Of Explanation From An Incestuous Narcissistic Pedophile Bishop


Belgiums' Bishop Roger Vangheluwe, another one of Catholicism's narcissistic pedophile 'leaders'.  When will this end?

 

Belgian bishop admits abusing second nephew

 By Raf Casert - 3news.co.NZ - 4/15/2011


A former Belgian bishop at the centre of one of the Roman Catholic church's biggest paedophile scandals says that he abused two nephews and insisted he had no plans to abandon the priesthood.

In his first television interview since the scandal broke a year ago, Roger Vangheluwe claimed he paid one nephew he abused for years tens of thousands of euros in support, but denied it was meant to keep him silent.
He called 13 years of sexual abuse of one nephew which started at age 5 as no more than "a little piece of intimacy". He said the abuse of a second nephew was very short. (One wonders if it was just 'a little piece of intimacy' why he paid thousands of dollars for it.)

He said he fully realised what he did was wrong, and often went to confession about it. The 74-year-old Vangheluwe resigned a year ago, just as the sex abuse scandal was spreading across Europe.

The acknowledgment of more abuse and his attempts to minimise its impact immediately caused an outcry. Vangheluwe said the 13-year abuse of his nephew "started as, I would call it, a game. And in fact it never went much beyond that," he told VT4 network.

"I had the strong impression that my nephew didn't mind at all. To the contrary," he said. "It was not brutal sex," Vangheluwe said. "I never used bodily, physical violence."

Walter Van Steenbrugge, the lawyer for the nephew, responded by saying that "knowing what happened, I want to ask him what he then understands to be brutal sex". He also denied Vangheluwe's claim that he paid the victim €25,000 several times over. (Apparently only sexual activity which inflicts pain on him.)

Justice Minister Stefaan De Clercq said in a statement the church authorities "had to take measures to stop the irresponsible behaviours of the former bishop". (Uhmmmm, these are criminal behaviors.)

"It is a slap in the face of his victims and all victims," De Clercq said.
Carina Van Cauter, of the parliamentary committee into sexual abuse, said Vangheluwe "tries to turn his victims into culprits. He throws salt in their wounds".

Vangheluwe complained in the hour-long VT4 interview that the church was targeted in abuse probes, and that other sectors like sports organisations were let off too easily. (Athletes don't claim to function 'in persona christi'.)

"Why is it different for priests than for other situations. Why should the church pay compensation and there is no compensation in other professions," he said. "The church should not be pushed in a special corner."
During the interview, Vangheluwe sat relaxed, sometimes had a smile dancing on his lips, a twinkle in his eye and shook his shoulders while trying to minimise his abuse.

He said that despite acknowledging the abuse, he would never willingly forsake his priesthood. He said he had made his vows and he would "not break them".

Vangheluwe was Belgium's longest-serving bishop when the scandal broke and was forced to admit he had abused his nephew, now in his early 40s, for years and even after becoming a bishop in 1984.
He said it started out at crowded family gatherings when lodgings were so cramped he had to sometimes share a bed with a child. "There was a moment when we were alone and it was almost a habit that it happened then," he said of the abuse.  (The minimizing of his behavior gets tedious, but this is a classic example of the behavior of a narcissistic pedophile.)

Vangheluwe said it ended when the nephew told him years later "rather forcefully" to stop it.
The abuse of the second nephew also happened in "the early period" when he had to share bunks "and it also happened a little bit"
.
A few years later the most of the family knew it.
Earlier this week, the Vatican used its new rules to crack down on sex abuse by high-ranking churchmen by ordering Vangheluwe to no longer work as a priest while officials determine his punishment.

Over the weekend, Belgian bishops reported that Vangheluwe had merely been sent outside the country for spiritual and psychological counselling. (And to avoid embarrassing criminal prosecution---a la Cardinal Law.)

The interview was set up in a secret location somewhere along the Loire river known for its grand chateaux and superb gardens in central France.
Sex abuse victims accuse the church of letting off the hook bishops who molested minors and see Vangheluwe's fate as a prime example.
Pope Benedict XVI will eventually decide his fate.   He could be stripped of his priesthood.  (This just makes me so mad.  Could be stripped of his priesthood? Odds are he will never be stripped of his priesthood.)


************************************************

This is instructive to read because it exemplifies classic narcissistic thinking.  Actually, now that I think about it, only a real narcissist would give an hour length television interview under these circumstances. They really can't help themselves.  Lawyers hate defending narcissists for this reason, and I would not want to be put in a position where I had to defend this particular bishop in a court of real law--as opposed to the court of Canon Law.  I suspect if Vangheluwe had had access to his nieces the way he did his nephews, this might be a slightly different story.  We might be talking about his children as well as his sexual proclivities.

The one sentence that really gets to me is this one: "He said he fully realizes what he did was wrong and often went to confession about it."  My instinct is to think these kinds of confessions were more about having a safe place to brag about his activity rather than any real confession.  It certainly didn't change his behavior.  That didn't happen until his nephew threatened him.  I also find it hard to believe all the money he 'spent' on his nephew, wasn't just as much about keeping his nephew quiet as it was getting the nephew help.

I have written on numerous occasions that the priesthood as it's currently configured is a magnet for narcissists of varying stripes.  In point of fact, the way all our denominations are set up are magnets for narcissists.  They all provide a stage, a willing and motivated class of followers, and a theology of control and domination.  As long as Catholics tolerate the notion of 'self appointment' under the guise of 'being called to a vocation', we will continue to be afflicted with narcissistic leadership, and a fairly significant subset of those narcissists will be sexual abusers.  The seminary system is not designed to weed out narcissism.  If anything it's designed to confuse narcissism with charisma and there by reward narcissistic behavior.  Although the two are often present in the same individual, they are not the same.  Confusing them can be a monstrous mistake and can in fact lead to a narcissistic pedophile becoming a bishop, or in the case of Austria's Groer, a cardinal, or in the case of Maciel, 'an efficacious guide for youth'.  With the priest shortage the way it is, there is no motivation to correct this tendency.  

It's sad to say, but I know we will see more Vangheluwe's in Catholicisms' future.  That will be the saddest legacy of this current clerical abuse scandal:   That the clerical power brokers couldn't or wouldn't change the system and the abuse continued while the pews emptied.



Thursday, April 14, 2011

An Archbishop Talks Straight Marriage----And It's Not Very Pastoral Either

Archbishop Sheehan of Santa Fe needs to think about the fact the woman in the background didn't get the marriage thing right at first.  And God said it was good.


I read Jamie Mansons' latest post with a great deal of interest because she describes a letter from Archbishop Michael Sheehan of Santa Fe which seemed sort of out of character for Sheehan.  Archbishop Sheehan was the bishop who stated during the Notre Dame/Obama fiasco that a majority of US bishops disagreed with the combative tactics of some of their brothers.  His was a very rare critical voice during that time frame.  So I decided I would look up his actual pastoral letter, which was apparently read in all parishes, in order to ascertain if Jamie was off base, or if Archbishop Sheehan was channeling a different Sheehan.  The following are the six main points he deals with when it comes to shacking up, civil marriage, and divorce and remarriage without an annulment: 

Christ our Lord loves all these people and wishes to save them - not by ignoring their sin, or calling evil good, but by repentance and helping them to change their lives in accordance with His teaching. We, as His Church, must do the same. In accord with this, I would remind you of the following:

1. People in the above three situations cannot receive the Sacraments, with the important exception of those who agree to live chastely (“as brother and sister”) until their situation is regularized. Of course, those in danger of death are presumed to be repentant. (The ultimate escape clause for poor pastoral teaching. When you are on death's door you are presumed to agree with us, so you are forgiven.)

2. These people may not be commissioned as Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, not only because of scandal, but even more because one commits the sin of sacrilege by administering a Sacrament in the state of mortal sin.  (We have a lot of priests and bishops committing sacrilege rather than just saying Mass,)

3. Nor are such people to be admitted to the role of sponsor for Baptism or Confirmation, as is clearly stated on the Archdiocesan Affidavit for a Sponsor. It is critical for the sponsor to be a practicing Catholic - and can anyone be seriously called a practicing Catholic who is not able to receive the sacraments because they are living in sin? (No, but I guess one can be considered a serious priest or bishop.)

4. When it comes to other parish ministries and organizations, I feel it best to leave these situations to the judgment of the pastor. Prudence is needed, avoiding all occasions of scandal. We must see their involvement in the parish as an opportunity to work urgently to bring such people to repentance and the regularization of their lifestyle. (Oh, if only we laity were given permission from our bishops to take the same license with our clerical caste.)

5. Many of these sins are committed out of ignorance. I ask that our pastors preach on the gravity of sin and its evil consequences, the 6th and 9th Commandments of God, and the sacramental nature and meaning of Christian marriage. Our catechetical programs in our parishes - children, youth, and adult – must clearly and repeatedly teach these truths. (They are opinions formulated over time, starting in the twelfth century.)

A Church wedding does not require some lavish spectacle and entertainment costing vast sums of money (Indeed, how often we have seen the most costly weddings end in divorce in but a few months or years!). While beauty and joy should surround a Christian wedding, we must remind everyone that it is a sacrament, not a show. (This is all true, maybe Catholicism should consider the 'moonie' solution. It would save everybody a lot of money.)

6. Those who are married outside the Church because of a previous union are urged to seek an annulment through our Marriage Tribunal. If it can be found that the first marriage lacked some essential quality for a valid marriage, the Tribunal can grant an annulment. Your pastor can help someone start a marriage case for this purpose. It is important for such couples to continue to pray and get to Mass even though they may not receive Communion, until their marriage can be blest in the Church. (What difference does this make if one has already been more or less consigned to hell for living in a state of 'perpetual' sin.)

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I guess Jamie was right and Archbishop Sheehan is channeling a different version of himself.  Perhaps he needed to prove to his brother bishops that he was at least on board with their marriage crusade.  At least he didn't attack gays, and he actually put the onus on straights.  That alone puts him on the margins of the USCCB.  It's so much easier to attack those silent closeted gays, than all those openly divorced straight couples with their mixed families of children.


On the other hand, just in numbers alone, these Church teachings on divorce and marriage have far greater impact on the pews than the teachings on gay marriage.  I'm sure there was more than one priest that really really wished he didn't have to read this letter to his flock.  Most of these six points have been ignored for decades by most priests.  I can think of at least a half a dozen couples who went through  pre cana classes in a state of mortal sin and went to the altar in the same state. Does that invalidate their Catholic wedding by making it a sacrilegious event?  


There is a difference between teaching and dictating.  Jesus taught, the Church dictates.  Jesus stated pretty obvious facts like the one about a man committing adultery in his heart when he lustfully looks at another woman.  Any therapist can tell you that for most people, that is indeed a fact and one of the early steps to a failed relationship with one's current spouse.  If this kind of thing is truly mortally sinful, it's not because of the sexual connotation, it's because it violates a sacred relationship.  Hence Jesus also talks about hardness of heart as the reason for Moses allowing divorce. Jesus said nothing about hardness of penis', but the Church takes this teaching about relationship and love, and turns it into a whole host of dictatorial doctrines about correct sex and where to put aroused genitalia.  And these dictates have had a harm ratio that is far more devastating for women and children especially when they are coupled with Catholicism's dictates on gender roles.

I keep wondering why it is that the hierarchy has insisted that people be perfect Catholics before they can access the sacraments. (except for priests)  I've come to the conclusion they don't believe sacramental grace actually works the way Jesus said it would, as balm for healing souls and hearts.  I suspect this failure to believe and trust has an awful lot to do with the fact that in their dictated sacramental lives it doesn't work for them.  And then things get all convoluted and the assumption is it won't work for laity either,  unless laity are living perfect Catholic lives, and then it doesn't matter if it doesn't work.  By definition no one would ever know the difference. Sinners because they can't test sacramental truth, and faithful perfect Catholics because it wouldn't matter if nothing happened.

This is so different from Native tradition in which Native healers expect their prayers and ceremonies to be reality tested.  Apparently Catholicism is above and beyond any kind of reality testing.  No wonder it's getting so unreal.





 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Point/Counter Point

No question who ultimately has the claws in the following discussion.


Today's post is a little long, but it's a great read.  Both of these opinion pieces are taken in full from the Australian journal Swag.  The first is by Fr. Eric Hodgens, a priest of a more progressive bent.  The second is the orthodox response from Cardinal Pell of Sydney.  These two men are generational contemporaries with vastly different experiences with in the Church since their ordination.  They also live in two very different worlds, with two very different interpretations of Catholic history since Vatican II.

Reflections on an Ordination Golden Anniversary

 By Eric Hodgens - Swag -December, 2010

We are the Gaudium et Spes priests. We went into the seminary at the highest rate in living memory. We were ordained between 1955 and 1975 – in double the numbers our parishes required. Most of us were from the Silent Generation with a few years of Baby Boomers at the end. We took Vatican II to heart.
We changed from being priests called and consecrated by God to being presbyters called and ordained by the Church – the People of God.

Ecumenism became a normal way of thinking for us. Prepared for the challenge by Cardijn’s apostolate of like to like, we were successful at educating a newly vital and active laity. We worked with the people rather than for them. We realised that clericalism was an evil, not a good, and discarded it with its style and culture. We ran highly successful and active parishes. Though ageing now, many of us are still on the job. Our presbyteral and pastoral lives have been a source of that unusual experience – joy.

But not without grief. We have experienced the awakening 60s, the exciting 70s, the suspicious 80s, the depressing 90s and the imploding 00s. During the 1980s we became aware that a lot was going wrong. Ordinations suddenly dropped after 1975. We started to lose parishioners – first from Mass then from affiliation. Both of these changes had mixed social causes.

Worse! Discordant decisions were coming down from the pope. Priestly celibacy, despite being highly contentious, was reasserted by Paul VI in 1967 without discussion. In 1968 Humanae Vitae was a shocking disappointment. Most of us never accepted it. Paul VI began appointing bishops opposed to the council’s ethos. This was most notable in Holland which had become a trailblazer in implementing the council. Paul killed that initiative and we are all the worse off for that. The whole trend was demoralizing.
(Unless you live through those two decisions, it's almost impossible to describe the effect they had on the Church. One killed reform for the priesthood, and the other killed any hope of a sensible sexual morality for the laity.)
 
Then came John Paul II. Charismatic in front of the TV camera; brilliant at languages; but – out of touch in scripture and limited in theology, a bad listener and rock solid is his self-assessment as God’s chosen man of destiny. His whole life had been spent in the persecuted church of Poland with its fortress church mentality frozen in time.

The open dialogue of the Church with the new ideas and values arising out of new knowledge in scriptural criticism, theology, psychology, sociology, anthropology stopped. New scientific discoveries in genetics were treated with suspicion and their application usually condemned. Sexual mores were promoted to the top shelf of his panorama of sin – a bit of an obsession with him. (JPII was something of a sexual Jansenist--hence the personal flogging.)

Power corrupts. The history of the papacy shows this pre-eminently. Unchecked potentates believe their own propaganda. Taken to the extreme, they claim infallibility. Pius IX bullied Vatican I into institutionalizing such a claim. Since then creeping infallibility has resulted in the pope and his theologically limited curia stealing the term “magisterium” from its real owners – the college of professional theologians. How can you conscientiously give assent of mind and heart to policies formed without theological debate, consultation, transparency or accountability? In contemporary government and business this would be judged unethical.

John Paul’s lust for power showed very early and was taken to monumental proportions. Accountable to nobody, John Paul moved against any opinion other than his own and removed many exponents of alternative opinions from teaching and publishing. His most powerful enforcer was the Ratzinger-led Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF). Other Roman dicasteries joined the campaign.

The CDF is the current euphemism for the Inquisition. True to its mediaeval roots, it assumes the pope to be entitled to enforce his views. It conducts its delations and proceedings in secret. In today’s secular world this is a violation of human rights.

Theological censorship justifies itself as the quest for the truth and poses as truth’s champion. In fact it is the enemy of the discovery of truth because discussion is forestalled. The contemporary secular world understands this and wisely enshrines freedom of speech and debate as a central value. The Church no less than any other enterprise is at least the poorer and at worst prone to error when it rejects this value.

All of us are abused by this process. The priest at the coal face is not consulted, yet is contemptuously expected to defend policies he and his people do not believe.

John Paul II also enforced much of his own devotional life on the church at large. Despite Vatican II he effectively stopped the third rite of Penance, reversed a burgeoning dynamic theology of Eucharist by reverting to and re-emphasising devotion to the static Real Presence, reinforced a distorted devotion to Mary based on fundamentalist theology and introduced peculiar devotions such as Sr. Faustina’s Divine Mercy Devotion which undercuts Easter – the climax of our liturgical year.

A more grievous abuse of power by John Paul II was his appointment of bishops. Appointees were to be clerical, compliant and in total agreement with his personal opinions. This has emasculated the leadership of the Church. The episcopal ranks are now low on creativity, leadership, education and even intelligence. Many are from the ranks of Opus Dei – reactionary, authoritarian and decidedly not creative. Many, often at the top of the hierarchical tree, are embarrassingly ignorant of any recent learning in scripture, theology and scientific disciplines. Many are classic company boys. Some of the more intelligent and better educated seem to have sold their souls for advancement. Can they really believe the line they channel? Ecclesiastical politics have trumped integrity. And when these men are appointed as the leaders of priests without any consultation they become a standing act of contempt.

Worse still, this happened over a period when the priesthood held its biggest proportion of intelligent, educated and competent leaders. It was those very qualities which blackballed them for appointment under the blinkered but powerful regime. Our best chance has been missed. Today the ranks of the priesthood are depleted due to low recruitment over the last forty years. The pool from which future bishops must be chosen is very shallow.

A newly critical laity questions policy but receives no answers. Why can’t women be leaders in the Church? Why do priests have to be celibate? What is wrong with contraception? Why alienate remarried divorcees? Why this salacious preoccupation with sexual mores? Why are scientific advances always suspected of being bad? Why can’t we recognise the reality of homosexual orientation – and the social consequences of that recognition? Have we learnt nothing from the Galileo case – or the treatment of Teilhard de Chardin? Can’t we escape the Syllabus of Errors mentality?

Benedict XVI has continued the reversal of Vatican II. He is imposing a new English translation of the Sacramentary on a resisting English speaking constituency. This may very well backfire because many priests are not going to implement it. Benedict has received back bishops from the schismatic Society of St Pius X. He has encouraged the Tridentine Mass in Latin. He has reintroduced kneeling for communion on the tongue at his public Masses – all deliberate key pointers to regression from the spirit of Vatican II. To the priests who embraced Vatican II they are iconic insults.

Then he has the nerve to decree a Year for Priests in 2009 with St John Vianney as patron. Like Fr. Donald Cozzens, many felt they were being played. The celebration of the importance of priests in the church is belied by the contempt with which they are treated. How can Rome call priests to repentance when it is so recalcitrant; so slow to admit any failing of its own? How can they be serious in stressing the importance of the priest as confessor when it is clear that confession has all but vanished from the life of the Church? How can they urge Holy Hours and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament when most priests have moved on from that static theology of Eucharist to a dynamic one – with Vatican II leading the way? How can they urge priests to more intense prayer when they show no evidence of a change of heart or attitude – the genuine indicator that prayer is working?

We took as normal the world and the church into which we were ordained. In reality, the religious affiliation of the period was abnormally high. Mass and sacramental participation and priestly vocations were at a high water mark. The reversal which began in the late 60s was always going to happen. But with Vatican II we had the tools to handle the new situation. A large group of the priests were ready to meet the challenge. They did not get the chance. The orders from above were to withdraw to the fortress and sing the old song. Instead of embracing the new they lost the opportunity and left us high and dry – and disappointed.

In the western world priests still always rate highly in job satisfaction surveys. They generally enjoy their job and do it well. That is because they are happy in their own patch. But they feel betrayed by the pope and the bishops. If you ask them what they think about the powers up top and where the official show is going you get a very different answer.

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Some Gaudium and No Spes

By Cardinal George Pell - Swag - April, 2011

Recently I have been concerned by the theological extremism of some Swag contributions, and am grateful for the opportunity to state the case for the orthodox mainstream. I am not ordering anyone to “withdraw to the fortress and sing the old song”, but my best lines are still from the New Testament with its ancient truths and melodies. Eric sees himself now as “a presbyter called and ordained by the Church – the People of God” rather than as “a priest called and consecrated by God”. It is difficult to know exactly what this means, but it might point us to a number of fundamental issues. (There is a huge difference between these two views of priestly calling.)

More cards have been laid on the table than in Father Hodgens’ earlier writings. While it would be interesting to know whether he still has any jokers up his sleeve, it is more important to recognize that many of the cards cannot be identified accurately. We do not know, for example, his answers to the nine questions he lists. We do not know the limits to his hostility to some ancient devotions such as adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and veneration of Our Lady. We do not know whether his opposition to the papacy and episcopate touches these institutions themselves or simply the style of recent incumbents. So too with priesthood and traditional Christian teaching on marriage, divorce and sexuality.

We cannot be sure whether Eric’s theological position is typical of a liberal or a radical Protestantism. But as an exercise in loyal dissent it moves beyond the limits of orthodox Catholicism.

Let me attempt to state the issue in the most basic terms.
We find no evidence in Eric’s article that the Catholic Church is the recipient of divine revelation, “God’s message not some human thinking” (1 Thess 2.13); nor that the Catholic Church was founded by the Son of God “the Word who was with God . . . the Word who was God” (Jn 1.1), Jesus the Christ, the son of Mary with a divine as well as a human nature. If Christ is divine, New Testament teachings have a unique authority.
Eric writes with the genuine anguish of most of us older Catholics who grew up at an unusually high tide of faith and practice and lived through the radical decline which followed the social revolution of the 1960s in the First World. But some of the damage was self-inflicted.

One major point of difference is that in my view Eric’s prescriptions are a significant cause of our problems. His solutions were put into practice after the Council, to some degree in Australia, but especially in Belgium, Holland and French-speaking Canada. They emptied the Churches there. (This is far far too simplistic.  JPII's crackdown had a great deal to do with the emptying of the churches, but as Fr. Hodgens notes, there were more variables to this trend than solely the decisions of the Vatican.)

Pope Paul VI appointed no bishops who were opposed to the ethos of Vatican II, and for various reasons the good bishops appointed in Holland were overwhelmed, tossed aside by the liberal gales. This brings me to another contemporary fact, which I never anticipated as a young seminarian in Rome during the Council or as a young priest. The now aged liberal wing of the Church, which dominated discussion after the Council and often the bishops and the emerging Church bureaucracies, has no following among young practising Catholics, priests or religious. This is not only true in Australia, but everywhere in the Western world. In these different countries dominated by a secular media and intelligentsia, liberalism has no young Catholic progeny. (This depends on how one defines affiliation.  I know a ton of young people who are truly Catholic in spirit but not in practice.)

On reflection we should not find this surprising, as growth is tied to Gospel fidelity, to faith, love and sacrifice. After Vatican II many of us overestimated our cultural strengths and underestimated the virulence of anti-Christian forces. You need strong Christian foundations to participate productively in “open dialogue”. Without these roots the end of the road is agnosticism. (Or a long period of redefining one's relationship to God which often includes a period of agnosticism.)

I should conclude with a few words in defence of the four popes who were mauled, especially Paul, John Paul II and Benedict. Incidentally it is a matter of historical record that at the 1971 Synod of Bishops, Pope Paul offered to the bishops the option of ordaining married men to the priesthood and the bishops declined to accept this. (Cardinal Pell only references three popes.  Maybe he included himself as the fourth--a freudian slip of sorts.)

All three popes were prolific writers, while John Paul II and Benedict were professional academics with a record of scholarly and popular publications rarely if ever equalled by any Australian priest. I believe Pope Benedict is now our most distinguished living theologian.

The charges against the Holy Father do not amount to too much e.g. instituting a special year to honour priests (which was well received by priests and people), continuing with a new translation of the Roman Missal, and encouraging the Tridentine Mass to be celebrated. He did not receive back the bishops of the Society of St. Pius X, but only lifted their excommunication. They are still in schism. (Hodgens doesn't imply they were fully brought back within the fold as he calls them schismatic bishops.)

Pope John Paul provokes a special hostility, allegedly an abuser of power, out of touch in scripture, limited in theology, a bad listener. It is a surprise that anyone came to his funeral. In particular he is denounced for emasculating the leadership of the Church, who are clerical and compliant, “low on creativity, leadership, education and even intelligence”. (That is a funny sentence.)

In an astonishing example of provincial arrogance, Hodgens claims that “the more intelligent and better educated” bishops (only “some” to be sure) are corrupt and have sold their soul for advancement. Me thinks he protests too much. (Actually I do too.  But I also think some have sold their soul for advancement.  Ahemmm.)

Pope John Paul and Pope Benedict were not hostile to intelligence, education or competence, but they have striven regularly to appoint bishops who will defend the apostolic tradition and strive to implement policies which will strengthen the Catholic position, not white-ant it.

Hodgens’ misunderstanding of the magisterium is typical of his position. The magisterium refers primarily to the teaching authority of the pope together with the bishops (Vatican II’s collegiality). The baptised faithful share in this and so do the theologians with priests and religious. (No we laity and lower clergy do not share in the JPII version of magisterium.  We can only give assent.)

Certainly the teaching authority of the bishops was recognized early by St. Ignatius of Antioch (+107 A.D.) and St Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons (+200 A.D.) with his apostolic succession lists of bishops to defend the apostolic tradition. The ancient teaching chair of the bishop exemplifies this, predating by many centuries any groups of professional theologians in the medieval universities. In Pope John Paul’s 27 years of pontificate 24 individuals were disciplined for their theological views, including eight who were silenced or removed, in the worldwide Catholic community of more than one billion believers. Father Hodgens himself escaped any reign of terror and so did many hundreds of dissidents.

Eric is a bit too generous to his generation, to which I belong. Many were formidable, but we coincided with a period of decline probably unparalleled since the Reformation. (This also coincided with the biggest information explosion ever.  Not one iota of our understanding of the world or humanity itself was left untouched, and that includes spirituality and religion.)

“Reflections on an ordination golden anniversary” is thought provoking. I am glad Father Hodgens has enjoyed his years of priesthood. Unfortunately much of the analysis is mistaken since his solutions, to the extent we can identify them, are less than Catholic and would make a difficult situation worse. (How can it get worse?)

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These two missives are intriguing to juxtapose against each other.  There are a lot of areas of contention, but I want to point to just one that Hodgens brought up twice, and Pell ignores.  That's this one referencing JPII:
 
"reversed a burgeoning dynamic theology of Eucharist by reverting to and re-emphasising devotion to the static Real Presence."
 
For me personally, this drive to put Jesus back in the Tabernacle and out of our mere human hands is the push that I think needs push back.  Nothing made Vatican II come alive like live laity touching the consecrated host with our own hands or receiving from the hands of other laity. Nothing lifted the laity in any symbolic sense like this one aspect.  We may have still been unworthy for Jesus to enter under our roofs, but we no longer had to cut a hole in the roof for access.  Jesus became a tangible presence, with no artificial boundaries.  He was no longer a prisoner of His tabernacle keepers.  It was a seriously mind altering change, a relationship changer not just with Jesus, but with the Church itself.  
 
Many people really got this, but some people did not or could not.  Their relationship with Jesus needed Him to stay out of their hands and in His tabernacle box or monstrance or the ordained hands of a priest. These people piously say they are not worthy for such a thing as holding Jesus in their own hands, or that Jesus is too transcendent for such a thing,  but I tend think the kind of God they can hold in their hands is just not God enough for them.   
 
Cardinal Pell is one of those people and he is catering to those people.  He is hell bent on returning to all of us this God who can not be in our hands because that God is not God enough for Pell, just as the Jesus of lay hands is not God enough for Benedict.  For all the bluster about tradition's appeal to young people, it is really bluster about young people who need their God removed from human hands so that God can be worthy of their belief.  And Jesus weeps.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

"Wild Bill" Donahue Continues To Further The Bishops Policy Of Zero Credibility

As far as Us Catholicism is concerned, Wild Bill owns this award.  TEPCO owns Japan's.

I bet there are more than a few bishops who wonder if 'Wild Bill' isn't being paid by the 'other side' to keep their failures in the news. That he is in fact, a double agent.  This edited commentary is from the Seattle PI.  Seattle was part of the 166 million dollar Northwest Jesuit abuse settlement announced two weeks agoThat particular settlement was not about 'gay priests preying on teen age boys'.  Not by a long shot.
 

Catholic League: Shifting blame on sexual abuse
 By Joe Conelly - Seattle PI - 4/11/2011
 
The conservative, contentious Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights on Monday bought a full-page ad in the New York Times to attack “those who are distorting the truth about priestly sexual abuse.”
The lengthy letter from League president Bill Donohue argued, talking about priests:  “There is no other group in the U.S. which is subjected to such abuse.” (Bill, Barack Obama gets his share precisely because of the groups he is purported to represent.)

“What accounts for the relentless attacks on the Church?  Lets face it.  If its teachings were pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage and pro-women clergy, the dogs would have been called off years ago,” Donohue wrote.  (On the other hand Bill, if the bishops hadn't been caught moving sexual predators around like pieces on a chessboard, maybe these Church sex and gender teachings would be met with more credibility.)


The letter contrasts with recent expressions of repentance heard in the Seattle Archdiocese. A recent commentary at Seattle’s Jesuit-run St. Joseph Church talked of “a communal responsibility, a responsibility too often avoided in our culture and in our church.”.....

.....“Where would we all be, for instance, had not many voices, including those of victims and of people in the pews, spoken up and told the awful truth about clergy sexual abuse and the way the Church handled it, when speaking up was regarded by many as an act of disloyalty,” Fr. Michael Ryan, pastor of St. James Cathedral, said in a recent homily. (Fr Ryan also led the write in campaign to delay implementation of the new Mass translation.)
 
Donohue, by contrast, charged that “some are exploiting this issue for ideological and financial profit.”
(Bill, you are exhibit numero uno.)
 
He also took issue with allegations of widespread child rape from victims and their advocates.
“Lets get it straight — they weren’t children and they weren’t raped,” Donohue alleged.  “We know from the John Jay study that most of the victims have been adolescents, and that the most common abuse has been inappropriate touching (inexcusable though this is, it is not rape). (Bill, as an attorney,  you should know secular law determines what is and is not prosecutable sexual behavior and all of those acts you consider merely 'inexcusable' are also criminal.)

“The Boston Globe correctly said of the John Jay report that ‘more than three-quarters of the victims were post pubescent, meaning the abuse did not meet the clinical definition of pedophilia.’
“In other words, the issue is homosexuality, not pedophilia.” (Bill, you left out the part about the John Jay researchers stating the John Jay data did not prove the issue was homosexuality.  The vast majority of abusive priests claimed to be heterosexual. That would mean the issue must be heterosexuality as it's expressed in the Roman Catholic priesthood.)

He was referencing a 2004 study by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, which was paid for by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.”
Using the study,  Donohue argued that claims being litigated are “almost all old cases,” and that “most of the abuse occurred during the heyday of the sexual revolution, from the mid-1960′s to the mid-1980′s.
 (I suspect we might find that those acting as predators in the 60's - 80's were the prey of those clerics acting as predators in the 40's and 50's.  This issue is a generational family issue.)......


........But Donohue on Monday took aim at other critics, namely  The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP). He called it  “a professional victims’ group, dogmatic in their convictions, their hatred of the Catholic Church is palpable.” (Bill, you are a real piece of work.  I am truly beginning to wonder about your own childhood and what dark little secrets it might contain.)
 
The Catholic League is self-described as “the nation’s largest Catholic civil rights organization.”


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There are days I despair of sanity ever returning to religion or politics, but then I remember that when old energy pardigms are on their way out, those who live and die by those paradigms get fueled to even greater heights of mindless attack.  The fuel is fear.  Bill Donohue is either one scared man, or one well paid scared man.  In either case, he represents old energy screaming out it's death rattle.  I have to keep reminding myself that this kind of bigoted angst is really a good sign.  If Bill and his followers were secure in their version of truth, they wouldn't have to scream out their truth, they could just quietly live it.


Bishop Tobin of Rhode Island represents the other tactic taken by old energy--the appearance of reasonable compromise.  In his case it's about gay marriage.  He is now willing to concede some secular benefits to gay couples:

Tobin declined to elaborate on exactly which legal benefits and rights he thought unmarried couples should have—saying that’s a question for legal experts. “People deserve human rights whether or not they’re gay,” Tobin said. “Now the reciprocal benefits [bill] recognizes some rights and some privileges irrespective of their orientation and that’s the key I think.”

What Tobin is really saying is that whether people are gay or not, they deserve some secular rightsHe wishes us to think it's some sort of generous compassionate compromise for a Roman Catholic bishop to concede secular authority can give some rights to it's citizens--even if they are gay.  How generous of Bishop Tobin.  Tobin defines these rights as the same kinds of property and medical decision rights brothers and sisters might have for each other if they are living together or any other human living arrangement which may or may not include sex. Thank you Bishop Tobin for your immense generosity in giving away some secular benefits. As for gays and Catholicism, the closet is still operative which means gays as gay have no rights.  Maybe that has something to do with all those 'homosexual adolescent predators' of Wild Bill's imagination maintaining they are in fact, heterosexual adolescent predators.

One last observation, and this one has nothing to do with Roman Catholicism, but a lot to do with old energy paradigms.  The Japanese nuclear regulatory body has elevated the Fukushima Dai-ichi disaster to a level seven.  That makes it another Chernobyl like event.  The difference is only in the time frame necessary to release the required level of radioactive contaminant.  For four weeks I have sat back and been stupefied by the half truths given out by government agencies, news casters,  and supposed knowledgeable talking heads. Anyone who has worked in any kind of complicated chemical or nuclear plant knew that TEPCO was not going to be able to bring these four plants back on line.  All the babbling about bringing power back into the plants and how that was going to be the golden bullet was bull shit from the get go.  There was nothing left in the way of workable equipment in these plants for electrical power to bring back on line.  Control rooms do not pump water.  They monitor and control the system that do pump water. 

The powers that be knew all this. They also had to know it would be months and months before anything meaningful could be done to replace all the pumps, pipes, and valves because you can't replace these pumps in any kind of reasonable time frame when your mechanics can only work for fifteen minutes at a crack. The last four weeks have been a cruel exercise in manipulating hope with half truths.  Now we know the truth, and the Japanese people have every right to be furious with TEPCO and their government.  Eventually the truth always comes out, and yesterday it did.  Maybe now Japan can move forward because there is now no longer any reason to hold things up with half truths.  

In my personal opinion, the only real thing they could have done in the first week was to blow plants 1-4 into the ocean and then covered over the site.  The initial radiation dump would have been huge, but the fuel rods would have been very effectively separated and the reactions stopped.  The thing about radiation is once the critical level is reached in which life is no longer viable, it doesn't matter if that threshold was exceeded by a little or by a lot. Or if it happens from short term or long term exposure.  TEPCO chose the long term route and led us all down a path intended to obscure that fact and how damaging this disaster would really be.  Now the truth is out.  Maybe they can hire "Wild Bill' to argue their case.  He's pretty good at spinning half truths and no truths.







 
 




 

Monday, April 11, 2011

We Need Real Men To Protect Society And It's Women From Men Behaving Badly

Air Force Major General Margaret Woodward is the Commanding General of US Air Forces in Libya.  Yes, women have come a very long way in some traditional male endeavors.  Not so much in others.


The following is a comment in response to Fr. James Martin's article in America Magazine on the decision of Fr. Bourgeios not to be forced into lieing about his views on women and the Catholic priesthood.  It's a very fascinating response indeed.  Like any number of comments of this type, it doesn't really address any one issue Fr Martin covered in his article.  It takes off from one observation in Bourgeios' letter and then rockets into the stratosphere of male justification.  I have to admit I was impressed with the depth of this commenters' anger, if not his argumentation.


How is the Church "complicit" for the mistreatment of women by all non-Catholic governments, societies and cultures? When was the last time Catholic or secular feminists even raised their voices in protest against these governments, societies and cultures in the same heat and anger they've reserved for Catholic men lay and clergy? (Just about any time Joan Chittister writes anything, amongst a whole host of others, but I imagine this man would never ever have Joan Chittister's work sully his fingers.)

You think the world is full of brutal savage men because the Church doesn't let women serve as priestesses? The Muslims brutalise women because Catholics won't ordain them? Asian and Indian cultures mistreated women and girls millennia before Christianity and to this day use them as things....and it's OUR fault? Feminists like to pride themselves on their erudition and brilliance but this theory of Patriarchy being the Church's fault is amazingly stupid. Who do you think keeps you western women from being raped and enslaved along with your sisters in the rest of the world? Men. Christian or Catholic westernized men. You're welcome. (I will thank you for helping to put the Christian westernized version of male rapists in prison, but the operative word is men. Men protecting society from other men.  Oh and by the way, our current Air Force operation in Lybia is being commanded by......a woman.)

And in all those societies that had women priestesses (and temple prostitutes) where was the matriarchy and harmony among sexes? Egypt, Cannan, Persian, Greco-Roman, Celtic, India, Asian, and Native American peoples who had priestesses still had wicked men who mistreated women, children and the elderly. So the presupposition that women priests will make the world better simply has zero sociological and historical legs to stand on. Like Marxism, it's entirely ahistorical pie in the sky "imagine".  (I won't comment on this one because the man cites absolutely zero research to back this up, and if he had done the research, he might not like the results.)

Furthermore, If we're so mean, us patriarchical Catholic gentlemen and clergy, why pray tell did we welcome the concept of autonomous women religious communities almost from the beginning? If we thought women were inferior to men, why would we hold them on the same level as sinners or saints? (Men did not generously give these communities, they were enacted by women and then grudgingly accepted when men saw their utility.)

There IS a sexual difference and hence there ARE unique roles and responsibilties between the sexes - but equality of dignity is never the same thing as identical roles or responsibilities. Not in society and not in the Church. If the Logos had become incarnate as a woman and if Adam had eaten the fruit first, then you'd have a leg to stand on and a reason to step onto the altar for sacrifice in expiation for womankind's sin. But since it was Adam's fall, Not Eve's, and since the Word became a Man to make up for Adam's fall..... priesthood is male. and not because it's "power" but because it's responsibility. (This is a very interesting paragraph because it negates all the theology surrounding Eve's sin and all the three thousand years of moral subservience women have endured under the guise of being 'Eve' like.)

But go ahead, if God is a Female spirit and women priests are her will for humanity and matriarchy is the solution to sin and depraved men ruling the world, have at it! How wonderfully booming are the Anglicans and others who have a female clergy? How full are their churches, seminaries and missions? Have you made the savages beyond Western Civilization and Catholicism drop their brutal patriarchy yet? And if not, and it's because Catholic Men still - despite it all - are somehow in your way.... doesn't this mean we're superior to even the will of the Goddess?  (Ahhhhhm......men haven't succeeded in this particular mission either, so does that mean the male God must not be superior to the male human?


*******************************************

I've come across this kind of thinking numerous times in the past, in fact from my own brothers.  I always wonder why they never questioned the fact in protecting women they were tacitly admitting they couldn't change the behavior of men.  Their solution is always war or imprisonment.  Historically it's women who believed men could become more civilized and less brutal and rapacious.  Maybe because women see in their young sons the potential for a different outcome than the adult males in their lives actually exhibit. 

Jesus didn't teach a spirituality which confirmed men in most of their 'male' traits. In point of fact, He teachings asked men to transcend their accepted gender roles and modeled a form of 'power' that called for a radical renunciation of other forms of male power.  Peter has always stood out in my mind as the 'alpha male' who didn't really get what Jesus was about.  Peter was the competitive one, the grandiose one, the one whose loyalty was conditional on the success of Jesus's ministry, the one most willing to draw a sword or exclude others from the inner sanctum.  Peter was truly a 'rock' of an alpha male.  Jesus could have chosen to appear to Mary Magdalene after His resurrection in order to short circuit all the male posturing about who was more important, who was more loved, who was more this that and the other thing.  Appearing to Mary stopped all of that before it could get underway.

Then there is the whole business of all the male apostles (but one) hiding in the upper room while the women were left to follow Jesus to His end and to take care of His needs in death--just as they had for most of His life.  His were not teachings that affirmed men in their preferred gender roles or ideals and when the going got tough the men reverted.  Perhaps that's why His teachings were quickly subverted and to this day Christianity still operates on an institutional level as a major bastion in protecting the ages old ideal of male behavior and male privilege.  The only real difference is the terminology.  Now in Catholicism it's called complementarity instead of patriarchy.  It's a very old wine being dumped in a new wineskin and that wineskin will break, just as Jesus said.

I don't for one minute think adding women to the clerical system will change the system.  The system will be far more apt to change the women.  That's the nature of systems.  It takes a monstrous conversion in attitudes amongst those the system serves and is accountable to/for, before the system will change.  The usual trend is not to change the system, but to dump the system and start anew.  Jesus intended Christianity to be something new, but He was apparently way ahead of His time.  

The new is coming if only because humanitys' data base is expanding at an exponential rate and society must change to reflect the new data.  There is revolution in the air.  Choice is becoming paramount.  Greed, competition, brute strength, abuse of power, and all the other things which aren't compatible with what Jesus taught are also no longer compatible with any meaningful future for humanity.  As Fukushima Dai-ichi continues to smoke, dump irradiated water in the ocean, and destroy the earth in an ever expanding arc, it stands as a potent symbol of the dangers of maintaining the idea that mankind can continue it's past pattern of resource exploitation and ever increasing levels of competition. 

Do I think women have something to offer in this scenario?  Yes indeed, and I also think Jesus does too.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

"In essence you are telling me to lie."



Fr. Roy Bourgeois gave his answer to his Maryknoll superiors.  He told them they could not force him to lie about his beliefs regarding the status of women in the Church.  Whatever one's opinion might be about women's ordination, I personally have a very strong opinion about the hierarchys' penchant for insisting people openly lie about their beliefs in order to 'avoid scandal'.  The following short excerpt is from NCR's coverage of a vigil held by Bourgeois and his supporters outside the Papal Nunciature in Washington DC.

In his formal letter of reply to his order Bourgeois says he cannot comply with Dougherty’s request for him to recant “without betraying my conscience.”
“In essence, you are telling me to lie and say I do not believe that God calls both men and women to the priesthood,” Bourgeois writes in the letter. “This I cannot do, therefore I will not recant.”.......

........When asked how he views his decision to continue his support for women’s ordination in light of his vow as a priest to support church teaching and obey his superiors, Bourgeois said that he felt that his “first allegiance was to God.”

“I’ve always felt that when you see an injustice, really it’s your conscience and faith in God calling you to address the issue and to break your silence. And when your superior tells you to be obedient, then you have to make a decision: Do I follow God or man? And there was no question I must go with my faith in God.”...

......Bourgeois also raised that issue of the primacy of conscience in his letter, citing a 1968 commentary by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger on the Vatican II document on the church in the modern world, Gaudium et Spes.

“Over the pope ... there still stands one's own conscience, which must be obeyed before all else, if necessary, even against the requirement of ecclesiastical authority,” Bourgeois quotes from the future pope’s words.
As the days tick by until his likely laicization, Bourgeois said he hopes his situation might act as an example for others who are facing similar struggles with their conscience.

“The issue resolves around conscience, and really living out in our lives -- all of us, all of us, my family, you, I, all of us -- with what we believe. In our lives, in our journey of faith, we are going to come across situations like this -- in our church, in our communities, in our families -- and we have to make decisions rooted in our faith and our belief in a loving a just God,” said Bourgeois.
“And the decisions that we are going to make will not be easy. It’s going to upset others -- our family, our friends. What’s important is to, in a loving way, follow our conscience, not get angry and simply embrace the consequences, the cross. This is what Jesus taught: embracing the cross.”

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Readers of this blog probably know I'm not much of an advocate for women's ordination unless it comes with serious revamping of the entire clerical system.  What interests me about the situation with Fr. Roy is his pointing out that his superiors are essentially asking him to lie about his personal beliefs about women's ordination. That's different spiritual territory all together.  There is plenty of reason to question JPII's 1994 letter Ordinatio Sarcedotalis since it's basically just a statement of his personal opinion and personal and selective reading of tradition.  (I get because this personal opinion was issued in papal clothing that I'm supposed to take it like God spoke it. Unfortunately I got the message in the Wizard of Oz about theatrical authority when I was about seven.)---but requiring someone to publicly lie about their intellectual and spiritual conformance to this personal opinion to maintain their capacity to minister sacraments is a form of spiritual abuse.  At this level it has nothing to do with religious discipline, and everything to with authoritative control.  It seems to confer a sort of holy status to enforced cognitive dissonance.  

It's interesting that the Maryknoll  boys caved to Vatican posturing, while the Benedictine Sisters of Erie PA backed Sr Joan Chittister to the hilt over the very issue of personal conscience--not her support for womens' ordination-- and how that mandates a deeper definition of 'obedience'.  It's also interesting for me to note that the young progressive Joseph Ratzinger was all over the notion of the primacy of personal conscience, while the later bureaucratic version of Ratzinger was happy to enforce just the opposite.  One wonders when our current Pope will deal with the fact he sold the core of his soul for Vatican preferment.  It may have gotten him the papacy, but in the long run it cost him his 'self'. This can easily be seen is his roaring like a lion when his thinking is on track with the Sodano clique, but when it's not on track, he mews like a scared kitten and waits and waits to pounce.  See Maciel fiasco.

The bigger issue in the Fr Bourgeios situation is not the ordination of women.  That is a symptom. Instead it's the authority of personal conscience and it's place in Church teaching. In terms of one's spiritual life, as opposed to religious life,  there is nothing more important.  Integrity is everything.  It's that message which runs through the lives of most of our saints of  'conscience', and although there are many other issues in this story of Fr Bourgeios and womens' ordination, the issue of conscience is primary.  No religion has been given a divine mandate to force one to lie in direct opposition to their conscience.  Not even Catholicism.









Saturday, April 9, 2011

One Can't Separate Vatican Culture From Legionaire Culture

I don't know that members of the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi will ever get any illumination for the questions they have about Maciel and his supporters.


The following is a long excerpt from an article published on the Sandro Magister's Italian website Chiesa.espresso.  (Thanks to Bill Lynsey of Bilgrimage for pointing this article out.) The part I have excerpted is written by Fr. Robert Gill, an ex Legionairie priest with 29 years in the Legion.  Fr. Gill is now incardinated in the Archdiocese of New York.  His take on reforming the Legion is excellent. However, I think his analysis needs to be extended to the Vatican culture--especially the Franco/Spanish and Spanish/Mexican part-- which first spawned and then maintained Maciel as some sort of living charismatic saint.  When I first read his six points of reform, I kept replacing the word Legion with the word Vatican.  The truth is the corruption in the Legion and life of Maciel are part and parcel of the culture of the Vatican.  You can't separate the two and come to any truth.  Now to Fr Gill:


1. The Legion as a “work of God”

In his letter to Legionaries October 19, 2010 which marked the beginning his (Cardinal De Paolis, the Vatican delegate to temporarily run the Legion) concerted work, he called the Legion a “work of God”. He did not explain in what sense it was a work of God, nor how God uses such a man as Maciel. It seemed a point he took for granted. One major difficulty with that concession is that for loyal “macielistas”, it is a phrase pregnant with meaning. Because for Maciel himself, who called the Legion a “work of God” incessantly, it meant that every detail of the Constitutions and Norms were inspired by the Holy Spirit and could not be called into question. Such a premature concession of language was a serious mistake, making it harder for Legionaries to understand there are things that are gravely defective in the structure and the spirituality Maciel left behind as his legacy. (This is precisely the type of brain washing Catholics are expected to extend to the hierarchy, so of course, Paolis would not explain in what sense the Legion was the work of God.)

Such language also sidesteps what is a serious issue at the core of the scandal: in what sense there is a valid “charism” to the Legion of Christ. Simply asserting it is from God does not make it so, even it is said by the Papal Delegate. What is needed is an explanation of how a valid, approved charism in the Legion can exist despite Fr. Maciel.

What is also needed is a clarification of precisely what that charism consists in. During the lifetime of Fr. Maciel there were various versions at various points in time, due to shifting expressions given by Maciel himself: such as “formation of leaders”, “most effective action”, “Gospel charity”. It was always rather embarrassing that Legionaries could never really agree on what their charism was, much less explain it to others. To put it gently, the Legion needs to admit it has lived with great ambiguity on this question.
(This is true for Catholicism itself.  It's mission is lived with great ambiguity failing to see there can be unity in diversity.)
Hopefully this issue will be the subject of long prayer and open, honest discussion and discernment on the part of the Legionaries. Experts in Church history, theology, and canon law need to be consulted widely.

 2. Investigation into the origins and history of the scandal

A second difficulty occasioned by Cardinal De Paolis was the apparent decision to put aside calls for a fuller investigation into the whole Maciel scandal than what was accomplished by the Apostolic Visitators in 2009-10. Their investigation consisted largely in interviews with current Legionaries and was focused on identifying irregularities in the lifestyle of the Legion. It did not directly address the facts surrounding Fr. Maciel, or his history of abuse of minors or his maintenance of at least two mistresses and three children, nor the financial irregularities his lifestyle created. The Cardinal has made it clear on more than one occasion his task is that of overseeing reform efforts rather than in further forensic work. (This is an intentional error. A forensic investigation would have to implicate the Vatican itself.)

The broader issue is the need for the truth to be brought to light about the history of the Legion and Maciel. Neither the Legion nor the Vatican has done a thorough investigation that provides answers to questions such as:

How is it possible that Fr. Maciel was re-instated as Superior General in 1959, after having been suspended for 2½ years during a Vatican investigation into his conduct? The accusations against him back then have all turned out to be true. He was allowed to return and carried on with more abuse and further immoral lifestyle, even fathering children as he continued as Superior General until 2005.

How did he manage to obtain a Decree of Praise for the congregation from Pope Paul VI in 1965?

What is behind the practical disappearance of Maciel from the Congregation for nearly a year in the late 1970’s? Why did other leading Legionaries do nothing? As it turns out, during that period, one of his children was born. Maciel would regularly disappear for weeks or a month with no one raising any questions.

How could he have carried on a double life, fathering at least three children from two mistresses over decades with no one noticing or colluding with him? (I suspect he lived more than a double life. I tend to believe the diagnosis of Disassociative Identity Disorder.)

While it was commonly known among Legion superiors that he rarely said Mass or the Breviary, or went on retreats, why did no one notice these red flags? Why did no one see this as indicative of a weak spiritual life as they would for anyone else? (Maybe because Maciel's spiritual life was never an issue for this secretive group of leaders.)

How was it that the Constitutions of the Legion, which now are recognized to have serious flaws and conflicts with Canon Law and are under revision, were approved in 1983 under Card. Pironio, former Prefect of the Congregation for Religious?

How could such a man have gained access to Pope John Paul II and mislead him over the course the years as well? (Maybe JPII was never under any illusions, or at least his gate keepers weren't, as they liked the bribes Maciel brought with him.)

How can one explain the consistent defense of Maciel by Cardinal. Angelo Sodano, former Vatican Secretary of State, and Cardinal Franc Rode, former Prefect of the Congregation for Religious, and their encouragement of the Legionaries to hold him in esteem, even after the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had censured him with the approval of the Holy Father in in 2006? ($$$$)

What does it say about the internal culture of the Vatican that while Maciel was being praised at his 60th anniversary in 2004 by Cardinal. Sodano, he was being investigated by Cardinal. Josef Ratzinger’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith? ($$$$)

How is it that the Superiors of the Legion could promulgate among members a different version of the Statutes of Regnum Christi than the one approved in 2004 by Cardinal Rode? (Rode didn't care. $$$$)

Unless the mystery of Fr. Maciel, what he did and how, is adequately clarified, many will question the adequacy of any reforms. There will remain the questions of how the Legionaries and officials of the Holy See were so taken with this man, and why did no one within the congregation ever raised objections, and if they did, why were they ignored. What was it about the Legion’s internal culture that made it possible for otherwise very intelligent men to be so deceived? And it is also hard to see how the Vatican will be able to learn the necessary lessons from the Maciel debacle in order to make its own internal reforms and avoid a repeat of this sort of tragedy in the future.  (This is as close as Fr Gill ever gets to pointing out the Vatican was part and parcel of the Legion's corruption.)
 
3. The Question of Accountability

A third weakness in the current approach is the apparent lack of concern for holding individuals accountable for their role in keeping secret from Church authorities what they knew of Maciel’s behavior, or if they even collaborated with Maciel by formal cooperation in those crimes. This is certainly a complex area, given the psychological and spiritual power Maciel exercised over so many people. The May 1 Vatican communiqué states that the great majority of Legionaries were unaware of the double life of Maciel, as it was well hidden. But some Legionaries who were members since the 1940’s and 1950’s have admitted knowing of Maciel’s abuses or his drug addiction and yet they promoted the cult of the founder to younger Legionaries who took their stories of the heroism of Maciel as Gospel truth. Now we know those stories were largely inventions of Maciel and others. There is a pressing need for the true history of the Legion to come to light, and to hold accountable those who distorted the truth and misled generations of younger Legionaries, not to mention the Holy Father and the whole the Church.

There is an additional group of private secretaries and personal aides who, over the years, traveled with Maciel, organizing his trips and providing him funds for his activities. This group must certainly share in some of the responsibility for hiding the perverse life of Maciel from the rest of the Legionaries and Church authorities. One should not rush to assign blame, but it is perfectly reasonable to have a full investigation and hold people personally accountable.  (This group of secretaries and personal aides are probably in need of some serious psychological help.  Maciel had to maintain a very coercive hold of some sort on these individuals.)
 
4. Need for new leadership

Cardinal De Paolis, now more than eight months into his tenure as Papal Delegate, has yet to dismiss a single major superior from office. For the most part, the same group of superiors who were appointed by Maciel and who presided over the attempts to cover for him in the aftermath of his condemnation by the Holy See in 2006 are still at the helm. Naturally, the culpability of each one is different and one must not generalize too much about them.

Yet as long as that group remains in power, few members of the hierarchy will place much confidence in the Legion. A common sense objection to keeping them in power is simply that some had to know, or should have known, of Fr. Maciel’s lifestyle. If they are guilty of the former, they should be removed for fraud. If the latter, they should be removed at least for incompetence. (Again, one has to extend this to the Vatican itself--especially the fraud part.)

Dismissals will be needed to restore some measure of confidence in the Legion. The same can be said for restoring the confidence of those Legionaries who remain and hope for reform. For most who have abandoned the congregation, loss of trust in the leadership has been the primary reason.
 
5. The Limitations on Real Dialogue

Cardinal De Paolis has called for sincere and frank discussions among Legionaries of the issues before them. There are signs that such dialogues are beginning, and a spokesman for the Legion recently said they would begin in earnest during February and March on the local and territorial levels. (This analysis was written in January.)

However, old cultures die hard, and it is common knowledge within the Legion that strongly dissenting voices are still regularly marginalized. Some members of the Congregation have been transferred to remote outposts, others threatened. Superiors are still concerned to keep dissidents from organizing themselves.
One of the more controversial practices of the Legion has been the extensive review by superiors of all written correspondence, both mail and electronic. The Legion recently began to install in all computers very aggressive industrial spyware to monitor all email and internet traffic of the membership.

It is not clear to what extent the Cardinal is aware of these practices, but on more than one occasion he has intervened to stop the superiors from certain unjustly transferring members who raise objections. However, in his recent letter it was clear he did not want to get caught up with supervising every move of the current leadership, and instructed the religious with complaints to take them up with the Legion superiors rather than with him. But without easier access to Cardinal or to his four assistants, many Legionaries will feel helpless before possible abuses of power and inhibited in speaking out. (This is so typical of arrogant and scared organizations--refer disgruntled employees back to the source of their complaints. The idea is to prove to the employee they are indeed powerless in the system.)

Another consideration would be to bring into the dialogue in those who have left the Legion due to the scandals. Their perspective from being long time loyal members who felt compelled to leave in past years could add objectivity and free the Legion from a too narrow approach to the issues. (Don't hold your breath waiting for this to happen.)
 
6. The difficult question of culture

Finally there is a serious question understood by most Legionaries not from Latin-American countries. That is the extent to which, for lack of a better term, a “Latino mentality” pervades the Legion. That mentality manifests points of tension with European and Anglo-Saxon approaches to living the Catholic Faith. Most international congregations allow a good deal of diversity in expression and customs. Yet with Maciel’s obsession with uniformity and unity throughout the world and one set of rules for all, the national and cultural differences were played down. The tension was never seriously confronted, or even acknowledged.

However, the tragic blunders and deception in dealing with the scandal expose the fact that the largely Mexican leadership was much less concerned with getting to the facts, exposing them to the light, letting the truth be known plainly and dealing with the consequences. Culturally, Latinos tend to be more tolerant of misconduct, corruption, and dishonesty. And it is now clear they did not feel the members of the congregation actually had a right to know the truth about the founder’s lifestyle and kept it hidden. While Maciel was in power, it was considered simply a byproduct of a strictly hierarchical order, but now it rubs many as a gross form of paternalism. (I've always found it most interesting that JPII couldn't approve of enough of these Spanish/Mexican based 'new apostolates' and wondered if their tendency to overlook corruption wasn't as important to their success with the Vatican as their penchant to operate as forms of religious fascism.)

It is no accident that the Legionaries most outraged by the leadership tend to be the Americans and Spaniards, the two largest nationalities after the Mexicans. Vocations have plummeted in both countries, as they have in the rest of Europe. In terms of defections to the diocesan priesthood, the great majority have been Americans and Spaniards. The Legion which once prided itself on its internationality, faces the very real possibility of being reduced to a mainly Mexican order. (The more modern secular Spain is a far cry from the Spain of the late forties and early fifties that served to incubate Maciel's Legion.  It's not surprising vocations are dropping in Spain.

It is time to face up to the fact that much of what Maciel proposed as “inspired by God” was more the baggage of his own culture’s limitations and defects.

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I have no real expectation that the Legion will ever be adequately reformed unless those who really care about the truth of their vocations just split from the main body.  I can see that as feasible for many Regnum Christi members as well as the Legion priesthood.  Let me back track a bit.   That would be a feasible step if the enculturation of Legion members didn't include so much brain washing about the Papacy and the Vatican.  Cardinal De Paolis will most likely be able to keep most of the Legion and Regnum Christi dancing to his Vatican tune because the Vatican has been presented to them as the ultimate voice of God, right behind Maciel.  In the meantime the financial end of things will be streamlined and although the donations are down now, the idea is to keep things in place until memories fade.  

In my book the real charism of the Legion was to provide a pious front for a ton of corruption and abuse from Legion supporters, and that includes those in the Vatican.  JPII played his role perfectly, and it doesn't matter whether he was played by the Legion to play his role, or chose to play the role on his own.  He is as culpable as any secretary who gave Maciel wads of cash for unstated purposes.  

It it's true that God loves mankinds' honest curiosity and Satan loves mankinds' silent cowardice, than the Legions' charism did not come from God.  Ultimately that's the truth that Fr Gill seeks and the Vatican doesn't dare find.